September 10, 2011

why is day one so easy...

... yet day two is so hard?

i lost 100 pounds in six months with no struggles, no binges, no problems. then another 50 pounds in another six months, with some tough times towards the end. the past two months, though, i've lost and gained the same six or eight pounds. i have been taking two steps forward and one step back for far too long. and i hate it.

well, that's not true.

i don't mind maintaining, per se. i'll be great at maintenance when the time comes. but the time isn't here yet. what i hate is feeling so overwhelmed that my old habits feel like my only options.

revelation: something that got me through the first six months was the mantra that
food is not my friend. my friends are my friends.
but now i'm alone and in california, and even though i'm not 345 pounds, i may as well be. cuz i'm sad and lonely and snacking on the couch, hoping to fall asleep and forget how much this all hurts.

i never believed myself to be a lady with regrets. i don't even regret weighing 345 pounds. because i learned from it all - these events and actions gave me character and made me compassionate. i became a fantastic person in spite of my size, in spite of my choices.

but i honestly regret moving to california.

i have a big apartment but no one to invite over. i have a great job but no one and nothing worth coming home to. i finally got the garmin forerunner i lusted over all summer but i never run anymore due to the heat. i make twice the money i made in chicago but all i can think about spending it on is the fastest way to get back to where my heart is.

the morning i left chicago, i got an email about a part-time job at one of the community colleges i had applied to. i forwarded the info to a friend, who contacted them and got the job immediately. now they're working on turning it into a full-time position. i'm so happy for her, but can't help but feel jealous and bitter. it should have been me.

and then earlier this week, i got a phone call about another teaching job i had applied to in the city. no thank you, i already accepted another position and relocated to california but what i'd really like to add is and fuck you for not calling three weeks ago. or three months ago when i applied for the goddamn job.

i haven't been able to shake the feeling that i made the wrong choice, so i've been eating myself numb to forget where i am and how unhappy i truly am. if i stayed in chicago, i'd be poor and exhausted. but i'd still be running. and i'd still have my friends. and i'd be with the boy i'm totally crazy about. it's hard to be in a long-distance relationship, but especially when there wasn't very much short-distance relationship to begin with.

earlier this week, we were texting, and he told me that the last time he came to visit me at my apartment in chicago, he wanted to sleep with me. i wanted to, too, but we were both too shy to make the moves. if we had slept together, i probably would have turned down the position in california. i honestly wouldn't have even interviewed. i'm not sure why that makes the difference, but thinking about it all week has been devastating.

i just can't shake the fish-out-of-water feeling lately. just shaking, convulsing even, and gasping for something to save my life. i can't focus on even one day at a time - even that feels like too much.

so, here you have it. the end. it isn't the lovely successful happily ever after i'd hoped to be writing, but it's what i need to do for myself right now, i think. i don't know how long of a break i need - i can't even say for sure that i won't be back in the morning. because to be honest, besides a small handful of people offline, the blog community is my only love and support in the world right now. for over a year, blogging has been enough.

but right now, i think i need help beyond what i can get through writing.

thank you - all of you - for your love and support. no man is an island, for sure. people need each other. today, tell someone you care about that you love them. and tell them tomorrow too.


I've been thinking a lot about how to regain my inspiration and motivation, and among other ideas, one thing I want to do is decide on rewards for reaching goals. I never had rewards in mind before - at first, the losses themselves were more than enough, and since I lived alone in Chicago, I generally bought myself the things I wanted and/or needed, so I couldn't think of material prizes. I live alone here, too, but so many of my things got left behind with the move. So now, I might pick out things to buy for myself/my apartment as I met my goals. I also want to have bigger rewards for bigger goals, something to really strive for.

The goals themselves need careful consideration too, I think. I don't want to just reward numeric losses - I want to celebrate non-scale victories and milestones in getting back in control over my eating disorder. Even though my weight has essentially been maintaining for the past couple of months, I just don't feel my healthiest.

