October 2, 2010

Mike and Molly

I had been thinking all week poster for mike and mollyabout writing about the new CBS show "Mike and Molly," and an article that Amy sent me totally solidified the plan.

I should preface this by saying I'm not much of a TV watcher to begin with. I don't even have cable, so when I do watch shows, it's either online (and even then, I only really watch "30 Rock," and not even that lately) or at my parent's house (Jeopardy, every night, as a family). I just don't enjoy much of it, and I'd much rather see a movie, read a book, or do something creative.

That said, I heard about "Mike and Molly," and I was intrigued. I had high hopes for it, but I was also suspicious. There is usually only one way that overweight people are portrayed in the media - constantly hungry, out of control, desperate, and a source of humor. I was hoping this would be different, that the characters would be dynamic and not stereotypical. It's a lot to hope for from a sitcom, but still, I don't think it's asking too much.

While I watched the first two episodes, I felt really conflicted. Within the first minute, I knew it wasn't going to go well. I didn't love it, but I wasn't sure I totally hated it either. There are the discrepancies in Chicago geography I have issues with, but really, that's the least of my problems. The theme song is uninspired (though, fortunately, very brief). Essentially, it's just a few notes with a man singing "For the first time in my life, I see love" - and I don't like the implied idea that the only reason these people have someone to love is because they found someone else who shares their physical characteristics.

The stereotypes are there, and they wear them like badges. wanted so badly to love this scene - fail.The supporting characters are way too over the top - Molly's sister is irritating and obnoxious, her mother is boring and flat (and a total waste of Swoosie Kurtz' acting talent, if you ask me), and Mike's beat partner seems like he's trying too hard to be funny, so he comes off as offensive. Actually, it seems like most of the characters and the dialogue are trying too hard to be funny. Even the non-weight related jokes are often off-color and profoundly awkward. I hate canned laughter, and this show seems to overuse it - if you need to tell us when we should be laughing, it's probably not funny to begin with.

But there were endearing qualities to the show, too. Regardless of what the people around them say, Mike and Molly have good intentions - they're going to Overeaters Anonymous looking for the support they don't get from friends and family. Plus, and I guess it's what initially interested me in the show, I'm intrigued by the idea of two people with issues similar to my own, finding love in the city that I also live in. I've had more than enough bad experiences here, and I want to believe that there's someone in this city with whom I could spend time and who I could get to know and who would be interested in hearing what I have to say and joining me on my journey. Blame it on hormones, but when I was watching it and anything mildly adorable happened, I started bawling. (But even this goes back to my earlier point - the sweet moments were almost all cut short by ridiculous, over-the-top attempts at humor that generally failed.)

While watching the first two episodes, I wondered how long the show could theoretically last. Honestly, where could the show possibly go? If Mike and Molly lose weight, the show loses its premise - and the writers lose most of their jokes. I wondered if it would have been better as a movie, but that brought to mind "Shallow Hal." It was a movie that came out about ten years ago, written and directed by the Farrelly brothers (in retrospect, that should have been the first clue about the content). In the movie, a man named Hal (Jack Black) only dates thin, attractive women - until Tony Robbins uses a hypnotic technique that changes his perception. After the chance meeting, Jack Black's character sees people not as they are physically, but the way they look on the inside. He falls in love with a woman named Rosemary (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) who is kind, loving, genuine, and who has dedicated her life to helping others, and therefore she looks beautiful to him. His best friend, however, recognizes Rosemary as being morbidly obese.

There's a message to be found here, and it's really a shame that the Farrelly brothers - as well as the writers of "Mike and Molly" - go for the quick, cheap laughs rather than really dealing with the issues at hand. Molly gives up working out after burning "12 calories" when her mother and sister start sharing a piece of cake. Mike's beat partner compares hugging him to hugging a futon. Hal and Rosemary share a giant milkshake, and she drinks it at an unbelievable speed. There are a lot more visual gags in the movie, such as seeing the petite Gwyneth Paltrow disrupt the balance in a canoe on a date, or the surprise on Jack Black's face when his character is about to become intimate with Rosemary - she is described as weighing 300 pounds, yet when she tosses him her underpants, and they're large to an extreme. Whatever good intentions there were in the message that the movie seemed to have wanted to convey are lost in a sea of wisecracks.

