July 9, 2011

Fables

Yesterday would have been Jean de la Fontaine's 390th birthday. He was a French writer best known for his poetic versions of Aesop's Fables, so the Doodle on Google.fr was in honor of him and his work.


The text at the bottom is from his version of the story of the tortoise and the hare: Rien ne sert de courir; il faut partir à point. Slow and steady wins the race, though the French is much more literal ("There's no use in running; you have to leave on time").

I've been thinking about fables lately, the simple little stories with a clear message given at the end. I'm hoping to discover the morals or lessons hidden in my recent trying times - I firmly believe that nothing in life happens without a reason, and I'm certain that this summer and the challenges it has brought are serving a greater purpose. We have to know lean times in order to truly appreciate plenty; we have to stumble in order to learn what it is we need to avoid because it makes us fall.

Last Sunday, I woke up feeling incredibly positive about things to come, and as I laid in bed before breakfast, I said out loud, "I'm going to get good news this week." I hope that by declaring it, there was no way it couldn't come true, and over the next couple of days, I applied for five or six more jobs. I also found a potential new job for Matt - we had been talking last week about how unhappy he is working his overnight shifts doing a job completely unrelated to his studies, and so I thought it might be something he'd be interested in.

He applied on Wednesday, got an e-mail yesterday, and scheduled an interview for first thing on Monday morning.

I was unbelievably excited for him - though, following Aesop's suggestion, we're not counting chickens before they hatch. It's a great job at an incredible school, full-time with benefits, and a fantastic foot in the door for the career in higher ed that he thinks he might like to pursue. Not to mention he'd no longer be nocturnal - don't get me wrong, I love dates first thing in the morning, but daysleeping isn't working out well for him, so he wants the kind of schedule that comes with a normal grownup desk job.

At the same time, though, my heart sank when he told me ... because I applied for three nearly identical positions at the same university (same work, different departments - and a day earlier, too). And I heard nothing.

It's hard not to be like the fox who claimed that the grapes were likely sour simply because they were outside of his reach.
Well, I didn't want that job anyway - the commute would be an hour and a half each way, and I wouldn't be happy working at a university but not teaching there.
Because, let's face it - I would love that job. Or any job, at this point.

As I sat at my desk, I could feel my mouth salivating. I was stressing incredibly, and I needed something to chew on to distract me. So I opened the snack cabinet ... and pulled out my strategically placed binge canister:
Go for a run.
I did three miles around my neighborhood in 80 degree midday heat, then came home and showered. The binge canister bought me an hour of distraction, and that hour was the difference between staying within my calorie range for the day and a binge, between being in control and losing it. Just like the ant, I stocked up on resources I would need and then had them there when I needed them most.

So - this week the good news was likely Matt's and not mine. I didn't specify in my declaration that the good news I heard would be my own, so I'll just take it as a sign that there really is power in positive thinking, and I'll continue working towards my objectives, even if it feels like it's taking forever and my hard work will never get me where I want to be. Because I know that, in the end, slow and steady always wins the race.

July 8, 2011

Roses and thorns

So far, July has been exceptionally good. I've been attacking my workouts, eating on-plan, and trying to stay incredibly positive in the face of continued joblessness and (now augmented) family problems. As odd as it may sound, I'm really proud of how much I cried this week. I felt my feelings, I didn't eat them, and as of this morning, I'm binge-free for over a week. I couldn't be prouder of myself right now.

Just as I had hoped, the results reflect my efforts: I'm logging a 5 pound loss for the week, putting me back at my lowest recorded weight of 198. I'm back in onederland, and I'm here for good this time - mark my words. The next couple of days will be the toughest as I push myself to reach lower numbers without panicking, stalling, and/or backtracking. I'm up for the challenge - looking forward to it, even. I've rediscovered my motivation, and it feels incredible.

My loss for the week likely could have been even more, but I've had to take it easy for most of the week since my knee was bothering me. I love swimming but I have very poor form, and after a couple of days in the pool, the side of my left knee was aching. Not injured, per se, just sore from misuse/overuse. I took some ibuprofen to get through the Do Life run (and took it easy to prevent hurting myself further - imagine if I had gone my fastest!), then took a complete rest day. It was torture having to sit still all day - I didn't even let myself walk anywhere, probably took 30-50 steps that day - but I wanted to make sure I was putting the least strain on it as possible, so I clipped recipes out of a pile of old magazines and watched The Golden Girls all day. Lovely.

Today it's feeling pretty much back to normal, and I'll be heading to the lake for a run tonight. I'm still putting together my training schedule for the half marathon, so I don't have a mileage goal for today - just whatever I feel like doing. I've been running at night to get acclimated to the temperature/conditions before next week's 8k race. I'm running with Lorelei, so I'm not sure if I have a speed goal. I'd like to finish in under 50 minutes - I know I can do it, but I also know that Lorelei can't, so I might forego a personal best in order to finish the race with her. She refuses to run without her iPod, though, so running with her isn't so much about keeping each other company as just not losing her. I don't know, we'll see what I end up doing.

