Dieting is About Self Control. Have You Tried Moderation?

It’s Wednesday, I haven’t worked out all week, I’m exhausted. I’ve been working so much, I’ve chosen sleep over exercise, which I don’t regret. It’s times like these, stress used to get to me; I’d end up eating a quart of ice cream in one sitting.

Unfortunately, as we age, our metabolisms slow down – I can attest that mine has definitely slowed way down, almost to a halt LOL. Hence, I cannot sit and eat gluttonous amounts of ice cream when I feel like it. Although it’s sad to say those days have passed, in all honesty, I seldom miss them.

I used to be overweight, not dire, but definitely not fit. A handful of years ago I made a lifestyle change that proved to be immensely simple, with definite results. I’m not talking “I lost a 100 lbs in one year” type thing… No, this was much more gradual, which, I believe, has made it easier. With gradual weight loss comes another proven fact: losing weight slower almost guarantees you’ll be able to keep it off, instead of gaining it all back sometime in the near future.

So, what’s the secret? Sticking to it.

A lot of people begin their weight loss journeys but fail for all the same reason: lack of self discipline. My sister used to tell me “everything in moderation,” which is sort of where my lifestyle change began. So, what’s the change? I know y’all eager to find out.

First thing’s first, I needed to stop eating my emotions lmfao. Then…

80% diet, 20% exercise. You’ve heard it before, right? I began by cutting out chips, fries, and bread (wahhhh! Adios, bagels – cue *crying face emoji*). I made an active effort to buy more fruit at the grocery store. I began this when I was a pescatarian, so I wasn’t eating land animals either. For not eating meat, you’d think I was good about eating veg. Wrong. I did not eat as many salads as you think I would; so, I began fitting salads into my daily meals.

The end result is quite simple: eat more produce and less processed foods / carbohydrates. Fiber is key. What shocked me was that I would occasionally reject the diet thing and eat a cookie, or a scoop of ice cream, or drunkenly go to McDonalds after a night out with my friends. That one cookie, or that one large fry, didn’t harm the weight loss agenda. Because those instances occurred in moderation, I continue to lose inches even with the occasional binge.

But, that’s when I realized that my diet doesn’t depend on moderation, my whole life does (especially my drinking habits haha). Dieting isn’t about limiting yourself to what you can and can’t eat. Dieting is about self control itself. I learned so much about health and fitness on this journey, but I’ve also learned a lot about life.

I learned stuff like sometimes you can put a shitload of effort in, but time is still needed to see results. I learned that you can fall off track but what matters is pulling yourself back in line. I learned that moderation doesn’t just keep us healthy, it keeps us alive.

Moderation, by Merriam Webster definition means avoiding extremes of behavior or expression: observing reasonable limits. Observing reasonable limits.

Reasonable limits.

To me, that’s exactly what moderation is – understanding that we are human. Humans have limits and we must respect those limits. There is inevitable danger in extremes.

It’s been about 3 years since I implemented this whole “lifestyle change.” Those 3 years taught me that my stomach, my energy, my time, my metabolism all have limits. As I’ve lost inches (and now at a figure I can maintain) I’m comfortable with eating bagels again (thank god!) and other foods I had cut out originally.

But, I only indulge in moderation.

My final words of wisdom on the weight loss thing: you can’t expect one change to produce mass outcomes. Big change is followed by many little changes, a lot of small gears, turning to move the machine. With weight loss, diet is a pretty large change in itself; yet, exercise, rest, and mental stimulation all contribute to the greater goal. I wrote a previous post about how exercise literally does wonders to the human brain and why we need it for our sanity – you can read it here.

(As a disclaimer: everyone has different body shapes and metabolic types; thus, not every diet works for everyone). What works for you?

Weak This Week

Monday morning I drove my friend home because she stayed the night. I arrived late to work. When I was off, I drank a beer at the Whole Foods outdoor bar, while I facetimed my close friend, who recently moved to SoCal. By the time we were done catching up (aka when my phone died) I went home to dive into all the sleep I lacked Sunday.

