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Getting off my half-ass

I had to slow down to walk for three minutes at the second mile marker on my three-mile run last Sunday because I was getting tired. “I ran a half-marathon two weeks ago? Seriously?” I asked myself. Good thing we took pictures or else I wouldn’t have believed it.

Lately, a couple of people have asked me how I’ve managed to hold down a full time job, maintain a blog, promote that thing I’m promoting (that you’re probably sick of hearing about), and keep up a diet and fitness regimen. The answer is: not very well! I’ve been spending so much time running around telling people about all the running I’m doing that I haven’t had much time to do all that running I’m telling people I’m doing. Also, during the last month of half-marathon training, I stopped doing Pilates and weight-lifting regularly to find the time to complete those 45-minute training runs during the middle of the week. In the past two weeks, I’ve only gone out to exercise three times, which is totally unacceptable. I haven’t been this lazy about exercise since before I started losing weight over three years ago. The net result: I’ve gone up one jean size and three miles suddenly seems like a lot longer to run.

Strangely, my weight has only gone up a couple pounds, but I suspect I’ve lost muscle mass and gained fat, so I’m a fatter 180-something than I was a couple months ago. I still have to remind myself that 5 pounds actually is a lot of weight to gain and can change your clothing size. When I was morbidly obese, losing 5 pounds had basically no effect on my size and appearance, but now that I’m smaller it’s not insignificant. I keep forgetting that.

What I’ve realized is that there really are a finite number of things that you can accomplish in a day, no matter how hard you work. And the way I’ve been living my life recently is not sustainable if I want to keep the weight off. Thankfully, things are starting to let up a little in my schedule, so I can start going to classes at the YMCA and doing my exercise DVDs again.

I’ve always heard that maintenance is harder than weight loss, and I’d have to agree with that sentiment. You have to earn a healthy body every day and if I keep slacking off like I have been I’m just going to get fat again. I view my relationship with my body like any relationship – it takes work to keep things fresh. I’ve got to work to keep the spark there and keep things interesting. So, I’m going to look for a 5K to sign up for and work towards setting a new personal record. And when I have some time in a week and a half, I’m going to start shopping for a new bike. (BTW, the winner of the Lipton Tea bike contest has already been contacted and confirmed her information. Congrats, Christy!)

I know sometimes people can be hesitant to admit their struggles or gains on weight-loss blogs. I mean, the point of the blog is to lose weight, not gain it, right? But I don’t think anyone just loses the pounds and then gets the same exact number on the scale every day after that. There are always fluctuations and there will always be forces trying to pull my weight up higher again. The name of this blog isn’t “How skinny can I get?” or “How I lost weight and never struggled again” or “How can I pretend to be perfect?” It’s called “Half of Me” and I always try to keep it true to what is going on with the half of me that’s left. So that’s the situation and that’s the plan and grrrrrr I’m ready to knock off a couple pounds again. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I’ll have to do it.

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51 Comments

Lesley • May 20, 2008 at 8:17 am

Once again, spot on! I ran my first half marathon just a couple of weeks before you and lo and behold I also slacked off and gained a few lbs! I’ve tightened up the regime again and lost them and am now back exercising properly again but the removal of a goal had a major effect on me as it did on you.

Good luck finding something else to look forward to and getting back on the straight and narrow. It’s nice feeling relatively comfortable that a gain does not signal the wholesale slide to fatness though, it’s just part of a natural cycle…

Lesley x

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dietgirl • May 20, 2008 at 8:42 am

Oh dude! I don’t think there is anything more insane than the promo-while-working-full-time juggling act. I felt like an utter fraud yapping on about my love of weight training when I’d just seen dumbbell cobwebs under the bed.

The plan sounds gooooood! Classes ahoy! Did you see ol Cathe is filming new weight training DVDs, they look seriously hardcore :)

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fatbridesmaid • May 20, 2008 at 8:50 am

This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Exactly. Thank you so much for this post.

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Meagan • May 20, 2008 at 9:25 am

I know the feeling. Coming back to school this semester proved to be too much temptation, and I gained about 5 lbs, but I’m ready to get back into it. Now if only my roommate would stop cooking so many delicious but fatty things…

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deanna • May 20, 2008 at 9:35 am

AMEN and HALLELUJAH! I couldn’t of said it better myself. When I post a gain I feel guilty, but hey it’s going to happen,but I have to post it. The point for my blog is to be open and honest about my weight loss, if I’m not than I am only fooling myself. Thanks for this post, it is so on point!

