December 17, 2010

Roses and thorns

Unless something huge and profound happens, I won't be regularly blogging while I am in Connecticut. I would, however, like to "check in" on Fridays (and I will post my last DDGbD update on Sunday), so I can keep in touch and keep updated with goings-on. It's going to be a little strange - I've posted every single day since I started blogging in August! But trust that soon I'll be back with even more stories to share!

I don't have a weigh-in to report this week, as I am scale-free in Connecticut. I'm feeling great, though - I worked hard in Chicago, and my first day in CT was challenging, but nothing I couldn't handle! I'm feeling good - great, actually.

Roses for the week:
  • I went swimming - twice. I am so happy to be back in the water.
  • I did NOT need a seatbelt extender on my flight - in fact, I had to tighten the belt!
  • Within a few minutes of being picked up at the airport, I was told that we had to stop at Stew Leonard's before going home. Stew's is a market in Connecticut - think grocery store meets Disney World, with free samples of everything (including cheese made in-store). When I was in college, one opened up right near the campus, and my friends and I would go there for dinner often. It's pretty amazing, and so I'm really proud that I survived this trip without eating a single sample ... or getting an ice cream cone on the way out!
  • I ran C25k week 9, day 1 - I usually run on a track or a treadmill, but this time I ran on actual streets and sidewalks. Unbelievable. I felt so amazed and proud when I was done! First, because I had ran three miles without stopping. Second, because my run went down to the town beach and back, and oh! how I have missed the salty air! And third, because I had really nervous that I wouldn't be able to run on the different terrain. The changes in incline threw me off a bit, but nothing fatal - I actually finished with a better per-mile pace than I have before on the treadmill! My knees felt much better than last time - yesterday's rest day did me good, I think.

  • I am writing this surrounded by sleeping sisters - brother is off to school, Mom is at work, and Dad is doing errands. And it is the most wonderful thing. I am so, so, so happy to be with my family - especially my kid brother, who is the most adorable person, especially around Christmas.

December 16, 2010


In a little while, I will be heading out the door for Midway Airport. This is a day I have been thinking about for months with mixed feelings: heading back east to see my family for the holidays. I'm excited but nervous. The most unsettling feeling is the one right in the center of my heart, where I feel at the same time familiar and like a stranger. I've known these people my whole life, but at the same time,my beautiful shoreline town in so many aspects, I am not the girl they came to visit in May. I am not even the same girl who went to visit them in July. I'm stronger. I'm more active. I'm a little more confident. And I'm eighty pounds lighter.

I've been panicking quite a bit about going home - excessively, even. I definitely have problems with anxiety, and one of the ways I've always dealt with it is to imagine every worst-case-scenario so that when things end up fine, or even mildly bad, they're never as bad as I imagined. It's really interesting, because most of the time, I'm intensely optimistic.

I've been worried about so many things in Connecticut - like staying active, eating reasonably, and not falling into old binge eating habits. My whole family will be carrying on as usual while I feel intensely conflicted - it's almost as if I am torn between my fidelity to traditions and to my new lifestyle. I want to belong. I want to be part of the festivities. And I want to make sure that I don't need to eat myself sick or refuse to get off the couch in order to enjoy the holiday right alongside everyone else.

I'm not heading into battle unprepared, though - I've got a plan. I've put together a folder of materials to keep me focused and strong on my goals - and I've made sure to make my goals reasonable. I cannot expect to lose the kind of weight in Connecticut that I do in Chicago - a small loss would be nice, but really, just maintaining would be a huge success. I want to stay active, enjoy treats in moderation, and prepare some healthy meals for my family. There are a lot of positives about going home that I have overlooked - like my mom's extensive array of kitchen gadgets that will make prep work easier, or the fact that cooking for six is a lot different than cooking for one, so a whole new world of recipe opportunities has opened up to me. I have the means and I have the motivation - now I just need to make sure I stay focused and do the best that I can.

In the folder, I've helpful articles on keeping active and eating reasonably well during the holiday season. I have a chart for filling out my merry-thon miles:

seventeen so far!
Seventeen miles so far! To keep up with my merry-thon goal (and to finish C25k [!!!]) (and to get ready for running my 5k on 1/1/11 [double !!!]), I have fourteen runs about my hometown mapped out by length - .5 to 3.1 miles, two routes for each except only one for 3.1 and three for 2.

And I have a sheet for keeping track of my days:

i hope this works!
I don't normally keep written records of calories, but since I will be out of my comfort zone, I would like to log my food, water, and exercise so that I can look back on it afterwards and see how the numbers at my post-vacation weigh in reflect my input and output.

