November 18, 2010

Fortune cookie

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If you go into the majority of bakeries in Chinatown, you can find giant bags of fortune cookies for only a few dollars. I am not a huge fan of the cookies, but I most certainly love the fortunes. When I used to make collage art projects, I would often use fortunes, which can be anywhere from very silly to very wise. Like the fortune that read "Progress always involves risk," which I attached to an Amelia Earhart piece.

amelia earhart flew a lot of airplanes, 'cept for that one time she didn't come back
This summer, upon returning to Chicago after a long visit with my family back in Connecticut, I had a sickeningly big binge. I was so upset about so many things - I was cranky after spending twenty-four hours on a train to avoid the embarrassment of being morbidly obese and flying, I was sad that I looked so big in the pictures my friends and family had taken, I felt uncomfortable when I tried to walk or even sleep, and my heart would race even as I laid in bed. So, of course, I turned to my only solution: enough Chinese takeout to feed a small family. (Seriously - when it was delivered, there were four or five forks in the bag.)

After eating myself sick, I sat there on the living room floor, dizzy and high. It hadn't made me happy, or closer to where I ideally wanted to be with my life. I laid down on the couch and, in typical post-binge fashion, I nursed my sore mouth and overfilled stomach with a very long nap.

When I woke up, I groggily went to the fridge for a giant glass of water, and went back to the couch to sit and think. This sucks, I thought. I'm 23 years old and I'm almost at the point of being unable to take care of myself. I'd gained about twenty pounds since January - a mix of poor diet and inactivity due to preparing for/taking my MA exams and visiting my family for nearly a month. Here, I was wearing the same cotton sundress I had worn for days, one of the only things that still fit me, as I was bursting out of my jeans (any of the ones that would close, that is) and all my shirts were tight. Walking to the bathroom or my home office - about ten feet either way from my bedroom - had me breathing heavy.

isolating yourself from others will not prevent you from getting hurt
I was devastated. What I had always been "proud" of was the fact that even though I was a big girl, I could still dress nice if I wanted to - and I could walk without waddling. That was not the case anymore, and I was so ashamed. What would my co-workers think when they saw me again? Are my new students not going to respect me because of this? And for that matter, could I even handle standing for three hours a day while teaching? Enough was enough. I put on my sneakers and went for a walk. About a mile and a half of walking took me about 45 minutes, but it was a start. I walked every day, and gradually I got faster. Then I could go farther. Then I had lost enough weight to use the Wii Fit my parents had bought me, so I could get even more exercise. And from then, I've been truly unstoppable.

Until this week.

Eating hasn't been as big of a problem as I thought it would be - the beginning was tough, but eventually the urge to binge mellowed from "thinking about it constantly, and acting on it frequently" to "thinking about it every two or three weeks when the stress gets really bad, and never acting on it." Exercising has been remarkably great - from walking and Wii Fit, I did the stair race, then started going to the gym to use machines and do C25k training. When I walk 5k races now, I can do 3.1 miles in about as much time as it used to take me to do 1.5.

It appears that my biggest roadblock is my mind.

Losing weight terrifies me, because it means I am going to have to get out there and live. Don't get me wrong - I want this. I want to wear "normal" clothes and fly on airplanes and ride rollercoasters and swim in public and go out on dates with guys who don't treat me like garbage because I'm so big that I must just be grateful someone is taking me out in the first place. Believe me, I want it more than anything. But even though I know the health benefits are great and my self-esteem is already at a record high, I still find myself stalling.

A few weeks after I started eating well and walking, I was rummaging through my cabinets and I found one of the fortune cookies that came with my last Chinese binge. I cracked it open:

Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.

That was August 18. That future date is now today. And this is my one-hundredth blog entry.

this was one of jill's
I have come so far in these three months. This is already a new life for me - a life I have never experienced as an adult. Every time I have tried to lose weight, the lowest I have gotten is 275. The first time I weighed 275 (on the way up, so to speak) was around my sophomore year of high school; the last time I got that low was in between my freshman and sophomore years of college. As a 345 pound young adult (and for most of my life, really), all I really enjoyed was being alone. Now that I'm becoming a "normal" adult, I'm afraid that I've perfected my hobby to the point where it's the only way I know how to exist.

This is, for me, an unknown territory. I don't quite know what I'm venturing into, but that doesn't mean I don't want to check it out. Like any smart person on an expedition, I'm not exploring alone. I'm keeping a record of the things I see and experience, even when they are not positive. And I'm drinking plenty of water. This strange new world is both full of amazing opportunities, and incredibly frightening. I'm not going to quit - I can't get a third of the way to my goal and then just settle! I fully intend on seeing this thing completely through.


Jessica said...

Your art is beautiful! You have done amazingly well these first three months...I can't wait to see what your progress will be in three more months!

Maude said...

Powerful post. What is it about change that's so scary? Even when it's good for us, it's so hard.

I had a head space like that too for a long time. It was the place I felt comfortable. Maybe I wasn't happy, but I wasn't scared. And I think that was the problem. Sometimes making good things happen for you is really scary. And as your wonderful collage said, there's no progress without risk.

I know you can do this. You've come so far. And by aknowledging that so much of it is mental, not just physical, you're taking big steps in the right direction.

Congrats on your 100th post! It was a great one!

Ann (-50 lbs in -60 lb challenge) said...

So true, so much of this journey is mental. The actual mechanics aren't difficult to master physically. We have to retrain ourselves mentally though - much tougher. You are doing a fantastic job. We all have our waivering days ... part of the human condition. The important thing is to not give up. Stay strong! I am really looking forward to the year-end recaps by everyone. It is amazing to look back and see how far we've all come! xx

Tim said...

Good on you for having the determination to carry on despite how scary it must be. You've got a lot of guts and it's very inspirational to others.

Amy said...

I love the fortune cookie you had - amazing.
You're right you've come so far.
Thank you for sharing your incredible story - with an amazing amount of honesty.

Anonymous said...

When I get to the end of so many of your posts I just want to yell, "Yay!!!" That's why I keep reading. You are awesome. You can have whatever kind of life you want. I'm so happy that you are doing this while you are so young. You have a long life ahead of you to live out all of your dreams.

Unknown said...

I am learning so many new and wonderful things about you, like: I didn't know you were an artist, or that you write so beautifully. The whole fortune cookie thing stunned me so much that I had to read it twice. A sign of what, I'm not sure, but definitely a sign. So glad that you are going to therapy, Mary. It will be helpful to get all of this out to someone who can help you sort through these thoughts. You truly do have such an exciting live awaiting you.

Anne H said...

This post moved me! Thanks!