March 30, 2013

Stuff

Matt and I moved into a new apartment in mid-February, and while it's a much nicer/much safer space in a better neighborhood with a much better landlord, something our new apartment lacks in comparison to the previous one is storage space. There are fewer closets, and the ones we have are smaller, so we've been making every effort we can to cut down on non-necessities.

It's been tough, and I've cried a lot over it. It seems like "just stuff," but it's still hard to let go of. It's material, and I feel guilty sometimes for holding so close to earthly possessions. But I hope it's at least a little understandable, even if it isn't justifiable.

When I left Chicago for California, many of my belongings were hastily given away in order to fit my entire life into the back of my father's pickup truck. It wasn't just a couch we gave to my uncle, it was the couch I had budgeted and saved up for, the centerpiece of my very first grown-up apartment.

When I left California to return to Chicago, the cut-backs were even deeper - my move was mainly through the Postal Service, and when you're paying per-pound, the decision to keep or donate gets easier.

Now, in Chicago but just moving across town, it was still difficult to let go of a few things. With my savings from working in California finally depleted a month ago, I'm desperately clinging to all I can claim in the world. I don't have a nice bank account, but I have books, so please don't make me cut back on my books.

The things I have cut down on are mostly old papers, little knick-knacks I'd held on to for no reason in particular. Anything deeply sentimental, I kept. Anything I knew with certainty that I'd regret tossing, stayed.

In the "keep" pile were all my boxes and bags for specific people: collections of pictures, letters, odds-and-ends, and various memorabilia from significant people and times in my past. There's the weight loss box, with my biggest pants and all my race bibs in it. A bag for Peter, a boy I loved in high school who went to France for three weeks and sent me a postcard every single day. A box for my first trip to Paris, with m├ętro passes and ticket stubs, postcards and receipts. A bag for Richard, including a glass Coke bottle from the night of my 20th birthday when we watched "Casablanca" projected onto a sheet in the basement of our dorm. 

The only conflicting bag was one full of dozens of handwritten letters - my bag for Jill.

Jill was my best friend in college, though we grew apart after I left Chicago (ending contact officially within days of my moving to California). I've never cried over the loss, because it didn't feel like a negative one. It was simply time for the relationship to dissolve, the best decision for both of us. Still, I'm grateful for a few things. She was one of the catalysts for my weight loss - her constant picture taking filled me with so much anxiety and depression over how badly I'd let myself go, I returned to Chicago after a trip to Connecticut determined to lose weight. That was summer 2010, and the next time I saw Jill, I'd lost 135 pounds.

The letters in the bag were from summer 2007 - a summer we'd spent on opposite sides of the state after having spent the previous one in the same dorm building, working for Residence Life as summer staff. We shared so much in those letters - fears, concerns, hopes, and goals. Of course, I only have her responses to my letters, but I recall so much of the content even without them right in front of me. Both of us were depressed, unhappy with our weight and wishing there was something we could do about it; neither of us committed to make any changes, or even take a few steps in the right direction, however. We wondered what life would be like once we'd lost weight - we'd be confident enough that someone would want to be in a relationship with us, we'd be smaller so of course we'd love ourselves at long last. It wasn't until I actually took the steps to get healthier that I realized these weren't things that would come from weight loss. My body never affected my relationship status, my lack of confidence did.

There were a few things that caused us to finally sever our relationship, but my weight loss was certainly a major factor. While I think "jealous" isn't necessarily the right word to use, there was certainly some resentment when I, the considerably bigger friend, suddenly fit in smaller clothes than she did. And it wasn't just the sizes that set us apart. Though I still had miles to go, I was considerably happier and more self-confident than I had been at 345 pounds. I'd taken the time and made the effort to invest in myself, while Jill continued to accept her situation as impossible to fix, as too much work. She became a bit of a size activist, in a negative sense - while I certainly support the idea of loving oneself no matter what your size may be, I don't believe in using the movement as an excuse to not try and improve your physical health.

Rereading her letters was heartbreaking, because I remembered that summer, and so many others, and constantly feeling so hopeless. Reading her letters, and writing my own, and being so certain that we were destined to be unhappy and unhealthy forever. And it was remarkable, then, the feeling that came over me as I sat on the living room floor. One of reassurance, I suppose, and of certainty.

I've gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, and I will have to fight like hell to get back down to my lowest weight and then on to my goal. But there's absolutely no doubt that I have it in me to make it happen. I get sad, I get depressed, I feel uncomfortable in my body. But at the same time, I know this is all temporary - the big difference between me now and me when we'd written those letters. The hopelessness in my voice is gone, replaced by a solid and strong tone of confidence. I have days when I doubt, when I am sad, when I am down. But, bigger picture, I know what I am capable of, and I know how the efforts are absolutely worth it.

