March 12, 2011

Big sister

A lot of my weight issues and anxieties stem from my childhood and my relationship with my family members. Interestingly, though, I find that as I continue on my weight loss journey and make progress on some of my older issues, I'm also developing some new ones.

I'm a big sister to three awesome kids. I have two sisters who are close to me in age (two years between Lisa and me, and two between Lisa and Katie), and a little brother who is just over fourteen years younger than me.

halloween 2010
They live about nine hundred miles away from me, and I miss them so much, even though when we all lived together, it was crazy and chaotic and we fought a lot. Not seeing your family every day does that, I guess - you learn to appreciate the time you have together a bit more. In spite of the arguments, though, I've always loved being a big sister. I love being the trail blazer, the role model, the one that they go to when they have questions or want someone to talk to (although with Lisa, that's only recently ... I just wasn't cool enough before I moved away).

In addition to being the oldest sister, I've also always been the biggest sister. At 5'6", I'm the tallest - and at 345 pounds, I was certainly the heaviest. Despite my weight being beyond unhealthy and my height being beyond control, there has always been an odd comfort in these statistics. They're physical reminders that no matter how far away I am, I am still the big sister.

Except that now ... I'm not.

When I left Connecticut in January, I weighed the same as Katie - and now, I'm 32 pounds lighter. I'm only a few pounds heavier than Lisa now - five at the most. And with puberty on the horizon, Dan's going to get taller than me within the next few years. It's another big part of my identity that I need to reshape - redefining "big sister" strictly in terms of age.

Some of my recent anxieties have been related to the idea that I will weigh less than Lisa soon. I know it's not right to make a comparison, and I would never bring it up with her, especially not in a mean or hurtful way. It's more of a shock for me than anything - you see, Lisa was an absolute twig growing up, and while she has gained weight in the past few years, she has never been big the way Katie and I were. Lisa was always the skinny sister, and since I still have issues with not being able to completely visualize my weightloss, knowing that the numbers on the scale for Lisa and I are almost the same makes me a little nervous. I still see Lisa as so small and me as so big.

I guess the anxiety comes not so much from knowing that I will be the smallest sister, but from being forced to visually recognize and come to terms with my physical changes.

so friggen cute
I tried on this dress while bra shopping and fell in love a little ... the 14 was a little snug in the chest, but the 16 fit perfectly. I'm thinking I'll wait a month or two and get it as a welcome-to-onederland present, if it's still available. The best part, though, was that I took advantage of the full-length mirrors and bright lights to try and soak in the image of my smaller body. It's taking a lot of getting used to.

March 11, 2011

Roses and thorns

A small loss this week, down one pound to 228. I can't say I'm thrilled - I saw a lower number earlier in the week - but I understand it. Even though I worked out a lot this week, I found myself eating more this week than I usually do, and little extras here and there add up quickly. I don't deny myself occasional treats (small ones here and there help me avoid cravings that lead to binges) but this week I think I had a few too many. One treat a week isn't fatal to me, but four or five treats can be counterproductive - the first craving is usually genuine, but I think that anything that follows is for love and comfort, not chocolate.

I also have been paying closer attention to the sodium content of the foods I eat, and it's something I need to work on. I have been cooking less because I've been busy with work and life this week - still eating at home, but just making less-than-stellar choices. For example, I haven't really been planning my meals. I've just been coming home, exhausted and hungry, and so I cook up a little of this and a little of that. Calorie wise it tends to be more than I would plan for, and the disorganization of it makes me overeat. Cooking dinner on an empty stomach is dangerous - it's like going grocery shopping when you're hungry. I can't function that way - I need a plan.

My goal for this week is to cut back on sodium - and for this weekend, to cook up a storm and restock my freezer with premade meals so I don't end up throwing together last-minute dinners.

That said, though, I was pretty pleased with my workouts this week: my failed long run on Sunday was tough, but I felt much better about doing 3 miles in 36:00 on Tuesday and one mile in 10:54 last night!so ready for spring in chicago And - my size 16 jeans are super loose. Payday can't come soon enough - bring on the 14s!

Some interesting non-scale news, I was having a discussion with some folks at work earlier this week, and I was mistaken about the end of the semester. I thought the last day of classes was May 6 - nope, it's April 29. That means only seven more weeks, not eight - and one of those weeks is Spring Break! It's bittersweet - I'm a little anxious thinking about not being able to pay my bills, but I'm also a little exhilarated by the uncertainty, surprisingly enough. For someone who obsessively loves plans, I'm kind of excited by the idea that I have absolutely no idea what I am going to be doing a few months from now. I'm not afraid of hard work, so the bills will get paid whether I'm a university lecturer or working three retail jobs. It will all work out.

