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The Weight is Over: Part 7 – Learning the Hard Way

Last week was a joyous one. I reported that I was down 7 pounds and 8.75 inches. I’ve been on this program almost five weeks. It feels a lifetime. Maybe because it’s been such a life-changer.

I don’t know if I mentioned that although it’s called Align Private Training, most of the time I’m not the only one working out at Align. Usually there are anywhere from two to six people working out in the same big room (which is doubling in size this weekend, btw).

Being the curious nosy person I am, I love to listen eavesdrop to other people’s workout-session conversations with Matthew. It’s inspirational to hear mentions of people losing 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds or more. And to look at most of them, you’d never guess. Mainly, it just looks like a room full of fit people. I love seeing a slim woman lifting weights that I know I will lift one day. Better still is when I learn she’s lost 50 pounds. Wow.

My first few times there I felt like an outsider, embarrassed to try new things, for fear of failing, or looking stupid. I eventually learned nobody cares, that everyone is either too busy surviving their own workouts or they’re cheerleaders for each other, because everyone started at the beginning feeling exactly as I did. Sometimes I overhear things that shock me, like when Matthew took one woman off caffeine. On the other hand, I heard another woman gets a daily piece of dark chocolate, eats toast (bread, what is that?) and sometimes has a glass of wine. And one young guy is bulking up and trying to gain weight.

“Hey, guess what? I’m supposed to eat cheesecake this week!”

Finally, I realized that everyone is different, and that means different workouts, different food plans and different restrictions and indulgences. I can keep my caffeine (knock on wood) because it’s not an issue for me. But for me, watching the scale was a problem, so away it went. No more scale. No more knowing how much I’ve lost.

Somehow, when Matthew Lister confiscated my scale, it totally removed my obsession with weighing myself. Matthew’s tracking my data, so I don’t have to worry my sweaty little head about it.

But I know I’m losing weight, because a pair of my yoga pants are getting baggy. Do you know how hard it is for stretch pants to get baggy? Exactly.

And I put on a dress the other day – one of my favorites (that’d I’d not worn for a while), black, with a zipper up the front – and it did not fit me like a sausage casing. I looked decent, even (I think).

But one of the strangest observations was with a pair of my tennis shoes. They’re suddenly too wide for me, to the point where no matter how tightly I cinch them, I feel as if I’ll walk right out of them. I’d have to wear heavy mountain man socks for them to fit properly, which, of course, I won’t unless a cute mountain man comes with them.

And I have two tops I bought at the peak of my weight-gain crisis, both of which now fit me like tents. (I’m starting a goodbye-clothes pile.) I don’t have to start buying new clothes yet, because I have plenty of clothes that I haven’t worn in a while because I outgrew them, so I’ll go to those first. Besides, I don’t want to buy new clothes any sooner than I have to because I know I will only have to turn around and do it again as I lose even more weight.

Nice problem to have, right?

I’m that confident that I’m seeing this through to my end goal weight. I’m not even sure what my goal is, but I have a hunch I’ll know I’m getting close when people say things like, “Stop! Do NOT lose another pound ….” words that have never graced my ears. Not once.

This diet and workout program has changed everything. Even my refrigerator looks different, basically because it’s nearly empty, except for apples, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, some vegetables, turkey or chicken.

Now, I structure my life around workouts, rather than trying to squeeze the workouts in during the time left over after everything else.

At first I was going twice a week. Now I’m checking in four times a week with Matthew at Align, and when I say “checking in” I mean I go to Align and Matthew puts me through strenuous workout paces until I am sweating and panting and thinking I cannot do one more rep or round or set or circuit or whatever. But I do it. Every time.

And a crazy thing has happened … actually, a couple of things. First, I find that I now actually look forward to going to Align and working out. Sure, I may change my mind once I get there (… do 150 crunches), but before I start, it’s always a surprise. I never know exactly what I’ll be asked to do. But Matthew knows my limits more than I do, and I trust him to push me to – not over – the edge. My strength and progress have been incremental, never stagnant. Once I conquer and can handle one weight, I’m bumped up to another.

