November 1, 2010


Since moving to Chicago, I haven't given a single piece of candy to a trick-or-treater, but that's not to say I haven't bought tons of candy. Halloween was one of the few times a year when I could feel less ashamed about my binge eating - it gave me an alibi while going through the checkout line.

When I was a kid, I used to love Halloween - really, what kid doesn't love a day when you get to wear a costume and then get handed free candy? More often than not, our costumes were some variation on a doctor theme, with my sisters and I wearing our dad's scrubs covered in red food coloring. The costume hardly mattered, though. We'd hit up our neighborhood, then go over to my grandparents' neighborhood and get treats there, too. We'd end up with such heavy bags that they were hard to carry - especially if there was an unattended treat bowl, which we were told was the green light for dumping it into our pillowcases. We'd head home, sort through the goods, make trades, and eat 'til we felt sick.

I don't remember having the candy ever last until my birthday, which is just under three weeks after Halloween. I remember my sisters being a bit slower with theirs, which only meant that once mine was gone, I'd sneak pieces of theirs. Evidently, being sneaky and secretive about food is a problem I've dealt with for a very, very long time, and I still feel like that little kid when I'm faced with a bowl of candy - or a big amount of anything. I don't want to savor or even really enjoy it, I just want to shovel it in, quickly, before anyone sees. I want the high without getting caught, and that danger adds to the feeling of false euphoria.

Knowing that I am still very susceptible to my old habits, I decided that I needed to do everything I could to get through this weekend. This weekend, after all, is not just Halloween - it's the kick-off of the whole holiday season. (My local Target already has Christmas stuff up, and has for weeks now. Yikes.) Surviving this weekend means that I will be just that much stronger come Thanksgiving, and then my cumulative holiday work will help get me prepared and ready to live through my first Christmas as someone who is trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

For Halloween, my plan was threefold: resist, educate, and prevent.

For resisting, I made sure that I did not buy candy for my students or for the trick-or-treaters until the day-of. For my students, this meant Thursday night for Friday; for the kids, it meant Sunday morning. My neighborhood has a lot of little kids in it, but it's mostly apartments, so a few of my neighbors and I got together and set up a craft table for them - we had mini pumpkins, paint, hot chocolate, and some candy to give away. It was a tremendous success, and I gave away every piece of candy that I had bought!

For education, I went to the library on Saturday and got a book I had requested a few weeks ago (and it just came in - exactly when I needed it most. Thanks, Universe!) called "50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food." It's by Dr. Susan Albers, a woman whose other works on mindful eating are helping me incredibly. The book is really great, oh, hello downtown!and I will most likely end up purchasing myself a copy since I find myself reading it and wanting to highlight points and take notes.

And finally, prevention. My first two steps were intended to avoid giving in to temptation, but the third would help either (a) raise my adrenaline so I didn't even think about craving candy or (b) cover my behind in case I slipped. So, yesterday morning, I walked my third 5k race, the Trick or Treat Trot here in Chicago. It was in Lincoln Park, right by Montrose Harbor - so lovely. I grew up on the Connecticut shoreline, so I have a pretty hard time calling these bits of sand next to Lake Michigan "beaches," but the marina made me feel like home.

I went to pick up my race shirt and bib on Friday after work, and as it turns out, my number was 1707. This was pretty significant to me, as my pace for the last 5k I did was 17m9s per mile, and I wanted to beat it, if only by one or two seconds. Since the C-to-5k mp3's have been helping me so much, I decided to make a playlist exclusively for this race.

trick or treat trot soundtrack
Some Halloween-ish type music, mostly just a mixture of things to get me pumped and keep me moving. The total came to 53m11s - four seconds shorter than my last race time. I figured, if the music was still playing or if it finished just as I did, I beat my last time.

This race was smaller than the Race for the Cure, but considerably larger than the Go Go Green race. I think they said the number was around 2500. I really liked it: starting line it seemed like a lot of people focused on fitness, and I loved feeling, for the first time, like I belonged there. A lot of people wore Halloween costumes, but I didn't want to do anything fancy, so I just wore my race shirt, my new workout pants, and a fleece vest I bought Saturday at Old Navy - another huge victory, since it was, again, something bought in a ladies section of a normal store. I haven't bought clothes from Old Navy since middle school!

The race started, and I eased my way towards the starting line. As I crossed, I started my playlist, and loved it. It was a sunny day, breezy because of the lake, chilly but not too cold. When I got to the first mile marker, it said 17m30, and I felt a little down until I remembered that they start the clocks with the first runners, so I was probably around 17m even.

The music helped keep me motivated, but my mind still wandered a few times. Just thinking about how I've been doing and the non-scale measures of my success. Every now and then during a race, I get struck by the realization that this moment is actually happening to me. A few months ago, I couldn't be coaxed off the couch. four minutes and changeThen I could walk a mile and a half in about an hour and it exhausted me. And now, I'm passing the second mile marker and making excellent time. This is my life now, and I am so overwhelmed with happiness.

I knew the last song was "Thriller," since it was Halloween after all, and I thought it would be a fun way to end the morning. However, as the third mile marker came into view, I realized that it hadn't even started playing yet. It began just as I passed the sign; when I passed the finish line, I quickly hit pause.

I was hoping for four seconds off my last time, but this was just under five minutes off. I could hardly believe it. Not going to lie, I teared up a little bit. Even now, I'm speechless and amazed. I need to run a 16-minute mile to get a finishers medal for the Disney 5k - and until now, I couldn't even walk a 16-minute mile. My goals no longer seem so distant - now, they're only slightly out of my reach.

I had a banana and walked around for a bit, then headed back towards the marina to catch my bus. A family was there in their running gears, and while I'm usually really shy with strangers, thanks to this huge accomplishment, I got the courage to ask the woman to take my picture.

perfect moment.
And I'm so glad she did. There is so much to celebrate about this picture. Those pants! That vest! The personal best that's still swirling around my head! And - I'm smiling. I know it seems so simple, but after spending years and years in a very deep weight/body-image related depression, I marvel at every one of my smiles. They're one of my favorite measures of progress - they mean that I'm getting healthy in every aspect of my life.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what an accomplishment!! I'm proud of you! And you look fabulous..what a beautiful smile! You have every reason to smile and be proud!!

Anonymous said...

We are so on the same wavelength about the holidays. I felt like I needed to be strong this weekend to head into the holidays on a good footing. And I did it! Not one piece of Halloween candy!

I totally snuck food all the time as a kid. I vividly remember sticking a chicken salad sandwich under a sofa pillow when my Mom walked in once. Yuk! Then all of a sudden you are an adult and live alone and can do whatever you want with noone to hide from. Hello exponential weight gain! I may just have to put the Albers books on my Xmas list, especially if the library queue takes forever. Awesome picture at the end there, and congrats on your 5K accomplishment. I'm going to be running a 5K on Thanksgiving morning. The first one I will ever actually RUN the whole way (thanks to C25K). I'm so excited. I'm on W7D3 (Wed.) of the program now.

Amy said...

Wow! You're so inspiring!! Congratulations on how far you've come so far. You truly prove that if you put your mind to something you can achieve anything!
You look so great!

Anonymous said...

This really, really gives me hope. YAY FOR YOU!!!!

Jessica said...

Girl, I am so stinkin' proud of you!! You are beaming in that picture! Congrats on the race AND all the wonderful changes you are making in your life!