November 27, 2010

The Zax

When I was a little kid, my sisters and I weren't allowed to watch TV. We didn't mind - we were always reading or doing something imaginative. My parents (my mom especially) really valued creativity, and I'm really grateful for that. We weren't completely deprived of kid experiences, though, so some movies were allowed. main titlesWhen we watched movies, it was either Disney stuff, or any of the VHS tapes we could rent at the library. Some of our favorite movies from the library were the old 1960's cartoons - especially the French cartoon "Astérix et Cléopatre" dubbed into English, and musical Dr. Seuss cartoons.

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss tapes was called "Seuss on the Loose," and it had cartoon versions of three stories: "Green Eggs and Ham," "The Sneetches," and "The Zax." The first everyone has heard of, and the second is surprisingly well-known. The third, though, I find most people have not heard of, and it's really a shame, because like all of the best Dr. Seuss stories, there's a really valuable lesson to be learned.

One day, two Zax are walking: one is headed north, the other is headed south. They are headed towards the same point, and they finally bump into one another in the Prairie of Prax (ah, rhyming ... it is, after all, a story by Dr. Seuss). i learned as a boy in south going school - never budge, that's my ruleThey both tell the other to step aside so that they can keep moving, but neither one will take even the slightest step off his path. The North-going Zax says he's content to stay put even if it takes fifty-nine days; not to be outdone, the South-going Zax reaffirms that not only will he take "not a step to the West, not a step to the East," but that he would stay there in his spot for fifty-nine years.

The South-going Zax continues: "I'll stay here not budging, I can and I will, if makes you and me and the whole world stand still." Unfortunately for the Zax, though, he's wrong. Life carries on, and those two Zax the only ones that stay put - a city and highways even develop all around them!

I've been thinking a lot about this story lately, for a few reasons. First, because in a lot of ways, these two Zax are like Jill and me. One of the things I love most about our friendship is that we're best friends despite so many differences, but one huge common flaw is how stubborn we both can be. zax parkwayThere was a four month silence between us and a presumed dead friendship, all because of misunderstandings and a mutual avoidance of confrontation. We just stood for months and months as our worlds grew and changed around us.

But also, I feel like I can relate the story to my recent weight loss struggles. There's the me that knows how good working out, eating well, and losing weight feels, and she's headed in a good direction. But then there's the me that can't let go of wanting to sit on the couch, watch movies for hours, and eat entire blocks of cheese. She's facing an entirely different direction. And neither one wants to budge.

It's hard enough with the demands of everyone and everything else in this world, but when the internal ones start dueling, it can be overwhelming. I've come so far already, though, so unlike the Zax, I'm willing to step aside a little in order to continue to make progress on my path. I just need to work on compromising my two conflicting sides: for example, not feeling guilty when I need to choose work over the gym, or not letting one bad day become an end-all complete failure.

November 26, 2010

Roses and thorns

I would bet money on you guys being sick of hearing about me say how down I've been feeling. To be honest, I'm sick of it myself. I miss my usual cheerful self, and I miss the go-for-it-you-can-do-it-ness I've had for the past few months. Luckily, there are only four more days of teaching, several dozen final exams to proctor and grade, and three sections worth of students' final grades to calculate between me and a month of vacation. Even now, with just the long weekend for Thanksgiving, I feel recharged and ready to push forward.

I'm down two pounds this week, which is a miracle considering how little exercise I did and how poorly I ate. There were no binges, thank goodness, but considering I didn't do much exercising, some of the choices I made weren't great. There were so many strikes against me this week ... lots of work to do, general fatigue, and problems with my health insurance that might mean that I am unable to continue to see the therapist I met with on Monday, so I am back at square one with that.

