Monday, November 23, 2009

A weighty subject

Since this whole infertility project (nightmare?) began, I have watched my weight cycle up and then down and then up, up, and further up.

This has been tough for me because my body and my health are important to me. After being sick with lymphoma, I worked hard to gain my strength back. I used to lie in bed after chemo treatments and think to myself, almost as a mantra, "When I am well, I will never take my body for granted again. I will never take my strength for granted again." And for the most part, I haven't. After I was declared in remission, I started exercising. At the beginning, I was so deconditioned, I could only run a single block before needing to stop to rest. But I kept working at it. After about a year, I joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training program and raised money for lymphoma research while training for and running two marathons and then completing two Olympic distance triathlons. I felt strong. I felt fit.

And then came infertility.

I've typically gained a little weight each IVF cycle (some combo of all the hormones, the stress, and my clinic's absolute prohibition on any form of exercise, including yoga, swimming, elliptical...). It would seem I'd just have gotten into a good groove with diet/exercise and then it would be time to cycle again and my routine (and then my motivation) would deteriorate and take months to recover. So each IVF saw me packing on approximately five pounds. Each pregnancy too, was accompanied by some increased poundage.

Fortunately (fortunately?! Really, Mo? You're going to try to make a positive out of this?), each miscarriage resulted in weight loss. At least the first three losses or so. I would be so grief-stricken that I would pretty much stop eating and drop five to ten pounds. I had no appetite. Couple that with the fact that running provided one of my only sources of solace during the first two losses and the result was that I became quite slim.

So the weight cycle was something like this: IVF #1 (pork up), pregnancy (porkier), miscarriage at nine weeks (start running, stop eating, weight plummets), IVF #2 (gain weight), BFN, then pregnancy #2 (weight stable), miscarriage (weight plummets)...pregnancy #3 (porkier), miscarriage #3 (weight drops) etc., etc.
Until I got past miscarriage number three.

Then somehow, I stopped grieving in the acute howling animal kind of way I had been and began some kind of chronic grieving. A grieving that involved no running and lots of mindless snacking and comfort eating. And then I started my clinical internship, and dissertation hell (so no time to exercise plus tons of stress - which resulted in more comfort eating), and then just for fun added on IVFs #3, #4, and #5, and pregnancies #4 and #5, and miscarriages #4 and #5 and well...

I am bigger than I have ever been in my entire life.

A lot bigger.

THREE clothing sizes bigger, if you want to know.

This is a fact I have been avoiding. Or that I have been acknowledging but not feeling able (willing?) to do anything about.

But then two weekends ago, we went shopping. To some of my favorite outlet shops (Banana Republic and Ann Taylor and Nine West. Sigh). Previous shopping trips have included me not buying anything because my usual size doesn't fit, nor does the size above that. But this time I really needed some work clothes and I just sucked it up and told myself I deserve to have clothes that aren't cutting me in two because they are so tight, and I bought clothes that fit, beautiful clothes that I'm really excited about, but that are much bigger than my pre-IVF size.

During the trying on of all these clothes, and the acknowledgement that my size has skyrocketed, I hit a limit. I "got" it. I realized I can't keep going on like this. I decided that I am going to take action. During that weekend, I outlined a plan.

I'm a psychologist, so I'm well versed in positive reinforcement. I decided to implement some contingency plans for myself. I could purchase clothes that fit, but I would have to "earn" them to actually get to wear them. When I've tried to reinforce myself in the past, I have rewarded an outcome (example: "for every five pounds I lose, I can get a massage"). This sounds good, but has never worked so well for me. THIS time, I decided to reward the process. So here's the plan:

For every three days that I (1) Exercise for at least 60 minutes / day AND (2) Eat according to healthy limits (three meals, two snacks, approx. 1,500 calories), I "earn" one of the items that I purchased.
I'm keeping a food diary with every morsel put in my mouth recorded, which research shows by itself is an effective technique to fuel weight loss.

So here we are, one week into the Mo shape-up plan. Would you guys be willing to follow along with me as I hopefully progress?

Total exercise this week: 6 hours
2 spinning classes
2 hours on elliptical
1 hour run with puppy
1 hour on treadmill

Diet: According to plan all days

Items of clothing earned: 2

Weight lost this week: 2 lbs!!!

When I think of how much I have to lose, it feels daunting and I want to give up. And I'm a little bit nervous that it's the holidays coming up, starting with the American bingefest known as Thanksgiving this week. I'll loosen things up a little that day (and obviously it won't count as a day toward "earning" any clothing), but plan to not get too far off track.

