March 26, 2011


One of my favorite English words - and one of my all-time favorite feelings - is "wanderlust." I've studied a few languages, and I think only English truly captures the intensity of the longing ... though I do like the Spanish expression (which includes the verb for "to know," in a sense of to be familiar with) and the German word (which is like a positive antonym for homesickness). I think the -lust part is what gets me - it's not just that you'd like to get away, but that you're mentally and physically aching to do so.

I am so unbelievably glad that I decided to take this little trip. It was just an overnight, but I feel so completely refreshed and ready to take on the upcoming stresses in my life: the last few weeks of the semester, a week-long visit from my mother and brother, running my first 8k race, and meeting my next big weight loss goal by getting into onederland. Some good stress, some bad, but all things to anticipate and prepare for.

It was freezing and gray when I left Chicago on Wednesday morning. As the train headed toward St. Louis, the sun peeked out and it got warmer and warmer. I didn't have a seatmate, so I scooted over to the aisle seat halfway there to avoid the awkward through-the-window sunburn I always manage to get on my adventures.

Considering I was only there for one full day, there was a lot on my to-do list, and I'm really pleased that I got to it all, even if I had to rearrange my itinerary a bit. I saw the arch and a few parks downtown, did a factory tour at Anheuser-Busch (free beer = yum), went to the craziest museum, and visited the botanical garden.

I tackled one of my biggest recent fears and ate in restaurants without having a panic attack over not being in control of the food preparation! I looked up vegetarian/health-conscious restaurants before leaving, and while one of them turned out to be a bust, I improvised and found a place nearby that offered healthier alternatives (and also listed calories on their menu - score!); breakfast wasn't ideal but it was part of the hotel experience, and it reminded me of being back in college. A Mexican salad with grilled chicken, hotel breakfast (I skipped the French toast slice, which didn't appeal to me once it got to my table, and I grabbed a banana instead ... plus one for the road), and a very delicious Cuban sandwich.

And, as I had planned for, there were treats. A banana cupcake with chocolate inside and peanut butter frosting, a vegan brownie with walnuts, and a vegan apple cranberry oatmeal cookie. "Vegan" does not mean fat-free, sugar-free, or calorie-free - but it does mean that I feel a little better about eating it than some mass-produced Hostess product.

(This week, I'll have another No Treats Week to recover a bit. Totally worth it.)

One of the best parts of the trip was the glorious weather, which I soaked up every second of. Wednesday was absolutely perfect - warm but not humid, and windy enough that it didn't feel too hot. I took lots of pictures of myself since this is my first vacation as a smaller person and I wanted some memories of how I am at this moment.

And I marveled at the fact that all of St. Louis was new to me, and that I was new to all of St. Louis. The next time I go to Paris, there will be comparisons left and right - how hard the stairs at the Arc de Triomphe were last time, how tired my feet were after the first time I walked the Palace at Versailles or the Catacombes - but I've never visited St. Louis before, so I have no old memories of how it used to be when I was very big. It was like writing on the first page of a new book, the story of the adventures of my new life.

And there were NSVs all over the place. Like jumping on a bed and taking a bath for the first time since I was a little kid.

Or being able to wrap a towel around me that isn't a bath sheet. Or buying a souvenir t-shirt in a size that doesn't have an "X" out front.

I'm already thinking about possibilities for my next adventure - something this summer, once I've heard about my job situation for the fall and the stresses of the next five weeks have passed. And I'm unbelievably happy that going out and seeing the world, even just a little bit at a time, is something I'm able to do and that I can fully enjoy thanks to all the hard work I've put in over the last eight months.

Some terrific inspiration from a sculpture in one of the parks in downtown St. Louis:

Every minute of every hour of every day ... life begins anew ... that means everything can change in an instant ... this also means that you can have a new beginning whenever you want.

March 25, 2011

Roses and thorns

225 last Friday. 223 on Tuesday. Two days of vacation. 223 today.

I couldn't be happier.

I also couldn't be more tired - I got in super late last night - so I'm back to bed as soon as I hit publish.

