August 13, 2011

Repeat, repeat

I'm saying this here, announcing and proclaiming it, because this is a place where I am honest and therefore, if I say it here, it needs to be true.

I am not going to binge this weekend.

I am not going to binge this weekend.

I am not going to binge this weekend.

I'll say it, scream it, shout it, and repeat it as many times as necessary to make the point clear to myself: this weekend, no matter how badly I will want to give in, I will not be using food to calm myself or to relieve stress. The binge jar is prepped and ready for use, though I honestly think I'll be too busy to binge, even if I wanted to.

I got an email yesterday. Not a long one, but a heavy one. An important one.

A little back story, first: the only thing keeping me in Chicago right now is the fact that I love it here. I'm single, with no kids, so if a good job offer came in, I'd be able to take it without any issues of relocating anyone but myself. So all summer, I applied to any open teaching positions I could find, just to say I was trying. I never seriously expected to hear from any of them, not even the out-of-town ones, let alone the out-of-state ones.

Yesterday, I was contacted about an incredible full-time university position teaching French.

It is not in Chicago.

It is not in Illinois.


I've never even visited California on vacation - the furthest west I've been is St. Louis. And I might need to relocate there - soon. Adding to the stress of this is the very quick turnaround: classes at this university start in a week and a half. I have a phone interview Monday, I will get a decision on Tuesday, and I'd need to be at the university for new employee orientation the following Monday and the beginning of the semester that Thursday.

When I first read the email, I stopped breathing, to be honest. I got a granola bar from the cabinet and ate it incredibly slowly - first, to distract myself from the flood of thoughts that suddenly washed over me, and second, to soothe my need to be chewing on something while quelling my urge to eat the entire box. I emailed my friend Jill, left my friend Lorelei a voicemail, and then called my dad in a panic.

I want this job. I'm completely terrified of having to start over, and especially of not having time to neurotically plan every detail of my new life, but at the same time, the thought of forced spontaneity is a little exhilarating.

I walked with my cousin Sarah last night - we hadn't seen each other in a while, and we needed to destress and get out of our apartments. We started in our neighborhood and ended up walking five miles east to a small beach on Lake Michigan. We talked about the job - my nerves about the interview, my concerns about relocating so quickly - and I felt much better, as I always do when talking with her.

After hanging out at the beach, we opted to take public transit home since it was late. I retold the job story to Sarah's boyfriend Marty, who offered more advice and support. He made a great point: that yes, this is new and scary and happening faster than I would like. But isn't that exactly the kind of transition I've become a bit of an expert in lately?

This weekend, I have a very big to do list. I have to prepare for my phone interview - researching the school, the program, reviewing my CV, and bracing myself for what questions they might ask. I also need to research the town I'd be relocating to, since I applied to the position without seriously considering where it was. And even though there isn't an offer in my hands just yet, I also need to research things like an apartment and how I'm going to get myself and my belongings from Chicago to California in less than a week, because if I *do* get good news, the drive is 34 hours without stops - I have to be on the road within a day. Any pre-decision work I can be doing will help.

Not on my list? Snacking. Overeating. A binge by any definition. Panicking and subduing my nerves with food is counterintuitive. It's a comforting feeling during the binge, but thinking about the way I feel afterwards - the guilt, the physical pain - that's not what I need this weekend. I need a clear mind, a clean body.

I am not going to binge this weekend.

I am not going to binge this weekend.

I am not going to binge this weekend.

Repeat, repeat.

August 12, 2011

Roses and thorns

I can't begin to explain how pleased I am with the response I got from the series of maintenance posts. I can't wait to write more on the subject as it becomes my first-hand experience.

However, in keeping with this week's unexpected maintenance theme, I have no loss to report this morning. I'm not terribly upset, because I didn't see a loss at any point in the week. It stayed the same for days, then jumped up after a particularly salty day, then worked itself back down. I had a few great workouts this week but for some reason, it wasn't quite enough to see the scales move. Maybe because I had a big loss last week and my body needed to catch up a bit, who knows? I'm not really sweating it.

