December 17, 2011

Perfection

Well, that's a wrap, folks. I submitted my course grades last night, so my first semester at my new job in California is officially completed. How good it feels to exhale! It's been an intense four months, without a doubt. It certainly feels like it's been much longer. There have been some great moments, though I've also felt my share of lows ... and not just as far as weight loss has gone.

My lowest official Chicago weight was 192, though I noted 191 in my food journal a couple days later (the day before I left for California); since then, my weight has generally been 196-198. Sometimes it goes up a bit, sometimes it drops down. But it always evens itself out. Essentially, I've been maintaining, and if I had to say my biggest regret about weight loss since moving, it's been that I didn't give myself permission to do so from the beginning.


I wanted to believe that I could seamlessly transition from the Midwest to the West Coast, that despite my entire world changing and being turned upside down, I could keep up my healthy habits and stay motivated to do right by my body. But I know myself better than that, and in denying myself a few months of treading water, I set myself up for feeling like a failure. The pressure to lose weight, on top of all the other pressures I've been feeling, has had me ready to burst for months. In permitting myself to maintain, I still would have ended the semester at my current weight, but I wouldn't feel so broken.

I went for months and months without a binge, but with all the changes suddenly thrust upon me these past few months, it's been all too easy to slip back into the sick comfort of compulsive eating. I'm not proud of it, though I'm taking it as a small victory that my regain has been limited to this 5-7 pound range. There's no doubt in my mind that I could have regained at least 50 pounds since moving - again, because I know myself very well, and I remember all too vividly my past hurts and how I self-medicate with food.

My main goal for 2011 was
"ending negative self-talk ... no excuses. The changing exterior is great, but the physical weight loss won't matter if I still hate the girl inside."
And while I made some great strides, I'm not sure I can say I've accomplished this just yet. One of my worst habits while binge eating is letting the voice in the back of my head step up to its little invisible microphone and berate me while I continue to eat.
Look at you! You're stupid. You're a failure. Your mother was right, you're obsessive and you can't succeed at this long-term. What is wrong with you? Don't you want it bad enough?
And there, essentially, is the basis for my plateau. Right now, I don't want it bad enough. I don't really want it at all. I'm so overwhelmed with changes, I need even just one thing to be constant.


When I started losing weight, I was in Chicago, and everything came together perfectly. I was starting my first full-time job, but it was a job I had already done, with faculty/a staff I had already worked with. It was a new phase in my professional life, but the transition was a smooth one. I had local, offline support. I had the means to transport myself - walking to the grocery store, taking the bus to the gym, riding the train to my races. I set up new routines that were easy to stick to because I felt in control in other areas of my life. Right now, that isn't the case.

It's a weak excuse - you can't wait forever for the "perfect" moment, for an ideal situation where everything is in your favor, because that moment might never come. So my goal for 2012 (besides continuing on my quest to quiet my negative self thoughts) is to redefine *my* perfection. With one semester under my belt, I am looking forward to no longer being new here, to having my familiarity with the job and the town be a constant I can depend on. Conditions might not be flawless or ideal, but I need to do my best with what I have. I'm reminded of one of my favorite blog posts by Ellen:
... we aren't seeing the overall importance of who we are right now, because we are too focused on the small details. We sometimes lose ourselves when we forget the big picture: how far we've come; how much we've changed; what we've learned ... The past isn't as important as the present; I don't care how many times we feel like we screwed up. If it takes 5 times, 20 times or 50 times to let go of these de-motivators, at least we're here, trying.
Because when it comes down to it, I really do want it bad enough. I want to live a healthy, happy, satisfied life. And that satisfaction isn't found in a binge. I felt it when I properly nourished and hydrated my body, when I worked out because I loved to and not to punish myself for overeating, when I felt happy with my life in spite of imperfections because every decision I made was one that supported my long-term goals.

December 15, 2011

Concern

The fall semester is coming to a close - which, for anyone on either side of the academic process, is a somewhat light way of expressing an incredibly heavy thought. Both students and teachers know that the last week of the semester, with all the projects/exams to either make/take or create/grade, is one of the most stressful all year.

While we still have a few days to go before the official end, Justin left on Tuesday morning. He's back home on the East Coast now, and when this post goes live, he'll be standing in front of a committee defending his dissertation. I'm nervous, excited, proud, and uncertain, for many reasons. He's been noticeably stressed quite often lately, and I hope everything goes well this morning so he can finally exhale.

I'm sure I'll miss him in the few weeks when we're in separate states on the same coast. But for now, this week ... I'm secretly a little glad that he's not here. I'm surviving finals week in one piece thus far, which I am grateful for; this was notoriously one of my most binge-heavy weeks as a student, and I'm glad to be feeling in control right now. I'm not sure this would be the case if Justin was around.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about observing his healthy eating habits, and how I enjoyed observing someone eat who is not recovering from an eating disorder. And for the most part, I still stand by the things I said. But as his deadlines grew closer, I started to notice a change in his food choices - more refined carbs, fewer vegetables - and it got colder in the mornings, so he started driving to work instead of biking. Up until about a month ago, whenever we ate together, it was always home-cooked - since then, though, we've gone out three or four times. Once a week might not sound like a lot, but considering that I only ate out maybe twice in my first 12 months of weight loss? It's significant for me.

Rereading some of my even older posts, and I found one where I had talked about the difficulties my father was having with sticking to a healthy eating plan while my mother and siblings ate unhealthy foods:
I remember when I first got started with losing weight, and how hard it was to commit to eating better and eating less. Eating habits are among the hardest to break, because they're rarely just about the food itself - there are feelings and emotions, too. Personally, I had always associated food with comfort instead of hunger, so even though I knew better, it was still unbelievably easy to eat junk food in excess - and to give up on diets because I missed those comfortable feelings. This time I stuck with it, formed new habits, and now fast-food cheeseburgers are completely undesirable to me - I prefer the good, clean feeling I have when I nourish my body properly.

