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Defeating Sneaky Ninja Fat

So there I was, happily maintaining my weight after a few years, and slowly but surely, my pants started getting tight. My shirts started getting tight. I looked in the mirror, and I looked fine. WTF was going on?

Sneaky Ninja Fat. That’s what. It lurks in the shadows, waiting for me to let down my guard, and then jumps onto my back and bum, where I can’t see it until it’s melded into my flesh.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t ninjas. It was more the result of depression after losing my brother to cancer which made me get a little lax on the eating and lose all motivation to exercise, followed by a very painful lower back injury with a few rounds of steroids and several months of physical therapy where I could only do mild stretching and a couple miles on a recumbent bike. I started to get my groove back in October, and restarted Couch to 5k to ease back into running, but then winter weather, being busy over the holidays, and wanting to enjoy holiday feasts was a good excuse in November and December.

By January, though, I was ready to kick the sneaky ninja fat in it’s sneaky ninja buttocks. I got back on MyFitnessPal, eat 1500 plus some or most of my exercise calories (usually 17-1800 or so) Monday through Friday, and take the weekends and holidays off from logging. I tend to get a little overly obsessive about logging, so regular breaks keep me at least somewhat sane. As sane as you can be when you believe in sneaky ninja fat.

I don’t eliminate anything from my diet. Still have pasta, rice, potatoes, cheeseburgers, pizza, the occasional donut and a jalapeno cheddar bagel just about every morning for breakfast. I run 2-3 times a week (weather permitting – it was twice a week during the worst of winter) and strength train usually 3 times a week. Currently following Strong Curves beginner program.

I’m about 6 pounds from my goal weight now. Up until this morning when I took my pics, I thought I was going to have to lower that goal. Now, seeing what nine pounds did, I think six more pounds will be pretty much perfect. But honestly, I’m pretty happy with how I look right now. I know from the past that I can slowly recomp while eating near maintenance. I just have a pile of clothes that I’d rather be able to wear again than have to replace. I can zip some of my skinny jeans now. They just don’t look or feel very good at the moment.

Anyway, enough babbling. Here’s the photos. Watch the sneaky ninja backfat disappear…

Front View

Front View

Side View

Back View

The change is not as noticeable from straight on front or back shots. Because it’s a ninja. Also, I can’t flex without looking constipated or having an extra chin. I’m convinced that’s the most valuable asset a fitness model can have. Looking pretty while flexing.

Front Flexed

Back Flexed

I even felt good enough about myself to put on my itsy bitsy string bikini from before I gained weight. When I tried it on last summer, I looked like an exploded can of Pillsbury and wanted to cry.

Pink Bikini

But most of all, I’m happy with my fitness progress. I’m still a lot slower than I was before all this happened, but I’m getting back there. Considering that 8 months ago, I could barely walk and thought my running days are behind me, I’m really happy that I can now run 3.1 miles in the same amount of time I ran 2.1 in October. I’ve run 10k a couple of times in the past month, and shaved about 5 minutes off my time. And I know in a race environment (first 5k of the year is next weekend) I’ll be even faster.

Running

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At the end of a three month experiment…

Or should I say, at the start of month four? Since September, I gave up on counting calories. I know it works, and works damn well, but after nearly three years of it, I was seriously burnt out. I also think I was heading on a path towards disordered eating, if I wasn’t already well down that road.

Now, I wouldn’t say it was an eating disorder, not in the technical sense, where my physical health would be damaged by how I was eating. I was eating quite well. A good amount of calories and very balanced nutritionally. But psychologically, I was going a bit nuts. I was over-tracking. I was counting my calories and my macros. Logging my exercise on My Fitness Pal and Fitocracy. Tracking my miles on Runkeeper and on a monthly miles challenge online. Tracking the weight I was lifting on a separate spreadsheet. Weighing myself daily, taking measurements weekly, and taking progress photos every few weeks. And all that was fine when I was seeing progress regularly… when I had a decent amount of weight to lose, when I was training for a race, when I was just starting a lifting routine.

But after a while, progress slowed. I wasn’t getting any faster. I wasn’t really getting much stronger. My body wasn’t changing in any discernable way. It all seemed pointless.

And now, three months after getting off the hamster wheel, I realize… it really was all pointless.

Eating right and exercising is good. No doubt about it. But obsessing about it is not good. And that’s what I was doing. Now, if I were a personal trainer or a fitness model, that would be a different story. But I’m not. I’m a web publisher and artist and housewife. “Visible abs” are nowhere in the job descriptions for those positions.