I had a pretty good week, to be honest. It was very strange, very atypical schedule-wise than my usual weeks. I was very busy every day. I usually have plans one or two days a week, but it seemed like every day, someone wanted to see me or go somewhere. Which I didn't mind one bit, it was nice to be social. It was just quite different from what I'm used to.

This weekend, I don't have much on-deck in terms of plans. I'm looking forward to my next long run to see if the incredible 8 mile run was just a fluke or if I can push forward to the next level. Other than than, though, nothing. But sometimes, that's just what you need.

What about you? How was your week? Any weekend plans?

August 11, 2011

Maintenance, part three

There was another common concern mentioned in the comments of the first maintenance post: a fear of becoming judgemental of overweight/obese people once we reach our goal weights. I know I've personally worried about this, and it's something I think more people are afraid of than they wish to admit.

Before delving into small-judging-big biases, I think it's worth mentioning that there are also instances of big-judging-small - I know I was guilty of this myself as a bigger person. I've thought "skinny bitch" as many times as I've heard "fat bitch;" anyone smaller than me that I saw eating something I deemed unhealthy was "probably anorexic" - shadowsinteresting, considering I was dealing with disordered eating habits of my own.

At my biggest, I swore that I'd always be compassionate towards people, no matter what size. I knew what it felt like to be stared at, to be whispered about, to have people choose to stand on the crowded bus rather than take the open seat next to me. I've never understood mean or unkind people - I'm very much a believer in letting negativity end with me. I'm not going to be treated poorly and then treat someone poorly right back, nor will I pay it forward to a third party. It ends with me, because I know it hurts, and I wouldn't want other people to feel that way, certainly not because of something I said or did.

That said, I'd be lying if I said I haven't already made mental judgements based on size. I wouldn't say that I haven't been compassionate - my thoughts may have been judgemental, but I don't project them. I don't sneer, I don't snicker, I don't make rude statements. But in my mind, I've harbored comments and thoughts, and I feel guilty for that.

The one thing I can say for sure is that the judgemental thoughts are different from what I assumed they'd be. I'm not thinking specifics about a person's appearance and whether or not I find it visually pleasing, and I don't make personality or character judgements based on size. I know weight doesn't make a person good or bad. But rather, I see my old self in them and make comparisons - my arms used to be even bigger than that ... my stomach used to stick out further than hers ... I used to be like that, too ... shadowsit doesn't have to be this way for her.

I think sometimes my judgements are based on jealousy. Doesn't she know how many calories are in that?! is more of an envious statement than anything, because I *can* reasonably estimate the calories and can't ignore them. If I wanted a dozen Reese's cups before, I ate them, and I thought nothing of it. Now, I don't visualize that binge as a pile of chocolate and peanut butter, I see an entire day's worth of calories - because even when I allow myself a reasonable portion of an off-plan food, I am first and foremost aware of what its nutritional benefits are. Even binges aren't the same, because I am completely conscious and aware of what the effect of the increased caloric intake will be. One thing I miss sometimes is the blissful ignorance of numbers that came with being super obese.

Usually, though, my judgements are based on concern. These are usually thoughts about family and friends. Obesity is a preventable and treatable disease, and making a few healthier choices here and there would add up to big results. I don't need everyone to start running 5k's, renounce all of the things I consider off-plan foods, and lose 150 pounds in a year - my plan works for me, but might not work for them. But I think about them sometimes, and I feel sad. I love feeling healthy and treating my body well, and I just want my loved ones to feel this good, too.

I'm especially guilty of judging my youngest sister. People have always thought we are twins because we resemble each other so closely, and because our personalities are very similar. When I started getting healthy, I was about 80 pounds heavier than her. We weighed the same at Christmas 2010, and at this point, I'm about 70 pounds lighter than her. I worry that sending her all the workout clothes I've outgrown will make her think I'm judging or trying to push my lifestyle on her. I'm not actively judging her - I know she wants to get healthy and will figure things out when the time is right for her - shadowsbut at the same time, I'm very concerned. I know how hard it was to be a college kid and avoid experiences because of my size. I remember stepping on the scale every few weeks or so, seeing a gain, and always wondering where I'd be if I had stuck with making healthy choices after the last time I weighed myself.

