A couple of months back, I noticed that I was getting irritable quickly, and angry at random things. I was quick to dismiss this as simply a manifestation of my depression, but when I was getting angry several times a day, I decided that it was time to do something about it.
Several panic attacks, visits to a therapist, doctor and finally psychiatrist later, I’ve found a combination of medication that seems to be keeping me stable–and more than that, keeping me stable at a happier level than what I was expecting. As an added bonus, I’ve lost about 20 lbs in the two months since I restarted my anti-depressant.
There are a few of underlying factors to this; first, when I’m uber depressed, I self-medicate with food. Second, one of the side effects of the anti-depressant is loss of appetite, though I feel like I more or less have my appetite back (or have gotten used to eating less food than I was before). Third, one of the medications is technically a stimulant, which, while calming my anxiety is also giving me all sorts of excess energy.
But more important than my changed eating habits, I think, is the fact that I’ve started to exercise more. Not a great deal, and nothing terribly fancy or strenuous, mostly walking. And really, it’s the exercise side of thing that I wanted to talk about today.
So, here’s what I’ve learned–and I’m not sure that’s the right phrase, this is all stuff I’ve heard repeatedly over the years, but it’s finally sunk in. Anyway.
1) It’s not a race. If I need to stop and catch my breath, it’s okay to stop and catch my breath. I was getting frustrated for a while that I wasn’t tired, but my lungs had given out. Sis has (very well controlled) asthma, and I asked her what I could do to strengthen my lungs. She talked about how when she was in high school, she was on the soccer team and played the baritone saxophone in jazz band. Her doctors told her that those two activities were the very best things she could do for her lungs. She said that when she was playing soccer, or going on a hike or something and she would start to feel the first twinge of asthma, she’d pull back a little bit until she felt better, then power through. She suggested that I do something similar. So now, when I’m starting to get winded I’ll pause for a bit, then keep going. And you know what? I’m not getting winded as easily or as often as I used to.
2) The numbers don’t really matter. Most weight loss gurus will tell you not to weigh yourself every day. I don’t think that’s necessarily sound advice, I find myself jumping on the scale a couple of times every day–but I’m not freaking out that it’s showing a few pounds heavier in the afternoon when I’m fully clothed and just eaten than it did when I got on the scale first thing in the morning before getting dressed. I’m not even concerned that the numbers might go up one day from the day before. It’s fun to see the overall downward trend of the numbers on the scale, but there are better ways to gauge weight loss–how clothes fit, for example. (I have no idea what size I am these days) I’ve known forever that muscle weighs more than fat, and I honestly think that I have less body fat than the last time the scale was showing the numbers that it is now–I know my muscles are stronger.
3) Don’t forget the water. There are days (mostly when I’ve forgotten my water bottle) when I come home from school completely wiped out. I’ll get a drink of water–and then another one, and in a little bit, I find myself feeling better. I’ve also read that sometimes when the body is craving water, it will manifest as a craving for food. I’ve noticed this in myself, when I’ve got my water bottle, I’m less likely to want sweets. Plus, when the cravings get to be too much, I can add some Crystal Lite to my water to satisfy my sweet tooth.
4) Don’t forget to eat. There was a time (three months ago) when I didn’t know how people (like my dad) could forget to eat. And now I find myself doing it. Most days, I wouldn’t have breakfast except that my morning medication needs to be taken on a full stomach–I’m still not a breakfast fan, but if I’m going to forget to eat until about 2 pm, I better have something early in the morning. And like the water issue, I’ve had days when I’ve just felt terrible, until I had something to eat.
5) Keep goals realistic. I’m not going to go from this:
and I’m okay with that.
I’m not going to run a marathon or hike the north rim of the Grand Canyon tomorrow, but if I keep working, maybe someday I’ll be able to.
6) Healthy is more important than skinny. As much as I’d love to look like Ms. Hepburn there, I’d rather be a healthy 200 lbs (and I still have a ways to go before I get down to 200 lbs) than a sickly 98 lbs. In fact, I’m viewing this whole thing more as getting healthy than losing weight–healthy mentally as well as physically.
7) Losing weight is the easy part. Keeping it off is hard. You don’t get to the size I am without trying to lose weight at least once, only to have it all come back, and then some. I read somewhere that a person who has lost weight needs 500 calories per day fewer than a person of the same size who’s never lost the weight. This same article said that people who maintain weight loss get on average one hour of moderate exercise six days a week. I’m hoping that by getting into the habit of eating right and exercising, rather than just letting the medication do the work, by the time I get down to a healthy weight, It’ll be enough of a habit that I’ll just keep going with it.
None of this is groundbreaking stuff–I know I’ve heard it all a million times before, it’s just been in the past few months that it’s started to sink in. And while I’m not, by nature, and adventurous person, this whole being healthy and happy thing is an adventure that I’m not sure I want to give up any time soon.