Got the book yesterday, loved the comment and am tearing through it – so much for saving it for my vacation!

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Sarah • May 20, 2008 at 9:40 am

Those five pounds make a huge difference as you get smaller. I bounce between the same 5 or so but it usually depends on my fitness. I’m on the pudgier side of of 160 myself…

You can keep the weight off– three years of keeping off 190 pound loss for me isn’t easy but we need to give a voice to those who have done this and are keeping it off. I hate that the media bombards us with the “fact” that only 2%-5% of ppl who take off a significant amount of weight can keep off. I truly think the number is much higher, but it takes constant effort.

It’s worth it though. Don’t you think?

Congrats on all your success PQ!

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JourneyGirl • May 20, 2008 at 9:41 am

Thank you for this post. I too have been having a hard time lately sticking to my program. I think the single most important factor in successful weight lose is the ability to bounce back. This is why I am trying to change the why I look at binges and gains. I’m beginning to see that it really doesn’t matter if I go off my program once in a while. The most important thing is that I develop the ability to bounce back each time and as quickly as possible. I’m hoping that by trying to look at things this way, rather than seeing each binge as the end of my weight lost attempt, I will conquer my obesity.

Thank you for being so honest and sharing your struggles!

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Mal • May 20, 2008 at 9:47 am

J, I’ve been quiet but I’ve still been following you for these past few months and I have to say that I’m just so stinking proud of you I can hardly see it. Granted, I’m not the one who has run a half marathon, published a book, and maintained a level head throughout — but for as proud as I feel of you, you’d hardly know it.

Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts and feelings, and not just disappearing as you got close to your goals.

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Morgan • May 20, 2008 at 9:51 am

I’m pulling for you, Jennette. Maintenance is SO difficult. I also think the 5K is a great idea to get you pulled back into your training. Good plan!

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Linda • May 20, 2008 at 10:08 am

I have been reading your story and have made it into your 2006 shares so far and have found them to be very inspirational. I’ve just gotten over being sick about 3 weeks ago from a new blood pressure pill my doctor put me on. So I made a deal with my doctor that if I could go back to my old medicine, I’d really watch what I ate and begin exercising again. I have about 100 pounds to release. That Saturday, a little over a week ago, I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. I decided I was no longer willing to accept disrespect from myself. I have gotten to a place where I no longer accept disrespect from other people or establishments. Stopping the disrespect from someone else or an establishment always requires some type of action on my part. Why in the world would it be okay to disrespect myself? I decided to become committed to exercising 5 days a week again. True, it’s only 10 minutes on the treadmill right now; but it’s a start. I decided I wasn’t going to drink pop anymore. I decided I wasn’t going to use the salt shaker and I needed to begin watching the sodium content on the things I buy. I decided to incorporate more veggies into my diet. I decided to watch my portions and be conscious of how much sugar I put into my body. My motivation is I don’t want to have to take stronger medication. I don’t want to develop diabetes. I want to feel healthy. As I get older; it becomes harder and harder to carry excess weight on my 55 year old body.

I know I won’t do this perfectly. There will be times when I slip and fall. The important thing for me is to do the best I can the majority of the time. I had gotten very lazy and was doing whatever I wanted to do or not do. My best friend, Phyllis, has been really watching her choices for about 9 or 10 months now and she is looking good and feeling good. She is my inspiration. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to pay it forward and be someone else’s inspiration the same way you are.

Have you experienced that feeling of “being sick and tired of being sick and tired?” Experiencing being sick and tired of being sick and tired doesn’t have to relate to food. Leaving a job after 34 years to take the one I love now came about as I experienced those types of emotions concerning my last job. I can think of several areas where those types of feelings spurred a change. Getting to that place has been a good thing for me. Have a great week, unless of course you have other plans! Linda

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Regina • May 20, 2008 at 10:19 am

This was a very timely post for me, too. Maintenance is way harder than taking off the weight. I’m 5 years out from losing 130 pounds. My weight has since stayed in a 20 pound range, but it takes a LOT of work.