But what remarkable discoveries! Such a lovely city, so much fun and such interesting things to see and do ... and best of all, I've found that for me, vacationing doesn't have to mean weight gain.

I have a lot of thoughts to process and share - full update tomorrow!

all forward motion counts

March 24, 2011

Routine, Part Two

Last week I talked about my exercise routines, so for today, I'm going to share my usual eating patterns. I am a creature of habit, and I tend to have the same things over and over without really getting bored - I vary small parts like flavors, but in general, I always have the same things. I like the structure of it - it's easy for me to stick to.

During the week, breakfast is a cup of Yoplait light yogurt, 100-110 calories. I prefer Greek yogurt, but to be honest, a Chobani every day is just not in the budget. I usually get the Thick and Creamy varieties, yummmthough, so at least it's close-ish in texture. My favorite flavors are Apricot Mango, Banana Cream Pie, and Thick and Creamy Cherry Cobbler.

I teach two classes in a row in the morning, and since my stomach starts to grumble around then, I have a mini Luna Bar in between the two classes. They're 70-80 calories each, and you can buy a box of 18 bars of mixed flavors for about $10 at Target. I usually get the Lemon Zest/Peanut Butter Cookie/White Chocolate Macadamia box, because the box of caramel-y chocolate-y ones definitely contributed to triggering my binge back in February.

After my second class, I head back to the office and heat up a Lean Cuisine, anywhere from 260-330 calories. Most often it's either 270 or 290, but on Fridays I have one of their mini pizzas for lunch, and those are all 300+. They cost about the same as the Weight Watcher frozen meals at Target, but I like the variety of Lean Cuisines better. My favorites are Chicken in Peanut Sauce, Roasted Honey Chicken, Chicken Carbonara, Tortilla Crusted Fish, and Three Cheese Stuffed Rigatoni. I eat these mostly for convenience: it's quick because we have a microwave in the office, and I don't have to worry about making lunch in the morning. I honestly am not sure if I could have a loaf of bread or deli meat/cheese in the house just yet - when I want a sandwich, I get one roll from the bakery and usually cook up a piece of chicken and top it with veggies instead of cheese. That works great on the weekends, but Monday through Friday, I need something quick!

I teach a third class, then back to the office for office hours and tutoring. My afternoon snack, without fail: a 120 calorie bag of Teddy Grahams and a 250 calorie single-serve container of creamy peanut butter. It's not only delicious, but it gets me through my tutoring and workout. I'm really proud of the fact that I can keep the little containers of peanut butter in the house without bingeing on them - that's huge progress for me, who could easily eat an entire jar of peanut butter in a sitting (and may have done it before).

I either go to the gym or come home and relax, and dinner is nothing big or fancy - I try and keep it to about 350-450 calories. ugh i want this nowThere's always a protein involved - usually chicken, fish, or eggs - and some veggies. I try to restrict carbs at night - I always saw poor results at weigh-ins when I had too many carb-heavy dinners. Sometimes I will have rice or pasta, but usually I make lentils instead if I want something like that. I've also fallen in love with shredded zucchini as a pasta substitute (and spaghetti squash, though that's going out of season soon!). I made a lot of vegetable soups this winter which were awesome, but now it's spring and I want salads and sandwiches!

I have a 100ish calorie snack after dinner, usually an apple or a banana, but sometimes I'll splurge and have a Weight Watchers dessert - on Tuesday, for example, I was really craving cookie dough ... to the point where I wouldn't let myself buy eggs at the grocery store because I knew I had all the other ingredients in the house and I would have let it happen. With all my Dad stress, I didn't want a binge to be easily accessible, and I could already hear the voice in my head bargaining - you'll bake the cookies, you'll only eat a few - and my logical brain saying - who the heck are you kidding? you'll scoop it out with your fingers and then lick the bowl. So, I got the single-serve Weight Watchers Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream treat. There are two in the package, 170 calories each. I ate one, and it was unbelievable. Completely delicious, but not just that ... I savored it. I don't think I've ever really savored an ice cream treat before, so it was like tasting it for the first time. I was totally satisfied, and the Binge Monster retreated into his cave.