Some major events I'd like to set rewards for:
  • One week binge-free
  • Two weeks binge-free
  • Three weeks binge-free
  • One month binge-free
  • Two months binge-free
  • Three months binge-free
  • Six months binge-free
  • Getting into the 180s
  • BMI dropping from obese to overweight (185 lbs.)
  • Getting into the 170s
  • Getting into the 160s
  • Getting into the 150s
  • BMI dropping from overweight to healthy (154 lbs.)
  • 200 pounds lost (145 lbs.)
  • Reaching my long-term goal (135 lbs.)
The last two are somewhat tentative, as I'm not sure what my healthy goal weight is just yet - I'll know what feels right when I get there. I just know that where I am right now is *not* it, and that something's gotta give.

So, what to do for rewards? I think something I'd really like to do is day/weekend trips. There's an awful lot of California here for me to explore, so I'd like to do a little traveling to celebrate making progress towards getting healthier.

There's a small local airport that connects to Los Angeles, so I could do longer trips too if I have more time - I'll be testing it out for the first time in less than two weeks when I head back to Chicago, though just for a weekend. One day with friends in the city, one day with Bobby, a day and a half of just traveling. Not ideal, but it's what we have to work with right now. I want to stay focused, not just for the two weeks until then, and not just because of the trip. Of course, when I see him again, I want to feel as lovely as he thinks I am - but above all else, I miss feeling healthy.

What about you? Do you plan rewards for reaching goals? How do you pick them? What are they? (the goals, and the rewards!)

September 9, 2011

Roses and thorns

I'm exhausted.

Honestly, this was a three-day work week and I was done with work by 1 p.m. most days, so I'm kind of surprised at how tired I am.

For the past year, I've been so thrilled at having become some sort of morning person - I used to sleep until noon and think nothing of it, but as I became more active and started properly nourishing my body, I fell asleep easier, slept more soundly, and had no trouble waking up.

Maybe that's why I'm so tired, then ... because I'm still dealing with a feeling of imbalance. I'm biking like crazy and running when I can, and I'm burning tons of calories - about 625 a day just from my commute to work, and that doesn't count errands like grocery shopping or going to the post office or exploring for fun.

So why am I posting a maintain again this week?

I biked nearly 150 miles this week. I should be losing something. But my eating is still off, and it's wasting my workouts. I had two back-to-back binges over the weekend as I tried to cope with feeling confused, overwhelmed, and stressed out about my evolving friendships. And therefore, the rest of the week was spent trying to get back down to a maintain. My exhaustion is certainly also due to the fact that I have been biking like crazy to try and undo all the bad food choices I have made.

I'm really getting sick of this, to be honest. I look alright, but I don't feel my best. I got to onederland exactly three months ago as of tomorrow, and now I'm only five pounds lighter. I don't like excuses, and I like them even less when they're coming from myself. Yes, I'm lonely. Yes, I'm stressed. Yes, I'm overwhelmed. But these are not problems that are solved by a binge - in fact, these problems seem to be exacerbated by overeating. I'm focusing on short-term relief instead of long-term repair, and I'm hurting myself more than helping myself.

I know I can do better, and I know what I need to do in order to do better. Now, it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Getting back to what I know works for me.
  • Starting each day with a full bottle of water, even before I take my shower. I don't think I've been properly hydrating, and misinterpreting thirst as hunger has lead to some poor snacking choices.
  • Logging everything - and not eating anything after I've completed my day's entry. It's so motivational to see, numerically, what I am capable of...

