Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

Well, so far the scale hasn’t been my friend. Two doctors appointments and two weigh-ins have resulted in zero change. But I can still I’m better for the regular exercise. How? Here are my progress markers:

  1. It takes me less time to recover after a workout. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t want to talk to anyone for a bit after my workout (assuming I had enough breath to do so). But the racing heart and ragged breathing stills much more quickly than when I started even though I’ve been (very) slowly increasing my workouts.
  2. I recovered more quickly from a sinus infection. Usually that will put me down for about a week, but I was only really out of it for two days, despite the fact that I was still running a low grade fever after that. Cipro is now my bestest friend.
  3. I am no longer ambling along neck-and-neck with people using walkers. I’m jetting right past them without noticing that I’m walking faster than I used to. Still probably don’t walk as fast as my hubby’s usual stride.
  4. My clothes are getting somewhat looser. Not yet down a size, though. Don’t have to lie on the bed to zip that one pair of jeans.
  5. I actually miss it when I don’t work out. I can feel the difference in my overall energy levels. I also retain more water on days I don’t exercise.
  6. My fat takes less time to stop jiggling. Yes, I actually can tell by doing the upper arm fat chicken dance.

Who needs fancy calipers or immersion tests or x-rays to tell my fat percentage? I can tell by my everyday life that there’s more muscle lifting my built-in weights dispersed all over my body.

Alas, though, I still want to see the dadgum scale move, just like everyone else. Sigh.

Dr. Brian M. Scott, a mathematics professor at Cleveland State University, once said to me, “If you know one expert, you know all the answers. If you know two, you’ll never be certain.” I have repeated this bit of wisdom more times than I care to calculate (probably because I’d be wrong), and Scientific American’s “Can Fat Be Fit?” interviewee Paul Raeburn reinforces this view when discussing his opinion that being somewhat overweight isn’t a bad thing as long as you’re also exercising:

The statistical things are very tricky and I wouldn’t sit here and say that I can go through all the mathematical minutiae and analyze what’s going on — far from it; I can’t get into the nuts and bolts at all. It really requires a professional, and the evidence for that of course is that the professionals argue madly over these things about whose right and whose handling the statistics correctly.

Go to their section on “The Science of Weight Loss” and you may find yourself confused about exactly what the right answer is. For example, the article “Does Exercise Really Make You Healthier?” doesn’t really answer the question, as the experts seem to be saying, well, generally yes, but there are exceptions, and we don’t really know why.

So what should we laypeople believe, when things like this, back in 2005,  have happened:

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a rare and curious apology. She apologized for the mixed messages and contradictory studies regarding the dangers of obesity, acknowledging that flawed data in several CDC studies had overstated the risks.

The article goes on to say, well, folks, be skeptical of what you read. Well, gee, thanks.

As I indicated in an earlier post, there are studies that support the contention that interval training, or mixed difficulty exercises, such as CrossFit are actually better for weight loss and increased fitness. There’s also a study saying that the kind of diet CrossFit advocates will make you feel more satisfied and, presumably, will make you eat less overall:

Eating fewer, regular-sized meals with higher amounts of lean protein can make one feel more full than eating smaller, more frequent meals, according to new research from Purdue University.

One of my favorite studies is the one that says that obesity is spread socially:

The people we associate with can have a powerful effect on our behavior—for better or for worse. This holds true for human health and body mass, too. The heavier our close friends and family, the heavier we are likely to be.

Don’t know how that works in my reality; I’m usually the heaviest, by a wide margin (excuse the bad pun), in any of my social groups. But maybe it’s not the peer pressure, but simply that you “caught it” from them:

Obesity can be “caught” as easily as a common cold from other people’s coughs, sneezes and dirty hands.

That would certainly take us fatties off the hook.

Then there’s this, that could give a deconditioned fattie like me an excuse to ditch the exercise for the nearest fad diet, from an article headlined as “Study: Exercise Won’t Cure Obesity“:

Though better nutrition coupled with exercise has long been the favored prescription for losing weight and avoiding obesity, a new study suggests diet actually plays the key role.

Lovely.  But I never thought exercise on its own would make you lose weight. But I am convinced, at least for me, that I won’t be able to keep it off unless I exercise. Losing weight? That’s another thing entirely. I can’t say for certain that you can’t lose weight just by exercising, but it doesn’t sound like the scientists know for sure either. All I know is I feel better and am more motivated to watch my food intake since I started CrossFit.

Think there’s a study on that? Wait. I am my study on that. So there.

