January 29, 2011


According to my family, I am the hardest person in the world to buy presents for. And I can kind of see how that's true. I'm just not really the kind of person who likes things, I guess - there are things that I enjoy, but I don't latch on to specific trends, at least not ones that make Christmas shopping easy. My mom thinks gifts should be fun and frivolous things you'd never get yourself, or things you want but don't need; I tend to ask for functional presents. Seriously, I'm happiest when I got new socks and deodorant in my stocking.

So now, the question has been popping up: I've hit my 100 pound weight loss, so what am I going to do to for a reward? And to be honest, I'm not entirely sure. Whose philosophy should I subscribe to, mine or my mother's? Or maybe a bit of both?

The last time I really thought about it was probably 99 pounds ago, and my response would likely have been "a cupcake." I do *not* want my reward to be food - it would go against everything I've been working for, and I'm not talking in terms of calories. I've been trying to redefine this in my mind for the past six months: food is not something I get for doing a good job, food is something that I need to fuel my body and keep it alive and moving. If I wanted a cupcake, I'd find a way to make it work - but I just don't want one.

I also thought about buying some new clothes, but I feel myself leaning towards my mom's ideas of gift giving here - I kind of want something special, and the two-birds-one-stone doesn't feel celebratory enough. Bad pun aside, losing 100 pounds is huge. And I want to do something really wonderful to celebrate the fact that I am in a much better place right now than I was six months ago.

I looked up "rewards for 100 pound weight loss" on Google, and most things that came up were food or clothes. Some people suggested a day at a spa, but I'm just not comfortable enough for that yet - I'll keep the idea on the back-burner for a reward for my 200 pound loss. Another suggestion said a nice piece of jewelry, but I already have a pearl necklace that I got from my parents for graduation that I never wear because it's so fancy. I had entertained the thought of a tattoo, and while it is definitely something that I'd like eventually, I think that right now with my 8k training, it's not the right time. A new tattoo is a giant wound that takes a few weeks and good care to heal properly, and I don't think all this running would be conducive to proper healing. I did some research on discussion boards and forums, and sweating isn't the major issue, it's clothing friction. All my running pants are long, and since I want the tattoo on my outer left thigh, I'd have to have some mighty short shorts to avoid clothes rubbing the tattoo. That is just not happening.

gcfd logoSo, what should I do? Suggestions? Ideas?

The only thing that I am really certain about right now is also on my 101-in-1001 list: #57, donate to a cause I truly believe in. I want to help local food banks via the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Something that has really struck me during this journey is a sense of immense gratitude - I am constantly reminded that I have so much to be thankful for. I believe Jess said it best when she wrote on the subject back in November, essentially saying that we're all so fortunate to be in a position to afford to nourish our bodies and keep them active - with every meal, we choose what to eat, but some people have to decide if they can eat that day. According to the GCFD, they serve one out of every eight Chicagoans - including almost 23% of children here in the city. It's very humbling, and so I really want to give back in this way.

January 28, 2011

Roses and thorns

This is me in July, right before I decided to lose weight.

no comment
That is what I looked like at 345 pounds.

This is me now, exactly six months later.

and no comment still
Six months ... and 102 pounds later.

Excuse me for a moment while I bawl uncontrollably over here.

This is so remarkable. This is astounding. This is something I never, ever thought I was capable of. And this is just the beginning.

If numbers are your thing, here are some stats:
  • I am currently 70% of my starting weight (243/345).

  • I have lost 49% of the pounds I decided to lose for my long-term goal (102/210).

  • My BMI has dropped from 55.7 (super obese) to 39.2 (obese).

  • My pants have gone from a size 26/28 to an 18.

  • I have not binged in nearly six months. (Related: my monthly food bill is half what it used to be.)

