September 11, 2010


My mom took boxes and boxes of pictures of me as a baby, baby bromaybe one box of pictures of my middle sister, and perhaps an envelope of pictures of my youngest sister. I'm fairly certain that my family wouldn't have any pictures of our late-in-life brother if I hadn't taken approximately four hundred pictures of his adorable face when I was still living at home.

Come on, who doesn't wanna take pictures of a face like that?!

I guess the point is, I've always been the one behind the camera. That way, I get to document the important moments while staying out of the photos themselves. I love looking at the old pictures, and that way, I can remember how happy I was or how much fun we all were having without having to remember how huge I was.

dan asleep on me
Now that I'm starting to lose weight, though, I find myself in the opposite situation. I wish I had more pictures of myself at my biggest! First, that way I could see just how far I've come. I can feel the difference, but sometimes it's hard to see physical changes when looking in the mirror - because you see yourself every day, you don't notice slow but steady changes.

dan and me at the table
And second, so that I never, ever forget what 345 pounds felt like. And how unhappy I really was. And how much I missed out on because of the physical and emotional restrictions.

September 10, 2010

Roses and thorns

I never could have dreamed that life post-grad would be this amazing. I do all my work every day from 9-5. I come home, exercise, have some dinner, then watch a movie or read or write the next day's blog post, and I'm in bed by 11:30. Every day, I wake up feeling positive and energetic and full of life. It's an incredibly liberating feeling. Part of it is that the stress of being a full-time grad student isn't there anymore, but also - sleeping well, exercising, drinking lots of water, and not eating poorly help immensely.

I'm down another 5 pounds this week, bringing my total loss to 28 pounds. I started at 345, and I'm down to 317. I know it's not exactly the long-term "onederland," but that 1 has me thrilled. After 1 comes 0, and after that means all three numbers finally changing - and getting rid of that first 3 for good! I can't stop smiling. I realized the other day that I now weigh less than when I moved to Chicago in 2008, and I felt so proud of myself.

Another amazing moment: the other day, I was having a really rough time. One of my students left my class in tears - I had assigned a pretty emotional reading, and after a recent family tragedy, it really hit her - and it's hard not to have stuff like that affect you too as the teacher. I was sitting in my office, let out a heavy sigh, and thought that I couldn't wait to get home and run on the Wii Fit. And then I realized my first thought was "run on the Wii Fit" - and not "eat a whole half-gallon of ice cream" or "order a pizza and eat 'til you're sick." It was an incredible and empowering NSV for me.

In lieu of my usual roses and thorns, I'm going to share an award I recently received!

my awarf from jess!
Ten things I like:

My family
That's more than obvious. la famigliaI'm very close to them, and as much as I love Chicago, I wish I lived closer to them. I see them maybe three or four times a year, though we videochat at least once a week. My little brother is nine and a half, and we play Battleship on Pogo while videochatting. It's just like hanging out, except there are nine hundred miles between us.

My friends
They're incredible, seriously. domo arigatoFrom a professional photographer to a research chemist to a bookseller extraordinaire and more, we're amazingly diverse and have the greatest adventures. We're all spread out now in several cities and states - and three different time zones - but whenever we all get back together, it feels like no one ever left. I'm so unbelievably lucky.

My typewriter
Her name is Helen Scott. helen scottI got her for $5 at a thrift store and used it for two years before the ribbon ran out (I recently found replacement ribbon!). I love writing people letters with a typewriter. Plus, seafoam green? Adorable. I read an article the other day about the oldest typewriter repairman in New Haven, CT. I think he summed it up perfectly: "Typewriters you can own. I think a computer owns you."

"The Golden Girls"
I love them, and I am completely unashamed.pirate sophia It's funny, because I'm really not a TV watcher - I don't have cable or anything! - but I could sit and watch a GG marathon for ... all seven seasons. And I have every season on DVD, which can be dangerous. I tend to watch them a lot when I'm grading exams, since I don't have to pay too close attention to details on the show and so I can focus on the work.

Being creative
I love making art. lighthouse for JTI love the feeling of creating something pleasing. I made a lot of collages when I was an undergrad, and I still decorate notebooks like that all the time (great inexpensive gifts!). Lately I've been painting more, trying to get better at that. I painted gifts for all my friends for Christmas last year (like this lighthouse for my friend Johnny).

Riding the Elel train in the loop
If I had to take the El to work, I probably would not like it as much. But since I really only ride the El when I'm going somewhere fun or exciting, that makes it part of the adventure. Plus, you get such a great view of Chicago when you're racing through it at 55 mph from twenty feet above the road! My favorite part is when the Pink Line is headed towards the Loop and you go over the Chicago River.

