September 17, 2011


As a reward for losing 150 pounds, I decided a few months ago that I would go get my state ID renewed early, so that I could get a new picture. In Illinois, ID cards have your photo and also your weight listed; when I got mine in fall 2008, I weighed 305 pounds but said 295 because I had been losing weight and figured it would be accurate soon enough. (That, and admitting to the 3 in print was hard to do.) Then, over my two years in grad school, I gained 40 pounds to bring me to my biggest. This summer, at 195 pounds, I not only had met my 150 pound weight loss goal, but was 100 pounds lighter than my ID said. It seemed like the perfect reward.

One thing after another came up. I figured I would have to move at the end of the summer - if not back home to Connecticut, then at least to a cheaper place in Chicago - so it seemed useless to spend money on a new ID when I'd just need another one in a couple of months. And, to be honest, with my weight not changing for so long, it hadn't really felt like I deserved a reward. So it got put on the back burner.

Now, fast forward to my life in California. As a university employee, I need an ID card for certain things, like getting into my office and my classroom, using the photocopiers, and taking the campus shuttle buses. Last week, my paperwork finally got processed and I was able to get my faculty ID card made. Comparing the ID to my student ID from grad school (when I first arrived in Chicago - 324 pounds), I feel pretty proud of all I have accomplished:

There's consistency - it's me, for sure, with the curly hair I'm still not quite sure what to do with, and the pearl necklace I bought for my senior prom and have worn on all of the most important days of my life since then. But there are changes, too. I have a smile now, which is awesome. I have a tan, which is weird - at first I didn't realize I would need to wear sunscreen every day.

And - I have a neck. A nice one. With a little definition to it.

Yesterday, Tim wrote about a great NSV he had with his haircutter commenting on his face getting thinner. It reminded me of last spring, when one of my French coworkers commented on my weight loss, noting that
" you have a neck!"
In French, I'm sure it sounds like a lovely compliment. But at the time, I was struggling a lot with my self-image - specifically, with being able to visualize my weight loss - and so I mostly just shrugged it off.

With my weight having essentially stayed the same (plus or minus five pounds) for the past few months, my brain has had the opportunity to catch up a little. I couldn't see it for a very long time, and it was heartbreaking. Now, I can look in the mirror or at my new ID card, and even though I'm not always happy with everything I see, I can at least recognize that the girl I am looking at is me.

September 16, 2011

Roses and thorns



It's a one pound gain from last week's weigh in, but down four and a half pounds from Sunday morning, when I woke up after my last binge. So I can't feel too down about it, even though it's, once again, a week of two steps forward, one step back.

I'm losing a good amount of weight every week, I just regain too much first that it doesn't show. Frustrating, yes. But things are looking up, though.

This number was incredibly hard-earned. I have been on-track and motivated and putting in a great effort this week. My eating is better - not quite perfect again, but I've been figuring out things that work for me and things that don't; I have not binged, so I have absolutely no complaints. My biking has been reasonable - no extra-long bike rides to punish myself for overeating or for making poor food choices. It was a little easy to stay focused, to be honest, because I felt under the weather all week. I had no appetite some days, and my back was hurting a little for a couple of days so I kept the biking to a minimum and got to bed early (before 9 p.m.!) most nights.

I'm feeling positive as I head into the weekend. Here is my test of my resolve, I think. Staying on track during the week was mostly easy because I had so much work to do and events to distract me. The weekends are where I struggle, and so I'm going to be extra careful and try and find things to do to keep myself occupied over the next few days.

Positive thoughts to keep me motivated: this time next week, I'll be waking up in Chicago. I'll be spending Friday with friends and Saturday with my bien-aimé. Since it will be a weekend without my bike and away from MyFitnessPal, I want to do as well as I can before I get there, to build up the motivation to stay focused even without my usual routines. And I want to feel my healthiest when I'm there!

What about you? What is your usual weekend routine? What are your plans for this weekend?