Linda – what triggered my last big weight loss (this was my 3rd) was the “sick of feeling old at only age 40″. Every morning, my feet and ankles would ache when I got up. I felt like I was 80 years old. The thought of living this way for another 40 years was unbearable. Besides, if I felt that crappy at 40, what would 50, 60 or 70 feel like?

I started with baby steps. First I cut out sugared soda after having dental work when I had fallen and broken a front tooth. That dropped 10 pounds overnight (can you say pre-diabetic??). Next was starting to exercise. At first it was just enough to go to the gym twice a week and just do something. Anything, even an easy walk on the track – the key was establishing an exercise habit. Then I got into a women-only weight training class. I started to feel better about myself and then I tackled my diet. One thing led to another and over the next 16 months I shed 130 pounds and turned into a runner & triathlete.

I no longer can run due to a problem with my knee, but I can walk and bike ride. I just walked my 2nd marathon 1 week ago with a friend (it was her first).

I hope this inspires you, Linda. Little steps CAN lead to BIG changes in your health and the quality of life.

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Elizabeth • May 20, 2008 at 10:46 am

Hey there- it was so great to meet you in Lexington… I went home and spent the rest of my Saturday afternoon reading your book… I loved it! And, I read the last chapter to my sister… she is reading the book now too! Keep up the good work and thanks for being such a great inspiration!

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Moni • May 20, 2008 at 11:41 am

WoW ! As I stepped on the scale this a.m. and saw that my slow increase of weight had gone up another pound (5 total) I was thoroughly depressed. Reading your blog this morning has helped me to refocus. Also all the other comments by other readers are truly encouraging.

Thanks for great insight.

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Kim • May 20, 2008 at 11:47 am

It’s so true that this is a never ending battle. 1 day off from working out can so quickly turn into 7 for me if I’m not careful. I’ve been watching the numbers on the scale creep up and I’ve got to get myself focused again before 5 pounds turns into 25. grrrr.

Thanks for the post to remind us that it happens to all of us!!

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Debbi • May 20, 2008 at 12:45 pm

I can only say “amen,” and encourage you to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to get and stay on track. It’s harder to lose the second (third, fourth, etc.) time around. You’re so lucky to have gotten to a healthy weight while you’re young and have a functioning metabolism. I’m glad I’m getting older – it’s better than dying – but losing weight is the hardest thing I do these days.

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Tashana • May 20, 2008 at 1:25 pm

I came across this site via the Writer’s Digest –I simply love the power of the network. I was immediately encouraged and at the same time a tad-bit dismayed that I hone the same challenges and have done – NOTHING. For a while I was going strong. Working out every other day, eating out less and staying in more. But, all that changed after I took on a larger teaching work load in the evening, in addition to my full time day job. I don’t even see my family anymore let alone have time to exercise.

I just finished drinking (it seems) a sub sandwich and 2 bags of chips (wow, sounds much more hideous in writing) — opps and a root beer, that I still haven’t finished — and I wonder why I feel so sluggish and out of place.

I need something like this blog. Funny how you can need a group of people you don’t even know and probably will never meet, but I do.

I had a fleeting thought of training for a 1/2 mile marathon in October. That thought quickly dispersed after I realized that I don’t even have time for me right now – let alone time to train.

I know these are ALL excuses but I really need some kind of a push — and hopefully that push does not come in the form of a heart attack, especially after all the sausage meet I just consumed. Wow, now it’s just making me ill.

Oh well, I’ll begin today — how about that — begin anew right now and use this forum as my stomping ground. I hope to be back tomorrow to see how you day goes. Maybe I’ll have something better to report.

Regards,

Tashana

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G.G. • May 20, 2008 at 1:56 pm

What! It doesn’t get easier? Well, hell, I give up then.

(Just kidding)

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K • May 20, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Good luck with the bike shopping!

You are so right. I have no idea how it’s possible to promote a book, work, and keep to a fitness routine that works… so there’s nothing for it but to wait until things calm down, dust off the dumbbells (or whatever) and start again.

Not that I’ve ever promoted a book! But I’m familiar with the problem from writers’ blogs, and I’ve found that studying while working really erodes my will to exercise, because I am mentally tired, and my brain can’t tell the difference between mental and physical tiredness.

