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Nov. 5th, 2012

October in Retrospect, Part 2

Okay, I promised I'd be back for a weigh-in and measure! I lost another 2 lb in October and another 1 lb since then. I weigh 167 lb and my jeans are slippin' down, and it feels good!

On the downside, I think I might have developed some mild carpal tunnel ... or rather, "cubital tunnel." I have a tingly left hand (mostly baby and ring fingers) and have for several days. I've also had some mild indigestion and general seasonal affective disorder-type malaise. And my right knee has been bugging me. But I've been working on taking better care of myself (read: actually doing my hair and nails and wearing colours and girly things like that) and that's been helping with the moods. I don't want to sink down into a depression, as I have a lot of changes coming up in my life this winter. Well that and... who wants to sink into a depression, ever?

Anyway! Here are my measurements! In cm, because, yay metric system!

Neck: -2 cm (0.78 inches)
Calf: -2 cm (0.78 inches)
Thigh: -7 cm (2.75 inches)
Hip: -10 cm (3.92 inches)
Waist: -11 cm (4.33 inches)
Chest: -3 cm (1.13 inches)

That's about 4 inches off my hips and waist, and almost 3 inches off each thigh. DAMN I'm good!

Annnnd... my arms gained like 2 cm up top, 1 on forearm. But I think S must have measured me wrong to begin with because... that's not realistic. He probably just measured a different part of the arm or something. I mean, I've been doing a bit of yoga, but weight loss actually takes off muscle mass (your body will burn both fat and muscle when you restrict calories) too and I haven't been doing enough to really build my arms out. I can do a plank for like, 30 seconds before wanting to cry. (STILL have not met my fitness goal of starting up a great new routine. But it is STILL on the books to do. And I have TWO yoga classes booked this week so that will be a great push!)

Final thought: I think I have officially shrunk a size, but I am not dragging out the size 12 pants yet, because I'm enjoying the feeling of wearing my size 14s that feel too big, too much!

Oct. 26th, 2012

October in Retrospect, Part 1

October has been a bit of a strange month for me... but I wanted to check in and say, I'm still here, I'm still on track, I'm still doing this.

October saw me not tracking food anymore. I kind of let myself go a bit lax because, since I was eating the same things repeatedly, I felt I could guesstimate my daily totals decently enough (and I still measured!). I also visited my parents twice, which takes away my control over food -- there are "bad" snacks in the house, I don't make the meals, there are restaurant visits, etc. And, well, sometimes you just have to have a little fun, yes?

I have kept up with yoga classes... but not started a new workout plan to build up my back or general fitness level. I still plan to, though!

But let's not focus on what I didn't do perfectly, because the goal was never to be perfect:
  • Since starting my diet, I've never eaten over my baseline (~2200 calories per day)
  • I've managed a deficit of minimum 400 calories every day -- but most days, it is 700-1200 deficit
  • I'm in much better control of my hunger, portions, and cravings
  • I'm learning to be flexible and to work in foods that I enjoy
  • I'm allowing myself to be comfortable with a period of slower weight loss (~1 lb per week) rather than being too strict or freaking out
And the official almost-end-of-October weigh-in? 170! That's 13lb loss since the beginning of the diet (early September) and 15lb loss since my highest (which I did briefly hit over the summer).


Okay, so this weekend, I'll have S measure me again and see what I've lost in cm (we're doing cm to boost my ego, plus we're Canadian, eh?). It will be the first time since the beginning of the diet. I didn't want to do it too often and get frustrated.

My original goal was 155 by Christmas, 150 if I pushed it via perfect 2lb / wk loss + new exercise plan bonus loss of 2 extra lbs per month. That is not gonna happen now, as I am... *thinks*... 4lb behind the "perfect" plan and 5-6lb behind the "perfect plus" plan (in the last 35 days, I've lost 7lb, not the possible 11-3). But, that's fine. I spent about a week not even in my own house, had meals out, ice cream, pizza, burgers and fries, and my Mom's apple crisp. And lost 7 freaking pounds. How is that bad?

