September 25, 2010


Since I've started regularly exercising, eating right, and experiencing success with losing weight, I've noticed a few things. The way my pants fit, even immediately after I take them out of the dryer (when I bought them in July, I had to lay on the bed and my sisters helped me zip and button them - crazy muffin top situation - and now they're loose all over). The way my hips feel when I put my hands on them and step on the scale (I think there might be bones under there!). The way I breathe after going up the stairs to my second floor apartment (one floor is hardly a challenge anymore!).

One of the best things I'm recognizing is my hunger. I think the last time I was really, truly hungry was probably when I was a baby. Everything since then has been mostly mindless eating, such as eating on a schedule or eating for boredom. I wasn't eating because my body wanted food, I was eating because my mind did.

Feeling hungry is a pretty amazing feeling, actually. It means that I am working my body enough to use up all the fuel I am giving it, and in order to keep going, I need to refuel. I know "intuitive eating" is a debatable topic, but for me, it works. It's easy to oversimplify it, but essentially, if I'm hungry I eat. The trick is deciding if I'm really hungry, or if I'm thirsty or bored.

One of the biggest changes for me has been my snacking habits. In the past, I would consume huge quantities of snack foods, not because I was hungry, but because I was bored, or because I was watching a movie, or because any other reason I could easily justify for eating high calorie and high fat "snacks." Dinners have also changed for me. I grew up in a household where every night we had some variation on the basic theme of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. I'm trying to get away from that now, at least in a general sense. I'm trying to eat balanced meals, but not necessarily the ones I grew up with. For example, I will chunk up a grilled chicken breast, make some plain rice, take a scoop of fat-free refried black beans, mix it all up with some chili garlic sauce, and eat it wrapped up in lettuce leaves. I'm still getting the nutritional balance without having childhood flashbacks of a piece of steak covered in A-1, a baked potato drenched in butter and sour cream, and some broccoli I ignored.

i love vintage ads!
Now, I have a cup of yogurt for breakfast, a Lean Cuisine or Weight Watcher frozen meal for lunch, and plenty of water throughout the day. I pack a 100-120 calorie snack to bring to work since I feel hungry after I finish teaching at 3. When I get home around 5:30 or quarter to 6, I start to feel hungry again, and since I go for my nightly walk right after I drop my things off at home, I grab a piece of fruit. Then, when I get home, I wash up, change, check my e-mail, and start to feel hungry again, so I make dinner. After dinner I work on the Wii Fit, then draft my blog entry for the next day, answer any e-mails from students, and try to read and comment on a few blogs. If I feel hungry at all after dinner, I have light snacks around - baby carrots, hard-boiled eggs (egg whites only!), prunes, etc. I think prunes get a bad rep - they're delicious and they totally satisfy my sweet craving for only a few calories!

So basically, I'm still eating my three basic meals, and I'm still snacking throughout the day, but I think the main difference is the counterpart to feeling hunger - recognizing fullness. I have two or three egg whites, or maybe four or five prunes, or a banana, and the hunger subsides. I'm trying to improve not only quality, but quantity.

September 24, 2010

Roses and thorns


Three oh eight.

On July 31, I was 345 pounds, and this morning I am down to 308.

In spite of the three out front, I must say, seeing a zero in the tens place makes me really giddy. (I'm also really excited about my dropping BMI. When I started, it was 55.7, and now it's 49.7 - still a long way to go, but I'm out of the 50s!) This means my next short-term goal is only a pound away, and getting rid of that three forever should happen within the next two or three weeks! I know saying "I'm so happy I weigh 299 pounds!" isn't most people's dream, but after being so close to 350, this is a huge accomplishment. It's not quite the success of "onederland," but it's still a major personal triumph. So I've been trying to think of a 200's equivalent of "onederland" - any ideas?

In lieu of my usual Roses and Thorns, I'd like to share with you all a fancy award I got yesterday from MackIam. Thanks so much!

the versatile blogger award
Share seven things about myself.