I’ve been told many times by diet/fitness consultants that when you exercise, particularly when building muscle, you retain water and so not to rely on what the scale tells you. But many things I have been told have turned out to be wrong, so I figured I should verify that particular snippet of wisdom. In looking for confirmation, I found some interesting articles. First, adapted from WebMd, “5 Surprising Reasons You’re Gaining Weight” (read the article for details), is a list of five things that can effect the scale even if you’re eating right and exercising:

  1. Not getting enough sleep,
  2. Stress (couldn’t that be causing No. 1?),
  3. Medications,
  4. Some medical conditions, and/or
  5. Menopause.

Doesn’t answer my “retaining water because of exercise” question, but still interesting. Another article found on the search for confirmation that you may have water weight from exercising (from the January 2011 issue of Prevention magazine) reveals that exercise can

  1. Control appetite and cravings (not really news; have heard that for years),
  2. Boost the brain’s ability to learn new material (news to me),
  3. Improve your ability to plan (also news to me).

Interesting, but still doesn’t answer my question. But I find a glimmer of hope for finding the answer to my quest in an article from the October 2010 issue of American Fitness called “Electrolytes: What are they?”:

The concentration of sodium in your blood actually increases during exercise because you lose proportionately more water than sodium.

Well, sodium will make you retain water; that’s why the health care community tells people to watch their levels of salt, particularly those prone to high blood pressure. So exercising *could* increase sodium and therefore make you retain water. However, the same article argues that most people don’t exercise long enough for a significant sodium increase.

After several hours of scanning articles, I haven’t found anything explicitly saying that working out and building muscle will result in water retention, but I found this fabulous post by Leigh Peele, “The Science of Scale Fluctuation,” which begins

I have had the pleasure of training and consulting some of the strongest people in the world. Actors, doctors, coaches, athletes, government leaders, models, etc. These are people who can train for hours at a time. They spent years in school studying to better themselves and some run our lives with the decisions they make.

Put these leaders, these champions on a scale, and if that scale doesn’t say what they want it to, they will weep before your eyes. I have held a 6’2 and 230lb pure muscled man in my arms as he wept. All because of the scale.

She goes on to explain why your scale shouldn’t rule your self-esteem, which was really the point of my search. So there, scale. Bite me.

Today’s post is a continuation from yesterday about nutrition, which CrossFit central emphasizes as foundational to fitness. Three main points to reiterate:

So now let’s talk about the specifics of what your body needs when exercising. First, since you’re trying to build muscle, you need protein. That’s real, not synthetic, protein, and it’s apparently easy to figure out just how much, if you really want to know, according to LiveScience:
When training, you need about a half gram of protein per pound of body weight. So a 180-pound male needs about 90 grams of protein a day. That’s the amount of protein in a cup of milk or yogurt with breakfast (8–12 grams), a can of tuna with lunch (40 grams), and a six-ounce steak with dinner (42 grams).

The emphasis on building muscle and supplying your body with enough protein is one of the reasons for the CrossFit recommendation that you “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.”  The other concern prompting this recommendation is avoidance of “hyperinsulinemia.” Before getting to the definition of “hyperinsulinemia,” let me have a flashback.

I’m old enough to remember when the Atkins Diet, the first of the “let’s eat more protien” diets, came out. Before that I’d been on a lot of fad diets, including the memorable grapefruit and egg diet and one that started with a two-day fast that I almost passed out on (those were both during my teenage years, when I really didn’t need to be concerned about weight loss; I should have been focusing on fitness back then. Ah, youth!). Atkins worked for me, but many doctors were concerned about the high cholesterol levels in the diet.

I’m now convinced that whether you have  problems with cholesterol start with your genetic makeup; a good family friend who was as trim as anyone could wish for had such high cholesterol that he had a heart attack while flying his A-10 fighter. If you’re lucky, like me, you have low cholesterol even though anyone looking at you would think you’re a heart attack waiting to happen; my fit and trim hubby has to watch his. So the best thing to do is to make sure you get your cholesterol levels checked by blood test no matter your fitness level.

Even so, we all have heard by now that fish oil, olive oil and other vegetable-based oils are better for you than dairy and other animal fats. But fat is a long-burning energy resource that helps you feel full, so don’t be too stingy with it.

At any rate, Atkins was pushed aside by Covert Bailey’s Fit or Fat. Oddly, it was recommended to me by a fat doctor who was advocating an Atkins-type diet, when Bailey’s book, full of sciencey sounding justifications, advocated a higher carbohydrate, lower protein diet. The one thing Bailey said that I still agree with is that the closer the food is to its natural state, the better it is for you.

