October 23, 2010

Méli-mélo

This post is going to be a méli-mélo, a mish-mash, a little bit of everything.

1 - Today totally sweet race shirtI am walking a 5k for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum! I am really excited. My number is 500 - which is oddly round and even. I hope it's lucky! The Race for the Cure walk was with a friend, so we talked a lot during it and walked casually - also, it was almost 20 pounds ago! So hopefully at this race my time will improve a little.

2 - Thank you everyone for your comments this week on a bunch of different entries, especially the one about letting friends/family read your blogs. Luckily my mom is the kind of lady who asks once, then lets it go, so it's not a major pressing problem, but the main thing I need to focus on is taking care of myself. I am such a firstborn in the sense that I always want to be taking care of others, making sure everyone is getting what they need without first considering if I can say the same for myself.

And also for the comments on the entry about dating. It was tough to write but clearing my head felt like a relief, and your comments meant a lot to me. I need to work on my relationship with myself before I seek relationships with others, but that's easier said than done on nights when you just want to have someone waiting at home to ask how your day was. It's tough, but in due time...

3 - Great NSV this week - cute little pink beadsI can feel that my arms, wrists, and hands are thinning out, so I decided to try on a bracelet that one of my old students made me. Her family is from India and they make jewelry for special occasions, so she made me a necklace and bracelet before my Masters exams. I wore the necklace to graduation but the bracelet was just a little too small. Now, it's a little too BIG! Awesome.

The note says: Miss G - Good luck on Monday! You are going to do an excellent job! My mom and I made you some jewelry. I hope that you like them! Your student, Sarina (This student, whom I had for two semesters, is not only the sweetest kid on the planet, but she even decided to minor in French because she loved my class so much - so I got her a dictionary and taught her how to make macarons, these delightful little French meringue cookies that I used to make for my students all the time.)

4 - And speaking of students, I had the best day teaching yesterday. I gave my problem students a talk and said that I understood it was a busy time of the semester and that I understood because I too was once a student, but I cannot push exams back, so we need to be staying on top of things - so, in class, let's relax a little and do some fun activities and then this weekend, you'll rest, eat your Wheaties, and come back Tuesday ready to give week 10 your all. This week we're reviewing two past tenses (one for descriptions and repeated, habitual actions; the other for precise moments or limited times), so I made a ton of overheads with quotes from French translations of books they knew - like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the first Harry Potter book. Then I made them a great worksheet with fairy tales and had them work on them with partners. They reacted amazingly well, which was great - and in my afternoon class, a kid stayed after to tell me it was the best day in class of any of his classes all year. Totally awesome teacher moment!

5 - I am so glad that I take work stresses out on the track, on the elliptical, or on the Wii Fit. I get a much more satisfying feeling from sweating out my frustration than from burying it in calories! I really like this new me, even if the physical changes feel a little weird sometimes. (I'm still not entirely used to the reduced effort it takes to get out of bed!)

October 22, 2010

Roses and thorns

What a week! This has been an awfully busy week, with some roses but also more than its share of thorns.

Thorns first, I'm having a few problems at work. There are challenges presenting themselves in some of my classes, and it's been really stressful. I understand it's midterms, but there are really no excuses for students to not be completing homework or not speaking in the target language in class. I try to be compassionate and empathetic - I was once a student, too! - but kids tend to take advantage of being given a little extra freedom. Hopefully it sorts itself out today, otherwise I'll make a meeting with my director next week.

I think it's especially hard because two of the classes I teach are the same course, and despite my morning class' problems with comprehension and completing assignments, my afternoon class is not only meets but exceeds my expectations. So as much as I sometimes take things like this personally, I can't, because the materials are the exact same for both classes.

Another, less-stressful thorn, is how strangely hungry I was this week. There were a couple days when I was just insatiable. So I combatted it the best I could with healthy snacks - like baby carrots, or a couple of hard-boiled egg whites with a drop of spicy buffalo sauce (just enough heat to give it a little kick!).

That said, my weight for this week is down another four pounds - 292!!! A delightful info-graphic:

progress!
I'm back on track post-Katie's visit, and I'm feeling great. I finally signed up for the gym, which helps - I forgot how much I love the elliptical machine! Wednesday night I was feeling exceptionally grouchy because of teaching stress, and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep. But I checked my pedometer, and it said I only had 1736 steps - yikes! So I went home, got off the bus early and walked six blocks, then headed to the gym where I walked a lot and did two turns on the elliptical. My spirits were lifted incredibly - I left smiling! And I ended up logging over 14k steps for the day. It's amazing, the correlation between my attitude and my steps...