I am having a “reset” week at the moment: I’m going to concentrate on the basics of healthy eating, and even if my concentration wavers next week… I’ll still be one week ahead of where I would have been.

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Andrew is getting fit • May 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Yep, achieving a goal can cause problems all of its own!

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victoria • May 20, 2008 at 2:24 pm

I sort of disagree, mildly, with your feeling that you did the wrong thing by taking a break from exercise for the last two weeks.

Running a half-marathon is a HUGE demand on your body. Immediately after the race, your bones, tendons, leg muscles, heart, liver — everything that kept you going for that long hard race — are actually going to be weaker than they were before the race. Your immune system is actually compromised after a really long run like that, and you are more likely to get sick immediately after a marathon or a half marathon than you were right before the race. (Over time, of course, your immune system, muscles, bones, etc. are all stronger as a result of exercise, but in the short term they’re going to be weaker weaker after a big, unusual effort.)

And, remember, it’s not the exercise that makes you stronger, it’s the recovery. A few weeks of relatively litle exercise (especially in light of your demanding schedule) is probably the best thing you could do for yourself.

But I don’t mean to contradict your statement that keeping the weight off is really hard, even harder than losing it. Of course you’re right about that.

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Laura N. • May 20, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I am going through the same thing, Jennette (sans the book promotion, but life is still particularly busy at our house right now), and I swear that the “running only” training for the Half and then going down to 3 miles a week for a couple of weeks has turned me to mush. I just wrote about this yesterday on my post “Squishy Buns.” It’s scary how quick the muscle tone goes away, isn’t it? And how easily a few extra carbs or comfort foods a week (or day, depending) can add up to 5 pounds gained. Right there, right now! And I’m determined to take it off, too.

The 5k is a super idea. Running for speed will make you burn lots of extra calories and will push you to new levels, and still let you do other fitness activities.

And hopefully you’ll be able to sleep more, because lack of sleep can put on the pounds too (the body is a complicated machine, indeed).

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Helen • May 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm

I think the trick is to remember is that there will always be fluctuations in both weight loss/maintenance and life in general. Not always the easiest thing to do. It is extremely common to gain a few lbs. after doing a half marathon (or longer) distance simply because most people do take a little break once they’ve completed that. I personally have been on a plateau for months thanks to a finicky thyroid and my inability to see the forest for the trees. I get so sick of not making progress that I promptly derail myself by saying “Nothing is working so I quit!” I need to remember the mantra I said over an over to myself when I ran my first marathon: “just keep running.” And I need to add, “don’t quit” to that. I saw a great quote today and it has been echoing for me all day and goes right along with your theme: “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.” (unknown).

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Sarah • May 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Dude, I always have been impressed that you update your blog so much while holding down a full-time job, sticking to a regular exercise schedule, and cooking for yourself everyday. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve had tons going on.

Good luck!

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zelda • May 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I’m sure you’ve already answered this somewhere, so I apologize. but did you use a run/walk method when you did your half marathon?

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Cindy • May 20, 2008 at 8:41 pm

You are not alone in this loss-gain struggle. I gained 15 pounds at Christmas, lost 10 and continue to lose and re-gain the same 5 pounds over and over again. It is enough to drive me to distraction! I live in such fear of regaining ALL 130 pounds that some mornings I am afraid to weigh myself. I mostly do it anyway because I know if I stop, it will be too easy to keep gaining (DENIAL is a blessing and a curse!).

No one who has not lived through this can begin to understand—try as they might. The terror, the shame,the unknown—it is almost too much to bear sometimes. I have wonderful friends and a few family members who try to understand how I feel and what I am living, but they really don’t get it, despite their true efforts and my attempts at explaining it. So I spend time trying to pretend that I am not in a panic, that the end of my successful run is not imminent. Then I am not being “authentic,” which leads to other issues of self-doubt, people-pleasing, etc… YIKES! It is a vicious cycle!

So thanks for this entry, reminding me to keep on. Keep on trying to find what works for me, for me. That’s what brings me back to your blog day in and day out!!!

