As I mentioned in my discussion of the recent Time magazine story on exercise, my grandfather had a massive stroke Friday, August 7th and died a few days later on Monday, August 10th. As soon as we heard about the stroke, Dave and I got in the car and headed for Ohio, where we spent Grandpa's last three days, staying until we had to leave in order to get back to Kentucky to teach our last few days of summer school. Hours after we left for Kentucky, Grandpa died, so as soon as we were finished with our classes on Thursday morning, we got back in the car and returned to Ohio for the viewing and funeral, a trip that was extended with side trips we had to make to Indianapolis and Cincinnati on the way home.
When all was said and done, we were on the road for three days, home for the next three, and then on the road again for five more days, meaning we were traveling eight of those eleven days. It was obviously exhausting, and I can't remember the last time I felt so happy to come home.
The day before Grandpa's stroke, I weighed 194 pounds, and the day before that, I'd bottomed out at 193—a full ten pounds less than where I started back in March. Since I hit 193 on a Wednesday, I didn't get to post that number with my blog. I also knew full well that the first time you hit a low number like that, you're bound to go back up the next day and fluctuate numerous more times before that low number becomes a reality. So I didn't make a big deal out of it on the blog—though I was happy to mention it in passing.
But now that I'm back from the trip, I find that my weight is back up to 196 pounds.
I don't spend a lot of time talking or complaining about the numbers on the scale because, as I've said before, one of the goals of this blog is to demystify those numbers, to send the message that the numbers don't matter as much as how we feel about ourselves and how healthy we are.
On the other hand, I also started this blog to document my weight loss. So when I have to admit to the world that I weigh 196 pounds almost five full months after I started trying to lose weight, I feel more than a little bit frustrated. I guess in some ways I feel like I'm letting you all down.
I don't want to send the message that my only goal is to lose weight because it's not. And I definitely don't want anyone to think that I believe that losing weight has to happen on a timetable because I believe that's one of the worst things we can do to ourselves. In fact, for years, I've believed that as long as the numbers on the scale are going down—even if its only by one pound a year—instead of up and the doctor says I'm healthy, then I'm doing well.
At the same time, I have to admit that I first hit 196 pounds back in April, only weeks after I started trying to lose weight, which makes me feel like I haven't accomplished anything in months. And if this is frustrating to me, I imagine it must also be frustrating to the people who tune in merely to see how many pounds I've lost.
(Mom, are you listening?)
Seriously, if you read any of the weight loss columns in women's magazines—or, God forbid, watch shows like The Biggest Loser—you're used to seeing the pounds drop pretty quickly. And if you're disappointed by how long it's taking me to get back to a healthy weight, I apologize.
But at the same time, I don't want you to give up on me. I want you all to believe me when I say I know my plan will work. It's worked in the past, and it will work again. Yes, I've had some setbacks this summer—first with my knee injury, and then with my grandfather. We all have setbacks (that's how I gained 27 pounds in the 18 months before I started this blog), and I don't want to use them as an excuse, but I do want to acknowledge them.
And maybe that's all I—or any of us—can do: acknowledge that sometimes the unexpected happens, and we can't blame ourselves if we are forced to backtrack a little when dealing with the unexpected.
A few years ago, my friend Al, who's a psychologist, listened to me flagellating myself for eating far too much after a long day at work, and he wisely pointed out that if I beat myself up for making a mistake, then I'm only causing myself more misery. Better to let mistakes go than to rehash them, Al said, and it was this advice that eventually led to my belief that we must allow ourselves indulgences from time to time.
Obviously, the important thing is to keep going, keep improving. During those eight days I was on the road, I only exercised twice, and I ate a lot more crap than normal—visits to Skyline Chili, Graeter's Ice Cream, and Frisch's Big Boy come to mind. But I've been home for three full days now, and it took me two of those days to get back to the person I want to be: a person who eats delicious home-cooked meals, a person who gets plenty of rest, and a person who exercises like a kid let loose in the schoolyard. I'll keep doing this until the next setback comes, and maybe, just maybe, in the meantime the numbers will prove that not dieting really can help people lose weight.
I believe. Do you?