That said... I am going to go back to tracking this week (at least) and try to get two more. Because, well, sometimes, 1lb a week is cool. Other times, I should go for 2, you know? I also want to figure out a workout plan that I can ease into. I am thinking that I may start with a daily yoga practice and build up. When I'm sure my back can handle it, I'll start adding in the odd Jillian Michaels or Billy Blanks hardcore workout and see how that goes. But for now, I just have to a) get into the habit and b) be careful not to hurt myself.

So my new by-Christmas (time, not day, so like, end of Decemberish) goal is 160. That's not that far off from the original 150-5, and it's pretty doable. I have 66 days until Jan. 1 and 10lb to go. All I have to do is lose at least 1lb per week and I'll get there. I also think that I'd be down a size (from 14 to 12) by about that weight so that would be pretty fun!

I'll check in again at the very end of October and let you all know how the week of back-on-tracking + hopefully working out goes!

Oct. 1st, 2012

September in Retrospect

Well, I made it through the month! And guess what? I made my goal of 8 pounds (2lb per week weight loss)! So that is 10 total. I'm at 175. Woo!

AND I did the last two WHILE away AND with a thrown back, doing bed rest and stuff. I'm kind of proud!

I'm also proud because I spent that week NOT counting calories, just working from estimations and trying to use what I've learned to make good choices. It was partly a break from counting, partly a test, partly just convenience because I didn't have all my notes or my own food and so on so it would've taken extra time, plus I could barely walk. But, first day back home today and I've tracked everything, so kudos to me for getting back to that habit also!

Not proud about the back though. Reason and sign from the universe #591 to lose more weight and kind of a kick in the back (not the butt) to get fit also, not just be watching my food. So I'm going to be more serious... that thrown back was the first time ever, and it just happened (I didn't do it lifting anything or whatever, I woke up that way). I am going to have to make getting stronger and fitter a priority too.

The once a week yoga will be a great start. Tomorrow, we'll be taking a walk to get some supplies (coffee, yoghurt, etc). Until my back fully heals (8 days now, still not healed) I will have to be gentle and careful, but I can start making fitness a habit by walking or doing gentle yoga at home.

Oh! And I bought my September reward yesterday -- I reusable large cup with lid and straw (mimics a takeout drink cup) for my shakes. It's super pretty and really fun!

Finally, I read something interesting last week. I had always been told "it takes 30 days to form a habit." But it is actually more like 66, or 9-10 weeks. So, just because I've done great for a month doesn't mean I can consider myself reformed...

If I maintain my 2lb per week weight loss then I could be 150 by Christmas and 148 by beginning of Jan! Of course, once the holidays come, I may want to take a maintenance week or two in order to have room to enjoy some treats. So I might hover around 152-5 for a bit instead. I still intend to count but I may just eat to my baseline.

Of course... if I am super good, and add a lot of exercise before Christmas, I could actually get slightly more than 2 pounds a week (about an extra .5 per week is realistic, so 2 extra pounds at the end of a month, for a total loss of 10 lb instead of 8) then I could hit 150 before Christmas and just maintain that.

But 150 is an important number for me; at 149, I will officially no longer be "overweight" (as a health category). So here are some of my motivations:
  • Get fit to prevent another horrible back injury
  • Get to 150 before Christmas so I could feel even better about myself while doing a maintenance week or two and enjoying the seasonal foods (and for this, I'll need to get fit!)
  • Get past 150 and into an officially healthy weight by say, mid-January 2013 at the latest

Sep. 19th, 2012

Still going strong!

I have good news! Although I've been pretty busy (a little too busy to come on and post regularly), I'm still on track and still losing my 2lb per week!

I'm now down to 178 (from 183 at the beginning of the diet/Sept or 185 which is my highest, and which I did hit at some point this summer). That is 5 pounds!! In 2.5 weeks!

It also means I'm no longer obese. /whew.

The hunger pains have gotten a bit easier to deal with. I've even been to Subway like, 5 times. McDonald's once. A diner once. Some days I eat a little more, some less. I'm keeping up with the healthy dinners, so that is awesome! I did get my one bike ride in... but not my workout video. The DVD player died and I've been a little under the weather. I think it is just severe allergies (mostly nasal symptoms) but I feel kind of weak off and on, get the occasional sore throat (the post nasal drip) and nausea (ditto).