I hope I'm not alone in saying that there's something both exciting and truly terrifying about reaching goals. It's great, because you have accomplished something you set out to do, and you're better for it. But at the same time, it pushes you into the unknown and demands even more of you than you ever knew you could give. I'm a little nervous and a little anxious and a little scared ... perhaps even more now at this point than I was when I was first getting started! But doesn't the saying go that when you feel that way, it usually means you're onto something big?

I cannot thank you all enough for your advice, love, and support during my first hundred pound loss - I'm unbelievably excited to see what challenges, rewards, and changes the next hundred brings!

January 27, 2011


I really miss my grandmother ... my Grammy, my mom's mom. I'm not sure why but lately, she's been on my mind an awful lot. It might be the new Decemberists album, which has a decidedly folksy tone to it, and that floods my mind with memories of her and her old house. My Grammy was a farm girl, and my mom and her siblings were raised on a big farm in Connecticut. from an old family portrait - my mom looks exactly like her, and my sister kate looks exactly like my mom. triplets, for real.They had the usual livestock, and when her nest emptied and her helpers moved away, the farm dwindled. As a kid, I loved going to visit Grammy's - especially playing hide and seek in the barn or late-night games of flashlight tag around the horse pen. The barn had a very specific, earthy smell to it, and I can still remember the feeling of the dirt in there. It's one of those odd comforts that completely captivates you any time you feel or smell anything like it.

My Grammy was the thinnest woman I'd ever met, which was completely incomprehensible because I don't remember ever seeing her eat anything besides grilled cheese sandwiches or homemade chocolate chip cookies (or Hershey Nuggets with almonds, which she always had a bowl of on her coffee table). She had always been thin - my mom said it was a combination of always working on the farm and never being in a financial position to overeat - and she always talked about needing to lose weight. Even as a little kid, it made me self-conscious. If *she* is disgusting, what am I?

I disagreed with the lifestyle my mother adapted when my parents divorced, and my relationship with my grandmother was never the same after that, even after my mother and I reconciled. She retired, sold her farm, and moved down South shortly thereafter, and even though we exchanged occasional e-mails, it was mostly factual life updates from my side and thinly-veiled criticisms from her, so they were few and far between. After my Grammy moved to Florida, I never saw her or physically spoke to her again - not a deliberate choice, but more a result of my going off to college and her keeping busy with her part-time job at a hospital taking pictures of newborns.

Her death in 2006 at age 63 was completely unexpected, and it really crushed me. We hadn't spoken in such a long time, and it was my first serious loss of a loved one. 2001 - i wish i had more photos of herWith that came the realization of just how permanent death is. I never got to know her or to really speak with her like an adult, and that's a chance that I will never get. After her passing, I learned all sorts of things about my Grammy, things I never knew we had in common. She too preferred pearls over diamonds and loved "The Golden Girls" ... and she had also had a relationship with a man she later found out was married. This last fact was the one that broke my heart, to be honest. My Grammy was a very proper lady who never talked about anything "inappropriate," but I'd like to think that I could have opened up to her and asked for her advice on how to deal with that very particular kind of broken heart.

I loved my Grammy very much, and I know she loved me, even if she wasn't great at expressing it - I know she meant well, even when she would talk about my weight as if I weren't in the room. I just wish I had kept in better contact with her, and that we could have been closer when she was alive. And I wish she was here now so I could show her all the progress I've been making ... and so I could cook her something besides a cheese sandwich.

January 26, 2011


When I was a kid and lived at home, we never watched TV - we didn't get cable, so it wasn't even an option. Shortly after I went away to college, though, my family got a satellite dish, and it was like the feast after a famine. There are hundreds of channels - no joke, anything you could possibly be interested in, there was a channel for. We all had our favorites. Dad liked anything sports related, Mom liked the cooking and DIY channels, Dan liked Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, and my sisters liked the music and independent film channels. one of my favorite memories of paris - hotel cafe, hot tea, and writing about my experiences 'til 2amBecause of school, I wasn't around much, but whenever I was home, my favorite was the Travel Channel - as much as I profess to be a homebody, I totally love traveling. Admittedly, I haven't done much of it, but I'm still completely in love with the experience.

