Friday found me curled in the fetal position, succumbed to the dreaded body image double whammy. Chances are you’ve been there too. It’s the one-two punch of ill-fitting clothes and an unexplained jump on the scale. The upper cross to my jaw was the arrival of an adorable workout skirt that I ordered in my usual size, only to discover it is uncomfortably tight through the hip/thigh area. The sucker punch to my stomach though was the overnight – and I kid you not – arrival of 6 pounds. I did the ugly cry (mad props to Oprah, by the way, for introducing that phrase into the lexicon); both my mascara and my nose did runneth mightily.
For some reason – and I don’t blame the Pilates but more on that later – this month I’ve gained back every single pound I’ve lost since January. As you may recall (or not, I can’t imagine you are nearly as interested in my weight as I am) since Jelly Bean was born, I have been losing steadily at about 1 pound… a month. Most diet plans say you can safely lose 1-2 pounds per week but no matter, as long as the numbers were trending down rather than up I could keep a lid on the Boy George histrionics. And then. All that hard work – 6 months of working out 6 days a week and recording every calorie and being way under my maintenance allotment (even without adding in the nursing calories) – was erased in just a few short weeks. The worst part? It was for no good reason. This is the part in the weight-loss movie where I shake my fist at the sky and scream BUT I AM DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT!!! According to MyPlate (you all were right – that really is the best calorie tracker), I should have been losing 2.5 pounds a week. For everyone who says that weight loss is simply a matter of calories in/calories out I offer myself up as a living rebuttal.
This tear-soaked weekend has lead me to two conclusions and I think they may surprise you.
1. I’m done dieting. I’m so tired of being wrecked every time the scale goes up. It’s ridiculous and heart breaking and infuriating to me that I am 31 years old and am still in the thrall of this thinner-is-better ideal. The only thing I have lost with this manic devotion to weight loss would be my mind. Some people take a declaration of “I’m done dieting” to being tantamount to “I don’t care about my health.” For me, giving up dieting is embracing my health. I have to believe that my body wants to run faster than a speeding toddler, leap park benches in a single bound and heft heavy grocery bags with one arm.
2. I don’t know how to eat normally. I’ve mentioned Geneen Roth’s book Women, Food and God on here so many times in the past few weeks that you probably think I’m schilling for her (I’m not. And FCC – I bought the book myself.) but reading it made me realize that I am completely ignorant of basic facts about my body. What does hungry feel like to me? What does full feel like? Why do I want to crawl out of my skin with anxiety if I have to eat without any distractions? Why have all my recent binges – and I use that word loosely in this context – been brought on by whole wheat muffins, whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta? Can I possibly be addicted to whole wheat?! (And also, why do I get the full-body shudders when seeing someone pull fabric through their teeth? Okay so this one doesn’t have anything to do with the book but I’ve wondered about this for a long time. Nails on the chalkboard? No problemo. A toddler chewing on a washrag? You will find me rocking back and forth in the corner screaming with horror. I cannot be the only one who has this phobia, right?)
Ms. Roth has 7 guidelines for eating like a normal person. For the month of June, I am going to try to follow her guidelines for eating. Some of you may think this Experiment is a cop out but I’m telling you that I have never – and I’m including the time I went Primal – been so scared to do an Experiment. And I have never wanted so badly for an Experiment to work. Because I cannot – I will not – keep bawling my eyes out over my stupid weight.
Geneen Roth’s 7 Guidelines for Eating
1. Eat when you are hungry. (You say duh, I say I have never eaten to hunger since I first knew what a diet was. I’m not even sure I know when I’m truly hungry! What if my body wants to eat every hour?)
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. (Calm environment with 4 kids is asking a bit much but I’ll do my best. I can at least sit down at the table as opposed to hunched over the counter or keyboard, per my usual.)
3. Eat without distractions. No TV, radio, computer, books or magazines. (I hate this guideline. HATE it. Which makes me think it’s probably really important that I do it. Sigh.)
4. Eat what your body wants. (My body really likes to eat healthy. That won’t be the hard part. This whole wheat thing though – that’s going to be tricky.)
5. Eat until you’re satisfied. (In the past, I eat until my allotted portion is finished whether or not I’m full. Just like I’m not sure if I can recognize hunger, I’m also not sure I can recognize satiety. Which is probably the whole point of guideline #3.)
