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?