On the other hand, though, I need to step back and realize that I managed a two pound loss during a week that contained both my birthday *and* Thanksgiving. So I'm pleased, but I also have a plan for getting back into my usual habits. I think I am mostly concerned about slacking now because I only have three weeks until I go to Connecticut, and I want to do the best that I can now so I can head into this challenge feeling strong and confident. After my sister's report on Thanksgiving...

it's not the turkey, sweetie.
... I'm going to need all the help I can get. *sigh*

As for me, I spent Thanksgiving alone here in Chicago, which wasn't actually all that bad. I started the morning with the race in Lincoln Park - it had rained the day before, so the paths were kind of muddy, but it was mostly cleaned up, cloudy, and not too cold, so it wasn't too bad. In addition to the race shirt they gave me, a light hoodie, and track pants with long underwear underneath, I wore the blue fleece vest from Old Navy that I got for the Trick or Treat Trot. i'm in love with this little cutie!It already feels so different to wear it with fifteen fewer pounds inside! I also wore my hair in little pigtails since I got a haircut last weekend and so now it's pretty short, and there isn't much I can do in terms of pulling it back.

The path started on Diversey Harbor in front of the Nature Museum, went north a bit before heading south through parts of Lincoln Park Zoo, then around and back north. I had planned for 90 minutes - about 18 minutes per mile - and included extra songs on my playlist if need be. My official time ended up being 1:20:29.8 - my pace was 16:12! It's just over half a minute more per mile than my best 5k pace, but considering this race was nearly two more miles, I'm more than thrilled.

For Thanksgiving dinner, nothing special: some chicken, salsa, and a cup of spaghetti squash mac and cheese. Totally delicious - and all under 500 calories! I spent the afternoon napping and watching "The Golden Girls," and then motivated myself enough to clean my office and start cleaning my living room. Hopefully today I finish so I can put up my little Christmas tree!

November 25, 2010

Gobble, gobble

This morning, I am heading uptown for the Turkey Trot, an 8k race. I'm walking the race, but I'm still really excited to get out there and get the blood flowing early in the morning!

My 5k pace at my last race was 15:38, but an 8k is nearly two more miles than a 5k, so I am hoping for an 18 minute mile pace. I made a 90 minute playlist, plus a few songs to make it an even 25 (and in case I need the extra time!):

It's a really bizarre and random mix, I know. It was a lot harder to come up with Thanksgiving themed music than it was for Halloween, so I just went for high energy stuff. My next race (another 8k walk on December 12) will be full of Christmas tunes!

Since I only get two days off for Thanksgiving 9and the semester is over in a week or two anyway), it isn't worth it to fly back to Connecticut, so besides the race, I'll be spending the day alone. I'm actually kind of excited - I'm going to rest, catch up on blog commenting, and not go overboard with food. Dinner will be chicken with salsa, broccoli, and some spaghetti squash mac 'n' cheese I made a few weeks ago and froze into individual portions. Delicious!

I'm going to also work on my plan for going back to Connecticut for December, since that will be my major challenge of a holiday. I'm putting together a notebook so I can keep track of food and exercise - for now, I am working on a section for safer socializing. If we go out to dinner, I want to know the best choices I can be making - I just want to be as prepared as possible. I was reading one of the "Eat This, Not That" columns (which, if you haven't seen before, I highly recommend!), and my favorite sandwich at Red Robin - which I assumed was an okay choice - has almost my entire day's calories!

But Christmas is still a month away. For now, happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans, and happy regular Thursday to everyone else! Whether it's a holiday or not where you are, keep up your great work and do the best that you possibly can!

November 24, 2010

Limited focus

As I'm sure you have gathered, this has been a very strange couple of weeks for me.

Last week, I was feeling depressed and had a lot of emotional things on my plate, and so more often than not, I chose to sleep or lay around and do nothing instead of going for a walk, going to the gym, or using the Wii Fit. I usually cook most nights, but last week I was too unmotivated to even make it to the grocery store, so I ate all things I had prepared and froze - still healthy, single-serve portions, but nothing fresh, which bothers me. I ended up with a three pound loss - and while I know I need to practice what I preach and recognize that (a) a three pound loss is a healthy loss and (b) a three pound loss is still three pounds in the right direction, it's so hard. My average loss up to this point has been between four and five pounds a week. What bugs me the most is the inactivity.

And the problem is rearing its head again this week. I did nothing last week, and not just exercise. I have a lot of things to catch up on for work - for example, right now, I'm desperately trying to finish a pile of compositions I've neglected for too long. Next week is already the last week of classes! oh hello, office and downtown chicago!My students all have final exams on Tuesday, 12/7, and by Friday the 10th, I need to have graded all their final exams, plus calculated their final averages and submitted them to the school.

