June 23, 2012

Hundred Day Challenge

Secret: I'm pretty scared about moving back to Chicago.

I love the city - it feels like home for me - but I still find myself a bit nervous thinking about my return.

The biggest source of my anxiety right now is the uncertainty. Moving to California was nerve-wrecking in a different way: I had no idea about the town I would be moving to, but I had a job and an apartment and I figured the rest would fall into place soon enough. Chicago poses the opposite problem right now: I have an apartment in a good location and with a few roommates (which I am grateful for, both in terms of less rent but also, more people around - after my year in solitude, I think this will be very good). But there's still a great deal of instability; namely, I have a part-time job lined up, but not in my field. There was one full-time job posted a month or so ago, and a good friend of mine disclosed to me the other day that she'd just left her third interview for the position - I never even got a rejection letter. I'm scared about not being able to pay my bills, or getting hurt or sick since I will no longer have insurance, or having to quit the Ragnar team. Luckily, I saved up enough this year to have a good buffer - between that and the part time article writing job, I know I have at least a few months to a year before the situation is critical.

The job, finances ... this will all work itself out. My main goal, in the meantime, is to not eat that stress. Which brings me to anxiety source #2: I'm terrified about getting back to Chicago and still being in a bad place health-wise.

If I were maintaining my weight due to an inexplicable plateau, that would be one thing. But I know why the scale has hardly left the 190s since moving here: I've all but entirely relapsed into my old addiction, using food to soothe emotional hurt, trying to feed emotional hunger with something other than love and support. I've put on the bravest face I could, and it's been increasingly difficult lately to hide the fact that I feel so completely broken. I believe that a lot of this is situational, that the stress of the year and the stress of my second move in ten months and the stress of a few family issues is wearing me down. Still, I find myself concerned that it isn't.

I'm nervous about getting to Chicago and still bingeing. And I'm especially nervous because so many of the people I love are there, and I'm scared of enabling them. Of continuing to slip, and pulling them down with me.

It was certainly something I talked about with Claire in San Francisco - she has struggled this year too, especially while working through physical therapy for an injured back. And she assured me that she wouldn't let it happen, that she isn't afraid to remove harmful elements (people included) from her life. Still, I worry. And I worry about Matt, who has been doing incredibly well lately - I don't want to derail his progress by skipping runs or eating poorly. We're running a half at the end of July, we need to stay focused on our goals.

And I not only have the half, but my full marathon in October. And I want to look and feel my best that day, and every day leading up to it.

So, I'm making a challenge for myself, and I'm inviting whoever would like to participate to join in.

There are exactly one hundred days between my arrival in Chicago (June 29) and the marathon (October 7).

My goal for the hundred days is to be binge-free.

I want to make sure that I am focused and healthy, especially in the three months or so leading up to the race. When I initially started getting healthy, I did everything in my power to stop the binges, and weight loss followed. It was as if the weight loss was just a side effect, a pleasant result of taking control of my addiction and investing in my physical and mental health.

I'm ready to get back to that happiness, to that feeling of satisfaction. I am ready to get serious, and to get back on the path to recovery.

For anyone else who'd like to participate, I challenge you to commit to something for one hundred days. It could be no binges. It could be going vegetarian. It could be writing down something you're grateful for every day (I will be doing that as well!). It could be logging a certain number of workouts, of miles, of steps. Anything! Just find something you'd like to try, and give it one hundred days.

I am going to do a special Hundred Day Challenge post every ten days with updates on the goal. I look forward to sharing my progress with you all - the accountability of public challenges like this has helped me so much in the past.

What about you? What would you like to challenge yourself to do for one hundred days?

June 20, 2012


Early last week, I sent a text message. It wasn't too late, but the recipient was a few time zones away and likely in bed for the night, another day of full-time work in the morning. Still, I needed to reach out:

This is insanely last minute and I hope I'm not waking you but what's your weekend looking like? Let's fly you to San Francisco and we can hang out and explore for a day or two.