September 15, 2011


This week, I've been thinking a lot about the things I have eaten lately and have looked for patterns, things that keep coming up with my meal and snack habits so I can see if there are triggers there, beyond the emotional/stress-based ones. I have definitely made some notable discoveries.

Something I have a big problem with is nuts/nut butters. I had some single-serve/100-calorie packs of trail mix with peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips. 100 calories of trail mix is not very much at all, and I'd end up eating two or three before I knew it. I also got into the habit of having a jar of peanut butter on hand while my dad was here in case he had any diabetic blood sugar emergencies, but by the end, it felt like I was using his need to excuse and enable myself. The cycle was tough: buy a jar, tell myself I won't have any this time, tell myself I can have just one spoonful as long as I have it with an apple, eat spoonful after spoonful when the stress kicks in, need to buy a new jar.

Nuts and nut butters are healthy within reason, but they're also very high in calories, and for now, I want to maximize my calories and feel in control with my eating. Even if there's a lot of protein, I am never satisfied by one serving. It just triggers me wanting more. I know some people swear by PB2, and I've gone to the website with the intent to order several times. But at the same time, I'm conflicted. I want to have a healthy relationship with food, and for now, I think that means complete nut butter abstinence. Some day, I might be able to have a jar of peanut butter in the house and have it last longer than a day. I might never be able to keep peanut butter around again. Either way, when focusing on my present struggles, I know they are off limits.

Somewhat related to nuts is bars like Larabars and Clif Bars. When I buy just one, I don't seem to have a problem, but I cannot seem to control myself when I buy a few at a time. I want to be able to keep them around for work snacks without having to go to the store every single night like I have done this week; I have Fridays off, so I think tomorrow I will head to Target in the morning, buy a box of Larabars, and immediately bring it to the office. There's always someone there, so I'm highly unlikely to binge at work. I just don't feel strong enough to keep them in the house right now.

I have made a goal this week of trying to eat as many whole foods as possible, to avoid packaged and processed meals and snacks. I've done pretty well so far with bringing fruit to the office and keeping a separate water bottle there so I can stay hydrated. My meals have been less than stellar - good on calories, but still to processed, as I am working through a big pile of Weight Watchers frozen meals that I got to keep myself fed while I figure out the grocery shopping situation around here. In Chicago, I'd go to the grocery store a few times a week for fresh produce and whatever odds and ends I needed; here, there are a few small grocery stores, but since I'm on the bike for now and the temperature is still in the mid to high 90ºs from mid-morning to the late evening, it's tough to figure out a good routine. I've been going either Friday or Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. - the stores open early, and it's still in the 70º range, nice for biking with a bag full of groceries on your back. We'll see how I keep up.

I've also gone to the local farmer's market the past two Saturday mornings. It's very small, but there's a family there that sells local grapes. Oh. My. Goodness. So delicious! They're amazingly sweet and crisp. I got a couple of pounds and counted them out into little containers to keep in the fridge or take to work with me.

As long as I stick to them at the farmer's market and not the woman from the bakery with all her homemade breads, I'm good. (To be fair to the bread woman, though, it's been easy to resist her autumn varieties because it doesn't feel much like autumn around here just yet. I don't typically crave pumpkin-flavored things until I can regularly wear sweaters.)

So, I have a lot to think about in terms of my meal planning and getting entirely back into a healthy eating routine. I've been feeling a little under the weather all week, but the calories are still being burned and the motivation is back in full force. I'm really looking forward to Monday and the start of the new fall challenge - I'm getting back to basics with my goals, deciding on them this weekend.

What about you? Do you keep food journals for reasons other than counting calories - like to notice patterns, triggers, etc? What are your favorite healthy autumn foods? Will you be joining us in the fall challenge?

