November 18, 2014

Down Size

With the hustle and bustle of life these days, I just realized that I'd forgotten to share a pretty big and exciting thing that has happened lately, something about a year and a half in the making (for me, at least).


Shortly after my son was born, a journalism professor named Ted Spiker reached out to me regarding my weight loss and the stories I'd told on my blog. He was working on a book about weight loss and fitness, and wanted to interview me to include my story in his project.

About fifteen months later, the book landed on my front step.


It's weird to see your name in print. Strange to think about strangers reading my story, even though I've been sharing everything here for four years now. The strongest feeling, though, is anxiety and guilt, feeling like I don't deserve to have my story told.

The story of my life before and during my weight loss is intense and stunning. The story of my life since returning from California, though, is static. I've become a wife, a mother, and an aunt - all really remarkable and wonderful things, and my current measures of personal success. But as far as weight loss goes, it feels fraudulent to have my name in a book touting my accomplishments; today, I weight even more than I did when the interview took place.

My weight loss journey has not been a fairy tale, but rather, a cautionary tale.

This is what happens when you treat symptoms rather than illnesses.

A catalyst to my initial weight loss was the idea that "what you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it." I don't know when exactly I lost the deep senses of motivation and determination, but I can say with sad confidence that they're gone, and that I don't know how to retrieve them.

I forget what I was looking for the other day, but I stumbled upon an old blog post of mine - this one - and fell into a rabbit-hole, of sorts, reading old blog posts.
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 ... 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.
Eating healthy at mealtimes is easy for me, and exercising (especially when I set challenges for myself) has always been enjoyable. The biggest challenge for me, now and always, is binge eating (secretly, in hiding, before and after meals) to soothe my stresses, quiet my anxieties, and calm my depressed thoughts. My life is full of many terrific things these days, but there's still a heavy feeling of emptiness, a gaping hole I keep trying, with futility, to fill with food.

November 13, 2014

Fitness Leadership (Week 4)

I thought I would post more about the Fitness Leadership class but honestly, last three weeks have been pretty much the same. I go there and do the Tuesday or Thursday workout, the girls offer critiques and advice, and then I go home starving and sweaty. This week, the workouts changed a bit - now that they have seen what I can do, they are starting to push me a bit more and in different ways. Here is the Week 4-6 workout:

Tuesdays
Warm-up:
Stretch: bicep stretches, tricep stretches, shoulder stretches, hamstring stretches, quadricep stretches, lower back rotation stretch
Treadmill: (1) 2 min, 0 incline, 3-4 mph [fast pace walk] (2) 5 min, 5% incline, 3.5-4.2 mph [faster pace walk] (3) 3 min, 0 incline, 3-4 mph [walk]

Cardiovascular conditioning: (2 min rest between each exercise)
Side shuffles: shuffle to side 10 yards, shuffle back, 3 sets with 45 seconds of rest between each set
Burpees: 3x8 (with high reach jump)
Step ups: 3 boxes high, 3x30 sec

Resistance training: (2 min rest between each exercise; repeat 3 times)
Goblet squats: 15 reps, 20 lbs
Walking lunges: 5 yards, 15 lb dumbbell each arm
Leg press machine: 10 reps, 110 lbs

Cool down:
Bike: 5 min, low intensity
Roll out on foam roll

Thursdays
Warm-up:
Stretch: bicep stretches, tricep stretches, shoulder stretches, hamstring stretches, quadricep stretches, lower back rotation stretch
Elliptical (cardio machine): 10 minutes, low intensity

Cardiovascular training: (2 min rest between each exercise; repeat 3 times)
Jump squats: 10 reps
Flutter kicks: 35 seconds
Speed skaters: side to side, 1 minute
Plank: 30-45 seconds

Resistance training: 
Military press: 3x15, 10 lb dumbbell each arm
Rest 1 min
Dumbbell fly (laying down): 3x10, 10 lb dumbbell each arm
Rest 1 min
Shoulder extension/abduction: 3x10, 5 lb dumbbell each arm
Rest 1 min
Tricep dips: 3x5

Cool down:
Stretch: mostly arm stretches, some hamstring and quad stretches

Some things I am doing for more time (like the plank), some things I am doing that I didn't do before (lots of the stuff with weights). I will do the Thursday workout with the girls tonight - if it's anything like the Tuesday one, I'll be sore tomorrow. I am still a little sore today, though not as bad as yesterday was. Yesterday I could barely walk!

One thing that was emotionally hard about Tuesday's workout was that the girls had be do burpees, which I used to do when I was smaller. Back then, I loved them - it was remarkable to me that my body was able to move that way. I felt so light. Now, though, I feel heavy. I feel big, uncomfortable, uneasy in my body. I did them, but I struggled.

I told the girls about how I have a hard time when I go back to Connecticut to visit my family for the holidays, and they said they would show me some exercises I can do without machines so I can keep active even while I am away from the gym. I hope I can do them well enough to show my mom too - she has been very depressed lately, she had a stroke last summer and still hasn't fully recovered, and she has been gaining some weight. I completely understand that, so I want to help her as best as I can.

October 24, 2014

Fitness Leadership (Class 3 and 4)

Now that we are done with our initial assessments, our trainers have made personalized plans for us to target the areas that we should be improving. The girls I am working with are incredible, very encouraging and smart about fitness. So I am enjoying working with them, even if the workouts really run me through the mill.

For the first three weeks, my workouts are somewhat introductory: I have one workout for Tuesdays and one for Thursdays.

Tuesdays
Warm-up:
Stretch: bicep stretches, tricep stretches, shoulder stretches, hamstring stretches, quadricep stretches, lower back rotation stretch
Treadmill: (1) 2 min, 0 incline, 3-4 mph [fast pace walk] (2) 5 min, 0 incline, 4.5-6 mph [run] (3) 3 min, 0 incline, 3-4 mph [walk]

Cardiovascular conditioning: (2 min rest between each exercise)
Step ups: 2 boxes high, 2x30 sec
Jump rope: 3 sets, 10 jumps
Mountain climbers: 3x8 reps (each leg)

Resistance training: (2 min rest between each exercise; repeat 3 times)
Goblet squats: 10 reps, 15 lbs
Step lunges: 5 reps each leg (front step), 10 lb dumbbell each arm
Step lunges: 5 reps each leg (back step), 10 lb dumbbell each arm
Abductor/Adductor machine: 15 reps, 50 lbs

Cool down:
Treadmill: 5 min, 0 incline, 3 mph [walk]
Roll out on foam roll

Thursdays
Warm-up:
Stretch: bicep stretches, tricep stretches, shoulder stretches, hamstring stretches, quadricep stretches, lower back rotation stretch
Jumping jacks: 10 reps, 15 reps, 25 reps

Cardiovascular training:
Elliptical (cardio machine): 25 minutes, high intensity
Rest 3-5 min
High knees: 4x5 reps each leg
Rest 2 min

Resistance training: 
Pull downs: 55 lbs 3x10
Rest 2 min
Bent over row: 15 lb dumbbell, 3x10 (each arm)
Rest 2 min
Push ups: 3x8
Rest 2 min

Cool down:
Stretch: mostly arm stretches, some hamstring and quad stretches

Busy, right? It may not look like much, but it's very intense! Some of the exercises we have had to modify - the jump rope was surprisingly tricky for me, so I jump with the rope to my side rather than over the rope. The lunges were also very hard for me to do at my current weight, so we modified those to suitcase squats, which is like squatting down to pick up ... well, a pair of suitcases. The last major modification was the push ups - I knew it was not going to work out just yet so we modified those to wall push ups. Still great workouts, just working within the realm of my abilities.

I am still struggling to find balance with my eating. This is now and forever will be my greatest difficulty. I enjoy working out and being active, but that isn't enough for weight loss. The saying goes "abs are made in the kitchen," which is absolutely true. Workouts should be complementary to a good eating routine. My recent struggle was with having lots of guests visit us - my brother-in-law, a friend from Chicago, and my mother-in-law, all in the last two weeks or so.

I want to do well, not only for myself, but for these girls. I want their experience learning to be personal trainers to be successful - as their client, I want to have results that demonstrate their knowledge and effort. So I am giving it my all while we are working together. The girls also made a few weeks of workouts for after their course is over, so I can keep up with the plans even after the in-person meetings. I am enjoying the workouts, and I enjoy feeling stronger, for sure.

October 15, 2014

Fitness Leadership (Class 1 and 2)

Work has been hectic, as we are just now passing the midterm. Exams have been given and graded, and my office has seen a record number of students coming to ask why, after not completing most of their assignments, they are failing the class.

I've been talking a lot with my husband and with one of my professors from grad school, trying to figure out what my next step should be career-wise. I don't want to say anything too soon, as we are still in the complete infancy of the planning stage, but I have the feeling things will be changing soon again.

