The Conflict of Weight Loss

The connection that yoga gives you with your body is one that I find unique. Since I was never an athlete, it’s possible that as an athlete you become just as connected to your body, using it constantly to do what you do, and I just never experienced this. But with yoga, I certainly have.

This topic could balloon into discussion of pratyahara and mortality and all manner of other philosophical concepts connected to yoga, but the reason I begin here with the connection to my body is that I was so grateful for it when I went to teacher training. I had worked it hard, taken the effort to build my strength and stamina for yoga in the weeks before I went to teacher training, and I was so glad I had that extra muscle mass and extra energy when I was required to do three hours of yoga and several more hours of sitting on the floor every day for two weeks.

As time went on, use of the ice packs in the Center’s freezer skyrocketed. More people started sitting out, citing old back injuries or bad knees that had been aggravated by the intensive work we’d been doing. I myself walked away from training with a new, very minor shoulder injury and a strange pain in my mid-back that began after I got back. (I think the reason for the latter is sitting up as straight in padded chairs as I had been sitting on the floor. The tilt of the pelvis turns it into a backbend, which isn’t a good idea to do all day.)

I also walked away with a body that may not have seemed different to anyone else, but was vastly different to me. My legs had a new set of shapes, here and there and everywhere, from the muscles I had built. My abs had become more obvious and my wee little tummy had shrunk. My pants fit differently, because the soft tissue around my hips and thighs had been shaved away. Basically, I lost some weight and gained some muscle. Not much, this wasn’t boot camp, but enough that I felt significantly different.

When I got home and noticed this, I felt happy about it. I didn’t need to lose any weight, I was perfectly fine at 132 and happy with how I looked. But now, at a differently-proportioned 132, I was even happier.

And then the anxiety kicked in.

How am I going to keep off those ounces that I lost? How am I going to keep up with this muscle mass? I’m not climbing up a steep-ass hill to get to the center every morning, I’m not doing 3 hours of yoga every day, and I’m sure not eating an obscenely healthy vegetarian diet. Going back to my normal life, I’m sure I’ll gain it and lose it, what I did in California.

This should have been no big deal. I mean, it’s like a pound that I lost, and the muscles I gained can be somewhat maintained by the amount of yoga I do now. They won’t be as well-defined, but that doesn’t really matter, right?

Yet I keep thinking of that pound every time I feel the craving for chocolate, every time I look at my meal portions. And I think, nah, I can fight it off; I can eat a little less. I should try to maintain what I lost. And maybe even shave a little more soft tissue off those hips. I mean, what I got rid of made me feel so good, you know?

This may not sound so bad right now, but take it from a former anorexic: the rumbles in my tummy are the opening thunder of Hurricane Eating Disorder.

So now I don’t know what to do. 132 is a totally healthy weight for my height, and I know full well that I’m in good shape and eat a good diet (while still giving in to some of those chocolate cravings so I won’t go crazy). I could probably go down another five pounds without having to buy any new clothes or answer any questions. I don’t even want to lose as many as five pounds, but I’m not sure if I really want to lose any.

Should I fight off the voice that’s telling me to eat a little less, and just try not to care about whether my pants fit perfectly, or ever-so-slightly-less-than-perfectly? Or should I listen, and get a little leaner? (If I do that, how do I know when to stop?) Or should I stay where I am now, listening to the voice sometimes and ignoring it sometimes, and see what happens, whether I gain, maintain, or lose?

The holidays are coming up, and dealing with being a half-vegetarian when I’ll be in freaking Kentucky for Thanksgiving is not something I’m looking forward to anyway. There’s a lot of weeks of struggling with food ahead of me, and adding this weight (or lack thereof) on top is not what I had in mind.

I wish I had the time to do yoga for long enough every day to maintain the muscles, though. My shoulders were serious by the time I flew home. Not quite to the stringy stage, but almost. I guess that’s not such a good idea for a woman, anyway, is it?