Overall, I'm hoping that by focusing on short-term goals of three days at a time of exercise and diet, I will find myself off to a good start and getting there before I know it. By my calculations, if all goes according to plan, it should take approximately 3-4 months to get back to a weight and fitness level I'll feel very happy with. We'll see. I really want to wear these cool new clothes!

Stay tuned for weekly updates.

In other news, Will and I attended an awesome adoption conference in Brooklyn this weekend and day 3 bloods have been drawn and are on their way to Denver (yes, apparently only their lab can analyze day 3 blood samples...). Posts on these topics coming soon...
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  1. Hey, I gained too, of course, from my trim just got married size of a loose 4 I balloned to almost a 10 with the last IVF, then OHSS, 2 infections, 2 hospital stays later and I have now dropped back down to a loose 6 (well I actually droped down to looking like skeletor when first released from hosptial). BUt, what I found was my body REFUSED to loose weight beyond a point when I was on the infertile prepping egg wagon, totally refused to loose the weight, so I just stayed thinish but still with fluff a size 7-8ish. My acupuncturist noticed and said it was for the eggs or seomthign like that.
    Anyhow, just to let you know that you are not alone (and that a hospital stay of 10 days can drop the weight quick but I really do not recommend it.

  2. I like your plan! I think I'm going to have to try something similar once the baby is out, but honestly most of the damage was done for me during our IVF cycle and the two years of infertility-related comfort eating that came before it. It's so hard. I wish you lots of luck and encouragement!

  3. I love that you are a cognitive-behavioral psychologist. I think that is great that you have all those tools at your disposal to help yourself with this project. That being said - I studied nutrition in college. The knowledge doesn't always make it easier for me to do what I need to do.

    I too am on a weight loss kick after my miscarriage. I've gained quite a bit of weight in the past 2 years, and am now on a quest to lose it. At least there is something positive.

  4. I've put on 21 pounds during my journey. I am so with you on losing weight; can't stand to see photos of me; loss of confidence; DH says there's more of me in bed (I extracted that out of him and boy was he sorry). I am planning to do weights as the research I've done is that this can be very effective for losing weight and toning up. Am going to follow John Benson of 7MinuteMiracle (yes sounds like sh*te but he is apparently well respected). I'll let you know how I go. YAY for the 2 pounds!! 10 weeks of that and you're down 20!!!xxx

  5. I've gained 20 pounds in the last calendar year. I am at the heaviest weight of my life. I need to do something about it. But realistically, looking down the decanter of Christmas it ain't happening any time soon.

  6. Good luck! I gained about 20 pounds through our first two miscarriages and it took me a year to lose the weight, but I did it. I'm impressed with your first week of activity -- that's awesome! You'll feel so great once the weight is gone.

  7. I like your plan. I always have to break things down. Like when I was writing my thesis, I would just get overwhelmed when I thought about how much I had to do, and would do nothing. When I just focused on one little piece at a time, before I knew it, it was done (btw, it took me 7 years to get my masters, but hey, I was working full time for 3 of those years!).

  8. 25 pounds here, and I haven't even started IVF. I'm glad to know I'm not alone.... Can't wait to hear about the adoption conference!

  9. Can't wait to hear about the adoption conference, and boy o boy do I hear ya on the weight thing. I do like your motivational set up - seems like it'd be more motivating than the whole, "When I lose five pounds, I can buy X" deal that I usually try. Owning but not being allowed to use/wear/look at might be more motivating for me, given how little I actually enjoy the process of shopping. I will want to hear how it goes, you know. Bite by bite, step by step.

    And if you ever want an out-of-shape jogging with the puppy companion on a Sunday, let me know. I could use some exercise motivation as well...

  10. I'm very impressed with both your post-lymphoma feats of fitness as well as with your candor and your plan going forward.

    I'm with you on the food diary. Everything for the past 6 weeks has gone in there, as has all of my exercise, and it really does force mindfulness. I've dropped about 10 lbs so far (all gained in the last 12 months) and although I'm staring down the barrel of the holidays, I'm going for 10 more lbs before the end of the year.

    So if you need support or a cheerleader or some low-cal healthy recipes, ore even absolution for the cookie that you just had to have -- I'm on the same road and happy to help.

  11. You are amazing - what you have fought and beat - and what you will continue to fight and beat - is amazing. Your plan sounds like a great plan.

