April 2, 2011


For the next few weeks, I am participating in a challenge, of sorts, put on by the incredibly wise and inspirational Jules. photo of bettie page from e online dot comIt's "Bombshell Bootcamp," a series of reflective exercises to help work on the emotional part of the weight loss journey. It's all about celebrating the fabulous lady that I am, even if I am not yet at my goal weight - and being comfortable in my own skin is an area of my journey that I definitely need work in.

This week, we're talking about motivation. How do you define motivation? What are the qualities of motivated people? And unmotivated people - how do they act?

When I think about motivation, I come up with more nouns: it's inspiration, it's drive. Motivation is my power, the force behind my actions. When I am motivated, I've got my "eyes on the prize," so to speak - compared to when I am not feeling motivated, and I tend to focus more on the present and think more about short-term rewards over long-term victories. I would consider myself a very motivated person, and not just in the weight loss arena. In all aspects of my life, I consider myself someone who is very goal-oriented and not afraid of hard work.

There are many sources of motivation for me in my journey, things that push me when I feel like throwing in the towel. Just to name a few:
  • the excitement of meeting a weight loss goal.

  • the rush of beating personal-best race records.

  • the memories of how physically and emotionally challenging it was to be a super obese person.

  • the strength I gain from reading inspirational quotes, books, and blog posts.

  • the pride I feel from receiving positive reinforcement from family, friends, and the blog community.

  • the feeling of hope I have for my future now that I have set myself on a path to save my life.
I set goals back in July thinking this time would be just like every other - I'd try for a few weeks, slip, fall, and not get back up. I had no faith in myself and my abilities. But thanks to my motivators, I'm eight months strong and more than halfway to my long-term goal, feeling stronger than ever, and not just physically.

I think that's what I am proudest of gaining so far on this journey: I'm more confident in my abilities, I'm more willing to try things and less fearful of failing. I'm by no means perfect in these areas yet - I am still quite cautious and unsure - but compared to how I was back when I started, I've made terrific progress.

What about you? Who or what motivates you?

April 1, 2011

Roses and thorns

Back when I first started losing weight, the pounds just melted off. I could easily lose 4, 5, even 6 pounds in a week. Essentially, I did the same things I am doing now: eating 1200-1300 calories a day and exercising as much as possible. Now it's running and machines at the gym; eight months ago, it was walking around my block and Wii Fit.

I guess these big losses week after week spoiled me a little, because not being able to consistently pull 4+ pound losses gets me down sometimes. At first it was frustrating, and I wondered what I was doing wrong to have it slow down to 3-4 at best. I'm realizing, though, that I'm not doing anything wrong - it's not my efforts that are shrinking, it's my body. not my friend. not my enemy. just a scale.The exercises burned the same amount of calories then as they do now, simply because I weighed more. And my regulated eating created huge deficits - my BMR was over 500 calories higher then than it is now, which means an extra pound lost each week even if I did absolutely nothing ... and a lot more forgiveness if I ate over my 1200-1300 calorie goal.

Having to work harder for big losses is both awful and awesome. It's tough to feel like you are doing well because you have been going at a certain speed and then you discover that you're unable to keep up at that pace consistently. But at the same time, it's great because the change in BMR is a result of the hard work I've been doing and the success I've experienced. I am what feels like an entire world away from the girl I was eight months ago.

Today is not July 31, 2010.

Today is April 1, 2011.

And counting the three pounds I'm down this week, I've lost 125 pounds since then. The rules have changed a little, even if the game hasn't.

Lesson learned: I need to stop weighing every day.

I'm completely addicted to seeing that number first thing in the morning, as if to validate the fact that this really is happening, I wasn't dreaming, I really have lost 125 pounds in 8 months. There are too many other ways to measure my success that don't involve stepping on the scale every morning and letting a number determine how happy I am. The number isn't 345, and it won't ever be again. I'm working hard. I'm eating well. I'm drinking tons of water and taking a multivitamin. I'm going to see losses, and if I don't, there has to be a good reason for it. (Like this week: going over on calories and going heavy with sodium. Fixed both, got right back on track.)