The USDA jumped on the bandwagon, but  most experts don’t care for their “new, improved pyramid.” Interestingly, the Harvard School of Public Health has, on its own pyramid, placed daily exercise and weight control as the foundational level. They do put whole grains, fats and fruit on the next level, but that’s probably consistent with CrossFit’s concern for “hyperinsulinemia.”

Now diets have come full circle: Protein Power, the Zone Diet,  the South Beach Diet and the Paleo Diet are all protein friendly and very popular. Dr. Michael R. Eades and Dr. Mary Dan Eades, Dr. Barry Sears, Dr. Arthur Agatston and Dr. Loren Cordain all have explanations that also sound scientific. CrossFit started out recommending However, ever since reading Voodoo Science>, I’ve realized I don’t know enough science to evaluate them well.

If I recall correctly, the one thing that all the books have in common is that they are based on anecdotal evidence from the respective doctors’ practices. This is generally not considered the best way to establish something as a scientific fact, so I have a tendency to take what they say with a grain of salt; on the other hand, I feel better and control my weight better with protein diets, so I’m one of the people that these diets appear to be successful for. My feeling is that, as I said in the last post, not every diet will fit everyone any more than one drug fits all.

Flashback over now; we’ll continue with hyperinsulinemia and what the heck it has to do with diet.

Hyperinsulinemia “means the amount of insulin in your blood is higher than considered normal,” according tothe Mayo Clinic. I think the real problem isn’t hyperinsulinemia but its predecessor, insulin resistance.  Back to the Mayo Clinic’s experts:

Hyperinsulinemia may be caused by insulin resistance — a condition in which your body is resistant to the effects of insulin and your pancreas tries to compensate by making more insulin. Insulin resistance may also eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes — when your pancreas is no longer able to secrete the large amounts of insulin required to keep the blood sugar normal.’s  Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) and Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD have a great description of exactly what’s going in your body that makes insulin resistance an issue:

One of the actions of insulin is to cause the cells of the body, particularly the muscle and fat cells, to remove and use glucose from the blood. This is one way in which insulin controls the level of glucose in blood. Insulin has this effect on the cells by binding to insulin receptors on the surface of the cells. You can think of it as insulin “knocking” on the doors of muscle and fat cells. The cells hear the knock, open up, and let glucose in to be used by the cell. With insulin resistance, the muscles don’t hear the knock as well (they are resistant), and the pancreas is notified that it needs to make more insulin, which increases the level of insulin in the blood and causes a louder knock.

So your body can’t use the glucose it has well, and has to make more insulin, creating a cycle that just intensifies. The cycle is associated with all kinds of health problems: heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes (Type 2) and various cancers.

But what causes this cycle of insulin resistance to start? It seems from searching PubMed that the details of the how it happens is up in the air, but, just as the CrossFit article on the Glycemic Index relates, the condition can be helped by the right kind of diet. Guess what? It’s one in which protein has a starring role and the carbs you eat tend to be fruits and whole grains, both of which tend to be low on the glycemic index

Glycemic index? Here’s how the University of Sydney describes it:

Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs — the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels — is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.

It sounds like in order to feed your body well, then, you should choose from low-glycemic carbohydrates. The Glycemic Index site has a searchable database (fourth down in the left side navigation menu) so you can evaluate whether you want to eat a particular carb or not. But the GI is not the end of the story, unfortunately. Back to the Harvard School of Public Health for more:

One thing that a food’s glycemic index does not tell us is how much digestible carbohydrate it delivers. Take watermelon as an example. The sweet-tasting fruit has a very high glycemic index. But a slice of watermelon has only a small amount of carbohydrate per serving (as the name suggests, watermelon is made up mostly of water). That’s why researchers developed a related way to classify foods that takes into account both the amount of carbohydrate in the food and the impact of that carbohydrate on blood sugar levels. This measure is called the glycemic load. A food’s glycemic load is determined by multiplying its glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate it contains. In general, a glycemic load of 20 or more is high, 11 to 19 is medium, and 10 or under is low.

