Archive for November, 2009

My Thanksgiving Post

It seems like everyone is doing one and no, that’s not the only reason I’m doing one.  I mean seriously, did you think I hadn’t been thinking about what I’m thankful for? Puhleeeeze, that would require me not thinking which we all know is impossible.  I nearly didn’t write one of these due to a post I read (sorry I now have no clue where it is, I read it while grading papers, answering questions and probably chewing gum – the gum chewing being the major culprit of taking away my brain power) where the individual posting said something along the lines of “where everyone pretends they haven’t been complaining over the past 12 months.”

So, I read that and went “oh”… I mean, that’s pretty true.  The author later went on to state what she’s thankful for and so all hope is not lost for mankind!  As I threw the words around in my head, I realized though that remembering to be thankful is EXACTLY the point of Thanksgiving.  I mean, it’s the day when you’re supposed to pause and remember to appreciate all the good things you have instead of complaining about all the things wrong with your day to day life.

I have many things to be thankful for and this post wouldn’t do them any justice should I try to label/list them in some sort of ranked order or even just a top ten.  And so, what I’ve decided to do is to mention a few things I’m thankful for in my life which have changed in the past year… Naturally, these will be related to my journey of getting healthier… after all, this is what the blog here is all about.  I’m going to write these as they come to me in my head so, they may be jumbled.

The very first thing which comes to mind is not having to pretend.  Exercising every day has given me stamina I only pretended to have before.  I used to fake it.  I used to say to myself “sure I could climb those 200 stairs, but  no one else I know is going that way and so I won’t.”  I used to tell myself all sorts of things about what I could do.  In reality I found myself realizing while in Mexico (amazing how much time you have to think while on vacation) that I’d pass up many of the excursions because I was afraid I’d have to walk for too long and too far in the heat.  As it was, the one excursion I went on sapped my strength because of the amount of walking we did.  I have more stamina now, thanks to exercise and it feels great.  Some time in September, my husband and I weeded around the house and I remember just tearing through it while he lagged behind… something which never used to happen.  I remember how I used to feel when trying to weed my garden.  Realizing it was now easy… felt really good.  I don’t have to fake it anymore.  I don’t think I can do anything… but I know I don’t have to fake what I can and can’t do.

The next thing which comes to mind i s feeling normal.  In the past month I’ve reached a point where I feel… normal.  I don’t feel as though I’m so overweight and sloppy that I need to hide underneath my clothes anymore.  I’m not flaunting what I don’t have, mind you, but I’m actually interested in looking good again… mainly because I feel good.  Want to know a secret?  The other night I was at a store wandering around and I came upon a bunch of security camera systems set up with TVs and stuff and as I walked by, I caught a glimpse of me.  I didn’t hate the way I looked.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  Hell, I even spun around so I could check out my butt!  I’m not skinny, but I feel good and I think I look good.  I’m thankful to have that feeling back in my life.

The only other obvious thing which comes to mind right now is the knowledge I’ve gained.  For years I wondered why the people around me could eat so much and never seem to gain weight.  For years I thought I was eating ok.  I didn’t think I was going to win any awards, but I didn’t think I was doing so bad either.  Counting calories has given me information about food, things I didn’t know before.  Sure, I’ll always love calorie dense foods, they make them taste so good!  But, I’ve learned a thing or two about the art of moderation and while I still have a long way to go on that, I’ve come so far.  I’ve been eating better for a long time now without feeling as though I’m “on plan” or “dieting”.  It’s just been me, eating what I eat.  I don’t take a day off on weekends… is my eating different on the weekend?  Sure!  Do I go hog wild and forget to keep track of what I’m eating?  Nope.  I feel like I’m in control now whereas before I felt as though I was at the mercy of what I ate because I just didn’t understand what I was doing wrong.

So there you have it.  These are the things I”m thankful for.  I’m only 5 months in to my journey and I realize I have a long way to go before I’m as healthy as I want to be, before I eat as well as I’m hoping I will some day, and before I’m done obsessing about what I eat and how much I exercise.  However, my life has changed, and I hope in an irreversible sort of way… because it’s a good change and I’m incredibly thankful for it.