March 10, 2011

Saying goodbye

Dear old clothes,

We used to be pretty close. Tight, even. But we've grown apart considerably over the last seven months, to the point where I just can't see myself in you anymore. It wasn't all bad, but still, it's time for me to move forward.

Red collared shirt, we went through an awful lot together. You held me together during my first real date with a boy, and even though things didn't work out with him, I still felt happy when it was me with you.

staff photos, 2006. not my best hair.
Multicolored sundress, I loved you immensely. I thought you were so pretty, and twirling around in you made me feel so free and cute that I'd temporarily forget the fact that I was 210 pounds away from my dream long-term goal weight. But I used you, especially towards the end. I wore you every single day not because I loved you, but because you were all I had and I was desperate.

greektown, march 2010
Black workout pants, we went through so much together. So much sweat! (Sorry that was probably gross for you.) Remember when we raced up the stairs? Thank you for supporting me through that. I never thought I could do it, but I did, and you were there for the whole ride.

nine minutes flat - such a great day
Green sweater, I just might miss you most of all. I felt so lovely in you, especially when paired with pearls. I wore you on one of my favorite days in Paris, the day we went to Père-Lachaise cemetery and the cabaret! We looked so good together.

francy pants
Thank you all for being there for me when I needed you - I'll never forget the good times we had! But it's time for me to move on to smaller and better things.


P.S. I *did* hold on to a few things - the orange shirt from my before picture, my biggest pair of jeans, and my biggest pair of black work pants. The rest of it got bagged up to be donated or trashed (unfortunately, a lot of my stuff either had holes or stains). I'm feeling incredibly light and rather good about it all. Happy 200th post to me!

March 9, 2011

One thing

Yesterday, I had it all figured out. I woke up really hopeful that the universe would point me in a helpful direction, and it didn't fail me: on the bus to work in the morning, the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" came on my iPod. But I was still feeling mopey at work, and I started tossing around the idea of taking off for a one day getaway. Maybe Milwaukee, maybe St. Louis ... somewhere I could go and come back feeling refreshed and ready for Thursday.

I talked to a few people, lined up subs for my classes since they will just be watching a movie today anyway, and started to research Amtrak tickets, a budget hotel, good places to run outdoors, parks, free tourist attractions, anything ... as long as it was anywhere but here.

Then, I looked up the weather.

It's going to rain today in Milwaukee, and St. Louis is anticipating clouds. Go figure. Above all else, though, I decided that one day secreted away is not the vacation I need, or even the one that I really want. I want to give this a little thought and really enjoy whatever I end up doing, not spend the whole day worrying about what my students are doing or if I'm going to get caught for playing hooky. Not to mention that all my problems would still be waiting for me back in Chicago.

Yesterday afternoon was when everything started to pick up. I was sitting in my office hours, and I remembered a quote I had seen in an e-mail from Runner's World:
"Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running."
Kara Goucher
So I took off work early, went to the gym, and just ran. Covered up the treadmill screen, didn't think about the distance, just ran.

three in thirty-six. nice.
I ran 3 miles in 36 minutes, and it was heavenly. It was exactly what I needed. I felt so incredibly refreshed afterwards - my heart was pumping, my blood was coursing through my veins, and I felt fully charged with hope.

I'm going to take a vacation. This will happen - it needs to. I'm going to plan it this weekend and make some commitments to being responsibly selfish. But today, I'll be in Chicago, teaching the next forty minutes of the film three times and having interesting conversations about it all with my students. And I'm very much okay with that. I'm feeling much more optimistic about everything, because I have a plan.

I'm going to try to focus on one thing at a time.

Okay, so it's a simple plan. But I think it'll work.

just looking at this pile fills me with anxiety
Today's thing is finally donating or trashing all of my old clothes. They've been accumulating in a giant pile and I'm surprisingly anxious about getting rid of them. It's silly, I know. But I can't help clinging to the small material reminders of life as I've known it. Purging this pile is long overdue, and I think it will be a huge step towards alleviating some of my recent emotional weight. I get so easily overwhelmed by the emotional to-do list in my mind, and if I don't stop and breathe every now and then, I'll go crazy. My mom reminded me on the phone last night that since there is quite the history of mental illness in our family, I need to take extra caution to make sure I stay balanced and nourish my mind as well as my body.

March 8, 2011

When it rains

... it pours. Without fail.