This week, for example, I was on my back on a mat, knees bent, with a 20 pound weight in each hand. Matthew said I “just” needed to raise them both straight up in the air.

Sounds easy enough. OK. I can do that. There. I did it. 

Do that 10 times. Take a break. Do 10 again. Take a break. Do 10 again. That’s three times.

The first 10 were doable, but difficult. The second set of 10 was a push, with lots of huffing and puffing. The third time I barely made it, and was making noises as if I were giving birth … or something. But I did it.

Damn! I’m getting strong!

This is a very big deal, because although I’ve always prided myself in having a high pain threshold, I have NEVER pushed myself physically, other than Jazzercise classes for fun and fitness, but I never doubted whether I could do those. (And, actually, a word about Jazzercise. I love it, and have lost weight and inches with it at different times of my life. In fact, I’d still be doing Jazzercise if it weren’t for messing up my right heel this summer in an over-the-top blitz of pounding 5-mile daily river-trail walks combined with daily Jazzercise. I miss it, and look forward to getting back there when my heel heals.)

I digress.

All my life I’ve had a string of statements I’ve expressed to myself and others about my physical limitations: I’m a heat weanie. I don’t run. I don’t lift weights. I don’t “work out”. I don’t sweat. 

That last one has really come back to bite me, because suddenly, I do sweat, so much that I’ve found my self standing for long periods of time in the deodorant aisle looking for just the right product (that would meet with my daughter’s non-aluminum approval). Gross, maybe … but also true.

Something else I’ve noticed: Sleep. For years, I’ve been chronically sleep-deprived. The reason was a combination of my work, and the fact I’ve never adjusted to falling asleep alone, post-divorce. I subsisted on so little sleep that when I finally did crash I was almost unconscious.

This is a timely topic because Christy Largent discussed sleep in a column this week, and it now makes sense to me. No wonder I’ve gained weight over the years. I typically slept for just a few hours each night, for months on end. Sometimes, if I were working on a big writing or cooking project, I would stay up all night, sometimes for consecutive nights.

I used to brag about how little sleep I could “get by” on. Now, I’m horrified to think of the damage I was doing to myself.

Since I started my diet and workouts. I am so pooped from working out that I’m getting to bed earlier (before 11) and allowing myself to sleep for eight, nine, even 10 hours sometimes. (I’m self-employed so I have that flexibility.) I am getting more sleep, feel far more rested, and I’m regaining my full dream life again, something I’d been missing for a long time.

If this were a therapy session, they’d call this next part a door-knob confession, the thing I saved for last that I should have said first. Confession: I had a fall-off-the-wagon episode this week. It involved cookies I was making with my grandson. It’s so weird, because here I stayed on my diet through the holidays without cheating, and it’s after the holidays, one fine rainy day in January, that I give in to temptation.

See these cookies? I’ve shared the recipe with you before. They’re a family classic: Rich Roll Cookies (or Mrs. Rathbun’s Cookies).

To me, they’re nearly irresistible. They’re light and buttery with a hint of vanilla. So delicate. Surely just one – or five – wouldn’t hurt.

But something awful happened after I ate those five cookies. It was the first sugar I’d eaten in a month. Within about 20 minutes my body rebelled and evacuated the cookies. Not pleasant, and certainly not worth the splurge. I won’t do that again.

Why do I seem to always learn the hard way?

Other than that, it’s been a great week, and I feel energetic and enthusiastic. My friend Randy, the retired doctor, says it takes 12 pounds of weight loss before people start noticing and commenting. I’m already hearing comments from people. My twin, God bless her, says I’m melting. I love that!

Later on today I will be weighed and measured by Matthew, in full view of the super-talented photographer Brad Garrison, who will chronicle my body-changing journey for these next months for A News Cafe.com. There will be photos. And many will not be pretty. In fact, I know that I will probably hate the way I look in those first few months. But I’ll post them anyway, because I know the after photos will be amazing.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. It’s so nice to know I have company.

So, how was your week. Any challenges or successes? Any diet and workout tips you’d like to share? Let’s hear them.

Click here to read Doni’s previous “Weight is Over” columns.