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Chris • May 20, 2008 at 8:56 pm

I’ve read all your blogs and I am so proud of you. Thank you for your wonderful blog, and for addressing all those weight issues that the rest of us are afraid to admit, like how difficult maintenance can be. Thank you thank you thank you so much.

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AKS • May 20, 2008 at 9:43 pm

The thing about running is, you’re going to have bad runs occasionally. It happens. So what? A crappy 30-minute run is still better than no run. Be glad and thankful you were able to run and walk. And you know what, you’ll have more great runs than bad runs, so get out there and run!

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Anonymous Boxer • May 21, 2008 at 12:36 am

Life is a series of many fights. Small and large. What I’ve always liked about YOUR blog is your honesty. There is no quick fix. There is no easy long term solution. There is getting up every day and saying “today I’m in.”

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Lisa • May 21, 2008 at 2:04 am

I have a couple questions for Jennette and those who have achieved a big loss and are maintaining. I have 180lbs. to lose. When I finally achieve a healthy weight will I have to exercise more than a naturally slender person in order to keep the pounds off even though my calorie intake is the same? Or am I wrong at the outset thinking there is such a thing as a naturally slender person except in minority numbers?

I used to think there were many people who didn’t exercise and stayed fit regardless. These days I begin to think slender people must have learned to be more active naturally in addition to not eating as much. Maybe there are even some who work at it.

I ask because I think although it may be a fact it would be very disheartening to think that after all the work of relearning how to live and eat, I have to work harder than normal in order to maintain. That would feel like punishment, eating less than others but working much harder.

Regardless if that’s the case it’s better to come to terms with it at the beginning than be hit with it later when I try to relax and find it results in gain.

Thoughts?

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jae • May 21, 2008 at 2:51 am

I think I come back to read everyday not because you succeeded in weight loss (every fat girls dream!) but because you’re real about it. The good with the bad, the easy with the hard. I love that about Half Of Me; your straight-out hit-you-in-the-face honesty. Maybe one day I’ll actually get off MY ass and succeed. ~j

PS, I got a bike and LOVE IT!!! It makes me feel like a kid every time I get on it. Hope you like yours! :)

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Cindy • May 21, 2008 at 7:11 am

Lisa,

I hate to say it, but I do believe that it IS harder for us to keep it off. Biology is working against us, among other things (it is too complex to boil down to any one criteria!). But the fact is, we (anyone who has been obese over a long period) simply have more fat cells. We never lose them, we only shrink them with weight loss. Our bodies strive to re-gain those “reserves,” for times of famine. So, yes, when you are done losing, you are going to have to work harder to maintain that loss than someone of similar size who was never obese. I don’t like to think about it as punishment, though. It just is what it is. I have lived this life and now I must keep on living with what I’ve got to work with. As Pasta Queen says, we don’t get a “do-over.” I fight my demons every day. I want to over-eat (and sometimes do!). But then I remember how it was before and decide that as hard as this is, it is still better than the alternative. Re-gaining would probably kill me, if not physically, then at least emotionally. That is incentive enough to put up with all the set-backs and “fairness” of this whole deal!

Good luck with your journey. Keep telling yourself that you deserve the best!

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Melanie • May 21, 2008 at 7:41 am

Just wanted to share in the support rally. You have accomplished so much and a momentary glitch is nothing. You have the tools and the knowledge to get back to business and turn the ship around again. You are an inspiration to so many of us, but don’t let that motivate you! Just kidding – I can imagine having all of us reading about your life can create a lot of pressure, but maybe when you’re lacking the self-motivation it could help. Above all though, remember that you are worth every bit of sweat and tears that you put into yourself and ultimately you are doing all this for you and you alone. Now go get ‘em! :)

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PastaQueen • May 21, 2008 at 8:41 am

I ran almost the whole thing, stopping to walk for about 1/4 of a mile near the end.

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Nicole • May 21, 2008 at 11:50 am

PQ, I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, and I can relate to so many of the things you talk about. I always enjoy it!! Thanks so much for putting it all out here. I know what you mean about the small fluctuations in weight. I notice a gain of a couple of pounds now, whereas it didn’t even register before. There was just so much that a few pounds more or less didn’t really make a difference. I like that I’m more in touch with my body now and that I do notice. It definitely helps to keep me on track!

