July 23, 2011

Slim Pickins

I love cooking. I've always enjoyed it, but I think I've grown to appreciate it even more while on my weight loss journey. I'm the one who takes these ingredients and puts them together in a healthy and delicious way - I am personally responsible for the way that I am properly nourished.

I've loved sharing some of my recipes here - and I always love seeing what recipes other bloggers have in their healthy meal planning arsenal ... it inspires me to make them myself! Having lots of recipes to choose from means that I don't get bored - I tend to fall in love with a recipe, then eat it exhaustively and then abandon it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the community aspect of blog world, and I had an idea for a new website. The idea came to me in a dream, to be honest - I wasn't going to share it until my dad called me a couple weeks ago with a similar sort of idea, a site where we post healthier versions of fast food recipes and better picks for going out to eat. (A site like that already exists, by the way, and is an awesome resource.)

Let me know what you think of this:
It would be part challenge, part recipe collection. Think kind of like "Iron Chef," kind of like the Daring Bakers.

Each week, we have an ingredient - it could be a fruit or vegetable, a grain, a spice ... it'll be something different every week, but nothing so fancy you'd have to go out of your way to find it or offer up your firstborn child to buy it. You have until midnight on Saturday to make a recipe using the ingredient - it could be a family favorite or something you invented for the challenge, it could be for any meal, and it could be sweet or savory, as long as it is healthy and uses the week's ingredient.

Send me and e-mail including the recipe, a picture of it all prepared, and any additional information you'd like to add (serving size, suggestions for variations, etc.). I'll put them all together in a document and send it out to all challenge participants on Sunday afternoon/evening - voilà, a mini cookbook sent to all of us every week! I would also post them to our website to have a little database of healthy recipes, searchable with tags like "vegetarian" or "breakfast."
It's still in the very early planning stages, so there's room for improvement and openness to suggestions. It would need the participation of others bloggers to make it work, though. (It also needs a snappy title, preferably with a really cheesy pun. The only thing that came to mind so far was "Slim Pickins" - I'm certainly open to suggestions there, too.)

What about you? What do you think? Is this something you'd be interested in reading? Would you be interested in participating? Any suggestions for how to improve the idea before launching it?

July 22, 2011

Roses and thorns

I got too emotional yesterday to keep up with the Harry Potter metaphor, so allow me to wrap that up first.

Harry Potter is known throughout the wizarding world as "the boy who lived." Despite being attacked by Lord Voldemort as an infant, he was protected by a special kind of magic after his mother, in the moments before her death from the Unforgiveable Curse that kills on contact, repeated over and over to her baby
Harry, you are so loved. Harry, Mama loves you. Dada loves you, Harry. You are so loved...
Despite his best attempts, Voldemort was unable to defeat Harry. And likewise, obesity cannot defeat me, no matter what tricks it may seem to have up its sleeve. Battles may be long and the odds may not seem in my favor, but I'm incredibly well-armed - I'm loved, and the support I have fortifies and protects me. In the end, good always wins out over evil.

I can't thank you all enough for the outpouring of support I got on my last post. Family relationships are tough, and even if I weren't trying to lose weight these days, I have the feeling I'd be going through a similar identity crisis: trying to cut loose a little from my attachment. I'm very independent, but at the same time, I'm incredibly motivated by a desire to be constantly pleasing to my parents. So right now, I'm seeking to establish myself as a reasonably attached adult: I am your daughter, not your child, if that makes sense. It's good to want to make them proud, but it's also healthy to make being proud of myself a priority.

Weighing in at 196 today - down one pound. Was lower earlier in the week, but with 100º+ weather, I've been eating more and exercising less. I also went out to eat with Matt twice - the best possible choices, but still salty, and I can feel that the regain isn't actual weight. This week, that's life - no complaints, no apologies.

What about you? If your weight loss journey was a movie or TV show, what would it be? What are your plans for the weekend?

July 21, 2011

It All Ends

I started blogging last August for a few reasons.

One, to try and find a community where I could be held accountable. I knew a lot of people who perpetually talked about the weight they would like to lose - but at rock bottom, I needed to find "action" people. People who knew what it was like to have such a huge task ahead of them, who understood the struggles, and who might be able to offer advice and support. I found that community here, and I honestly credit blogging for so much of my weight loss success.

