Weight loss, maintenance and the pursuit of perfection

So, in 2007 I turn 37, get married, move to sunny, hot QLD and over 4 years the weight just stacks on. I join gyms, get a PT for a short while, but the willpower is not there and the PT is frankly not very good. Besides, I am happy, slightly overheated and disinclined to get sweatier than I already am. After 4 years, a  mostly finished PhD and no exercise, 40-something me is eyeing off size 14 clothes and lamenting the loss of my figure, thinking sadly that I’m probably destined for frumpy middle-agedom after years of being mostly slim and basically healthy.

Then in 2012 I have an epiphany, take time off from the PhD and decide to lose weight and get healthy. I join a private gym, get a PT, exercise 4 times a week, eat well for the first time in years, count calories and food intake and voila, underneath frumpy lady is not-frumpy lady. Weight falls off, muscle builds and tones, and I am back into a size 8 and lamenting that off-the-rack clothes don’t really work for smaller waists and larger thighs. (When one says larger thighs, they aren’t really all that large at all – just sayin’.)

Now, I am in maintenance mode. I struggle to get to the gym more than 2 times a week and that includes my PT session, I drink 2 glasses of wine a day, eat ice-creams and the occasional biscuit and have stopped counting calories and food intake. But the weight has stayed off, as far as I can tell. You see, I don’t weigh myself except when I’m at the gym, and even then, not very much. I don’t panic when I feel I am having a “fat” day – it’s just my hormonal cycle fluctuating as it should.

Even my PT can’t understand it – he asks what I am eating, what other exercise I am doing to keep so fit, and all I can say is “my body likes being like this”. And so it does. Last century, American psychologist William Sheldon came up with the notion of somatotyping, that suggests humans come in three basic body patterns or sizes (somatotypes): ectomorph (long and thin); mesomorphs (muscular, fit); and endomorphs (large, broad). It’s basically accepted to be quackery (you should read how he got his data! Research fraud!) now but hey, it works for this black duck. According to this pop psychology theory I am a mesomorph. I gain and lose weight easily, I develop muscle easily, and my body is compact and designed for powerful movement. I do mainly strength training because I HATE cardio, but I DO do a circuit class, mainly on the weekend, and sometimes I do boxing as well. Must get back into that on Thursday nights.

Thing is, I can feel my motivation slipping away every so slightly. Yesterday I was in a bit of a heap and took a doona day – I’ve been battling a throat infection for weeks and I just needed to lie down for a long time. I went to the gym in the morning, but I didn’t take the dog for a walk as I should have, and then I spent the day grazing, basically because my body is fighting off this thing. And I was hungry. Today I feel a heap better, but it’s raining and I’m not sure the dog will get her walk today, and I’m still tired and a bit achy. And I have work to do.

I was reading a long-lost blog by a fellow MyFitnessPal user who has been a great inspiration to me – essentially same age and weight, she has reported on her weight loss journey and taken progress pictures, and she looks amazing! Her actual weight has fluctuated a lot (about 15 lbs), and depending on what she has been doing – either strength training or cardio and calorie-controlled eating, she looks almost the same in all her shots. Actually, she looks hot in her strength training shots, heavier in weight but slimmer in size. I wasn’t aware that strength training can have such an awesome effect on one’s appearance, but it really does. But even this amazing, sensible woman has had her low months. She recently reported on her battles with depression and illness that have demotivated her. Old habits crept back in, exercise went down hill and she gained weight. And she stopped writing in her blog, which is why I couldn’t find it for months. But she’s back now. And I’m so glad – because one needs motivations like someone else’s blog to re-energise and refocus.

So, to perfection? Well, we all know that’s not possible. And I don’t want to be perfect. But I do want to be fitter, now. Healthier, and even stronger. Because all this helps me as I age. Here are some before and after shots for those who think that sort of thing’s important: (notice how I’m hiding my fat bits from the camera in the first shot!)

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