June 25, 2011

Let's talk about

Dad, feel free to skip this one. And friends, you've been warned.

Today, I'm going to talk about sex.

I always smile when someone blogs about sex and invariably starts their post with some version of "Now, I know this is something we don't often talk about, but..." Because it's totally true - we're thinking about it, just not discussing it. And I think there are a few reasons for that. Sex is an incredibly personal experience - everyone's skills and preferences are different. We can share our thoughts and ideas, but there's no guarantee that anyone will understand what we're getting at. And sharing our own stories is a little scary, too - because our experiences are so unique, talking about it exposes a vulnerability, I think.

In the same breath, though, I think an identical argument can be made for weight loss blogging. Despite many common threads from one blogger to the next, ours are all very personal journeys, and with writing, we're exposed, in a way - we put our secrets and our weaknesses on display and we hope that someone out there understands and is strong enough to admit that we're not alone in thinking and feeling this way.

Sex as a super obese person was a challenge - but of course, so were breathing and getting out of bed. There were limitations of flexibility, of movement, of position. It didn't matter what I wanted, because my body made my choices for me - a concept that applied not only to sex, but to most things in my life. As I started to lose weight and tried to start dating again, I could feel a few small freedoms, but nothing that was fully explored; another downside to casual hook-ups was that it was rarely, if ever, about me. The guys treated me like garbage because I treated myself the same way - so the focus would be entirely on them, because they knew I was just grateful that I wasn't alone and that I hoped this meant I wasn't as repulsive as I felt.

I had a conversation with Lorelei a couple of months ago about dating and whatnot, and she asked if sex was different now that I'm working with a smaller body. In a few ways, things are the same - but that's more in line with the decisions I was making at the time when the question was asked of me. Casual hook-ups felt the same at 320 pounds as they did at 230, because casual sex has no feeling. It wasn't something I enjoyed, it was something I thought I wanted but mostly just endured - because even though I tried to convince myself otherwise, I really did want something meaningful. Sleeping with someone I feel absolutely nothing for wasn't a pleasureable experience - it was never about intimacy, it was about feeling powerful and seeking self-worth, validating that my body was desirable by someone, even though I didn't agree. I never felt nervous or ashamed at showing a stranger my naked body, because that was the point - I wanted to see someone react positively to something I believed to be ugly and fatally flawed, because I thought that would change the way I felt about it.

I've had a few NSVs this past week, the details of which I'm not about to get into. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I'm another forty pounds lighter than the last time I had sex or because this guy and I are mutually pretty into each other, but my current experiences are unlike any I've had before. It feels different, in a really wonderful way - physically, yes, but not only. It feels good when he asks if I'm comfortable and if everything is alright - because no one's ever asked before. It feels great having his arms fit around me - because it's still tough sometimes for me to visualize my weight loss, but when he holds me, I feel small. And it feels amazing when we lay there, his arm around me (either playing with my hair or softly stroking my shoulders) and my hand on his chest; with a voice that aches with honesty, he quietly whispers -
You're so lovely.
Because I believe it, and not just because he has said so.

June 24, 2011

Roses and thorns

On Tuesday, Lorelei sent me a text message fairly early in the morning:
Let's go for a run.
I quickly got dressed and got on the bus to her place. The plan was simple: walk two miles north, then run back. An easy run - or so I thought - but the two mile walk turned into over four miles, then a little over a mile of running before she couldn't go any further. She said she's been running, so I think it may have just been dehydration - it was a hot day, though I didn't think it was excessive.


In any case, we just walked back towards her place. Still a decent workout (better than sleeping in, anyway), and it gave us a lot of time to talk about things and catch up on what's been going on in our lives - with boys, with the job search, with everything in general. We talked about wanting to run away, to take off and escape to the south of France, where we could wear dresses and plant vegetable gardens and ride bikes and fall in love with some cute American boys off on the same adventure. Somehow we'd make a living while making a life. Indulging a bit in the fantasy, we started talking about what our dresses would look like, what we'd plant in our gardens. I said that my bike would need to have a cute basket on it to put in my fresh baguette and that day's bottle of wine; as I said it, we passed a bike with an undoubtedly French air to it, and a perfect wicker bike basket out front. It was a sign from the universe, we decided, that things would end up for the best, even if it feels tough right now and all we have are dreams.