And two, to serve as a kind of diary where I would chronicle my journey to lose 210 pounds. As much as I wanted readers to encourage my efforts and offer advice, I've never written for an audience. I've always maintained that even if no one ever read what I had to say again, I'd still keep writing. The act of expressing myself is just as therapeutic as hearing what people have to say on the topics. This has been my salvation, my safe place where I have been able to work through my emotional issues as I learn to eat well and stay active and even simply exist in a body I've never known as an adult.

The problem with diaries, though, is that when displayed on a public forum, you're completely exposed. I have always written openly and completely honestly, and I felt safe in doing so. As my inner circle has become aware of my writing, though, I have started to lose my feeling of security and comfort - though my openness has not wained.

In writing about myself and my issues with food and weight, I've often mentioned friends and family members. When I write about these people, I am not actually writing about people themselves, but my relationships with them. Selfish as it may seem to say, this blog is all about me. This space isn't meant to be a tabloid exposé of family issues, but a documentary of how I've dealt with my problems as I attempt to get healthier.

It has been tremendously comforting to know that I'm not the only person who feels the way I do sometimes. To know that other people know what it's like to use food as a weapon to self-harm. To know that the sometimes negative connection between food and family isn't exclusive to me and my family. I wish I could talk directly to my family about these issues, but it's hard to discuss these heavy issues with the people involved and walk away with unbiased advice.

I finally figured out the last piece of the puzzle to why I started binge eating again. There was job stress, financial worry, and boy anxiety. And now, just like when I was 12, my parents' relationship is dissolving. For a while now, I have maintained that my weight loss journey is like going through puberty again. I have a new body that I'm learning how to use. I'm growing and changing emotionally. And now, I've reverted back to my preteen coping mechanism of wanting to feel the pain of being full in order to distract myself. It's all come full circle.

I'm not accusing any one person of wrongdoing - no one person is "to blame" for my binge eating problem. My family, as a cause, is indirect - again, it isn't about the people themselves, but about my perception of the relationships. I love my mother and father endlessly, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't profoundly hurt by their divorce. The birth of my binge eating problem had nothing to do with my parents as people but everything to do with my own need to find a coping mechanism; as a 12, 13 year old kid, I wasn't thinking about anything other than how to make the hurt go away. No one is more or less guilty.

I have as many issues with my father as I do with my mother. I have binged because of my relationship with him the same way I have because of my relationship with her. The difference between the two of them, though, is a level of tact, I think. My dad and I fight, keep a distance for a while, and then resolve things. He does a lot of things that anger and frustrate me, but his attacks are rarely personal. My mom, on the other hand, seems to take advantage of vulnerabilities - for example, knowing that I already feel tremendously guilty about my disordered family relationship, she closes an email with "whether you believe it or not, this is another part of my life that is killing me."

Since my mother's visit in April, I've hit a rough patch and struggled with both motivation and controlling my binges. Worth noting, though, is that the week of her visit was also when I heard that my university contract wasn't being renewed. I'd still be struggling even if she hadn't visited, it's just that having her around made certain trigger foods accessible and just got the ball rolling a little faster. If my father had been around that week, or Jill, or anyone else, I'd be labeling their visit as the start of my current struggle.

When my mom was out here, we talked about my weight loss and I mentioned blogging as one of my sources of support. She seemed so proud of me for finding a community, and told me to keep writing my feelings, no matter what people thought. She even cited an interview with one of her favorite authors, who said that the people who truly love you will support you and understand, no matter what you write. It felt wonderful to know I had both on- and offline support, but the comfort was short-lived, as the silence between us began as soon as she returned home and, without my knowing, she started reading my blog. In spite of the advice she had offered, she took my writings very personally. And instead of using these words as a catalyst for conversation, she maintained radio silence for three months.

The silence between us was broken this week with a series of emails and blog comments, most of which left me feeling completely broken and worthless. My goal with this weight loss journey has been not only losing my physical self, but gaining a long-overdue sense of self-confidence and pride. For the first time, I've chosen to put myself and my health first, because if I didn't, I'd still be 345 pounds. The messages I've received from her this week have made me feel just as valueless as that sad fat girl on the couch, helpless and incapable.