I woke up naturally because I forgot to set an alarm the night before. I was late to work again Tuesday, but I left the office around 1 pm to help my manager prep for a retirement celebration. I was late because we spent the morning texting about what “resort casual” means and “no, I couldn’t wear jeans to dinner.” I spent 30 minutes deciding which slacks “I would wear at a resort in Hawaii” and even packed two extra shirts (if the original one I planned on wearing didn’t gain approval from my manager). Set up for the celebration took an hour in the baking Los Gatos sun, the evening was pleasant and clean up took another hour. I didn’t get home until 10:30 pm, in which I knocked the fuck out.

I wasn’t late to work Wednesday but I slept in an hour longer than I would have. After work, I ate too much with my mother at dinner so we spent the remainder of the evening on a stroll. Once again, I was home around 11 pm and immediately fell asleep.

Let me back up.

I have a strict schedule because I’m a grandma, where I’m in bed by 10 pm, so I can exercise at 6:30 am, before my full time job at 8:30 am. This routine has kept me alive for a while so I figure I’ll hang on to it…or do my best. It’s weeks like these that I find myself far off track, coming home at (or after) my bedtime, sleeping in instead of hitting the gym, and paying the price.

It’s weird how the human body works, actually. I work out 5 days a week, take 2 days of rest, but go absolutely mad if I skip proper exercise for longer than 3 days. I literally feel like my life is in shambles and the lack of endorphins is detrimental to my physical and mental health. I’ve felt so weak this week. In addition to not exercising, I’ve been eating out, food I wouldn’t normally eat. This combo has just created a feeling of grotesqueness and instability…which is why I’ve backtracked these last few days, looking for any sign of normalcy, in search of when I first strayed so far from my routine and why I haven’t got back to it.

I slept in last Friday. I had every intention of skateboarding when I was off work, but once I got home and laid in bed, there was no getting up. Saturday is usually my rest day. I spent the day at the beach on Sunday. That brings us to the beginning of this blog post. Therefore, it’s been exactly 7 days since my last sweat sesh. It’s Thursday. I just got home from spending 2 much-needed hours at the gym.

It’s really weird how the human body works, actually. Only 1 exercise session and my brain already feels as if it’s re-entering my body from a week-long vacation. I feel as if I’ve come back to life, or have been reawakened from an out-of-body experience. Did you know your brain releases chemicals when you exercise? Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) all keep your brain and body working properly. A natural dose is all I needed to feel better and get back on track.

Life is hectic. There are times when everything occurs simultaneously, when we’re too busy to enjoy usual activities, then we’re too tired to hit the gym. Life passes us by like this, where it’s one thing after the other, and hours pass like days do, then we realize a whole week flew by and we’ve been slammed by so many festivities that other priorities fall by the wayside. I get it. That’s how this week felt. And last week. And the week before.

Juggling everything at once is what life is all about. But sometimes our brains don’t get the dosage of chemicals needed to keep us happy, alert, focused, refreshed, motivated, alive. Sometimes, we lose our minds along the way. It may seem a little contradictory, but it’s times like these when we’re living at twice the speed of life, that what we really need to keep us going, is to get up and moving. Even a little exercise is better than none at all. Being active rids depression, provides motivation, keeps us healthy, but, most importantly, keeps us sane.

My mind goes fishing (well, my mind goes somewhere) on continuous days without working out. Then, I feel as if my whole life is out of whack. I’ve realized the quick and easy solution to get my life back is exercise. Hook, line, and sinker.

Colors of Healing

IMG_8078This is the view from Little O’Malley. 3258 feet above sea level. Anchorage, Alaska.

Somewhere near the top, the trail ends and you’re forced to wriggle up vegetation, jumping dirt patches littered with sharp rocks, all the while hitting at least a 50° – 60° incline (I’m inclined to say 90 because it felt so steep! But that’s more than an exaggeration – it’s flat out lie). It took 2 bug bites, 1.5 hours, and 1 can of unused bear repellant to climb to the top, which peaks, by far, the most strenuous and dangerous hike (considering the bear attack possibility) I’ve ever summited. For this reason, I feel as if the view was that more beautiful – reveling in the glory of exhaustion to get to the top. Side note: my sister, Brittany, and I were at Fred Meyer an hour prior to this hike, asking the clerk if bear repellant was really necessary for this area.

“Oh yeah, you’ll want bear spray…or a firearm,” was his response.