I'm thinking about what to do for my goals for Amy's Spring Fever Challenge, and I'm thinking one of them might be staying off the scale except for on Fridays when I weigh in. That would be a serious challenge for me - I would dare to say it would be harder for me to resist daily weighing than it would to resist a cupcake. I especially want to wean myself off it as I get closer to my long-term goal because ideally, I'd like to weigh only monthly in maintenance and base my day-to-day on other measures of success like how I feel physically and how my clothes fit. To go from daily to monthly would be a huge change - I need to start taking some baby steps.

What about you? Do you weigh daily? Weekly? Monthly? Some other frequency? What are the pros and cons to how often you weigh yourself?

March 31, 2011


Buying clothes is a very bizarre experience for me now. I have to actually try things on, which is why I mostly stick to jeans and tees because I generally know what size to buy without needing to use a dressing room. I'd dare to say I'm a litle afraid of trying on cute dresses in my size, because the thought that it will fit me makes me feel a little scared. It's another one of those weird and inexplicable anxieties - I know I won't fit in a size 26 dress anymore, I need a 14 or a 16. But actually putting the smaller dress on makes the changes real - this is my life now. And opening up that world of possibilities - even if they're just clothes and shopping possibilities - makes me feel anxious.

So instead of trying on things in my size, I intentionally try on stuff that is too small and that I know won't fit me, and I get a strange pleasure from doing so. It's a physical sensation that I knew well at 345 pounds - so even though it's not associated with positive memories, there's an odd comfort in the familiarity of feeling that way again. I used to try on cute dresses in the biggest size the store offered, it would be too tight in one area or another, and I'd lie to whomever I was shopping with and say I didn't really like how it looked on me, or I changed my mind about the color or the print.

Last weekend, I was browsing a thrift store to see if I could find any pieces of the vintage Pyrex that I love, and I noticed a rack of dresses. I leafed through them, and saw a yellow one, knee-length, with a sash and a bit of ruffle around the neck. Size 12. It was adorable, but I thought, A size 12 will never fit me. And I turned back to the pots and pans.

Then I went to the gym, and I couldn't stop thinking about the dress, but not in the wanting-to-feel-it-not-fit way. I thought about how it won't fit me now (I'm about a 14/16 now) but it will definitely fit me someday, and that day might even be soon ... maybe before the end of summer!

So after my workout, I stopped back at the shop and bought the dress:

lovely rita
Not a great picture, but I love it, and I can't wait to wear it, to see how it looks with my curves shaping it.

I try not to set specific dates for my weight loss goals - I just want to get healthy, and I already put enough pressure on myself without the possibility of getting upset that I didn't make a deadline to lose a certain number of pounds. But I've set a goal for this dress.

I want to fit into it by July 31, 2011.

That's exactly four months from today.

That's the one year anniversary of my decision to get healthy.

I'm going to wear this dress on my rebirthday.

March 30, 2011


Three days ago, I started to do something new: I took a fresh new notebook and a pen and I began tracking my daily food, water, and exercise. It may seem strange, especially after writing last week about my usual food routine and how regimented it is. for all that i hope forFor eight months, I haven't closely tracked my calories, so why do I feel the need to start now?

Well, for starters, to say that I have not tracked at all isn't true. I've been tracking my workouts since January, though that has been more out of curiosity than accountability. But I've tracked food before, too - I usually start tracking food when I am having a hard time - when I'm struggling emotionally or when I notice the scale is not moving as much as it could be. Tracking helps me stay focused and keeps me mindful of how much I am eating. I tracked when I was in Connecticut for the holidays. I tracked when I was stuck at home during a blizzard. And now, I am tracking daily until I feel ready to stop - likely the end of the semester.

I still weigh daily, and the scale hasn't changed since last Friday. I've been working out a lot, but my deficits have been really low, as I've been eating most of my calories. Making good choices, not bingeing ... just eating more than I usually do. To the tune of 1600-1700 calories a day, which is a lot considering I try to stick to 1200-1300 most days. In the moment, I justify the extra piece of fruit, cup of yogurt, or 100 calorie pack - I'm hungry. But afterwards, I almost always realize that wasn't actually the case. I'm bored. I'm stressed. I'm lonely. I'm thirsty.