NOOOO! Not math! And how do you figure out what number to plug in for the “amount of carbohydrate”? I’m still not sure, even after reading an article that purports to tell me how: “Practical use of the glycemic index.” Luckily, the Harvard guys have made a list of low glycemic load foods at The Nutrition Source

Thankfully, at least one study says that just looking at the GI helps. MedPage reports that

Among participants who completed an eight-week, low-calorie weight loss phase and then entered a maintenance phase in which they consumed diets with variations in protein content and glycemic index, weight regain was 0.93 kg higher, a statistically significant difference, in those on low-protein diets compared with those on high-protein diets.

So it’s official; most people who stay on protein plus low glycemic index foods ended up keeping off the weight they lost. As someone who has lost and regained at least a couple of people’s worth of weight, that’s good news.

Up tomorrow: The Zone vs. The Paleo.

Let me start out with what this post is *not* about. It’s not about weight loss or diets, even though I’m planning on seeing some weight loss as a side effect of CrossFit, just as you would with any fitness program that will help you build muscle.

Instead, this is about what my husband/coach keeps telling me to focus on: “Feeding the machine.” It seems to be a healthier focus for me; not looking at what I can’t have, but focusing on what the body needs in order to function well. This focus works in tandem with focusing on fitness, rather than weight loss. I know you “can’t outrun the fork,” but I dislike that phrase as I have usually heard it as an excuse to blow off the exercise component of weight loss.

I’d begun looking at the issue of nutrition more in connection with my various illnesses. What they all have in common is serotonin, or the lack thereof. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that affects sleep, moods, anxiety, food intake, sexual behavior, heart and blood function, gut function and the immune system.  If your serotonin production is out of whack, you’ll have health problems.

One of the major factors can be your body’s ability to process folate. Not only is folic acid deficiency a fairly widespread nutrional problem, there’s a fairly common genetic defect that will keep you from being able to get enough folate, one of the B vitamins, which is a building block for serotonin. From what my docs have told me, the over-the counter (OTC) stuff won’t do you much good (whether because of the low dose or the problems with regulating the quality of OTC vitamins, I don’t know) and can even be harmful. But there are prescription versions which are formulated so that your body can use it directly when you lack the gene to break down enough into usable form.

The one I use is Deplin, and some of my illnesses got better as soon as I was put on it a few years back. The test for the genetic defect is pricey; Deplin is generally not going to hurt you in the short term and you’ll know pretty quickly if it’s working or not. When I told my mom about it, she asked her doctor, who hadn’t heard about the new research about folate, and decided there was no harm in trying it. Mom could tell immediately that her overall mood stabilized.

Then I figured out my food sensitivities, and got much more careful about what I ate to avoid GI symptoms. Now my fabulous pain doctor, Robert Nett, has me taking riboflavin, vitamin D and magnesium, other pieces of my nutrition puzzle.

Your nutrition puzzle is probably different. I encourage you to look into what vitamins you may need, though.

But supplements aren’t the answer to everything. I remember reading years ago, but can’t recall which of the countless diet books I read it in, that the most powerful drugs you put in your body are the foods you choose to eat. Of course, it’s hard to decide what’s the best food when the scientists keep arguing over whether eggs and salt are really that bad, and whether antioxidants are really that good. All they seem to agree on is that the current USDA food pyramid sucks.

So here are my observations: If drugs don’t work the same on everyone (for example, Zyrtec works for me, Claritin doesn’t do a thing, but it’s the reverse for my daughter), why should we think foods will be any different. You can eat corn, perhaps, but I can’t without regretting it later. That probably applies to overall dietary strategy as well as to the specifics, so I’m not going to get into an argument over which of the specific diet plans is best — what works for one person may not work for another. And, to paraphrase what Chris Kesser at “The Healthy Skeptic” says,  don’t be a food fascist (more about the Paleo Diet later).

That being said, there are some things we do know:

If you apply those simple rules to what you eat, your body will have more of what it needs when you work out. You can’t get fit without managing the quality of your food. A great take on this is the post called “Hold my beer while I PR this clean and jerk” in “Blood on the Bar.”  In it, Dr. Joseph Doughty puts it pretty simply: “Eat more good than bad and you get the results.”

CrossFit recommends that you “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.” CrossFitters tend to advocate one of two diets: Barry Sear’s “The Zone Diet” and Loren Cordain’s “The Paleo Diet.” I’ll address them soon; what I want to leave you with is this: What are you eating? Do you know? If not, try logging it, either by hand or using an electronic tool like MyPlate. You’ll get a better idea of exactly what you’re eating, and then you can think about whether you need to make some changes.

Fattie or fat. What did you think I meant?