There were accusations of obsession - saying that I am "too much about this weight thing, and not enough about life beyond races and scales and what [I] can and can't eat." And worst of all, there were charges that I'm a terrible sister, that I'm not only inattentive but flat out ignoring them because of the current issues between my mother and father. Strangers know that's the furthest thing from the truth. Why can't my own mother see it? I love my sisters and brother more than anything in the world. If anything happened to any of them, I'd be devastated beyond belief.

The funny thing is, I haven't been ignoring my siblings. I've kept regular contact with Lisa. I've sent dozens of unreturned messages to Katie (so I am certainly not to blame for any silence there). And it's impossible to reach Dan, a ten-year-old whose access to the phone and computer is limited. I know that I'm doing the best that I can in every aspect of my life - in looking for a job, in trying to get healthy, in being a good and loving daughter/sister/friend. And my efforts aren't futile or unnoticed.

I set a summer goal of making peace with my mother, and I think that for now, agreeing to disagree is the closest we'll get. After telling her how lousy the emails made me feel, my sister Lisa had the best advice to offer on the subject:

In my original letter to her after she left, I told my mother that I love her and all my family members very much, but right now I am unwaivering in my need to put myself and my health first. Right now, that means an impasse. It isn't ideal, but for me, it's some sort of resolution, and with that comes a little bit of comfort.

July 20, 2011


Last night, Matt and I went to $6 Tuesday at the movie theater near his apartment to see - wait for it - the last Harry Potter movie. This was my third time seeing it since it came out less than a week ago, and let me just say, it seems like it gets better every time I see it. pic from thegamerslab dot comMaybe because I notice more, between focusing on different things in each scene and not crying as much from one viewing to the next. Either way, though, it's a very good film, and a fitting end to the series.

In the final two films of the series, the main protagonists (Harry, Ron, and Hermione) find themselves looking for horcruxes - small items to which the antagonist (Lord Voldemort) has transferred pieces of his soul in an attempt to preserve himself. I don't intend on revealing any specific details, so no need for a spoiler alert. But while I was watching the movie, a few thoughts came to my mind, and I immediately related them to my life and my weight loss progress.

My obesity could be personified as the Dark Lord himself; as the hero of my own story, my objective is to destroy the horcruxes, the objects and ideas that give the antagonist strength. As the dark magic is vanquished, their ruler becomes gradually weaker and has less control over me - though, at least initially, it may not seem to be so.

Some of the horcruxes have been easier to pinpoint than others:
  • Drinking lots of soda and fizzy water
  • Inactivity
  • Buying premade/processed meals
Which has also made them easier to destroy. I replaced all drinks with water or the occasional unsweetened tea. I got off the couch and started walking, then Wii Fit-ing, then stair climbing, then working the machines at the gym, then I started to run. And I stopped ordering takeout and started cooking my meals for myself. These are the dark problems I feel confident in saying I have triumphed over.

But some issues have been harder to pinpoint - and even harder to kill. I wish it were as "easy" as it sometimes is for Harry - stab Tom Riddle's diary with a basilisk fang and it's done for. But I can't just attack binge eating with a material object, or even with strong thoughts, and have it disappear, leaving me cured of it forever. I have to think about it very closely, study my own patterns and tendencies, look for the vulnerability - and then work hard for the rest of my life defending myself against the dark power I know it has over me.

Am I obsessed with weight loss? I honestly don't know how to answer that. I'm as fixated as Harry is with destroying the set of horcruxes he finds himself pursuing - it's the focus of the journey at the moment, but that doesn't mean there aren't moments for comic relief. And just because we don't see Harry eating or sleeping doesn't mean he isn't doing these things; just because the focus of my weight loss blog is, well, weight loss doesn't mean that it's the only thing I ever think about.

Binge eating is a multifaceted problem for me, and there is no one cause. And just because I can associate my self-harming tendencies with certain people and events doesn't mean that any one person or experience is entirely at fault. That said, however, the relationship between food and family is very close for many people, and it has certainly been the case for me as well. Just as their good habits have bred mine, their bad habits have encouraged my own negative ones.

