A little while ago my weight dropped below 190 lbs, which means I've managed to shed at least 40 since I started on my diet and exercise kick in January. I've been hovering in the upper-mid 180s, bouncing up and down for several weeks now, though, mainly because the summer heat inspires an unhealthy desire to drink my calories in the form of margaritas, Mexican martinis, Cuba Libres, and gin and tonics. And that's not even counting the indulgences associated with Independence Day (waves a flag).
On the plus side, I've managed to find a pretty nice groove with my running, and thanks to a co-worker I've discovered the "run-walk method" of Jeff Galloway. I don't follow it very strictly, but it's important to me because it means I don't beat myself up for doing the sensible thing and taking walk breaks when it seems like a good idea to protect a knee or an ankle.
I try to follow the same philosophy regarding my CrossFit classes. A lot of crossfitters joke that CrossFit is a cult...but a good cult, because it helps you stay healthy. I can't disagree, but I know myself, and I know that I'm prone to injuring myself if I let my desire to please coaches and live up to an ideal get ahead of my abilities. It's a balancing act to push yourself enough to improve without overreaching and injuring a joint or a back.
Finally, I've learned from talking to my doctor and from tracking calories obsessively that no amount of exercise---at least, no amount that can reasonably be undertaken by a person whose whole life isn't devoted to fitness---can make up for a bad diet. And this is the hardest thing to learn: the hour spent sweating and straining might work off a cookie or too, or a handful of chips, or a soda, but that's it (and not all three at once). So the indulgence that I want, which is to allow myself to munch mindlessly on whatever tastes good, is simply incompatible with my goal. I cannot pay for it, or make up for it, just by working out a little harder the next day. Maybe if I was a longshoreman or a power lifter or an Army Ranger in training, but not as a middle-aged middle-class schlub.
Relative to the goal of losing weight, then, evenings and weekends of indulgence must be measured against weeks of progress. "Eat too much one night" doesn't translate into "work out more the next day" unless the indulgence is trivial. It translates into "adjust your timetable by some large fraction of a month." Which makes me sigh and go back to the calorie tracker.