It's not an obscene amount of work if I pace myself, but my problem is that I tend to have a limited focus. Right now, all I want to do is exercise. All I want to do is get healthy and keep feeling good. But the problem is that I am not able to focus one hundred percent of my time each day to exercise. I am able to dedicate part of my day to it only because I spend so much of the rest of it working hard to pay my bills.

Since I've been focusing only one one part, my to-do scales are imbalanced - this is one of the hard parts of being an adult, but also, of being responsible with weight loss. It is unreasonable to think that for the rest of my life, I can go to work until 4:30, go to the gym from 5 to 7:30 or so, then come home, have dinner, draft my blog entry for the next day, and go to bed. It will work some nights, but I need to also allow days where I don't go to the gym, or days when I don't go to the gym OR do work.

This week, I have had to commit myself to other things - going to see the therapist on Monday meant losing hours at the office, so I spent all of Tuesday focusing on work. Luckily, I should be caught up by this morning, so I can get back in the gym this afternoon, do my 8k tomorrow morning, and either maintain last week's weight or (maybe?!) see a small loss at my weigh-in on Friday. I'm not expecting a miraculous loss, since I've been eating reasonably but with little to no exercise - not even C25k, which I am frustrated about. I'm behind a few days: I usually run Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and this week it's looking like Wednesday, Friday, Sunday.

i officially love nike+iPod
It's not fatal, but it's something I need to learn from. Procrastination is (and has always been) one of my major weaknesses that always seems to lead to my downfall. I think balance is a major theme for my new transitioning self. Balance with good and better foods, balance with exercise and rest, balance with responsibilities and time off.

How do you maintain balance with your routines and daily life?

November 23, 2010

Talk to me

Yesterday was my first session working with a therapist whose specialties include eating disorders, obesity, and weight loss. (For the sake of privacy, I'm going to refer to her as K.) I'm very proud of the fact that I kept the crying to a minimum! I know this is going to be another safe space I am creating for myself, but still, I get self-conscious when people see me cry. (Another topic for another session, I suppose.)

Because it was our first session, we mostly talked about my weight history. I told K about my parents splitting up, the development of my eating disorder, my rapid weight gain, my parents getting back together, the Connecticut to Chicago transitions, and my rapid weight loss. I told her about the weird feeling of all my clothes being too big, about falling out of bed because my center of balance is changing, and about crying in the Apple store.

One thing K commented on was how insightful I am about the changes I am going through - and I admitted that blogging has a lot to do with that. When I sit down and write things out, it forces me to think about things not only as I experience them, but also in a different way, one that is deeper and a bit more "zoomed out." I'm not just focusing on people, feelings, or events, but on the bigger picture surrounding it, which is an important part of the story I am telling.

She asked a lot of questions, which I liked - I know that's the way therapy works, but I just didn't think having someone else ask me questions (as opposed to me asking myself) would open up so many doors to things I haven't thought about in ages. One major thing she brought up was my fear of separation. I love being independent, but that is very tough considering how close I consider my family to be. sister loveI talked about how anxious I was about going home, not just because I am afraid of falling into old habits and patterns. But it isn't just that - no one in my family is trying to get healthy, and so as I am shrinking, they're all growing, and I am worried about not being as close to them anymore ... or at least feeling like I am not a part of something major that they all have in common.

It was an intense revelation. Now, afterwards, I can see it clear as crystal. But with all the weeks and weeks of worrying about going home, it never really occurred to me that I was worried about not fitting in. I'm still very big, so the size difference is not as different as it will be once I make my long-term goal just yet, but there's already going to be a separation in that I won't be eating the same types/amounts of food that they will be eating, and I won't be just sitting around and watching TV all day. I'm losing this major connection with them, and that scares me. Even though I know eating poorly and not exercising will have an adverse effect on the body I'm finally taking care of and will counteract all the hard work I've been putting in, I'm very susceptible to completely throwing in the towel because I want to love my family and be able to do things with them, and so, for example, since my dad can't go for a run with me, I'm likely to eat pizza with him.