292 also means meeting short-term goal number four: making a liar out of the weight on my licence! (But in the good way this time!)

it's pretty darn close.
[[ Apparently, Photobucket has a problem with the actual license picture. This will have to suffice. ]]

I looked back in my old diaries, and there are three lies in this picture. That day, I was 301. That day, I said 295. And today, I am 292.

Some more visuals:

My student ID card that got denied at the gym - August 2008, about 325 pounds. Notice how I'm not smiling - that's no accident.
are ID photos ever flattering?
And of course, the new faculty ID I got on Monday - somewhere between 296 and 292. Still wearing pearls, but this time, I'm kinda sorta smiling!
wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the flash
And my passport (sorry for the grainy image) - this was early 2008, and my weight was probably around 315 or 320.
and the messy braids? what was i thinking?
I'm quite pleased with my progress!

How was your week?

October 21, 2010

Privacy

Since my family lives nearly nine hundred miles away, our main modes of communication are phone calls and video chatting. With all the frustrations that come with modern technology, I have to say, I'm still glad for video chat. I get to see my family every now and then, which helps me feel less homesick during the six months between visits. We can catch up on daily life - my brother tells me about school (and, invariably, the latest Lego creation he's made), my sisters talk about friends and how work or school is going, my mom complains about my dad, my dad complains about my mom, and I miss them all. I even miss my mom when she shows me the spinach bread she just made, or when she eats a cupcake and describes just how delicious every single bite is. Jerk.

a family portrait, of sorts
I tell them what I am up to with work and the things I've done around Chicago. I try to tell them about healthy recipes, but that's usually met with a "Oh, that sounds good - you know what would make it even better?" and then a list of four or five things I can't be touching with ten-foot poles. I tell them a few things about exercising and losing weight, but not much. They know I walked the 5k and that I did the stairathon, but I haven't updated them on numeric losses in about twenty pounds. It's apparent when they see me that I've lost weight, but I haven't given specifics. One of the worst moments of the past week was when my mom and my sister Lisa were chatting with me, and Mom says I look good but the first thing out of Lisa's mouth is "Your boobs look smaller." *sigh* Don't remind me...

One of the things I was talking about a few weeks ago was how much I love blogging and the community that I have found here. My mom first asked what a blog was (she's not the most tech savvy lady on the planet), then asked if she could read it. And it took a lot for me to say no. I want my family to know that I am doing well, but I feel very conflicted into letting them into this little corner of my life.

This blog is very therapeutic for me - it's a space to clear my head, and I feel safe here. Sometimes it surprises me how honest I am about things here, because in real life, I'm a fairly secretive person. I have a few close friends, and I feel I can tell a lot of things to my family, but in general, I'm very guarded. I don't usually let people get very close - which I am certain is weight-related. I've always felt weak because of my weight, so being very private and closed off makes me tough and strong ... or at least, I have always justified it that way.

Lately I have wondered if I should let my mom read it, or my sisters, or friends. I want them all to have the healthiest life possible, and maybe seeing my progress might help them? Someone on the Twitter Fitblog chat Tuesday night expressed it perfectly: I can't motivate my family/friends, but I can inspire them. And I think that is just what my family needs. I don't think they even own a scale, and the last time my mom said anything about my weight was in sixth grade maybe (I remember it very clearly - we had a talk in the car after my yearly checkup, and she said we needed to get healthy as a family, and we were going to McDonald's for lunch as a "last hurrah.") If they could see that big, glaring 345, maybe it might hit them just how bad the problem is? My parents are sweet and loving but very blind to how serious the weight problem is in our family.

may 2010 outside shedd aquarium
I'm just so worried for them, that's all. I want my dad to live long enough to meet his grandkids. I don't want my mom to have diet-related heart problems like her mother did. (I don't think I ever saw my grammy eat anything besides grilled cheese or chocolate chip cookies.) I don't want my sisters - or anyone, for that matter - to end up as big as I was. I want my brother to grow up and take every opportunity he wants without feeling restricted by his size and without being picked on for being fat.

What about you - do your family/friends know you blog? Do they read it?

October 20, 2010

Part of Your World

The other morning, shortly after I got to the office, a friend of mine came in and we started talking about our weekends. She's having man troubles, and I listened attentively and tried to give advice the best I could. I'm a great listener, but I'm always hesitant to give relationship advice since I have so little experience in the area. It's embarrassing to admit, but at nearly 24 years old, I've never had a real relationship with a guy. good listenerThe closest thing was about four years ago - it lasted about a month, then ended suddenly, devastating me for about three years - much longer than it should have. (But that's an entry I'll save for a day when I'm feeling much stronger.)

