Sunday, March 18, 2012

My bikini model fantasy

When I started on my weight loss journey, 100 pounds and and 12 sizes ago, I had some pretty standard preconceived notions in my head on what it would be like to be thin. After several years of roller coaster dieting, now that I'm at about what my goal weight should be, I find myself sometimes wishing I had known then what I know now.

Weight loss myth and weight loss reality are 2 completely different things.

When I was a size 26, I thought size 10 was thin. When I was a size 10, I thought a 6 was thin. When I was a 6, I couldn't imagine being a size 4. When I hit size 4, I was disappointed.

Disappointed? Why? I had a vision in my head of what my body would look like. I thought that size 4 was skinny, bikini model territory. When I was a size 26, I had in my head that single digit jeans meant defined abs, cute belly button and softly sculpted legs and buns.

The weight loss reality turned out to be quite different. While I have protruding hip bones, my belly button frowns. Wherever there were stretch marks there is empty, slightly saggy skin. My chest turned from fabulously voluptuous and curvy to sadly, droopingly deflated. While I have the unique distinction of being thin enough that light shines through my legs when I close them, that space is now being encroached upon by my backside.

Let me tell you, when you see your backside showing from between your legs as you look straight on in the mirror, it's absolutely shocking!

My mental image of what my thin self would look like came crashing down on me when I hit size 4. For a year I obsessed over every calorie. I worked out 2 to 3 times a day, intense, extreme workouts. I weight trained. I ran. I trained in 3 martial arts. I biked. I was a faithful practitioner of calisthenics, plyometrics, Pilates and any other workout that I could dream up.

At my lightest I was about 140 pounds on a 5 foot 9 inch frame. Because of the extra skin, body fat analysis was near impossible to get nailed down, but my lowest measured BFI (not BMI) was 19 percent.

Oddly, I was so thin that my ribs showed through my back and every vertebrae in the back of my neck protruded in high-def 3D, and yet, my belly button was still frowning. I spun my wheels for a year obsessing over my belly button, determined that one day it would stop frowning and assume a normal shape. The closest I ever got was a deep sigh.

After a recent series of injuries that sidelined by training, I found myself reflecting on my weight loss journey – my progress, my achievements, the things that I'm proud of. After a year of chasing a belly button perfection fantasy I came to a stark realization.

Even though my size 4, half-bony-half-thick frame wasn't what I envisioned as my weight loss goal, my fitness level was so much more than I ever thought it could be. With that imperfect body, I achieved a lot.

I completed 2 half-marathons, a 10-miler, a 5-miler in 90 degree weather, a 7-mile trail run and Warrior Dash – all at a pace 150 percent faster than my fat-girl pace. I learned how to rock climb, dance on a stripper pole and kayak. I earned a blue belt in Taekwondo and started training in MMA and Kali. I hiked the Buckeye Trail. I went back to school to be a personal trainer. I did my first pull-up on a rock ledge. I even finished a 5k in first place.

Sitting on the sidelines over the last 8 weeks, I realized something important about weight loss fantasy and weight loss reality. If you get hung up on the I'm-going-to-be-a-bikini-model fantasy, you will never be able to appreciate how far you've come.

Set your goals on what you want to achieve, not on what you want to look like. Set tangible fitness goals for your weight loss journey.

Find something that you know that you cannot accomplish today and let the fact that you can't do it completely tick you off. Get stubborn and and do everything that you have to do to make it happen. Weight loss is just a side effect of building a better life.