Since October started and work got busier, our meals got slowly less and less Whole 30 compliant, and last weekend, when my husband did a half marathon, it was completely off-plan. My weight is up a little, and I am fighting it back down. With the stress of midterms, I went to the gym less (not surprised at all that when I go to the gym less, I choose off-plan foods more often), but I started back up this week, easing back into the machines at the gym.

Also this week, I started the volunteer work for the fitness leadership class. The first day was simple: we met the trainers we will be working with, then gave some of our fitness history. We got measured in a few different ways - weight and height, a skin-fold body fat measurement, a measuring tape around a few body parts. We also tested our range of motion and flexibility.

Big shock, I'm obese per the BMI. Based on my skin-fold test, I am about 40% body fat (preferable is 25-31%). I have about 169 pounds of lean body mass, which is really interesting to me. That means that at 188, my lowest adult weight, I was probably a lot closer to what my long-term goal weight should be than I imagined. I'm not going to dwell on missteps here, just recognize that the 180s are a good place for me to be, and set my sights on how to get back there.

The good news is, despite the fact that I'm much heavier than I would like, I am pretty flexible - the girls had me do an active lying straight-leg raise (meaning, they measured the angle of my raised leg compared to the floor using a goniometer [basically a fancy protractor]) and I can hold my leg up at a 79º angle. It's not perfect, but again, for someone of my size, it's pretty good.

Last night we had our second class, and more measurements were taken, this time assessing our level of fitness in weight training and cardiovascular situations. We did an overhead squat test, which is squats with your arms raised (palms in) over your head. This is to measure your balance. We also did goblet squats, which is a squat while holding a dumbbell. This one was tough - we had to do five of them, but first, the girls had me do two and then assess if I could go up in weight to a heavier dumbbell. So by the time I found my weight limit (35 pounds), I had already done about 14 squats. THEN the five for the measurement. The last squat exercise was to see how many I could do in a minute. I think it was 30.

It isn't much, I know. But for someone who has never done any weight training before, it sure felt like a lot. I've always avoided weights because I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't want to hurt myself. But these kids are being trained to know what to do, and their professor is standing by supervising, so I feel comfortable with what they ask us to do.

After the squats, we did bench presses - like with the squats, we first lifted the bar a few times to test and see our weight limit, then we lifted and lowered the bar five times. My limit on that was 65 pounds. After that, the girls took the weights off and saw how many times I could lift just the bar with no additional weights (35 pounds). I didn't get the number for that one but I did well on it.

Lastly, we went upstairs and did box steps - you step up onto a platform and then back down, as many times as you can, for three minutes. I didn't get the number of times I did that one, either, but let me tell you, after all the squats too ... I was sweaty and tired. The girls took my heart rate before the exercise, immediately after, and two minutes after that.

Driving home after all that was rough. My legs were already sore - I honestly wondered if I would be able to make it to work today. Today, I am here, but I am definitely aching. I challenged myself to take the stairs up to my office this whole semester and made it 8 1/2 weeks ... today, I just couldn't. I'm hoping some rest today and maybe an ice bath or foam rolling will help work it out. Luckily, the Fitness Leadership class has a guest speaker on Thursday, so no more torture until next Tuesday. I want to be back in the gym, so hopefully resting today will be good.

October 1, 2014

October Goals

Well, here we are. It's October. The last month hasn't been perfect, but it's done. And I'm pretty pleased with the results:
  • With the exception of the rash-induced insomnia, I have been sleeping well and waking up with plenty of energy.
  • My clothes are all loose - almost too loose, and I'm looking for maybe someone to take them in so I don't have to buy all new clothes just yet.
  • I don't feel as food obsessed - meaning, most days, I am not counting down the minutes until I can reasonably eat again, and I am not eating junk just for the sake of meeting a calorie goal. I did not count calories this month, but would say with certainty that each day I ate less than my previous goal of 1550, and I felt less hungry all the time.
  • With the exception of the week before my period when I wanted to eat everything within my reach (and sometimes did - lesson learned, I still have a problem with jars of nut butters, even when they are compliant. Still single-serve packets or nothing at all.), I have been very good about not snacking between meals. I have made sure that my meals are enough to sustain and nourish me for a few hours. My exceptions have been on workout days, when I have a handful of almonds and raisins or a Larabar.
  • Oh, and the weigh in.
On September 1, I weighed 294 pounds. On October 1 ... 278. A 16 pound loss. Not bad at all!

There have been a lot of skipped workouts lately - a few late nights at work, a trip to the doctor's, a weekend spent cleaning the apartment and driving all over town looking for bed bug mattress covers. I still made my fitness goal two weeks, though, so I am not beating myself up over having to re-prioritize once in a while.

So, what's the plan, now that it's October?

Well, I woke up and ate egg muffins for breakfast. And I brought chicken and vegetables for lunch. A handful of pistachios for a post-workout snack, and dairy-free tandoori chicken legs and asparagus for dinner.

I'm just going to keep up with it. It's not often that I find something that comes to me naturally and yields desirable results. If this is working, why stop? Plus ... if I resisted treats on our anniversary, when we had house guests, at the Italian festival, at the party ... I can certainly resist them on any regular day. It won't be forever, and some days won't be perfect. But I will stick with this the best I can.

What about you? How was your September? What are your October goals?

September 29, 2014

Whole 30: Day 29

About a week and a half ago, I noticed a few little red bumps on my legs. The next day, a few more. A few days later, even more. Very itchy, to the point where it woke me up in the middle of the night.

My husband, a former hotel manager, immediately feared the worst: bed bugs. So we spent all of last weekend deep cleaning our apartment, and we ordered bed bug covers for our mattress and box spring. A few days went by with no new marks, then another set of them popped up. So we deep cleaned again, replaced our pillows, blankets, sheets, everything within reason.

I went to the dermatologist today, and my five minute exam resulted in "maybe." It looks like an insect bite, but since neither my husband nor my son is afflicted, he said it likely isn't bed bugs. More likely than not, he said, it's an allergy to something.

"Have you eaten anything new lately?"

Grumble, grumble. No grains, no dairy, no soy, no legumes, no sugar, no alcohol, no nothing. And I'm still allergic to something.

Probably the most expensive five minutes I've endured, and no real answer, besides here is a prescription for an over-the-counter cream - maybe your insurance will cover it! - and come back in two weeks.

Today and tomorrow will be real challenges. (And every day after that, too - this fight never ends for me - but still.) I fought every urge on the way home to say screw it and eat whatever I wanted.

Eating X will not make this problem easier to deal with. It will not make it go away.

I left the appointment, went right back to work, and walked right back up the stairs to my office (six weeks strong of not using the elevator!).

This weekend was rough, too. We went to a local festival on Saturday, where I got to watch my husband eat Italian pastry right in front of me. Then that night, a party at our friends' place, where everyone enjoyed unhealthy snacks and my husband had downed three alcoholic ciders before I could even ask for a water. Needless to say, I took the baby home early so he could get some sleep and I could avoid the situation.

It wasn't even that I was tempted. It was just ... I was mad. Angry. Furious. I was stressed out over the rash situation, uncomfortable with my itchiness, needing a nap but unable to sleep well even at night out of fear of bed bugs, and just overall exhausted from a busy few weeks at work. I was walking around at the party so angry - I want to deal with my stress by eating and I can't have it. So I just left.

I have definitely been snacking a lot the past week or so - even compliant foods can be bad in excess, and I am certainly feeling it. I still feel like I have lost some weight, but my energy is zapped and my motivation is low.

What I need right now - more than pizza, more than a cheeseburger - is love. And a nap. And I won't find rest or affection from food, so I won't give in to them today.

September 22, 2014

Whole 30: Day 22

I don't know what is different this time, but I am not struggling with the Whole 30 at all this time around. No boredom, no urge to break it. I think something that has been really helpful is trying to see the Whole 30 as a series of positive statements. "I can eat this," "I can make that," rather than focusing on the list of things I can't have. At this point, I am not craving my usual unhealthy favorites at all, because I try to make new recipes all the time and keep what we are eating delicious and exciting.

Also, I think after my experience the first time, I know a bit better what to expect, and I can plan my meals in a way that best satisfies my needs. Less snacking, more focusing on what hunger really is and if that is, in fact, what I am feeling (rather than boredom, stress, etc.).

Some things that have been on our plates this week:


Tomato olive chicken. A favorite of everyone's - even the baby, who picks out the olives and eats those first. It comes out amazingly well in the crockpot. I do a can of no salt added diced tomatoes, then six chicken thighs, then a half a cup of sliced kalamata olives (no liquid), then another can of no salt added diced tomatoes. Let it cook on low for 6 hours. It is SO delicious. The meat just falls apart.