I have a lot on my emotional plate right now, and I need to make sure that the emotional hunger doesn't get soothed by physical feeding. On deck:
  • The end of the semester - which not only means the usual wrapping-up work of exams, papers, and final grade calculation, but also the end of my contract at the university. Not knowing if I will have a job next fall is a little scary and a little exciting, and lately it's been more scary than anything. Could I honestly sustain my healthy lifestyle if I have a different job?

  • My mom and brother decided to come out to Chicago for a visit - they started planning without really clearing it by me, and while I am very excited to see them, they're a big stressor for me. Most of my mom's to-do list is food related (Chinatown, Hot Doug's, and Molly's Cupcakes, just to name a few stops). On top of that, the week when they'll be here is the week before the last week of classes for my students and me.

  • I made 15 weight loss goals between my starting weight and my long term goal, and at this point, I have more crossed off than I have to still meet. My next goal is onederland, and that has me pretty anxious. I don't remember exactly when was the last time I weighed under 200 pounds, so the uncertainty of being a stranger in a strange land has me frightened. Also, my body is changing an awful lot as the numbers fall, but especially now and in the next few numeric "decades" of loss, the look of my face is transitioning. It's a very weird feeling to catch a glimpse of yourself and think "Oh ... so that's what I look like." Because even if I did remember what I looked like the last time I was under 200 pounds, I was in one of the middle school grades, so it wasn't my adult face. I'm meeting someone new, and I am her. And that's stressful.
I'm really proud of the fact that I can anticipate stressors and that I have an attack plan. In the past, I would get anxious but not do anything about it, then drown my stress and sorrows in food. That's just not going to work for me anymore.
  • I have most of my lesson plans done for the rest of the semester, I just need to make sure I stay on top of the grading.

  • I am already looking at the syllabus to see how I can make it all work with guests but still be available enough for my students.

  • I am in charge of making my mother's itinerary, which will be mostly organized so that her big must-do food stops are during the hours when I will be at work.

  • I took a giant grown-up step and told my mother that while she is in my house, if we are eating at home, we will be eating what I cook. My house, my rules - and she took it pretty well! I share my weekly recipes with her and she thinks most of them sound pretty good.

  • Since my mom and brother will be here after the Shamrock Shuffle is over, I registered for a 10k in early June to make sure I have an exercise goal to be training for.

  • I am looking for some good reading material to help me with the physical transition to onederland. I've been reading a lot of blogs lately, though I'm also on the lookout for some good books, preferably something with emotional exercises included.
These, paired with tracking, will help keep me focused and relieve at least a little of the stress of the next few weeks. I can do this!

What about you? Do you track food and/or workouts? How do you live the healthiest life possible while you have guests? What are your best tips/tricks for dealing with stress without turning to food? Any suggestions for books/blogs?

March 29, 2011


Without reading too far into the comparison, I have to say that I very much enjoy being a passenger. I like taking in the scenery and looking for landmarks - I tend to give overly precise (but amazing) directions because I notice all the details, no matter how small, and will include them when people ask how to get somewhere. I don't have a drivers license ... I've always walked places (or, since moving to a city, taken public transit) and I'm not sure I would even be a good driver because I am so easily distracted by everything passing outside my window.

As my train pulled out of Union Station last Wednesday morning, I immediately went into passenger mode ... I looked out the window, took it all in, and my thoughts started going a million miles an hour. Within a minute, my first big thought - we were traveling through the South Loop of Chicago and on the right was the Pacific Garden Mission, a brick building with a giant neon-lit cross hanging out front that reads "Christ died for our sins" and "Jesus saves." Immediately, I was overwhelmed with a strong childhood memory of my father.

When I was a kid, my dad worked all the time. He always had at least two jobs, working days, nights, and weekends to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. daddy's girl from the startAs a kid, I didn't really notice that he wasn't there a lot - I knew he was always home in time to kiss us goodnight, even if I didn't realize that more often than not, it was just a brief stop in between jobs.