My husband and coach, Gary, was, apparently, telling his CrossFit group at work how well I’d done [glow] staying on task and that I’d started a blog to keep myself motivated and on track. When he said I’d named it “Confessions of a CrossFit Fattie,” there was an awkward silence, followed by a discussion by a bunch of fit guys about whether the F-word was appropriate. My husband’s position was that it was okay if I called myself that, although he generally dislikes the label. I alluded to the issue in an earlier post; I’m going to tackle it head-on now.

Gary’s right; I wouldn’t particularly care to hear that from someone else. But it’s kind of like being middle-aged; like it or not, that’s what I am. I hemmed and hawed when I started this blog about identifying myself; anonymity sounded safer. I decided that was a bit cowardly on my part, and that to remain anonymous would undercut the accountability aspect of blogging. Then I didn’t want to tell anyone I actually know about the blog. I mean, really, do I want them to know the exact weight on the scale?

But as in age, lying about it doesn’t really fool anyone but yourself. People can generally guesstimate; not telling anyone the number isn’t going to make someone think you’re thin when you’re not. As applied to age, I always thought lying was to risk someone thinking, “Gee, she looks old for her age.”

And it’s not like I’m only a few pounds overweight. I’m double the weight I was when I got married. I’m 75 lbs heavier than I was when I gave birth. I’m not a victim of trying to be like too-skinny perfection of cover girls. I’m overweight by any objective standard, to a degree that endangers my health (although, oddly, my cholesterol levels have remained low; it’s the always-been-in -great-shape hubby that has to take the Lipitor.  Genes account for some weird inconsistencies). I don’t feel sorry for myself nor am I trying to elicit sympathy; I’ve just finally come to grips with it, just like I’ve had to accept I’m 50.

But Gary asked a more difficult question. “What about when [I like his confidence; I'd have said if] you lose the weight? What will you call the blog then?”

I don’t know. The reason I chose the name was to appropriate it for myself in a way that both admits the problem and defuses the sting. The latter is a sociolinguistically documented phenomena: You see it in the use of “queer” by gays to rob it of its power to the point that “Queer Studies” is considered just as valid a title as “Women’s Studies” in academic circles. Personally, I think that’s what the underlying motivaion was/is for black men to call each other “nigger.” It hasn’t turned out as well  in that context, perhaps because it was not widely accepted as appropriate in the African-American community. However, as neither gay nor black, I’d never use either; in fact, it makes me uncomfortable to have typed them in an explanatory context, even though I’m not using either word to deride anyone.

But the “fattie” label in the title also is to let others in the same shape know I get it. That’s another sociolinguistic concept; that you use particular terms to identify yourself as a member of a community. No matter how much weight I lose, there will still be the inner fattie waiting for the opportunity to re-emerge. It’s kind of like being an alcoholic (not) or an attorney (am): you never completely lose the mindset even after you leave the bar.

So what will I call it then? I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. For now, it’s who I am and what I’m trying to work through. One day at a time, babysteps or whatever cliche you’d like to apply, it’s still true: you can’t get there until you get there.

So if you’ve been reading up through now, you already know my CrossFit coach is my husband, Gary, and I workout in our garage, where Gary has what our son refers to as CrossFit GFF (Gary’s friends/family) (Gary thinks there should be another F for “Free”). Having a coach is important in CrossFit because, among other reasons, it’s really hard for you to critique your own form, and correct form is the best prevention for avoiding injury, something those of us who are overweight and out of shape are pretty prone to.

For example, one of the easiest things to do is the shrug. You grab a medicine ball by the sides, stand in Superman pose, and shrug your shoulders. I had no idea I was bending my arms when I did it; you’re supposed to do it with your arms straight. Trying to fix it, I straightened my arms by pulling my elbows in and with the place they take blood from prominent (what is the backside of your elbow called, anyway?). Nope, that still isn’t right. I had to grab the ball a little lower and straighten my arms by pushing the ball itself. Tougher than it looks, by a long shot.

But it’s not always easy to take correction from your spouse, no matter how matter-of-fact he is about it, because there’s a tendency to interpret the comments as having some deeper meaning. And I am an expert at taking even a positive statement, much less a criticism, in the worst possible way.

Poor man. The first thing he taught me was how to shoot, but that was when we were dating and I was still on my best (or at least better) behavior, so he was probably completely shocked when he tried to teach me how to golf and I ended up angry and tearful. Why? Because I wanted to be perfect (kind of a generic goal for me; I specifically would like to be omniscient, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen) or, at the very least, for him to think I was. I didn’t want to disappoint him; I didn’t want him to think badly of me. So I have a historic tendency to react emotionally and negatively to Gary’s attempts, no matter how well founded or kindly put, to give me constructive feedback.