Some inspiration this week:

1. Fitting into my rebirthday dress over three weeks ahead of schedule. It's a little snug, but it's on and zips the whole way.


Three more weeks of staying focused and on-plan should make it perfect by the 31st!

2. Finally getting a new pair of glasses! My old ones were stretched out to fit my face at its biggest, and I was getting frustrated by how much bigger they made my face feel. I found an amazing Fourth of July deal, though, so I broke down, moved some money around, and got a pair like I've always wanted.


Always loved this style, but it didn't work with my face at its biggest. Now, though, I totally love it.

3. I'm still sort of in awe of the night of the Do Life run, to be honest. It was so inspirational, seeing so many other people who are working hard and kicking so much butt - with weight loss, with running, with everything. This picture is from the Do Life Facebook page, and I love it. Ben and I were sitting the same way and we talked about it being a great NSV. Even more awesome, though, is the group crowded around me, asking about my weight loss story.


I wasn't going to stick around that night - Lorelei left early, I was going to head home right after the run to have my salad and hit the hay early. I was thanking Ben for his advice before the Shamrock Shuffle when he sat down on the sidewalk and told me
Have a seat - you're not going anywhere.
And I did. And I'm so amazingly glad. It was so nice to meet other local runners and weight loss bloggers, and we're already planning on meeting up again for races (a few of us will be doing the Bastille Day race next Thursday). It feels great to know more people in the city, especially folks I can run with.

What about you? Who/what has inspired you this week?

July 7, 2011

Lady stuff

Gentlemen, you may wish to turn away. I'm gonna talk about lady stuff today. (Or just scroll enough to see a classic "before" pic of me at Disney World ... one that always cheers me up when I think that my thighs aren't getting any smaller.)

Some of the more interesting changes that have come with weight loss are related to "that time of the month." There are physical changes, of course: my periods are lighter and are now so regular that I can always predict the day it will start (I had them before, but sometimes only once every two or three months). But really interesting is that I never used to get PMS, and now I most certainly do.

Awful cramps, bloating, intense cravings, crazy mood swings ... I always thought ladies on TV and in the movies were being overly dramatic. Oh, no - the littlest thing might make me cry ... or infuriate me. And yeah, there's ibuprofen for the cramps, but I bet some chocolate would work in a pinch. Before, I was usually pretty depressed - but I actually have moods now, so they could swing. And I was constantly bloated from eating so much processed garbage, so period-related bloating was unnoticed...


Now, I can feel a difference, not only in my body but in the way my clothes fit.

I'm wondering how much of this change is due to the different physical composition of my body - less body fat, less strain on all my inside bits, whatever have you - and how much of it is dietary. Maybe I never had cravings because nothing was ever "bad" or "off limits" - I didn't need a reason to march down to the store and buy a chocolate bar with almonds besides simply wanting one, no matter what time of the month it was. There wouldn't be an extra workout or smaller portions at dinner to accomodate the 210 calories, because the calories weren't anything I even looked at ... just the price tag, to see if I could get a couple - for "later," by which I usually meant "as soon as I finish the current one." And I thought nothing of eating two, three, four of them.

It reminds me of one of my favorite posts by Ellen about the lies we tell ourselves before we decide to get healthy, the reasons why and how we can get/stay so big:
"I had less guilt: If I ate crap for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, well – that was just normal so I didn't really stress about it."
These days, my go-to PMS snack is a package of pretzel M&M's. I love the salty and sweet combination, and at 150 calories, I can enjoy them while still staying in my 1200-1300 daily calorie range and not making cuts to my meals. Or sometimes I'll get a desserty-flavored protein bar (I like Balance bars - either peanut butter or smores) and have it for either breakfast or lunch - it might have as many calories as a candy bar, but it's replacing a meal, and it also has protein and vitamins/minerals.

I'm okay with having occasional treats, as long as they're controlled and I'm not using them to hurt myself. This is one benefit I've found to social eating - not only am I less likely to overdo it, but sharing your dessert means even fewer calories. There's an ice cream shop a few blocks from my apartment that I went to quite a few times a week last summer - their Italian ices are unholy good, and I always got the large, a 32-oz. styrofoam cup packed with sugary fruity goodness. I'm cringing thinking about how many calories are in it - not to mention the sugar! Yikes. I walked there with Matt on our second or third date, and we split a small (about 70 him/30 me - I'm glad to be sharing instead of having my own, but I still want to be mindful). It was just as delicious and refreshing as the big one without making me feel sick afterwards.