I also discovered a new shake recipe to die for! I had to modify it a bit to get it to my tastes, but it basically tastes and feels like a chocolate milkshake... yet contains no ice cream or even yoghurt. Yum! It's made with zucchini, banana, sunflower butter (allergic to nuts/peanuts, here), milk, cocoa powder, and agave. You freeze the banana and zucchini (after chopping!!) and it comes out cold and thick and creamy.

I started PMSing like a week ago (I have PMDD so I'll be another week probably...) and although I'm kind of sore and tired, I've not experienced the cravings and hunger pains I'm used to (though they may be yet to come!). But on the upside, I think I've learned enough now that I could probably satisfy those and still have a calorie deficit!

Dinner tonight will be pork tenderloin with green beans. Lunch will probably be a choc shake as described above, and I'll have an apple or a tangerine as an afternoon snack, and maybe blueberries in the evening if I want. On days that I do a shake lunch, I have room for extra snacks!

Next week I will be visiting my Mom. I plan to cook us a dinner every night of the week and that way we won't end up at so many restaurants (we will likely treat ourselves on the weekends once or twice!). She knows I'm losing weight and is supportive so we'll make healthy choices.

That's all for now!

Sep. 9th, 2012

And now for my weight story...

Inspired by bjules' post "My Weight Loss Story," I thought I'd post my own. Here goes!

I was a really thin child, but never thought about weight one way or another. Until I turned 8 and hit puberty (oh yes, early bloomer...). Puberty, and the weight that goes with it, on my 8 year-old frame, was painful (physically and mentally) and confusing and made me feel like I really stuck out (which I did, physically!). For an introvert, this was really tough.

Sometime later, I hit my max height (5 foot 5) and max weight of the time (around ~130ish, give or take a few). I was not athletic, but in the summers, I did swim a lot thanks to a backyard pool. Of course, I also snacked more, so that never amounted to much. Anyway, in late grade 9, early grade 10, I got sort of serious about losing weight -- but not really in the right way. I was depressed, and I used that as fuel.

I stopped eating breakfast and lunch was maybe, like, 5 crackers to take the edge off. Then in the evenings, I basically let myself eat whatever I wanted -- except I gave up chips/cheezies/etc. This had a pretty quick effect, and I dropped down to about 120. I felt fantastic. My parents didn't know how little I ate at lunch time, and I was always having second helpings at dinner, so I wasn't starving or anything. But I was hungry a lot, and denying myself food partly out of the depression.

Then I met the guy who would become my first boyfriend. When we started dating, he put his foot down -- I was to eat lunch, damnit! So he started taking me to Tim Hortons. I'd get a bagel, toasted, with plain cream cheese and a medium iced cappuccino (a truckload of calories) and ironically, I actually lost 5 more pounds. I kept this weight for years, actually. I balanced it rather easily -- I'd sort of take mental stock of what "treats" I'd eaten "lately" and decide whether to have that extra after dinner snack or not. I sort of fluctuated throughout the month (water weight and whatnot) between 114 and 118. I was a size 3-5 (I am very curvy; my waist was a 23 or so but my hips/bust were bigger). Looking back, it was kind of great. But I still felt fat (sigh at society).

When this boyfriend left me, I was absolutely heartbroken. I stopped eating almost entirely simply because I was physically in pain (gastrointestinal) from all the emotions. I went down to 108-110 and stopped wearing certain clothes because my collar bones were jutting out. Yuck.

Luckily that didn't last too long (the not eating... the heartbreak lasted awhile). My first year of university, I stayed in the 115-120 range. I was living with two friends from high school. Second year marks the start of my problems. I got closer to the male friend, and started eating what he ate, as we were always together. Slowly, the portion size that felt like "a lot of food" crept up and up... and so did my weight. Before long, I was 125 or so and a size 7ish. Not terrible, but I didn't like the feeling. Then I met the man who would become my fiance.

