Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Weighing in

Linking up with Erika, April, and Patty again for another edition of Tuesdays on the Run.


This week's subject prompt was "weight loss or maintenance during distance training."

Interesting topic. Let's go back a few years ago in history.

I was definitely guilty of gaining weight while I was training for the Chicago Marathon in 2012. I thought that putting in the double-digit training runs every weekend gave me a free pass to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and in any quantity that I wanted. Combine this with one of my worst fears, which was bonking due to improper fueling. These perceptions were a terrible combination. My philosophy basically boiled down to, "When in doubt, eat more!"

After challenging runs, it was a common practice for me to order in a deep dish pizza, proclaim that I could eat the entire thing by myself, then do my very best to make it happen. I was very liberal with carb-loading both before and after the long runs. I did nothing to hold myself back from desserts, Gatorade, chocolate milk, energy gels, candy, the list goes on and on. You name it, I ate it.


I never weighed myself while I was marathon training. However, my clothes became noticeably tighter. At the time, I should have gone up a dress size. Instead, I selectively chose to wear only stretchy clothes or my looser articles of clothing. Call it the proverbial burying my head into the sand. I didn't really change my eating habits after the marathon was over, either.

I finally got to a point about seven or eight months after the marathon that I just couldn't stand myself anymore. I stepped on the scale one day and was horrified to realize that I was almost 15 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day. It was my highest weight ever.


My company, with all of its amazing benefits, offers free membership to Weight Watchers. So I signed on up.

The first few weeks were hell. I basically got smacked in the head with the realization of how bad my eating habits were. But after the initial shock died down, I learned the importance and magnitude of a healthy way of life, as opposed to dieting.

Over time, I got into the habit of food journaling. I started keeping myself accountable for what I ate. I began implementing changes to keep the healthy habits as easy as possible to maintain. For example, I always have healthy snacks on hand for when I'm on the go (almonds are a favorite since they're portable, don't smush easily, and are very shelf-stable). I try to never let myself get too hungry so that it's easier to maintain control. I try to stay well hydrated so that I'm less likely to confuse thirst with hunger.

It took me a little over a year to drop 22 pounds. I've maintained my weight, with very minimal fluctuation, for well over six months now. I am proud to say that I'm now at my lowest weight since high school.


The Weight Watchers program definitely helped me to understand why I gained so much weight during marathon training in 2012. Without going into all the intricacies of the program, in summary all foods, beverages, and activities/exercises are assigned a point value. You are given a daily allotment of points to consume, and you can earn additional points for working out.

When I sat down to do the math on my points, I was really shocked at how much effort it took to earn activity points and how easy it was to consume points. Often, all the extra points that I earned from my long run were pretty much cancelled out by just the GU, Gatorade, and some moderate post-run refueling. That's all. In short, I was completely overestimating the amount of calories that I was burning during my training. Looking back, I'm honestly surprised that I didn't gain more weight than I actually did.


I've heard it said from several friends that "You can't out-exercise a bad diet." I completely agree with this. I find it requires much less effort to maintain a healthy diet than it is to eat poorly or too much and then try to work it off.

To this day, I still try to journal everything that I eat. Every week, I still go to Weight Watchers meetings to get weighed in. When I am doing double-digit training runs, I will allow myself some reasonable post-run recovery food. Beyond that, I try my best to maintain the same eating habits that I would if I weren't training.

Nobody said that it would be easy. I have my really good days and my really bad days. I still crave chocolate and ice cream and deep dish pizza and salty/fried snacks. I still fight myself from going overboard anytime I'm at a buffet, and I still wish I could order every dessert on the menu. But the difference now is that I've learned how to enjoy things in moderation. And in the end, the effort has definitely been worth the results.


14 comments:

  1. Solidarity! It's so hard to stay on a healthy habit, and so easy to slip into bad habits. Congratulations on keeping your weight level for the last 6 months. I'm back in the boat of working on that (I had been stable for about 2 years, but you know how I fell off last year, so I'm back to working on it). But I firmly believe the hardest part is admitting you need to work on it, and staying aware of where you're at - the rest, with dedication, will come. :-)

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    1. Solidarity indeed! When I was typing up this post, I was thinking about some of your writings about the amount of activity that it requires to burn off a single miniature Milky Way bar, etc. Had I only learned those lessons about three years ago!!!

      Kudos to you for all of the hard work and effort that you've been putting forth to stay healthy. I think it has already paid off big-time (hello, Ms. Triathlete!). I am looking forward to reading more about your Class Pass adventures and future tri training, as always!

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  2. Great post! Definitely some encouragement for me as I've been emotionally-eating the last couple days. If you have any good recipes that you like or anything that might help me with my WW, feel free to send me a facebook message! I've done WW before for 4 years so I do know how the plan works (although it was the old points system) but I'm lacking in the recipe department.