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Fat Acceptance

I’d never heard of fat acceptance until I started on this particular journey of mine complete with blog and searching through the posts of others for people on a similar journey.  You may notice I now have a few fat acceptance blogs in my links and you may even think this is strange since I’m striving to be a thinner person… and you know something, maybe it would be for a lot of individuals, but it certainly isn’t for me.  Allow me to tell you my thoughts on the subject.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever discussed my goal weight on this blog.  It’s 175 lbs.  I will still be in the category of overweight according to my bmi.  I will still be on the larger side of “normal” clothing sizes.  I will still be considered fat by a large number of the general population.  Why pick 175?  It’s a fairly arbitrary number but it is the number I can remember hovering around for years.  It’s a weight my body seems to enjoy.  It’s the weight I held steady at when I trained for the bike ride through Death Valley and rode an ungodly number of miles on my bike each week.  It’s also a number I feel good at.  I felt sexy and vibrant at that weight.  At 226, I did not feel either of those things.  As the weight has come off, I’ve begun to feel that way again.  My goal weight is the weight at which I feel sexy, I feel confident, I feel good, and the weight at which I’m not fighting with my body.  There are a lot of people who will likely think I’m giving up too soon when I reach that weight, and in all honesty, I have a game plan and if I accidentally lose more weight… well then it will be a nice oops.

With all of the above said, I don’t think it’s really ever been anyone’s business what my weight is (until the blog, obviously, when I made it anyone’s business).  My entire life, I’ve been on the chubby side.  I’ve been made to feel insignificant, ugly, small, ashamed and unworthy because of my weight.  Sure, kids will be kids, but adults have done their fair share of damage as well.  Saying rude, cutting, mean, inconsiderate remarks about a person’s weight is no different than any other kind of harassment where one person ridicules another for who they are.  Making a cutting remark about me being overweight is not any less shameful of an act than making a cutting remark about someone being homosexual.  Of course, society doesn’t see it this way, and that is precisely the problem.  People who spew mean things at the overweight individual make them a less vibrant person, less likely to live their life with meaning, more likely to hide indoors and away from the shame they feel when people judge them.  Not accepting people as they are only leads to people living diminished lives.

I also feel fat acceptance is a timely topic in the United States due to movement in healthcare reform.  There are so many individuals already spewing comments about “I don’t want to pay for some fat person’s healthcare because they can’t stop eating.”  It’s dangerous territory and opening the doors for a lot more harassment.  I cringe to think of the empowerment some people will feel when it comes to using the cost of healthcare as their latest stone to throw.  I also cringe to realize what some individuals find to be a healthy weight.  I wish I could find the photograph/blog now but a while ago I stumbled upon a blog talking about muffin tops.  The writer had posted a photo of a woman with said muffin top.  She likely wasn’t even overweight, her stomach was flat and yet the author was speaking about how gross her muffin top is, stressing that females should try to have as low of a body fat percentage as possible.  All I kept thinking was “What???”  If there are people out there finding fault in that woman’s body… then it will never stop…. and that is what frightens me the most.

We’re All So Smart!

As I continue to learn about my body, food, exercise, nutrition and a whole bunch of other stuff, I’m amazed at how little I knew.  I’m a smart girl who used to be completely food and body stupid.  I’m still not the brightest crayon in the box when it comes to food and body, but I’m learning!!

The thing is… I never thought I ate all that poorly.  I mean, sure I had my days, but all in all I never thought I was eating too much.  I’d look at how much food other people could eat and still remain at a normal weight and I’d wonder why. I just didn’t get it. Of course, 25% of the human population can eat whatever they want and not gain weight.  (Oh boy do I hope you appreciate what you’ve got!)  The rest of us must focus on consuming fewer calories than we burn.

My entire life has been a struggle with weight and while I have always been vaguely aware of calories, I never fully understood how many calories I’d been consuming.  Sure, I can read the labels on the packages, but the main culprits in my weight gain (I’ve found) have been the items which don’t come labeled. I never realized how calorie dense meat is.  I still don’t know the amount of calories in some of my former favorite restaurant meals.  Serving sizes continue to shock me.