    ... but unaccounted-for late night snacking is certainly affecting the actual results.
  • Cooking at least one new recipe a week. The act of cooking calms me, and the diversity helps me stay focused and on-plan. There's a microwave at the office but no fridge, so I've been eating when I get home from work - lately, cooking a Weight Watchers frozen dinner, dumping it over a bag of salad, and calling it lunch. Great in a pinch, but I definitely want to get away from processed foods again.
  • Eating mindfully. I've been eating dinner standing over the countertop - even if I ate at my desk, it would be better. I'd be sitting, and more able to focus on what I'm doing. I need to be more mindful about snacking, too - more fruits and veggies, and - again - less processed and packaged stuff.
I've done a lot of thinking this week about what I need to do in order to feel more balanced with my efforts, and goal setting is a big part of that. With the Winter challenge, I wanted to hit my 100 pound weight loss - and I did it. With the Spring challenge, I wanted to get to onederland - and I did it. I made an unofficial goal of losing twenty pounds by the time I ran the Chicago half marathon (so I'd be half my starting weight), but when I realized I wouldn't be in Chicago to run, I got even further off-track than I had been before. I need some deadlines, something to help me focus.

This weekend, I'm going to catch up on sleep, read for pleasure, and ride my bike less - my goal, then, also being to stay at a lower calorie intake and not eat all of my exercise calories. I've been excusing a lot of my eating with "...but I bike so much, I'll burn it off." So I want to take it easier, both with intake and output. Stay hydrated, stay in control.

And - I'm going to reread my blog archives. I need to be inspired, I need to find some of the motivation that helped me shed nearly half my body weight. I need to get back to my basics, I think. It isn't easy, but it's worth it - I'm worth it - and I absolutely cannot forget this.

What about you? What have you done this week that you're proud of? What do you do when you want to rediscover your motivation? How are you going to spend your weekend?

September 8, 2011

BTH: Week Ten

Not to be forgotten, I finally give you my Beat the Heat Challenge wrap-up!

My positive picture for the week:

Riding on one of the bike paths near my apartment:

The scale may not be budging, but I haven't stopped moving. I've got the exercise down, now just need to get back in control of my eating. Pictures like this are super motivating - my arms are looking awfully nice, something I'm proud of. My nice arms are riding a bike, something I could not have done at 345 pounds. And these arms are riding a bike in California, somewhere I am because I have become bold and courageous and more self-confident as I have become healthier. I have an awful lot to celebrate beyond the number on the scale.

My challenge wrap-up:

The eighth principle for the challenge was start something. And this week, I really feel like I made that happen.
  • I biked at least 8 miles every day (at least 10 on the days when I worked, and at least 15 on the weekend). So I'm starting to find healthy routines here in my new city.
  • I had my first driving lesson! A few laps around the apartment complex parking lot, learning which one is the accelerator and which is the brake. So I am starting to take steps towards conquering fears and being able to expand my world a little bit.
  • I did some deep thinking and made some big decisions about my relationships and the direction in which I want to be taking them. So I'm starting a new phase of my adult life, with some friendships in repair and without others at all. It's a little terrifying, to be honest, but the saying goes that when you're scared, that's how you know you're on to something big.
In previous challenges, I've had very specific goals, and it felt so good to meet them - especially weight loss related ones. I need a fall challenge so I can get back to that kind of goal setting, but I'm very pleased with how my BTH emotional weight loss challenge went. I can't say I have a single regret about the summer.

As far as my summer bucket list ... a lot of these things got pushed aside for bigger priorities. But technically, summer isn't over yet. Sixteen more days to work on my goals. I had made seven and have already finished two. I decided to let one go (the Ironman, after hurting my knee swimming), and I won't be back in Chicago in time to walk to Devon Avenue with Lorelei. That leaves writing ten letters, finishing one painting, and running a sub-30 5k. I'm going to do two of these - mark my words!

What about you? How are you feeling about your summer goals? Know of any good fall challenges coming up?

September 7, 2011

Depression, part three

Yesterday, on my way home from work, I looked down at my wrist. I wasn't expecting to get paid until October but got a two-week paycheck a few days ago for my work in August, so I took part of my last paycheck from this summer's article writing job and splurged on a treat for myself, a reward for surviving the summer:

And yesterday, I wore it when I rode to and from the university.

I was cruising down a hill, going as fast as I could - it was over 100º out, so the breeze blowing on my face felt incredible. Looking at the Garmin, I clocked in at 20.2 mph. That's as fast as a car can go, and my legs, with the help of the sloping hill and a little physics, were moving me at that speed.

