August 2, 2012


My greatest love, strongest supporter, and loudest cheerleader has always been my kid brother, Dan. He's the epitome of childhood innocence and purity, loving regardless of what my body looked like. He loved falling asleep with his head on my "squishy pillow belly," and he loved cheering at the finish line of my first 5K. He's been going through a depressed rough patch of his own lately, and I can identify with some of it - especially a big move in the past year and strange hard-to-understand body changes.

On the phone the other day, we got to talking about the Olympics. I have always enjoyed the Olympics. As a little kid with a bizarre sense of style, I watched the Winter Olympics and fell in love with every single glittery sequined figure skating outfit. As I got older, my interest shifted away from glitzy costumes and towards a more minimalist approach - men's swimming, naturally. This year, I hope to watch some of the women's running events, after following the trials as best as I could without a TV.

The summer Olympics have coincided with a few major events in my life: Sydney 2000, I graduated middle school; Athens 2004, I graduated high school; Beijing 2008, I graduated college. London 2012, and here I am: I quit a job that didn't satisfy me and moved away from a place that broke my heart. I don't know what's going to happen, now or in four years, and I'm anxious. But I felt the same way when I left my small town for college, and when I left my college for Chicago and grad school. So there's at least a small comfort in that familiarity.

I think this is the first Olympics Dan has really taken an interest in, though. With all the optimism of an 11-year-old kid, he told me that the only thing that's different between me and an Olympic runner is that they have coaches. Hire a coach, he says, and you can run at the Olympics. I smiled and held back not only tears, but truths. I'm not fast enough, I said, I'm still too big. 

I told him I am not very fast, but the truth is, I'm not very disciplined. I was, once. But right now, I'm not in peak condition, physically or mentally. I may weigh less than I did a few years ago, but I'm just as sad and just as addicted to my unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Even when I finally get my act back together, I'll never be an Olympian, that's for sure. But I still feel connected to so many of the athletes, by common threads in both our pasts and our presents. One story in particular touched me: that of Michael Phelps. In his profile, the narrator addressed the incredible wins in Beijing in 2008, and what happened after: Phelps fell into a deep depression, stopped swimming, gained 25 pounds. He said that after such a victory, the focus wasn't on what he'd just done, but what he was now expected to do in four years. The pressure was too much, and he needed to break down a bit in order to find himself and reprioritize.

It seems strange. How can you be on top of the world and feel so low? But I understand, in my own scaled-down sort of way. I lost 150 pounds in a year, the first 100 in six months. It was incredible. I felt unstoppable, my self-esteem was the highest it had been in, well, possibly ever. And I wondered: what will I do next? I focused so heavily on what ought to follow and what I still had left to do instead of remarking on how far I'd come, and subsequently spent the next twelve months treading water. The pressure to follow up something fantastic with something even more extraordinary has been exhausting, and for the most part, I have no one to blame for the pressure but myself.

After telling him I wasn't fast enough to run professionally, and offering my favorite tidbit (Paula Radcliffe's world record marathon time is five minutes faster than my personal best time running half that distance), Dan continued to insist the coach was the only difference, and then shifted the conversation to his own interest in fencing, and wouldn't it be cool if we could compete at the same Olympics?

Yes, Little. It would.

And I wouldn't even care about winning a medal, because the Olympics aren't about winning medals. It's about trying your hardest and doing your best.

Talking to him is like fulfilling my impossible wish to sit down with the kid I was two years ago in order to hopefully modify my current perspective. To tell a sad, exhausted, 345 pound version of myself that someday, you will lose nearly half your body weight yet feel like a failure, and hear what she'd have to say. I hope she'd knock some sense into me, charge me up with her blind faith in the unknowable future. When I first got started, I was scared. Terrified, even. But at rock bottom, I had nowhere to go but up. I had no way to feel but optimistic. And now, I'm trying to channel some of Dan's positivity and optimism, to reignite my passion for running, to fall back in love with myself, to invest once again in the health and condition of my body.

July 31, 2012

Workouts: July

July started with illness, then extreme temperatures, then a second degree sunburn, then Matt's surgery. Needless to say, I'm very grateful that today is August 1 - an empty page on the calendar, a clean slate for starting over.

I've materialized the metaphor - I purchased a planner at Target yesterday in order to get back to logging my daily weigh-ins and keeping track of my food:

I may not have done terribly well while in California, but I logged *everything* - even the junk, even the gains. I like keeping a record so that I can notice trends - patterns in weight loss, times of the month when I tend to overeat, what I choose to overeat. Having this data will help me long-term, I know.

