January 22, 2011

Invisible

If you could have any superpower, superfriends - from edrants dot comwhat would it be? X-ray vision? Telekinesis? Superhuman strength? When I was a little kid, I was pretty shy, and so I always said that I wanted to be invisible. In middle school, I got my wish.

After my parents got divorced, my mom stayed in our house and my dad moved back in with his parents across town. At first my sisters and I went back and forth a few times a week, but it was essentially when my mom started dating again that I decided to live exclusively with my father. My mom was always the one who cooked, so for five months out of the year, dinners with Dad were either barbecued chicken legs, boxes of macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, or canned pasta. From mid-spring to late autumn, though, my grandparents were there, and my Nana took up her post in the kitchen.

My father is the sixth of nine children, and despite it being decades after their nest emptied, my grandparents still grocery shopped as if there were a dozen mouths to feed. Slices of American cheese were bought in ten-pound blocks, bread was bought in multiple loaf packs, and butter tubs were never smaller than three pounds. For a kid coping with the emotional stress of having her parents split up and her best friend move halfway across the country, this was perfect. I had always been a bigger girl, but this was the time in my life when I developed my problems with binge eating, and since I especially loved eating secretly, living with my grandparents and their shopping habits made this incredibly easy. With everything in huge quantities, my binges went seemingly unnoticed. super me, making grilled cheeses disappear and then reappear ... on my thighsIt was as if I was invisible, and at that time when I felt weak and out of control, it felt like having a superpower.

Every day I would come home from school and slather four slices of bread with butter while the frying pan warmed up. I'd put in two of the slices, then top each one with three to four slices of cheese and then the other pieces of bread. That wasn't my lunch. It wasn't even my dinner. My afternoon "snack" was around a thousand calories. I would then do my homework and watch television until my dad got home from work, then we'd sit down for dinner and I'd eat a huge portion as if I hadn't eaten in days.

My dad was hurting a lot at that time - the divorce really devastated him - but at the same time, it's painful to think that my powers of invisibility worked on him too. He didn't notice how much I ate or the fact that I gained a hundred pounds in about two years - or at least he never said anything to me. Of course, that was also when he stopped taking care of himself too - specifically, he didn't do anything to control his diabetes - so I am not mad or angry, and I don't blame him. Do I wish he had known better? Yes, of course. If it were possible, I'm sure that he wouldn't hesitate to go back in time with what he knows now and make better choices, maybe preventing his heart attack and all of our food issues and problems with obesity - but at that time, and given the situation, I believe that my dad was doing the best he could.

The problem, though, was that these were my formative years. I was twelve years old, learning skills to prepare me for adulthood, and here I was, perfecting the art of being invisible. I had friends in high school and college, but I spent a significant amount of time alone, either secretly binge eating or lying about/hiding how much I ate. able to duck and weave through buildings without being noticedMoving to Chicago was a dream - no one knew me here, so I could disappear even further into the crowd and keep up my destructive habits without anyone seeming to notice.

So what eventually broke the cycle? I noticed. I noticed that it was getting hard to breathe when I laid down to sleep. I noticed that I didn't feel comfortable in any of my clothes. I noticed that I wasn't happy anymore. I noticed that a huge fraction of my paycheck was being spent at grocery stores and on take-out. And I noticed that even binge eating was starting to lose its charm. I needed to either stop or binge even harder to get the same high. The time was right for me to renounce my superpowers ... and so, I quit.

And let me tell you, if anyone ever asks what superpower I'd like to have, I'm not willing to go back to being invisible. Maybe I'll say I want to fly, and I'll let that translate into faster race paces. Or breathing underwater, because that would just be awesome. But invisibility? We're done. I like being seen these days. I like having lunch with my friends and co-workers and not feeling consumed with thoughts about what I am "really" going to be eating later. These positive feelings and experiences are incredible, and I'd much rather have those than a superpower any day.

January 21, 2011

Roses and thorns

I was worried at the beginning, but this has turned out to be a pretty incredible week. Family things aside, everything is right on track in my life. june 2006, somewhere over the east coastWork is going great, the weather is behaving, my workouts have been fantastic, I have eaten well, and I have even received quite a few compliments!
Like when one of my students told me that I look absolutely incredible.

Or the adorably sweet department secretary who grabbed my hand as I was walking out of the building and cried out "MARY!!!! You look amazing!"

Or the professor whose office is next to mine, who told me that I look fantastic and that I'm such an inspiration.
I'm very proud of the fact that I didn't downplay or deny them like I always have in the past - I've been working my butt off (literally!), and so I think that I've definitely earned these little moments of recognition. And you know, I *did* look pretty good this week! I walked around with confidence, and it made all the difference in the world.

