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Me Minus 10   

The downside of downsizing


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By Jennifer LaRue Huget
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 10:56 AM

Well, I did it.

Turned 50, that is. On Monday.

This Story

I did another thing, too: I lost the 10 pounds (and then some) I set out to lose in February, when I was 147, and kept them off through my 50th birthday. I've entered my second half-century weighing 133 pounds (at 5-foot-4), and I aim to stay that way.

But for all the benefits of losing weight, I have to admit there's a downside to downsizing.

It's been a great experience in nearly every way. I like the way my clothes fit, and I love the things my much-leaner, stronger body can do these days.

When on occasion I've put a pound back on, I've been able to lose it quickly by sticking to the rules I established at the start:

(1) Don't skip meals.

(2) Don't take seconds or eat anything after dinner.

(3) Keep portion sizes in line with my body's need for fuel.

(4) Don't pick at food while cooking or cleaning up.

(5) Maintain a regular exercise schedule.

(6) And always, always keep plenty of Doublemint gum on hand.

I owe a debt of thanks to Pamela Peeke and Brian Wansink for the expert advice and encouragement they offered me along the way. Maybe I could have done it without them, but I don't quite see how!

Still, there have been moments when this weight loss hasn't felt as great as I'd hoped it would.

For one thing, I don't look as terrific as I expected. Nobody warns you that, when you get to be middle-aged after being chubby for most of your life, your skin is all stretched out. Having lost the underlying fat, I now have flaps of loose skin hanging from my thighs, my tummy, my chin and my upper arms. They're not awful, but they do detract from the way I look in a bathing suit. And I was really hoping to look great in a bathing suit.

That's small potatoes compared with the loss of the security blanket that food had become. When you learn, as I recently have, to start regarding food as fuel for your activities and not as a shield from life's difficulties, you're forced to start facing the things you were using food to hide from.

That means having the unsettling discussions you'd been avoiding, fighting the fights you'd just as soon have skipped. It means sitting down at the computer and doing your work instead of buying time with a big bowl of popcorn. And it means staring down fears, working to resolve nagging problems instead of hushing them with a chocolate bar.

None of that has been fun. It's so much easier to dive into a bag of Cheez Doodles (or, better yet, one of those big buckets of Utz Cheese Balls) and wash it down with a stack of Oreos than to figure out how you're going to afford college for both kids.

The thing is, though, you've got to confront all those issues eventually. And it is much easier to do so once you've gained the confidence that comes with finally being in control of your weight.

That confidence goes a long way. It has helped me deal with the ups and downs of living with two high-schoolers (who, though thoroughly lovable, are still teenagers, after all) and with the physical and emotional challenges that come with being a woman at midlife.

On a more practical level, knowing that I'm in control proved invaluable when my exercise routine imploded this fall. Within the space of a month, the yoga studio at which I've practiced and taught for years abruptly closed and my home's treadmill, elliptical trainer and exercise bike (all of them well past their prime) gave up their respective ghosts.

Had that all happened a year ago, I would have thrown up my hands and eaten a Butterfinger. Or three. But after a brief spell of indulgent self-pity, I realized I couldn't let outside circumstances have so much power over me or my weight. I started practicing yoga at home, and I joined a gym.

In fact, that's where I'm headed right now. Care to join me?

The year in Me Minus 10

Feb. 25: Embarks on Me Minus 10.

March 2: Discovers her initial weigh-in was wrong, and she's starting at 147, rather than 145.

April 22: Weighs in at 144, has given up cheese (except on pizza).

July 8: Announces that she weighs 133 and has reached her first weight-loss goal: to lose 10 pounds by June 30.

July 11: Returns from a vacation in Italy without having gained weight and with a new respect for Italians' views on food.

Dec. 6: Turns 50 and still weighs 133, reaching her goal to keep the weight off through her birthday.

Before and after

Starting weight: 147

Current weight: 133

Initial body fat percentage: 28.6

Current body fat percentage: 25

Best and worst

COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT

I finally learned that my portion sizes shouldn't match my husband's. Discovering Bikram yoga gave me a sure-fire way to blast away any creeping pudge, plus kept me calm and focused.

WHAT I MISS THE MOST

Mindlessly eating the rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese while grating the rest. Picking at food while doing the dishes.

BEST TIP FOR KEEPING MOTIVATED

Staying calm and realizing that you really can do this. Once I stripped the emotion away from weight loss and looked at it as the mechanical process that it is, it suddenly seemed doable.

WORST INDULGENCE

I continue to enjoy pizza for dinner with alarming frequency, just less of it at a sitting, and always with a big, filling salad. Who knew you could stop at two slices?

EASIEST THING THAT MADE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE

Using resistance bands. I had thought aerobic exercise was enough, but I really needed to build more fat-burning muscle. Also, chewing gum helped me quit sticking food in my mouth when I wasn't hungry.

BIGGEST REWARD

Knowing that my 50-year-old body can do things it couldn't do even when I was in my chubby 20s. And being able to fit into smaller pants!

More on weight loss

Find this and more at washingtonpost.com/wellness .

Chat transcript Jennifer LaRue Huget and Pamela Peeke are online Tuesday to answer questions about Me Minus 10 and other weight-loss issues. Join the discussion here.

Share your story Submit your own before-and-after weight-loss photos to a reader gallery here.

More Me Minus 10 Read all about Huget's slim-down mission here.



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