I thought about one morning when I was an undergrad; I was up very early, unable to sleep, so I went for a walk around the campus. There was a speed detector that the police set up on the side of a road, and it managed to mark my pace:

I took a picture and sent it to friends, joking that it captured my speed because I was as big as a car; they laughed and likely thought nothing of it. I was laughing, but as a means of hiding my deep sadness and discontent with my life. Yes, I accomplished a lot of wonderful things as a super obese person. A lot of people loved me and were proud of me regardless of my physical condition, but the problem was that *I* didn't love me. I wasn't proud of what I was doing, because I knew that it wasn't all I was capable of. I needed to invest not only in my mind, but in my physical self, to nurture my self-confidence and self-esteem with healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

Coasting down the hill yesterday, there was an incredible feeling of lightness that washed over me. I was never as big as a car, but now, I'm as fast as one. With my fingers clutching the handlebars and my feet on the pedals, I control where I go, if I stop or detour, and how fast I get to wherever I'm headed. Hurtling towards home, it felt like cruising towards my goals - I'll get to where I want to be, and in the meantime, I'll try to enjoy the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair.

In the past few months, I've struggled intensely; the past three weeks or so have certainly been the worst. I'm not at my goal weight - in fact, I've lost and gained the same five pounds for nearly three months. I've been doing well with biking a lot but I've been struggling with my eating again since this weekend. My relationships are all in a period of transition right now. I'm stressed beyond measure and feeling very unsure about my new life - the one in California, yes, but also, the one in this new version of my body. It's all very overwhelming, and they're certainly major causes/side effects of my current situational depression.

But that's the thing - this depression is exactly that ... situational. It's normal to be upset because things aren't going well. It's normal to feel stressed and angry and anxious because you've sacrificed every constant and every comfort in your life in the past year in pursuit of a healthier future, or because you've been unemployed all summer and things don't seem to be looking up, or because the people you love more than anything decide to cut you off entirely for seemingly no reason at all.

Now it's up to me to figure out how to cope with the situations - how to treat them in the moment so that I can survive them and come out better on the other side. It may mean not weighing for a while, or it may mean recording my weight daily again. It may mean completely rebooting my relationships, or it may mean ending them completely. It could mean any of a number of things, I need to sit down quietly with myself and really figure out the next step. Ultimately, though, the decisions will be my own, and that's the strongest defense I have over my depression: when I'm feeling in control, that's how I know I'm back on the winning side of the fight.

September 6, 2011

Depression, part two

I started keeping paper diaries the summer after my emergency transport, and I easily filled one five subject notebook after another with my thoughts. Rereading them, it's hard to relive some of the moments. There are events with people I am no longer friends with, memories with people I wish I were close to still. It's an interesting insight into the mind of the girl I used to be.
May 13, 2009: What do I want? ... I want to get to a point where I don't consider suicide my only option (right now I wouldn't say that I am "suicidal" as that seems impending - right now - and for a few years now - I've decided that suicide is my only long-term possibility, since I don't want to grow old and alone in this burden of a body).
It's remarkable how many times I use the word "alone" in my journal entries. I felt so alone all the time, even though I was surrounded by good friends and a loving family. I never said I want to be healthy. I never said I want to look and feel good. I wanted to lose weight so I wouldn't be alone.

When I started to lose weight, it was like I found the purpose I had been seeking for so long. I stopped sitting on the couch binge eating and started going out and being active, and as my body stayed in motion, so did my mind. I didn't have time to get depressed, and honestly, I didn't have any reason to either. Life had become fantastic. I finally felt like part of something - I was someone who wanted to live, and I surrounded myself with like-minded people in order to soak up as much of their positive energy as possible. I hadn't had a dark thought in nearly a year, and it was so relieving. Even better than the feeling of the physical weight loss was the feeling of emotional lightness, like I had been cured of my depression thanks to an overall sense of balance in my life.