That said, if I were continually surrounded by these temptations - especially in the first stages of changing my eating habits - I am not entirely sure I would have been so successful. A lot of people ask me how I could lose so much weight so fast, and to be honest, I think living alone has a lot to do with it. There's no one to come home to who objects to chicken breast for what sometimes feels like the fifteenth night in a row and insists we go out, my treat, come on sweetie, please? Just no more chicken! There are no dinner dates where I have to scour menus nervously and still consciously decide to put half my dinner in a takeout box before the plate is even in front of me. I go to work, I go to the gym, I occasionally run errands. I'm in charge of every decision, and there's very little temptation in such a simple life.

These aren't complaints - for the most part, I like being alone, and at this stage in my life, it's almost a necessity in order to stay focused on my journey. But I think about my father and what he must be thinking, how he must feel sitting at the dinner table with a small fraction of what he's used to eating while everyone else's plates are piled with pizza and not a vegetable in sight. And I can understand his desire to take off to Florida and wanting to be in control of this part of his life, even if I can't understand why he would act on the desire given his physical condition.
It's much easier for me to stay focused when I'm entirely concentrating on cooking and caring for one. The reality, though, is that that isn't sustainable long-term, considering that I would like to one day be married and have a properly nourished, healthy, happy family of my own. There will be other people's tastes and opinions to consider. Now, in the short-term, where I find myself cooking for two once or twice a week, I still try to do what I did when I first started eating better: healthier versions of the things I was craving as I detoxed from my unhealthy habits. But wanting to cater to someone else's desires occasionally wins.


Last week, he was cooking us dinner (a homemade version of the Thai lettuce wraps we'd shared at the Cheesecake Factory), and I said I was glad that we were eating something with vegetables. I was sitting on one of the kitchen island's stools while he chopped up cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and carrots, and I told him about a dream I'd had a few days earlier: we were both in my childhood bedroom back in Connecticut, holding each other and kissing a little, when suddenly he jumps up and runs out of the room - I think he's going to get a condom, but he comes back with a giant bowl of popcorn. The significance of this is, I think, pretty obvious.

I honestly believe there's a place for everything in my long-term eating plan. I had one piece of quiche, and felt satisfied - but Justin ate four. Half a quiche is more calories than I eat all day. I commented that he must be starving, and he said "it's just really good." And I felt conflicted.

I love that he loves my cooking, but at the same time, I hate feeling responsible for his recent weight gain. It isn't much, and I have no worries that he'll slim back down once the dissertation stuff is done with. But still, I feel guilty. I know it's his choice to eat things or not, in whatever quantities he wants. But I also know that as a recovering food addict, what you actually want is not usually food. I care about him very much, and seeing his habits shift with his stress level has been difficult. It may be a smaller scale than I have experienced as a binge eater, but it's still stress eating.

What about you? Do you cook for a friend/partner/spouse/family? How do you encourage healthy eating habits while also keeping everyone feeling satisfied? What are some of your go-to recipes when cooking for two or more?

December 11, 2011

Pouring

I've always loved the expression "when it rains, it pours." I love rain, thunder, lightning ... ever since I was a little kid. As lovely and warm as a sunny day can be, there's certainly something to be said for pouring rain all day long. The sound, the smell, the feeling. Absolutely nothing like it. It's one of the things I miss the most since moving to California (it's only rained two or three times since I moved here - a far cry from the wet Chicago summer we just had).

But even though the image of rainstorms is pleasant to me, that doesn't seem to be the popular opinion, and I don't think I've ever heard the phrase used positively. It means that when something goes wrong, a shower of other bad things tends to follow.

It doesn't have to mean that, though, does it? We can have good things happen one after another, right? I think we tend to overlook when wonderful stuff happens. We can list the tough stuff one after another, and only in extremes do we become "a complainer." But (at least for me, anyway), as soon as I start listing the great things that have been happening, I start to feel self-conscious, and fear that I sound like I'm bragging.

Today, I'm owning my victories.

I'm eating well. The scale is moving in the right direction. And yesterday, I finally accomplished a goal I've been striving towards for months:


Not only sub 30, but sub 29.

I woke up early, went to the university to give a final exam, came home, and napped. After my nap, I was going to skip my run, but pushed myself to do it - remembering something seen I've variations of on dozens of blogs, Tweets, pins, etc.:
you never regret running, but you will regret not running.
So I ran. And after 2 miles, I wanted to quit. But I wasn't home anyway, so I pushed myself for the last mile. And when I hit mile 3 in 27:53, I realized what I was about to do. And I kept going.

The first year or so of my journey was full of goal-setting followed by goal-reaching, and so something I've struggled with a lot since moving has been the transition time; just coasting and trying to maintain my sanity has been necessary, but very difficult considering the giant leaps with weight loss and physical fitness I had consistently taken forward in the twelve months prior. Stability has been my top priority, and it's still something I'm seeking. But I'm finally feeling a little settled in my little California farm town. Being able to celebrate a few victories like weight loss and personal records ... well, I'm feeling a kind of joy and happiness that I haven't felt in a few months, and that I've missed incredibly.


I still have more than my share of very difficult days - this is not an easy place to live, especially transitioning from a world-class city like Chicago. But it's getting easier, and I'm so grateful. I'm committed to doing all I can to not just survive here, but thrive.