So that's it: about 1200-1300 calories a day during the week. About once a week I have a bigger dinner or more fruit/snacks to get it to 1400-1500 to shock my system - I have to mix it up and always keep my body guessing. I try and do the same on the weekends, about 1300-1400 calories. I have fewer packaged snacks on the weekends (the mini Luna Bars, Teddy Grahams, and peanut butter are Monday through Friday only) but I tend to eat more fresh fruit and a bigger lunch than dinner since I am more active during the day on the weekends (vs. at night during the week).

What about you? Do you have a food routine or do you try and mix it up every day? Are there any brands/products you totally swear by and can't live without?

March 23, 2011


This vacation could not have come at a better time.

Yesterday I was catching up with my mom via video chat, and I asked how Dad is doing. She said that he was doing alright, that they had gotten off-track a little bit with his diet, and today he has three doctor's appointments, one of which is at the wound care clinic because he ate Chinese food and so now his legs are a mess.

I'm really proud of the fact that I kept my outward anger to a minimum. Honestly, I would have loved to have screamed at them, but it would have been useless - she'd just press the "mute" button because she knows that what I have to say is painful and she doesn't want to hear it, so she chooses not to. Meanwhile, I'm still here, in front of a computer screen nine hundred miles away, and I'm mad as hell. So I held back, and asked very calmly how they could stray from the prescribed diet.
"He said he's looking for quality of life, not quantity of life."
My heart broke when she quoted that. Even at my biggest, eating Chinese food was not something I did to make my life better - even then, I was conscious of the fact that it hurt me and got me further from my goals. I still chose to do it because my goal was self-harming. So to hear that my father could justify breaking doctor's orders in such a serious way by calling it something adding to his "quality of life" is heartbreaking; to hear that he chooses noodles over living long enough to meet his grandchildren absolutely devastates me. Maybe it's my healthier mindset, but I just can't think of anything that tastes that good.

So I did what I usually do when I get bad news about Dad: I log back into the dating website account that I can only bring myself to deactivate and not delete because I want to believe that somewhere out there is a guy who isn't a total wad, and I need to hurry up and meet him, because time is running out. Dad isn't getting any better, so I have to rush things on my end as much as I can.

There are right reasons and wrong reasons to lose weight. The wrong ones are based on others: I want to lose weight so someone will love me, I want to lose weight to look better than this friend or that celebrity. The right ones are all about you - about getting healthy and looking and feeling your best because you want to, because you honestly believe you're worth all this hard work.

So many of my reasons to lose weight are on the "good" side - I want to live, dammit. I saw myself at 23, struggling both physically and emotionally to get out of bed in the morning, and I just couldn't see myself living much longer. So I decided to save my own life, and that has meant sacrifices and struggles and an awful lot of sweating - but finally living this wonderful amazing life is worth every single second of it. Secretly, though, I also have a "wrong" reason: I'm in the race of my life, racing against my father.

Weighing on my heart every time I step on the scale is the thought that I have to get healthy and meet someone as fast as I can so my dad can be at the wedding. I don't know how much time he has, so I have to work as fast as I can. Every week when I only lose a pound, I panic that this will be the week when Dad takes a turn for the worse, and I feel guilty that I didn't start sooner, that I haven't done enough, that I haven't worked fast enough. I've been a daddy's girl ever since I was born, and if he isn't there at my wedding, I honestly don't know if I'll ever get married. It would be devastating. I couldn't possibly enjoy myself knowing that he should have been there and that he isn't, and for completely preventable reasons.

It's ridiculous and wrong - I know. My father's condition is not my fault. I am not losing weight just so that someone will be attracted to me, and I shouldn't rush into a lifetime committment with someone just because I want to have my dad at the party. But I love him so much, and my heart always manages to win over my head, so I log in, and I hope for the best.
May I see your boobs?
No, you may not.
I'll take that as a maybe. I have fresh baked cookies, if that sways your opinion.
*sigh* Deactivate.