My own story is that I lost 110 pounds in 2000, gained back 60 during three years of law school, and have lost 120 over the last three years. I hate math, but basically, it boils down to a 170 pound loss from my heaviest weight. I’m 34, in the 160′s, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m also trying to figure out what to do with this new body of mine. I’m smaller than I was in junior high. Did someone say “identity crisis??”

Anyway, I learned the hard way (60 pound gain…) about how easy it is to relapse.There was a lack of flexibility in the plan I used to lose the 110, and it was impossible to stick to that during law school. I gave up and bought bigger pants. This time around, I realized that I needed something that would be easier to live with if I was going to lose weight and then keep it off.

I think you are doing amazingly well given all that you have going on in your life these days. I mean, the Today show? Seriously! Life gets busy and I guess we just do our best. I’m not to maintenance yet– I still want to lose 20-30 pounds– but I had a lot going on last month so I decided to experiment with efforts not to gain rather than beating myself up for not losing. I do strength training twice a week in addition to tons of cardio, and I definitely find that I start to feel smushier after missing one strength training class. I’ve also taken up running rather recently (how exciting to be able to run around like a kid… which I don’t think I actually did when I was a kid…) and I think running a couple of times a week in place of slogging away in the gym helped a lot. I feel like I really work harder, and I like the effect running has on my mental state too. I’m proud because I managed to stay at the same weight last month despite numerous guests, social obligations and two weddings. It was definitely tough, but I think I have an idea of what my future holds. I’m so grateful to be in this body, that I don’t mind the challenge as much.

That gets me to Lisa’s post. I do think that we have to work harder, but here’s what I see as the silver lining: I have a new fun body. For me personally, the diet part of my life has been easier to deal with than the need for exercise. I used to hate anything related to exercise. I always felt weak and it was hard to move around with so much extra weight. Plus, I was embarrassed to let people see me exercise, possibly due to bad gym class experiences as a child, and reading just seemed like a much better activity for me. Now, I find that I’m excited about all of the things that I can do, and I feel grateful to be so fit. If anyone had told me 170 pounds ago about the amount of working out, running and lifting in my future, I would have thought it sounded impossible and not very pleasant (after I stopped snorting with laughter). I can’t say I’m always excited to go to the gym, but I do look forward to it pretty often! While I know that I have to work really hard to keep losing (or even stay where I am now), I can honestly say that it isn’t as bad as I would have thought it would be. I think it’s like having a shiny new car. I want to take this baby out and see what it can do! That excitement factor makes it easier for me.

PQ, you are awesome! Keep up the good work. You give those of us in a similar boat a sense of community that I appreciate very much.

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another Lisa • May 21, 2008 at 3:48 pm

re Lisa, I think what we see as normal eating has gotten way, way out of whack. It just doesn’t take that much food to keep a normal weight woman fed. (I held at 130-135 through my 20s without thinking much about it or paying it much attention, so I’m speaking from experience here.) Between our huge plates and glasses (compare to vintage 50s or earlier, and get ready to laugh) and our huge portions (home, fast food, real restaurant) we’ve gotten a warped idea of what is normal, and now we’re looking at normal as diet or not eating much or whatever.

PQ, if it makes you feel better my last lousy run was 1 mile. Felt good before I started, then nothing. Didn’t even have the legs to turn around and run home; I walked. It happens.

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Dreamer • May 21, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Re. Lisa’s question:

Over the past few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that, with just a few exceptions, the main thing that separates naturally thin people from people who struggle with their weight is that these thin people don’t tend to binge. They eat pretty much the same way very young children do — they eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full, and sometimes they get so caught up in work, hobbies, or whatever else they’re doing, they forget to eat altogether. They’ve never been on a diet, so they’re not obsessed with food. Food is not the enemy for these people — it has no power over them.

Most people who’ve struggled with their weight — including myself — have spent years telling themselves (or being told by others) what they can and can’t eat, which makes them crave these foods even more. As a result, they eat beyond the poing of fullness *on a regular basis*, and hence gain weight. Naturally thin people, on the other hand, eat beyond fullness only very rarely, because they don’t see the point of it. They know food doesn’t taste as good when you don’t have the appetite for it, and they know they’ll feel full and uncomfortable afterwards. Occasionally they might eat a piece of cake at a birthday party when they’re not really hungry, but one piece of cake doesn’t make you fat. However, several pieces of cake on a regular basis *does* make you fat. Similarly, it’s not the extra tablespoon of butter that a restaurant might or might not put on your grilled fish that makes you fat — it’s the chocolate you eat when you get home from the restaurant because you feel deprived after ordering such a “good” meal.