Another big favorite in our house is shepherd's pie, made with mashed cauliflower. I usually do ground turkey and shredded carrots in the filling but we were out of carrots so I used a bag of frozen veggies - only problem is, it was peas and carrots, and I forgot that peas are technically legumes and so they are not allowed on the Whole 30. For the 10 peas I'm guessing were in my plate, I am going to just shrug it off and keep going. A spoonful of peanut butter would be breaking the Whole 30. This was an accident, and I'm moving on.


This was a spur-of-the-moment invention of mine. We had a spaghetti squash and I made homemade tomato sauce to make sure everything in it was compliant (tomatoes, onion, garlic, basic, oregano, black pepper - turned out really well!). I wanted to make meatballs too, but I usually add breadcrumbs to my meatballs to hold them together well. I looked in the pantry to see what we could add - sometimes I will put nuts (usually pecans) in the food processor until they are almost a powder and use that, but we were out of everything except whole almonds and cashews (not quite the flavor I was looking for). So I used a scoop of chia seeds. They were actually really good, and incredibly filling - I couldn't finish my plate.

For this week's lunches, I made Asian-inspired burgers with roasted broccoli and cauliflower. The burgers I made with ground pork, ground shrimp (I just threw cooked shrimp in the food processor and pulsed it for 10-15 seconds), sesame seeds, ginger, garlic, and green onion. I didn't get a picture - it didn't really come out looking beautiful, but oh my goodness, they're delicious. I've made it before as wonton filling, with a bit of soy sauce. No soy in the Whole 30 though, but it doesn't taste like anything is missing.

I also didn't get pictures of this week's breakfasts but I made egg muffins to which I added smoked paprika and cut up pieces of Applegate beef hot dogs. They're pretty expensive and definitely a "sometimes" food, but it's a pretty good once-in-a-while change from the usual.

I didn't make my weekly workout goal this week - I did 102% the first week, 110% the second week, but only about 77% this week. I had to stay late at work one day, so that was a missed workout, and then I missed yesterday's workout too - I woke up the other day with a few bug bites on my legs and arms so we spent the weekend deep cleaning every inch of our house, washing every sheet, blanket, pillow, and piece of laundry in hot, hot water. Not a lot of fun, but it had to be done.

I am headed to the gym now, and after, my husband and son will come pick me up. His brother (my brother-in-law) is coming to town for a few days to visit. I am glad to have a plan for compliant eating while he is here. Steak with mashed potatoes (sweet for me) and Brussels sprouts tonight, compliant tandoori chicken with asparagus tomorrow. The boys will go out for lunches if they want.

I am feeling incredibly well prepared, strong, and untempted. Just a little more than a week left!

September 16, 2014

Whole 30: Day 16

Another week down! I decided to mix up my meals for this week. Breakfasts are eggs baked in turkey cups - I found the recipe on Pinterest and managed to find Whole 30 compliant turkey at the grocery store. Forgot to take pictures, though - but I'm sure make more next week, they're pretty good.

For lunches, I baked chicken thighs that I sprinkled with black pepper and paprika. I also made mashed cauliflower and roasted Brussels sprouts.


SO good. I love Brussels sprouts so much.

One dinner I made the other night (and about a week earlier, because my husband requested it as often as possible) was coconut chicken with mango.


The first time I made it, I marinated the chicken in mango, then toasted compliant coconut flakes and coated them in it. This time, I changed it up a bit - I served the mango on the side, because in my marinade mix, the flavor was lost. I cut the chicken breasts in half the long way to make them thinner. Also, after I toasted the coconut, I put it in the food processor with raw almond slivers and chopped it up finely. Baked at 375º for 25 minutes - super moist and delicious.

My workouts have been good - I tried a new machine at the gym called an Adaptive Motion Trainer, which is like a "combination of an elliptical machine, treadmill and a stepper." Holy moley, it is an intense workout! I am usually super sweaty when I am finished - which is never a full hour.

I am finding it easier to wake up with plenty of energy in the morning, and my clothes are getting loose - which is good and bad. I just bought all new work clothes! (I may do a post on this in a few days.) If I keep this up, I'll need to find someone around here who can take my dresses in...

September 13, 2014

Whole 30: Day 13

I finally got my appetite back a few days ago, and it was hard to avoid eating back three days of skipped meals. I had a big snack (banana with almond butter) and that helped me stay in control.

Our anniversary was a few days ago, and it was a really interesting day. I made a Chicago-themed dinner for Matt and Noah, and for myself...


Delicious. Since I couldn't have it with butter, I had the lobster meat with a little homemade mayo - I make it with lots of garlic and dill, so it tasted wonderfully decadent. I also had a few shrimp. I know there's a ton of sodium in shrimp and lobster, but I figured, it's one day, and on other days it's much lower than when I wasn't doing the Whole 30.

Matt got me flowers - three dozen roses.


In our last move, someone accidentally threw out my two dried bouquets - red roses from our engagement, yellow roses from our wedding. So he got me two new bunches, plus a dozen light pink ones with dark pink edges for our first anniversary.

For him, I got a glass jar, which I filled with ideas for dates.


The first anniversary is the paper anniversary, so this seemed appropriate.

We also had a very long, emotional talk about our relationship and what we both want to happen in our second year of marriage.

I've talked a lot about how my weight loss wasn't successful in my first year in South Carolina because I didn't make it a priority, I was so busy adjusting to my new job, our new state, a new baby. Just like we didn't make our self-care a priority, we also didn't make our relationship much of a priority. In the whole first year of our marriage, we went out on two dates.

We agreed to try and find a therapist we can both speak with together, and we agreed to try and take care of ourselves as a couple. We've been better lately about eating better and going to the gym regularly - we need to nurture our relationship the same way.

September 10, 2014

Whole 30: Day 10 (Or, Year One)

I have barely eaten today and yesterday. It's the strangest thing, I just have absolutely no appetite. I'm not even thinking about food. This is completely foreign to me.

Today is my one year anniversary of being married. I'll write more about that later, perhaps - long story short, though, it's been a very difficult year. This morning I woke up and thought about if I should break the Whole 30 just for today, or if I should stick with it. Even the Whole 30 folks say that once in a while, for a birthday or an anniversary or whatever, life happens, it's okay to deviate - as long as you get right back on plan.

I decided to weigh myself instead. The loss so far is significant - but I'm still more than 20 pounds more than I was on this date last year. So I think I'll stick with the Whole 30, thank you very much. I'm going to make a wonderful compliant dinner for myself - I'm thinking maybe shrimp ... or lobster.

September 7, 2014

Whole 30: Day 7

I've made it a week into the Whole 30 - so far, so good. I had an intense headache around day 3-4 that I've never experienced before in my attempts - it made me feel queasy and all-around awful. Since then, though, I haven't felt sick at all.

My breakfasts and lunches are ready for the week: breakfasts are two spinach egg muffins with a homemade sausage patty (ground turkey mixed with sage, a little salt and pepper, and chopped Granny Smith apple), lunches are pieces of pork tenderloin with a slice of sweet potato and spinach. Similar to last week, but different enough that I won't go crazy.


The excitement of the first few days is already fading, though, and now the reality of "okay, three more weeks of this" is setting in. I don't mind the food - I read a lot of people's experiences with Whole 30 where they get fed up with eggs after the first few days. Honestly, I could eat eggs for every meal and not get bored. I think my bigger issue is that after the first few days, the "do this, don't do that" isn't right at the front of my mind - it has become routine, I can get back to my regular thoughts - and now, my normal worries take back their place in my thoughts. I am once again faced with my anxieties and now, I don't have food to soothe myself with.

This is what makes Whole 30 hard for me. When anxieties and stresses hit, I need to find alternatives to snacking. I need to recognize what makes me crave and what triggers my binges and deal with them. Face my stuff, instead of stuff my face.

The past few days I have been fighting with my husband on and off, and therefore fighting the urge to break off the Whole 30 and binge. I believe in myself, I believe that I am stronger than the cravings. I want results more than I want to drown my sorrows in junk food. I want to feel good about my choices.

I am thinking about making a binge jar - something I created years ago, a jar full of ideas for things to do instead of eat when I get anxious. I have a few go-to activities - reading blogs on Feedly, looking at the ridiculous Humor page on Pinterest, Words With Friends, a handwritten journal that I keep locked in my desk at work so no one else can read it. But sometimes these aren't enough.

Making exercise a priority is helping. Knowing how easy it is to eat 500 calories and how hard it is to burn them off is definitely a motivator for keeping myself on plan.


I made my fitness goal this week, by the way. Plus a few extra calories! Here's to hoping this week's workouts are also good.

September 3, 2014

Whole 30: Day 3

I think that initially, the hardest thing for me about the Whole 30 isn't sugar and processed carb withdrawal but rather, not being allowed to step on the scale. It's something I have always struggled with: if I know I am eating well, eating enough, and exercising, then why do I need a number to validate it? This morning I woke up before the alarm feeling energetic and less bloated already. Why do I need to see a number to prove that I am doing the right thing?