At the beginning of September, I started to back off from all the craziness. I weighed 140.8 lbs. The last time I weighed myself, a few days ago, I was 140.4 lbs. And I’ve been very relaxed on eating, and probably a little too relaxed on exercise, especially since I wrenched my back in a freak stencilling accident. But I’ve been enjoying myself. I’ve been painting and crafting and costuming, selling things in my Etsy shop, working on updating my websites and even reopening my dating advice community. I’ve been… feeling like me again.

 

With one of my holiday signs from my Etsy shop.

With one of my holiday signs from my Etsy shop.

 

The weird thing is… yes, I’d like to maybe drop another 5-10 pounds, but  even when I was at my leanest, I felt the same way. I felt like there was more I could do to improve. I’m never going to be completely 100% satisfied with my body. Maybe it’s the gen-x slacker in me, but if I’m always going to be discontent, I’d rather be discontent and relaxed about it, than discontent, stressed and working my ass off.

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Pink and Blue Hydrangeas and Body Image

Lots of rambling here, bear with me. 😉

I’m at the end of my No Logging in September Experiment. For the past month, I’ve been eating intuitively, and not logging my calories, because, quite frankly, I’m tired of it. I started the month at a weight of 140.8 pounds and weighed in Saturday at 141.4 pounds. Which, in my mind, is a win. Especially since I started the month not being able to get a certain pair of jeans over my hips, and can now (uncomfortably) button them again.

Plus, I’d been recovering from an injury at the start of the month, and not exercising. Now that I’m easing back into it, I’m very likely sporting a few extra pounds of fuel storage and some inflammation from exercise. So I’m feeling pretty good about things.

I’ve also used this time to do some thinking about body image and the things we do to achieve our goals. On one hand, I know calorie counting works. Damn well. I can be quite lean and look fantastic when I’m counting my calories (as long as I don’t fuck up my body with frickin’ hormones again). But… is it worth it? Is being a little bit leaner that important? Does it really make any difference in my life? Am I just fighting what my body naturally wants to be? I can rather effortlessly maintain being a size 6-8. If I’m counting every calorie, I can be a size 2-4.

I mean… I’m still fit and healthy. I still run. I still lift weights. My husband thinks I’m sexy and wants to boink me no matter what I weigh. Being leaner doesn’t make me smarter, kinder, a better artist, a better wife. I still have to pay bills, scoop the litter box and have ninja fast reflexes to keep the dog from biting me while I groom him.

The only thing that’s different is that I’m somewhat smaller and wear somewhat smaller clothes.

So why do I feel like a failure or quitter? It’s silly to feel that way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way I look now. I liken it to being a blue hydrangea. I can change the pH balance in the soil and make it a pink hydrangea. But WHY? Why go that extra step, when the blue hydrangea is just as beautiful?

Blue and Pink Hydrangeas

Or if I’d been bleaching my hair blonde for years, and decided that it was too much upkeep and went back to my natural brunette, I wouldn’t feel bad about it. There wouldn’t be anyone saying I was wussing out or lazy because I stopped coloring my hair.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t feel deprived or hungry while logging my calories. I ate well. But I was obsessive. I know the fitness industry likes to say, “What you call obsessed, we call dedicated,” but it sure felt a lot more like obsessed. Every day was like a game of Jenga, a balancing act, trying to get the calories and macros all in order. It was just an extra layer of pressure I was putting on myself. Just like altering the pH in the soil or changing the hue of my hair. One extra, possibly unnecessary, step.

If I compare my current photos with photos from before I started lifting weight, I’m happy. Very happy. I weigh more, but it doesn’t show.

July 2011 to September 2013

But then… then I look up photos from last year at this time and think, “Holy shit! I never realized I was that small!” That’s when I start feeling like a big old lazy lump, even though I’m not that much bigger.

(And I realize that everyone hates the size 6 girl complaining that she can’t fit in the fours. I realize it’s stupid and petty. But falling short of reaching a goal is disappointing, for anyone.)

Oct 2012 to Sept 2013

Smaller, sure. Better? If I’m honest? Yes, but why is smaller considered better? I don’t know. Is counting every calorie and feeling slightly crazy worth it? I don’t know. Do I want to get back there? Actually… yes. And I don’t even know why, because I logically don’t think it should matter.

Right now, though… No. Right now, I’m going to be stubborn and see if I can’t get back there without going nuts. I’ve seen and felt improvement in the past month, and up until I was masochistic and did a side by side with last year’s photos, I felt great, so I’m just going to continue on that road and see where it leads.

Because, you know what? I had just as much self-doubt about how I looked a year ago as I do now. Then I thought, “My thighs are still big. My abs don’t show like some other women’s do. Why do I still have chins??? Uck… my chest looks bony.” That’s something else that doesn’t change. Same tunes, in a different key. That’s something I have to work on inside my head, not on the outside.

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