Right now, I am feeling very brave. This is going to be a huge test for me - of my resolve, of my willpower. I'm charging head on into a situation that I have made a thousand assumptions and predictions about - and who knows? Maybe no one will make me feel like an outcast for celebrating the first Christmas where I didn't spend the day overeating. Maybe everyone will eat a little better because I do. Maybe they'll join me on walks. And maybe they won't do any of this. With luck, I won't be alone - but at the same time, I need to be strong even if it's just me eating off the veggie tray or jogging at the park. I need to be brave for me right now - I need to choose to do the right thing, even though it's the more difficult thing.

My Balance Board and Wii Fit Plus game are packed.

My pedometer and stopwatch are packed.

My workout pants and running shirts are packed.

Ready ... set ...

December 15, 2010


Last Friday, to celebrate the end of the semester, my friend Lorelei and I decided to go out and do something. Eventually we decided to get our eyebrows threaded, as it was something we both desperately needed to have done, and since Lorelei swears by the process, I said I'd give it a try.

Worst. Decision. Ever.

If you've never had your eyebrows threaded, it is truly an experience. The person working at the salon holds onto a thread with her teeth and both hands (that can't be sanitary, or good for her teeth), and twists and twirls the thread in such a way that it yanks out the hairs. Maybe it would have been easier if I had taken better care of my eyebrows in the months since my last brow waxing, but since they needed an awful lot of cleaning up, it seemed to take forever - and the pain made each second feel even longer.

It reminded me of being an undergrad and going to get my eyebrows waxed. I usually get them waxed, because when I try to pluck them, I start sneezing uncontrollably. But when I get busy with school or work, my eyebrows are my absolute last priority, and so my finals week treat would always be to go get cleaned up. There was a beauty salon in the plaza across from my dorm and the owner offered a discount - $4 brow waxing for students. Perfect! Without fail, though, every time I would have my brows done, the woman who took care of waxing would apologize profusely for how much it hurt. Maybe I flinched a little, but it wasn't painful - not to the point where this woman needed to apologize literally a dozen times. It was more of a reflex than anything else.

Pain is a really interesting thing. Everyone perceives pain differently based on previous experiences with it. Getting my eyebrows waxed is totally minor to me, especially since I have lots of tattoos (many of which are in very painful places) - the winter of my senior year, I finally told the woman, "Ma'am, I have a giant anchor tattooed on my chest. This does not hurt me." 2006 - and about 50 lbs ago!And she chuckled and proceeded with the waxing, only apologizing once or twice. Eyebrows? Insignificant. Tattoos on the tops of my feet? I was gripping the chair, I sweat through my clothes, and I uttered quite a few unlady-like curses.

This past week, I have been running week 8 of C25k - a five minute warm-up walk, followed by a 2.75 mile run, then five minutes of cooldown. I made the mistake of trying to run on Monday, the day after my 8k race - sure, it was just walking, but my legs needed to recover afterwards, so I had to stop after 1.25 miles. I had a strange feeling in my knees, and I'm not sure if it was pain. Yesterday, I went back to the gym and tried again, and I managed to get the full 2.75 miles done, but the same feeling was back in my knees. It didn't hurt the way getting tattooed hurts - it didn't even hurt the way eyebrow waxing hurts. It was more of a tired feeling than an excruciatingly painful one. But still, it concerned me.

What bothered me the most about these past two runs is that pretty much the whole time, I kept thinking about the Milgram Experiment prompts:
Please continue.
The experiment requires that you continue.
It is absolutely essential that you continue.
You have no other choice, you must go on.
I know it isn't right to compare running to knowingly torturing innocent people - up to this point, and including now, I totally love running. But I kept having to push myself to keep going - just get to one mile, you have to do at least that. Just get to a mile and a half, you really need to try and do that. Just do two miles, you've already done so much. Just finish, then you can move forward.

I needed more recovery time after Sunday, so Monday's run wasn't great. And to follow any running on Monday with more running Tuesday may have been a mistake - you need to take days off between runs to let your body recuperate, especially as a new runner. So hopefully my next run (tomorrow) will be better - I'll be physically rested, at least. It will be my first run in Connecticut, so we'll see how it goes. Hopefully no pain on any front.

December 14, 2010

Darling Mermaid Darlings

About a year ago, a friend of mine (Kat) hosted a series of dinner parties at her apartment. She's a great cook, so we ate amazing meals, and afterwards,ned and chuck - loveee she had us watch episodes of a television show she had been raving about called "Pushing Daisies." The show had recently been canceled, but Kat had both the seasons on DVD. From the beginning, I fell in love. It's kind of like "Amélie" with a science fiction twist - it's charming and colorful and twee, and the main character has the ability to bring dead things back to life. It sounds morbid, but it's absolutely delightful. The main characters are Ned (who "makes pies and wakes the dead"), Charlotte (aka Chuck, Ned's childhood sweetheart whom he has given life back to), Emerson (a detective who uses Ned's power to help solve crimes), Olive (a waitress in Ned's pie shop), and Lily and Vivian (Chuck's guardians, whom she has always referred to as her aunts).