With dating, I've always felt hindered by my weight. I generally avoided trying to meet guys for the longest time because I didn't want to get hurt, and I didn't see it ending any other way but painfully. To me, fat was a personality trait - no guy would want to date me as long as I was over 135 pounds, and if a guy *did* talk to me, he was probably making fun of me, or else he was on a dare. In college, I met a few interesting guys, all of whom were already seeing someone, or who thought I was interesting and brilliant, but who could not deal with the thought of dating someone at that weight.

While in college, a friend suggested online dating, where I could talk about myself and get to know someone before meeting up. Naturally, I hesitated. I guess part of my apprehension is from my expectations. My Disney Princess fantasy has little to do with a perfect body, but with the allure of chance meetings. My grandparents met on the beach, my parents met in an elevator. I've been raised to expect some delightful happenstance. The storyteller in me practically demands it. part of your worldAnd, as awkward and painful as it is sure to be, I want to get to know someone "the old-fashioned way." I don't want someone to know everything about me before we even go out. I'm not knocking it by any means - one of my very good friends is engaged to a great guy she met online. In theory, it's a great way to meet people, but in practice, I'm just not sure it's the right thing for me. I want to believe that, in a city of nearly three million people, there has to be someone else out there who sees the world in the beautiful way that I do, who also has a story to tell.

Nevertheless, I tried it, and the results were dismal. My one kinda/sorta relationship was with a guy I met online, and unfortunately, that failure was the best of the bunch. Generally, the guys I've met were profoundly shy - and while I am also fairly shy initially, I warm up quickly and have a pretty outgoing personality. There's a fine line between shy and socially awkward, and one of my big problems I have found with online dating is finding guys on my side.

The other big issue I have with online dating is some of the terminology. Even if I fit the description, I hate being called a "BBW." And I hate the idea of someone seeking me out because I am one. Every guy I've ever talked to or gone out with has had a "fat fetish." I don't think I ask for very much, but I'd like to meet someone who likes me despite my weight, not because of it. I understand that everyone has personal preferences, but it just feels like there's a difference between someone being attracted to you and striking up a conversation on the street, and someone openly declaring the preference. come, winds of the caspian seaI had been e-mailing a guy this summer who was not only exclusively interested in BBW's, but he discouraged my wanting to lose weight, saying he knew a lot of healthy people who were 5, even 600 pounds. When he told me he had gained over 100 pounds in the last year and a half and that he had a weight gain/feeding fetish, it was over. Come to think about it, most of the guys I've met online have been at least this bizarre. They tend to be guys I wouldn't approach in real life, but since they seem open to meeting someone like me, I try to convince myself that I will warm up to the oddities and that the whole "chubby chaser" thing doesn't bother me.

Whenever I've tried to meet people online, I always sell myself short. I fear elevating their expectations - if you meet someone in real life, they see you and they get to know you bit by bit. It seems my attempts at online dating have all essentially been an effort to convince someone I am worth dating regardless of the body I am living in. It's like advertising - I have a product to sell, and I have to make sure to describe it accurately. If I say it's a Porsche 911, they're going to be pretty upset when I deliver a Honda Civic. But if I talk up the Civic enough, they might be convinced that despite the flashier and faster cars out there, this one is comfortable and reliable and a good investment.

It's the wrong way to think about dating, about love, about my body - trust me, I know. But part of my problem is that it's the only way I've known for so long. i love you, daddy - that ALWAYS gets meI've always overemphasized what positive traits I have in hope of convincing some guy that I'm someone he'd like to know.

I think this all relates to the "emotional weight loss" I need. I'm doing fine with the physical weight, but adapting to life as a formerly obese person is not going to be easy. I think the fantasy runs parallel to the idea that getting everything you've ever wanted leads to living happily ever after. It does, of course. But there's a long journey between the exposition, the rising and then falling action, and the final dénouement.

October 19, 2010

Southwestern falafel with avocado spread

Last night when I started writing this entry, it went in about ten different directions, and it got pretty emotional. I'm fine, I just had a lot of ideas and no clear path for explaining them. So, I abandoned it for the night, and I decided to sleep on my thoughts. I'll have an actual story to tell tomorrow.