When I first moved into my apartment, I didn't have anything - bed, desk, TV. Nada. Little by little I got a few things, and it was great. Then, my crazy aunt sends me a "care package" - a KitchenAid stand mixer and a ton of kitchen tools. I didn't have a couch or kitchen table, but I could make cookie dough in five minutes! But that's alright. I *love* cooking, and I'm getting pretty good at it. I love the science of it - taking raw materials and turning it into something that people enjoy.

Board games
I'm not sure if it's the games themselves, or Family Game Night, monopoly!but I love spending an evening playing Monopoly or Scrabble. Inevitably my mother complains about how much she hates board games and how no matter how she strategizes, my dad always wins - yet she's always there with us, playing along and joking (for example, my brother loves Indiana Jones, so whenever someone lands on Indiana Ave., you have to say "Indiana was the dog's name!" with a Sean Connery accent).

Autumn in New EnglandCCSU campus
It's incredible. I grew up in a beach town right on the Long Island Sound, and autumn always meant finally reclaiming our beaches and supermarkets. It also meant the state parks were free again until Memorial Day, and so we always went to places like Chatfield Hollow (that even sounds lovely!) and saw the leaves changing. There are covered bridges and everything! So much love.

I'm a huge fan of pouring rain, especially when there's also thunder and lightning. It's such an experience for nearly all the senses - not to mention I'm a total sucker for abandoning all my plans and curling up on the couch watching old black and white movies while the storm rattles around outside. This past summer was really great for that - tons of huge storms, with rain beating down, lightning so close it lit up my kitchen, and thunder so powerful it shook the whole apartment. I curled up with my M.F.K. Fisher tome I've been reading for over a year, and loved every second of it.

Ten bloggers with whom I'd like to share this award:

Hmm. There are so many whose stories I love to follow! These are just some of the fantastic ladies who inspire me, who motivate me, and who provide amazing support.
JessFirst StepsCaraShannonAmy
And of course, Jess, from whom I received the award. Thanks again, Jess!

"Strangers on this road we are on / we are not two, we are one"
The Kinks

September 9, 2010

25 Reasons

A few weeks ago, I watched a really terrific PBS documentary called Fat: What No One is Telling You. One of the women interviewed had bariatric surgery and was sharing her experience with weight loss. She said that before going under the knife, there were mandatory counseling sessions, and in one of the sessions, the doctor asked her to compile a list of reasons why she wanted to lose weight.

I felt really inspired by this, and even though I am not going to have weight loss surgery, I decided to make a list of my own. I timed myself for five minutes and wrote as much as I could. Don't overthink anything, just go with your instincts. When you wonder why you're doing this, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

I came up with twenty-five things.

my list

1. To live a long and healthy life.

2. To try and avoid my father's fate.

3. To finally experience the life I've been hiding from.

4. To be able to walk into "normal" stores like Old Navy and buy a pair of jeans.

5. To finally date a guy who doesn't mistreat me and isn't just interested in me because of a fat fetish.

6. To feel more comfortable when traveling - planes, buses, trains, etc.

7. To be able to walk down the street without wondering if everyone is thinking about how fat I am.

8. To be able to do things more comfortably - like shave my legs.

9. To be taken seriously by colleagues.

10. To be able to have kids someday and teach them about loving life and eating responsibly.

11. To not wear a plus size robe when I get my PhD.

12. To not feel self-conscious about going out - to the beach, to a bar, etc.

13. To not avoid friends because I'm ashamed of what I have allowed to happen to my body.

14. To prove that I am in control.

15. To prove that I can set a goal and stick to it.

16. To finally nourish my body the way I have with my mind.

my list

17. To be a good example for my family.

18. To have more energy.

19. To not be sweaty all the time when no one else is.

20. To sleep better.

21. To be able to get different haircuts or styles without worrying that I'll look like a bowling ball.

22. To be able to run a mile - really run it - for the first time possibly ever.

23. To not feel self-conscious every time a chair or floorboard squeaks.

24. To be able to touch my toes.

25. To not get winded every time I climb stairs.

September 8, 2010


The other night, I was sitting in my home office, sitting on the floor and reading a book. (Most of my rooms have tile or hardwood floors, but my office has carpet. It's great!) It was a cool night, much cooler than it has been during the days here, and I was feeling great.

At around 9:15, my phone rang. It was a friend of mine from work. She was riding her bike and felt hungry, so she was headed back home - she wanted to go out and get something to eat, and would I be interested in coming along? rose at the rodin museum garden, paris, FRI'd already eaten dinner four hours or so earlier, but I'm always up for an adventure, so I said I'd tag along. About an hour later, she drove down to my neighborhood and picked me up, and away we went.

We ended up at an all-night diner in Lincoln Park. On our way there, though, we started talking about the stair race since she wants to do it too and she was planning on joining me the next morning for training. I told her I couldn't do very much just yet, only 5-7 flights, but after a month and a half of daily training, I should be better - plus, I hope to lose a little more weight between now and then, which will also help. Then, the inevitable.
"Oh ... have you lost weight?"