In the morning, an initial rejection - it was, after all, Fathers Day weekend. But a few hours later, an update. Reconsidering. Discussion on both ends for how to make it work.

It was exceptionally spontaneous, highly uncharacteristic of both of us. But that afternoon, a flight was booked leaving Chicago and a train was booked leaving California's central valley. Just a couple of days later, I found myself in San Francisco with none other than my absolute favorite, Claire.

It didn't make a lot of sense: a good bit of money for only a few days, especially considering we both have big expenses coming up soon ... not to mention I'd be back in Chicago two weeks later and the cost of reuniting will then be only a few dollars bus or train fare.

But believe me when I say it was absolutely, entirely worth it. Exactly what we needed.

A late arrival Friday night, a good night's sleep, and then an early Saturday morning 8 mile run from the Ferry building to the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It felt so good to run again - to run in a city, to run with a partner, to run in a comfortable temperature. My marathon training has suffered incredibly the past few weeks, partly due to a stressed out feeling that I haven't been able to shake, partly due to very hot days, but mostly due to excuses. This run was tough, no doubt about it - hills, distance, pace - but it left me feeling fantastic at the end.

Along the run (and all weekend long), we talked. And talked. And talked. I told her about the jobs I haven't heard back from, the family stress that's worn me out, some of my fears about returning to Chicago. We laughed at silly stories and teared up over painful ones. With Claire, there is always this brilliant sense of mutual understanding, and it was wonderful to finally feel unburdened, lighter without the thoughts crowding my mind.

We spent the rest of the weekend walking everywhere, exploring various neighborhoods of San Francisco, taking lots of pictures, sharing appetizers and an occasional dessert. We both marveled at how the urge to binge fades when we immerse ourselves in pure joy - feeling loved, feeling supported ... that fills the empty space we keep trying to fill with food.

Since moving to California, I've found myself with a lot of quiet, free time - an emptiness I've filled far too often with food and tears. The tears are good; the binges are not. This weekend, with Claire, I found myself thinking about things other than food. And I felt hungry for the first time in ages, something I've missed. When every day is a day one, it's easy to forget what it feels like to be hungry - truly physically hungry, in need of fuel and energy ... not emotionally hungry and in need of love, comfort, support, whatever else.

When we parted ways Monday afternoon, it was an incredibly easy goodbye - technically, we were able to say "I'll see you next week," and oh! how amazing it felt to realize it was true. No tears, just a giant hug and a see-ya-later, entirely perfect after our amazing adventurous weekend.

In preparing for my departure from California, I find myself a bit torn over what to think and feel. I know that as soon as I step off the plane at Midway next Friday, it will feel different. Right now, though, it's still very much an open wound. I'm frustrated with my lack of weight loss progress, but more disappointed with my relapse into binge eating. I'm still very heartbroken and trying to decide if and how to say goodbye to the person who shaped so much of my California experience. I find myself crying, devastated that I sacrificed ten months of my life.

And then I catch myself, and realize how foolish of an assumption it is to think that my time out here was wasted. I learned that a high salary isn't the only thing that matters when considering a job offer. I kept in touch with the people who matter most to me, and let go of a few relationships that didn't fit with my life and my goals for health and happiness. I've learned a lot about what I need to do in order to feel healthy and satisfied - physically and emotionally.

I had a lot of tough days in California, but I've also had my fair share of fantastic ones: riding a bike for the first time since I was a kid, paddling in a kayak for the first time at Shasta Lake, holding hands with Matt and riding a double-decker tour bus around San Francisco, crossing the finish line at my first half marathon in Los Angeles, looking down from the top of the Hayes Street hill with Marisol during Bay to Breakers, and now, my oh-darling-let's-be-adventurers spontaneous weekend getaway with Claire. When I look back on my ten months on the West Coast, the memories of the struggles will mellow and fade.

This will be what I remember.