Something I have struggled with since the beginning of my journey is my evolving identity. Who are we? Are we who we believe ourselves to be or are we the way others perceive us? Identity, like binge eating, is not developed from one single source. I am a product of the people I have known, the experiences I have had, the stories I have heard. I have taken from these and other sources to create a good, hard-working, intelligent, and caring young lady, and I'm endlessly grateful for them and all they've given me.

Harry Potter, too, is constantly being helped and guided by friends, family, and teachers - but ultimately, the battle is his own. He needs to face Voldemort himself - there is no other way to defeat him.

Tomorrow: Part Two, or "July 15: It All Ends"

July 19, 2011

Day off

Be sure to check out my guest post over on Carissa's blog and leave her some comment love!

I'm taking today off of blogging. Just can't do it, and for a few reasons.

I keep starting and stopping drafting a post for this week, and I'm feeling overwhelmed. The what-is-going-on-with-my-family post. My intentions for this blog are not to use it as a place to air my family's dirty laundry, but to touch on the events and relate them to my feelings - and, ultimately, my health and weight, as they're all so closely related to one another. It isn't the writing itself that I'm struggling with, but my own personal understanding of the circumstances. I can't synthesize them in my head, let alone express them in a way that might make sense to others.

snotm dot com
Also, I hung out with a couple of friends last night and drank a little wine. It was nice to sit in some air conditioning and forget about the intense heat for a while. And it was nice to hear a friend say "Seriously, dude, you are getting so f***ing skinny." There wasn't enough wine consumed between the three of us for it to have been the alcohol talking, so I just smiled and felt very good.

Heat should be high 90s again today, so I'm going to re-attempt the other day's failed 7 mile run (on the treadmill this time), then head to the public library to do some work, catch up on letter writing, and draft some blogs without feeling all gross and covered in sweat. I also see a popsicle or some frozen yogurt at some point. It's just so unbelievably hot.

What about you? How are you staying cool these days? (If it's hot where you are, of course. Southern hemisphere folks, I'm pretty jealous. How's the weather down there?) What do you cook for meals when it's too hot out to even think? What are some good blog posts you've read lately? Any topics you'd like to hear more about?

July 18, 2011

BTH: Week Three

My positive picture for the week:

In preparation for some heavier writing to come this week, I've been looking a lot at old pictures. I usually feel a little self-conscious about how big my legs still are, but then I find pictures like this one from my youngest sister's 2009 graduation:

And I realize that, yes, I don't have twig legs. But they're smaller than they used to be, and they're amazingly muscly and strong.

What have you done this week to work towards your goals?

This week, I worked on goal #2 - start being intensely selfish. Stanier's explanation of this is as follows:
Get hungry for the things that are truly important to you. Think of the people you respect and love, the moments you relish, the impact you want to have, the legacy you want to leave. Bottom line: don't waste your time on anything else.
Running with the hunger theme, I took the MyPlate model and doodled all over it, keeping with the goal's theme.

These are the people and things I would fight for, the most important parts of my life. If it came down to choosing, these are what I would always give top priority, no questions asked.

What have you done this week to make you feel fabulous?

I bought shirts at a thrift store. They were having a big sale: I got two shirts, paid with a dollar bill, and got change back. They're both mediums, which is awesome. I've been trying to save as much money as possible lately, but my workout shirts are all getting too big again, and since pretty much all I wear lately are my workout clothes, it's frustrating. 94 cents made me feel unbelievably good about myself.

Do you have any gadgets that help you to your goals or are you a low tech kinda person?

I am seriously lusting after a Garmin Forerunner. I have Nike+ for my iPod Nano, but it doesn't work very well because I don't have Nike+ shoes. I use it to track time, but I have to map my own distances and then calculate speed afterwards because it doesn't always record properly - like yesterday when I was 2.5 miles into a run and it announced I had just finished my first mile.

We are half way through the year, what have you achieved so far (in all aspects of life)?