"Yeah, um, just like ... 23 pounds."

"Holy cow! Just by, like, eating less and stuff?"

"Yeah, basically. I walk every day and I'm watching what and how much I eat. It's going really well."
That launched into a candid discussion about binge eating. It's very hard for me to admit out loud that I'm recovering from a serious eating disorder, partly because I'm ashamed but also because "eating disorder" has certain connotations about it. If you have an eating disorder, why aren't you thin?

I started binge eating after my parents got divorced - living with my father meant processed foods, and I ate huge quantities. It gave me an unbelievable high. It became my favorite coping mechanism - the thought of doing drugs terrified me, but food was overly available. There are entire stores full of food! And once I got out of my small town and went to college, I discovered there were even restaurants you could pay to bring food to you! It was extremely destructive, but the feeling of getting high made me forget not only the original problem I was trying to eat away, but also my methods of forgetting.

People blame triptophan for their post-Thanksgiving dinner crash, but it's really the overload of calories. The same thing would happen for me when I had binged. I'd eat ridiculous amounts of calories as quickly as possible. I'd feel the pain of having my stomach completely packed with food, but emotionally I felt numb, and I loved it. Numbness, I thought, was better than pain or worry or stress. Then, I'd get sleepy and take a nap - which was great, because if I'm unconscious, I don't have to think about what's really going on, what problems are bothering me. sculptures from the rodin museum garden, paris, FRI'd wake up with headaches, a painful feeling in my mouth from having eaten so much (and so poorly), and I'd usually feel even worse than before the binge.

My middle sister also looked for a way to cope after the divorce, and for her, it was drugs. She had friends who knew where to get them, and so at barely 11, she was smoking and drinking. Now, over 10 years later, she's much more in control of her life, but she still has many of the same friends, and she's seen some of them end up on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. She said that when things start to get really bad, the addicts withdraw. They stop returning your calls because even though they love you, they know you love them too - and that means you'll talk to them about trying to get help. That's the last thing an addict wants to hear. They don't want to admit things have gotten as bad as they have, and so they prefer solitude. They end up choosing their drug over their relationships, not necessarily because they want to, but because they are no longer in control - the drugs are.

I know what she means when she talks about this. As my weight grew, so did my antisocial tendencies. Thursday nights in grad school, after a three hour seminar, most of my friends would go out to a bar, and I would just go home - I'd say it was because I was tired, or I didn't have money for drinks and a cab home, but really, it was not wanting to be seen. Two beers and a cab ride would have been $20 at most - hardly an expense. But it was never about the money. I could easily justify spending $50 on a binge. It was fear of ending up on the floor after breaking a barstool. As everyone else grew closer and bonded over shared pitchers of beer and jokingly telling stories about classmates and professors, I retreated into myself. I knew what I was doing was wrong, that it would kill me. rose at the rodin garden, paris, FRBut I wasn't in control - the food was. It wasn't enough to have a piece, I needed the whole pie. I didn't feel like I had a choice.

The other night, at the diner with my friend, I walked down the street not caring what others thought. It doesn't matter that no one there knew I had recently lost weight. To be honest, the weight loss is of secondary importance even to me. What I am most proud of is learning how to live and how to cope with stress without bingeing.

September 7, 2010

Ten, ten, ten

When I was in high school (or maybe it was college), I got the idea that I wanted to get married on 10 October 2010. It's pretty tacky, I know. I think I was mostly in love with the idea of getting married in mid-October since autumn is my favorite season.

Now, as we're just over a month away, I'm no closer to getting married than I was back then. I'm kind of glad I'm not, too, because I am really loving my life right now - relishing the first year since I was 4 that I'm not a student, working hard, hopefully traveling, and genuinely just enjoying life. But I'd like to do something out of the ordinary on 10/10/10.

Cue the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

the date to motivate
At this point, I'm more likely to get married on 10/10/10 than run the Chicago Marathon, and I'm as single as can be. I would like to run a marathon eventually - it's one of my long-term weight loss/life goals. But this year will not be my year. I haven't trained, and I'm still extraordinarily out of shape.

So I've been thinking ... nooo! you're going the wrong way!a marathon has 26.2 miles ... my office building has 28 floors, with stairs starting on level 3 ...

I'm going to climb my building.

I'm not going for speed, just completion (though my unofficial goal is to finish in under an hour). And I've got a few girls from work who are going to participate as well (the company will be nice, but my biggest concern was dying in the stairwell and no one finding me for days). UHMy kid sister will also be in town that weekend, though she doesn't know it yet (surprise!), so it will be great to have her there as well.