The gist of it is… I never thought I really ate all that poorly.

It’s realizations like this which make me angry when I hear someone talk about overweight people the way Ron Reagan was Tuesday night on his show on Air America.  Sure, let’s do something about the obesity epidemic, this would be great.  But when a caller suggestion more education Ron basically said “Why do we want to put people into rooms and TALK about fitness?  How about we just get them moving and exercising?”

Sure Ron, that’s the way to do it.  How about you just chain us all up in a line and then whip us until we run our fat asses into shape.  That’ll fix us fatties!

This is such a common line of thinking by so many and I can’t help but wonder if these people are the same ones who were raised in homes where good food, minding what you eat and exercise were taught to them.  These are the people who assume EVERYONE gets such an education.  These are the people who have never really been out of shape, who don’t know what it’s like to detest vegetables because you weren’t exposed to them until you turned 25 and realized your obesity is threatening your health.

Of course, this doesn’t even begin to touch on those of us out there who are physically active and yet are still overweight/obese.  I once trained for a JDRF fundraising bike ride.  I rode 100 miles through Death Valley, I trained for months.  Even at the height of my training, even on the day of my ride… my weight wasn’t healthy. Does that mean I’d just be chained up and forced to run longer? Gosh… wouldn’t that be unlucky for me!

My point here is this: We cannot assume everyone receives the same education on health, nutrition, calories, exercise and how to maintain fitness.  Those of you who feel it’s common sense probably were taught it at home, where gosh, it wouldn’t have been a sit down lesson.  Not everyone gets such a thing.  And, even if we give obese people a better education on food, it’s not even touching on the addiction side of the problem, the coping side of the problem or the problem of someone being so overweight exercise is brutal and humiliating.

The problem of childhood obesity may have grown due to an increase in video games and a decrease in playing outside, but the problem in adults is much deeper.   Suggesting we just all go outside and get moving isn’t going to fix anything.

Frustration

Yes, it’s that time again… weigh-in day.  At this point I’ve had one weigh-in which hasn’t been botched at Curves.   For those of you keeping track, that’s one in five.  I don’t want to blame this on Curves in general but more specifically the management of the Curves I attend.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.  Two months ago I had 6.5 inches to lose in order to hit the two foot mark.  It’s been very motivating.  Since then I’ve lost 15.5 lbs and…… 4 inches.  I’ve dropped a clothing size, but apparently no inches in the process.  In fact, despite my 7.5 lb loss last month, I’ve apparently gained inches.  Yep, that’s right.

So what gives?  I mean, seriously.  How hard is it to train people to measure properly?  The girl yesterday is very new.  I met her when she first joined Curves and she only began working 2 weeks ago.  She could barely run the scale.  I had to move the big weight into the groove for her.  She has absolutely no idea how it works and when it came time for the final number, I did the math for her because she didn’t understand to add the two numbers together.  I am dead serious.

That being said, I shouldn’t be surprised when her measurements are off, should I?  Or, were her measurements on and the previous woman’s measurements off?  Naturally I did not get a print out, not because I didn’t want one but because she doesn’t know how to do one.  If she can’t provide all of the services I pay Curves for, then why is she working by herself?  If I can’t rely upon Curves to accurately weigh and measure me every month, then why am I paying them for this service?

I’m very irritated but I know a complaint to Ms. Size Zero will not prove to be fruitful.  These things are the way they are because she doesn’t care and would be surprised I’m so upset by it.  In fact, I can see her reaction in my head and she’ll be thinking I’m overreacting which will only piss me off all the more.  It’s just so frustrating.