One of his jobs was as a lab courier - bringing x-rays or lab samples from doctors offices to the hospital or the local clinic on weekends and some weeknights. Sometimes he would have a little time in between stops on his route, and he would stop off at home and pick up one of my sisters or me and bring us with him. Occasionally he'd grab all three of us, and we'd spend Saturday in the back of a van, eating Burger King french fries and ice cream cones from McDonald's and playing games while Dad drove from one clinic to the next. It wasn't particularly fun, but it was nice being with Dad, and it certainly beat sitting home alone, especially once our parents were divorced and I was living just at Dad's ... it was a nice break from hanging around with my elderly grandparents.

On weeknights, the last run from the hospital in Middletown to the clinic in Essex was about half an hour's drive, but the labs wanted him on the road for a full hour, just in case anything else needed to be picked up last minute. (Dating myself a little, he totally had a beeper in case of emergencies. My sisters and I always wanted to play with it.) So to kill time, we'd park the car on the side of the highway on-ramp about halfway to the clinic and listen to "Unshackled!" - a radio show broadcast by the Pacific Garden Mission. We had to park the car if we wanted to hear the whole show because the station started to crackle and fade past a certain exit.

If you've never heard of "Unshackled!" it's definitely an interesting program. Recorded just like old time radio shows, it's basically a dramatic retelling of the life stories of people whose souls have been saved through their discovery of faith and their belief in God. I remember one of the first times that I listened when my dad told me that one of my uncles had his story on the show, and I wasn't sure what to make of it. My sisters and I were not raised in a very religious household - my parents both had pretty bad experiences with organized religion - but most of our relatives were born again Christians. That wasn't really the surprising part of tuning in, I guess. I think it was more the fact that this was something my dad would listen to. My dad, who liked Car Talk, live radio broadcasts of sports games, and had programmed in all the classic rock stations ... he would sit there and listen to these people talk about being saved and how their lives changed because of their relationship with Jesus Christ.

The sun was usually setting when we pulled over the car, and it was dark by the time we got going again. Over ten years removed from these nights, I now wish I had looked around a little more. chatfield hollow loveI remember what the car smelled like (awful orange air freshener) and how tall the rocks on the side of the on-ramp were. But I can't really picture my dad.

It's becoming very hard to remember what my dad was like before his heart attack. (Before his first heart attack, I guess I should say now.) It's strange, because it hasn't even been five years - we had years and years before then of family walks and backyard baseball games and even simple things like trips to the mall or the grocery store. Now, it's hard to recall what it was like to walk around normally with Dad. It seems like all those memories have been replaced with images of the way things are now - he walks much slower, if at all, and always with a cane. This is our new reality, and it has just about completely overtaken our notion of the way things used to be.

I love my dad more than anything, and he inspires so much of what I do: career-wise, in my personal life, and in terms of my weight loss. I want to be the successful teacher he told me I'd grow up to be. I want to meet a boy who makes me laugh like my dad does - and who makes me feel as safe and as cared for as my dad does. And I want to live the healthiest life possible so that I don't end up in the same situation medically.

March 28, 2011

WWW: The End

My picture for the week:

I was looking through old tweets on Twitter to try and find a quote I had liked and saved, and I came across this - from this past September. Amazing how my life has transformed in the six months between then and now!

How I did with my goals:
1. Achieve my 100 pound weight loss.
Done, and then some! I'm down 122 pounds as of last Friday's weigh-in.

2. Train for the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle Chicago 8k on 4/10/11.
Done! The first few weeks of WWW, I hadn't been running very consistently - longest long run was a 3.1 miler. Yesterday I did 4.75 in 55:00 - that's an average pace of 11:35. I'm so thrilled! The race is in less than two weeks and will be 4.97 miles ... I can do this!

3. Begin looking for jobs (try to apply for at least one).
Done! I have looked for jobs, and while there aren't very many in my field, I have a few prospects - I officially applied for one (outside of my field) and the possibility of a contract extension for the fall has been alluded to. Fingers, toes, and eyes are crossed.