I'm going to continue to watch "Mike and Molly," and I'm hoping for the best. I wish it were focused on two people who are starting to like each other who also happen to be overweight, and not emphasized the other way around, but who knows, maybe it will hit its stride in the next few episodes. I'm just kind of shocked that with two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese, it seems surprising that movies and shows like these still rely on the cheap gags.

October 1, 2010

Roses and thorns

First and foremost, I can't thank you all enough for your comments and your support after yesterday's post. It really means an awful lot to me, and I'm so happy to know I have such an amazing, supportive community here.

This was a really challenging week. I haven't had a week this tough since the beginning, when I was first getting used to eating well and exercising. Of course, those were different challenges. This week was more emotionally difficult. There was that jerk from Wednesday night, but also, I cried a lot for seemingly no reason. Example: I don't get cable, but I read about the new show "Mike and Molly" on CBS and decided to check it out online. Sobbed almost the entire time. It might just have been period-related hormonally-charged hypersensitivity, but still, it was a lot to deal with.

In spite of the thorns, I managed to have a really successful week. I worked out a lot, ate well, drank lots of water, and started taking a multivitamin. And in the end, I lost six pounds ... which means I have officially met my second weight loss goal. I now weigh less than I did in June 2004 when I had my college entrance physical! I'm down a total of 43 pounds, about 12.5% of my starting weight. I'm only three pounds away from dropping the "3" out front, and that thrills me. I hope my October challenges (The Power of Ten and the 10/10/10 stairathon) will help get me there!

Also, an amazing rose for this week: my kid brother told me that he wrote me a letter in school and then he mailed it to me. (He's 9 and in fourth grade.) It was just what I needed to find on Tuesday. An excerpt:

thanks daniel fatrick

A-stinkin'-dorable. I miss that kid so much.

September 30, 2010


Dear man in the passenger seat of an SUV,

Thank you!

You know, if you hadn't yelled anything out your car window, I would never have known that I'm fat! I mean, there are all the mirrors I see myself every day, and the thousands of clothing stores I can't shop in, but I never knew what it all meant. For the record, yelling out your window "Miz lady, do you know where a good milkshake's at?" several times is not only grammatically incorrect, but it's quite unoriginal. I'm afraid a boy named John beat you to it in middle school when he said his friend Sara was hungry and could I share some of my Twinkies with her? Of course, I didn't have any Twinkies in my backpack - I had never even tried one at that point - but that was hardly what mattered.

Sir, today I have eaten healthy, well-balanced meals. I went out with friends and managed to make great choices - unsweetened tea and one madeleine! I climbed thirty-two flights of stairs, and when I got home, I continued to choose to eat well as I prepared my dinner, and then I worked on the Wii Fit for over an hour. I don't officially weigh myself until Fridays, but as of yesterday morning when I woke up, I have lost over forty pounds - about twelve percent of my starting body weight - in the past two months. I'm eating well, I am exercising regularly, and for the first time in my nearly twenty-four years of life, I am trying to develop a healthy body image. But I still have a very, very long road ahead of me, so thank you also for helping keep me focused.

When I got home from work tonight, I dropped all my things on the couch, took off my sneakers, and collapsed in my bed, sobbing. I'm sure it affected me more than usual because I'm having an emotional week, but still, I hate that people like you have so much power over me. It's very difficult to have to live with this glass-half-empty society. My forty-two pound weight loss is unknown to you; all you notice are the one hundred sixty-eight I still have to lose.

I don't want to point fingers and blame anyone, but maybe something happened to you in your life that made you think it was okay to be mean to other people. I hope you don't say things like that to the people in your life, and I'm not sure what makes you think it's okay to say it to a stranger. I'm someones daughter. I'm a sister and a friend. I'm a teacher. And I'm a human being with problems and challenges that you are completely unaware of.

Plato once wrote that people should "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Sir, please know that every single day is one of the hardest days of my life. And it's like that for a lot of people. Maybe even for you! I don't know. So my parting words will be a little advice for you. It's simple advice, but effective. Please know this: if you don't have anything nice to say, you really shouldn't say anything at all.



il faut que je parie tout

September 29, 2010

You! The Experience

On Monday,msi chicago dot org I spent a good part of the day enjoying free admission at the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago. Out of the dozens of museums in the city, MSI is my clear favorite. They always have new interesting things, and even after having visited a half dozen times, I can still easily spend five or six hours there.