The trick is going to be incorporating their food/routines and some of mine. If Mom makes pizza, I need to make sure I control my portions and supplement with salad/veggies - and I can cook healthy meals that everyone will enjoy. My brother is begging me to finally watch "Star Wars" with him, so I told him that we will have to "earn" watching the movies - for example, one of the movies is 121 minutes long, so we can watch it, but only after we do 121 minutes of exercise. We may have to split the exercise over a few days, though with walking home and going to the playground, I'm sure it'll add up quickly! And I've already even mapped out a 5k route around my hometown, so I'd like to get people walking with me.

So this was all after day one of therapy. I'm really looking forward to meeting with K on a weekly basis and working through some of my binge eating, weight loss, and identity issues. It was only an hour, but I already feel like this is one of the last pieces I was missing in my progress.

November 22, 2010

The final countdown

Today is going to be a busy day - tons of work to do, my first meeting with my therapist, and w6d1 of C25k. So for today, I'm going to repost an article I read yesterday on - with t-3 days until Thanksgiving, I'm looking for every bit of advice I can find. I know some of this is repeat information from most people's holiday survival strategies, but I think the broken record approach works surprisingly well. Thanksgiving won't be my big challenge since I will be alone, but I'm going to use the day to work on writing out my plans for staying on task when I am in Connecticut. Enjoy the list, and if you have any other advice/links/lists, please pass them along!

10 Tips to Control Your Weight This Holiday Season
By Hana A. Feeney, MS, RD, CSSD

The holiday season wreaks havoc on our bodies. Stress and irregular sleep messes with our workout routine. Plus there is tempting food everywhere beckoning us and calling our names. From Halloween to New Year's Day the average weight gain is about 5 to 7 pounds. Unfortunately that weight doesn't drop off come January. It's like a winter coat that we never shed.

Why do you struggle with weight gain though the holidays? Many challenges exist, such as office potlucks, family gatherings, once-a-year treats, and traditions of over-eating. Take time now to think about your challenges and create new approaches for this holiday season.

Here are the 10 best tips to beat holiday weight gain. Which tips work for you?

10. Prioritize exercise.
Exercise in the morning so you start your day energized with a clear mind. Exercise gives you the mental reminder that you are living a healthy lifestyle, which keeps you on track and focused during the day. Can't swing a morning workout? Plan a lunch-hour workout with colleagues or buddy up to workout before leaving your worksite. Build exercise into your day; schedule it as you would any other commitment.

9. Don't be a caveperson.
Cave people are programmed to eat. Avoid famine and feast cycles by eating regularly throughout the day. It's hard to turn down the extra treats that fill the office this time of year, and when you are tired and starving, they are nearly impossible to resist.

8. Plan ahead.
Understand what food challenges you are facing so that you can make informed decisions. Call friends to see what healthy side dish you can bring to the dinner party. Look up restaurant information before going out to eat. Know when you need to pack a lunch or bring a healthy option to the office potluck.

7. Indulge with full awareness.
If you decide to indulge, do so consciously; make that tasty treat a part of a planned meal or snack. Then you can savor each and every bite.

6. Enhance family favorites.
As you plan your meals and treats for the holiday season, look for creative ways to cut calories and boost nutrients in your favorite recipes.
• Spice sweet potatoes with nutmeg and cinnamon rather than brown sugar.
• Make sure to prepare a few vegetable dishes, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, sautéed spinach and garlic or an arugula salad.
• Use dried fruit for half the chocolate chips in cookies and pumpkin or banana bread.
• Cut cookies and bars into smaller bite size pieces.
5. Honor your body's healthy limits.
Honor your body by committing to NOT overeat. Commit to filling your plate full of colorful veggies and cutting back portions of high calorie sides, such as stuffing, buttery rolls, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, savory appetizers, creamy dips, desserts and candies.

There's no need to eliminate these tasteful, traditional foods; just cut back your portions so that you finish the meal feeling satisfied, not stuffed.
• Save room for dessert so that it doesn't push you into a food coma.
• If you are tempted to overeat because many holiday foods are only served once a year, put away a plate of food to enjoy tomorrow. It will taste better when you are able to savor each bite, rather than stuffing extra bites into an already full stomach.
• Make one holiday favorite every month so that you are able to enjoy these favorites year round.
• Resist peer pressure to overeat. Talk to loved ones prior to meals and explain your personal goals.
• Eat slowly and savor each bite. You will be more satisfied and it will help limit comments such as, "you haven't eaten a thing" or "surely you will go back for more."
4. Eat breakfast every day.
Include a bit of protein at this important meal. Start the day with protein rich foods to control your appetite and boost self-control. This will help you to "just say no" to all of the holiday treats that surround you.

