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Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Naptui, and Me February 5, 2014

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI, Genius.
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8 comments

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve no doubt heard that a few days ago, another celebrity lost his battle with addiction. Philip Seymour Hoffman was only 46 years old. A year older than me. He was found with a heroin needle still in his arm.

Today, I read a blog post in response to his death written by a recovering addict. By the end of it, I was in tears. Not just because of how beautifully written it is, but how big the problem is. It’s a very frank, very simply put view of what addiction really is. How it works. And why people like Hoffman, who had the world by the balls, succumb to it.

I urge you to read it now, especially if you don’t deal with the demons of addiction. It gives a new, painful perspective on things from someone who lives daily with those demons. If you are an addict, I urge you to read it now, too. As the friend of mine who posted it said, “It reminds me not to be complacent in my choice of sobriety.”

Addiction, Mental Health, and a Society That Fails to Understand Either by Debie Hive

The part that struck me is where she says this:

The only way to really deal with addiction is one that is multi-faceted, one that makes us uncomfortable. It is messy and complicated and takes a lifetime of effort. It involves relapses and second chances and third chances. It involves support, sometimes sponsors. It involves therapy and counseling until whatever the root cause is has been revealed and addressed. It involves consideration of not just the physical withdrawal, but the emotional withdrawal, the social withdrawal, the psychological withdrawal. It involves a mental health system with adequate resources. It requires support instead of judgement.

And sometimes, even when all those things exist, it fails. It fails because addiction can take people and swallow them whole. It can rob them of everything they value, everyone they love. It can strip them of everything they care about, rob them of reason and logic. It can convince them that they aren’t worthy, that they have failed not just themselves, but everyone else. It tells them that they are broken and irreparable. Then it shoves them back down and does it again.

As I read that post, and found myself tearing up at her words, I realized I wasn’t thinking about Hoffman, or drugs at all. But I understood completely what the demons are that she talks about. About having forces and compulsions inside you that rob you of reason and logic, that shove you down and swallow you whole.

I get that. I live with that, too. I would not DREAM of putting a needle in my arm because drugs aren’t my bag.

Food is. And it’s a long, painful, goddamn slow way of killing yourself.

Like addicts, fat people get looked at with pity. Scorn. Anger. Frustration. We are called weak. Losers. A waste.

We are fat for the same reasons addicts are high and alcoholics are drunk. We use food the same way they use drugs and booze. We eat instead of shooting up. We binge on donuts, not booze.

And I wonder if any other people like me who have had a lifelong battle with weight see the same parallels.

I think the reason this blog post resonated so loudly with me, even though I don’t deal with a drug or alcohol addiction is that a month or so ago, I saw part of a show on TLC called “My 600-Pound Life.” And the episode I saw followed a man on Guam named Ricky Naptui, who at his heaviest topped out at nearly 900 pounds.

900-Pound Man: The Race Against Time

Maybe it’s because I’ve been wrestling my own demons so hard over the past year that I was able to watch this show and see it from the point of view that I did. I didn’t look at Ricky with disgust. Or even pity, really. I did get mad at his doctors. What Ricky thought he wanted and needed was weight loss surgery that would make him lose weight. The problem with that is that in order to do the surgery, he had to lose hundreds of pounds, first.

If you eat yourself up to 900 pounds, it’s not like dropping a couple hundred is going to be a walk in the park. The doctors were approaching it from a purely physical and surgical standpoint. If you eat less, you will lose weight. If you lose weight, we will do a life-threatening procedure that has more complications than benefits to help you lose weight. Convoluted thinking at best.

NOT ONE PERSON ASKED RICKY WHY HE EATS.

Maybe they just assumed it was because he was a pig.

I’m sure it’s what they assume about me.

Doctor speak for "Bitch, you fat."

Doctor speak for “Bitch, you fat.”

I use the present tense because I’m fully aware that at 226 pounds, I’m still obese. People who don’t know how far I’ve come see a fat woman, and that’s not an unkind assessment or self-deprecation. I still have at least 80 pounds to lose. That’s pretty fat, any way you slice it. I am fully aware that people look at me and have the thought cross through their mind that I should put my fork down and step away from the table once in awhile. Jesus, have some self-control.

They’re the same people, no doubt, who look at Philip Seymour Hoffman and say, “Jesus. Just don’t use drugs. How fucking hard is that?”

Fuck Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

So I watched as Ricky’s doctors expressed concern with what he eats, and how much. He needs to eat good food. He needs to eat less food. He needs to get him to the point where he can at least stand up unaided, which he could not do. They couldn’t get an accurate weight because he could not stand unsupported.

And the whole time they were telling him that he needs to lose at least 150 pounds on his own before they can consider surgery, I could see the frustration and desperation building in Ricky. He kept trying to find the words to tell them, “If I could lose that weight on my own, I wouldn’t need you. I wouldn’t be stuck in this bed. I can’t stop eating, and I don’t know why.”

But they talked over him. They cut him off. They were so concerned with pointing out the path he was going to have to follow that not one person took the time to listen to why that path seemed utterly impossible for him to even attempt.