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7 Responses to The Conflict of Weight Loss

  1. Congratulations on your teacher training. What a wonderful experience for you. I can’t possibly pretend to know anything about eating disorders so I won’t even try to recommend what you should do in that respect. But I can offer my opinion from the information that you have given. This is more about where your mind is focused than about whether you should continue to lose or keep off the pound.

    Most people who are delving into yoga as deeply as you are, aren’t doing it for the sake of losing weight. They are doing it for the connection, the breath-body connection, the heart-mind-spirit connection. And it seems that you achieved that appreciation during your intensive training. You weren’t focused on losing weight and somehow during this process, your body responded to what you were doing to it, both physically (eating a great diet and doing strenuous exercise), but it also responded to what you were doing mentally.

    Just from your post, it seems you have been engaging in a lot of negative self talk since being back in “the real world.” Look back and see where you wrote:

    “I’m sure I’ll gain and lose it”…like before
    These muscles “won’t be as well defined.”
    “weeks of struggling with food ahead of me.”

    The most worrisome is your contemplation of how much could you lose, without having to answer any questions. It doesn’t matter what others will ask of you…what matters are the questions you are asking of yourself right now.

    You don’t have to come to the “real world” as the same person you were before. YOU are changed. Maybe it wasn’t the single pound that made you feel so good. Maybe it was the connection to your body that made you feel so good. For once, a healthy connection and your body just followed.

    I believe that you can achieve amazing benefits from your regular yoga routine (as it sounds like you get to do a lot more than the average bear). Take your focus off of weight loss, use your breath, and begin to use affirmations daily, about how wonderful your body is as it is, and how wonderfully it responds to how you appreciate it as it is, and how great it feels that it can do what you need it to do. Strive for a balance in your lifestyle including eating. Maybe keeping a food journal through this transition period to help you assess your patterns, when you are questioning yourself. There is no need to struggle. You know the answers to your questions. It is your choice if you want to fight or go with the flow. Also, maybe you can plan some periodic yoga retreats during the year to re-energize and re-focus and re-train. The more you experience that, the more that will become your “real world” even in Kentucky…even at the holidays. Peace out! (Oh, and if sinewy muscles it what a girl wants, there’s nothing wrong with that!)

  2. […] out this post I wrote on No Butts for my mental state about food. Any thoughts are welcome, aside from chastising […]

  3. Laura says:

    I think it’s incredible, what you’ve accomplished. It’s so wonderful to see a friend achieve a goal in their life’s passion. I absolutely think you can “hold onto” the mental state you achieved at your training, even if you’re not eating a vegetarian diet and doing yoga for three hours a day. I don’t want to speak for you, but I think that may be what is the most important to you, yes? The connection you felt with your body and spirit, that mirrored and echoed itself in the shape your body attained? If by chance your body softens a bit, after that rigorous physical training, it does NOT mean that the mental goals you’ve achieved have softened in any way. There’s a balance to be found there, and yes of course you’ve learned some great new habits that you’ll want to maintain in a manner that FITS with your lifestyle, without causing undue guilt or frustration. Balance what is realistic with your perception of yourself – mentally and physically. That’s what it always comes down to, doesn’t it? Balance balance balance. We’re very proud of you!!!

    • crisitunity says:

      Well, it’s sweet of you to try to frame it that way, but the connection I felt to my body before training and the connection I feel after training are really no different. Yoga connected me with my body long before these two weeks happened. I was just plain more pleased with the new shape I’d gained.

      The balance is the point, of course, but I really feel that neither the life I lived there nor the life I live now that I’m back are balanced ideally. There it was too much about me; here it’s too much about not-me. Maybe that’s part of what I was getting at here, but what I really wanted to say is that I liked the pound I lost and the muscle I gained and it makes me sad that it’ll go away.

      Thank you so much for being proud of me. I really appreciate the support.

      • Laura says:

        Oh, I so get it. I haven’t been “balanced” since I moved to Arizona and started working at AcronymCo. And I really don’t think I WILL feel balanced until I move back to Maine again.

        Hey, lady, as long as you’re happy! Maybe when you start teaching regularly you’ll keep the shape you’ve attained.

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