I went home that summer to get a summer job and he would take me to McDonald's and Burger King twice a day. I put on weight, and fast! I hit 140-145 in no time and freaked out a bit. When I got back to school, I took a bit off, maybe 5 pounds. A few months later, I decided to go on anti-depressants because my periodic dips into depression were affecting those around me. Looking back, I'm not sure if my life was about to spiral down anyway, or if those pills actually fuelled it somehow.

I started working out like crazy and eating very little -- I found out later that Effexor can cause this, and in me, it did. I went down to 135. But the effect didn't last (fortunately, as for some people it can cause full-blown eating disorders). I stopped working out and started eating again and a few months later, had a health crisis I won't go into. Eventually, I left school because I couldn't deal with that health crisis and school. I was miserable, and felt like a failure, and my weight ballooned to 150 or maybe, I suspect, 160-5 but I wasn't weighing myself.

Eventually, and ironically, just as I was starting to feel better and pick up the pieces of my life, that man left me. Well, that made it pretty easy to eat less again as I was once more heartbroken. I got back down to 135.

I was, by this time, getting to know my current partner better. We eventually moved in together, and I maintained the 135-140 weight for awhile, actually. Then I decided it was time to go back to school.

For the first semester back at school, my weight stayed the same, even though my eating habits were different. I was going to Subway every day because I didn't want to deal with making food. But, what I'd buy was pretty much mostly what I was eating the whole day, so the total calories weren't terrible. I was even getting my veggies this way. Then exams set in, and stress, and soon Subway was just what I was eating for lunch. There might be pizza or other things for dinner. I moved up to 150-5.

I finished my 4th year and took a bit of that off in time for grad school. I started grad school around 145. Grad school stressed me through the roof, and I ended up 160 or so. But something else strange happened, which was likely related to my previous (and ongoing) health issues; I started to feel physically ill if I didn't eat every 2 hours or so. So, I started eating more often and increased portions in the hopes of staving off the need to eat again shortly thereafter.

I took some of that off in time to do a summer program, and managed to stay 150-5 throughout that summer. I wasn't eating well at all -- mid-morning "snacks" of cookies from the coffee shop, etc, but I was moving more because I was walking across a new campus all the time, walking and carrying my own groceries, and walking places with my new friends in the evenings.

Then, my final semester of grad school loomed and by then, I was "done" with school. I hadn't had a break in 12 straight months, and it had been intense the whole way, especially that last month. But I had to finish. I forced myself to finish. This, coupled with the "need to eat" and the pain/sickness if I didn't (cravings, weakness, mood swings, nausea, feeling disconnected, lack of focus) meant that I wasn't very productive if I didn't eat all the time, and the stress meant that I was grabbing whatever was easy and eating way, way too much of it. Eventually I was eating, say, a 12 inch sub + cookies + soda at lunch and a full large or extra large pizza (to myself, I hate to admit) for dinner. Yeah. I gained 35 pounds in 3-4 months. I hit 185, and was pretty astonished. But I'd gotten the degree, and figured that was basically the most important thing. The weight loss could come after.

I started Weight Watchers after Christmas and got down to 175. By then, I was tired of dieting (I was basically eating the same foods over and over and over and it was driving me nuts) so I took a break. I maintained the 175 and intended to go back on a diet, but my life as an unemployed post-student was stressful, full of uncertainty and not at all secure. My partner was still in school and I knew my job would take me to another city... if I could even manage to get one. No new diet materialized but, to my credit, neither did a bunch more weight.

I finally landed an unpaid internship for the summer, and moved away to do it (I'm just back from it, so we're nearing the end, here!). I gained the 10 pounds back and hit 185 because although I had people feeding me, I was also living with people who didn't even own a microwave, and my own issues kept me from feeling terribly at home in their kitchen. Whenever I needed food, it ended up being cheese and crackers. Lots of cheese and crackers. That stuff is fattening, and I knew it, but did it anyway. I also still battled (and still do) the "feeling sick if I don't eat often" thing, which definitely didn't help.

