August 28, 2010

Don't stop me now

the view from my office - so dreamy
I'm in a wonderful place right now. And not just physically, although I always fall back in love with Chicago when the summer winds down and it's that perfect not-too-hot, not-too-cold temperature. (Check out that view from my office! Amazing.)

I'm starting week five of my new lifestyle changes, and I'm doing really well so far. I'm losing weight at a safe pace, getting more active, and learning so much. I've been watching documentaries about food and obesity, and I've been more careful about what I eat and drink. Some days are easier than others, but at the end of the day, I'm still very happy with the dropping numbers on the scale and would rather have that experience than the sick post-binge feeling.

I feel terrific - even if no one else can see the weight difference, I can feel it, and it's amazing. I'm so excited thinking about how great I feel after five weeks - and imagining how I'll feel in five more! I'm on an amazing self-esteem high right now, and while that sounds great, I'm actually kind of scared. In the past, this is about the time when I begin to falter. It gets tough, and surrendering feels (at least temporarily) so great. I've become discouraged due to the fact that, even though I feel so good, most people can't really notice a 5, 10, or even 20 pound change in my body. My generally optimistic nature does not apply itself to weight loss, and I've always been stuck in a glass-half-empty situation. Who cares about a ten pound loss? I still have two hundred to go!

This time is different. This time doesn't feel like any of the other times. I'm not starving myself. I'm not depriving myself. I know that what matters more than anything is not how other people think I look, but how I know I feel. I know that I have not failed if I don't walk one day or if I go out to a restaurant with friends and eat anything other than a glass of water and a few leaves of lettuce. I know that every loss maintained is a success, no matter how small. And this time I have you - all of you - here, cheering me on and sharing your stories. I'm so unbelievably grateful.

So, I'm attacking week #5 - head on, full force. I'm going to continue to eat well and in moderate amounts. I'm going to continue to walk every day and drink plenty of water. And I'm not going to let anyone stop me - not even myself!

August 27, 2010

Roses and thorns

Another week down! This has been my first week of teaching, and I think it has gone fairly well so far (just have to get through the rest of today!). I taught during grad school, but that was a whole different experience compared to this! The only thorns I can think of for this week aren't even that bad - just that I'm faced with so many new challenges, and I'm doing the best that I can to manage them well. The first week is always tough anyway, since the students are nervous about a new semester, you're nervous about teaching a new group of kids, and everyone is wishing for even just one more day of summer.

In unrelated but totally awesome news, I met my first weight-loss goal this week! an old art project of mineI weighed in today at 328 pounds (my goal was 329). It may seem like a randomly chosen number, but it isn't, believe me. The most exciting part about this number is that I can FINALLY use the Wii Fit! (Last Christmas, I asked my parents for a microwave cart, and I got a Wii/Wii Fit Plus game/balance board. Go figure.) I'll be sure to post soon about how it goes!

And thanks to DDGbD, I have been reading more blogs, and I discovered the term "NSV". Have you heard of this? It means "non-scale victory," things that happen because of your new lifestyle changes that are fantastic but aren't measured in number of pounds lost. I think my biggest NSV so far was going to the fair last Saturday and enjoying myself responsibly while not giving in to old habits. I'm really looking forward to writing about more of them!

How was your week?

August 26, 2010

Fat chance

image from amplestuff.comI watched another weight-related documentary last week, a Canadian one from the 1990's. It was called Fat Chance, and this was the description given on Netflix:
Rick Zakowich is an imaginative therapist who moonlights as an intriguing blues singer. Talented and magnetic, Rick also weighs 400 pounds, and while he's chock-full of energy and charisma, he's almost always affixed with only one label: fat guy. This documentary is a detailed diary of Rick's life that begins as he set out on his quest to lose 220 pounds -- a feat that proves more difficult than he'd originally planned.
To be honest, it took a few days for me to put together my thoughts on it.

In the first part of the movie, we meet Rick. He has been overweight his entire life, and when discussing about his childhood, he talks about how his parents' love was tied to food, but when he went to school, he learned otherwise - that fat is something negative, that being fat means you are lazy or stupid or you have no self-control. He is profoundly depressed:
Publicly I'm okay, but these are really very dark times for me.
and he is nearly at tears when he says that he wishes that God would accept his bargain and trade years of his life just to be thin.