September 14, 2011


I spent most of the late night/early morning between Monday morning to Tuesday morning feeling pretty nauseous. Awful headaches. Terrible lower back pain. And feeling quite stomack sick. Not sure if it was something in the smoothie Justin had made, or just my body transitioning back to healthy eating (with the exception of a Larabar after teaching and one daily salt-free rice cake when I get home from work, so far, I am eating exclusively fresh fruit and veggies for snacks - nothing packaged, nothing processed). Or just my body telling me to slow down a bit after overdoing everything for the past few weeks. Either way, though, it felt awful.

And so, I saw a huge jump in the scale between the two days. Like, seven pounds difference. I'm sure it will even itself out a little when I get back to actually eating (I picked at things here and there yesterday, enough to meet my calorie goal but no real meals, in a traditional sort of sense), but still, it was weird to wake up and see that low of a number.

It was a bit conflicting, because it made me happy to see the low number even though my body felt totally awful. Has this ever happened to you?

In unrelated news, I think I have a second friend! One of my office mates is not too much older than me, only maybe 10 years or so. And we talk a lot about eating healthy - she has thyroid issues so she tries to eat gluten free and with a few other restrictions. And yesterday we were talking and she said she takes a trip to the closest Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (about an hour away) every couple of weeks or so, and the next time she makes the trek, would I like to join? Very exciting stuff, indeed! Both the friend, and the good grocery shopping.

September 13, 2011


Last night, I roasted a chicken in exchange for my second driving lesson with Justin. Successes on two counts - the driving went really well, and the chicken came out perfectly.

We talked a lot, both during dinner and afterwards when he drove us to a neighboring town to go to the Super Target (our smaller local one didn't have fly paper, and there are two flies in his apartment that are driving him crazy).

The conversations were pretty heavy, mostly related to a story I promise to tell as soon as I find the most articulate way to write about it. Eventually, the discussion turned to my self-consciousness. I had told him a couple weeks ago about my weight loss, and he asks a lot of questions - nothing too prying, but mostly out of curiosity. He has seen the way I nervously eat when I'm in front of other people. He has seen and asked about my binge jar. And he saw my before picture on my fridge.

You're beautiful, you know. I know you're recovering from a time when you didn't believe it, but it's true.

And I bit my lip, said thank you, folded my arms, and kept walking through the store.

I'm just not used to hearing things like that.

We walked up one aisle and down the next, and found out the store didn't carry fly paper at all. There was a Wal-Mart next door, so we walked over, and kept talking.

One topic lead to another, and I told him all about Bobby. And I told him about the beginning of the summer with Matt, and the way everything unfolded with the California job offer, and the morning in the prairie. I told him, essentially, the story of my summer. And maybe it's because he's a counselor in the university's wellness center, but it felt good to have someone listen intently to me while I talk about what's been weighing so heavily on my heart.

That's quite a love story, he said. And I agreed.

He said, Well, I certainly believe in love at first sight, even love after four dates. And I agreed with that too.

Then he gave me a big hug in the parking lot of a Super Target in the middle of nowhere, central California. It felt so good to connect with someone. And I felt less alone.

He found his fly paper, and also got a blender, Greek yogurt, and frozen berries. I bought a TV and a little table to put it on, and we went back to my place for smoothies and an episode of "30 Rock," which he has never seen before. I hadn't planned on the smoothie (and I had already put in my food for the day on MyFitnessPal), but I'm okay with that. I can't plan every moment of my life, and I can't get upset or freak out when things don't go exactly as I anticipate. Part of living a healthy and balanced life is knowing when to get worked up over things. A half a cup-full of blended yogurt and cherries is not one of those cases.

I'm two days binge-free. I'm on top of my work. I have one friend. And I get to see my bien-aimé in ten days. Things are coming back together. I'm staying in control, focusing on one moment at a time. It all feels so good.

Mostly related, and certainly inspirational: a great quote from Dean Karnazes, an ultramarathoner.

"Most people never get there. They're afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you're not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you're not constantly demanding more from yourself - expanding and learning as you go - you're choosing a numb existence. You're denying yourself an extraordinary trip."