Today will be no different.

This morning there will be a little extra bounce in my step, because my weekly weigh-in has been a good one. Last week I was at 250 even, so any loss would get me into the 240s and put me up against my old foe, The Four in the Tens Place. This morning, I am at 246. These four pounds make my total loss 99 pounds, and bring my BMI to 39.7 ... which means I am no longer the super obese person I was in July. And I'm not even the morbidly obese person I've been whittling myself down to. Today, I am simply obese, and all things considered, that is a wonderful thing to be.

How was your week?

January 20, 2011

Malnutrition

My best friend Jill and I love to play the "desert island" game. Basically, you assume that you're stuck forever on an island, so what would be the three to five things you wish you had with you? (The quantity depends on how ambitious we're feeling that day, I guess.) These have to be the favorites to beat all favorites, because they'd be your one choice for the rest of your life.

I'm definitely a lady who knows what she likes, but still, we can get pretty intense with our discussions and justifications, which makes it all the more fun. My desert island movies are "A Fish Called Wanda," "The Royal Tenenbaums," and "A bout de souffle." My desert island books are "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "How to Cook a Wolf" by M. F. K. Fisher, and "Bee Season" by Myla Goldberg. And my desert island foods? My mom's eggplant parmagiana, banana ice cream, and cereal.

I know it seems completely ridiculous, but cereal is one of my favorite foods. Maybe because there are so many different kinds ... and oh, how I love them all. Back in the day, a box of cereal would be a great binge for me - it would satisfy my fullness need while also horribly cutting up my mouth from eating it too fast. It was a pain that distracted from the pain of my daily reality, and I loved it.

A quick visual: a serving of most cereals is usually 3/4 to 1 cup.

one cup
This is the bowl I would use for my cereal binges.

my old blue bowl
I don't even want to think about how many servings that is.

i can't believe i used to do that
Once I was sprawled out on the couch, clutching my stomach and nursing a post-binge stomachache, and I told my sister Katie that I could eat cereal for every meal of the day. She told me that even though it sounds amazing, it would eventually kill me.

What?!

Katie is an exceptionally bright young lady, and she definitely paid more attention in science classes than I did. She agreed that cereal is completely delicious, but the problem is that it doesn't have all the things you need to survive - even if you had some special cereals with more of one vitamin or extra protein or fiber, it wouldn't be enough. You could overeat constantly, be completely full of cereal, and still suffer from malnutrition. This baffled me at first, but it totally makes sense. Eating a variety of foods not only helps makes life diverse, but is necessary in order to have all of our nutritional needs met.

So unless I find myself on a desert island with inexplicable magical abilities, I don't think I'll be subsisting on only cereal any time soon.

What about you? What's your "desert island" food? Are you able to find a way to incorporate your favorites into your healthy lifestyle? And how do you manage food diversity?

January 19, 2011

Sleep

I am not a morning person. I used to be, when I was a kid. (My sister Lisa was not one then, and she is not one now.)

But now, I am deeply in love with sleeping in. I'm not grouchy when I wake up, and I would much rather teach morning classes than afternoon ones what was up with my hair - yikes(the morning kids tend to be a bit more motivated, at least most of the time!). But no matter how much I love my job or how hopeful I may be about what the day holds, I still hit the snooze button multiple times every morning. I have seven or eight alarms set on my phone for the morning that go off every five or ten minutes for an hour and a half. I wish I were kidding.

When I first started losing weight, I jokingly told some friends that sleeping was my favorite exercise - and even now, it's still right up there with running. As a full-time grad student and part-time teacher, a ridiculous number of precious sleep hours were sacrificed during the past two years in favor of paper writing, novel reading, lesson planning, and exam/composition grading marathons. Now I teach full-time, and even the tough weeks are still less work than being a student - and my nightly eight hours take absolute top priority. Grading pop quizzes can almost always wait.

Yesterday morning, my friend Lorelei (with whom I am running the 8k in April) and I were discussing the Resolutioners at the university gym, and she suggested that it might be less busy in the mornings - we could head there before heading to the office! She's definitely a morning person, but I don't know if that schedule would work for me. Working out fills me with adrenaline, but afterwards, I like to go home and decompress a bit. I'm not sure I would be able to head to the office and then teach for several hours.

What about you? Are you a morning person? Do you prefer morning, afternoon, evening workouts? (There was a 24-hour gym near where I went to college, and it was suprisingly busy at 2-3am when my friends and I went from time to time...)

January 18, 2011

I love a fat girl

One of my favorite things about blog awards is finding so many new blogs to follow - even if I might not comment on them all, I read every single post. I find so much strength in knowing that the things that I feel are understood by someone else, that I'm not alone in my struggles.