We see Rick going to the doctor, trudging through workouts, and visibly suffering through healthy meals. image from edgelandfilms.comThere are many scenes that show Rick doing simple tasks like going to the supermarket, taking a swim, or walking down the street - but the focus is not on Rick, it's on those around him, mostly children and teenagers who snicker and point. He talks about his lack of romantic relationships due to his size and self-esteem:
I wouldn't be lying if I said I've been lonely a good part of my life ... it's like, my life is on hold until I lose this weight.
He had been married once, many years earlier, and has a daughter. He says that this is the only real, meaningful relationship he has in his life.

There was a definite moment when it seemed that the movie's message changed, and it was when Rick's goal did. At one point, he decides to form a support group for overweight and obese men, and in doing so, he reconnects with a doctor whom he met a few years ago, Dr. Mo Lerner. Dr. Lerner speaks very openly about his feelings of failure - despite being a skilled doctor, he feels it is no accomplishment since the rest of his life isn't truly being lived. With Dr. Lerner, Rick takes a trip to a NAAFA conference. (For anyone unfamiliar with the acronym, they are the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.)

NAAFA logo
We see Rick and Dr. Lerner sitting in on lectures and feeling, for the first time, that they are among a non-judgmental crowd. There is a motivational speaker who later talks to Rick one-on-one about the downsides of dieting; she claimed that she wouldn't want to belong to the "disgusting thin world" since the thin people are the ones who are currently telling her she is abnormal, and she is totally happy the way she is:image from
Who would I be to subscribe to an aesthetic belief, to want to be part of a people who saw me as unattractive? Moses didn't come off the mountain and say "Ugh! Fat people! Spit on 'em!"
After this, we see Rick acting very differently than before. His efforts are turned away from diet and exercise and focus more on fat acceptance - at one point, he takes a meeting with the mayor to get the signs changed on public restrooms so people will know they are "fat friendly."

So, my thoughts. I guess going into it, I assumed the film would be about this guy putting his sweat and tears into changing his life for the better. And I guess coming out of it, I wasn't wrong. But the way his life changed was different from what I had expected. At the end of the movie, Rick Zakowich hasn't had any significant weight loss, but his quality of life changed completely. He was no longer sitting alone in his apartment feeling sorry for himself, he was out with like-minded friends. Whether or not you agree with NAAFA and their message, you have to see that Rick's outlook on life is greatly improved and he feels that there is a great deal of meaning and purpose, and for him, that makes this the right answer.

I had a number of disagreements with the statements being made in the scenes at the NAAFA conference - mostly relating to the fact that, while it is true that you cannot determine if someone is healthy just by physical appearance, I know my own body, and I know that carrying around an excessive 210 pounds is not only emotionally but physically painful. But the biggest one was a statement made by the motivational speaker. I guess one of the greatest lessons I took from this movie was that, just as there are thin vs. fat prejudices, there are just as many fat vs. thin ones. She was talking about the benefits to having lived her entire life as an overweight/obese person, and she said that she had to work harder for everything, and that she wouldn't have been a compassionate person if it weren't for her size. Someday I want to have kids, and I'd like to think that they are going to be hard-working and compassionate people, no matter what size they are.

August 25, 2010

What I look like

What a good looking kid! me, around age 4 or 5I was always a pretty cute little girl, with long wavy hair and big green eyes. Even when I was young, I was almost always smiling, and it made my whole face light up.

I've been looking at old pictures a lot lately, which I usually do when I am in periods of change in my life. With my finally deciding to do the right thing for myself and get healthy, I've been looking over the visuals of my past. I don't have very many pictures from when I was very little - those are mostly at my parents' house in Connecticut - but the ones that I do have (or at least have digital copies of), I love. They make me smile. I think I look very hopeful in them - totally ready to take on the world. I was like that when I was a kid. I was shy, but I always had high aspirations and the best intentions of growing up and making something of myself.

The other reason why I really like looking at pictures of myself as a very young kid is that they are the only way I have to know "what I look like." me, around age 9 or 10 - stuffing, of course!I've been this way for so long that I can only remember what my body (especially my face) looks like since it has been overburdened with excess body weight. There were the early teen years when it wasn't nearly as bad as is now, but those aren't as heavily photo-documented as my childhood; once I was old enough for a job, I bought a camera - and made sure I was always the one taking the pictures.

So besides a few awkward school pictures, the only images of me between 100 and 300 pounds exist in my mind. And that's really a shame, because not only do I not have a record of my body in its various sizes, but I don't have a record of years upon years of my life. There were friends who came and went, school dances, birthday parties. I didn't want to remember the pains, the heartaches, the let-downs, everything that came with my fat, around age 3 But I didn't have the foresight to think that someday, as an adult, I'd forget the specifics and simply want to recall the one childhood I was given.