So now, I'm getting serious. Sure, I've said that before. And if we do a pattern recognition, this story, in the future, will have another paragraph that goes like this: "And then I started my next internship two days later. For the first week or so, I stayed on the diet, but then the hunger and stress became too much. I was too busy to keep cooking and I got sick of shakes and started going to Subway again, and the weight came back..." -- but I'd like it to read a bit more like my high school triumph (except without the depression!). I'd like to not only not be obese (which, as I found out a couple days ago, I am!) but no longer overweight. And while I'm dreaming big, hitting a vanity weight of 115-125 again would be pretty much the best gift I could give myself. It will be tough. My life is still stressful. It is still changing rapidly and every time I adjust to something, I have to tackle something entirely new again. I don't have awesome food habits or skills. I still have health issues. But I deserve better. I should treat this the way I treat a job or grad school or a relationship. It is really important. It is my health, my happiness. If I can turn this around, I will benefit in a myriad of ways -- I'll be plagued less by inappropriate hunger/cravings/moods, I'll look better, I'll feel better, I'll be fitter, healthier, and my day-to-day life will be better. I can do it, I just have to be tougher, have more perspective, focus on the right things. I need support, and I need to support myself too. Being too permissive has meant that my body is successful every time it lies to me and tells me it "needs" to eat, "needs it now," "needs a lot of it" and that the "it" should be something unhealthy -- "must be," even, to fix that awful feeling.

Because that IS a lie. I'm not going to die if I don't eat every 2 hours. Fruit will fix it, it doesn't have to be pizza. A normal portion will do -- I do not need restaurant portions. Just like a child, my body needs me to set limits and boundaries. Once I do, and it adjusts, in theory, it won't even try those lies anymore, and I'll be free of them in a way that no amount of feeding them could do for me.

This is going to be tough. It is tough every moment. Some days, some hours, some minutes are worse than others. But it will get easier, physically. Then tougher, mentally, I think. I need to rearrange my thinking so that when the initial burst of willpower is gone, the fact that I've put my foot down sticks. I deserve to be healthy, fit, trim, happy. I've accomplished other things for my own good that were tough -- like grad school. This is just as serious, perhaps more so. I am paying for it, just with my wellbeing, rather than loans. I can do this -- and this time, I am really determined to.

Sep. 8th, 2012

Week 1 End: Down 2

I started my diet last Sunday and I hopped on the scale this morning and I'm officially down two pounds (to 181)! I am perfectly on track so far, and I even got my hair cut today. I'm feeling pretty great!

By this time next week, if I stay on track, I could be 179 and officially (though barely) no longer "obese." If that won't motivate me to stick to it, I'm not sure what could.

In other news, I did some reading yesterday about "intermittent fasting" or "IF." A lot of the methods would not be for me, but some of it was intriguing -- namely, that breakfast is not actually a "must" and that, in some people, breakfast actually triggers hunger and cravings within an hour or two after eating it. For some people, not eating breakfast not only makes them less hungry in the mornings (and thus less cranky, distracted, or weak feeling) but also gives them more calories for their other meals and snacks, allowing them to feel more relaxed throughout the day.

So I thought I'd try an experiment. I used up the last of the milk yesterday and knew I had my hair appointment at 11. I decided not to have breakfast.

Now, I'll have to try this again to see if it holds over time but actually, I didn't feel hungry until about 11:30, and at that point it was normal, "healthy" (even, dare I say, pleasant?) hunger. You know, the kind people talk about wanting to "work up" before a big meal or something. It wasn't the lightheaded, mood swingy, eat-now-or-pass-out sort of hungry.

I might just experiment with skipping breakfast more often!

Oh! And I totally managed to walk right by several fast food joints and not "treat" myself to their food. The real treat is the weight loss, and I deserve that. I deserve better than what I've been doing to myself. So I'm pretty proud of myself today.

Sep. 7th, 2012

Weight Loss Math

Every time I try to lose weight, I find something to hang onto when things get tough (as they always do). This time, it's math.

I've tried the "just eat healthy" and the "just move more" and even Weight Watchers, because the points system is pretty cool. But this time around, I'm counting the calories, old school style. And I'm kind of loving it. To understand why, I'm going to share some of the math and try to explain why it can be more than a tool for weight loss -- it can be empowering. And simple.