Something to keep in mind: no success on this journey, no matter how terrific it feels, is a cure. My weight loss has me in remission from being super obese, but that doesn't mean I'll never be 345 pounds again, or higher even. Statistically, I'm not destined to succeed long term. And I've been wondering if the same is true for my depression. If I've really been freed from the emotional weight or if I've just put a bandage over it. If I've been treating my weight thinking it was the disease when really, it was a side effect.

Because to tell the truth, I have lost over 150 pounds, and I have never felt so alone in my entire life. And I don't mean just lately, with the move and all. I've been dealing with this all summer, the dark truth behind my stalled weight loss and lack of motivation.

In the past year, I've lost more weight than I initially intended to keep - a whole person's worth of weight taken off of my body because I chose to eat better, eat less, and move more. And I've thought a lot about that weight in terms of human life. What part of me have I lost? What if the fat cells were also where I stored my relationships? My compassion? My friendliness? My devotion?

Over the course of this summer, I was called a bad sister and daughter by my mother. This weekend, I had several friends tell me I've changed and am, essentially, a bad friend now. These have all been surprises to me, as I thought I'd been doing the right thing all along. I wanted to lose weight so I could live and enjoy my life with them all in it, but I can't help but feel lately like I made the wrong decision. What if the success of my relationships was dependent on my obesity? Does it matter that a healthy mind and body are what I believe that I want, or are my personal desires unimportant since the decision isn't actually my own - is my fate to be big and happy with everything except my body?

I wonder what my life would be like if I had never lost the weight. If I would be working - if I would be in California. If my mother would be talking to me. If my parents would still be happy together. If my relationships with my friends from college would be thriving. If I would have tried to go on dates. If I would be happy.

I used to be happy sometimes - I wasn't content with my body and it caused me a lot of physical and emotional pain, but I had my friends and family to make the rest of my life more satisfying. I'd say I'm the same level of content with my life now, though - more happy with my physical self, but the cost of my committment to healthy living was paid for with my relationships. I honestly can't say that I'm entirely sure it's been worth it, and if I would have chosen to lose weight if I knew this was the way things would end up.

I wanted to feel healthy and happy, complete and satisfied. But this weekend, I was just feeling very numb.

Tomorrow: part three - coming back to life, and defining healthy relationships.

September 5, 2011

Depression, part one

I have a little laminated piece of paper that I keep in or on my desk - it's a hospital bracelet from my freshman year of college, and when times get tough, it moves from a drawer to somewhere more prominently displayed so I can be more mindful of it.

When I went to college, I decided not to go to UConn like the majority of my graduating class, but a smaller university where I could try and meet new people. I loved my solid group of friends, but I also wanted to expand my horizons, and I knew that if I went to UConn, I'd just cling to them and not make any attempts to branch out.

At my university, I met a lot of people right away, and things seemed to be fine. But these people were incredibly different from the friends I had grown up with - we had a lot of different values and interests, and it was very tough for me to adjust to that social circle. That, paired with the stress of being an honors student trying desperately to keep up a high GPA, was overwhelming, and towards the end of my fall semester, a deep depression set in.

I was not a stranger to dark feelings - I had been very depressed in high school, too, but managed to keep it under control since I had such strong support in my life. It was easy to overlook the bigger issues when there were good people to help pass the time with. But in college, I felt alone with the people who were contributing to my anxieties, and it didn't seem like there was any way out.

My depression manifested itself in a number of ways. Initially, I would binge eat in order to attain a level of numbness. Eventually, though, the numbness was there whether I ate or not. I cut myself all over my arms, hoping to feel anything; I just wanted to make sure I could still feel. The bleeding was minimal, but the release felt good - I had been hurting inside, and now I was hurting outside, too. And hurting isn't numbness.

These feelings came to a high point (or a low one, as it were) one weekend, and when I returned to campus after a weekend home, my roommate was waiting with some of the housing staff to talk to me. A few questions and a look at my arms later, and I was being helped into the back of an ambulance and transported to the local hospital. The whole time, I was worried that they wouldn't be able to lift the gurney because I weighed so much.

