Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Update: The Highway to Healthy


Picture Taken: 12/21/2020

Greetings everyone! The Unleashed One here.

I debated whether to wait until the New Year to do this particular entry. However, what prompted me to do it were as follows:

(1) It has been on my mind for a while, and I wanted to get the process started on working through all of the contents in this entry.

(2) Perhaps someone else is going through the same hiccup but hasn't said much or anything at all because it's not the "traditional" way you are supposed to act or feel.

In short, it's for helping and healing.

Your eyes do not deceive you. I did not use a fancy filter to make my face or body look small. What you see above is how I actually look, give or take a few days.

The standard reaction of how one's supposed to feel ...

  • Excited
  • Overjoyed
  • Sexy
  • Confident
  • Accomplished
Along with some type of shame over how the previous, heavier, unhealthy you looked.

Now, before I go on, know this:

I do not believe just because someone is heavier that it is synonymous with unhealthy. I am sick of that narrative. I do know people of heavier weights that have no medical conditions whatsoever. I know people who look the "ideal" that are battling with a plethora of health issues.

The first time I attempted a routine to get healthy was back in 2013. It had not been too long after the gym had opened, and I decided to join. The insurance I had wasn't all that great, and I was still employed by the staffing agency on a long term temporary assignment.

The following photo is one I first took at the start. Note: Pardon the awkwardness. I still have not mastered the art of doing a photo in the mirror. 😄

February 2013

March 2013

A few months after these photos, I got married. Then, my mate experienced financial instability. While he looked for work, I took on an additional job. At that stage, it became hard to manage two jobs, still be expected to do traditional wifely duties, and uphold a workout regime. When it came time to cut down expenses, my gym membership hit the chopping block. So did the tiny progress I'd made with exercises and nutrition since the most accessible foods aren't exactly the most health-friendly.

I did feel a bit sad. Exercising gave me a temporary reprieve from any stress I had been experiencing and took me out of the humdrum of working, then going home. It also didn't help when my mate was not one hundred percent supportive. He never wanted to go to the gym with me. Plus, he would keep saying that I looked fine just the way I was.

But it wasn't about looks; it was about health.

See, I didn't even think I was ugly at a heavier weight. However, I did recognize that the pounds were becoming a deterrent.

(1) My diabetes at that point was not well controlled.
(2) Tasks like going up and down stairs exhausted me.
(3) Experiencing pain throughout my body was constant.
(4) My feet and legs would swell up frequently.
(5) At times, breathing was rather difficult.
(6) The ability to find clothes I felt comfortable in wearing declined.
(7) I did not have as much stamina with things I loved doing.
(8) I did not have the stamina to always meet the sexual demands of my mate.

By the fall/winter of 2016, I had begun to reach acceptance as it pertained to my weight. At this juncture, my husband and I were no longer living together (in the process of divorce). I had accepted that the body I had now was the one I was stuck with.

I was dissatisfied with the medical community. Despite my believing that the medication I was on was ineffective, I kept being told that I just needed to "work harder", "apply myself", and "not eat so much". However, I was the type of person that back in those times, only ate once a day, but when I did eat, it was the quality of the food, not the quantity. 

Just before the start of 2017, I decided to peek out at the dating world, but it had been years since I'd done any recent photos. I got a friend to help with some of the photos.

December 2016

August 2017

I confess that I don't know the number. How much I weighed. I didn't own a scale, so it was only when I went to the doctor's office that I'd have a number. But it is over two hundred for sure. 

Yet, even here, I wasn't thrown off by how I looked, just adapting to dressing differently. Seeing what styles worked and what didn't. Branching out of just wearing pants and jeans, which are my automatic. 

Then 2018 hit.

The Super Flu hit.

I was out of work for about three weeks. One of my workers commented that I had lost weight. The only way I picked up on it was because of how my face looked.

I didn't think much about it at first, believing that the weight I had lost would work its way back. It always had in the past. Sure, I did not have any appetite ... it had gone to zilch because of the flu ... but once the flu went on its merry way, the desire to eat like I had would return.

February passed.