The slogan for the 2010 Chicago Marathon is "10-10-10: The Date to Motivate." I love it! I'm not sure of a slogan yet for my ... stairathon? (So cheesy.) But I totally feel motivated to step up my weight loss and work on phase two, getting more active. I've been walking, which is great and fairly low intensity. And I've been "training" for the stairs, doing 5 floors at a time this week. But I need to get back into working out for real. I can start going to the gym next week when I finally get my first paycheck in three months! Definitely looking forward to that.

September 6, 2010


The other night, I had a dream - I thought it was a dream, but it was definitely a nightmare. And actually, at first, I thought it was real, which really scared me. This dream was different because it was set in my own bedroom - nothing out of the ordinary. I can usually understand physical feelings and the settings are really detailed - I usually have really vivid dreams - but this one was so close to my reality that I almost believed it for a second.

vitruvian manIn the dream, I was lying in my bed, totally comfortable. I had my favorite pillows and my big down comforter - I wasn't too hot or too cold, I felt perfect. Then, the alarm goes off on my phone, time to wake up. I'm laying in the bed with my arms and legs spread out - like Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The blankets are torn off of me, and I move to get up, and my arms go flying. I pull them back and look at them to see what's wrong: they're thin. Somehow, in the middle of the night, I have reached what appears to be my goal weight. Nearly two hundred pounds just vanished.

[Keep in mind, this is definitely a nightmare.]

I try again to get out of bed, but my arms and legs keep flailing about. I try to stand up, and it feels bizarre. I start to walk, and I'm walking funny. My legs are wobbly (kind of bow-legged, even) and my back is arched. I keep trying to move, but I'm not used to this body, and I can't control my movements.

Crazy, right? I think it may be related to some things that have been on my mind lately - mostly fears about my long-term goals. Luckily for me in this case, dreams don't come true, and I won't be losing all the weight overnight, so my body will have time to adapt to these slight weekly changes. But still, I have been overweight my whole life and obese for more than half of it, so thinking about walking around and only carrying less than half my current body weight kind of terrifies me. My weight has always been such a big part of my identity. What will I be when I'm no longer obese? How will I walk? What will it feel like?

In the past when I've decided to lose weight, I never really considered the long-term. Maybe because I never really took it seriously and figured I would quit long before any of these thoughts became legitimate concerns. But this time, I'm committed - I'm making real changes and experiencing real success - and so I guess it makes sense that I have more on my mind besides the usual fantasies about how nice it will be to buy clothes from regular stores.

September 5, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

Another week! I'm still pretty positive - I hit a couple rough patches this week, but I've pressed on, and I feel gorgeous and strong and in control.

My positive sign for the week:

i have not yet begun to fight!
(Taken via my latest obsession - La Photocabine! Works with a webcam and takes vintage looking photobooth photos - love! The audio instructions are in French but they have written English captions on-screen.)

Challenge start weight: 332
Current weight: 322

(Another big loss! Down 6 from last week.)

Progress on my DDGbG goals: This week's new recipe was actually two new recipes, and they were both a-mazing. I was craving something spicy, so I found a great recipe via All Recipes for black bean burgers. And since I had zucchini around, I figured I'd find a new recipe for that, too - I love zucchini but I usually just sauté it with some sweet onion and minced garlic. So to go with my black bean burgers, I found a recipe for baked zucchini chips.


Black bean burger
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 egg
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs

1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375º F (190º C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

Baked zucchini chips
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 egg whites

1. Preheat the oven to 475ºF (245º C).
2. In one small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Place the egg whites in a separate bowl. Dip zucchini slices into the egg whites, then coat the breadcrumb mixture. Place on a greased baking sheet.
3. Bake for 5 minutes in the preheated oven, then turn over and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until browned and crispy.

These are the original recipes from the website - they make four servings each, but since it was just for me, I halved them both and put aside leftovers. The chips weren't great reheated (I microwaved - would've been fine in the oven), but I think the burger may have been even better the next day since all the flavors and spices got to soak in more! I don't have a food processor, so I chopped the onion and pepper by hand and used my press for the garlic. Loved it. Fantastic. Super filling. Another recipe to save!

ONE thing that you are proud of for the week: Planning my first challenge! I love DDGbD and I want to do more challenges, so I am planning one for October. It's a goal for myself, and if other people want to join, that's great. I also decided on a huge goal for October - an exercise challenge, of sorts. Details to come later, but it's going to be huge!

ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week: from wikipediaStaying positive. For me, it can be hard to stay on task when I'm feeling so good about how well I'm doing. I'm totally walking on sunshine, feeling lighter and less burdened by excess weight, but then people snicker, or I get on the bus and people would rather stand than sit next to me, and I'm reminded of how much work I still have to do. Instead of getting down about it, and instead of quitting, I've been thinking about John Paul Jones. That has been hard, and it only stands to get harder. Surrender? No way! I have not yet begun to fight!