By the time this post launches, I'll be rolling away from Chicago. It'll be really nice to vacate my life and its responsibilities for a couple of days. No Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter. No e-mails from students, instant messages from Mom, or chat notifications from creeps on dating websites. Just me, and my intense vacation plans.

google maps, what would i do without you
I totally love making excruciatingly detailed itineraries.

Something I am not taking a break from, though, is my committment to live a healthy life. My pre-leaving breakfast:

chobani rocks my world
First canteloupe of the season, balled up just the way I like it.

Also packed: a big bottle of water and some train food/emergency purse supplies.

i love bananas lately
I have also found vegetarian/health-conscious restaurants in St. Louis for my meals, and all my activities involve a great deal of walking. My goal is weight maintenance, and to keep myself accountable, I need you to know that on Tuesday morning, the scale said 223. Two pound loss so far. I'd like another pound by Friday but without two days of my usual workouts, it's unlikely - and that's okay by me. I'm going to be working on some serious emotional weight loss on this trip, and that's incredibly worth it.

March 22, 2011


Last night, I went to the gym a little later than I usually do; that, paired with the fact that most people aren't on campus for spring break, meant that the gym was pretty empty. It was kind of nice, to be honest - I worked out in the main area with the TVs (I usually use the one random elliptical above the basketball courts) and had to stop myself from working out too much because I had an awful lot of energy. I think it was the combined excitement of a lovely day with nice weather (spring is coming!) and being on vacation.

After my workout, I went to the locker room, and when I realized it was completely empty, I did what I've been dying to do for a few weeks now: I grabbed my camera and took a full-body photo of myself. (Clothes on, no cute undies in this post!)

Something I have a really hard time explaining to people (and even really understanding myself) is that when looking in the mirror, I can't always tell that I have lost weight. And I mean any of it: sometimes I look in the mirror and I still see 345 pound Mary looking back at me. My dad said it's probably because I see myself in the mirror every day, so the gradual changes aren't as drastic to me. It's not just that they aren't drastic - some days, I can't see it at all. It's really, really strange and hard to describe, and I try not to talk about it too much because it's usually met with comments like "Oh! No way! I can totally tell! You look so great!!!" Because that's exactly my point - you can totally tell, but I can't. I'm not fishing for compliments - I'm honestly just aching to see what you see.

Lately, I've been taking pictures of myself almost every day - I'm trying to redefine my mental picture of myself as this smaller person, still in transition but not nearly as big as she used to be. All the pictures I have of myself since high school are all a 300+ pound version of me, and it's so hard to look at them. I'm getting better at not feeling sad or regretful - that girl did great things. And I'm still that girl - just whittled down a bit. It brings me back to the image of the Russian nesting dolls that I'm getting for my weight loss tattoo - there is something completely beautiful, and inside there is something that is just as lovely and wonderful, only a little smaller.

So, here you go: my picture from last night.

totally hot
My hair is frizzy from having just worked out like a madwoman, and my shirt is wrinkly because it's huge on me now so I had to secure it behind my back to show my shape a little better for the picture. But these things hardly matter.

I love this picture because even I can see that I've physically changed.

There's definition in my arms. My stomach doesn't protrude out past my chest. My legs are thinner - especially my calves and ankles. And my curves!

sweet microsoft paint skillz
I have some. And they're nice.

March 21, 2011

WWW: Week Twelve

My picture for the week:

Spring break weather isn't looking great - not necessarily a bad thing, though, since I am committed to doing some intense spring cleaning this week. Today should be nice, so I am going to the park to grade papers and exams and enjoy the sunshine before it disappears from Chicago for a few days. Luckily, the weather report for St. Louis is still looking gorgeous for my two days, so I'm very excited about that!