It was so nice to watch these shows and see what kind of incredible experiences these people were having all around the world, but at the same time, I envied them - they were off having adventures, but I felt very grounded. I used the homebody excuse for years to avoid studying abroad, but the reality was that the thought of living in Paris paralysed me with fear. It was a nice dream, but just not feasible with me being over 300 pounds - even if I went, I wouldn't be having the dreamy experiences that Samantha Brown and Anthony Bourdain had. I was obsessed with what the slim and fashionable Parisians would be thinking...
Mais regarde cette grosse Américaine!
The dream of a second language learner is to be comfortable in a foreign environment and to be understood, even by natives. It didn't matter how good my French was, I would never be mistaken for a Parisian on my walks through the park or my trips to the market on account of my body.

My senior year of college, I did a course abroad - a one week trip over spring break to Paris, with coursework to be completed upon my return to Connecticut - and the experience was incredible. I visited historical monuments, ate incredible meals, and the locals even understood when I asked for directions! The perfect word for Paris is "breathtaking," and unfortunately, I found myself understanding it on a few different levels. felt like the ironman leg breakdownRunning in the rain for our night cruise on the Seine should have been a lovely moment out of a classic movie, but honestly, I thought it would kill me. Climbing the spiral stairs of the Arc de Triomphe isn't an impossible feat, but it took everything for my wobbly legs not to collapse before reaching the top. And walking through parks and gardens was somewhat less dreamy since I had to stop somewhat frequently to rest my feet. I was so glad that it rained the day we went to Versailles because the plan had been to ride bikes all over the palace grounds, and I knew that I wouldn't have been able to keep up.

Now, nearly three years later, these memories of my old self make me a little sad. Your first trip to Paris only happens once - I knew I was going for nearly a year, and even that couldn't motivate me to get healthy. I didn't do and everything that I wanted, and all because of self-imposed physical limitations. I don't want it to sound like I was miserable the entire time - I truly loved it. It was incredible, and I made the most of it given my situation at the time. I just can't wait to return as a lighter version of myself and take the city by storm!

January 25, 2011

The starting line

When I first started this blog back in August, I watched a lot of documentaries to get ideas and inspiration. This weekend, as I watched the first episode of the A&E show "Heavy," it got me thinking, as always. pics from the orlando sentinel websiteI've read a lot of blog posts and Twitter updates about the show, including many comparisons to "The Biggest Loser," which I need to admit that I've only seen once, but even that was once too much for me. This new show has been touted as being similar to "The Biggest Loser," only without the competition aspect, and that intrigued me since that's precisely why I have no interest in "The Biggest Loser."

If you have not seen "Heavy," I would definitely recommend checking it out (you can stream the episode from A&E's website). Something that I really liked was that Tom and Jodi spent the first month in a controlled environment, but were then on their own (though, if they could not succeed yet on their own, they would be brought back to the ranch for more assistance). Weight loss is a giant math equation - every plan boils down to burning more calories than you take in - so no matter what method you choose to follow lose weight, the most important thing is that it needs to be sustainable for you and your own personal situation. As wonderful as it sounds to be put in a weight loss utopia, it's not something you can likely replicate in the "real world."