I have a lot of things weighing on me right now, and I'm not sure I want to write a proper post for each one - I *do* need to get them off my chest, but I just don't want to draw them out into multiple posts full of complaining, anxiety, and my odd neuroses. So, here we go, list style. Buckle up, I can't guarantee this is going to be a well-articulated smooth ride of thoughts.

1. My dad is back in the hospital. As of my last phone conversation with my mother, it's not looking terribly serious, but still, it's troubling. It feels like this stuff never ends. I don't want to say I'm jinxed, but as soon as I start seriously researching a vacation, something happens and I'm so grateful that I didn't book a flight or anything because now I can afford to fly home if I need to. (And then I start to feel guilty that I'm thinking about myself and my stupid vacation after hearing that Dad is sick again.)

stuff no one told me DOT blogspot DOT com
2. My friend that I am running the Shamrock Shuffle with in just over a month didn't listen when I told her to be careful not to overtrain, and she messed up her knee pretty bad. So she'll be doing the race, but only running a mile at most, then walking. We run together on Sunday mornings, and I asked her flat out the other day if she'd be able to do the race, and without addressing my question, she said that no matter what she ends up doing, she wants me to run the whole thing. I feel really conflicted about this. On the one hand, I want to run this race more than anything - but on the other, I don't want to abandon my friend. We're in this together. What to do?!

stuff no one told me DOT blogspot DOT com
3. I'm in an awful funk. I keep getting up every morning, going to work, going to the gym, and eating well. But I'm still feeling really unsatisfied most days. It's an odd feeling, especially because I'm so cheerful most of the time, even when things aren't going so well. Lately it just seems that every strong week is followed by multiple weeks of instability, and I can't completely pick myself up. I honestly think it's the weather and my need of a change of scenery, but knowing what needs to happen doesn't really make it all that much easier when it's sort of beyond your control.

stuff no one told me DOT blogspot DOT com
4. Also adding to my malaise: I'm totally smitten with a boy that, even if he was interested in me, I cannot be with right now, for a few reasons. He'll get his own post soon enough, but at the moment, I just can't process the thoughts. The problem is that I get emotionally attached far too quickly and it's tearing my heart apart just thinking about the eventual heartache I'm setting myself up for. These are not real current concerns, these are worries about possible future concerns, and the logical 24-year-old me knows that. But the 13-year-old me that's raging inside my brain lately is bouncing off the walls. I'm worried that these new feelings will disrupt the path I've been cruising along for the past few months, and that feeling of slipping and losing control is the last thing I need.

In so many aspects of my life lately, I feel like I am 13 again: my weight is about the same now as it was then, my body is changing, and my brain feels totally unsure about how to process this new world I am living in. It was awful dealing with these kinds of transitions at 13 when I had no real life responsibilities - just fight with my sisters, yell at my parents, and stomp off to bed early. But to have to live with this all and still go to work, pay bills, run errands, and interact with people? It's exhausting. And I'm not entirely sure what I need to do to fix it.

A good cry helped.

stsob fest 2011
Some other ideas: I need to expand my offline support system. I need to feel less guilty about things that I cannot control. I need to hold onto what I can right now (thank you, Sarah). I need to make specific goals - a day at a time, if need be - and I need to stay focused. I need a change of scenery, even something as simple as mixing up my routines in a small way.


I told you this was going to be all over the place.

It's supposed to be a little warmer today, and I hope that makes me feel better. Teaching will be a breeze since my kids are watching a movie, and I fully intend on getting to bed early tonight. I'll be bringing a paper notebook to my classes today to take notes and make a more specific plan of action, and hopefully this wishy-washy feeling will go away soon.

How do you deal with that wishy-washy feeling? (Please tell me I'm not the only one who feels this way sometimes!) What do you do to mix up a stale routine?

March 7, 2011

WWW: Week Ten

My picture for the week:

holiday from real
My best friend Jill and me in Chicago, summer 2007 - we were still in college, and we took a road trip out here with our friend Christina. It was amazing. I can't wait to see them all again and take crazy jumping pictures! They always make me smile.