I think one of my favorite things about MSI is how totally hands-on it is - and not just in the children's area. There is a section on farming with real John Deere combines you can climb up into, and in the new Science Storms area you can stand in a stall and feel what it's like to have wind blowing on you at 80 mph. There's even a replica of Chicago's State Street from the turn of the century, complete with a mini movie theater that plays short silent films every single day!

There were entry to YTEthree main reasons why I went to MSI on Monday. First, it was free admission day. Second, there was a special temporary exhibit on Jim Henson (which was a-mazing). And third, because the last time I went, one of their permanent exhibits was being renovated. It's called "You! The Experience!" and it just reopened a few months ago. This time, I got the opportunity to fully experience it.

The whole area focuses on exactly what you think it would: you! And not just the physical aspects. There's a section where you can make a list of things you would like to accomplish in your life (mine had things like "travel to the place where my ancestors are from" and "start a family"), and another where you get asked questions (like "Who would you go to if you had a problem?" or "Who would you lend money to?") and you type in people you know, love and trust - then it makes a web around your name showing all the love and support you have in your life.

There's ultra-obese thigh sectiona big section on the human body, complete with models of bones, muscles, and organs. There's a giant replica of a human heart and when you hold your hands on a sensor, the heart beats the same as yours does - the same technology as the heart rate monitor on a piece of exercise equipment, except an amazingly large visual. And there are areas that show what a good healthy organ looks like, and what an unhealthy one looks like - for example, this cross-section of a thigh. The piece on top is "ultra-obese."

I really loved the area about exercise and nutrition. There's a human-sized hamster wheel that I really wanted to try, but there were tons of schools there on field trips and the line was about two dozen kids deep. The nutrition part was really amazing - there's a part where you enter what you ate/drank the day before to add to an all-visitors tally, plus it shows you if you're eating enough or too much of each food group. There was another area with a bowl of jelly beans, a can of soda pop, and a candy bar. You go to lift each one up, but the weight is equivalent to what weight you would gain if you consumed the item every single day. The candy bar weighed like thirty pounds!

One of the grossest things, though, was a Twinkie they had in a display case. They put it in there the day the exhibit opened, and it still looks completely unaffected. The sign next to it makes a simple but effective case:
Many tongue-twisting ingredients, like the Twinkie's chemical preservatives, keep products from spoiling. But is a long shelf life best for your life? Fortunately, you don't need a chemistry degree to identify "real" food. Just ask yourself: Do farmers grow this? Did Grandma use it? Can I pronounce it?

September 28, 2010

My Tootsie Roll moment

Earlier this year, there was a period of about a month where I was completely uncertain about what I was going to do with my life. I had decided shortly after my birthday last November to indefinitely postpone my doctoral work, for several reasons: first, because I wanted to take some time and focus on getting healthy, and also, because I constantly felt like school was killing my creativity and I feared losing my joyful life.

In the second week of April, I had my oral defense of my research. After my panel discussed, they called me back into the conference room and greeted me with "Congratulations, Master!" hanging in my office with my BA just like a doctors officeIt was bittersweet. It was a huge relief, because it meant I had passed all three of my exams and could now graduate. But with passing also came incredible anxiety - I am the kind of person who absolutely always needs a plan, and now, there was a massive uncertainty. Since I was four years old, the routine has always been centered on a school year. Now, I had to actively think about what my next step was.

Luckily or not, I'm not married and I don't have any kids, so when looking for jobs, I didn't have any real location restrictions - wherever the wind took me, I would be fine. I wanted to stay in Chicago, but if I couldn't, I was sure I'd end up where I needed to be. Unfortunately, looking for university teaching positions in the city was futile. I applied for lecturer positions in Boston and New Jersey, and didn't hear anything for months. Somewhat jokingly, I started looking around Chicago for whatever job seemed interesting - it didn't have to be academic, since I figured I could certainly benefit from a change of scenery. One of the places I looked at was the Tootsie Roll factory on the South Side of Chicago.

Something interesting about the Tootsie Roll factory is that they let their employees have as much free candy as they want. (In fact, one of the requirements on their job posting page requires that applicants are "not adverse [sic] to sharing your workspace with giant bowls of tasty, complimentary candy.") When I told my brother about it, he flipped out. To a little kid, that sounded incredible. Too good to be true, even. that's just too much, lucy...As an adult, though, I can stand back and recognize that when things sound too good to be true, they usually are.