If I had to sum up this month in one word, it would be "inconsistent." My workouts, my eating, my attitude.  I was active, but not enough, and not consistently. My eating was all over the place - started strong, but took a dive off the deep end for about ten days in the middle to end of the month. And a strong depressed feeling arrived, unsurprisingly, coinciding with the decrease in activity and increase in junk food.

It's interesting, because yesterday was July 31. Two years ago yesterday, I was wrapping up a very similar July - full of unhealthy food, inactivity, and self-loathing. And two years ago yesterday, I decided to do something about it. I started eating better, eating less, and moving more. And I lost 150 pounds in a year. One year later, I'm up four pounds from that milestone. Not great - I've seen lower, but I can still call it maintenance - but I'm still very proud of myself for taking the initiative two years ago and investing in myself.

So, happy rebirthday to me. I celebrated by walking all over the city running a half dozen or so errands - and no junk, no binge eating. I couldn't be happier. And the celebrating continues: I'm back in Chicago, the place where I first made it all happen. I'm surrounded by great people and lots of ways to stay healthy and active. And I'm fueled by all I've seen, done, and experienced this past year - the good and the bad.

Goal for August, and forever: consistency.

I'm ready to make year three my comeback year.

July 29, 2012

HDC: Day 30

Hundred Day Challenge
Day 1: 189
Day 10: 189
Day 20: 197
Day 30: Beats me

I've woken up the past four mornings at Matt's dad's condo, away from the scale, so I have no idea what I weigh right now. Since even simply walking would be a challenge post-op, we were lucky to have the option to stay at his dad's condo for a few days (with an elevator, as opposed to Matt's second floor walk up). I'll be weighing myself in the morning, and assessing what to do from there.

I'd like to say I at least maintained after my huge regain, but I'm not entirely sure that's the case. I've been having a rough week, to say the very least. Overwhelmed with emotions for some reason, stressed, depressed, feeling really lousy. A good part of my compulsive/binge eating issue is tied to secret eating/hiding food; needless to say, I certainly profited from every opportunity when asked to run out alone and grab a prescription or an over-the-counter treatment for this or that.

I don't know why I do this. I know what makes me want to do it, but I don't know why I still choose to act on my urges when I know the aftermath always leaves me feeling even more depressed than before I binged.

I know binges make me feel bad both immediately after and for quite a while following. I know my clothes feel snugger and I am uncomfortable. I know the half marathon was considerably harder to run after regaining 5-10 pounds from all my training runs.

And I still can't stop.

I'm stressed out by family things, worried about a few situations and wishing I could drop everything and be there whenever they need me. Especially my little brother, who'll be the subject of a separate post in a few days.

I'm nervous about the upcoming second interview for the dream position - I want this job so insanely bad. I want to be employed, of course, but especially here - an amazing, prestigious high school. And I'm fairly certain that a full-time, 9-5 job would help with getting my weight loss back on track - that's what worked the first year. I don't do well with lots of free time on my hands. I much prefer being busy.

I'm anxious about a lot of things involving living here with Matt - I care about him very much, but living together has been challenging. One issue we've always had is a struggle with communicating our feelings - and in the days leading up to his surgery, I got the feeling he really wasn't happy. Not sure if it was me, the surgery, or whatever else - because again, we don't communicate this stuff, and we absolutely have to. I know personally, I've had some concerns of my own. Namely, a need for personal space. Not post-op - I am very happy to be by his side and take care of the things he needs done like refilling ice packs and helping him get dressed. More generally speaking. I'm a fairly autonomous person, and adjusting to sharing a space would have been tough no matter who the roommate was, him, a friend, or a stranger. Also, his current roommate is still here for a few more days, so I've been living out of a suitcase for a month - I'm really in need of my own room, somewhere I can unpack my material possessions and escape to when I'm in need of some alone time.

One of the items on my post-returning to Chicago to-do list was to seek counseling, and I've taken some of the first steps. I have the name and number of a highly recommended therapist, and I'll be calling her this week. I'm nervous about the cost, as I am still unemployed and trying my absolute hardest to not overspend. But if I'm spending money on therapy, I won't have money to spend on binges. Win-win, right?

As far as marathon training, I don't know how I feel. We did the half marathon last Sunday, and I did 7.5 miles with Lorelei on Tuesday or Wednesday, but since Matt's surgery, I haven't ran. I might try to crank out 2-3 miles in the morning, but we'll see. I'm feeling a bit burned out mentally with training, which is, of course, not helped physically by the binges. I'm hoping to make some good mental progress during days #31-40. I need that under control before I think about physical progress.

What about you? How were days #21-30 for you? What NSVs are you celebrating these days?