Then March and April.

I still didn't have a scale but I knew more weight had dropped off. My clothes were no longer fitting the same. Skin was sagging where it hadn't before.

The sagging of the skin was bothersome to me, and that is what brought me back to the gym in May. I thought to myself, If I can just tone/firm some of this up, I will be okay.

I also started cleaning house, as it pertained to the attendants of my medical care. I dumped my primary care physician for a new one and sought an endocrinologist that would listen to my concerns and put me on medication that would actually help with my diabetes and my cholesterol issues.

With this new dedication to my fitness and health, I once again had to make adjustments to the physical manifestation of changes. 

December 2018

September 2019
(Only the 2nd time in adult life I've worn a bathing suit)

November 2019

Heading into 2019, I encountered a disconnect. Although my body was smaller, I still had the habit of picking up clothes that were my previous size. Or things that fit my old silhouette. Most of the time, I would catch myself. There were a few times I didn't. Some of the items I was able to return. Some were final sale. Luckily, at this stage, my friend could wear that particular size.

I also struggled with the donating of clothes, wondering if I should hold on to some. Simply because there was that nagging thought, "What if the weight comes back? At least I'll have these clothes on standby."

It was not until the later part of 2019 that I went through the process of donating some of the "way too big clothing", as in the size 18, 20, even the scant 22s that ran small. Although if I had to guess, I was actually close to a size 12 at around the end of 2019. So ... even then ... I was a few steps behind.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have set a number goal. I opted not to do it because in the past when I would, I'd beat myself up for not hitting the number. I didn't want to get obsessed over a number. I wanted to focus on the actual journey and the benefits. More importantly, I was working so that I could hear the words from my endocrinologist that I could stop taking my diabetes medication.

I am excited about the benefits of the journey. I have more energy to do activities. I do not have to take strong medication on a daily basis to manage my pain. The quality of my sleep has improved. These improvements make me feel overjoyed.

I did have sexy and confident moments in the latter part of 2019. Jeggings and leggings became part of my wardrobe when I'd always rock wide leg and boot cut. I appreciated how my legs looked in them. I tried out prints that I ran from before.

I was having fun, but I also figured I had reached the end of the journey. Reason being that I had reached a plateau with the weight. At this stage, I didn't mind, figuring I could finally start getting more clothes without having the fear that I'd have to readjust.

When the pandemic hit, my typical workout routine was altered significantly. I relied heavily on the availability of the gym for exercise, so when the gyms closed, I had a hard time finding substitutions that would produce the same result. Also, with most of us working from home, I had to adapt to working from home while trying to find a way to maintain my accomplishments.

When I went to see my endocrinologist for a follow up on my bloodwork in mid-2020, I did gain about twelve pounds (Yes, I finally got a scale 😄). But once I had reached a decent number (which I felt I had in 2019), I hadn't stepped on it that often.

Although I did explain to my endocrinologist that the impact of COVID was a primary culprit, there was concern expressed that I'd fallen off the wagon.

All I could think was I'll show you.

Once the gyms reopened across the way, I made it a point to find a way to incorporate the routine in my schedule, along with my newfound love for outdoor walks. Since I have more energy in the mornings, that did involve getting up a few hours earlier than my work shift on the weekdays. Sure, there were moments when I had to switch to the afternoons, but I was more open to amending exercising than not doing it altogether. 

I also went into the habit of weighing myself more. Primarily to know how much weight I lost on average as well as being able to pinpoint what factors would cause loss to stall or even gain. 

  • When I'm on my period ... forget about it. #StupidWaterWeight

  • When I don't have a bowel movement, there's a huge fluctuation in my weight. (I'll cover that in a separate entry because I haven't moved "normally" since after the flu).

  • If I slip up and have too much rice, it seems to translate to pounds immediately. 😮

Doing this just really helped me be realistic ... that the loss of weight is more like a wave than a straight line. It keeps me from being overly hard on myself. When my weight increases, I usually know what contributes to it. I brush myself up and get back to business.

But ... silly me still didn't set my number. I just wanted to prove that I'm not that person to be written off due to a minor setback.