It's actually a really brilliant plan on the part of the Tootsie company. There's very little risk of theft since the employees can take as much as they want, and typically, when people are allowed (or even encouraged) to indulge themselves on one thing, they grow so sick of it that it can even repulse them. So while new employees might help themselves to plenty of Tootsie Rolls and Pops, odds are that most people only grab things here and there to give to family, friends, and neighbors - because if you had to smell Tootsie products for eight hours a day while on your factory shift, the last thing you probably want when you leave is even more of that.

With my struggles with food and binge eating, I think I was always waiting for my "Tootsie Roll moment," the rock bottom moment when I got sick of eating the way that I did. I thought it would be a miraculous instance where I suddenly saw the light and reformed my habits - and in the meantime, I maintained my self-destructive tendencies, secretly eating massive amounts of unhealthy food. One of the most important things to learn (and also one of the most difficult) is that there is no moment of revelation when your eating habits magically transform themselves. It's a process, a journey of self-education, and it takes a little time.

Now, about two months after I started eating better, thinking about eating two or three cheeseburgers or whole half gallons of ice cream nauseates me. I still want to enjoy these things from time to time, but within reason - and definitely not in excess, never again. After so many years of binge eating, and after finally seeing how amazing it feels to nourish my body with reasonable amounts of whole, healthy foods, it's becoming easier and easier every day to turn down these equivalents of the giant bowl of Tootsie Rolls.

September 27, 2010

How it feels

My participation in Saturday's race was almost entirely due to my friend Ellen telling me about it. I knew it was in Chicago and saw the ads all over the city buses, but it wasn't anything I had seriously considered. start - and the lovely sears tower!But she told me that her boyfriend's family puts a team together every year and that they're always looking for more people to join, so I quickly signed up.

I met Ellen in 2008 when we were starting our French lit MA program together; after we graduated in May, we were both hired as lecturers, so now we share an office. She's one of the sweetest, most adorable people I've ever met - she used to teach kindergarten, and I think that's one of the best ways to visualize her temperament. Out of respect for her privacy, I'm not going to post a photo of her, but I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said she weighed a third of what I used to.

As we were walking together on Saturday morning, we were talking about how I've been doing and I mentioned that I feel so much better already even though I still have a long way to go, and that I could physically feel a difference when doing certain things, such as when I put my hands on my hips. I also said that since trying to get more active, it has been really amazing waking up without any aches or pains - and that seemed to really shock her. She paused, and then she asked me a really interesting question:
"What does it feel like?"
I've been obese for so long that I don't remember what it feels like being anything else. I have expert knowledge of what it feels like - both physically and emotionally - to gain and lose the same five pounds. But the day-to-day? I'm not sure I've ever actively thought about describing what it feels like to live in a body like this. Mostly because no one's ever asked, and because the people I tend to surround myself are in the same shape as I am - not to the extent that I am, but not as tiny as Ellen is - so they have a general idea.

So what *did* 345 pounds feel like? I read once about some thin actress or model wearing a "fat suit" and going out in public to see what it was like to walk in the shoes of an obese person. Socially, she felt some of the effects, but I wonder how much the suit weighed. Obesity is much more than emotionally painful. Carrying around an extra two hundred pounds makes every single day a challenge. Every task is difficult and more painful when you have to carry excess weight on top of it all. I still had to wake up and shower, occasionally run to catch the bus, stand in front of my class to teach, sit in my lectures and take notes, grocery shop, prepare meals, clean the apartment, and everything else - all while weighing as much as 2.25 baby beluga whales (or 2-4 baby cows) (or 115 baby piglets).

This summer was awfully hot, even for an average-sized person, but I had an extra two hundred or so pounds I was lugging around. A great deal of my weight is on my stomach, where there are two distinct sections I usually refer to as "the top fat" and "the bottom fat." This picture is from when I was in Connecticut this July:

at or around 345 lbs., 9 july 2010 - never again
I'm smiling, but I'm not happy. Between the heat, poor eating habits, and general inactivity, my bottom fat was starting to hurt. For the first time, it felt difficult to sleep because it got in the way (I'm a stomach sleeper). I tried sleeping on my back so it wouldn't hurt, but it felt like the fat on my chin and neck were affecting my breathing. It devastated me. My dad has to sleep with a special machine to help him breathe at night, and I didn't want that to happen to me. Even things like showering and going to the bathroom were becoming difficult and awkward because of my size. I had to do something - I'm only 23, I shouldn't need help with basic life functions all because I can't control what I am eating or how physically active I am.