Around our sixth or seventh mile, we came across a frozen yogurt place, and we decided to stop in. As we were getting our yogurt from the self-serve machines, a couple of young kids with clipboards approached us:
We're on a missions trip from Texas - is there anything we can pray for for you?
Lorelei engaged the mission kids in conversation for a few minutes, but I looked away. What to ask for? How to ask? I haven't written much on faith here, but very briefly: I wouldn't consider myself very religious, though I do have beliefs and a solid faith in some sort of higher power. It's another thing I'm trying to discover and figure out on my own terms. (I suppose I'll get into more detail in a later post.) I know everything will work out, that the universe has a plan for me, and that I need to trust that everything is happening for a reason.

In that moment, though, I took my 140 calorie half-cup of red velvet frozen yogurt and, facing the container from which I scooped a few graham cracker crumbs, I blurted out:
I really need a job.
And it took everything in me to stop myself from crying.

As we sat outside enjoying our cool treat and talking about faith, we decided that this must be another sign from the universe. Yogurt was not on our schedule, but we were drawn in, and by chance someone was here in this moment to ask what we needed help with; hopefully it meant that soon, we would receive some answers.


On Wednesday, my former advisor director at the university I worked at last year sent me an e-mail fairly early in the morning:
... writing to see if you might be interested in teaching ... haven't totally finalized things yet ... some classes are still under-enrolled ... waiting to see what happens with them ... just wanted to check your availability...
It's not anything I'm counting on just yet, but I'm feeling a little relief. And my faith in signs from the universe is as strong as ever.

Weight is 198 today, by the way - a 1 pound loss. Everything this week was sort of good-but-not-great, but I'm not disappointed in the slightest. In fact, I couldn't be more pleased. Everything, everything, everything is moving in the right direction.

June 23, 2011

Journeys

I taught myself how to read when I was three years old, and since then, I've been a certifiable word nerd. I was an insatiable reader as a kid - I read constantly, and anything I could get my hands on, from fiction novels to nature magazines to math textbooks. Part of why I need glasses, actually, is because after my sisters and I were sent to bed for the night, I almost always stayed up an extra hour or so, reading by the streetlight outside my bedroom window.

It wasn't just the stories and articles that intrigued me, but the words themselves - how prefixes and suffixes could relate words, how certain words had foreign origins, and the like. My second academic love is history, so knowing where words come from and how they were formed has always been completely fascinating to me.

One of my childhood dreams was to grow up and learn how to speak French. It was fancy and exotic - not to mention an open door to tons of new words and phrases. In seventh grade, we had to choose whether to learn French or Spanish, and I selected without hesitation. My mother was upset, saying that Spanish would be more useful with helping me get a job someday, but I ended up pursuing a career with my French studies, so it all worked out. Not to mention there have been incredible other perks to being a French speaker...


Ow oww! Next to a well-made lasagna, being fluent in French is pretty tops when it comes to man bait.

I've been thinking a lot about dating this week, especially with the comparisons I can be making with my weight loss journey. It feels like I am on a solid path to my first real relationship, and I can't help but compare it to my committment to get healthy. I had so many false starts, so many times when I thought I was on the right track but the timing just wasn't right - but then the universe conspired and opened up a perfect opportunity for me, and I ran with it. And the same can be said for my past in terms of dating - I've had good intentions and bad slip-ups, all of which provided the kind of experience and knowledge that you can only get by making some mistakes and learning for yourself the hard way.

Matt's been busy this week with work - his only day off was Father's Day, and since his dad lives in Chicago, he had plans to spend the day with him - so I haven't seen him in a few days. Which isn't a big deal, really, but since we saw each other so much right away, it feels like a lot more than it is. (And I'm guessing it feels even more exaggerated for me because I'm not working, so my days feel a little longer.) I'm doing everything in my power not to be completely insane and overthink things like I usually do - we're still talking every day, there's no logical reason to assume the worst just because we haven't hung out in a couple of days.

I'm trying to process this all the same way I've approached my weight loss journey: when I get ahead of myself, I obsess and start to stumble - I do best when I focus on one day at a time. I'm forced to think about the word journey itself, which has French origins. It comes from a medieval word meaning how far you could go in one day. In modern French, there are two ways to say the word day - un jour and une journée. The former is more of a unit, whereas the latter has a subtle nuance that implies duration of time. For example, when saying goodbye to someone, you can say Bonne journée, which is sort of like, hey, enjoy the rest of your day.

We've all heard the quote about how a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Well, life-long journeys are made up of thousands of single days, each taken one at a time. We only get to live one day at a time - it's all we're given at one time to deal with, so it's all we can reasonably expect ourselves to handle ... with weight loss, with relationships - and with anything, really. Don't worry about the potential challenges that will come tomorrow or next week or next year - just focus on how far you can go with this one day.