In my earlier attempts at completing a Whole 30, I've always peeked. I am hoping to be stronger this time around - to be strong enough to shift my focus on making consistently good choices for a month, rather than fixating on what the scale will say at the end.

This time around, I am trying to listen to my body more, or at least listen better. I am trying to notice patterns in my eating, the places where I eat mindlessly or make poor choices because it fits in my calorie goal. Some examples:

1. My sodium intake the past few weeks has been pretty high. When I first lost the weight, I didn't keep a food log, I just ate pretty much the same thing every day. I tried doing that this time too, but changed up a few things - for example, instead of a chicken and veggies meal for lunch, I'd have a sandwich, because it's only a few more calories. Except - the sodium is way higher. Just because foods fit within a calorie limit doesn't mean they're the best choices. Another example that blew my mind was a serving of fat-free sugar-free banana Jello pudding - a 1/2 cup serving has 330 mg of sodium! (To compare, a 10 oz bowl of watermelon has 3 mg of sodium.)

2. My nutrient breakdown has been very carb heavy. Some of them are good carbs - we've been enjoying watermelons and cherries this summer, for sure. But most of the calories I'm logging are coming from carbs - cereal with breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, crackers for a snack. Even though I am under my calorie goal, since most of the calories are coming from carbs instead of protein, I feel hungry all day, and I have to fight with myself at night to avoid snacking. With the Whole 30, I eat a good size dinner full of veggies and healthy protein, and I don't feel hungry again until morning.

3. On that subject, my eating has become very mechanical. Something I notice about food tracking is that it makes me a bit obsessive - I focus so much on when my next meal is, what my next meal can or cannot be, and whether or not it fits in my plan for the day. I find myself eating a snack not necessarily because I want it, but because I have room in my calories and I want to delay dinner as long as possible (because after dinner, the kitchen is closed to me). When I follow the Whole 30 way of eating, I think less about food between meals, and I eat mindfully and purposefully.

I'm sure some things that are easy now will become more challenging, and current challenges may ease up. At the moment, though, things are sailing pretty smoothly.

September 1, 2014

Whole 30: Day 1

I've been doing well with getting to the gym regularly, tracking all my food, and making sure I drink enough water. Still, my weight loss is stalling - up one day, down the next, always the same few pounds.


So, a few days ago, I decided to join a few other bloggers in doing a Whole 30 for September. I've tried one before, and I managed to get most of the way through it before I caved. I really, really want to be successful and finish one.

Something working against me, perhaps, is that my husband does not want to participate, so I am going it alone. Not having his support will surely be a challenge - having non-compliant foods in the pantry, having to deal with being the only one following a plan when he inevitably finds an excuse to go out to eat. On the other hand, though, I don't have to worry about compliant meals - my husband doesn't cook, so as long as I am the one making the dinners, I will be making things that fit my plan.

On Sunday mornings, we wake up and make our weekly menu and grocery list, then we go to the grocery store early, to beat the crazy crowds and lines that show up a little before noon. This week I announced my intention to do a Whole 30 for September, then asked for suggestions of compliant dinners that we enjoyed before. We ran our errands, then came home and I prepped my lunches for the week.


Chicken breast with a slice of sweet potato and a handful of raw spinach. I don't mind the same thing every day for a while - next week, though, I'm sure I will have to change it up a bit.

This morning I made a few days worth of breakfasts too.


Egg muffins, made by blending spinach and eggs (plus a pinch of black pepper and cumin). Also, a homemade turkey sausage patty, and a chopped up nectarine. Very, very good, and very filling.

Since I didn't have to work today, we went to a local garden and zoo with friends of ours who have a son close to our son's age. It was a long day, and very hot - I brought a Larabar for a snack in case everyone decided to go out to eat (thank goodness for thinking ahead). I had one of my lunches when we got home, and made sure to catch up on drinking water. Dinner was roasted asparagus and a piece of a lamb steak that I split with my husband. Overall, a good first day.

I don't plan on posting every meal, or even updates every day - after a few days, it gets repetitive, and a bit boring. But I'll be posting about my thoughts as the month goes by.

In addition to completing a successful Whole 30, I have one other goal for September. At the gym where I exercise, everyone has an account on the machines, and you can set weekly workout goals. I have a weekly goal for calories burned (2250, or an average of 450 calories if I go five times a week), and lately I have been getting pretty close to reaching it.


But skipped workouts here and there have meant that I haven't hit it yet. This month, I want to hit it at least twice.

That, plus the Whole 30, should put me on a good path toward making good choices consistently. It's only Day 1, but still, I'm feeling good so far.

August 29, 2014

Memoir

A memoir is different from an autobiography, in that it captures a specific point of time in someone's life, rather than the life as a whole. With my weight history and all its ups and downs, I am not quite sure what my story would be. The reality of weight loss, especially as someone with a very high starting weight and with a history of various eating disorders, is that even when I am in my goal weight range, this is something I will have to work at for the rest of my life. Earlier this year, I saved a CNN article that nailed it right on the head:
You know what's worst of all? The treatment for chronic overeating is to think about every food choice you make for the rest of your life.
At various points in my journey, I've been asked if I would write a book, at that moment or in the future. At various points in my journey, I have considered it, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. I am constantly blown away by the number of people who reach out to me and say I went back and read your blog from the beginning, like a book. My heart is so full of love and joy when I hear about people who are inspired by my story - and I love hearing from people who have been on similar paths or have had similar experiences, people who reach out to me and remind me, you are not alone.

Right now, though, I can't say for sure. I would like to think that mine is a story that people would like to read more about, but at this stage in my life (and at this point in my progress), it doesn't quite feel right.

I mention this because yesterday, I got a follow-up about the fitness leadership program, and I had to fill out a medical form with my weight history. I summed up 3-4 years of struggling, of successes, and of tears in less than a page.


It's more detail than they wanted, I'm sure. But it's my story, and it's important to me.

Over the years, I have found a lot of parallels between my struggles and the stories of people with addictions, particularly in the ways we try to recover. In many programs, an alcoholic will still refer to his or herself as an alcoholic, even after he or she stops drinking - that struggle is part of their identity, and there's a big risk in forgetting that past. Saying I was an alcoholic, but I am fine now, I can handle one or two drinks... might be okay for some people, but for others, it is a slippery slope down a dangerous path.

Even once the weight loss part of my journey is over, I will be a person in maintenance - which is the same road, I will just be driving a different car. So I don't ever want to forget that I was once 345 pounds. When you do that, you start to get careless. Well, I used to be super obese, but I am smaller now, I can binge once or twice and get right back on track. I know this because I was there, and that was me. I was smaller, but I was still trying to hide behind my body. I thought I had cured myself, I thought I had moved past using my weight as a barrier between myself and my truths. But the truths were still there, despite the smaller clothes and the faster per-mile running pace.

I don't know if me writing a book would help or even interest anyone else, but I think maybe, perhaps, someday, possibly, I will write one, if only just for me to preserve these moments, to recall these experiences, and to help myself to never forget this part of my identity.

August 27, 2014

Fitness Leadership

Every semester, the Department of of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies at the university where I teach offers a course in Fitness Leadership, and they ask the faculty and staff to be volunteers. The students learn how to screen health in people with low to moderate health risks, then they prescribe a fitness plan based on the results.

I've seen the email for the past two semesters, but did not volunteer - my first semester, I was too busy being new here and trying to balance full-time teaching with taking proper care of a newborn. My second semester, the meeting times they offered conflicted with my own teaching schedule.

I've been looking forward to this semester's email, and it came today.
The students will be responsible for screening your health, assessing your risk, getting a physician clearance for exercise (if needed), testing you in all five areas of fitness (cardiovascular, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition), analyzing the test results, developing a personalized fitness plan, and instructing you on how to execute the plan.
It sounds really interesting, and I responded to the email with my preference of volunteering time.

I hope that I am accepted - it's interesting that in all my history of weight loss, I haven't considered working with a personal trainer or getting my level of fitness tested. I briefly considered a resting metabolic rate test a few years ago, when my weight loss was slowing down after a very fast loss of 150 pounds, but then I moved to California and couldn't find a facility near me that did the test.

This summer, I thought about getting a Fitbit or some sort of exercise gadget to measure how many calories I was really burning with the Sweatin' to the Oldies DVDs, but I decided against it - mostly because of Laina's wonderful blog and her insights into maintenance. Essentially, she had posted about how exercise is for fitness, not a punishment to cancel out off-plan or "bad" eating. I figured I would eat within my calorie range, and whatever the workout calories were would just be a bonus - they weren't there to be measured or eaten.

I'm not sure what would be different with the student trainers, but if I am selected, I will be sure to share the experience here. I am really interested in anything that might help at this point. My weight dropped quickly from my okay-time-to-panic weight of 298 - but for the last week, it has stalled between 288 and 289. Up one day, down the next. I have been measuring portions, logging every calorie, working out consistently, and drinking plenty of water. I know I need to watch my sodium and try and get more sleep, but other than that, I don't know what else to do.