What have you done this past week to help you achieve your goals?
(2) My long run yesterday was a bust - I was supposed to do 4.25 miles, but needed to stop after 2.75. I'm not feeling too bummed, because I know exactly why it happened: I started too fast, and I wasn't properly hydrated. I started cramping up and so I just did what I could.
(4) The most amazing thing happened the other day - a few weeks ago, my students asked what courses I would be teaching in the fall, and I said that my contract at the university was up in May. This week they had an exam, and one group of kids always comes to my office early on exam days to review. A few of the kids asked if it would be okay to write a letter to my boss urging her to rehire me. It made me feel really great, especially considering that I thought my teaching hasn't been the best lately. No need to write letters just yet, but it's so nice to know they love my class! (They ended up canceling on the movie date Saturday night - we'll reschedule soon! I was pretty bummed since I was totally going to go this time.)
(5) I completed goal #57, donate to a cause I believe in. I decided to make a donation to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to celebrate my one hundred pound weight loss, and this week I finished getting the funds together to send off. I felt really, really good about doing this - $100 feeds 120 people for a day. That's so unbelievable to me.
(8) I made some art! A friend of mine was having a hard time last week, and since he's a writer with a lot on his mind, I decorated a little notebook for him. Nothing fancy, but it felt good to create:

The front has a quote from Max Ehrmann's poem "Desiderata": "Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." An amazing quote, and I thought it was totally perfect for the situation.
(9) I wore my hair down a few times - it's naturally very curly, which I love. And I've been noticing lately how much healthier it is now that I eat better ... not sure if there's an official scientific correlation, but I'm sticking with it.

New month! How are you feeling with the end of the challenge coming up soon?
A little nervous! I haven't done anything for two of my goals yet: #6 (visit 3 museums on Free Days) and #10 (go to the opera). So this should be a fun and busy month!

What would you change differently about this challenge for the Spring Fever Challenge beginning soon?
I honestly can't think of anything - I think Amy has done a great job hosting this and sending out questions every week. I'm totally into challenges - they help me to focus on short-term goals that aren't related to the number on the scale.

What have you learned about yourself during this challenge (or past few months)?
This is a pretty loaded question, haha. I'd say that in terms of challenge-related lessons, I've figured out that it's kind of hard to do one thing specifically every week to make me feel gorgeous. I have to really think about it sometimes. I'm getting better - and wearing a little makeup has become a regular thing now! - but it's still something I have to consciously work into my week.

Do you enter contests? Have you ever won one?
I won a raffle for a poster in college, but I don't think I've ever won anything big, interesting, cool, or amazing. My sister Katie is the lucky one in our family - she once won $500 in a contest from a newspaper, and she used the money to buy our mom a Kitchenaid stand mixer for Christmas that year. She's such a nice kid ... maybe the good karma is why she's so lucky! I actually made this one of my 101-in-1001 goals: #66, win a raffle/giveaway. It has little to do with getting luckier, but I wanted to take more risks. Raffles and giveaways are, of course, low-risk risks, but still, I want to try. You can't win if you don't try!

March 6, 2011

Zucchini pasta

Yesterday morning, I couldn't decide if I wanted a low-fat chocolate muffin or a cup of blueberry Chobani for breakfast. So, I went for both - I smeared some yogurt on top of the muffin like a cupcake and went to town. Amazing.

I then posted a ridiculous picture of me enjoying it on Twitter, and the nice folks at Chobani loved it and put it on their Facebook fan page!

nice face, weirdo
How cool is that?! Those muffins were a recipe I made a few weeks ago, and I love them - I froze them all up and I take one out of the freezer the night before so it's thawed and delicious for the morning. Total new recipe success, all thanks to Ellen, who originally posted it.

That said, I really need to branch out with my recipes. Lately it's mostly been either Italian or some sort of Italian-inspired meals. But I can't help it! This is the kind of stuff I grew up eating all the time, so I tend to default to it ... and it's comforting to know that there are healthier ways to make many of the things I enjoy.

This week, I wanted the comfort of a bowl of spaghetti and a meaty tomato sauce, but I also wanted to keep it lower in carbs if possible - I find that having my carbs mostly in the beginning of the day works out best for me. I remembered seeing a recipe somewhere where someone had taken a zucchini, sliced it into ribbons, and served it like pasta. So, that's what I did - sort of. I used the large shred side of the cheese grater instead of the mandoline slicer.

so delicious
I love how colorful it is!

I cooked up a quarter pound of lean ground turkey, then added some sliced fresh mushrooms and sliced olives. I added some spaghetti sauce and let it all simmer for a few minutes while I shredded up a couple of medium sized zucchini. I added the shreds and cooked it all for only about a minute or two - you don't want the zucchini to get overcooked and soggy, just a little warmed up.

Unbelievably simple, incredibly delicious, and totally good for you ... three things I love in a meal.

For next week, I'm imposing a few rules for myself: no pasta or pasta substitutes, no tomato sauce, no green peppers. I've had too many variations on the same themes! Any suggestions for new recipes?