Watching these two people in the beginning stages of weight loss really resonated with me. One of the most difficult places to be in this journey is the starting line. For me, the first few weeks were among the hardest because there were so many changes that needed to be made, and it often felt overwhelming - it's tough to adapt to new healthy habits after being inactive and eating so poorly for so long, no doubt about it. And despite knowing that it's in your best interest to stick with your program and do the right thing, it's still unbelievably hard to stay optimistic and give every day your best when you're facing 210 pounds to lose. For me, something that helped me stay focused what something that was said in one of the documentaries I watched back in August:
There was a study done in the 1950s of people who entered treatment programs for weight loss. The research showed that most of the people in the program quit; most of those who stayed did not lose weight; most of those who lost weight did not maintain losses. The narrator pointed this out and cited an updated study that shows that, over fifty years later, the statistics are not all that different. She called this the "grim shadow behind weight loss efforts" - if the odds are not in your favor, why bother putting in the effort to try? During a scene with the married couple and their therapist, the latter said that, at some point, it finally hits you that "it's not about how far it is across the stream, it's about how bad you want to be on the other side."
I saw so much of my old self in Jodi - and I can still relate to so many of her hangups, so many of her negative thoughts. For people with so much weight to lose, fear of failure is often a secondary thought to fear of success. I know I'm going to lose 210 pounds, but I don't know if I'm going to be happy and feel satisfied with my life. These are things I can't measure on the scale, and the lack of certainty can feel overwhelming. Obesity is comfortable, at least in a sense of being familiar, and the thought of changing your entire life is terrifying, especially when there is no specific result that you are guaranteed.

The journey of weight loss is so much more than simply losing the weight and living happily ever after - you have to change the way you eat and how active you are, but also the way you look and the way you interact with family, friends, and the world is completely different. The best we can do is try and tackle some of the emotional hurdles while also working on the physical ones.

January 24, 2011

WWW: Week Four

My picture for the week:

just like walking around inside my mind, i think - lots of lovely chaos
I cleaned out my purse the other day, and found all these old receipts, index cards, and scraps of paper with thoughts scribbled on them: whenever I get ideas for things to write about on my blog, I take notes, then just toss them into my bag. Some of these I've used, some have yet to appear. I think this offers an interesting insight into the way my brain works...

What have you done this past week to help you achieve your goals?
(1) I lost four pounds last week, bringing my total loss to 99 - just one more pound! I think I can, I think I can...
(2) I printed out my training schedule and have been sticking to it - long runs on Sundays, shorter runs on Tuesdays, and short runs on Thursdays. Yesterday I did 3.25 with no problem. [Also, I totally love the fact that two mile runs are "short runs" now.]
(3) Looked for more teaching jobs but nothing yet. My goal for this week is to polish my CV and get it ready for sending out. I'm also looking into a classroom technology specialization certificate that my university offers - just a little something else to help me stand out!
come on, how could you not love this little baby face?(4) Week two of teaching went well - half the week we spent watching our first film, an absolutely adorable animated Belgian/Senegalese coming-of-age film called "Kirikou et la sorcière" ("Kirikou and the Sorceress"). They've responded really well so far, and I'm pleased. We'll finish it tomorrow and I can't wait to see what the discussions are like!
(5) Tried pummelo - delicious! Like a less intense grapefruit - I loved it. I also tried a Chinese Yali pear - yes, I have had pears before, but not this kind, so I'm counting it. Also quite good, and not too grainy, which I sometimes find pears to be.
(7) I filed my taxes and sent them in earlier this week - one step closer to my mini-shopping spree!
(9) This week's make-me-feel-gorgeous activity was painting my nails - clear polish, because I'm not a terribly fancy lady, but still, the act of taking ten minutes to focus on myself felt really nice.

How are you feeling about the goals you set for yourself? Overwhelmed? Too easy? Just right?
I'm feeling pretty confident in my goals. I set reasonable ones, I think, and I'm trying to spread out the bigger ones so it doesn't get too overwhelming.

Do you prefer to exercise inside or outside?
Right now, I like exercising inside because of all the machines at the gym, but this summer, I'm going to try and branch out. I can run or ride a bike along lakeshore paths, and the big park downtown does early morning yoga and things like that for free, and so that's definitely something I'd like to try!

Are you a self-starter or do you need a little push?
I am the kind of person who cannot be told to do something, because I will dig my heels in and get stubborn, even if I know it's for the better. Luckily, though, I'm usually on top of things, so it rarely comes down to the point where someone has to tell me to do something.

