Skinny versus Healthy

>> Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I've been down on myself lately because I've been carrying a few extra pounds in the weeks after hard training for the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. I've not been watching what I've been eating. Been moving around far less. But I have stopped feeling bad for myself and realized I have the powder to turn it all around. So, this week I've revamped my "diet" (and I don't diet these days, just eat wholesome, good foods -- less sweet stuff and fats). I've been heading out the door more (despite how sore I am after our epic bike trek this weekend). And it seems to be working just fine.

It's more about how I feel than how I look or what the scale says. And I'm feeling much, much better. I'm getting back into my usual weight range, too. Without feeling hungry or like I'm denying myself anything.

All of this internal dialog, though, has made me think back to a time when I was seriously dieting. The entire summer before our wedding -- back in 2007. I was 23. I was totally stressed at work. And all that seemed to matter was the wedding and how I could fit into the dress the seamstress made a TAD too small. OK. Like an entire size too small. Back then, I weighed 10 pounds less than I do now. I don't even know how that's possible, but it is. I was seriously SKINNY -- frail, even. And I don't mean any of those words in a bragging or proud way.

I look back on our wedding photos and cringe . . . because I know what it took to be that tiny. So, I thought I'd profile SKINNY versus HEALTHY today. Because in the end, it's all about how you feel. What you can accomplish with your body (think race PRs not fitting into size 1 jeans). I know what my healthy weight is. It's where I land despite the highest mileage weeks during marathon training. When I'm eating the best foods. When I feel powerful and strong. It's not a specific number on the scale -- it's more a range. To repeat myself again, it's also a feeling.


Skinny just didn't feel right. I'd wake up each morning tired, drag myself out of bed, and "feast" on a one-serving bowl of Special K. I'd rush around to get to work, where I'd sit and deny my cravings. And that would maybe be OK if I was craving fruits and veggies -- because I SHOULD have been eating them. Instead, if I got terribly hungry, I'd nosh on a small package of Oreo 100 calorie packs. I'd drink ridiculous amounts of coffee to keep myself buzzing (and I HATE coffee). Lunch was always a small serving of broccoli and brown rice (to put it in perspective, I eat probably 3 times this serving size now).

When I'd get home, I'd try desperately to run. But I was far too stressed and tired, so I only could manage long, brisk walks around the neighborhood. It felt weird not being able to run. But during that period of time, I thought eating less was better than working out more. It was this warped logic I found myself in when I started to see the numbers on the scale plummet. I'd eat a dinner -- never the same as Stephen -- which was always, always, always a Lean Cuisine (thinking about all that sodium makes me sick!). Then I'd finish out the night by eating a popsicle and maybe another Oreo 100 calorie pack. And that was IT. I'd do push-ups and lift weights during commercial breaks of wedding planning shows. Occasionally I'd binge on peanut butter M&Ms and feel incredibly awful and guilty about it.

Thinking back, I remember being hungry ALL the time. I remember having absolutely no energy. My stomach would growl. I'd feel lightheaded. Basically, I had nothing inside of me, and that's exactly how I felt. My emotions were EVERYWHERE, too. And I know that's a symptom of wedding planning, but I'm sure not-so proper nutrition didn't help matters any.

The wedding day came and went. And, thankfully, I quickly returned back to my healthy habits once all the stress to fit into the dress faded. I can't help wondering, though, how I found myself in that incredibly destructive cycle. It crept up on me so gradually. And before I could do anything about it, I was so immersed, I really couldn't see I needed a way out.


I consider this past year my healthiest year. I stayed at my "active weight" -- the weight where I feel the best, the most able to achieve my goals, like running a marathon. I wake up each morning tired, but not from lack of calories. From a good sweat the night before. I eat a hearty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, usually with sliced fruit and/or nuts. I bring lots of food to work with me -- apples, celery sticks with natural nut butters, carrots, hummus, whole grain pita bread, even an energy chunk or two. I could go on.

Point is: I never go hungry. I don't eat a "lunch" -- just graze throughout the day. I bound from place to place, but don't FORCE myself to walk if I don't feel like it. I read during my breaks and blog during my specific lunch time.

When I get home, I run. I've been training for lots of races, so I have a prescribed plan most of the time. And usually I'm able to complete my workout for the day. If not, I don't get too down on myself because I realize my body needs rest. I try my best to distinguish when I need rest versus when I'm just not feeling it (and know that heading out will actually be more beneficial than not). Dinner each night is different. We do still eat broccoli and brown rice a lot, but as I mentioned above -- a lot more of it. We get creative with our meals. They're always teeming with fresh vegetables and fruits. And I most usually eat some type of dessert (much of what you see on this blog).

After dinner, I don't force myself to lift weights or do crunches during commercial breaks. If it's nice out, maybe we'll take a walk or play yard games. Other nights, we read, blog, and watch TV. Before bed, I work toward my goal of doing 100 push-ups at one time (I'm up to 65!!!). I go to bed by 10PM every single night.

Healthy feels strong. Confident. Relaxed. Centered. And steady. I love to cook and bake, and I can enjoy these hobbies instead of fear them. I love to race, and I can participate in many races without feeling like I'll faint. I may not fit in my wedding dress, but I'm still fit. It feels so much better to live this way, and I just wish I had these happy memories from back THEN, too. Instead, I consider my skinny summer The Lost Summer. Because all those reduced calories and bad feelings have definitely impacted my memory.

Now, I'm not saying you can't be skinny AND healthy. I'm not saying what is right for me is right for you. But I'm asking each and every one of you to take careful stock of how you feel right now. How you feel from day to day. If you're hungry. You need to eat more. If you're tired and not enjoying exercise, you need to reconsider what you're doing. Just because you find yourself in a routine . . . or with a specific goal that may be unreasonable . . . doesn't mean you can't break out of it.

However difficult it may be, you and you alone have the power to change. Ultimately, this is your life to live. This is your body. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather feel accomplished and strong than fit into a tight, tiny wedding dress.

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