September 12, 2011

Day of rest

Yesterday was absolutely wonderful. I usually feel that way on the days when I get back to feeling balanced with my food, water, and exercise; I always fall asleep wondering how I could get so far off track when doing the right thing feels so good.

I woke up late-ish - later than I get up during the week for work, but still before 8 a.m. - when I got a good morning text message from Bobby. We texted back and forth for a bit before he had to work, and I hopped on my bike to go to the grocery store and deposit my last paycheck from the article writing job. I got home, put a chicken in the oven, laced up my running shoes, and hit the streets.

I only did a mile and a quarter before it started to pour rain - but it was a 9:48 mile, and that felt good. If I was in Chicago, I would have spent the morning running my first half marathon - but I didn't let the what-might-have-been let me feel defeated. I'll run a half someday, for sure. My mind was distracted for a while, but my body still loves to run. I'll need to retrain my body for distances, but that's not a big deal - goodness knows I love a challenge.

The rain was a surprise, to tell the truth. It's been sunny and hot every day since I got here over three weeks ago, without a cloud in the sky. The woman at the leasing office said it hardly ever rains here, so when it happens, it takes you for a bit of a loop. It's weird because it rained so much in Chicago this summer, you'd think I'd be used to it. But I guess I've grown a little more accustomed to my small central California town than I thought.

I came home and ate my breakfast and thought about yesterday's freakout. What triggered it, and what has triggered everything lately. Weekends seem to be very tough for me - I can hold it together alright during the week, but days off cause me to panic. Last week? Four day weekend. The time off causes me to panic, I think, because I feel sort of trapped here. In Chicago, I could jump on the bus or the el and explore a little. There are a half dozen buses here, but they all go from one shopping plaza to the next, all of which are reachable on my bike. I have the means and the desire to explore what the area has to offer, but without a drivers license, I'm sort of stuck here.

I'm trying to meet people, really. The town I'm in is incredibly small, but I'm making efforts. I met a woman at the 5k I did a few weeks ago who is very well-connected around town, and I met up with her on Thursday night at a small market event downtown.

She introduced me to a ton of people - mostly middle-aged folks, which seems to be the town's major demographic. There's the university and the college kids, and then there are older people. Not too many folks my age - or so it seems. I'll find them.

I finished my breakfast, threw a load of laundry into the washer, and texted back and forth with Bobby while he was on his break from work. We made plans to video chat for a few hours later when he got off of work, and in the meantime, I picked the meat off the roasted chicken for a few days' lunches, talked to my dad on the phone for a bit, and cleared out my Google Reader.

Our video chat date was fantastic, per usual.

Laying there, making plans for when we're together in a week and a half (!!!), him reading to me from a book he keeps near his bed. *sigh* Just seeing and hearing him made me feel so happy, especially when we were talking about the excitement of being together again. It's as close to snuggling as we can get with 2134 miles between us, but for right now and for what it is, it's lovely.

He had to go have dinner with his family, so I hopped on my bike and headed to the university to get some work done for the week. The ride out was really warm, but it cooled down a lot on the ride back, and it felt great to have the wind in my face and the sun setting and everything feeling like it was going to be alright.

I had a giant salad for dinner, then spent the night hanging up laundry, washing dishes, and preparing some veggies for today's lunch. Low-key, but after my heavy Saturday, it was just what I needed.

I ate well, I stayed active, and I "spent time" with the ones I love. All in all, a good, healthy, balanced day. Now, to repeat this as often as I possibly can...

September 11, 2011

Wake up

In the beginning of August, I got a message on Facebook from a former student.
Okay, so I have been totally inspired by you to run and get my butt back in shape! I was wondering if you had any music suggestions, because my ipod is full of non-motivating songs. Also, I plan on running the AIDS 5k on October 1st and I really cant run a 5k yet. Did you follow a running plan or something? I would appreciate your input!
I've received lots of comments and messages from people who were excited about the fact that I ran, but none asking for my advice on how to get started. Perhaps she wanted to reach out to me because I had been her teacher, but I saw it as someone reaching out to me because I had become an athlete, and it made me feel incredible.