So how is it working for CrossFit? Well, I probably snap at him more than I would a coach that I don’t have an intimate relationship with, but I’m better than I used to be … and so is he.

I’m better because I’ve spent the year prior to starting this exercise staring in the quiet dark because to do otherwise would make my migrainey, cranky self want to claw out someone’s eyes, maybe even my own, and that gives you a lot of time to reflect. It also puts things into perspective; healthy is so much better than sick. In some ways, I think it may have rebooted me. I’m still a long way from being who I’d like to be someday, but it has made me consider who I am, what got me there, and why I do things the way I do. It made me take time to forgive both others and myself. That clears out a lot of emotional baggage.

Among the things I realized in this self-discovery was just how fabulous my husband is. Gary has taken on all the work of the household while dealing with the day-to-day uncertainty of whether I would be sick (generally, I was). He’s had the responsibilities of a single person without its privileges. Yet he has never griped about it, never made me feel guilty about it, and never let me down. What more can someone do to let you know he loves you and thinks well of you?

So I’m trying to curb my defensive reactions, although I’m not always successful. It’s really not about what he thinks about me, but what I think of myself. And it’s okay that I’m not perfect.  And as far as he’s concerned, the fact that I’m actually working on getting healthier is a big plus.

He’s gotten better, too. He’s learned to be more thoughtful about how he phrases things, not to overwhelm me with too much information at once, and to give praise and encouragement. I’m really a big ol’ Lab; just pat me on the head and I’ll slaver all over you.

Most people in my position don’t have the luxury of having a loving spouse as a coach and a gym out the kitchen door, so they may think “Well, she’s got it easy.” They’d be right in many ways. I have convenience and a ready-made trusting relationship with my coach. I don’t have to parade my happy ass down to the local CrossFit box and let all those athletic folks see my cellulite hanging down around my knees. I can see that as a barrier to going for the help.

But there are CrossFit coaches out there who work with the elderly, kids, and even us fatties. There are certification courses from CrossFit to work with kids, and I seem to remember they offered courses for working with the elderly at one point. Coaches who have taken those courses are probably the best prepared for working with the obese as well because they are more used to making modifications to CrossFit for special situations.

However, the beauty of CrossFit is that it is scalable, and no matter what your skill and fitness level is, CrossFit is designed in a way that you can start out wherever you are, and most coaches will be able to work with you. I know the CrossFit home page is a little daunting with its motto of “Forging elite fitness”: Why do you think my first post was “Sheer, unadulterated terror“?  But the courses and the philosophy behind them is that anyone can get to the level of fitness they desire from wherever they are now.

That being said, some coaches do prefer to work with elite athletes, and I wouldn’t want to work with one of them,  so it does take a bit of time to find the right coach. I keep looking for those who have a particular interest in or experience with the obese to link to them on this site (see the headings on the left side of the page); I hope to hear from more of them and of more of them as I work through this experience. I’m also on the lookout for success stories so that we can begin to build a community of support.

Unfortunately, from everything I’ve seen so far, CrossFit does not offer a class specifically designed to help coaches who want to work with overweight folks, so it’s harder to figure out who would be ready for you or me.  A class certification would be a dead giveaway and make it easier for us to find fattie-friendly facilities. Until then, call your local CrossFit or check out their websites. See if they’ve commented on the CrossFit website. Find comments and testimonials about the specific coaches. The one you want, the one you need, is out there. And CrossFit is growing fast, so if they’re not there now, they may be soon.

If CrossFit did have a specific certification for working with the obese, then, just maybe, we’d be more comfortable coming out to a box in front of others. If you’re like me, you suspect people are internally evaluating you based on your body size. But if you’re not a novelty, then no one is likely to stare or think “Wow. What’s s/he doing here?”

Just imagine. Going to CrossFit Fattie Day. Of course, they probably couldn’t get away with calling it that. It’s one thing if I say it about myself; I’ve been there. I *might* think it was funny; kind of depends on where I am with things. But something like that would let me know I would be welcome and accepted. That would sure be nice.

Of course, I wouldn’t accept foot rubs from any other coach.

Why, one might ask if one is not overweight, would someone not do all they can to lose the weight?