What about you? Has PMS started/intensified for you? What do you eat/do to mindfully submit to your TOM cravings?

July 6, 2011

Training

As I continue to evaluate why I started slipping in June, I can't help but reflect on how much running has changed my life. It was so significant to me that the first 5k race that I ran was on January 1 - a new year, a new me. I was ringing in 2011 with something I'd never done before and celebrating all the new possibilities that the year would bring.

Within an hour of getting home from finishing the 5k in January, I registered for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. I went right from Couch to 5k to an 8k training plan I created for myself based on the C25k distance increases. When race day showed up, I was ready to kick butt - and I did. And I continued to do so as I transitioned from 8k training to 10k training in preparation for my next race two months later.

My next race is on the 14th, but it's an 8k. I've done this distance before - I've even done longer than this distance - so I'm not feeling challenged right now. Since I started running, I've always had something to look forward to - the next race, the next improvement on my per-mile time, the next distance challenge. I've become the kind of lady who thrives on challenges - a truly wonderful feeling. So just like with my job situation, I fear I'm becoming frustrated because I don't know what the next big step is. I've been running consistently, but without a goal in mind. It's been nice to "just run," but I need something to focus on.

For a couple of months, I've mulled over the idea of a half marathon. I hate setting time limits on weight loss goals, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't fantasized about weighing 173 pounds as I cross the finish line at my first half marathon ... because with a starting weight of 345 pounds, that would put me at exactly half. Half Mary at the half mary. Dreamy, no? The only problem right now is, again, the job situation. There's a half in Chicago in mid-September, which would be perfect, except that I'm not sure if I'll still be here or if I'll be forced to relocate back to Connecticut. The registration is $80, which is a lot when you're in between jobs and want to save every cent you can in case of emergencies.

Yesterday, I came to a decision.

I'm going to start training for the half marathon in September.

I figure, if I get good news about a job, I'm prepared and can register without fear that I won't be ready to run over thirteen miles. And if not, nothing has been lost - I will have logged some great workouts and I won't be out the $80.

I've been feeling so great lately since I've been back on-plan and having great workouts again, yet somehow I feel even better now. It's so good to have a schedule and something to look forward to!

What about you? Do you race often? What's the longest race you've done? What races and/or events are you looking forward to?

July 5, 2011

Do life

When I was in grad school, people used to ask me all the time - Hey, want to go grab drinks after class tonight? And I always had a reason to say no. There were class exams to grade, course exams to revise, books to read, papers to write. And they all assumed I was just a great student and dedicated instructor. And they were only partly right.

I spent a lot of time during grad school sitting at home in front of my computer or the TV. The bigger I got, the stronger my anti-social tendencies became. I felt awkward and uncomfortable being the only girl who wasn't wearing something cute. I was afraid of breaking barstools. And I just didn't want to hear the rude comments - people always yelled mean stuff from cars as I walked down the street, but with added alcohol into the mix? At least on the couch, I know the reason I go to bed crying isn't because of what some stranger said.

As I've lost weight, I've started to become more social - people have remarked about how now they ask me to do things and I say yes without hesitation. I don't mind going out in public - in fact, I enjoy it. That's where some of the best in life is happening!

Case in point: last night, Lorelei and I met up with a couple dozen other locals to meet and run a 5k with Ben Davis, the couch potato turned marathoner and Ironman behind the Do Life movement. Some pictures:


Walking to the starting point; just after we took off (I forgot to check my glasses! oops!); my hot runner's legs in action. And oh! What a night. Absolutely no complaints with a view like this one:


Or *ahem* this one:


He ate his dinner and then laid down on my leg in his food coma. Pardon me for a moment while I squee like a total fangirl.

Even though I have been talking about this race since he announced it a few months ago, I was a little nervous and apprehensive. I was wearing my Do Life shirt and running shorts from Old Navy - the exact outfit I wore to the Shamrock Shuffle in the beginning of April. It's two months later, but I'm only down 15 pounds. Considering I lost the first 100 pounds in exactly six months, it's a little disheartening. I know that it's not a race, that losing becomes progressively more difficult as you get smaller, and that these two months have been fairly life-altering - but I still feel a little let down sometimes when I look at statistics. These two months had my first maintains - and my first gains. I could have done more, I should have stayed on plan the whole time...

Only 15 pounds in two months. But you know, "only" is a really useless word.


"Only" 15 in two months - but 145 in eleven.


And even more important than the numbers is the fact that I'm living an entirely different life than I was this time last year. I don't sweat because I'm super obese and simply sitting on the couch playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 wears me out, I sweat because I run 3.1 miles in over 80º heat with other people, amazing people who know what it's like to be big, or to be sad, or to be addicted. People who want to live the healthiest life possible - which has been my primary goal right from the beginning. We're doing life, and that is a truly incredible thing.
When we got done with the 5K, we grabbed some food and sat in the fountain area. Two and a half hours later, we were still sitting there, talking, laughing, telling stories, and inspiring one another.