4. Be an amazing teacher.
Done! I feel good about the work I've done so far this spring semester - only five more weeks left!

5. Complete two of my 101-in-1001 goals.
Done! I completed #57 (Donate to a cause I truly believe in) and #99 (Make a time capsule to open at the end of the 1001 days). I also did a lot of work towards some of the goals with multiple parts (like #64 [sending 25 postcards via Postcrossing] and #72 [trying new fruits]).

6. Visit three museums on their Free Days.
Incomplete. I only went to two: the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum. They were great, though!

7. Spend 1/4 of my tax return on new clothes.
Done! I got lots of nice new stuff that, unfortunately, is already baggy on me. But it was really fun to shop and look/feel good in my clothes!

8. Make art.
Incomplete. I made some, but not as much as I would have liked - I only did one collaged notebook. I started a painting and then lost my inspiration; I bought clay for a small sculpture that's still in the shopping bag in my bedroom. To-do for spring, I suppose...

9. Do something every week to make me feel gorgeous.
Done! This was one of my hardest goals, though, to be honest - trying to think of something every week that would make me feel lovely was surprisingly tough! I started wearing a little makeup regularly because of it, though, and I'm glad that's something I've been sticking to.

10. Go to the opera
Incomplete. The last deal for the season was on Friday and I was just too tuckered out from my whirlwind getaway to sit through four hours of "Carmen," no matter how lovely it is.
Do you feel like you had a productive winter?
You know, looking back on it, I think I did. I had a lot of ups and downs from day to day and even week to week, but as a whole, I think this was a good season for me. Definitely the most productive winter I've ever had before - I lost weight, stayed active, nourished my body, and even enjoyed life a little. I'd call that a success!

March 27, 2011

Mango cucumber shrimp salad

Recently I have been seriously craving salads. I think it's the changing of the seasons - phasing out soups and heavier winter meals and replacing them with sandwiches and salads and all those delicious spring/summer foods.

So, I've been eating quite a few "bucket salads" lately - not sure if that's a real name or something I read on a blog somewhere, but basically, it's just a giant salad full of whatever you feel like adding. It's an intensely filling and delicious dinner: I use 50 calories of lettuce, 150 calories of chicken/ground turkey/canned tuna/etc., 150-200 calories of beans/tofu, and whatever spices I want. Mashing up the beans/tofu not only makes the salad extra delicious, but using it instead of salad dressing makes the salad extra filling. Sometimes I'll go wild and add leftover veggies I have in the fridge, like fresh mushrooms. My go-to spices are ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!), or ground mustard - a little goes a long way with all of them.

Another summer-y food for me is seafood, which is one of the things I miss about not living on the Connecticut shoreline anymore. Occasionally, though, I will splurge and buy a nice piece of fish or some shellfish - it's a nice change from my usual chicken or turkey.

So this week, I was looking for something that (a) involved seafood and (b) was a light and summer-y salad. I found a recipe on Epicurious for a shrimp, cucumber, and mango salad that served six, so I modified the recipe for my portion size and my taste. Theirs was tossed with a vinegary mustard dressing - which sounds delicious, but not when paired with mango. So I used ground ginger instead, which added a light tropical heat. Perfect!

This is the finished salad mixture: one large mango, cut up - one medium cucumber, cut up - a half pound of medium shrimp, cooked and peeled - and a teaspoon of ground ginger. I mixed it all up and let the flavors soak in for as long as I could stand (about half an hour) before tossing it all up with some lettuce (I used iceberg because it's what I had, but spinach would have been really good, I think!) and going to town on it.

It was a little sweet for my taste - next time, I'll probably vary the spices to make it a little hotter and balance it out - but it was definitely delicious and something I'll make again. I'd also like to try it with grilled shrimp instead of boiled - we'll see what the summer brings! It would even be good with other fish, something else I'll have to consider for next time.

What about you? What are your favorite summer foods? What would your ideal "bucket salad" have in it?