1. I am the oldest of four kids - I have a sister (Lisa) two years younger than me, a sister (Katie) two years younger than Lisa, spring blossomand a brother (Dan) ten years younger than Katie. The science of birth order is fascinating, and I am very much a firstborn.

2. I'm in love with vintage Pyrex - when I first moved into my apartment, I didn't have any household things, so I started shopping around at thrift stores, and I found a few matching pieces from the 1970s. So cute!

3. I taught myself how to ready when I was three. I would always ask my mom what signs said, and eventually I pieced it all together and could read on my own. By kindergarten, I could read at an eighth grade reading level. I used to be "gifted and talented." Until about eighth grade. Then my focus shifted more towards ... well, boys.

4.tonight, you belong to me. I wish my life were more musical. I always wanted to play the piano or the flute when I was a kid, but now that I'm older, I think I'd love to play the ukelele. That scene from "The Jerk" where Steve Martin plays the ukelele on the beach? Totally kills me. So adorable. (I'm also a sucker for awkward romances.)

5. Given the choice, I will always pick pearls over diamonds. I'm more a fan of subtle over sparkly. Plus, I have curly auburn hair and I think pearls compliment me the best. My parents got me a Mikimoto pearl necklace when I finished my Master's degree, and I can't wait to wear it somewhere really fancy!

6. I bought candy for my students since I gave them all exams this week, and yesterday I decided to eat a mini Twix bar. What a waste of eighty calories! It wasn't satisfying the way it used to be - when I would eat dozens and not think twice. Now that I sit back and really taste it, I can tell how artificial and not-truly-delicious it is. It's just not what I want anymore, and that's amazing to me.

7. Tomorrow I'm walking a 5k for the Chicagoland Race for the Cure with a few friends, and I'm very excited for that! By next year, I want to run. But for now, I'm just glad to get out there and move!

Nominate 15 newly discovered blogs.
Yikes ... that's an awful lot for a Friday morning. I will do some searching this weekend and hopefully by my DDGbD post on Sunday, I will have some!

September 23, 2010

The lunk alarm

I had a really awful dream the other night. My dad and I were in a parking lot that I recognized as being in my hometown, and my dad was mad at me for some reason, we were fighting, and I called him a fat a**. And he looked at me in that weird way that he does sometimes when he's mad but speechless, and he's like "Really? Fat a**? Look at you!" mom, dad, and me at my MA graduation, may 2010And I don't even get sad, I just reply "Oh, okay, how about a race then? One mile. No, forget that, I'll race you to the end of the damn parking lot. You can't do it!" And he looked really sad.

And when I woke up, I was really, really, really sad. Like, devastated. Because I love my dad more than anything, and even though dealing with his physical handicaps is a challenge for our entire family, I would never want to say anything to hurt him like that. And I feel so guilty for thinking it, even just subconsciously.

My dad's handicaps are a direct result of being obese and not taking proper care of his diabetes. It absolutely breaks my heart when I call home to check in on my family and they talk about what they've been eating. My dad can't do much in the way of exercise, but he could do some things, yet he chooses not to. The one thing he could really improve on would be his diet, but every time I call, I hear about the rich meals they've overindulged on lately. It upsets me, and even now, in the end of September, I'm worried about heading home for Christmas. I know that even though there is a lot of love and emotional support from my family, the real support that I need is to have considerably less temptation than they will offer by means of food and activity levels.

Which brings me back to my dream, I guess. I'm very worried that I'm going to turn into That Jerk who has a bad attitude towards my family because I'm trying so hard to get healthy and they're all seemingly content with contributing to the obesity epidemic. I don't want to be judgemental, but it's already tough when I'm on the phone with my mother and I'm having lentils and cauliflower with tomato sauce for dinner before doing my usual hour or so on the Wii Fit, thanksgiving 2008 - family game night and chinese foodand she's making chicken carbonara with cupcakes for dessert. I get so angry.