June 22, 2011

Calorie-free

Last night I was wandering around the grocery store, trying to beat the worst of the sudden torrential downpours that started while I was out. I was perusing the end cap of marked-down items; admittedly, things in this area are usually pretty strange. It's almost always odd spices and mixes that need to real explanation why they've been relegated to an often ignored little corner of the general merchandise area. But I still like to check it out, just in case there's a great find. I got a perfectly good jar of pumpkin pie spice for a quarter once!

So imagine my surprise when I saw this:


I was intrigued. Sugar-free can be done, and fat-free is tricky sometimes - but *calorie-free*?! My goodness. And not only that:


I invested a dollar hoping for the best, but bracing myself for the worst.

You know how they say that things that sound too good to be true usually are? Here's a great example of that. To say that this tasted anything like caramel would be a stretch. The only thing caramel-like about it was the color, to tell the truth. It had the consistency of pudding, if pudding were made with water and this particular batch had also been watered down. There was the distinct aftertaste of artificial sweetener.

Even before my Whole Foods challenge, I have tried to avoid x-free anything. I'd rather have less of something real than all I care to eat of something made with chemicals. And when it comes down to it, I usually choose fruit over even an all-natural prepackaged snack since I can make the most of my calories that way. Looking at the ingredient list for this dip was unbelievable.


I'm not quite sure how there are egg whites in this while still being calorie free, but still - yuck. I think my favorite part of the list is the end: potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness). Because really, there isn't much of anything in this jar that could possibly go bad. It's almost all chemicals.

Lesson learned. I'd rather have one spoonful of good caramel a year than unlimited access to this junk for the rest of my life!

What about you? In a dream world where you could remove all calories but still preserve the quality, what food would you want transformed?

June 21, 2011

Awards

Guys, I've been a bad blogger. I've received quite a few blog awards lately, and I've had so many things on my mind that I've been putting off sharing them for quite some time. I saved them all on my desktop, even wrote reminder notes to myself to address them and everything. *sigh*

I love blog awards. I love finding out new tidbits about people that might not otherwise be brought up on a blog about healthy living, and I especially love finding new blogs to read - new ideas and perspectives about the journey are always greatly appreciated.

So without further ado, here are some awards I've received lately, with overdue thanks to the givers, and I'm passing the awards on to some awesome bloggers who you should check out if you don't already!

I got this from Hyla - thank you!


I'd like to pass this one on to Timothy and Tammy, who are doing a fantastic job in spite of recent struggles - setbacks are only fatal when we allow them to be, so I am so inspired by folks who keep fighting even when the going gets tough.

This one is from Tabitha - thank you!


I'd like to pass this one on to Meghan and Katie, who both just hit awesome decade milestones with their losses!

And this is from Katie - thank you!


I'd like to pass this one on to Munchberry, Ann, and Amy (whose awesome comments and advice never fail to bring some sunshine to my day) and to Joy (who always signs her comments with a reminder to keep focused, which I always love and appreciate).

So now, five random facts about me. (Surprises are getting harder to come by, I'm a bit of a chronic over-sharer here...)

1. I got an A on an oral presentation in one of my Spanish classes in college - we had to talk about a day when everything went wrong, and I talked about the Christmas when all I wanted was a Red Rider BB gun and everyone told me I'd shoot my eye out, and in the end I got it but the dogs ate our turkey dinner so we had to go out for Chinese. The professor was from Ecuador and sat there with her jaw dropped in disbelief at the craziness of my story; my classmates stifled their laughter.

2. I have a huge fear of escalators stemming from a malfunctioning one I was on in New York City in 6th grade - people ended up in the hospital. So, if I don't need to be on one, I won't. And if I do, odds are my eyes are closed and I'm three seconds away from vomiting and crying.

3. I turned down a once-in-a-lifetime dream opportunity to study and teach at La Sorbonne when I was in grad school. I gave a variety of excuses, but really, I couldn't bring myself to go back to Paris at all, let alone live there, because of my size. I don't have too many regrets in life, but this one hurts very much to think about.

4. I begged my parents for a Polaroid camera when I was a kid. I wanted to document my life, and I always loved the aesthetic of the instant images. I bought one for myself when I grew up and got a part-time job, and then they discontinued the film. I was pretty devastated, and I used my last film pack in 2008 when my dad and I road-tripped to move me out to Chicago.