If I could sit down for just one minute with the kid I used to be, there are so many things I would tell her. That she is strong and will survive even the toughest times. To let everyone she loves know how much they mean to her. Not to give up - ever - on anything.

And to take more pictures of herself.

August 24, 2010

Sugar, sugar

Let me tell you, nothing makes you more conscious of what you buy at the grocery store than not owning a car. When I go to the grocery store, whether I take the bus or I walk, I have to carry what I buy. When my sister was living with me, we'd usually fill our backpacks and then use reusable grocery bags if there was anything else. Now that it's just me, I try to keep it to just my backpack.

Have you ever based your shopping purchases on how much they weighed or wondering if it would fit in a backpack? It makes decision-making a lot easier. Milk is usually a half-gallon or less (I'm not a big milk drinker, I really only buy it if I need it for a recipe or when I want cereal). If I want watermelon, I've got to sacrifice elsewhere. I have to make sure there's room for what I absolutely need, and more often than not, that leaves no room for sweets or other junk foods.

The other day, I went to the store to get yogurts since I was almost out and I've been eating one every day for breakfast. And I got to thinking about visualizing my weightloss. When I buy things like flour or sugar, I usually buy the five-pound bags. At my highest weight, this was what I wanted to lose long-term, represented by five-pound bags of sugar:

210 lbs of sugar

Forty-two bags of sugar. That's not even my weight - that's the weight I had to lose! I'm not sure that would even fit in a shopping cart, yet I carried it every day on my 5'6" frame.

Out of those forty-two bags of sugar, this is approximately what I have lost so far (as of last Friday's weigh-in):

thirteen pounds, more or less

I'm not great at math, so I'll leave the fractions to someone more ambitious. But in my mind, I'm picturing taking nearly three of those bags of sugar and dumping them in the trash. And personally, I'm thrilled.

August 23, 2010

Burnin' love

So, I spent all day Saturday with great company at the Illinois State Fair. I'm really pleased to say that I made good decisions all day - not an easy feat! fried what?!We hit the road pretty early, stopping after a little while for gas and breakfast. There were donut holes, breakfast sandwiches, and energy drinks - I anticipated this and prepared ahead, eating a yogurt before I left and bringing a Lärabar, which I ate a few hours into the ride. I chose the bar for its simple ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon. Super delicious! I don't usually eat things like that except in situations like this. (I also used to bring them to nights when I would have class and wouldn't get home until 8! Odwalla bars, usually - they have a banana nut one that's amazing.)

When we got there, everyone wanted to take the chair lift from one side of the fair to the other. Besides my fear of heights, I was also worried about weight limits, so I opted to walk instead. I ended up beating them all to the other area! I had to walk through the main food area, so I got a good view of what I was up against. pizza on a stick - yikesYikes. Foot-long corn dogs. Fried cheese curds. Anything you could possibly think of-on-a-stick! Even chocolate-covered bacon! Just ... yikes.

We did a lot of walking (a great chance to burn calories!) and I made decent food choices, given the options. I went into the day knowing that I was going to enjoy the day without going crazy, and I'm glad to have stuck to that. I had a banana milkshake (amazing!), a thin slice of pizza for lunch, and a cup of sweet tea. I also got some taffy that I ate a couple pieces of and put the rest in the freezer when I got home. I politely declined the offers of tornado potatoes and bites of a corn dog. It doesn't sound like much, but it felt like a pretty big victory!

August 22, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

I'm still exhausted from fair day - maybe I'll write something substantial later, or maybe I won't. We'll see how motivated I feel.

For now, I'd like to talk about a great challenge I am taking part in: Drop Dead Gorgeous by December, a four month long non-weight related challenge by Half of Jess. I have been reading about some challenges - I'd really like to take part in some, and I think this is a great starting point. Yes, you share your weight, but the real focus is on celebrating how gorgeous you are inside and out - just what I need right now in my journey!

The challenge runs from today, 8/22, to 12/19. So, here is my first update!

1. A picture of you holding up a positive sign for yourself.week one
2. Your current week’s weight as well as your challenge start weight.
3. Your goal(s) from now, or whenever you decide to join, until December.
(1) Try a new recipe at least once a week. (2) Write handwritten letters to my sisters. (3) Save $50 a month towards a vacation next summer. (4) Let my family and friends know often how much I love them.
4. ONE thing that you are proud of for the week.
This week: starting my first real grown-up job! I have an office! And it doesn't hurt that it's in a high rise with an epic view of downtown Chicago!
5. ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week.
Managing stress when the REAL work starts!