There were a few tests to make sure I hadn't taken any pills or poisoned myself, and then I was sedated. I remember that night perfectly - I was in the psych ward, and there were people around me that I decided were "legitimately crazy" ... I was sad, but I didn't belong there. I couldn't sleep, and I still felt really depressed but couldn't move. So I laid there, singing "This Place is a Prison" by the Postal Service. To this day, I can't listen to their "Give Up" album without being overwhelmed with memories of that dark time.

The next morning, I called my dad and had him pick me up. He gave me a hug when he saw me in the hospital bed and cried a little; it was the first time I'd seen him cry since my uncle's funeral when I was ten years old. He brought me home, and I had to stay there until I saw a psychiatrist and was cleared for return to campus.

I went to therapy for a while and was given antidepressant medication, but eventually stopped both. The meds bothered me - I wasn't suicidal anymore, but in situations where you're supposed to be sad, I just felt neutral. In the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to be upset about whatever the issue was, but I couldn't bring myself to cry or feel anything. I wanted to be able to control my feelings - to be happy as often as possible, and to be able to deal with sadness as it occurred.

I figured out a system that worked for me and I was able to keep my depression in check for a long time: I would get sad sometimes, but I always found a way to balance it all out - with a phone call to my family, an online chat with my friends, or with going out with any combination of the two. I was no longer actively thinking about ending my life, but the option also wasn't completely off the table for me.

Tomorrow: part two - being passively suicidal, and how weight loss has affected my depression.

September 4, 2011

Eggplant mushroom sausage ravioli

Okay, so this week's recipe isn't entirely new. But the filling is! I made ravioli before, when Lorelei and I were getting ready for the Shamrock Shuffle back in April. Those were eggplant and goat cheese filled.

These today? Better.

The filling was one medium eggplant, roasted and scraped out from the skin. Add that to a sautéed mixture of six ounces of browned hot Italian sausage (if I could find turkey sausage out here, I'd use it - had to use pork this time) and eight ounces of finely chopped portabella mushrooms, stir to combine, and let cool enough to work with easily. Fill the ravioli, then place them on a cookie sheet and flash freeze them. Put them in plastic bags in individual servings for quick lunches or dinners - when you cook them, they'll take 4-5 minutes in boiling water, or until they float to the top.

I put the recipe into MyFitnessPal - my batch made 33 ravioli, so they worked out to about 65 calories per raviolo. (Did you know that was the singular of ravioli? I miss taking Italian.) Totally delicious. A bit time consuming, yes, but worth it.

The reason I made them on Saturday is because I am having dinner with one of my new California friends on Monday. His name is Justin, and he not only works at the university, but lives in my apartment complex. We met shortly after I moved in - he was in the pool with a couple of his co-workers (Adam and Menal) and I was in the hot tub with my dad. We got in the pool to cool off while they went in the tub to warm up; when we got out of the pool, they said we could join them in the hot tub if we wanted. We got to talking, and that's when I found out they all worked at the university.

A couple of days later, I was in the hot tub again when Justin came over and sat down alongside. He was doing laundry in the office nearby and saw me so he came over to ask how things were going. He said everyone was getting together for dinner at Adam's the Wednesday that week if I'd like to join them. I said sure, and he asked for my number to let me know when we'd be meeting up.

The day before our group dinner, though, he texted me and asked if I wanted to go swimming that night. I said sure, and we hung out for a little while, drinking beers and talking in the hot tub. Somehow it came up that I don't know how to drive, and he said he'd teach me. He asked what a good payment would be, and I said I'm a pretty good cook. He seemed pleased, so I will be cooking for him - one dinner per driving lesson. Sounds fair to me - I love cooking for people, and as much as I love biking, I definitely need to learn how to drive.

So lesson one's meal will be funded by homemade ravioli. Hopefully he likes them so I can continue to learn how to drive for far less than a driving school would charge - not to mention the spared embarrassment of having to sit with a bunch of teenagers and learn about street signs.

What about you? What's your favorite ravioli filling? How old were you when you learned how to drive?