Now every time I'm in a thrift store, I check the old cameras to see if there are any exposures left. I found one this weekend that said it had ten, so I bought it - but it lied. There was a film pack inside, but it was malfunctioning. I don't care about the $5, I was more disappointed that I had my heart set on a few lovely instant photos of my fantastic new life.

5. For what is likely the first time in my life, I am really excited for summer. And I'm really looking forward to celebrating July 31 - my rebirthday. I'm a whole universe away from the girl I was this time last year. I'm not going to wear the same sundress every day because it's all that fits, and I'm not going to spend the summer on the couch playing Sonic the Hedgehog and eating takeout. I'm a lady who goes out and does things now. I'm making things happen!

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
"The Great Gatsby"

June 20, 2011

SFC: Week Twelve

My positive picture for the week:

Totally wiped out and drenched in sweat after my first spinning class - one of my five new things!


I loved it, I'll definitely be going back for more.

End-of-challenge wrap up:

1. Get to onederland.
Goal met! And not a moment too soon, jeez. The last ten pounds were the toughest of all since I started to get healthier last summer, seriously. Lots of mental roadblocks and emotional walls that needed to be broken down.

2. Cut back on scale dependency.
I consider this goal met - I still weigh daily, but I've been doing a really great job of not letting it make or break my day. In spite of slowed weight loss lately, I've had an awful lot of NSVs to celebrate, and I know that I feel fantastic every day that I do my very best, so whatever the number on the scale says can't possibly make me feel otherwise.

3. Log 220 biked miles.
Goal met! I biked 15.5 miles this week, for a challenge total of 220.5 miles (or 100.2% of my goal).

4. Log 60 minutes weekly on Wii Fit.
Goal not met. I didn't make it most weeks - though I did this last week! Figured I'd finish strong. I think this is a good winter challenge goal, but with the weather so nice, I often chose long walks over Wii Fit, especially since it burns more calories and gets me out of the house.

5. Complete three of my 101-in-1001 goals.
Goal met! I actually completed ten, with one more knocked out this week: #87 (Wash the dishes every time I use them for a whole week). Awesome!

6. Try five new things.
Goal met! My five things were:
  • Ran "silent" [without my iPod] several times
  • Walked to the library instead of taking the bus or the train
  • Used the "other" gym (the university has two, but I've only ever used the less fancy one)
  • Tried a spinning class (felt the burn, loved it)
  • Went semi-public with my blog (a few friends read it - as does my dad, who called me up and had the greatest conversation after he read all the suggested "getting to know me" entries from the My Story page - not sure how frequently they read, but they're out there!)

7. Make a plan for summer and fall.
I'm going to consider this goal met - even though I don't have anything set in stone yet, I have been applying to several jobs a week and have made a lot of progress with planning some of the major decision making that will need to happen soon. I'm still nervous and anxious and stressed, but not so completely overwhelmed by it all. Someday I'll look back on this summer and smile - I was broke and unnecessarily worried about a future that ended up working out perfectly for me.

June 19, 2011

Spinach lasagna

My parents met at the hospital they were both working at in the early 1980s. It was one of my mom's first days on the job and her boss had given her a huge keyring and sent her on an errand; overwhelmed, she found herself crying in the service elevator when my dad stepped on. He helped her out, they got to talking, and they decided to go out on a date.

Mom was still living at home, and since her mother was very proper, my parents' first date took place there instead of out somewhere. My mom cooked a lasagna for dinner and sent my dad home with the leftovers. When he woke up the next morning, his two roommates were both standing in the fridge with the door open, the container of lasagna in hand, and they told him that if he didn't marry this girl, one of them would.

My dad proposed to my mom a couple years later, and she either said no flat out or initially said yes and then broke it off, I don't quite remember. Either way, the proposal ended with my father throwing the ring into the ocean with an emotional and dramatic flair. They were crazy about each other, but she was still young (21-22 to his 26-27) and not quite ready.

A few months after, my dad was driving to work when he noticed a car crashed into a tree. He stopped to help the woman as best he could before the police and ambulances showed up. A day or two later, there was an article about the incident in the local newspaper that mentioned my father as also being hurt in the accident. My grandmother told my mother about it and said she should check in and see how he was doing. There was a reconciliation - and another lasagna - and they got back together shortly thereafter.

In our house, we have lasagna once a year: January 1. It's a day of new beginnings, of letting go of the past and starting something new with hope and faith in the year to come. My mom makes a gigantic pan of it, full of several kinds of meats and cheeses and tons of her homemade tomato sauce. We eat it for dinner on New Years but due to its size, we continue to enjoy it for days afterwards. It's far from low calorie, but it's a once-a-year thing and something I'd qualify as emotionally healthy. I'm okay with enjoying a piece once a year for the sake of tradition.