What have you done this past week to help achieve your goals?
(2) Another 4.5 mile run yesterday - I usually do my long run on Sunday mornings but I was feeling incredibly lazy all day, so I ended up going in the afternoon. And as soon as I start to move, I remember how good it feels and I wonder what took me so long to get there. I maintained a 12:00 pace the whole time again, so 54:00 for 4.5 miles. I'll take it!
(4) Good teaching last week, but without a doubt, both the students and I are definitely ready for Spring Break. Then, just five more weeks until the end of the semester!
(5) I bought some spiral-bound index cards to work on goal #78 (Memorize all the states' capitals.) I used to know them all when I was a kid (countries, too!). I wrote them all out, then tossed it into my purse ... I figure it's a good thing to pass the time on buses and trains. I was surprised at how many I remembered, which is promising.
(6) I went to the Field Museum last Monday! Completely wonderful.
(9) This week's gorgeous thing: a foot soak. Once in a while, it's just what you need to relax - some hot water, nice bath salts, and just sitting and de-stressing.

With one week left, what is your plan?
I need to hit up one more museum - and try to go to the opera. Hopefully I get a good deal in my e-mail this week. I'd also like to make more art since I only made one tiny thing this whole winter!

What was the highlight of your week?
The feeling of "oh yes, finally, vacation!" from Friday afternoon was nice. And booking my trip was another really good moment. But I think yesterday's run was the best - for the past few distances, I've been able to do my first long run at a new distance but not the second. So to do 4.5 two weeks in a row was great - I'm *so* ready for the Shuffle! Only three more weeks!

Did you have a down point? If so, how did you push past it?
Getting sick again put a damper on the beginning of the week, and yesterday morning pre-run was tough - I was very snack-y and ate more than I would have if I had ran in the morning like I usually do. I need to be extra vigilant this week with my eating since I won't have my usual routines.

What's your favourite television show from the past? Presently?
I'm not really a big television watcher - we didn't watch much growing up, and I definitely prefer movies to TV. That said, I own every season of "The Golden Girls" on DVD. I used to watch "30 Rock" but then the plots started to frustrate me. I totally hate reality TV. If they made DVDs of old episodes of "Jeopardy," I would likely obsessively collect those, too.

March 20, 2011

Creamy avocado pasta sauce

The Great Cookbook Experiment is not going as well as I'd hoped. I have so many lovely cookbooks, but the problem is that the recipes usually serve 6-8, and if I can't scale it down or freeze the leftovers, I won't make it.

And - I love seeing other bloggers post what they eat. I'm not terribly strict with my eating - I try to enjoy a great variety of things in moderation - but some of the recipes in the cookbooks can be a little excessive, even for me. When a weight loss or healthy living blogger posts a recipe that I think looks good, I tend to hold on to it because I know it will be a little safer.

Mary from A Merry Life is trying to avoid gluten and dairy, so she wanted to find a delicious creamy pasta sauce that didn't contain any milk products. When she posted a picture and recipe for avocado spinach pasta sauce a little while ago, I knew I had to try it. It's incredibly easy to make and unbelievably delicious - the next time I see my family back home, I will be making it for them, because I think even they would like it!

ughhh j'ai des fringales
Oh my goodness. My stomach wants some of this right now and it's 7am. (I bet it would be delicious in an omelette, too...)

The recipe is sort of by the eye for this one, based on how many servings you want. For two, you take a couple handfuls of spinach and pulse them in the food processor until they're little flakes. Then add a medium sized avocado (the riper, the better) and process until smooth and creamy. Mary also added basil and garlic to hers - I only added the garlic, and it was delicious.

Since pasta is a binge trigger for me, I try not to keep it in the house - I had the last of some from an old box a couple weeks ago with asparagus and scallops, and I am not sure I could buy some right now, though I imagine this sauce would be absolutely amazing with rotini. When I want pasta, I usually have sauce with lentils ... or, lately, shredded zucchini. This time, I did the latter and added some turkey sausage ... voilĂ !

i want it bad
It was incredibly filling without the heavy feeling of pasta and cream sauce - very much a spring/summer recipe, which I loved and am so ready for more of!