3. Don't let holiday weight gain creep up on you.
Weigh yourself once a week and make adjustments to your lifestyle as needed. If you gain a pound, reflect on your eating and exercise habits. Be curious not critical. Look for opportunities to make changes. Have you been stressed? Are you an emotional eater? Have been to more parties and social engagements? Eating out more often? These are factors that everyone faces more frequently this time of year, and they often lead to weight gain.

2. Keep alcohol consumption low.
How easily alcohol calories add up. During this social holiday season, you could easily gain a pound or two through alcohol alone.
• Pint of beer = 150 calories
• Typical glass of wine = 200 calories
• Martini = 250 calories
• Margarita = 300-800 calories depending on who makes it!
• Spiked eggnog = 400 calories per cup
These calorie counts don't even include the extras that come from reduced inhibitions and missing your morning workouts.
1. Get off the "See Food Diet"!
We see it, we want to eat it. This time of year, the "See Food Diet" consists of cookies, pastries, candies and fudge. Not too mention all of the leftovers, gifts and party favors. Change what you see, and you will change your body.
• Bring a beautiful bowl of fruit into the office.
• Place a bowl of nuts in the shell on your desk. You'll eat fewer when you have to crack them open yourself.
• Put cut veggies front and center in the fridge; use hummus or herbed ricotta as a healthy dip.
• Always bring a healthy option to dinners, parties and potlucks.
• Gift your office or home with an opaque candy dish or cookie jar. When you don't see it, you're less likely to eat the treat.
• Get rid of leftovers. If you throw a party, clean out the house the next day. Host a dinner? Send everyone home with leftovers or have a "part 2 dinner" the next night.
Surround yourself with the healthy foods that you need to eat, and you will find it easier to maintain your weight - or even lose weight - during this holiday season.

November 21, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

My positive sign for the week:

my 24th
My eye makeup is smudgy from being out late and then coming home and crying - my friends threw me a surprise party yesterday, and I am just now getting home at 3:30 AM to find a long e-mail from my best friend Jill. The party was nice but stressful, and I thought about Jill a lot during the party without even knowing what awaited me at home. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we had not spoken in months for seemingly no reason, and this letter explained a lot. Lots of misunderstandings on both parts, it seems. I miss her so much that it hurts, and so this was very good to receive. I'm gonna sleep on it and reply later today, but I am glad to know things are headed in the right direction.

Challenge start weight: 332
Current weight: 273

Of the 72 pounds I have lost, 59 have been during this challenge!

Progress on my DDGbG goals: Delicious recipe this week - zucchini boats!

oh my goodness, yum

Preheat the oven to 375º. Scoop the insides out of however many zucchini you want to make, then chop up the innards and mix it up with one lightly beaten egg, some meat, spices, and other veggies - the recipe is easily adaptable to whatever flavors or quantities you want to make - mine were spicy Italian, made with mushrooms, tomato sauce, and hot turkey sausage. The quantities will vary based on size and quantity of zucchini - I did three small ones, so I only used a link and a half of sausage, and there was quite a bit of mixture leftover (which I heated up in the pan and had the next morning for breakfast! Yum!). Fill the zucchini shells and lay them in a baking dish that has 1/4" of water in it, and bake them for about 20 minutes (if your squash are bigger, you may need more time). Put some cheese on the tops (I peeled one string cheese and distributed the shreds among all of my zucchini boats), then bake for another 10 minutes or so until the cheese is melted.

Absolutely amazingly delicious (even cold the next day!) and totally easy to make - I think even my family would like it! This recipe is definitely coming to Connecticut with me.

ONE thing that you are proud of for the week: Keeping my unexpected birthday party snacking to a minimum - they all know I'm trying to lose weight, so there were lots of fresh veggies!

ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week: Besides my first meeting with my therapist, fixing my relationship with Jill is my top priority. She's my best friend, and grieving what I assumed was losing her has made the adjusting of emotional weight loss even more challenging.