In their youth, Lily and Vivian were part of a sisters synchronized swimming duo called the Darling Mermaid Darlings. They had wild costumes and put on shows that were wildly popular, until personal tragedies got in the way, and they gave up swimming. Chuck has been brought back to life, but in order to protect Ned's secret, she cannot let her aunts know that she is alive again. Having grown up in their care, this totally devastates Chuck.

as in english, for h2o
So, she enlists Olive to help her get her aunts feeling happy and living their lives fully again; one major component of Chuck's plan is to get the Darling Mermaid Darlings back in the water. The plan takes a long time to implement, as the sisters both have fears and anxieties about leaving their house and going back out into the world. One of Olive's attempts includes waving a cup of water with ellen greene and swoosie kurtz = totally brilliantdissolved chlorine tablets under Lily's nose - a smell she had once referred to as "bottled sunshine."

I can totally understand calling it that. Growing up, my grandparents lived across town, and they had a pool that we essentially lived in from June to September. My sisters and I would spend hours in the water - we wouldn't even get out for lunch, we'd just hang over the side and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There was a basketball hoop and poles for setting up a volleyball net, so whenever our cousins would come to visit, we'd have huge games. It was amazing, and in the background of these happy childhood memories, there's the olfactory soundtrack of chlorinated water. Just a hint of this smell is enough to trigger all kinds of amazing, happy feelings - euphoria, really. After I leave the gym, there's a fan that blows out air from the pool out to the sidewalk, and whenever I pass through it, I get temporarily transported back to my Papa's pool. I think about being a kid and loving life incredibly.

For my whole life, even longer than I can remember, I've been a big girl. Whether restricted by physical or mental limitations, there have been a lot of things in my life that I haven't experienced. such a fierce little beautySwimming, though, has always been something that allowed me to experience a normal, full life - no matter what size my bathing suit was, when I was in the water, I felt capable - weightless and unburdened.

However, despite loving to swim, I've managed to avoid the pool at the gym for over two years. There were always excuses, most of which boiled down to the fact that I just didn't want to be seen in public in a bathing suit. And that's a real shame, because one of the things I've always loved most about swimming is that liberating feeling I get from being in the water. There's a certain grace with aquatic movement, something I felt I lacked on dry land. In the water, I could temporarily escape from the reality of my weight situation.

And so, yesterday, after months and months of hesitation, this Darling Mermaid Darling finally got back in the water. It's a 25 meter pool, and I did 25 laps (50 lengths) - my arms will seek their revenge tomorrow, but it's well worth it. I can't do much more than an unrefined frog-style breaststroke, but that's alright - I'm just so happy to be swimming!

December 13, 2010


Yesterday, I woke up to a heavy snowfall and high speed winds. "Blizzard conditions," some called it. So, like any semi-sane Chicagoan, I got in the shower, got dressed, pinned on my bib, and headed for the bus uptown for my race.

This is just one of the reasons why I love Chicago. We can't shut down our lives because there's a little snow - otherwise, we'd get nothing done six months out of the year! My boss says that in the fifteen years she's been working for the university, classes haven't been canceled once. And I like that - in Connecticut, even a threat of flurries sends everyone to the grocery store for bread and milk. Here in Chicago, life goes on.

This was the view from the bus stop as I was waiting:

phone camera makes everything a little blue - i kind of love it
Less than ideal, but manageable. In terms of Chicago weather, this wasn't the worst I've ever seen. I kept checking my e-mail from my phone to see if there was any news about the race being canceled - I figured that I'd head out anyway, and even if I got all the way there to find out the race was canceled, I'd just head back and go walk an 8k at the gym. It's a Sunday morning during my vacation, what do I have that's better to do? (You know, besides laundry, dishes, and packing my suitcase for Connecticut.)

I had to transfer buses to get to the race, and as I got to the second bus stop, there was still no race update via e-mail. When I got on the Diversey bus, there were two other people in their racing gears, so I figured that while I might be crazy, at least I wasn't the only one.

The race started in front of the Nature Museum, and this is what the ground looked like as we waited for the start:

crunch crunch
They probably shovel and plow downtown, but in most of the non-Loop neighborhoods, it seems that clearing the sidewalks isn't really a high priority. In Pilsen, where I live, it just gets packed down - which makes for a very slippery commute, let me tell you! I've only slipped and fallen once since moving here, which I'm proud of - I'd rather take twice as long to get somewhere than rush and get hurt. Some folks I know in the city have really messed up their backs and/or knees from falling on icy sidewalks.