March 2020 (just before the shutdown)

September 2020
(Think I look pretty good,
although on my cycle that day)

And ... just like that, no more plateau.

The cycle (Acknowledging, Acceptance, and Adaptation) has begun once more, now looking at my wardrobe like ... 

Now, we are back to where we started. The picture of me that you saw before.

So ... how am I feeling? 🤔🤔🤔

I was having a random conversation with Yasmin. It was a little about this subject ... having to go through readjustment.

I said out loud, "What size am I now? I can't shop at the stores I used to." By stores I'm used to, I speak of Torrid and Ashley Stewart, and even with them, I had been going with the smallest sizes they offered.

I was casually looking at the Old Navy website, using their 'True Size' thing, which touted I was a size 8.

I looked in the mirror (yes, I have a full-length one that doubles as a jewelry armoire), then shook my head. "Old Navy says I'm an 8, but I doubt it."

Yasmin said, "No, I think you're an eight. I used to be super small, remember?"

I shrugged, still in doubt. But some of my workout clothes were getting two sizes too big. After my workout, I walked over to Forman Mills and saw a good buy on some two-piece sets. This is one of the ones I purchased. In my mind, I was still doubtful that it was the correct size. But I had never been this size to even judge whether Yasmin was in error. 

I put it on, expecting it not to fit at all ... and yet, it did. Not super snug, but proper.

I am feeling ... 😶

Stunned: because I did not anticipate that I would get to this level of smallness

Conflicted: because I have not tapped into the beauty of this frame, along with the loss of community I've experienced since going on this journey. Loss of community in terms of once being plus-size and having those same ones shun me because in their eyes I'm a "skinny-mini", even though my treatment towards the community has not and will not change. I still love them.

Apprehensive: because of what is said when people think you've lost too much ... "sickly", "not feminine anymore", etc, but it's more about Grandma and less about "people", feel me?

Along with having feelings of

Numbness and distortion, both visually and emotionally: 

On most days, I'm so into the routines that I don't pause to really reflect. When I work out, it's this immense tunnel vision. I'm focused on what I have to do and how I want to do it.

However, I don't spend a lot of time staring in the mirror because when I do, I fall into cherry-picking ... the "I like, but" ... because sometimes, hitting one goal brings the spotlight on more work that has to be done.

For example ...

"I like how defined my legs are, but I wish I didn't have so much sagging skin on my thighs."

"The tummy is coming along but there's that small flap and all the stretch marks".

"It's becoming a challenge to work out with the extra breast tissue. It's time to look into the lift and breast reduction I've pondered on for some years."

Coupled with ...

Missing aspects and attributes of the heavier me: because there was certainty with her. Who is reflected now is a whole new horizon.

I said all of that to say this ...

  • There's nothing wrong with having varying emotions on the Highway to Healthy. You can feel over the moon with accomplishment and "what the hell is going on" at the same time. A person should not be made to have to choose one over the other.
  • One getting started on a wellness journey may have little or nothing to do with the dissatisfaction with one's physical appearance. Not everyone's beginning is the same.
  • Having people go on the ride with you is helpful but don't fear going at it alone if you have to. 
  • Dream abs are based on the blessing of genetics and nutrition more so than any dream creams, potions, or magic workouts. Don't think because you lose weight that six-pack abs just show up. On some individuals, depending on their fat percentage, the abs may never show.
  • Being a smaller weight does not automatically mean that all medical problems are eliminated. In some cases, new challenges can arrive.
  • The Highway to Healthy is a long-term commitment. It's the only way to ensure that the results stick.
  • Have a set point in mind. That way, once you get to it, you can adjust your mindset and focus on maintenance. Also, don't let anyone else's number dictate your number.
  • Find the characteristics that you love about yourself every step of the way. It helps when you experience a setback or have moments when you're not feeling as self-assured.

Okay, I think that about covers it.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading. It was very daunting to be this hella vulnerable with everyone, particularly all of the full-body shots ... lol. But, if I've helped even one person, then this makes it all worthwhile.

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