I guess for now, I am going to just keep on doing what I think is right and let the plateau break on its own.

August 25, 2014

Rules

When I hit my most recent rock bottom about a month ago, I told my husband that we needed to establish some food and exercise rules. Something that helped me guide my weight loss the first time around was having certain guidelines to keep me active and help me feel satisfied and in-control of my eating.

My #1 food rule, then and now, was to limit meals eaten at restaurants. Not only is it expensive for us as we try to get by on only one salary, but it's never healthy, even when we make the "better" choices. (Call me old fashioned, but a salad shouldn't be my entire day's worth of calories.)

Unfortunately, when I made this declaration to my husband, it was right before an onslaught of visits from friends ... so in the following few weeks, we went out six times. Still, the fact that I had brought this up beforehand made us more aware of how often we were going out - the number getting higher bothered us both. I made the best decisions I could while out, even when I didn't want to, and in the past two or three weeks since the visits have stopped, we haven't gone out at all - in fact, this past Friday, we made dinner at home before meeting friends for the evening.

An addition to the dining out rule is to not eat food bought/given out on campus. I had a bad habit last year of getting stressed and going downstairs to Einstein's Bagels or the vending machines and going completely nuts on super carb-y unhealthy foods. I also have a co-worker who loves to bake when he gets stressed - last year, I would help myself to more than my share of what he brought to our break room. This year, I am bringing my meals and snacks to work, and I am going to avoid eating anything other than what I have brought. I have already been incredibly tested with this - before the semester even started, we had a department meeting and they brought tons of baked goods. I said no thank you and skipped the socializing to head to the gym.

Another work-related rule is take the stairs instead of the elevator. This is not a huge challenge, my office is only on the third floor of my building, and my classrooms are all first or second floor. It's a little thing, but I know that anything that keeps me active is good for me.

Both at work and at home, I have a rule to drink only water or unsweetened tea. When we moved last year to the sweet tea region of the country, I found myself ordering some almost every time we went out to eat. The temptation is certainly less if we reduce/eliminate going to restaurants, but it is still there - when you want something sweet, a sip of juice or a diet soda. I don't want to drink my calories, and I don't want to fill my body with chemical junk. I feel a lot better when I drink at least 3 bottles of water a day (about 96 oz.).

My last rule is no eating after dinner. Often in the past year, I found myself after dinner, watching TV and mindlessly snacking on popcorn. I make sure that I eat enough during the day and at dinner that I do not need to eat more after. I finish dinner, I log everything into MyFitnessPal, and then the kitchen is closed. This also helps keep me focused, because nighttime is the time I have found myself most likely to binge.

Other than that, I don't have any very strict rules regarding my meals. I try and watch what I am eating and not just the portions - just because something fits in my day calorie-wise doesn't mean it's the best choice. I keep the fridge stocked with fresh fruit and hard-boiled eggs for snacks, plus things like single servings of cottage cheese and string cheese. I have been diligent about logging my meals into MyFitnessPal - even when I overeat, it all gets logged. I know I need to get better about eating more vegetables - I am trying to introduce more of them to our meals. Last night, for example, I made a turkey tenderloin and served it with some zucchini and onions that I sautéed in 1 tbsp. of olive oil, garlic, and smoked paprika. It bulked up the meal without being a lot of calories, and both my boys loved it.

What about you? Do you have any food/exercise rules?

August 23, 2014

Compassion

My first niece was born a few months ago. My sister Lisa's pregnancy helped draw us closer, I think - we have always butted heads but since I went through these experiences just a year earlier, she and I have talked more than probably our entire lives previous to this.

Even with her own pregnancy weight gain, I weigh more than Lisa - but at my smallest, my body type had us able to share clothes. I tried on her jeans, and they were even a bit loose; I cried. I have always seen Lisa as someone who is a healthy weight - comfortably curvy, and incredibly self-confident about her body. As a 345 pound person, I coveted not only her shape, but the way that she carried herself. To be able to share clothes was a huge milestone, one of my biggest non-scale victories.

A month or so after she delivered, a family friend asked Lisa when she would be ready for baby pictures, and she said that that week would be good as long as they were just baby pictures - she wasn't feeling quite camera ready.

I think instances like this really illustrate how incredibly mean I am to myself. In her place a year ago, I was horribly nasty and negative to myself, angry that I had gained so much weight and not giving myself credit for what I had just done with my body. But hearing Lisa say these things, I wanted to grab her and hug her and tell her she is beautiful.

August 21, 2014

Statistics

Continuing with my "while I was away" updates, I want to share something I fell a little bit in love with this summer.


I polled my friends, asking for suggestions on workouts I could do at home while my son took naps. My sister jokingly suggested Sweatin' to the Oldies - but then I found a copy of the second DVD at Target and decided to give it a try. And I loved it!

I am a huge fan of going to the gym. I like machines. I like running. I like biking. But I am absolutely not a group aerobics or Zumba type of girl - I just have no coordination. That said, I liked this DVD, maybe because I could do it alone, in the privacy of my own home, where my confusion and incorrect moves were only seen by myself. At least I was able to keep up with most of the moves - and even broke an okay sweat! I figured, it was better than just sitting on the couch watching "19 Kids and Counting" and waiting for my son to wake up.

Something that was very interesting about the DVD was that at the end, the dancers were all introduced, and beneath their names was the number of pounds that they have lost. Most of them were between 10 and 50 pounds, and there were a few that were 100 to 150 pounds. At the very end there was a man who lost 285 pounds, and the final man lost 704 pounds.

My jaw hit the floor with the last one, and I immediately went online to see if there was any information about him. I found his Wikipedia page, which unfortunately revealed that his story ended exactly as I expected: he regained the weight. All of it. Plus more.

As surprising as it may seem, it's actually not that uncommon. Most people who lose weight regain it, and the likelihood seems to increase with the more weight that is lost. There is so much about weight that is mental and emotional. You don't get to be over 900 pounds because you enjoy eating or because you love food. Even at 345 pounds like I once was, love has nothing to do with it. It's self-loathing, it's a coping mechanism.

I knew the statistic and I swore that it wouldn't happen to me, and still I found myself dangerously close to 300 pounds again after my pregnancy. For super obese people (and formerly super obese people), a pound is rarely a pound. It's so easy to gain a pound, and then three. Three turns to five, and suddenly you find yourself bargaining - "as long as I'm in this decade of weight, I'm fine." And 250 becomes 260, becomes 270, becomes 280. There is no doubt in my mind that I could be back at my highest weight by now.

I saw a fortune cookie fortune on Pinterest this summer that said "no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." I feel like there are layers to that. The basic level is about responsibility, about community, about doing the right thing. But I also saw it as relevant to my weight loss journey: no one decision - good or bad - is the cause of my weight. When I am at my goal weight, it won't be because of one meal or one workout, it will be the result of many, many decisions.

I need to do things differently this time. I need to obsess less, I need to focus on the bigger picture rather then getting devastated by small choices. Mistakes and missteps aren't fatal unless I allow them to become so.

August 19, 2014

Red shirt

In my absence, I've been busy, per usual. My Spring semester ended finally, and what a relief it was to close the book on it. That was probably the hardest semester I've had since I started teaching, in terms of work load, difficult students, and administrative whatnot. Yesterday was the first day of my Fall semester, and I am hopeful that this year, even though not everything will be easier, it should all go at least a bit smoother now that I am no longer new and have a year under my belt.

We had a hectic summer - my plan to "take it easy" was turned on its head not long after my break started. The biggest thing that happened was that my husband, son, and I drove up to Connecticut to meet my new baby niece, but also, to get my teenage brother and bring him down to South Carolina for a few weeks. My mom had a stroke last summer and still struggles with her recovery, so this was not only a way to help her out, but a chance to see my brother and for him to have a fun summer with his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. Unfortunately, both my husband and I used my brother's visit as an excuse to not only overeat, but to make poor food choices, both at home and in restaurants.

There were a lot of good moments, though. We took my brother all over our area, and even did a weekend trip to Charleston. One day we were heading out to go to a nature preserve, and my brother, who seems oblivious most times to temperatures, was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I told him he needed to change, that it's South Carolina low-country in mid-July, super hot and humid. He said he didn't have any short-sleeved shirts that were clean, so this is what he ended up wearing:


Now, consider this picture from a few years ago:


It's me, wearing that shirt as I leave California for the last time, heading to San Francisco to catch my one-way flight back to Chicago.