First, it’s like making any change in your life, and particularly akin to overcoming any addiction (if you don’t know the drug-like effects of carbohydrate overdose, you may never quite appreciate just how addictive it can be). Overeating has become, by this point, a habit. You need more to keep hunger pangs at bay because there’s more of you wanting energy to sustain you. One doctor told me that it varied by your activity and metabolism, but that to stay at your current weight you needed to consume approximately 8 calories per pound. In order to lose a pound, you have to take in 3500 calories less than your body needs to stay at the current weight. Hence the ability to create formulas to tell you how much you need to eat to lose weight and why it’s harder to lose those last few pounds than the first ones.

Two Harvard professors, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey,  in their book How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, contend that people resist change because they have powerful subconscious reasons for maintaining their current behavior, and that discovering those reasons, talking about them, and figuring out how to reconcile them to the desired behavior is key to successful, permanent transformation. Even though the book is primarily aimed at business leaders, the principles they discuss are still useful.

Over the years, I have considered the reasons why I might, subconsciously, want to stay overweight. Not the attractions of eating, which seem self-evident to me. No, I’m talking about why I wouldn’t want to lose weight. Again, not just that it’s hard, which is again self-evident. But the things that, on some level, I find to be beneficial about being overweight.

First, there’s what I call the “eunuch syndrome.” I have no real idea of what I’d look like at an optimum weight now, a decade after I last put on a substantial amount of weight and much longer since I was anywhere near where the weight tables say I should be.  Age is definitely an additional factor, so I just can’t judge. But once upon a time ago, when I was about 100 lbs lighter, I was attractive enough to garner some male attention. As a professional woman, that was generally not an advantage. You get the wrong type of attention, and as a married woman who genuinely likes her husband, I found that type of attention discomfiting.

I also found that, in the eyes of some colleagues (and, worse, judges) that it seemed to lower my perceived IQ substantially. Once I was overweight, all of the aforementioned problems went away (for the most part; the guys who hit on me after were ones to whom I generally wanted to say, “Really? Have you *seen* my husband? Whatever makes you think I’m that desperate?”). I believe that’s because that I then appeared, at least in their eyes, to be an asexual being, a eunuch of sorts.

As a corollary to that, it was around that time that I began having more friendships with other women. In my conscious brain, I believe that was more a result of what else was going on in my life at the time, but my subconscious may believe that getting fat was a part of getting more friends. Women can, indeed, get weird about what they see as competition for male attention, but I don’t believe that losing weight will lose me my friends. Again, that’s what awake me believes; don’t always know what the sleeping me thinks.

The other major emotional gain, it pains me to admit, is that the people who stuck by me, in particular my husband, despite the weight gain, proved their love. I know that my husband will love me no matter what, given that he has only objected to my weight on the basis of the health consequences and never given me cause to think that it has in any other way affected how he feels about me.

And the last reason, an avoidance reason, is the fear of failing once again. I’ve been on pretty much every diet there is, and none of them have resulted in longterm weight loss. Why bother, I thought, when I’ll just get back where I am now, or even worse, weighing more than before I’d lost weight (a pretty common problem). Lifelong changes, real change, seem overwhelming.

I’m not the only one that has reasons, conscious or sub-, not to lose weight. Tracy Rose says, “Just as dieters can create a list of why they want and need to lose weight, most people can match it with a Christmas list worth of reasons not to lose weight.”  In their landmark book, Overcoming Overeating, Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter discuss the fact that dieters may be surprised to discover that their feelings about being big (or even bigger) aren’t completely negative:

[In a] larger body you [may] actually feel safer or more protected … Many of us who attribute magical powers to food also attribute magical powers to our body size.

In other words, if you believe on some level that being thin may fix a lot of your problems, you probably also believe (on some level) that being fat also has some advantages.  In their book, they include “Friendly fat exercises” to help you discover what positive feelings about being overweight you may have that you’re not aware of.

Bottom line: The solution to being overweight lies as much in your head as in your mouth.  Chew on that.

Consistency is defined by Webster’s New World College Dictionary as “conformity with previous practice.”  The dictionary also provides some synonyms: “steadiness, persistence, sameness.”  For an exercise (or weight loss, for that matter) program to work, you must be consistent. Not my forte.

Consistency meant a lot of things to me that the dictionary doesn’t cover. I’d have subconsciously defined it more as “boring” or “inflexible” for most of my life, which tells you more about me than about the word. I would not have said, if asked, that  consistency had negative connotations, but I have treated its existence in my life as largely a bad thing.