The magic number to gain or lose a pound is 3500 calories (this is being disputed, and can vary, but we're going with it). However, to do anything with this number, you have to figure out how many calories your body burns on a typical day, outside of any workouts. I always use an online calculator for this. Here are the numbers that FitDay.com gives me:

Age: 26
Height: 5 foot 5
Sex: F
Current Weight: 182 lb
Exercise Level: Fairly sedentary (desk job)

FitDay estimates that I could eat 2235 calories a day and, provided I didn't do any extra exercise either (a workout, a long shopping trip, etc) never gain or lose a pound. Let's call this 2200 calories, and that's my base.

Now, you've probably heard that it's not "healthy" to lose more than 2 pounds a week (at least without medical supervision). You may also have actually tried to lose weight before, managed 1-2 pounds a week, and still felt frustrated. So let's look at the math.

Each day, I will log all of the calories I eat and all of the calories I burn through workouts (or any activities above what I would do on a typical day). You then compare this to your base, and over several days, to that magic number, 3500.

Let's plan to eat 1200 calories a day (pretty low, but doable!). At the end of a day, that's 1000 calories I did not eat (a 1000 calorie deficit). When I reach a 3500 calorie deficit, I can expect that the scale will show me a loss of 1 pound.

1200 calories / day = 1000 calorie deficit x 3.5 days = 3500 calorie deficit

Yep. I can lose 1 pound every 3.5 days (or 2 pounds every 7 days) without working out -- if I am really careful about what I eat. (Note: Since you should be weighing yourself in the mornings, you may actually see the change every 4 days. If you try to weigh yourself at noon, you may see false excess weight.)

Why is this empowering? I mean, there are reasons to find this frustrating. If you can't manage so few calories and can't work out often, your progress is going to drag. But there are reasons to love this, too.
  1. You can't beat up on yourself for not losing, like, 5 pounds a week. I mean, look at the math! You'd have to eat a deficit of 17,500 calories. At the maintenance number above (2200), you only even need 15,400 calories a week to maintain your weight. This means that you'd not only have to not eat any calories per day (which, hello, is a bad plan -- fat is better than dead, yes?) but you'd then have to actively burn (meaning, through extra activities like workouts) another 2100 calories in that week (so like, 4 1-hour intense workouts). People who do get these numbers are often losing things like water weight, muscle mass, or are utilizing a team of doctors, chefs, and personal trainers. Relax.
  2. If you know the math, you know your choices. Let's say you want to eat a bit more, either on a daily basis, or for a special occasion. Okay. Now you know exactly how many calories you have to burn through workouts. If you want to up the weight loss from ~8 pounds a month to ~10 pounds a month (an extra half pound a week), you have to burn 1750 calories a week (or 3.5 workouts that burn about 500 calories each, or more workouts that burn fewer). The point is, you can set very concrete workout and food goals and know exactly what to expect when you do or do not meet them -- no hopping on the scale and wondering why it feels like you've been suffering and trying and striving forever and it still hasn't budged.
  3. You can see into the future.
Okay I'm going to develop this future argument in greater detail using my own stats.

Start Weight / Date: 182 pounds, September 7, 2012
Goal Weight: 120 pounds
Pounds to lose: 62

Now, technically, as I drop weight, I will have to adjust the math. When I weigh, say, 130 pounds, I can't subtract from 2200 anymore because it won't be my baseline. But let's pretend that I use a combination of calories not eaten and calories burned (diet and exercise) and never encounter any setbacks (i.e. a perfect world...). In this world, I'm getting my 1000 calorie deficit each and every day, always.

Perfect World to Goal Weight: 62 / 2 = 31 weeks or ~ 8 months

That sounds like a long time, and this is where the frustration might rear up. Like, really, if I starve myself every day for 8 months, I'll hit my goal weight? Not worth it!

Okay but think about it. My goal weight is really ambitious. I mean, it's not like I'm not going to be happy until I reach it. Let's continue in our perfect world for a little while here. (Why? I know I won't make the perfect world, but I think it is important to know what is the absolute maximum that you can realistically expect, otherwise it is tempting to beat yourself up for not having met what is actually a totally unattainable goal.)