As soon as I catch myself judging someone, I remember that every person's journey is his or her own, and I cannot possibly be aware of all the details. Being big doesn't necessarily mean being lazy or unmotivated. I think about myself at 250 pounds, walking down the street and feeling confident, and wondering if someone saw me and thought oh, if only she'd lose weight. Unless I had been carrying a sign announcing it, the person couldn't have known I'd already lost nearly 100 pounds at that point. And the same goes for big-judging-small - looking at the "after" pictures of maintenance bloggers, I would never guess these people could possibly understand how I felt when I had been so big if I met them on the street.

I wouldn't want someone to treat me poorly for being a lady, for being on the short side, for being American - and I wouldn't treat someone poorly for anything they couldn't control, either. Weight judgements are no different. We're all working towards living our healthiest lives possible, no matter what stage of the journey we're at - and there's no way of knowing at which point the people we observe are. So I guess that the best we can do is promise ourselves to always project compassion - to family, to friends, to strangers - no matter what.

August 10, 2011

Traffic

I've got a bit of a fluff post today, as I'm working on Part 3 of my maintenance posts; I had an interesting first date yesterday and got home late-ish, and I was too tired for my brain to properly process the thoughts. I didn't intend for them to become a series of posts, but I'm loving the catalyst for conversation they've become. This third and final one, though, might be a bit controversial, so I want to make sure it's as clear and well-articulated as possible.

I'm not sure if other sites have something like this, but on Blogger, we can check our site's stats.


You can track page views, see what posts are being read the most, and what websites people are accessing your blog from. The most interesting part, I think, is under the Traffic Sources tab, where you can see what people have looked up on search engines that lead them to your blog. The results are almost always interesting - sometimes funny, sometimes odd, and occasionally incomprehensible.

My most popular search terms are, thankfully, related to my blog's name/title - various spellings, with and without spaces, and sometimes with the word "blog" at the end. Other frequently recurring terms:
  • the Zax (a Dr. Seuss story I mentioned here in a mainly non-weight related post)
  • "for the first time in my life i see love" (the "Mike & Molly" theme song, mentioned here)
  • avocado pasta sauce (incredibly delicious, mentioned here)
  • carrot cake overnight oats (also unbelievably yummy, and on my to-make-soon list! mentioned here)
I also get some really interesting ones every now and then, which I usually post to Twitter because they can be really ridiculous or strange - the search engines pick up a word here and a word there and give my blog as a result. It's mostly funny because somewhere, someone is looking these things up:
  • spooky girl in the mirror (spooky? really?)
  • my legs are all muscle (I wouldn't say *all*, but mine are nice!)
  • p point value scrabble (it's 3! in English Scrabble, anyway...)
  • almostgastricbypass jerk (I have no opinion and no comment)
  • too good to be true examples (trust me, my story is both good and true!)
  • anchor tattoos on the top of your hands (hands are off-limits to me)
  • anchor tattoo on foot (not where my anchor is!)
  • 216 devil guy (what does that even mean?)
  • fat ugly wearing glasses girl (surely they didn't mean me...)
  • woman wore long underwear under clothes because she was cold (why else would you wear long underwear?!)
Never a dull moment around here!

What about you? Do you ever check your blogs stats? What are some interesting search terms you've seen?

August 9, 2011

Maintenance, part two

While I love writing and am always pleased with the content I produce here, sometimes a blog post turns out to become a particular favorite of mine. It isn't usually anything that I have to do with the post itself; rather, it is the comments and feedback that make the updates personally affecting and especially important to me.

I wrote last week about my maintenance fears - it was honest and open, and writing it allowed a big weight to be lifted from my heart. I liked it when I set it to publish, but truly fell in love when I started to get responses to my asking what some of your maintenance fears are. I got responses from people at all different stages in the weight loss game: beginners afraid of not making it there, middle of the journey folks who worry that the weight loss won't be enough (mentally or physically), and people in maintenance who shared their apprehensions and concerns as they made the transition.