For today, I'd like to share a recipe I found in Cooking Light about a year ago: Southwestern falafel with avocado spread. I made it, and I fell in love. I made it for my sister Katie, who raved about it. I made it for my dad when he came out to visit last year on St. Patrick's Day weekend, and even he loved it! So that means it's a win for me.

yummm! photo from cooking light
Southwestern Falafel with Avocado Spread

Patties:
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup finely crushed baked tortilla chips (about 3/4 ounce)
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil

Avocado spread:
1/4 cup mashed peeled avocado
2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomato
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 (6-inch) pitas, each cut in half crosswise

1. To prepare patties, place pinto beans in a medium bowl; partially mash with a fork. Add Monterey Jack cheese and next 5 ingredients; stir until well-combined. Form into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) oval patties.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until patties are browned and thoroughly heated.
3. To prepare avocado spread, while patties cook, combine avocado, tomato, red onion, sour cream, juice, and salt. Place one patty in each pita half. Spread about 2 tablespoons avocado spread over patty in each pita half.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 stuffed pita half).
Cumin is such a terrific spice - not everyone likes it, but personally, I can't get enough. I usually take it easy on the cilantro - it's not a flavor I particularly enjoy, but I don't mind it in very small amounts. And I skip the sour cream and just put slices of avocado on top - I don't trust fat-free sour cream ... I mean, it's cream - if you take all the fat out, what are you eating besides chemicals? I'd rather just have plain avocado, one of nature's most delicious and perfect foods.

October 18, 2010

My first run

Yesterday, I finally went down to the gym at the university where I work. I had been putting off registering since I had been walking around my neighborhood and I wanted to enjoy the nice weather before the Chicago winter decides to roll in, but since I was starting the Couch-to-5k program, I wanted somewhere level and even to work on. Secretly, I also just wanted to be off the street so no one could make me feel bad. It's hard enough when I'm walking and people yell things from their cars (it happens more than I'd like to admit), but if it happened during this, a major step that I'm taking? I can't risk letting some jerk's baseless remarks get me down and make me lose my focus.

I walked in confidently - after all, the last time I was there was this summer, nearly fifty pounds ago! I handed the girl my ID card, and said I would like to apply for a membership. Then she told me I had the wrong kind of ID card, and she couldn't register me. (Whoops ... who knew faculty members need faculty ID cards? This girl was probably like, "You teach here?!") Luckily, though, she said I could still come in and work out for the day. I guess showing up in workout clothes and my fancy new running shoes made my intentions pretty clear. I put my purse in a locker and took off my glasses. I grabbed my water bottle, my stopwatch, and my Couch-to-5k Week 1 plan, and headed upstairs.

There are two gyms at this school, one on the East side and one on the West side of campus, and they're actually really nice - they just got renovated a few years ago with some of the money the school got for letting the movie "Stranger than Fiction" get filmed on campus.sfc The gym I use is on the West side, and technically it's just down the road from where I live. (In the city, that's kind of a relative term. It's only about two miles away, or fifteen blocks. Five minutes tops on the bus.) There's a pool, basketball courts, weights, and cardio machines. Above the main area with the weights and machines, there is a running track; above the basketball court, there's a walking track and a couple machines - those are the machines I almost always used to use since there are only a few and no one ever uses them, so I could work out without anyone looking at me. (One of my non-scale goals is to ease back into the main room.)

The logic is that the walking track is just for walking, but the running track has three lanes and can be used for walking or running. When I asked the girl running the main room which track I should use to alternate jogging and walking, she said it wasn't busy so I could use either, so I chose the running track. I'd never been up there before, though I'd seen people running it all the time. It was a terrific feeling to be up there, even before I started to jog. I could see everything and everyone. It reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite books, "Bee Season," when the main character (a girl who is constantly reminded of how unremarkable and average she is) wins her class spelling bee:
"Steven Sills spells WEIRD with the I before the E. Eliza spells it with the E before the I and is the last left standing. As she surveys the tops of the heads of her seated classmates she thinks, So this is what it's like to be tall."
I put down my water bottle and my locker key and stood in the lane closest to the window. I held on to my stopwatch and my index card, and then ... I was off. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the first day of my stair training. I started off great and full of adrenaline, so much so that I had to force myself to slow down and recognize that even though I was excited, there was no way I could make twenty minutes at that speed, not without hurting myself. By the second jog, my legs were feeling heavy, but not painful. As I eased into it, though, it felt more comfortable, and I finished without breathing ridiculously heavy or feeling faint. It didn't kill me - in fact, I really enjoyed it!