I also don't have to "starve myself." If I do workouts, I can eat more and achieve the same pace. Or, I could eat the same, workout, and actually achieve a faster pace (or the same pace if we assume I do slip up sometimes). Let's do some math, though, assuming just the 1000 calorie per day deficit.

Okay so at 182 at my height, I am just into the Obese category (ew... I don't feel that big...). As soon as I hit 179, I will officially no longer be obese.

Perfect World out of obesity: 1.5 weeks

So... how is that not worth being a little extra hungry? For a week and a half? To not be obese anymore...

When I hit 149, I will officially no longer be overweight. This is a major goal of mine.

Perfect World to normal weight: 16.5 weeks (or ~ 4.1 months) (aka, around New Year's!)

But of course, I'd like a bigger buffer between me and "overweight," since if I started maintenance, I could expect my weight to fluctuate a bit throughout any given month, putting me back into that category pretty often. So let's say 135 is my real goal, and 120 is my "in my dreams" goal (because why not dream big?).

Perfect World to realistic goal: 23.5 weeks (or ~ 5.9 or 6 months) (or before spring!)

And I could pepper my life with tons of smaller goals to celebrate, too. Every 5 or 10 pounds. Every milestone like, say, 20 or 25 or 50 pounds lost. Every month on the program. Every 3.5 days I could celebrate losing a pound; every week, 2. Every month, 8.

But let's dip out of the perfect world and I'll show you why the math is still cool. Let's say my progress is a whopping 50% of the ideal -- due to vacations, deviations, stress, parties, holidays, mysterious genetic forces plotting against me, whatever. I lose, on average, 1 pound a week instead of 2 (some weeks 2, some weeks 0, for example).

50% Slower out of obesity: 3 weeks

Okay, so in three weeks, I won't be obese anymore. That would still be amazing.

50% Slower out of overweight category: 8 months.

Okay that is way less encouraging! But you know what, if I do nothing, in 8 months, I'll probably have gained more weight. If I do this, in 8 months, I'll be back into a size 10 and wearing that really cute purple pencil skirt and tighter tops and feeling great because I'm no longer overweight -- I'm officially (if barely) healthy.

50% Slower to realistic goal weight: 1 year

Okay so a year from now, I could be at what might be the perfect weight for me, even if it is not my dream-big vanity weight. I honestly think I could be very, very happy at that weight. I'd be maybe a size 7 or 8, and that's pretty sweet, actually!

50% Slower to dream weight: 16 months (1 year and 4 months)

But I could still make my dream weight, and long before I turn 28!

So the good news? As long as I try my best and don't willfully go off my diet, the worst case scenario is that it takes me 16 months to reach a vanity weight, or 1 year to reach a pretty happy medium. But if the "perfect world" math isn't likely, then neither is the worst case. Most likely, I'll hit my goal marks somewhere in between.

The math will help me have realistic expectations. It will help me dream of a thinner, fitter, healthier, realistic future. Those numbers are as real as finishing your degree (provided you study and hand in your work) or getting your paycheque (provided you go to work, meet your deadlines, etc). They will really happen if I do the work.

The math will help me make choices. I can choose to take a week off my diet if I want and not gain back because I will know my baseline. I could choose to speed it up at some point to meet a particular mini goal faster, then slow it down later to have a breather or accommodate special circumstances. I can see exactly how my choices will affect my longer term goals -- and learn to be okay with it. I can learn to celebrate what I'm doing well because I'll really appreciate it, rather than beating myself up over not reaching goals that are not attainable anyway. When I'm hungry and experiencing cravings, I can go for the fruit instead by telling myself that if I do, in 3.5 more days (or less!), I'll be down another pound. When I don't want to do a workout, I can remind myself of that extra pound or two this month (going from a loss of 8 to a loss of 10 is pretty cool!) if I just put on the workout clothes and go do it.

The math won't just help me reach my goals in an abstract way. It will reassure me, motivate me, inspire me, comfort me.