Like an Old Navy Ad Campaign

Last night I ran to Old Navy to purchase a new pair of black pants as my current ones literally fell off me yesterday.  They’d been large from the start and at this point I just look sloppy in them.  As I walked in to the door of the store from my car, I realized I have very few clothes which aren’t from Old Navy.  Why?  Well they have plus-sized clothing of course and at prices which don’t make me cringe when a student spills some dye on me in the lab.  So I got to thinking… everything of mine is Old Navy.  My coat, the sweatshirt I throw on all the time, all of my pants, 90% of my shirts.  I’m literally a walking advertisement for Old Navy every day of my life.  There is another reason for this…

As I became larger and larger, I shopped less and less.  I eventually stopped shopping for clothing in stores altogether, especially once Old Navy went to having their plus sized clothing online only.  For one thing, it saved me those horrible moments in dressing rooms when the fat seems to be bulging out of every available space and the same size I’d worn for a year is now too small.  For another thing, I already knew how Old Navy clothing fit me… no need to worry about having to send things back.

Right now I”m beginning to feel overwhelmed.  I’ve begun the process of needing to shop in person so I can try things on.  This puts me back out in public where, surprisingly I feel pretty confident these days.  Trying things on is kind of fun, also.  However, I’m still hovering inside of Old Navy, reluctant to leave it’s familiar walls and feelings of safety.  The idea of being able to shop in the mall once again is frightening.  There are so many choices.  There are so many places to shop.  It’s a good overwhelming, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I’m so not used to it.  Plus sized women have few places to shop.  My choices were essentially made for me.  Now that I’m able to shop in so many places, I realize I’m going to go through something of a clothing revolution.  Maybe I’ll start dressing trendy.  Maybe I’ll find I have a style all my own.  Maybe I’ll stop wearing things which are plain, dull and nondescript.

It’s an odd sensation because I realize I’m very likely reinventing myself and doing that is not my original intention.  It’s scary because I realize how badly I do need to reinvent and “find” myself.  It’s exhilarating  because I finally feel as though I’m getting somewhere.  WooHoo!

Facing My Reflection

One of the most challenging things about losing weight, for me, is my body image.  I’ve been overweight most of my life and literally all of my adult life.  Even when I’ve been what I would consider thin for me, I’ve been in the overweight category.  I distinctly remember photographs taken prior to the ugly picture taken in Cancun (you can view it in my progress pics page) which made me want to cry.  No, it wasn’t just about my weight, it was also about my perception of myself as ugly also.

I could get into a long monologue here about feeling happy, looking happy and being happy but I’ll save it for another day.  My issue today is simply this:  I feel fantastic.  As the weight comes off and I fit into smaller clothes which make me feel… dare I say it… attractive again, I’ve noticed a bit more spring in my step, a more confident smile on my face and perhaps even a bit more attitude in the clothing I pick out.  You see, for me (and certainly not for everyone), being smaller makes me feel more confident.

This feel good attitude is sometimes squashed when I see a picture of myself (there are more now than before) next to someone else.  Or, when I hear of what size someone wears.  Suddenly I see I am still quite large.  It’s not always the worst thing in the world.  I mean, I look better than I have in a very long time and possibly better than I have ever before simply because I”m working out, I eat healthier, feel healthier and definitely look healthier.  However, it’s sometimes a shock to the system to feel so great and then realize you don’t look quite as great as you feel.  Now trust me, I don’t let this get me down.  I had days where I felt great when I was 226 lbs, many of them in fact.

It’s just hard to realize that, while I see a thinner, healthier me…. others who don’t know me still just see someone who is overweight.

Not everyone judges me and surely fewer people judge me by my weight now than they did 30 lbs ago.  It’s just hard to remember that not everyone thinks I look fantastic.  And sometimes…. sometimes I am one of those people who thinks I don’t look fantastic.  Sometimes I still feel like the 226 lb girl.  Sometimes the clothes don’t fit properly.  Sometimes the weight doesn’t seem to be coming off quickly enough.  Sometimes I worry I’m not really making much of a dent in the excess fat I’ve got going on.  Actually, a lot of the time I don’t see much of a difference at all.  They always say the people who see you every day will notice less because the change is gradual for them.  Well heck, I look at myself in the mirror every day and I don’t see much of a difference most days.