(I once overheard the following conversation in the grocery checkout line: An overweight woman was asking a thin man how he stayed so thin, given that he didn’t seem to watch what he ate. He replied, “I only eat when I’m hungry.” The woman laughed and said, “Oh, I can never wait that long!”)

To me, that’s the key to keeping the weight off: Re-learning how to eat and how to relate to food in order to keep this “non-hungry” eating to a minimum. (Unfortunately, when we want to lose weight, we usually go to the other extreme, i.e., cutting calories to the point that we’re hungry most of the time — we go from eating when we’re not even hungry to not even eating when we’re hungry. It’s crazy!)

I know that eliminating “non-hungry” eating is a lot easier said than done, but I really believe it’s the only way to achieve lasting weight loss. It might mean allowing yourself to eat all the “forbidden” foods you want in the short term, to get them out of your system to the point that they have no power over you. But in the long run, it really is possible to learn to eat like a “normal” person. And that should be the main objective, because the fat is just the symptom; the underlying cause is the *behavior*, and that is what really needs to be addressed.

As for exercise, I think its major role in weight loss and maintenance — beyond the actual calories it burns — is that it regulates the appetite and makes bingeing less likely. It makes you feel healthy and confident and more inclined to take care of your body — which means feeding it what it needs but no *more* than that.

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Sarah • May 22, 2008 at 1:56 am

I’ve been reading your blog forever and have never left a comment, but today I have to tell you that I respect your honesty SO much! I think that’s why I keep reading. Thank you!

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unable2trace • May 22, 2008 at 4:47 am

Hi PQ!

I found your blog about a month ago and started reading from way back at the beginning of your archives. I think you (and everyone else who has lost and maintained) are amazing.

Three years ago I lost my mum to cancer and turned to food to get through the grieving process. I finished my berevement councelling last month and now my doctor has asked me to turn my attention to my weight. I gained 50 pounds in three years, and while this doesn’t sound a lot to some of you, I am 4 feet 11 inches tall so it looks worse, so my BMI is around 36-37.

I have serious motivation issues and I feel incredibly guilty for taking time out for myself (even going to a 45 minute fitness class once a week!), especially since my husband had an operation on his leg a few weels ago and is now on crutches.

I am trying to change though – I’ve started a low fat, low GI eating plan (lost 4 pounds in 3 weeks) go to my 45 minute class every Thursday, and signed up for a 5k race in 8 weeks time.

I read many weight loss blogs (Hi Dietgirl!!!) and you guys are my inspiration. If so many of you can do it, so can I.

Thank you for your honesty, your humor and your time (writing takes ages!). You are inspiring people almost half-way across the planet and we love you for it.

Tracy

Manchester, England

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Cindy • May 22, 2008 at 6:08 am

dreamer,

This sounds good in theory, but I believe that it is much easier said than done. I don’t think I will ever be “cured.” It will take effort and diligence every day for the rest of my life. I will never think like a thin person. Food will always be a challenge. I am not complaining, but I have no illusions of becoming “normal.” I wish you every success and everyone is different, but for me it is important to remember every day that I am not normal and that I have a different relationship with food than many people. It is the way it is for me, and coming to terms with that is what will help me continue to maintain this loss.

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Ladybug • May 22, 2008 at 10:38 am

Your story is inspirational. I’m in my thirties and being fat is killing me. Just recently I gained close to 50 lbs in less than 6 months. I look and feel awful. I started gaining weight about 6 yrs ago (I was depressed and started anti-depressants). My doctor also prescribed Synthroid and we’re still working out the dosage. I feel like this uncontrollable emotional eater, everytime I look in the mirror at my arms, stomach, 38H chest(genetics) and round face I feel awful that I let this happen to me. Sometimes I just want it all to end, if I don’t get this under control I’m afraid it will. I’m currently 100 lbs overweight, I feel like I’m trapped and extremely sad. I just want to do better, I’ve been able to lose weight before, I should be able to now.