I am constantly reaffirmed that at no point am I alone on this journey. While certain events and details of my past and present are unique, there are an overwhelming number of thoughts, feelings, and experiences that we all share. I started afraid to fail and eventually became afraid to succeed - but I wasn't the only one whose mind changed like that. I, too, feared that I would never be close enough to even consider the details of my life in maintenance. I have also worried that I'll reach my goal and it won't feel like enough. I've wondered if I'll still be single no matter what my size because my body never actually had anything to do with it. It felt incredibly comforting to know that I'm not crazy for having these kinds of thoughts.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by my fears and concerns, I try to sit back and reflect on the bigger picture. Something I have believed since I started last year was that as wonderful as the weight loss has been, it's mainly a side effect of me taking an interest in myself and finally deciding that I am worthy of being properly nourished and that a little healthy selfishness is a perfectly good thing. When I realized these things and believed them with all my heart, the weight loss came naturally; when I started to question them, the losses stalled.

I keep coming back to one of my favorite ideas, from Ellen, one of the maintenance bloggers whose stories of life before, during, and after weight loss never fail to make me both smile or cry (and sometimes, both) with self-recognition; she said that
being a desired size is simply a perk of an already fulfilling life.
My life is fantastic. Truly remarkable. Amazing and wonderful. And incredibly worth living. At 192 pounds, I believe these things to be true; I need to make sure that I still believe it at whatever weight I decide to maintain at. So my biggest goal with maintenance isn't food related at all, but rather, emotional. I need to make sure that from now until forever, I believe my life is worth living and that I am a person of great value.

Which isn't to say I'm not a little concerned about the food issues - they're important, they're just not in the foreground. Most of my work on my journey so far has been food-related - realizing what a healthy portion size looks like, understanding the way my body feels when it's been fed well, accepting that the goal isn't perfection but perseverance and consistency. I've been gleaning advice and ideas about how to approach the new phase of weight challenges. I don't want to wake up, strip down, and step on the scale every morning for the rest of my life. But I also don't want to wake up over 200 or 300 pounds again, ever. As long as I keep waking up, though, I think I'll be doing well. For now, I'm reading, asking questions, seeking advice, and preparing the best I can, trying to figure out what achieving and maintaining a healthy balance will mean for me.

August 8, 2011

BTH: Week Six

My positive picture for the week:

The heat finally broke a little yesterday morning and I did my first non-interval long run in ... way too long. Eight glorious and scenic miles, starting at home in the Mexican neighborhood, heading east through an industrial district, north through University Village and Greektown, west through the medical district, then south through Little Italy and back home.


It's a personal record for distance, and it's a good sign that the half marathon might still be feasible. I've been worried, with the heat affecting my long runs and all.

What have you done this week to help you achieve your goals?

This past week, I continued to work on goal #4 - start scaring yourself. I made great plans for things to do, but life got in the way of them a bit. For example, I found a free event in the park that meets every weekend - they offer an hour of lessons for various kinds of dances, then two hours of live music for dancing! Unfortunately, though, this was the one weekend all summer when the event doesn't take place because there was a music festival in the park. Same for the free yoga and Zumba in the park on Saturday mornings. And I made plans to wear a bathing suit in public and go to the beach with a friend of mine, but we got rained out. I feel good about the goal, though - I've found the things to do, now I just need to go do them! This week is another week.

I also worked on goal #5 - stop taking it all so damn seriously. Stanier's explanation of this is as follows:
In this moment, is it a life or death situation? In 10 years, will you remember what you're fretting about? In 100 years, will anyone care? So lighten up - this too shall pass.
I thought about this a lot this week, especially as I thought about the struggles I've had with my eating in the past month or so. I fell back into the old habit of letting bad choices snowball into multiple ones because I felt guilty. Some days, I am hungrier than others. An apple or a banana or a handful of grapes will not undo all the hard work I have done - I need to listen to my body and feed it appropriately instead of denying it and then going crazy, losing control, and overdoing it way worse than if I ate the fruit to begin with. In ten years - heck, in ten days - this apple won't matter ... but the residual effect of the guilt will linger. So I'm focusing on preparing my maintenance mind for letting go of the guilt - my overall mantra is "everything balanced," and there's no place on my life's scales for the weight of guilt.

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

I got my eyebrows and lip waxed. Nothing makes me feel lovelier than not looking gentlemanly for a few weeks!