Sometimes though… sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  It’s usually when I’m busy doing something else and my mind isn’t focused on how do I look? Sometimes, when I catch myself from the side in the mirror my mind goes OMG!  I love those moments.   And here’s the really geeky bit.  I have those moments when I walk towards a glass door.  Every week I go to the chiropractor and, when I weighed 226 lbs I used to hate my reflection in the glass.  My hips seemed to jut out at least a foot from my knees and I just hated how hip-heavy I was.  My outfit never seemed to fit properly and I always looked…. puffy.  Lately though I’ve been noticing something… My hips don’t seem nearly as colossal anymore.   Dare I say they almost look proportional?  And while my clothes still fit poorly, it’s now because they’re too large and I just haven’t bought anything new lately.

The people inside the office might wonder why I begin walking up the sidewalk and suddenly grin from ear to ear but I don’t care.  I’m seeing myself for who I am and right now, that person is a lot better off than she was in June.

Small Victories Bring Big Hope

If you’re even a semi-regular reader by now you probably realize I’m a chronic thinker.  I think too much.  This isn’t always a  bad thing and it isn’t always a good thing either.  It just is what it is.  So it should come as no surprise when I tell you I think about the future of my eating a lot.  Things have improved a lot since I started in June.  Back then food was an all consuming thing.  I was constantly hungry and still relied on crap like 100 calorie snack packs and protein bars to get me through my day. (I’m not saying protein bars are evil or bad but mid-October I tried to eat one for breakfast on the go and apparently the ones I used to love so much now taste like cardboard and fake sugar to me.)  As I grew accustomed to eating less and working out, I delved into healthier foods, figured out how to space out my calories so I didn’t feel deprived and even learned how to eat on the weekends vs. at work.  Not too shabby, eh?  As time went on I realized my “day off” or my “treat day” did more harm than good.  It kept me in a mentality focusing on my way of eating as abnormal, or not what I wanted to do… so I cut that out also and the change then became dramatic.  I no longer felt deprived or as if I were dieting.  This is the way I eat.  Yes, I eat ice cream and yes I still splurge but I do so by counting my calories, banking them, saving them or just timing the treat so that’s what I eat for lunch.  The healthiest plan in the world?  Likely not, but far healthier than where I used to be and any improvement is good, yes?

All of these things are good.  Heck, they’re great.  Looking back at June now I can’t believe how far I’ve come with my eating.  When I look to the future though, I want what I think anyone in my position would want:  I want to return to a time when I didn’t count calories or plan my meals obsessively.  I want it to be simple again one day… and I want that without gaining the weight back.  I’m never sure if it’s possible.  I mean, there is obviously going to have to be some sort of monitoring going on and my notion of not having to “be obsessive” isn’t exactly well articulated.  It’s a vague notion, but a strong feeling.

So yesterday we had a pot luck at work.  It’s the kind of event I love because I get to show off my awesome recipes which everyone raves about.  Each year I struggle with what to bring, determined to bring the BEST item, the one everyone wants the recipe to.  This year I approached it a bit differently.  I made vegetarian corn chowder and some incredibly low calorie brownies, determined not to be swayed by the other desserts there with calorie counts unknown and likely underestimated by myself.  So I went to the pot luck, a place full of unknown calories and ate lunch.  I didn’t go overboard, but I did eat more than I normally would at lunch and so I worried about dinner for a bit… not for long since the afternoon became incredibly busy and hectic.  Soon 6pm rolled around and I wandered back over to the food…. and realized I wasn’t very hungry.  Big lunch?  No problem.  Big lunch = small dinner.  I had a few nibbles here and there as a small snack and called it quits.  The desserts which tried calling my name weren’t appetizing.  The crackers and cheese and sausage looked old and stale.  The fat laden mac and cheese looked too heavy.  I ate some veggies because they were the only things which remotely appealed to me.

As I went back to my classroom I couldn’t help feeling hopeful.  Being mindful of not overdoing it may one day be enough.  Being aware that every meal isn’t an excuse to stuff myself to the point of oblivion, might one day be enough.  Being aware of the calorie counts of general categories of things may one day be enough.  One day I may eat well automatically.  Until then, I’ll continue to learn.