I handed the shirt to my brother, then cried. I scribbled a quick note to myself as we drove to the nature preserve:
... my brother needed a shirt to wear and he borrowed one of mine from when I was thin. I cried. I remember wearing it. I remember how it felt. I remember being at my smallest size and thinking I was a giant cow. I remember beating myself up emotionally for a whole year for seeing numbers like 196, 198.
Today, nearly 100 pounds heavier, I wish I was the size I was back when I thought I was so fat.
It was a really shocking experience for me, to see something like this. The year when I lost the weight, and the year after, were a very difficult time for me, especially in terms of self-perception. I lost the first 100 pounds in six months, then couldn't understand why I couldn't recognize the girl in the mirror. When I moved to California, I maintained my weight (at the most plus or minus 7 pounds) for a year. Instead of giving myself permission to maintain and let my mind catch up, I fought myself mentally for the entire year.

I was so fixated on numbers the first time around. This blogger lost X pounds and she's a size Y. I was so obsessed with getting to where everyone else was that I didn't stop to recognize and accept that I hadn't started at the same place as those other girls, so it isn't entirely reasonable for me to expect to end at the same spot.

I don't know if I will ever be 135 pounds -and honestly, I don't know if I want to be. I do know, though, that the nights I spent crying because I weighed 188 pounds and that I was still considered obese on the BMI scale until I weighed 185 ... that was just silly. I'm not punishing myself for these thoughts anymore - I've already done enough of that - but I want to recognize this obsession and hopefully prevent it from happening again.

I am hoping that things will be different this time. My goal is to take time as often as I can to practice self-care in ways that do not involve food or exercise - doing things like getting a haircut, wearing nice clothes, painting my nails, etc. I want to love my body and be grateful that the work I put in manifests itself in physical changes. I want to get to a place where I am ready to maintain, and I want that place to be based on how I look and feel, not how anyone else thinks I look or what anyone else is doing with his or her own life and his or her own situation.

August 17, 2014

Black underwear

Today I'm wearing a pair of black underwear that I've had for years now. I wore them when they fit, and then when they were too small.

For some reason, I still kept them when they were much too large. Maybe it was a comfort thing ... I was very hesitant to get rid of most of my stuff when I lost the weight, not because of a fear of regaining the weight, but more because the weight loss happened so fast that I clung to any constants I could find.

I even wore them once in a while at my smallest weight, and I remember how they felt on my body. The waistband that currently sits around my bellybutton was right up under my breasts. I remember wearing them on long bike rides and having them cover much of my sweaty back.

This pair of underwear is very interesting to me, because it gives me perspective on my body at all the sizes it has been. I've spent so many years overweight, obese, and super obese, but I only spent one year maintaining at my lowest weight. It felt like the longest year of my life at the time, partly because I was in California, isolated and alone. But in retrospect, it's hard to remember some specifics, namely how it felt to be small.

I have a closet full of clothes that I can't wear right now. At my current size, I have one pair of pants that I can squeeze myself into. I hold up the cute dresses I was so glad to finally fit into and can't remember what it felt like to wear them. But the underwear ... I have memories of the underwear from every size.

Almost every day feels like a struggle between my long-term and short-term desires. When I want to binge, I battle myself in my head, reasoning why I should or should not do it. Thinking about the underwear and wanting it to be too large once again helps make my decision some days. Tomorrow is another day and another struggle, but for today, this works.

August 15, 2014

The devil you know

A few months ago, I started drafting a blog post while my husband and son slept. It was very emotional content - feelings I've kept to myself for quite a while, things I was finally ready to share, with the hopes of being reassured and comforted by the little community I have for myself here.

As the draft was nearly completed, I heard my husband jump out of bed, and he stormed out the front door, muttering under his breath. After a few minutes of letting him cool off, I called his phone, urged him to come back, and sat on the couch with him, trying to talk about it.

We struggle so much with communication. We're both non-confrontational, so when something bothers or upsets one of us, we just keep quiet and keep everything bottled up.

Eventually, though, something has to give. Eventually someone explodes.

I wish I could say we had amazing revelations that day, and that our relationship has been smooth sailing since then. But the reality is, we didn't, and it hasn't. We still have a lot of work to do on ourselves, and yet this area of self-care hasn't been our top priority.

I bring this up in a post about my weight loss journey because in my past few months of soul searching, I've realized just how much of the work I need to do is mental and emotional. I know how to lose weight. I know how to exercise, and I enjoy doing it. I know how to cook healthy meals, and I know how to portion them out in a way that I feel satisfied but not stuffed. What stops me from making the right choices isn't for lack of knowledge, or even for lack of wanting results.

The problem is, it's easier to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don't.

If I lost my pregnancy weight, I would be left to deal with my the other trouble areas in my life. So I stay heavy, I complain about my reflection, I groan about not fitting into clothes - because it is easier than having to face the much larger issues. When I am this size, I can skip wearing my wedding ring with the excuse of "it doesn't fit anymore," rather than the reality, which is that very often, this relationship hurts.

I got my drivers license about a month or so ago, at long last, and I couldn't be prouder that my first thought upon hearing that I passed the exam was that now, I could get myself to the gym. It's open 'til midnight, our son is asleep by 8 at the latest ... I really have no excuses.

That said, I spent the first few days driving from store to store, indulging in whatever I wanted. I had earned it, hadn't I? Almost my entire time in South Carolina has been spent at work or at home, trips out have been at the mercy of my husband. I am 27, not 16, but still, with the license came a feeling of freedom, and an urge to fully enjoy my liberation.

After the first day, I woke up feeling lousy, and swore I wouldn't do it again - a resolution that lasted nearly four hours. This cycle continued for a day or two, until a rainy day with a few errands to run. I took my son into the post office, then we sat in the car for a few minutes so Mama could shovel donuts in her mouth - see, I'm still a fairly inexperienced driver, so I can't multitask like that. And in the backseat, my toddler started kicking his legs and reaching - saying Yummy! Yummy! Yummy! - and I was suddenly struck with guilt. What are my choices here? Share with him, and expose him to the kind of unhealthy junk that has been my substitute for dealing with emotions - or don't share with him, and be the mom who puts herself before her child, who abuses her drug of choice while her child watches, secretly praying that the trait of addiction ends with her.

I gave him a piece, then cried all the way home.


I am so sorry, baby.
Mama is going to try and be better for you.
Mama is going to do better for you.

It may be interesting to note that all this time, regardless of binges and skipped workouts, I've weighed myself regularly. I watched my weight climb up, up, up, and felt powerless to stop it. I know I want to lose weight, but I also know that right now, in this moment, as I hurt, what I want is to soothe my pain with unhealthy foods. Except - I'm not soothing my pain. I'm just burying it temporarily. I replace one pain with another, and once I've digested, I'm right back where I started, and now feeling guilty as well.

After my series of freedom-induced binges, I stepped on the scale and feared the worst - all three numbers changing again.

298.

How the $!%& did I get back here?

Even though I know the answer.

The last two weeks, I've been on my ... I don't want to call it my A-game, because I've certainly faltered. But I've tried to be more mindful, and most important, I've tried communicating with my husband about what changes we need to make in order to be our healthiest selves again. This past Sunday, I was down to 293 - progress, but still a harsh reality as I head back to work for Fall semester and realize I'm 30 pounds heavier than when I started last year, and this time without a recent pregnancy for an excuse.

I'm trying to be good to myself and not over-scrutinize the missteps of last year. I'm trying to accept that it's hard to be new somewhere, it's hard to be a new mom, it's hard to be a newlywed, it's hard to find time at the end of an already loaded day to invest in yourself and your spouse and try to make the relationship work, and it's hard to be so far away from your comfort zones and your support system.

That said, I have given the last year, and especially the last few months, a lot of consideration, and I'm working on a game plan for moving forward. I want to recognize the things that have been successful for me, and I want to apply them as best as I can to my current situation. I won't have hours and hours every day to go to the gym - but I can do the best I can, when I can.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me in my absence. I needed some time to quietly reflect and process some things in a non-public forum, but now, I am glad to be back. I've missed this place.

May 12, 2014

Train

This morning, my mother asked me if I was planning on coming home to Connecticut to visit my sister and my brother-in-law and their new baby who will be born any day now. As much as I would like to, I don't know how feasible it is since we are moving again at the end of this month - my fifth move in three years, though at least this one is just to a bigger place across town and not cross country. 

"Just get on the train and come visit for a month or so," she begged.

And immediately my stomach tensed up.

In July 2010, I found myself on the train in the middle of nowhere, wondering what my next move was. At that point I was thinking more mentally and emotionally rather than physically - I had a job lined up in Chicago for the fall and was able to afford my apartment for at least another year. At the same time, though, I had big moves on my mind. I was on a train heading back to Chicago from Connecticut, a nearly 24 hour trek that I chose because the train seats were much more accommodating to my large size than the alternative (airplane seats). As it turned out, taking the train was just as humiliating as I had pictured the plane ride would have been - only this time instead of some stranger making comments under his or her breath, the negative talk was entirely internal.