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    1. Thanks Amanda! To this day, I still fight myself on emotional eating, too, especially when I get stressed out at work. My other danger zone is right when I get home from work, too, and finally have a few minutes to sit down. Going forward, I'll definitely share new recipes or other things that have worked well for me, and likewise please share with me anything that you come across and enjoy! So far I think my biggest focus is just to consistently track my food consumption. I think it's less about what the actual point values are, and more just so the act of writing things down and being aware. But it's so hard to track when you're at a restaurant or a gathering, etc., etc., etc. It's definitely an ongoing challenge!

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  3. I really hate this whole "marathon training doesn't make you magically lose weight" thing. It's so obnoxious :P Haha. I've never had a MAJOR problem with weight gain during marathon season, but I do have a much harder time keeping my eating in moderation (especially after a long run...there are so many pancakes to be consumed! Haha.). I actually find the diet aspect of weight maintenance/loss to be the biggest challenge in general, marathon training or not. I can work out until the cows come home, but it rarely (read: never) makes me lose weight, unless I am INSANELY STRICT about my diet at the same time. Which is a frustrating way to live, to be honest, because I really do not at all enjoy having to obsess over every single thing I eat just for the sake of not gaining weight. I like to be able to eat what I want in the quantities I want at that moment, but unfortunately I'm not eleven years old anymore and can't really pull that off! Haha.

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    1. Couldn't agree with you more on the obnoxiousness of how marathon training doesn't magically make you lose weight. How is it possible that the body burns fuel so efficiently!?!?!? Pancakes are a huge weakness for me, too (especially the ones filled with chocolate chips and covered with strawberries and whipped cream, LOL). Likewise - I have to be very careful about what I eat, even when I do work out like crazy. It's like the body is genetically programmed to try to conserve all those calories and avoid giving them up, you know? And goodness, do I ever miss my childhood metabolism. I used to be able to eat so much junk without thinking about it, and never experienced any ill effects! Heck, forget childhood - even my college metabolism was better than it is now! Sigh...

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  4. While I was pretty good about not gaining weight while marathon training I found it was difficult to turn off the eating machine when the race was over. That was my struggle. Since October, though, I've lost ~10 pounds and gained a lot more muscle definition....but I honestly cut WAY back on my running, ate a pretty strict diet, and strength train 4-5 times a week. I'm a little concerned about what will happen when I start triathlon training in earnest next month. Thankfully it's a sprint distance so hopefully it won't derail me!

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    1. YES on the difficulties of turning off the eating machine after the race is over. I think it's even worse when you run a fall marathon, too, because then you add in the cold temperatures and the desire to hibernate on TOP of the still-churning eating machine! Congratulations on all the fitness improvements that you've made! I can definitely see the additional muscle in your arms (e.g. in that picture on your blog the other day, wow!) Strength training is an amazing thing. I wish I'd realized this much earlier and that I had focused on strength training a lot more throughout my life in general.

      Hooray for sprint training! Can't wait to hear your stories of how things progress!

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  5. The only time I really lose weight during marathon training is in the last four weeks of marathon training when I can't out eat all of the miles I am putting in. Possibly, I'm also more focused in on my nutrition and achieving an ideal "race weight" during that time. Last year I even got my pants taken in during those last four weeks. When the tailor was measuring my waist I said that maybe I should be doing this after the marathon. Of course once the marathon was over and I cut way way back on the miles, I needed to get my pants taken out! :)

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    1. Good for you for even having that point in marathon training where you can't out eat your miles! That would never be a problem for me, haha. Granted, your high-mileage weeks exceed some of my high-mileage months, so we're definitely on different playing fields. ;-) Gotta love the beauty of a good tailor!!!

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  6. The combination of turning 40 and half marathon training has really put a damper on my weight loss efforts. Add in a stressful job and high energy family life and I definitely need some more tools to get things moving in the right direction again. I'm hoping focusing on diet, strength training and running shorter distances this summer will do the trick for me! Thanks for linking up with us today!

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    1. I very much understand the conundrum of trying to balance getting older, training, work, and family commitments. It's like juggling ten things all at once! Strength training and running shorter distances have been a breath of fresh air for me so I am hopeful that it'll help you feel great, too! Thanks again for hosting the link-up, I am excited for the future discussion topics!!!

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  7. I'm planning on running a full this fall, so this is a topic that's definitely on my mind! I know that the more I up my mileage, the more I want to eat! The tricky part is eating the right stuff. (Why is it that I only crave unhealthy foods?)

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    1. Amy, I am so excited to hear what your decision ends up being with your full marathon this fall. Did I mention how thrilled I am that you are looking at all those Midwestern races!?!?!?

      YES on the unhealthy foods. I never saw a dessert or a salty fried snack that I didn't like, LOL.

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