I like to think about my parents as young kids, going out on dates - it's so easy to think of them as "just parents," but once upon a time, they were my age, and totally crazy about each other. I think about the things I do when I'm smitten with a boy, and I picture my mom and dad in the same situations. I wonder if my mom got a crazy smile on her face just thinking about the cute boy she had plans with that night. I wonder what some of their dates were. I wonder what thoughts were racing through their minds the first time they kissed.

I'm in all sorts of unknown territory with Matt. This is all so completely new to me - he keeps asking me to hang out! He really likes me and wants to spend time with me! Unreal. A year ago, I barely wanted to spend time with myself. This is all kind of like weight loss, to be honest - I started with the knowledge of 345 and the dreams of 135, but never really gave much thought to the experience and feeling of 295 or 230 or 199 or any other in-between stage. We had our first date, and it was great. Then our second - my first second - and it was awesome. But I never gave much thought to what dating would be like beyond the second date because date #2 seemed like a lofty enough goal. There was a first second, but then there was also a first third, a first fourth, etc. I've seen him seven times now, and it kind of amazes me.

We've gone out to eat on about half our dates, and even though I've made good choices, I still prefer to cook for myself and be in control of the food preparation process. Going out to eat is socially healthy once in a while, but with all the sodium and hidden fat and whatnot, it just isn't something I like to do all that often. We've talked about cooking and eating well, and he's very receptive to it, which I'm pleased about (he's also agreed to my deal of I-cook-you-wash-dishes, a total plus). The trick now is to find something that works with both our tastes and our restrictions - I don't really like red meat, he keeps kosher, that sort of stuff.

With tradition in mind, the other day I made a lasagna for our lunch date. In theory, it was like Mom's, but cross-section slices of the two would reveal their differences. For starters, mine fit in an 8"x8" pan, maybe a tenth the size of my mother's usual offering. I didn't use full-fat cheese where I could, and I used ground turkey instead of a mixture of ground beef, Italian sausage, and pepperoni. Matt's a bit of a picky eater with veggies, and I'm fresh off my month of being vegan, so I tried to reconcile both our needs by adding chopped spinach to my cheese layer - I remembered hearing about Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook "Deceptively Delicious", which gives lots of family-friendly recipes that have fruit and veggie purees hidden in them for extra nutrients, and figured I'd give it a try.


7 lasagna noodles
3/4 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 cups tomato sauce (I like this one)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups low-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 cups fresh spinach, very finely chopped
1 egg
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. basil
1. In a medium-sized skillet, sauté onion until semi-soft. Add garlic and ground turkey and cook until browned (but not fully cooked - it will be done when the lasagna bakes). Add 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce and set aside.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix ricotta, cottage cheese, and 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Add egg, spinach, red pepper flakes, and basil and stir until well combined. Set aside.


3. In a large saucepan, add lasagna noodles to boiling water and parboil for 5 minutes. They will NOT be done cooking, but again - this process will complete when the lasagna is assembled and baked.

4. Spoon a layer of sauce to coat the bottom of an 8"x8" baking dish (about 1/4 cup), then top with a layer of noodles (I found that my noodles were longer than my pan, so I trimmed them down and used the ends to fill in gaps). Add the meat/onion/garlic/sauce mixture, spreading evenly over the noodles. Add another layer of noodles. Add the cheese/spinach/herbs/spices mixture, spreading evenly over the noodles. Add a final layer of noodles. Top with remaining sauce (about 1/4 cup) and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.


5. Bake at 350º F for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving to let it set up.


I cooked mine a day in advance and served it reheated the next day - the flavors are always better when they get a chance to sit for a while. This made six good sized servings at 435 calories each with the ingredients I used, not bad for how filling it was. It was traditional enough to feel connected to one of my favorite love stories while different enough to be "ours," in a way. He loved it, veggies and all. And I loved that he loved it. So I'll call it a success, even if it wasn't the best lasagna I've ever eaten. Next time, I'm going to use Italian turkey sausage instead of just plain ground turkey - I added herbs and spices, but something was still missing, and I think it was whatever Italian seasonings go into the sausage; we need that flavor while still being pork-free.

What about you? What's your go-to "man-bait" meal? Have you ever snuck fruits/veggies into recipes - and if so, which ones?