The trip to Connecticut had been just as difficult. I made it back east only once or twice a year, yet I found myself making excuses and avoiding my friends because I was so ashamed of what I had let happen to myself. I stayed home, I overate, and I denied to myself the severity of my situation.

I always prided myself on being functionally fit - I couldn't run 10 seconds, let alone a mile, but I was able to accomplish my everyday tasks without any difficulty. As long as I could get up the stairs to my apartment, walk to the bus stop, and carry home my groceries, I must not be *that* bad.

When I lost the weight the first time, and even as I think about it now, this devastated me. That I didn't think I had a problem because I could still walk. There were so many issues that I ignored, so many red flags that should have been rock-bottom moments. But because I could get up and down the stairs to my apartment and I could walk myself from the bedroom to the kitchen to the bathroom, I saw myself as fine.

When the train got to Chicago's Union Station, I resolved that that would be the last time that I took a train ride instead of a flight because of my body size. I took what I saw as my only asset - the fact that I could walk - and went with it. A year later, I was amazed at what I was able to accomplish taking one step at a time.

My mother wasn't implying anything by my size when she told me to take the train to Connecticut - the train simply cost less than a flight. But the mention of the word "train" fills me with anxiety, and I can't help but notice how close I am in size to where I had been four years ago on my last cross country train ride.

My son turned one year old last week, and my morning weigh-in showed exactly what I feared: I weighed almost exactly what I did the morning I had gone in to the hospital to deliver him. Then I realize that technically I weigh more this year, since the prehospital weight included nearly 8 pounds of just baby.

I made a few false starts this year. I felt strong, I swore that this was it, I promised myself and everyone that I was getting my act together. Eventually I stopped telling people that I was making changes - it was easier to never announce a start than to sheepishly admit the latest failure. The people who cheered me on when I was thinner have become quiet. I am still down 65 pounds from my highest weight, but no one seems to care when the number was once much lower. 

I guess in the last year Blogger changed the way that it registers domain names and I missed the memo. My annual renewal date came and went, and a few days later my website went dark. I got a few Facebook messages, emails, and tweets, and only then did I realize the site was even down.

I thought about killing it permanently. When I first started losing weight, I needed this place. It was my own private corner of the Internet, somewhere where I could honestly relate what my experience was. I never wanted my family or friends to read it - I wanted it to be a safe space. But a few different things have happened over the years, and now it's not nearly as anonymous as it once was. My husband says "you should blog today, you haven't logged in a while," and I get angry. This wasn't anything I ever wanted to feel obligated to do.

I've struggled a lot this past year, and not just with my weight. Becoming a mom is hard. Becoming a wife is hard. Moving to another state is hard. Starting a new job is hard. I've wanted so badly to talk about my experiences, but knowing that this person or that person can read what I say, I choose to stay quiet instead.

Staying quiet about my life and my problems was what got me to 345 pounds. Bottling things up. Eating my feelings instead of writing them down.

This past year I didn't write, I ate.

The other day, my husband broke the can opener, so I went to Target quickly to grab a new one. I always volunteer to run in and grab what we need - since I can't drive myself, this is my main opportunity to stock up, getting what we need but also secretly buying junk food to hide in my closet for later. As I headed towards the kitchen gadgets aisle, my mind flooded with possibility - what would I get today? At the front of the store there was a large display of Oreos newest flavor: watermelon. And I immediately had a flashback to my last semester of graduate school, when I bought two containers of cookies that I thought were just decorated like watermelons but actually tasted like them also - a nauseating artificial flavor - and I ate them anyway, because it didn't matter what I was eating, just that I ate and in excess.

The watermelon cookies were maybe four months before the train ride. History may not be repeating itself, but it's rhyming.

Today is my first official day of summer break, and never have I felt like I fully deserved time off as badly as I do this year. Incidentally, it's also day two of my second attempt at a Whole 30. I know I have a job lined up for the fall, and I know that the courses I will be teaching are ones for which I already have materials prepared. Everything seems right for success - not perfect, but getting there.

Between our upcoming move and, to be honest, a genuine feeling of anxiety I get whenever I think about blogging, I don't know how much I will be writing here, this summer or ever again. Not writing here, though, doesn't mean not writing. When my website was down I felt so relieved, like I could walk away from this failure and try again somewhere else, somewhere as private as it had been the first time. I could finally write openly and talk about how hard motherhood and marriage and everything has been this year, why exactly I have been unsuccessful with my weight loss. For some reason, I keep coming back here. I suppose it's a recurring theme for the last four years - I'm afraid of letting go of the things with which I am comfortable.

March 25, 2014

Living well (Giveaway)

I finally found a few minutes to post an update here. I don't even know if these are free minutes, but I am overlooking the pile of work on my desk to spend a few moments blogging. I am loving teaching this French culture class, but it is a ton of work. I've taught three-hour-long classes before, but they were intensive grammar courses taught over a few weeks in the summer. The good thing is that it's such fascinating material that the work doesn't feel challenging, just time consuming.

The big problem with the course and with my prep work for it is that I don't have any free time. I barely have time to do what I need to do, let alone what I want. So going to the gym has fallen by the wayside. Next week we have two days with no classes, plus two days where I give exams, and then a day off the week after that - I hope to use that time to get ahead on my lesson planning so I can free up an hour or so on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and get at least a little workout in.

I feel lousy when I don't work out. Part of that is the snowball effect: I don't have free time to work out because I am overwhelmed at work, and that leads to poor food choices - excess snacking, choosing quick and easy dinners over healthy but more time consuming meals.

I had a really good talk with Matt the other night, about what it's going to take for me to get back on track. I keep analyzing what I did the first time I lost the weight, searching and scrutinizing, trying to find clues to get myself back on the right track, trying to figure out how to be successful again. It's finally really clicking with me that it wasn't what I ate, or how hard or how often I worked out. Well, yes it was. That was incredibly important. But the biggest factor in my being able to lose 150 pounds was the fact that I was ready.

In summer 2010, the school where I received my graduate degree offered me a full-time job for the fall. I would stay living where I had been for the past two years. The faculty and staff would be the ones I had previously worked with. I already knew what to expect from the university's students. The courses I would be teaching were ones that I had already taught before - so not only was I familiar with the material, but I already had teaching materials created. The only thing new about the job was my title, changing from Teaching Assistant to Lecturer.

When work wasn't a source of stress, when I was able to find more free time here and there ... I was able to move myself and my health off the back burner. I could finally focus on myself instead of devoting so much energy to creating materials or figuring out how to be the best at my job.

When I moved to California, I struggled with weight loss, fluctuating up and down within ten pounds for the better part of a year. It was so hard to be in a new place, at a new job, in new relationships, and also find time to be entirely healthy.

Then I moved back to Chicago, and even though I had lived there before, it was an entirely new experience. No full-time job. No stability. And on top of it all, a baby on the way.

Finally, good news. I had a full-time job again. But it was nearly a thousand miles away, and I had a newborn. Then we got married. Then my boss quit, one of my classes was canceled, and I found my schedule turned upside down again.

When I was talking about this all to Matt the other day, it finally made sense to me. I haven't been able to commit myself to losing weight again like I did in 2010-11 because I haven't really committed to anything. Everything has been in transition. Everything has been dynamic, changing so often that I can't get my mind or body settled on what needs to happen, let alone what I would like to have happen.

Providing that my contract is renewed for the Fall semester (and at the moment, I have no reason to doubt that it will be), this will be the first time in years that there is some consistency in my life. We will still be living in this town. The faculty and staff will be the ones I worked with this year. I will already know what to expect from the university's students. And the courses I will be teaching are ones that I have taught before and, again, for which I already have teaching materials and lecture notes created.

I am setting myself up for a mental breakdown if I keep pressuring myself about weight loss this semester. With everything on my figurative plate, I just can't commit to giving 100% the way I would like to. I've been reading blogs and I'm feeling inspired, even if my actions don't always reflect that. I will continue to try the best that I can, with maintenance as a goal. And come summer, then fall, I will be ready to give my all.

I just, I find myself so depressed these days, thinking that I am a failure because I can't be everything, I can't do everything, I can't achieve everything. I wouldn't ask my friends or family to be this unreasonable, so I don't know why I demand it of myself.

I've had this thought in my mind, an idea that Kara posted on her blog a few days ago. She said:
If I ever reach old age, I want to be able to know that I didn't spend my entire life being miserable, going from diet to diet.
What honesty! I want this to be a long-term goal of mine. I so desperately want to someday focus on my life as it is, and not be so completely consumed by my negative attitude about my weight. I don't want to waste my years, or even my days and my hours, with negativity.

I got a little journal the other day, and so far, I really enjoy it. It's called Living Well, One Line a Day: A 5-Year Reflection Book. Each page is dedicated to a day of the year, and has five small spaces (maybe four or five lines each) with a box at the beginning for filling in the year. I've been writing down my weight for the day, as well as what is on my mind at the time.