At the gym a few of my friends went to in college, there was a word for people like that: lunks. The lunks are people who, while at the gym, throw the weights around trying to act like they're superior to others, or they grunt extra loud so everyone will pay attention to how hard they're working, or, worst of all, they're judgmental. If the people at the gym suspect anyone of lunking, they sound an alarm. It's like, okay, here's the attention you wanted, now get back to what you were doing - this is a judgment-free zone.

I don't want to be a lunk. I know that everyone's revelation is personal, and that every person's battle is unique and challenging. It's just so hard for me to be surrounded by the people I love more than anything and know that they could be healthier if they just made a few simple changes in their lives. Take a walk instead of watching TV. Make turkey burgers instead of using beef. Limit high-sodium and high-fat takeout foods. I just want to have them around for a long time, and since our time with our dad is already extremely limited because of his health problems, why wouldn't you want to do everything in your capabilities to try and maximize the time that you have?

I'm already planning on bringing the Wii Fit home for the week or so when I head home in December. And since it doesn't get as cold on the Connecticut shoreline as it does here in Chicago, I will be able to go for walks around the block, or even go down to the elementary school and walk on the town track. The food, at Christmas especially, is going to be tough. The holiday itself, I will have to make sure I am focused and make the best choices I can - hopefully if I get to help out with the preparation, I can make some things that are more health conscious. why yes i am! thank you wii.Other than that, though, I have to tell them to make space in the fridge for yogurts, fruit/veg, and healthy snacks, and in the freezer for Lean Cuisine meals.

All I can hope for is to stay strong on my own journey while hopefully making at least a small impression on the rest of my family. Maybe when they see me come back so much lighter than the last time they saw me, they'll start to think more about what they eat and how little they actually move (if my dad wore a pedometer, I'm not sure he would get 100 steps a day, let alone 10,000). And maybe if I cook some healthy meals for them, they might see that healthy eating doesn't necessarily mean eating only foods that are plain and boring - I know those black bean burgers I made a few weeks ago would probably be a hit! And maybe if they see that the hard work of weight loss is completely worth it when you see (and feel) results, they'll start thinking consciously about their own situations and what little changes they can make to start feeling better themselves.

September 22, 2010


The other day I bought a pedometer to get ready for my October challenge, The Power of Ten. I wanted something pretty basic ... it didn't need to have amazing functions - as long as it counted my steps, it was fine. I ended up getting a New Balance one from Target for $6.99. They also had fancier ones that counted calories and monitored heart rate, but for what I needed it for, the one I got was fine.

I tested it for the first time on Sunday, and I logged an even 11,000 for the day. It was a fairly busy day - I went to work and walked ten floors,my pedometer! went to Chinatown to look for something for my brother, got off the bus a few stops early and walked home, walked to the grocery store and back, and I did the Wii Fit for over an hour.

Then I tested it again yesterday, to see how I would do on a "regular" day, and I was just shy of 8,000. I went to work and worked all day (mostly a desk job unfortunately), walked twelve floors, got off the bus a few stops early and walked home, went for my usual after work walk, then did the Wii Fit for about half an hour. I usually do at least an hour on the Wii Fit, but I was exceptionally tired for some reason (probably the heat - for some ridiculous reason, it was in the 80s yesterday!), so I did as much as I could, then showered and got to bed by 8:30.

I need to make sure I am at or above 10,000 steps every single day in October. When I was in college and trying to do 10k a Day, I would easily get 17-18,000 steps a day when I would go to the gym in the afternoons. This afternoon I am going to go and sign up for the school gym, which will hopefully help get my numbers up. I know it won't affect my pedometer, but I'm really looking forward to swimming laps at the pool. I love swimming - when I was at my parents' house this summer, I spent at least six hours in the pool every day. It was amazing. I'm dying to get back into the water!

September 21, 2010


This is a picture of me on my first trip to Paris in March 2008. It's not the greatest quality, but to me, it speaks volumes.

arc de triomphe, paris 2008
My friend Jill took it in the stairs leading to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. One giant spiral staircase all the way up, almost 250 steps. It was the first thing we did after getting settled at our hotel, and let me tell you, the excitement of being in Paris for the first time wore off after about 50 steps.