She kept running, and on the day I left for California, she sent me another message.
I have been running consistently for about two weeks now and have mapped out a 5k route that I run/walk on. I just hope I can get to running the whole thing by October 1st [...] I will definitely update you on how it has been as I go along. I just hit my first milestone... I alternate running 1/4 of a mile at a 2.5 minute pace followed by walking 1/4 of a mile at 4.5 minute pace. I finish a 5k in 45 minutes this way... I was super proud of myself (although I always think I might puke lol). Maybe we could run together some time!
I was proud of her progress, though certainly sad to be losing yet another running partner. I had finally found a solid group of runners in Chicago and was really looking forward to the fall race season, to running the races that I was walking last year in XXL tech shirts. I told her I had moved, but still wanted to hear about how things were going with it all.
Im so excited for you and your new job!! You are an amazing teacher and I know they will love you. Let me know when you'll be back and maybe I will be in shape enough to run with you :)
And I moved. And I stopped running. And I got off track with my eating. And I lost my motivation, because I lost sight of the goals I set for myself when I first got started living healthier: to live with balance, to not be obsessed with positive or negative extremes, to properly nourish my body in every sense of the word.

My student messaged me again late last night.
So, I said I would update you about my running. I have lost motivation. I was trying to lose some weight, but over the last month of running three times per week... I have lost nothing. I was eating better and less, and still no weight loss Now, I don't want to do it at all and want to eat everything in sight. Did you encounter this? Not sure what to do
And you know, it feels one of those signs from the universe, things that come right at the precise moment to wake you up and show you what you need to do to get back on a healthy path.
Oh yes, I certainly understand! My honest belief all along is that I don't want exercise to be something I dread - it isn't something I do to punish my body, it's something I do to reward and nurture it. If I don't feel like going for a run one day, I don't do it. I always come back to it.

And I definitely understand waning motivation with weight loss. I have lost and gained the same 6-8 pounds for the past three months - which has been tough, considering I lost 100 lbs. in six months/150 in a year. Something I've learned is that the less you weigh, the harder it is to lose weight.
I then explained BMR and TDEE and what essentially needs to happen in order to lose weight. I explained how to cut calories on a healthy level, and why we need to eat some/all of our exercise calories. And I continued.
I hope this helps a little with the weight loss part - to be honest, writing this all out has been pretty helpful for me, for figuring out what I need to do to get back on track. I've been struggling since this summer - first I was worried about not finding work, then I was dealing with the stress of leaving my comfort zone and starting over somewhere new. Time to get back on track and stay focused on living my healthiest life possible.

Another thing to keep in mind about running, though - and about any physical movement, I think - is that it's not just about calorie burning. I didn't start running because I wanted a good workout, I started to run because I wanted to be fast, to move myself forward, to feel like an athlete. Even if the number on the scale doesn't move, I still want to keep running because I love the activity, not just what it does for me. Finding that passion, I think, is so crucial.

So, I say - keep your spirits up with it. Run a little less if you have to, eat a little more if you need to - but do what you have to in order to find a healthy balance for yourself and your body's needs. Listen to your body, first and foremost.

Cheering you on, always -

Now, to take my own advice.

I had a very tough day yesterday, and I can't guarantee that it won't be the last of its kind, now or ever. That's life. I keep beating myself up for maintaining - the pressure of being the weight loss wunderkind for the first six to nine months of my journey had me believing myself to be failing, when what was actually happening was my body taking control of itself. I am clearly capable of losing weight. Right now, I need something consistent in my life, and this is what my body seems to have chosen. When things settle, the numbers will change. Until then, I just need to keep focused on living my healthiest life possible. Stay active. Eat well. Get upset within reason. Don't sweat the small stuff. Let go of stress over the things you can't control. And let go of the guilt already, for goodness sake.