When I returned to Chicago, I sprung into action. Now, a few months and nearly forty pounds later, that picture is starting to not really look like me anymore.

same shirt!same shirt!
My face is thinning out, my arms are developing some tone, and both the top and bottom fat have shrunk. I'm more flexible, I have better balance, and I can conduct my daily business with ease. I sleep without stomach pain and I wake without back pain. It's amazing, and I love realizing how much better I feel with every day. Best of all, I'm getting back to smiling and meaning it, which is incredibly worth it.

(Side note, yes, I know my eyebrows are a disaster. My 50 lb. weight loss reward is going to be a haircut and eyebrow waxing - no more awful bushy brows for me! At least for a few weeks anyway...)

September 26, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

My positive sign for the week:

about to cross the finish line!
(My friend took the picture so you probably can't read the sign - "beautiful and strong," with arrows pointing at me *and* at everyone around me!)

I walked the Race for the Cure 5k yesterday and it was absolutely incredible. It was a really emotional event, and I had to fight back tears a few times. First, because there were so many people there rallying for a cause that has affected them personally. And also because, for the first time in my life, I crossed a finish line. I can usually walk a mile in about 15 minutes, but since I was walking with my friend and we were chatting the whole time, we finished the 3.1 miles in a little under an hour. And I'm perfectly okay with that.

Challenge start weight: 332
Current weight: 308

(Down another 5 from last week - two more 'til my next mini-goal, I am SO excited!!!)

Progress on my DDGbG goals: My mom (who isn't entirely tech savvy) left notes for my sisters and me on Facebook the other day. Technically one of my goals was for ME to tell MY FAMILY how much I love them, but this was too cute not to share:

aww mom, you're so cute
She's so cute!

My recipe for this week wasn't so much a recipe as a fancy marinade and a new food I've never tried before. A grocery store in my hometown just got bought out by another company so anything that had the old company's price stickers on it got sold at a reduced price. My mom bought up a bunch of organic Indian spice packets - usually $5 each, on clearance for $1. Awesome job, Mom!

So, I made the goan fish curry and served it with lentils. The marinade was made with lemon juice, olive oil, and the spice packet - which contained organic paprika, cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger, chilies, onion, black pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, and mace. I only made 1/3 of the marinade and put the rest of the spice packet in with the cooking lentils, which gave them a subtle spiciness.

The marinade was delicious - spicy but citrus-y, and not too much of either. The problem came with my choice of fish. I grew up on the East Coast and I'm not sure we ever bought fish - goan fish and lentilsmy dad would go on chartered deep sea fishing trips with some of the doctors he worked with, and he'd bring home a thirty to forty pound striped bass that they cleaned and cut into steaks on the boat. Now that I live in Chicago, it's a different story. The only readily accessible and budget-friendly fish here is tilapia - which is delicious, but has a very plain flavor. I have another packet of the spices, and I think next time I will go to Whole Foods and splurge on a good piece of salmon or something that would better compliment the flavor of the marinade.

The lentils, on the other hand, were delicious, and I may have found a new favorite side dish. They're easy to make, have tons of fiber, and they're totally tasty! I want to look for more recipes that feature them - I can see doing them with tomatoes or something else acidic and wonderful.

ONE thing that you are proud of for the week: Deciding to take a day just for me to go and enjoy having a flexible and amazing grown-up job! I usually work 9-5 Monday to Friday, coming in before I teach and staying afterwards to catch up on grading, lesson planning, and whatnot. But I worked a little yesterday and I'm going into work today to grade student compositions and exams so that I can take tomorrow off and go to the Museum of Science and Industry since it's free tomorrow and they have a special exhibit on Jim Henson! (They also have an epic regular exhibit on the human body that they just did a huge renovation of - I haven't seen it since it reopened, but I'm sure I'll write about it later this week!)

ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week: Staying positive. I love seeing the numbers on the scale drop, and I can feel the changes in and on my body, but I still avoid looking at my shadows or looking in mirrors. Physically, I feel gorgeous, but seeing how much work I still have to do gets me down. I know it's totally the wrong way to be looking at this, but it's an old habit that's dying awfully hard. So for this week, I want to start falling in love with the girl in the mirror as she melts away!