It was really a remarkable experience. The last time I did anything close to running (besides running for the bus) was during high school fitness testing, which I think has an opposite effect than intended and ends up souring a lot of people on fitness. Running for fitness is not the same as running for your life. It's not necessarily instinctive. We were never explicitly taught how to run, and so whenever running the mile came up at school, I would run as fast as I could, which lasted for the first half a lap, then I would have to finish by walking, panting hard for the next four and half laps. I can recall at least twice when a teacher told me I had finished even though I knew I still had a half or full lap to go, just because I was keeping everyone else outside waiting. (I never said anything because it was humiliating, and also because I would have given anything to be able to stop walking around the football field.)

This time, though, it felt manageable. I didn't feel overexerted, and even though it's a long way until the end of the program, it seems like a good, appropriate challenge for me. I'm really looking forward to running a mile without stopping for the first time in my life!

stealthily taken in the locker room - i was SO proud
The Cto5k plan has you work three days a week, so my training days will be Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Today, I will be heading to the card office for a faculty ID card (if it takes a new picture, I'll have to post it! My old student ID card is about two years younger and thirty pounds heavier). And Tuesday, I'll be back on that track, ready to give it my all again!

October 17, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

My positive sign for the week:

maybe love won't let you down
Lyrics from a great song off the "More Adventurous" album by Rilo Kiley, one of my favorite bands. I got the album from a stranger and I am destined to pass it on. That CD changed my life - I have two different quotes from it tattooed on my body, it's that meaningful.

Challenge start weight: 332
Current weight: 296

progress
A one pound loss this week has me focusing on the long-term bigger picture - despite having spent the last two weeks feeling mopey and down, I'm still doing well and making progress.

Progress on my DDGbG goals: (1) Yesterday was pay day, so I put away my monthly $50! Actually, I put away $100 this month instead of $50 - we'll see how my budget manages without it, but I should be fine. I'm hoping to spend it on a siblings-only overnight trip in December, so I want to save as much as I can!

(2) I'm putting together a package for my little brother with some things from Chinatown that he likes (fancy erasers and Pocky), some pencils that change color from the Museum of Science and Industry, some temporary tattoos, and a few Phineas and Ferb notebooks from the Dollar Spot at Target. I just have to write a letter and decorate the box, and it should be all set to ship on Monday!

(3) For this week's recipe, I kind of improvised. I had ground lamb in the freezer and I wanted to use it, but I wasn't sure how. When I bought the lamb, my intention was gyro pizza, the recipe for which is my own creation, and it is even more delicious than I had imagined. (Side note: one strange thing I do more often than I should is think of names for restaurants or movie titles based on bad puns. Gyro pizza was the inspiration for a Greek/Italian fusion restaurant called "La Dolce Pita." Ridiculously bad jokes are definitely inherited from my father.) Pastitsio was also completely off limits, so I thought about what would be delicious and then I went to the store. I ended up making an orzo salad with ground lamb, spinach, tomatoes, and feta. Delightful!

yum!
Cook 4 oz. of orzo pasta according to the instructions on the package (make sure it is al dente and not overdone!). While that is cooking, brown 4 oz. of ground lamb. Drain the fat and then add 3 cloves of garlic (well minced) and 4 oz. of thawed frozen spinach, mixing them together over medium heat. When the spinach is heated through, stir in two small chopped plum tomatoes. When the pasta is done, drain it and then put it in a mixing bowl. Add the meat and veg mixture, and combine well. When serving, sprinkle 1 oz. of feta cheese over the top per serving.
That made about two servings. It was good hot and even better cold the next day because all the flavors got to mix together - amazing.

ONE thing that you are proud of for the week: so adorable!Investing in something good for me. In the past, I could spend $30-50 on a binge and not flinch. Now, I am trying to focus my financial energy on things that will benefit me instead of hurting me. I registered for two 5k walks that are coming up pretty soon, and since I am working on the Couch-to-5k program (and since my Pumas are just not cutting it anymore) I went to New Balance for a pair of running shoes. They did a gait analysis which was super cool - it's interesting, I watched the playback not thinking "Oh my goodness, look how big my calves are!," but "Oh my goodness, I was running!" It was really kind of nice.

Another total hot stuffwonderful moment: last Monday, I wore two amazing things to the Belle and Sebastian concert. One, a dress I bought this summer that was super cute but exceptionally tight - now, it fits nicely! And two, a pair of leggings I gave to my sister since they were to small for me - she let me have them back since now they fit! It's not the best picture, but I looked pretty nice that night, and I felt even better. Such a huge boost of confidence! And I'm really glad I got to wear the dress at least once, since it's a summer dress and I hope that by next summer it's too big!

ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week: This week, I want to remind myself every day that I am doing well - I'm looking good, I'm feeling great, and I'm really committed to living a healthy life.