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.