I'm not sure what I weighed there, but it was surely over 300 pounds. Climbing those stairs, my legs ached. My lungs ached. I felt like the guy who collapsed during the Iron Man Challenge - all wobbly and unable to move. I pushed myself and pushed myself and finally made it to the top, huffing and puffing and needing to sit, or else it felt like I would fall. I was fairly certain I would die in my hotel room that night from overexerting my lazy body.

But I lived.

I was thinking about this on Sunday when I was doing my stairathon training. When I decided to do the stairs (three weeks or so ago), I said it was about completion and not racing to the top, though I unofficially wanted to finish in an hour. I hoped and prayed an hour would be enough. And I kept thinking about climbing the Arc, and how long it took, and how much it hurt.

Sunday was the last day of doing 10 floors (20 flights, 180 steps), and the first time I timed myself.

Two minutes, fifty-six seconds.

I stopped about every four flights for maybe 15 seconds to just breathe, then I continue. And when I finished, I caught my breath in under two minutes. Breathing is my main issue with the stairs - my legs don't hurt, at least not the way they did in the Arc. They have the healthy workout burn feeling, but nothing painful, no discomfort.

I still have a lot of training to go - yesterday I started doing 12 floors, and I will gradually increase up until the 10th when I do the full 26 (about 468 steps).

stairathon training schedule
But it feels great to know that I'm pushing myself to do something and the rewards will be incredible. I'll feel great physically, I'll feel fantastic emotionally, and I'll know that next time I'm in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe will no longer be the same challenge it was back in 2008.

September 20, 2010

Forward motion

Have you we are intrepid. we carry on.ever seen the movie "Elizabethtown"? There does not seem to be a middle ground with this movie, the people who see it either totally hate it or totally love it.

Personally, I'm in the latter group. My friends and I were completely obsessed with this movie in college, and my friend Jill and I dreamed of graduating college and starting a bakery/bookstore called 60b, a nod to the film. 60b was our dream, our sanity - it was a renewal of hope for the future. Actually planning and carrying out this endeavor wasn't the point - we needed something to look forward to that wasn't college, which was reaching its end and had lost the initial appeal it has when you're fresh out of high school and ready to be an adult.

In the end, I not only chose to go to grad school, but I chose one nine hundred miles away from where I went to college. Jill kept working at the part-time job she had kept through most of college, and eventually she saved up money for a fancy digital SLR camera and some fancy equipment. She now has her own photography business, and with little surprise, it's called 60b Photography.

Sometimes I get really sad that I'm not a part of her wonderful creative work, and I get really upset that I chose Chicago and grad school over small town Connecticut and being able to do things with my friends more often than twice a year. But then I come back to what started it all - "Elizabethtown" - and I feel reaffirmed.

In the movie, the main character Drew's father dies (not a spoiler) while visiting his extended family in Elizabethtown, KY, and Drew has to go on behalf of his family to collect his father's ashes. There is an awful lot more going on in Drew's personal and work life, so he is very emotionally numb for the better part of his trip. His mother, Hollie, is dealing with the loss of her husband of many years, and she does it by keeping busy, by trying to learn how to cook, how to fix the car, how to tap dance:

Drew: Mom, I think you need to slow down.
Hollie: Look, everybody tells me that I should take sedatives, but hey, I am out here, and I'm making things happen. All forward motion counts.

i love you. this is for you. your favorite song on a saturday night.
I think out of all the memorable quotes from the movie, "all forward motion counts" is definitely my favorite. I can't even begin to imagine how the character must have felt, losing someone she had loved for so long, but the idea is still powerful and applicable in so many areas of life. For example, when I get upset that I chose Chicago over Connecticut, I remember that before coming here, I didn't feel like I had a real direction career-wise. But here, I found out that I love teaching, that I'm great at it, and that I would love to do it for the rest of my life. I've really matured since coming to Chicago - living on my own has forced me to grow up a lot - and despite missing my friends and family, I feel like the steps I've taken have been in the right direction. At the end of the day, I have no real regrets about relocating.