6. Eat in full view of others. (Are you a secret eater? I am, sometimes. In my daily life I’m not but I do have episodes of secret eating that almost always follow eating at a party or with friends. I feel deprived that I can’t eat all the rich food that my (skinny) friends do and then go home and eat an entire package of vegan chocolate. Nice.)
7. Eat with enjoyment. (WHAT? Since when is food enjoyable?? I’m the girl who still thinks that given the choice I’d take a pill for all my daily sustenance and avoid food altogether. And I hate this about me.)
So I wrote down these guidelines on a cute little card and tacked it to my fridge. For June’s GFE, I’m going to try to eat. Like a normal person.
(For our workouts this month, the Gym Buddies have requested a return to Heavy Lifting. Which means we’ll be doing CrossFit this month. It’s a killer workout – it’s one of the few past Experiments that we keep going back to over and over.)
There appear to be two kinds of people in the fitness world, those who love Pilates and those who hate it. I am in the former camp but unfortunately most of the Gym Buddies are in the latter which meant I spent most of this month hundred-ing and scooping out my stomach by myself. For a girl who works out in no small part due to the social aspects, this was a serious blow.
A lot of the Gym Buddies’ apathy has to do with the quality of the Pilates instruction, I think. The instructor and their willingness to teach and correct make a huge difference in how well Pilates works. I learned that I am NOT a good Pilates instructor. I hadn’t intended to be one but due to the dearth of available classes at our gym and my unwillingness to pay for private lessons, it ended up being me trying to teach the Gym Buddies the Pilates technique out of books. That went very badly – and hilariously – so I take full responsibility for their non-love.
Fortunately for me, there are some great Pilates instructors out there who really know their stuff and three of them took pity on me and spent some time helping me out. For those of you in the Minneapolis area, Melissa Schenck, Ann Flynn and Jennie Berglund are excellent and dedicated instructors. When I got to take their classes, which wasn’t often enough, they worked me out good and hard – I was SORE sore. (I won’t mention by name the other instructors except to say that one class was so horrible we ended up walking out early. I only say this here to warn you that Pilates is not the kind of thing you can learn in a two-hour workshop one weekend.)
Melissa taught me probably the most valuable thing I learned from the whole Pilates Experiment: how to find a neutral spine. I’ve heard instructors talk about having a “neutral” spine or pelvis hundreds of times but it turns out that what I think is neutral is actually a huge curve in my lower back (think Keri Strug after landing her one-legged vault). I blame gymnastics. And the six-fingered man. At any rate, she taught me how to lay on my back and put my hands in a diamond shape with my thumbs on my belly button and my index fingers right on top of my pubic bone. When my hands are flat, my spine is neutral. When my thumbs are higher, I’m arching my back (a no-no in everything from Pilates to weight lifting). And when my index fingers are higher, my spine is “imprinted” or pushed into the floor – a position good for protecting your back when your abs are weak. (And yes I actually had to lift my head and look at my hands to see what position they were in.) Knowing how to put your spine into neutral is important for doing any kind of ab work but even better, standing with a neutral spine makes you look 10 pounds thinner instantly!
Melissa also did a killer workout with Gym Buddy Megan and I on the Reformer. That shoulder workout rivaled anything CrossFit or P90X has thrown at us. I would love to do more on the Reformer in the future – it seems like a great fitness tool. Gotta save up first though as that thing ain’t cheap. Ann introduced me to a device called a Core Pole – a big metal pole with resistance bands attached to it – that can be used to simulate a lot of the moves done on the Reformer, especially when you add a Swiss ball. Her classes also made me Good Sore (plus I got to tell people I was going to my Pole class – awesome.) Lastly, Jennie (also known as Turbo Jennie when she’s in round-housing mode) teaches a class called PiYo, a blend of Pilates and Yoga moves. The class is fast paced and challenging and the leg-butt routine was so hard that it took an entire week for me to stop walking like I had a Core Pole jammed up my heinie.
My verdict: Pilates can be a fantastic workout with the right instructor. Doing it from videos and/or books without prior instruction probably won’t give you good results. It’s worth the time and money to find a really good teacher.
Hold me, I’m scared!
Who’s getting down with me with the Guidelines for June’s GFE? Can I really learn how to eat like a normal human?? Anyone have any experience with wheat addiction (i.e. Am I crazy to think I’m addicted to wheat?)? Can you tell when you are hungry and when you are full? Pilates: Are you a lover or a hater? Wanna do CrossFit with us this month?