Monday, May 27, 2013

Gym, health, weight, food, body worries, nutrition, fat, muscle and me

OK so here I am trying to compose a post about the gym, health, weight, food, body worries, nutrition, fat, muscle and me.  In it I will talk about my diet, my dieting, my daily calorie intake, my exercise routine, my thoughts about measuring bodies in numbers and the diet industry.
If you feel this may trigger or upset you please click away now.

Oh this is a difficult one.  As you  may know I joined a gym about a year ago but what with one thing and another I didn't really try to start losing weight until about February this year.  I mean, I sort of tried, but I wasn't great at it and I didn't really know how to go about it.  I'd tried Slimming World (and wrote about it for The F Word here) a few years ago, and that worked really well for me, then.  Now, I just couldn't be arsed with it.  Last year a friend introduced me to My Fitness Pal, but I was very wary about anything which counted calories.  I was concerned about it feeding my need for control and possibly spiralling into me decreasing my eating to compete with myself.  That, or I'd feel bad about what I'd eaten, and then overeat in an attempt to make myself feel better.

But in February, I got up my nerve and I joined it.  How My Fitness Pal (MFP) works is you put your height, sex, weight and daily activity level in, tell it what you want to weigh (more, less or maintain) and it tells you the number of calories you should be eating each day to reach your goal.  I was 10 stone 4lbs, 5 foot 3 and I do a sedentary desk job. MFP gave me a calorie goal of 1,200 a day, which is the minimum amount to get all the nutrition you need.  But here's the good thing - if you log your exercise you get to eat more calories.  So if I go to the gym and burn 400-500 calories (which is my goal for each session) I get to eat 1,600 to 1,700 calories a day and still lose weight.  This is good because eating just 1,200 calories a day is really fucking difficult.

I like MFP.  It lets me feel in control, I understand it and it gives me lots of numbers to track my progress.  This is good for the obsessive in me.  It also allows me to understand that if I eat more than my goal calories one day, that's not a problem because I will probably eat a few less on another day, so on average over the week I eat my goal.

I haven't had to change my diet much.   I've had fewer biscuits and cake, but I continue to eat when I'm hungry and I have tried to be guided by my appetite and my cravings, rather than by the target calorie intake.  I still eat chocolate and junk food and carbs and cheese and cake and bread.  I am attempting to listen to my body so that with exercise my body settles down to a comfortable weight and I am spared endless anxiety about the scales going up and down.

It's worked, I've lost about 8lbs. I am now 9 stone 8 lbs.  My target was 9 stone 7 but I have decided that I will now set MFP to maintain my weight.  I put far too much emphasis on numbers.  My worth does not lie in the measurement from the scales.  The benefits of exercise are that I feel good, my muscles and my flesh feel free and not tense, I can walk for longer, it takes a lot to make me out of breath and my strength has improved.  After I've exercised I feel so clean, throughout my body.  The aches and stiffness that come with exercise are a thousand times better than the aches and stiffness that come from sitting at a desk and on a sofa all day.

I can see how my body has changed.  My legs, always a source of pride to me, are still muscly, but with less fat.  When I sit down my belly no longer touches my legs (sorry if the thought of that revolts you).  When I lie back I can see and feel my hip bones.  These have come about through exercise and I should celebrate the exercise part of this rather than the diet part of it.

A small part of my mind, that part which values numbers above all else, is whispering that I'm a failure because it took me nearly 4 months to lose 8 lbs.  I mean it should only have taken me 8 weeks, 6 weeks yeah?  This is not a healthy way to think. I want to change it.  And that's where MFP helps - I can look at my weight loss charts and see that those weeks where I put on a pound or two (or three, or four), where that treacherous part of my mind tells me I'm a fat, ugly failure, are not a problem.  Even when I put on some pounds I never went up above my original weight.  I go down, then I go up, but my peaks are lower each time.

Now my treacherous mind is telling me that I should continue to lose the final pound.  That it's all a waste of time until I lose that last pound.  I weighed myself every day this last week (thanks, inner mind), and last Wednesday I was 9 stone 7.  Clearly I put on a pound since then because I am a fool.  But the saner, nicer part of me is saying that everybody's weight naturally fluctuates.  If I was 9 stone 7 on day last week I will be again.  I don't need to eat diet food, to starve myself to do this.  It will just happen.

It strikes me that the narrative in women's magazines, the narratives on cooking programmes, in recipe books, on supermarket labels (anywhere a diet or low cal/low fat food is found), assumes that all women are on a diet.  It assumes that we need to be on a diet, regardless of our size, height, weight, or personal desires.  When people label food as good or bad, they assume that women are watching their weight, counting the calories and wanting to 'improve' themselves.  Well that's bollocks.  We shouldn't have to think that way.  We should just be happy with what we have, with what we are.  Eat what we want, when we want.  If we do bugger all exercise, we probably won't be as hungry as someone who does a 10 mile run every day.  But if we are that hungry, or if we choose to eat fat-laden, calorific foods, even when we aren't hungry, it doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter because they are our bodies, they are part of us and we should love them and appreciate them for moving us around, for breathing, for processing our waste products, for givings us sights and smells and touches and taste and sounds.

This is what I am trying to do.  I have tried to do it when I was 10 stone 4 (and more), and I have managed it for a while, but always the hatred kicked in.  Sometimes for a long time, sometimes for a short time.  Now I feel better about my body - better through the exercise and the stretches and the flexibility and strength I now have, I hope I can cultivate and grow a feeling of appreciation for my body.

I don't know if I've said everything I wanted to.  I don't think this has taken the structure I thought it might.  I'm not sure what the point of this blog is, I don't know if it for my readers or for me.  I've just felt like I had to get it out there.

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