    After I quit smoking, I gained about 50 pounds. I was 205 pounds. Wow. Mike's dad bought us a cruise vacation for one of my spring breaks and I vowed I would not get on that ship at 205 pounds. That was my motivation - it was amazing and I lost about 55 pounds in 4 months - being really, really healthy and exercising quite a bit. I am relatively tall - 5'8 and pretty muscular so 150 pounds is pretty skinny for me - a size 8ish.

    That being said, like you, I gained more and more weight after each IVF and after each miscarriage. I used to spin at least 3 times a week, run, walk, lift - all of that tapered off and ended after each miscarriage, until I was 175 pounds, a size 12 bordering on a 14, miserable and totally full of cellulite. It is tough - emotionally and physically - it is tough all the way around.

    But - you are tougher and you continue to inspire me.

  12. I feel your pain and I admire your determination. I need that kind of motivation. It's so hard during the holidays.

    Looking forward to seeing your progress.

  13. Good luck!! Sometimes having a little control in our lives can make all the difference. I'm in my own dissertation hell (defence on the 4th... yikes!) so my nutrition/fitness is not really what I would like. But seeing you set it out like this makes me feel motivated.

  14. Wishing you lots of luck!

    I've always struggled with my weight but have recently gotten serious about exercising and eating right and have finally started seeing progress.

    Sounds like you're on your way - congrats on the 2 lbs!!

  15. Yup, I've gained a good 20pds! I haven't yet had to deal with hormones yet but the "worry" of working out to hard, or not eating enough made me quit a lot of the things I like to do. This month I have decided to go back to the gym, I tried months without exercise and I still didn't get pregnant, so I'm going back. Sounds like a lot of others have commented with the same problems, and it looks as though you have inspired many to get back on the wagon. Keep us all posted, and keep inspiring :)

  16. I was at my most fit when I met my husband exactly 10 years ago. I'd just successfully lost 13 lbs and was working out regularly and eating right. In these 10 years there have been 3 surgeries, 6 IVFs, 1 FET, 1 DE cycle, one xld DEFET, 7 pregnancies, 5 months of complete bed rest, one c-section, and one live birth (2.5 years ago). Oh, and 50! lbs of weight gain (and I saw my gynecologist today to prove it).
    I recently began Pilates and weight training again, but cannot motivate to add the cardio I know I need to actually move the scale. Nor am I able to rein in my eating.
    While my weight has fluctuated to some degree all my life, I've only ever faced having to lose about 20 lbs. Now here I am with 50 to go and even if I try to put that into more reasonable goals, I just can't get my sh*t together to create a workable, integrated plan. I'm hoping your success motivates me.

  17. I am on the same plan! Well, different rewards, and no food journal, but I've been back to the gym 4 times each week for the last 4 weeks, and it feels so good. I began with a trainer too, to get my butt lifting weights again. I already feel stronger. I do think scales are evil (is that how I go to this point? maybe) but my IVF-induced fattie clothes feel looser. Back into some old clothes. Honestly, being able to "shop" in my own closet, wearing clothes I couldn't fit in a month ago, it is reward enough.

    You are not alone in the weight-gain madness. Good for you for taking control of it!

  18. That is a great plan and I hope it works well for you. I gained about 4 or 5 pounds with my IVF and it's hard to lose that. Plus, I'd like to lose a few more than that to be down to what I was when I got married. I plan to start the gym shortly after we move into the new house so we will see how it goes. Best of luck to you and I look forward to following along!

  19. I was doing really well not gaining too much with IVF until the first pg and m/c. I worked hard to try to lose the weight from that but was still up 5lbs. Now I am 15lbs over that weight. I just can't stand it. I like your plan but I am so lazy!!! I hope you can achieve your goal!!! :)

    The days of your m/c sound like the days of my thesis writing. I got so skinny by the time my defense came up that I needed new suits.

  20. Wow, sounds like you have some iron willpower! Congrats on your great plan, and the results so far.
    Hope the day3 bloods come back perfect for you.

  21. Although our storie are different in their specifics, I do definitely understand what you're saying. I am such an emotional eater, and that plus IF weight plus pregnancy weight - ugh. I so admire and respect you for taking charge, and wish you the best of luck! Very creative plan - I can't wait to hear how it goes, and might have to try it myself :)

  22. Way to go! You continue to inspire me....Thanks! The cycle weight gain just plain stinks, and sadly, can relate to the loss weight gain too. Grieving much? is what I ask myself almost daily when I look in the mirror=blah! I like your positive reward plan...Keep us posted on how it works!


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