I want to keep this in mind with my weight loss as well. Things are going really well right now, and I've maintained great losses every week. But in the future if things slow down (or even temporarily stop), I want to be able to still feel amazing about where I am right now. As long as I am trying my hardest to eat well and be active, then I am doing the best I can do. A week where I haven't lost anything is still a week where I haven't gained anything! The numbers on the scale are truly secondary - no matter what the number is, I feel amazing every day because every day I work out and I nourish my body with water and healthy food, and that's an awful lot more than I could say even just two months ago. Even when my numbers stand still, I'm still making every effort to keep moving forward - and all forward motion counts.

September 19, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

It's a rainy yucky weekend. Still staying active and cheerful, though!

My positive sign for the week:

at kendall before CHC meeting

It totally is, and I most certainly do!

Challenge start weight: 332
Current weight: 313

(Down another 4 from last week! Seven more to go until my next mini-goal!)

Progress on my DDGbG goals: A-mazing.
(1) My middle sister got the handwritten letter I sent her. She loved it! And she said that she loves me and is proud of my new lifestyle. She also said that her best friend said I was "a sweet sister with great handwriting." Yay!

this month's fifty(2) I finally got paid! I get paid monthly, so I hadn't had a paycheck since June when I finished teaching my four-week summer class. So, as I decided, I took $50 and put it aside for my vacation fund! I'm thinking maybe I will try to save a little extra in the next few months (I'll say $50 is a minimum) to try and go somewhere over winter break with just my sisters!

(3) Called my mom a couple times just to check in and let her know I love her and I miss her. I really miss her (and all of my family) an awful lot. Seeing them only a few times a year can be really tough sometimes. In spite of all the problems and stresses of modern technology, I'm so grateful for things like webcams and video chat so I can "see" my family even when we can't be together.

(4) This week's new recipe was another great one - HungryGirl's Sweet Coconut Crunch Shrimp.

possibly addicting.
She has a section on her website called "Chew the Right Thing" where she posts healthier recipes for foods that restaurants make. These were baked, not fried, and used bran cereal in the coating - it was super delicious, but I don't know if I would make it for a dinner again (though I would make the recipe again if I were having a party!). It just wasn't terribly filling. I had some Asian vegetables with it (edamame, baby corn, snap peas, water chestnuts), so it went a little further.
1/4 cup Fiber One bran cereal (original)
1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3 tbsp. panko breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Dash salt
12 oz. (about 20) raw large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
3 tbsp. fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters Original)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place cereal in a sealable plastic bag and, removing as much air as possible, seal. Using a meat mallet or heavy can, carefully crush cereal through the bag. Add sweetened coconut, panko breadcrumbs, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt to the bag; seal and shake to mix. Transfer mixture to a large plate and set aside.

3. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside. Pat shrimp with paper towels to ensure they are completely dry.

4. Combine shrimp with egg substitute in a bowl and toss lightly to coat. One at a time, shake excess egg from shrimp and transfer to the coconut-crumb mixture, gently patting and flipping to coat. Evenly place coated shrimp on the baking sheet.

5. Bake in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until outsides are crispy and lightly browned and insides are cooked through. Serve and enjoy!
This makes about four servings, so I halved the recipe. I don't trust egg substitutes so I used two egg whites instead. I also used all cereal and no panko, and they came out just fine. A little sweet, a little spicy, and best of all - not fried!

ONE thing that you are proud of for the week: I reduced my Netflix down to 1 DVD at a time. This is a HUGE deal for me: I used to get 4 at a time in college, then 3 at a time in grad school, then 2 at a time this summer (but only because I was broke). But now, I find that between working full-time and devoting most of my evenings to the Wii Fit and then writing the next day's blog post, I don't really have time for movies. And I'm completely okay with that - this is an amazing trade-off. I'd much rather work out than lay on the couch and be lazy!

ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week: Walking more! I'm walking a 5k next Saturday so I want to gradually increase my daily after work walk from 2.25 miles to 2.75 by Friday.