With my recent increase in reading, I have found quite a few blog posts lately that have dealt with the topics of dating, relationships, and sex. My first reaction was that it seems logical - it's a tough time of year to be single ... no date to the holiday parties, no kiss at midnight on New Years, and a feeling of impending loneliness brought on by store shelves already stocked with gifts and cards for Valentines Day. I'm very guilty of these thoughts myself. But to be honest, there's always an event, a party, and a dozen reasons to feel down about not being in a couple, no matter what the season.

I can't speak for everyone, but I think part of the reason why weight loss tends to make me dwell on the fact that I'm single is because all my hard work is resulting in some well-deserved self-esteem. At 345 pounds, I didn't want a relationship - loneliness was the least of my problems. I barely wanted to be with myself, let alone have someone else around. But now, I'm taking care of myself, and for the first time in a very long time, I feel totally gorgeous. Yes, I have some bad days. Yes, I still have a lot of work to do for my long term goal. But for the most part, I feel like I am accomplishing something wonderful, and that feels completely amazing. No longer do I sit on my couch all day, binge eating and feeling bad about myself - I go out and do things around the city and enjoy the life I've avoided living for so long. So naturally, I would like to find someone to share this joy and these adventures with.

Unfortunately (and again, I speak of my own experience) my body and my mind still seem to be in two different places. I realized the other day that if I lose five pounds in the next two weeks, my total weight loss will be exactly 100 pounds in exactly six months.

holy smokes!
It's such a wonderful success, and I have so many reasons to smile and things to be thankful for, but it truly is an awful lot to process emotionally. I think about wanting to go out on dates and possibly be in a relationship, but as tempting as it seems, I cannot make it my top priority right now. I've only recently made myself a priority of mine, and I cannot lose focus of that - it might sound a little selfish, but I need to really focus on Mary. I haven't been a 250 pound version of myself in over a decade - I need to get to know her a bit before I try and introduce her to someone else.

In the past, I've sought out the company of men who were absolutely not right for me and who were not actually interested in a relationship, simply because they were the only ones who seemed interested in my body. I thought that was the kind of attention that I wanted - I hated my body, but here was a man who claimed otherwise. Casual sex gave me a feeling of power - despite being morbidly obese, I had the power to cause that sort of reaction in a man's body. It made me feel strong and gave me a feeling of validation - there was hope for me yet. What I did not realize was that it was, in fact, the opposite. These behaviors wore me thin, broke me down, and stripped me of what little value I had assigned myself to begin with.

I commit myself to total honesty in this blog, so I need you to know that even before last week's Toon Tuesday blog got posted, I saw Jon again. And it was just more of the same. Perhaps he's at a different stage in the recovery process than I am and he feels okay with this kind of thing ... or maybe he's a jerk. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. What I *can* say with certainty is upon that leaving his apartment last Sunday, I crossed "sex" of the mental list of things I'm looking for in my life right now, and highlighted "stability" and "strength." Being with Jon didn't give me the rush of power that hookups used to - to be honest, it felt dissatisfying, like what I assume a binge would feel like to me these days. These days, running races and meeting goals fill me with pride and self-worth; after shifting my focus for so long, overeating and casual sex seem to have lost their control over me and their ability to give me a false sense of power.

I've read several blog posts in the past few months where ladies find themselves wondering if it's possible for someone to fall in love with a bigger girl - I've written on the subject myself. The comments people leave speak for themselves - of course it's possible. Fat is not a personality trait, and any guy who is worth getting close to will understand that. But hey, single girl in question - do you understand that? A strongly recurring message in the blog comments is that we need to look inward and love ourselves before seeking love from others. If you love a fat girl, someone else will too.

and it's because she's smart and funny too, not just because of her smokin' bod

January 17, 2011

WWW: Week Three

My picture for the week:

perfect is probably really boring, anyway
This is my mantra for this coming week, and I'm going to try my best to embrace it entirely!

What have you done this past week to help you achieve your goals?
Another busy week! (1) T-5 pounds until my 100-pound loss! It's getting real. (2) I have been back running, but I had not done a "long" run since the 5k on 1/1. This week I did two - a 3.33 and a 3.1! (3) Looked for academic job postings - right now is when they start popping up like crazy for Fall 2011, but there's nothing yet. (4) My first week back in the classroom was smooth sailing - lots of notes, lots of interesting examples, and even a couple games! So far, so good. (5) I finished one of my goals - #99, the time capsule, which I probably should have done way back in November, but at least I had some more interesting things to include this time! I also bought a bunch of new fruits to try, though so far I have only had the quince ... hated it. Very weird texture. (9) To pamper myself, I did a foot soak with lemon verbena bath salts. So heavenly!