Losing weight this time won't be the same as last time. There will be so many new challenges I'll have to face and work with. But the determination and the goal are the same. I want to be healthy, I want to look and feel my best - for myself, and not for anyone else. And although I never want to forget the big, sad girl I once was, I don't want to be weighed down by her hangups, either.

So, after I read the letters one last time, I took a deep breath, and then threw them away.

As tough as it can be to let go of material possessions, there's a bit of a relief in it, too. A feeling of lightness, of being unburdened. There's a discovery there, finding what truly matters and what it is that you value the most, and holding on to it, while letting go of excess. It's not entirely unlike the weight loss process has been - let go of habits, of unhealthy urges and desires, and feel lighter in the process, and not only physically.

March 25, 2013

Reset

To piggyback on to my last post, I suppose, I must say that it's not just the race records I'm looking forward to conquering again. My long dormant Progress tab at the top of my blog is aching to be updated, and I'm ready to help it out.

I'm seeing numbers on the scale these days that I never, ever wanted to see again. My pregnancy weight gain pattern was pretty much what my midwife predicted: a big gain in the beginning, a taper, and then a plateau. Even though Baby is gaining weight like crazy these last few weeks, my own weight has stayed the same, within two-tenths of a pound, for a month and a half. That's good - Baby is properly nourished, I am well-fed, and the number on the scale is what it is.

Still, the numbers I'm stalling at are ... high. Higher even than I wanted during pregnancy.

I'm not thrilled, but I have a very structured plan ready for when we get home from the hospital with Baby in our arms. It's, essentially, what I've been eating the past few months of pregnancy, which is a modified version of the diet I used for weight loss. It adds more calories and more protein, to satisfy my current needs. For example, when I was losing weight, I had a 100-calorie Yoplait Light yogurt for breakfast every single day. Now, it's a 140 to 160-calorie Chobani (almost exclusively blood orange) plus a piece of fruit (one of whatever variety of apple is on sale that week). It's more protein and higher calories to keep me going longer. Also, during my weight loss phase, I didn't snack between breakfast and lunch; now, I add a protein bar - again, for more protein to suit my current needs. I like the ThinkThin creamy peanut butter ones - 240 calories, 20g protein, 0g sugar, and gluten free. They're sweet enough to enjoy but not sweet enough to crave or binge on, which I really like about them. They're on the pricey side, so I'm not sure what I'll be substituting in their place now that I'm not working anymore (Sunday was my last day). But it will likely be another protein-packed snack, maybe hummus and fresh veggies or a handful of nuts.

All in all, I'm feeling alright about the condition my body is in right now. I know I have a lot of work to do to get back to my lowest, but at the same time, I feel a bit thrilled to have a lowest to get down to.

It may seem a bit backwards, but I am a bit grateful for this pregnancy weight gain, for a few reasons.

First, it makes me feel like a more average weight loss story, for the first time in ages. So many people say they'd like to lose weight, and have a pregnancy-based weight goal - they want to fit in their "before baby" jeans, they want to see X number on the scale again. When I started losing weight in 2010, I didn't have that. For my entire life, I'd always been big. The goals I set were based on BMI and general recommendations, not my past. When I fit into a smaller size, I'd reminisce - this was the size I'd been in X grade. As wonderful as it was to see results and be healthier, I still felt upset, robbed of having something "normal" to compare myself to. Now, I have this. The Old Navy size 12 jeans are no longer "the size I wore in 7th grade," but rather, "my pre-pregnancy jeans."

And second, because it's given me an entirely new perspective on my body, especially as related to weight. My time in California and the depression I experienced there really did a number on my self-esteem and my body image. I transferred location-based stress and anxiety over to my weight loss journey, expressing my dissatisfaction with where I was and who was and wasn't there with me through hatred for my body. It seemed like as far as weight loss goes, enough was never enough. I left California at 189 pounds, got down another pound or so in Chicago, to my lowest adult weight ... but the effect of the year of self-hatred lingered. I thought I was so fat, so ugly, such a failure. If you'd just bucked up, you'd be at your goal right now. What I lost sight of, though, was what my goals really were. There are so many, and the most trivial of them all are the numeric ones I'd become so focused on.

I'm looking forward to a period of active weight loss again, with renewed motivation and refreshed goals. To meeting milestones without fixating on them. To doing things the right way for me. And to seeing the bigger picture of success, which isn't measured as simply as stepping on a little box and seeing what number pops up.