Brittany and I had planned for a “long hike” which usually means 3-4 hours, but our itinerary on this trip to Alaska (more to come) was rather tight. We were able to fit in a short hike before dinner, which allotted 2 hours to climb a mountain. I summit at 5-something and the reservation was at 7 pm. We agreed to be back at the trailhead by 6, giving us 30 minutes to drive to the vacation rental, 10 minutes each to shower & whatever remaining time to dress and look presentable for a decent restaurant.

“I want to go to the end of the ridge but we have to get back to the trailhead” Brittany said.

“We should just go to the end of the ridge”

“We don’t have time”

“We’re never coming back here to do this hike again,” I said with enthusiastic urgency, “it’s now or never!”

Little O'Malley Ridge

We jogged down the ridge and took these amazing shots of the view. Brittany really wanted a picture laying in the snow, with the peak of O’Malley in the background. It was 5:24 pm. We were supposed to be on the trail heading back but I formed a small snowball and threw it at Brittany, which missed her by 2 feet. I blame my uncoordinated subordinate left hand, even though my intention wasn’t to hit her in the first place. I threw the snowball so I could write the folks back home to let them know Alaska is where to go for snowball fights in the heat of summer.

As we began our descent, two very athletic young men jogged passed me. I tucked my elbows in and took short, quick steps down the mountain.

“What are you doing?” Brittany called out.

“Jogging like those guys were”

“You look funny!”

Down the hill I went in zig-zag formation. Here’s the thing about jogging down a hill: eventually you pick up some momentum which makes it difficult to slow down (mega duh, physics genius). My left foot couldn’t grip a pile of rocks, sliding into the dirt, jagged rock edges sliced into my shin. I remember screaming but standing as quickly as possible, distracting myself by continuing with the hike, tricking my brain into eliminating whatever pain I felt (or fucken tryin’ to). Brittany couldn’t see me at that that point, but thought I broke my leg because she heard me shrill in horror hahah. Luckily, I didn’t (rolled out of that like a Ninja).

Fall on Little O'Malley

Not long after my fall, and a very rigorous jog down a fucken hill, we hit the valley floor. There was about a half mile between us a the trailhead, a small river in between. I filled my empty bottle with the rushing melted glacier water and cleansed my filthy leg of the bug spray, dirt, sweat, and blood. We arrived at the trailhead by 6:03 p.m. practically on fucken time.

Colors of Healing

I took this picture a couple days after I got back to California. The swelling in my thigh subsided and the bruises began to show. Another side note: I’m a weird person and man enough to admit it. One of the things I think makes me weird is my likeness to getting bruises. No, I don’t like getting hurt. I don’t purposefully throw myself against walls (or in this case, down steep mountains) on purpose to form bruises.

I like bruises because they come with phases. You see them pass through each stage until they finally disappear, the pain is gone, and the only thing that remains is the memory and the smile on your face from reminiscing the stupid idea that formed the bruise. In a couple days, a week would have passed since that hike and the bruises are already less visible than when I took this picture.

There’s a unique joy that awaits me at the sight of healing bruises. I find a small pleasure in knowing that my body is working properly, that all functions to heal bruises are at full capacity, that I’m (for the most) part “healthy” in that sense. What I enjoy more is  the progression, with each passing day, as the bruise changes from hues of dark blue and purple to faded greens and yellows, eventually matching my natural skin tone. The colors of healing are, of course, interesting to witness, I mean, the human body is pretty flippin’ incredible…but I appreciate knowing that pain is temporary.

Watching bruises heal is physical evidence that what we go through is what makes us who we are. We absorb experiences, trauma, hardships. Even if bruises fade, we’re still continuing to heal inside, in unseen ways. Physically. Mentally.  Emotionally. All of  the above. We don’t choose our scars, sometimes they’re not inflicted by our own selves, but perhaps by others. Some scars may not even be visible the naked eye. Maybe they’re metaphorical for the emotional and/or mental pain we’ve endured. Either way, we must adjust. Our bodies must function at whatever capacity we can, to soak in pain, to digest and molt, to transform and restructure. To heal.

I don’t mind the scar on my shin, in fact, my sister’s boyfriend calls it “punk rock” lmfao.  It’s times like these I look at bruises on my legs and know this is another experience that shapes my foundation, shifts my perspective on the world, and reminds me to slow the fuck down on treacherous mountainsides.