Do you find that your motivation/mood changes in the winter? If so, what do you do to help/avoid it?
I think my mood does a little, but not my motivation. I live in Chicago, so I still have to do things like walk to the grocery store. if I let the snow get to me, I would never get anything done! Sometimes the shades of gray get a little depressing though - that's when I buy myself some flowers and remember that spring will be here sooner than I think!

Do you have any advice for your fellow challengers on staying on task?
Make lists! I absolutely swear by listmaking. There is little more satisfying than being able to cross a completed task off a list. One of my favorite lists is this one, which helps you prioritize things you need to do:

best thing i learned in 4th grade
You fill each quadrant with things you need to do based on if they are important and urgent, important and not urgent, not important and urgent, and not important and not urgent. Important and urgent might be cooking dinner or paying a bill; not important and urgent is things like non-task related phone calls. Or so I believe - the best part of this list is that you get to choose based on your task and your own priorities.

What day(s) of the week/month do you find it difficult to stay on task/motivated?
In the beginning, I had trouble staying on task on the weekends - at work during the week, I have a very structured schedule. But weekends, I was left to my own devices. I decided to make weekends work for me - I make sure I hit the gym, and I do errands on Saturday and housework on Sunday. It doesn't take all day, so I can still go out and do things, but having a plan gives me a bit more structure and helps me stay focused.

If you were going on a road trip (longer than a day) who would you take with you? Where would you go?
My best friend Jill, no doubt about it. We both worked on-campus at our university in summer 2006,
so we spent a ton of time together, and we decided that we didn't want to just sit around for three months. So, we became The People Who Do Things - not very creative, but our intentions were good. We took day trips around Connecticut and to Boston and Philadelphia, and the next summer we even came out to Chicago for a week! Though not quite a "road" trip, we went to Paris together in March 2008, and I'd love to go back to France with her - especially since I think my reward for reaching my long-term weight loss goal might have to involve a trip to the south of France to ride bikes through the lavender fields of Provence.

January 16, 2011

Baked chicken parmagiana

My grandfather passed away yesterday morning. My family is back east taking care of each other, addio, nonnoand I'm here, alone, doing the best to control my Italian crisis defense mechanisms (start cooking and stop when the grief is gone, or you run out of ingredients). I find myself crying substantially less than I did for my Nana - it's hard to grieve a situation where what happens is exactly what was desired by those involved.

My grandparents were married for nearly sixty years when my grandmother passed away, and since she died, my Papa became increasingly withdrawn. He lost all interest in his old hobbies, he all but shut out his eight living children and the twenty-one grandchildren, and he had all the pictures of Nana put away because they devastated him. It's been so easy to be mad and frustrated at the fact that he ceased caring about his remaining family, but to be honest, his was a grief that none of us could have entirely understood. Fifty-seven of my grandfather's ninety-seven years were spent with this woman. They had nine children, fifty-eight birthdays and Christmases, and nearly seventy-thousand meals together. At a certain point, their life together became longer than their lives apart had been - the day they met - so adorablethis is something absolutely unfathomable to me at twenty-four years old.

At a party once, my friends and I got to talking about the idea that some people have that there is something that our grandparents had right but that our generation has wrong when it comes to dating and marriage. I can't say that I subscribe to the belief in "the halcyon days." I'm sure they had problems just like we do, but for some reason, it's easier to sort of romanticize their era. Maybe because they didn't have websites where they peddled their faces and hoped for the best ... but still, there had to have been anxieties about finding someone to share their lives with, right? If I had to choose their strength, I'd say that maybe their generation was a bit more patient and understood waiting for what's perfect little better than we do.

Yesterday, thinking of love and loss and my Papa, I made a "lightened up" version of chicken parmegiana - baked, not fried.

delicious
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4 oz. each)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg white
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 oz. mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and spices. Dip chicken in egg white, then coat with the crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, then flip chicken and cook for 8-10 more minutes, or until cooked through (but not overcooked). Spoon tomato sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cheese. Put chicken back into the oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Yield: 2 servings; each serving has approximately 415 calories, 10.5 g fat, 112 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, and 46 g protein


You can add more sauce to suit your tastes - I like things on the dry side, so I just did a little. Also, I still do not trust myself with having cheese in the house, so I bought two individual pieces of string cheese and topped each chicken breast with one that I tore apart. My off-the-boat-Italian grandfather probably wouldn't have enjoyed it, but I thought it was delicious, and it reminded me of how much I love my family.