Do you feel you get everything out of your life? Would you like to change things or are you happy where you are?

Generally, I'm really happy with my life. I'm glad this question came up this week, because as it works out, Thursday is my one year blog anniversary. I'm so grateful for all the advice, support, and love I have found here. When I was cleaning under my bed the other day, I found a note I had written myself last summer on the inside of a candy wrapper I got when my family was out here visiting for my MA graduation. I don't remember the context, and I'm not sure of my intended audience:
i tell lies almost constantly to distract you all from the truth, which is that i am alone.

fat, pathetic, and alone.

too weak to change, too cowardly to pull the trigger.
As tough as it is for me to look at old pictures and recognize myself in the image, it's even harder to reread these words and accept myself as the author. It's hard to believe that things weren't always this good.

There are tough days still, for sure, and there are things that could be better, but overall, I wouldn't trade where I am right now for anything. I have tough days food-wise and days when I don't feel much like exercising, but all in all, I'm doing incredibly well with properly taking care of my physical self. I'd like a steady full-time job, but right now I'm learning about how to live frugally and appreciate things fully. I'd like everything to be peaceful with my family, but I can't get upset over situations I can't control. Everything works out the way that it's meant to.

What's your ultimate favourite food? Is it healthy? Can you make it healthy?

I don't know if I could pick just one, to be honest. Classic comfort foods for me are usually cheesy. One of my personal favorite healthy recipe swaps is from Jack: when making mac 'n' cheese, exchange the macaroni for cauliflower ... and then instead of cheese, use more cauliflower. I think my favorite *real* healthy recipe swap, though, is my baked chicken parm - it's delicious but doesn't leave me feeling like there's a brick in my gut from being deep fried and then covered in too much cheese.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A teacher, for sure. There are few things that make me happier than standing in front of a room of kids and seeing lightbulbs go on over their heads. But also, I really want to be a wife and mother.

August 7, 2011

The Intrepid Chefs

I don't have a new recipe for this week (though I have been mildly obsessed with something new I tried lately, Katie's broiled sweet potato fries. So simple, but so good!).

For today, I'd like to announce the super exciting launch of the recipe challenge blog I talked about recently! The working title was "Slim Pickins," but something about that didn't seem entirely right to me. But while I was running the other day, a new name stuck in my head: the Intrepid Chefs.

The blog site is theintrepidchefs.blogspot.com - I might self-host it if it turns out to be a successful project, but for now, this is just fine, I think. Though, I would like the site to look less Blogger-y, if that makes sense. I need to fiddle with it a little more, but with my home internet still a little wonky (grumble, grumble), I haven't been able to do as much as I would like.

"Intrepid" is a terrific word - my friends and I became somewhat obsessed with it after seeing the movie "Elizabethtown" and hearing Kirsten Dunst's character reassure Orlando Bloom's character by offering the idea that "we are intrepid - we carry on." As I explained in the first test post on the site:
"Intrepid" means "characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance" - we're a group of people who are unrelenting in our pursuit of living healthy lives. Part of that is making sure we properly nourish our bodies; in order to succeed at this, we want to build up our recipe collections as best we can with delicious, satisfying, and healthy meals we can prepare for ourselves, our families, and our friends.
If anyone is interested in participating, please email me at theintrepidchefs@gmail.com as soon as possible - ideally, I'd like to send out the first challenge ingredient email by noon tomorrow so people can work on recipes all week and submit them by midnight on Saturday. My theoretical publishing schedule for the site is to have people submit their recipes by Saturday night, do an interesting write up on the ingredient for Sunday, and then share everyone's recipes throughout the week (frequency based on how many submissions I get - I don't want them to be posted one after the other and have someone's great work get overlooked or lost in the shuffle!).

If people would like to follow the project but not necessarily participate, there's a tool on the site where you can subscribe to posts via email - if we update the site, it gets sent to your inbox. I have it set up here on my own site, too, per the request of a few readers, and it's great.

So, here we go on this new venture. Just thinking about how fantastic this project could potentially be makes me all sorts of happy. I love cooking, and I love the idea of sharing new recipes with each other. I hope people actually participate so I'm not the only one posting things over there!