This is what it's about.

It doesn't matter if we run or we walk or if we run to lose weight or just to keep sane. We do these things and we do them together.


From Ben's post-race recap
What about you? How do you "do life"? Have you heard of Ben/read his blog/seen his incredibly inspiring YouTube video? (If not, please do yourself a favor and watch it right now - linked above on the Do Life Movement website.)

July 4, 2011

Beat The Heat: Week One

Oh, how I love the start of a new challenge!

Weight Wars


My positive picture for the week:

Waiting for a bus at the end of my street:


I love this picture because I took a similar one in Fall 2008 when I was moving into my apartment from the miserable graduate dorms (one suitcase at a time on the bus; not bad because I didn't have too much stuff). I was probably around 310-315 pounds here:


Lovelovelove progress pictures. And being able to cross my legs!

What are your goals for the 10 week challenge? / Why did you pick those goals? What makes them important right now?

I've decided to go with some non-traditional goals for this challenge. I have my summer bucket list full of things I'd like to accomplish before fall comes, but for this challenge, I'm going to be working on emotional weight loss and self-confidence exercises. My goals are in line with Michael Bungay Stanier's Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun:
1. Stop hiding who you really are.
2. Start being intensely selfish.
3. Stop following the rules.
4. Start scaring yourself.
5. Stop taking it all so damn seriously.
6. Start getting rid of the crap.
7. Stop being busy.
8. Start something.
At this point in my weight loss journey, this is where I think I can best focus my energies. I'm going to try to focus on one a week, though perhaps not in his given order.

What's your biggest excuse reason for not doing something and how are you going to stop it getting in the way?

Usually fear and self-doubt stop me - it's improved unbelievably over this time last year, but I could still use some work.

Are you a planner or do you go with the flow?

I'm a planner, definitely - I need a plan, goals, and/or some sort of to-do list at all times. Spontaneity makes me anxious ... so that's likely going to be one of the things I work on with this challenge!

Tell us something that will help us get to know you.

July 31 is my "rebirthday" - the one year anniversary of deciding to get healthier and hopefully save my own life. I've made a lot of progress these past eleven months, and I'm really looking forward to rounding out my first year with continued strong efforts and successful results!

July 3, 2011

The mixer

Another week without a recipe - sorry to disappoint. I've been trying to stick to my standard fare these days: lots of salads topped with random leftovers (this week: wild rice and either chili beans or pintos with dill/onion/garlic - quite delicious), chicken grilled on the George Foreman with lots of veggies, yogurt for breakfast, and fruit and/or air-popped popcorn for snacks. It's simple, but it's cheap and clean and I know I get great results from going back to my basics. I promise a new recipe next week, I just want to make sure I string together a few great days first - secure my footing on the path back to weight loss success before I try any fancy tricks.

One step I took this week towards binge prevention was to put away my Kitchen-Aid mixer:


Hanging out in the way back of the under-sink cabinets with all my super cool vintage soup bowls, the Ikea funnels, and the ravioli stamp ... all fairly neglected lately.

Since I live alone and Pilsen apartments are notorious for their lack of counter space, my kitchen table typically houses my record player, my grocery list, my food log, a food scale, a mini-food processor, and the Kitchen-Aid mixer. Putting the mixer away means I'm less likely to bake, which is good, because my poison of choice lately has been raw cookie dough.

I wasn't sure why (my usual binge favorites are cheesy/salty/starchy) until I realized I'm still working through Geneen Roth's "Breaking Free from Emotional Eating." She talks about abandoning diets and eating nothing but cookies and raw cookie dough for weeks, and while it worked for her (she gained weight but got sick of it eventually and craved healthier meals/snacks), I think it may have been triggering something in my mind.

I'm okay with abandoning the diet mentality but not the diet, if that makes sense - I need to stick to regimented eating for now, but I know that the decisions I make overall are lifestyle changes. I'm okay with occasional treats - I'm not okay with using food to soothe non-hunger pains and cravings; there's a difference between one cookie or cupcake from a nice place when I'm out with a friend, and standing at the kitchen sink crying with my spoon in the mixing bowl.

I mashed up a sweet potato for today's breakfast, then cleaned off the mixer and tucked it away for now. (I've also put down Geneen Roth for the time being and picked up Ruth Reichl's "Comfort Me with Apples.") Are Geneen's anecdotes and the Kitchen-Aid mixer entirely to blame for my food struggles? No, of course not - there's no one single cause for anything on this journey. But having the mixer right there made poor choices a bit more accessible, and any small steps I can make toward positive progress need to be taken right now.

What about you? Have you ever had to put away an unusual trigger - either hidden out of sight or rid of for good? How did it work for you?