Monday, September 28, 2009

Recognize and Celebrate Non-Scale Victories

The scale is not my friend. It’s a necessary part of tracking my progress, but I can’t let it become the “be all” of my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer. Sure, there are times when I love the number it shows, but it also breaks my heart on a regular basis. I’ve got to come up with other ways to acknowledge what I’ve accomplished and give me motivation to continue. Learning to recognize and celebrate non-scale victories is an important part of making my journey a success.

This was a week where the scale was not kind. I knew why it went up 2.4 pounds. I had lost so much the week before (4.6 pounds) because I was sick that I couldn’t be surprised by a gain. I also ate too much during my writers’ retreat. Knowing that still didn’t keep me from getting down, so I started to compile a list of non-scale victories to keep my mind in the right place.

I sleep better. I remember having troubles falling asleep all the way back to my childhood. I’ve had bouts with insomnia, and they are maddening. I have a hard time shutting down my brain at night and have tried lots of tricks but nothing works as well as working out at a high level on a regular basis. Honestly, a stretch of insomnia will get me back to the gym quicker than anything else.

I have more energy. I am a goal-oriented person, and I just didn’t think I’d have the energy to work on all I wanted to accomplish if I didn’t find a way to make some permanent changes. I hate it when all I can do when I get home from work is sit on the couch and stare at the TV. A better diet and exercise gives me the extra energy I need to work on what is most important to me.

I have a better attitude. I’m more confident. I’m happier. I’m more optimistic. I feel really good overall. I’m just in a better place emotionally since I started to make these healthy changes in my life. I don’t want to go back.

My clothes fit better. First, all the clothes that were uncomfortably tight began to fit well. Then, they got loose. When they got too big and baggy to wear in public, I started to buy clothes a size down. I’m now a couple sizes below what I was in January 2009, and I love it. Just this week, I wore two new pairs of pants that were too tight just a few weeks ago. You can see one of those pairs in the photo posted of my two critique partners and me 2 Sundays ago. I’ve no idea how far I can go, but I can’t wait to see where I end up.

I’m smaller. I did not take my measurements in January, but I did in mid-May when I started to go to the gym regularly. I’m now 10 inches smaller in just 4 months.

I’m stronger. On the advice of a kind lady at my first weight class, I only lifted 2 kilograms that first time. I cannot exaggerate how sore I was for days after that. I’m now lifting up to 17 kilograms for the biggest muscle groups, and I can do “man” push-ups. I love it.

I’m more fit. I wasn’t completely out of shape in January since I walk a decent amount for my commute, but I’m in much better shape now in terms of endurance and speed. I can work out for 1 to 2 hours straight or I can really, really push myself for stretches at a time.

I’m more in control of my eating. I just don’t overeat or binge like I used to. When I get stressed out, my first recourse is not stuffing my face anymore. I think my appetite has decreased or my stomach has shrunk, but I just can’t eat as much as I used to. I also feel better for eating healthier and can feel the difference if I eat a very unhealthy meal. I’m not completely there yet, but food does not control me. I control it for the most part.

I’m getting compliments. They started when I had lost around 10 or 15 pounds, and they have continued steadily since then. There are a few people at work who refer to me as skinny. I absolutely love how I almost always get a compliment on a day when I’m feeling weak about making wise choices, I’ve actually just gained weight or I’m just feeling fat. I let them keep me going on the right path.

I’m inspiring others to make healthy changes. Tuesday, just hours before I was weighed in and told I’d gained 2.4 pounds, two work colleagues at separate times told me what an inspiration I was. They were so impressed that I had kept going and had not fallen of the wagon. I had inspired them to try once again to lose weight. Several other work colleagues have told me that in the past few months, as have friends and family members. Hearing that makes me feel good and always increases my motivation to just keep going. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s hard, but in the end, both work.

What are some of your favorite non-scale victories since you started your own journey to becoming a healthy writer?


Anonymous said...

TEN inches, Michelle??? That's HUGE!!! I was thrilled to lose an inch around my middle. (Although looking at my huge belly next to skinny you in that picture makes me want to cry. Have to keep reminding myself that this is temporary!!)