I've seen a few six-month-reports on blogs but didn't think to do one myself.
  • Since the first of the year, I'm down 68 pounds.
  • I ran my first 5k. And my first 8k. And my first 10k.
  • My jeans have gone from an Old Navy 18 to a 12.
  • I excelled at - then lost - my dream job. But I genuinely feel richer for the experience and am nervous but ready for whatever the next step is.
  • I tried dating and met a boy I didn't really like. But I also met one that I really do.
All things considered, 2011 has been pretty incredible so far, I'd say. I'm making moves all over the place. I'm the most proud, though, of this: I wrote on January 2:
Ending negative self-talk is my top priority for 2011 - no excuses. The changing exterior is great, but the physical weight loss won't matter if I still hate the girl inside.
Even though I still have tough days, I feel like I've made terrific progress so far.

Tell me one of your secrets to achieving goals and living a happy life?

"To change one's life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions." [William James]

July 17, 2011


Given my multiple recipe postings last week, I'm taking a break from Recipe Sundays to share some real content. I'm thinking about developing a recipe-based challenge, of sorts, so if you might possibly be interested, keep your eyes peeled for more info later this week!

Yesterday, I signed up for an account at MyFitnessPal. It's a free website that tracks your weight loss progress as you enter your daily food/water intake, exercise, and a weekly weigh in. My main goal with using the program is to perfect my food tracking. As I've mentioned before, my long-term goal weight of 135 might be too low given my activity level - I will likely transition to maintenance at the higher end of my healthy BMI level, around 150-155. Between now and that point, I want to work on getting a better understanding of nutrition.

In the beginning, I didn't track my calories. I generally knew how much I was eating, aiming for 1200 calories, but I wasn't sitting down and writing every bite. I didn't see that as a sustainable life for me - filling notebook after notebook for the rest of my life with quickly scribbled "light yogurt, blueberry, 100 calories." It's the same reason why I didn't sign up for Weight Watchers - I wanted to understand food and nutrition based on how it made my body feel, not based on a Points system. (Which is not to knock Weight Watchers in any way - it works amazingly well for so many people, it just isn't right for me.) I read "Eating Mindfully" by Susan Albers and tried to eat intuitively, and for a while, it worked very well.

Fast forward to a year later. The game has changed, so to speak. At 345 pounds, the difference between 1200 and 1400 calories wasn't a big deal, because not only were 200 calories easier to burn, but I had a lot more flex room. My BMR was 2354 - meaning that even if I didn't exercise at all, I'd be able to lose a little over 3 pounds per week if I stuck to 1200 calories. And I was working out like a fiend. So, an extra 200 calories could get a little lost in the shuffle when you're talking the kind of deficits I had. Weekly 4-6 pound losses make sense now.

But at 197, my BMR is much lower: 1710. With a sedentary lifestyle and strictly 1200 calories a day, I can expect to lose less than 2 pounds a week. Activities that used to burn 140 calories on Wii Fit now burn only 75, and an hour on the elliptical only burns two-thirds of the calories it used to - because I'm doing them without the extra 100+ pounds on me. Awesome, yes - but the lack of wiggle room is still another change, another thing to adapt to.

Yesterday, I broke out my food scale (a very cheap non-digital one) to measure portions but ate normally, then plugged all the foods/quantities into the MyFitnessPal tracker. Something I remarked right away about the site was how off my calorie estimations were on foods. For example, this is a lunch I've previously noted in my tracking notebook as a 250 calorie lunch:

Understandably, there are variables and small differences from one website to the next - like 105 vs. 110 calories for a banana. But, for example, the small wheat and white sandwich rolls that I assumed were around 100 and 125 calories respectively are actually 170 and 200. Underestimations like that can add up very quickly.

Part of me worries that this is going to make me fixate on numbers - I know myself and my tendency to get caught up on them. At the same time, though, I'm feeling pretty confident after my first day. I don't want to weigh my food for the rest of my life - but I know that after a while, I'll be able to "eye" what a good portion size is. And I'm very proud that my first thought wasn't to panic over how many calories are in the roll, but just to recognize that they're a "sometimes" food and for a daily sandwich, I really need to try and be strong so I can keep things like 100-calorie sandwich thins and 80-calorie tortillas in the house so I can maximize my calories as much as possible.

What about you? Do you track your food/exercise? What do you use - programs like MyFitnessPal and Weight Watchers, pen and paper? Have you had any big surprises with tracking - things having way more/fewer calories than you assumed?