I can come up with lots of reasons for why I have felt that way, but they do not excuse the lack of consistency in many areas of my life. One is that I was a military brat; the reality of that life, even more in my childhood than now, was constant change. No one stays; everyone moves. The parent serving in the military is often gone. It was just the way it was, and shaped my view of reality. Even now, some 37 years after the last time I moved (with the exception of two academic years at Baylor University), I still get an itch to change locations about every three years.

I also hate, with a purple passion, the merest shadow of something external controlling me. My mother often tells the story that the first time I went to school, when she tried to walk me in, I refused her assistance, saying “I can do it by myself.” So it’s a deeply entrenched, possibly genetic, tendency. I was almost always late to everything in my life until about 10 years ago, when my shrink explained to me that tardiness was a metamessage to others that their time wasn’t important. That was an eye-opener; it may seem obvious to anyone else, but I just never looked at it that way before. My feeling was “I won’t get worked up if they don’t show up on the dot, why do they?”

But, in a way, I suppose that was not far from the underlying message I was trying to give: “You can’t control me.” Or “The clock can’t control me.” Don’t tie me down, damn it.

I’m also a bit (okay, a lot) ADD (I know, ADHD is the more commonly used term, but I’m not particularly hyperactive, and I prefer the in-between version which is more inclusive), and, therefore, easily distractable unless it’s something I am engrossed in, and then I get into hyperfocus mode. At that point, a tornado could sweep within 10 feet of me and I’d probably not notice.

But if it’s something I’m not particularly interested in,  I tend to be in the middle of some task and then notice “Oooh, shiny,”  and leave the task unfinished to pursue the new and attractive. And then abandon it for the next cool thing that crosses my path.

Or there’s simply the “bored now” response, as in vampire Willow.

So I resisted routine. Over and over again. “How’s that working for you?” “Not so hot, actually.”

Now I’ve finally figured out that routines, the key to consistency, are the key to getting better. First, it was just taking meds regularly. I’d forget and miss dosages (probably how my son came into being) of pretty much anything ever prescribed until a little over 10 years ago, when the consequences of missing a dose of whatever became immediately apparent and painful. And then I added taking Metamucil to the repertoire of daily routine — easy enough, just take drugs with the orange goo.

But that wasn’t enough for me to consider consistency in my overall day: my sleep patterns changed from day to day, eating at odd times, and exercise? Puh-leeze.

Now I find that, gee whiz, the experts might have a point. Sleep problems are associated with various health issues, notably fibromyalgia and migraines, and they all recommend a consistent sleep/wake pattern. What? Naw, they can’t mean me. Studies on weight loss have suggested that people who regularly track what they eat will begin to cut back on their eating simply because they’re paying attention.

And, of course, exercise. One of the posts on CrossFit’s website posed the question to coaches: What do you tell your overweight clients? The best tip, and something my husband emphasized as well, was “encourage them to be consistent.” That’s an overall concept CrossFit has preached, but it is particularly important with someone like me, whose obesity puts them at an increased risk of injury. Gary, the hubby, has also emphasized keeping a log of my exercise to track my progress — another thing requiring the dreaded consistency.

I’m not going to even begin to talk about my housekeeping, or, rather, the lack thereof.

So I’m finally seeing consistency not as boring, but as a foundation for variations. Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert cannot be charged with being uncreative, yet they each wrote variations on their own or other’s work. I think I can live with aspiring to be like them.

Since I started this blog noting that I’m what they used to call “morbidly obese” (I think the term now is “severely obese,” as if you don’t get morbid about being that fat or that it’s not potentially life-threatening anymore), you may wonder why I’m not making any comments on weight loss.

A few reasons:

  1. I don’t want the scale to dictate my commitment to getting fit.
  2. Weight often goes up when you first begin exercising because of water retention and any muscle mass you are building.
  3. I don’t want to know right away because I am a typical American: I want what I want now, and what I want is to be 100 lbs lighter yesterday.
  4. The most general reason that motivates more of my actions than I’d like to admit: fear.

I’m thinking I’ll wait at least a month before I get on the scale again and try not to freak out if I’ve gained weight or stayed at the same level. But I’ve got one of those cool Tanita scales, so when I weigh, I’ll get to see the fat and water percentages. IIRC, they were at something like 51% (isn’t that a depressing thought?) and 36%, respectively. So I want to see the fat percentage go down more than the weight. Well, that’s what I want to want. I really want to see the weight go down, but density is what really matters, right? If I had a body that looked like, oh, Catherine Zeta-Jones, I wouldn’t care if it actually weighed 300 lbs.