What’s really messes with my head is being back in my hometown around all the people I’ve known, I was a size 8 and now I’m an 18. I pretend not the notice how certain friends give me the look of pity :), they’d never say it but some people have a harder time controlling their facial expressions. Or one friend almost made me laugh when she was talking to me, her voice was low and solemn like she just found out I was terminally ill and had 2 months to live or something.

Thanks for letting me vent. LB

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Robin K • May 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm

I think you have just entered in to the realm of weight maintenance. Even though you are not at your stated goal weight yet, it’s a good place to begin learning the maintenance skills needed to keep the weight off. So the fact that you had this minor setback is not a bad thing. The truth is, you’ve encountered a situation that pulled you off track and life will do that many times.

There WILL be times when you can’t exercise as much, there will be times when you slip, there will be times when you do everything right and the scale won’t budge or actually goes up (thanks largely to our hormones!) So learning to be OK with that and getting right back on your “program” is the key. But here’s the rub–it is deceptively challenging. And you have to be able to do it again and again because life just keeps rolling on. You’ll find out what works for you: does cutting back a bit on eating work? does ramping up your exercise work? did you need to do lots of stuff like de-stressing, etc. for you to get back on track. You’ll find out what works best for you.

I’m spending an obnoxious amount of space (excuse me) for writing about this because I have “been there and done this many times.” I am a lifetime WW member but I have also reached my goal weight on my own. Yet keeping it off over time is always the key and the harder part over time, and I haven’t always been able to do what’s needed (same is true of many other WW members, I can tell you that).

I’ve currently fallen off the wagon. You can know what to do and not necessarily do it. So there’s the final rub–once you figure out how you get back on track, do that every time you fall off as soon as possible!

That’s why it’s good to get a little practice in now when you’ve only gained a few pounds. Everyone who fights with their weight needs the experience of it to conquer it!

Best of luck to you! Love your blog and have read all your recommended best reads–the whole thing! I didn’t know about you or the blog until you were on the Today show–you did a great job on the show as well, and that’s why I checked out your blog!

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DDWT • May 22, 2008 at 5:48 pm

It is soooooo freaking, fracking, f*cking hard to maintain weightloss.

Your plan sounds great. Go, PQ, go!!!!

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Melodee • May 22, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Oh my gosh! I just wrote such a similar post to this on my blog, if you substitute four children for a book deal, of course. ;)

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jancd • May 23, 2008 at 12:06 am

Being famous is hard, isn’t it. We all admire you and wish only the best for you, so get back on that pony and ride.

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Lisa • May 23, 2008 at 1:31 am

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who answered my question regarding maintenance. You’ve given me much to think about and continued hope for this journey in the vein of ‘knowledge is power’. Cheers and best wishes.

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merrem • May 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I’m struggling with the same thing–weight gain through grief. I was a bit overweight when my mum died and went up to almost 200. Now I’m 175 and stuck.

Best of luck–grief is a tough thing to deal with.

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Nancy • May 23, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Your honesty is refreshing and much appreciated.

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Clinton Walker III • May 27, 2008 at 11:00 am

The maintainence is easier if the way you lost the weight was done correctly. If you diet and exercise correctly and slowly lose the weight it takes longer for it to pack back on. Gimmick diets and other tricks are only temparary solutions to weight loss. Usually I suggest that you exercise at least 3 days a week for 45 minutes to maintain.

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BrightAngel • May 28, 2008 at 8:36 am

I now have 28 months of maintaining my goal weight, and it is still work every single day.

Exercise is good….but less food is still where it’s at.

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Dollargirl • June 5, 2008 at 10:08 pm

You probably get a zillion questions a day, but when did you work out? In the morning, night? Before you ate, after? That is the only thing I’m stuck on right now. I have the eating portion down, just not the exercise. Keep up the good work. You will live alot long because of what you have accomplished.

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PastaQueen • June 5, 2008 at 10:42 pm

I’ve worked out at all of those times. I’ve gone through periods where I work out in the morning, when I work out during the day, in the evening, and both before and after eating. It’s usually better to workout before eating though, since you can eat recovery foods afterwards. It’s more a matter of figuring out what works for your schedule.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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