Why did you decide to start a blog?
I am a storyteller by nature - it's a family trait that I love. I have had some really interesting life experiences that have produced some interesting stories, and I've been told innumerable times that with all the ridiculous things I have seen and done, I need to write a book. I have always loved writing, but I'm not sure about all that. What I do know is that in terms of my weight loss, I wanted to find like-minded people who knew what I was going through and who could possibly offer advice, so a blog seemed the best way to go. Accountability was also something I was looking for, since I live alone and have always found it difficult to feel supported by family and friends.

January 23, 2011

Sausage and peppers

My grandfather's funeral was last Wednesday. I was sad that I could not be there with my family, but my father insisted that I stay put. love thenIt hurt, but I think it was the right decision. Flying out for only one day and then having to get right back into teaching would have been extremely difficult for me ... as hard as this is, I need to grieve alone right now, and then pay my respects privately this summer when I am back east.

I think part of my father's concern was due in part to the fact that my grandmother's funeral had been very, very tough for me and affected me for weeks afterwards. My Nana's death was completely unexpected, and although my maternal grandmother had also unexpectedly passed only three months earlier, Grammy's memorial service had been very small and non-traditional. Nana's funeral was a big Roman Catholic service, which I had never really experienced before besides my uncle John, and due to the nature of John's death, he had been cremated - my Nana's funeral had an open casket.

I had never seen a dead body before, and I think that part of the service was just as hard as losing her to begin with. It was like nothing I could have even expected, and I walked away from my grandmother's service with a lot of thoughts and ideas about faith and love.and love later My grandmother was not in that casket. That was just her body, a shell that contained endless love and that held together for decades of life, through innumerable good times and even a few bad ones. It reminded me of a quote by Confucius that I read in the liner notes of some angsty punk CD when I was in high school and that has always stayed with me:
I saw some piglets suckling at their dead mother. After a short while they shuddered and went away. They sensed that she could no longer see them and that she wasn't like them any more. What they loved in their mother wasn't her body, but whatever it was that made her body live.
I've been thinking about the funeral experience a lot since Wednesday and how it relates to my goals for 2011. My focus in this phase of my weight loss is on dealing with some of the emotional side-effects of losing this much weight and, essentially, completely redefining myself. I'm doing terrific work right now to take care of the shell, but I need to make sure that I'm doing the best that I can to not put fully living my life on hold until I reach a specific numeric goal. I'm going to laugh and love and have amazing adventures and enjoy every single day, even if my body is not perfect now (or ever).

And with that, I give you this week's recipe: sausage and peppers. My Nana used to make this at least once a week, with big pieces of Italian pork sausage, soft sweet onions, and a few different colors of peppers - all cooked in butter. But I'm just a single lady who's trying her best, so I used turkey sausage, one green pepper, and olive oil. It was heavenly.

i think even my papa would have liked this
2 links hot Italian-style turkey sausage (I use Butterball brand)
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium Vidalia onion, sliced
1 can (8 oz.) of mushrooms, drained
4 cloves roasted garlic*
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. oregano
Brown sausages in a skillet over medium heat, then remove them from the pan, slice them, and put them aside. In the same skillet, add olive oil and heat for a few seconds before adding onion. Cook onion 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and green pepper and stir to coat. Add oregano and continue to cook until peppers and onions are tender. Add mushrooms and sausage and incorporate well, then reduce heat to low and cover for 10-15 minutes or until sausage is heated through.

* If you would rather use fresh garlic, mince the cloves and cook them slightly in the olive oil before adding onion. I had roasted garlic around, so that's what I used.

Yield: 2 servings; each serving has approximately 327 calories, 22.3 g fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 3.6 g fiber, and 20.9 g protein

There are, of course, more calories if you eat it on a piece of Italian bread, which is really how it ought to be eaten. Personally, I could just eat a bowl of this sweet and spicy meat and veggie deliciousness - and that's exactly what I did with the second serving the next day. Wednesday night, though, I toasted up a roll under the broiler for a minute or so and then enjoyed a sausage and pepper grinder that would've made my Papa proud.

so unbelievably delicious