I don't own a scale. Over the years, I've listened to friends obsess over their weight, and I decided I didn't want to do that. (It's bad enough that they make me get on the scale at every prenatal visit-- talk about depressing!) But when I started working out for the first time last year, I started to weigh myself regularly on the gym scale. I was so depressed a month into it when I hadn't lost *anything*. I complained to my husband about it, and he said that muscle weighs more than fat. Even though I wasn't seeing a change in my weight, I knew my body *looked* better. So I decided that instead of letting my weight be the judge of my fitness, I'd use the fit of my clothing instead. And I totally agree with everything you said about having more energy, sleeping more soundly, and just feeling better!

Way to go, Michelle!!

Michelle Butler on September 28, 2009 at 1:10 PM said...

First, Laura, you look wonderful in the photo!

Second, thanks for your kind words. I was really psyched when I figured out how many inches it was. I think I've lost about 8 pounds since I started exercising so much regularly at the gym, but the 10 inches sound more impressive.

I don't own a scale either, but I do think I need to weigh regularly at this point to make sure I don't lie to myself about the progress I'm making. I do have the ability to do that. But, I also do work to find ways not to fixate about the number it shows and only weigh once a week at WW.

Clothes are a great measure. Today, I'm wearing a suit and blouse that were too tight when I bought them (very much on sale thinking I'd thin into them.) It took a couple of years for the blouse but only a month or two for the suit. I've gotten two compliments on the outfit already. :)

I do wonder sometimes about that muscle weighs more than fat stuff. The working out definitely sculpts your body in great ways.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on September 28, 2009 at 3:01 PM said...

Very good reminders, Michelle. I've loved the feeling of being able to get into the next size down and comfortably. This weekend, I wore a pair of pairs in my bigger size and had to wear a belt. I can't remember the last time I had to wear a belt.

And it's such a better feeling to go shopping now and not be depressed when I walk out of the dressing room.

Laura, I don't think I've congratulated you on the baby on the way.

Michelle Butler on September 28, 2009 at 3:59 PM said...

Yes, shopping for clothes is fun once again!

Carol on September 28, 2009 at 4:19 PM said...

Michelle, I think the most impressive part of your journey thus far--and there's been a lot to be impressed by--is the way you've worked to rewire the relationship between food and stress.

My family has really struggled with the relationship between emotion/stress and food--at both extremes. My mom follows the more traditional (American, at least) path of turning to food when she's stressed out or having a bad day. My father, on the other hand, just can't bring himself to eat during stressful periods--and gets dangerously thin because of it.

So yay, you, for committing to this journey!

Elise Hayes

Michelle Butler on September 28, 2009 at 9:41 PM said...

Thanks, Elise! I know that if I'm going to make this a successful journey and stay healthy at the end (aka not just gain it all back and more), I totally have to conquer my emotional eating/eating for reward. I also knew this would be the hardest part.

In my family, my parents turn to food for comfort to, and my sister does not eat when she's stressed.

I've actually not seen much written on folks who don't eat when they're stressed and how to combat that, but I know that your dad and my sister are not alone.

It's tough rewiring. I'll let you know what I think of it all in a year.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Trish! It's exciting and stressful at the same time (the weight gain is pretty shocking this time around, gah!).

I'm definitely someone who doesn't eat when I get stressed. "Fat and happy" pretty much sums me up!! But I can definitely understand other folks can find food really appealing during times of high-stress. My bad moments are late afternoon, when my blood sugar drops. It's best not to have any candy in the house then!

Theresa Ragan on October 5, 2009 at 3:55 PM said...

Michelle, this is a great list! It's kind of crazy how HAPPY I feel after losing a few pounds. Everything fits better, the grass is suddenly greener, the sky is bluer! ha! I'm exaggerating...and yet, I do not like those days when eating something bad for me seems to out weigh all the great reasons not to eat it! I do weigh myself everyday but only because I won't allow myself to gain more than a few pounds. If I do, then I have to work out extra hard that week.

Good job on losing all of those inches!

Michelle Butler on October 5, 2009 at 9:32 PM said...

Thanks, Theresa! Some of this may be from reading the Zen of Eating last week, but I'm trying to be real even-keeled about the weight loss - e.g. walk into every weekly weighing with as close to zero expectations as I can. If I lose, obviously that's great. With no expectations, I won't get disappointed if it's .4 of a pound loss vs. an "expected" 2 or 3 pound loss. Also, gaining won't be as tough. I'll just think that over the long term, I'm losing and I'll just lose this next week or the week after. It helps some times.

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