The race was sold out - which means a couple thousand spots sold. Only a couple hundred showed up to the race, though. It was really interesting to see so many people unaffected by the serious storm all around us.

right at starting line
Stretching, running in place ... yup, just another race, no big deal. People still wore costumes, even! Lots of Santas, Mrs. Clauses, elves, and giant gift boxes. Despite the reduced turnout, I was still so glad to be there. I know I say this all the time, but I love participating in races - even though I am not running them just yet, I love feeling like a part of something wonderful, a big group of people with a common interest. And especially this Sunday morning, where it was all the die-hards ... nothing was coming between us and those 4.97 miles, and that was great.

The only problem was that of the people who bailed on the race, it was mostly the walkers. Usually at these races, there are a few hundred walkers, and so even when I finish after quite a long time, I'm usually in good company. This time, there were only maybe a dozen of us.

the loneliness of a middle-distance runner
It wasn't bad since I had my Christmas tunes playing and the snow was really only a minor irritation, but still, there were tough moments - like how they packed up the water station before I even got to it, or how they put away the chip timer about four minutes before I finished, so I don't have an "official" finishing time. But there were some great parts that made up for it - as I was passing the four mile mark, some non-race runners were on the other side of the path, and quite a few of them cheered me on - saying to keep up the good work, and to finish strong, and that I was doing great.

And I thought, "You know what? I am doing great!" Because a lot of people decided not to even show up for the race, but I started.covered in ice, but loving it And when I finish, even if I am dead last, I'm still finishing! On Skinny Emmie's blog a while back, she posted a great concept: DLF > DNF > DNS. Dead last finish beats did not finish, did not finish beats did not start.

And, for the record, I was not even dead last - there were a whopping three people walking behind me. But the important thing is, we finished, and that's what matters.

With this race, I was really unconcerned with beating my time at the last race - the conditions just weren't ideal. I wasn't willing to break my neck in order to shave a few seconds off my time. I did the math when I got home based on how far I got into my winter playlist - 89m12s, about eight and a half minutes longer than my last 8k, and I have no complaints or regrets. I still felt like a champion.

December 12, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

My positive sign for the week:

sweet new race shirt
I've been struggling a lot lately, so I think this is a good mantra to keep in mind: the changes that I am making are not temporary. I'm not just losing weight so I can see what 135 looks like and then revert back to my old ways. I need to learn how to live a healthy, well-balanced life - eating well and exercising is great for weight loss, but with maintenance, the keys will be moderation and balance. I want to work on developing these skills now so that when it comes time to maintain, it's already second nature.

Challenge start weight: 332
Current weight: 265

Of the 80 pounds I have lost, 67 have been during this challenge!

Progress on my DDGbG goals: This week's recipe was a white bean hummus, which I found on the website for Carb-Lover's Diet after Stephen had posted about the plan in his blog and on Twitter. I love hummus - really, though, I'm a huge fan of beans in general. They're delicious, filling, and super versatile.

assiète de crudités
This might not look like much, but trust me, it was totally tasty - and really easy to make! You take a quarter cup of white beans and mash them up with a fork (mine were only mostly mashed, because I was hungry and impatient). Add a tablespoon of chives, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and two teaspoons of olive oil. And voilà, easy as that - dip! I multiplied the recipe to fit a can of beans (all ingredients except the oil, which I honestly think could have been left out entirely) and had it with some veggies for lunch the other day. So good! I really liked the contrast of the lemon with cucumber slices. I'm recently obsessed with fresh mushrooms, so I have been snacking on those a lot lately. I've found a few more non-traditional hummus recipes that I will try when I am at my parents' house because my mom has all the fancy kitchen gadgets that I wish I had!

ONE thing that you are proud of for the week: I'm proud that of fifty-five students, I gave forty-five A's and B's. I know they did the work to earn the grades, but still, it makes me happy - I must be doing something right!

ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week: This week, I need to stay focused. Not going to work every day means that my day-to-day patterns are a little off. Last week I wasn't teaching, just grading, but it was already tough. This week will be even more challenging. I can go crazy, sleep until noon, and eat like junk ... or I can get up early like always, eat well, go to the gym, and do something every day to keep me out of the apartment (if I stay here, I go stir crazy and snack too much!). This morning I am walking a holiday-themed 8k race, that should give my motivation a big boost! A fun Christmas playlist to fill me full of holiday cheer:

Also, I'm trying to plan things to do around the city (like going to the Lincoln Park Zoo) and new things to do at the gym (I'm ready - I *WILL* get in that pool!), so that should help.