What I would like to see that as time goes by, my weight will decrease (how good it will be to be able to say "look where I was last year!"), but also, my outlook will improve. I want to see myself become more positive, more stable, more capable of handling changes with grace. Within the next five years, I presume we will move again (I like the university where I am for now, but am not certain that I will be staying here long-term). I want to fully embrace the stability while I have it, I want to take the fullest advantage of it, so that when we relocate, I don't go completely off the wall like I did with my past few moves.

So, today, I would like to give a copy of this journal to a reader. I will announce a winner after the 1st. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter tool - entries are earned with a comment on this blog post (or if you "Like" a small loss on Facebook - new or old Likes, it's all good!). For the comment, let me know: what's on your five year plan? What are your long term healthy living goals?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

March 12, 2014

What it's like to be a fat girl

This morning Rebecca posted a great survey on her blog: questions posed by Cosmopolitan asking what it is like to be a fat girl. Bloggers have been posting their responses, and if you're interested, Charlotte has been compiling links.

I figured I'd throw in my two cents as well. I used to be plus sized, and then I wasn't.


Now, I'm hovering almost exactly in the middle - not quite as big as I was, but not exactly small anymore, and most definitely plus sized again.


(Four or five months ago, but still ... I'm around the same weight. No real dramatic changes since Noah was born nearly a year ago.)

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How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

I automatically reflect their words inward. If this is what she thinks of herself, what must she see in me? It's more a habit of mine, after a lifetime of being obese. Just very self-aware and concerned about what others see when they look at me. I got down to my lowest adult weight and still felt fat and disgusting, because there was always someone smaller who called herself fat. It isn't just women, either. My husband Matt gets upset about having gained weight since the baby was born - he is up 15 or 20 pounds. Meanwhile, I gained nearly 100 and have only lost 20 of it. If he thinks he's fat, he must be repulsed by me.

How has your body image changed since high school? College? 

It's interesting, because a lot of people are average weight through school but then gain weight as they find themselves in college and on their own for the first time. My body image stayed fairly consistent through high school, college, and graduate school: I am fat, I am ugly, and I am weak, so there is nothing I can do about it. When I lost a considerable amount of weight, I felt positive on the surface, but soon realized that my physical body, regardless of size, is not my problem. The issues are much deeper, which is part of why it was so easy to regain so much of the weight.

Have you tried dieting? What happened? 

Oh, yes. Everything under the sun, I've tried. Vegetarian, vegan, the Engine 2 Diet, SlimFast shakes, Special K for two meals a day, Lean Cuisines ... actually, my first ever weight loss blog was a lousy little bit of drivel on Livejournal talking about my experience with Alli - if anyone remembers, it was a fad diet pill about ten or so years ago ... if you ate too much fat, the pills would cause you to get horribly stomach sick. I never actually tried them - I was scared. But I was desperate enough to buy them. The diets would work for the week or so that I stayed on them, but then I felt so deprived (and exhausted from not eating enough after the insanely intense workouts I would commit to for that first week), and I'd end up abandoning my attempt.

Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?  

Yes and no. Most of my family is overweight or obese, but I don't know if that's genetics or environment.

Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?

At the moment, no, I am not healthy. I am not at a healthy weight, nor do I conduct myself in a healthy manner. I binge eat when I get stressed or anxious, and I don't exercise with any consistency. Even at my smallest, though, I don't know how healthy I was. Initially I was. But once I moved to California, things changed. The majority of the people I met there were ... awful. The women were catty and degrading - they saw my size and assumed I was inactive (they asked what I could possibly be using my Garmin watch for). Later, after I ran my first half marathon, I discovered that my time had been faster than the women who had questioned my abilities. Still, the damage was done. Like I mentioned before, I compared myself to other people - my workouts were never as long as theirs, I wasn't burning as many calories, my clothes were still bigger. So I worked out excessively, and I binged and purged. My long-term goal is not a size anymore. It's not a number, either in my clothes or on the scale. It's health. It's consistently making healthy habits.

Are your parents both supportive of you at the weight you’re at? Have they always been? 

My dad is supportive of me at any weight, though he definitely encourages living a healthy life. He has a lot of health issues that are related (both directly and indirectly) to weight and inactivity, and he wants to make sure that my sisters and I don't end up with the same problems. My mom, though, is difficult. Not supportive of anything, ever. But that's an entire blog post unto itself.

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people? 

I agree with Rebecca, that making sizes standard would be a great start. Making fashionable clothing in larger sizes would be nice, too - the clothes in larger sizes tend to be rather matronly. Lastly, the pricing needs to be much more reasonable. When I was smaller, I marveled at how cheap adorable dresses were. Now that I am back in plus sizes, though, I avoid buying clothes as much as I can. It's almost prohibitively expensive, especially considering that I do not want to be this size for much longer.

Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men are? How?

Yes, I do. Looking at plus-size men and women in movies and on TV, the representations are almost always very different. Overweight and obese women are bad, gross, lazy. Men, though, are normal. They get the girl. It's much easier for characters to see value beyond the size of a plus-sized man than a woman. That doesn't mean that the biases don't exist for men, just that I think they aren't as pronounced.

Do you think there’s an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?

I think people tend to assume correlations between size and health. Big people are lazy, they don't know how to exercise, they don't ever eat healthy foods. I make a lot of bad food choices these days, but I am still intensely aware of what the right choices are. One of the most insulting things I've ever heard was from a midwife who, without any knowledge of my weight and disordered eating history, blamed my pregnancy weight gain on ignorance about calorie information - her exact word were you probably don't know how many calories are in soda. I hadn't had soda in years at that point.

Do you think there’s ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight? 

I think it depends on the relationship with the person. One of the biggest motivators for me when I lost the weight the first time was a series of emails from my cousin where she expressed her concerns about my health. There was no name calling, no accusations. Just gentle coaxing - saying that I invest so much in my mind, so let's see what we can do about taking care of my body.

She was family. That said, I was part of a Facebook group that shared recipes and experiences with a particular way of eating, and I had to remove myself because it was triggering me. It was insane, the things that people were posting - especially saying things about how they wanted to go up to fat people in restaurants and tell them about this eating plan. I argued against actions like that: you have no idea what someone's health may be just by looking at them, especially not strangers. This person may be 300 pounds, but maybe before he or she was 600 pounds. He or she may eat on-plan for 364 days, this is his or her one off-plan meal for the year. You can't tell that by looking at someone, and I guarantee that going up to people and saying things about what they should or should not be eating is not going to go over so well.

What are the worst things people have said to you about your body? 

The worst things I've heard were barbs from strangers. Things shouted out of windows of cars. Again, people making judgments based on what I look like without knowing anything about my health. I don't remember precisely when, but at some point during my pregnancy (I think between 5 and 6 months), someone shouted something horrible out of a car window and threw a soda bottle at my stomach. I cried for hours.

What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?

I would like to hear compliments based on what I do, rather than what I wear (be it clothes or extra weight).

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

My friends are all diversely sized, but tend to be smaller. Interestingly enough, when I initially lost the weight, many of my friendships changed. I had always been the biggest friend by a wide margin, so I lost a few friends who were uncomfortable with me being smaller than them. I don't consider these dead relationships losses. I have no room in my life for people who are petty or childish.

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?

Yes and no. At my largest, I used sex as a painkiller - I was very casual with my habits, and let myself be used by men who did not care about me. It made me feel powerful - I may not have the small body I covet, but I have this. At my smallest, I was cautious and skeptical. For the first time ever, a man showed interest in me without having met him online. He didn't know my weight history, which was a blessing and a curse. I was so vulnerable, so innocent. And I ended up getting very hurt.

Right now, I weigh about as much as I did when I tried dating during my year of intense weight loss. On the way down, this weight felt great, and I was surprisingly confident. Now, though, I feel unattractive and uncomfortable in my own skin. I feel bad for my husband, sorry that he has to deal with this body of mine. He says he loves me still, that I'm beautiful, that my size doesn't matter. Still, I often find myself making excuses to avoid intimacy because I am so self-conscious.

When you’ve been single, has your weight affected your dating life?

I avoided dating until I felt I had lost enough weight to be tolerable. (Again, a confidence thing.) I tried dating at my largest, and it was just horrible. The guys were terrible, just mean and indecent. I got treated terribly, and I let it happen because I thought it was better than being alone. At my size, it was the best I could get.

Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?

Yes. The guy I was involved with in California was like this. It made me so anxious. I was at my lowest adult weight but still wanted to lose more - so to find out that he preferred bigger girls was stressful. Will he still like me if I lose weight? What is it about me that he likes, my body or my personality? Being smaller brought a whole new realm of stresses.

Do you feel weird if he’s only dated slimmer women before you?

No, but only because I was so big before that it's unlikely that he would have dated women bigger than me.