And I wanted to reach into that TV and hold his hand and ask him why he eats. And listen to him. Because I know that helpless feeling. I know feeling scared.  I know all about not understanding why you can’t seem to eat like normal people. And I know the pain of knowing how people look at you. The pity, the scorn, the disgust, the sadness. It’s demoralizing. And I know he just wanted someone to help, and the best way anyone could do that was by listening.

Only no one did.

Ricky died at the age of 36, and the cause of death listed was “morbid obesity.”

I didn’t immediately look at Philip Seymour Hoffman and think “There but by the grace of God go I.” But I looked at Ricky and I did. Ricky needed an angel. Someone to listen to him, to help him sort out his feelings. He needed someone to talk about food with him, and help him figure out what part it plays in his life and how he could work to change that.

But all they wanted to do was push him into a diet. They wanted to cut him up and hope for the best.

What Ricky needed was help with his addiction. He needed help with his demons. But as Ms. Hive pointed out in her blog post, our mental help resources are lacking. We want to be able to cure addiction with rehab or prison, and when those things don’t work, we are left with waiting for death to take them. In the same way, obesity isn’t solved with dieting or gym memberships or obsessively counting calories. It’s certainly not solved with surgery.

It’s solved with change, and that change happens inside your mind as much as inside your body. And it’s hard, and not everyone can do it alone. Hell, maybe no one can do it alone. I’m not doing it alone. I have an amazing support system who should get gold medals for getting me through this.

I have a best friend who listens to me without judging and only reminds me of the things I already know to be true. He offers me the reason and logic that my demons try to take away, putting back the bits that break apart from time to time when the battle leaves me damaged.

I have a husband who knows that he is the one person who can make me feel beautiful in this world at a time where my self-esteem is at an all-time low. He supports my efforts and puts up with me when the battle gets to be too much. He is my safe, soft place to fall.

I have a sister who knows what it feels like to have never been an athlete in her whole life, but has done the work to become one. She tells me that I am an athlete, too, reminds me that my daily workouts are training, and keeps me reined in when I get too far ahead of myself, and holds me up when I fear I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

My support system grounds me and keeps me tethered to sanity. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that my sanity, my own sobriety, is tenuous at best. I have people to talk to. I have people who support me.

Ricky didn’t have that. His wife didn’t know what to do to help him. Hive says in her post, “Until you’ve had to tease out where the line between believing in someone and enabling them is, you can’t know what it is like.” She wanted him to be happy, but the only thing that made him happy was the thing that was killing him.

People who turn to food for comfort, for happiness, for friendship–we have a lot in common with addicts. We want to feel better, if only for a little while. Food helps us cope. And sometimes, the food just calls to us and we can’t stop eating, even when we want to. We hate ourselves for bingeing for no reason at all. We hate that we just can’t stop.

We hate ourselves for it.

We hate ourselves.

Much like drug and alcohol addiction, people with food issues habitually need more help than what we get. We don’t really need another diet plan. We don’t need another 7-minute workout. We don’t need another app for our phone. We certainly don’t need surgery, and we don’t need a magic pill that makes the fat go away.

We need someone to listen. We need someone to talk to us. To talk with us, not to us. We need professionals, from doctors, psychologists, therapists, and nutritionists who understand that the problem with our fat is not in our bodies, but in our heads, and if we work on sorting through our issues and get guidance with battling our demons, we can and will find a way to lose our weight.

And even if we get that help, there are no guarantees. Addicts relapse. Hoffman had been clean for 23 years before he relapsed. He was considered a sort of guru in AA because he helped so many other people. You can’t cure addiction. The fight never ends.

I know as well that this battle of mine will never be over. I fear relapse. I know people are watching me and seeing my progress and many don’t know what it takes for me to do this. If I fail, if I put weight back on, they won’t understand why. Some will. Or maybe some will just shrug and say “What a waste.”

There is hope. There are addicts who make it. There are people like me, and even heavier, who make it. I don’t believe I’m doomed to failure, but I know the odds are not in my favor.

It’s my hope that this fight gets easier at some point, but I kind of doubt it ever will. I’m not expecting it, or counting on it. I suspect it’s more likely that it will be as it has been for the past year: some hard stretches, and some easy stretches. Sometimes the demons will beat the shit out of me, but I’ll get back up, bruised, but stronger for the fight.

That thought is exhausting, to be honest, and after 23 years of it, I can see why a talented actor who had everything to live for put a needle in his arm.

He was tired. He was bruised. He was battered. He just wanted the demons to leave him alone, just for a little while.

Ricky never had a chance against his demons, because “the system”–whatever that is–failed him. Food was all he had, and in the end, it killed him.

There, but by the grace of God, go I.

The Nuts and Bolts, I Guess November 19, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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1 comment so far

Remember when I said last time that I didn’t want to discuss the nuts and bolts because it didn’t seem important? Welp, I guess it kind of is important after all. Who knew? The only thing I can tell you about a lot of this that I know for sure is that this is what works for me, as far as dieting and exercise goes. No one knows my body better than me, and no one knows your body better than you. If I know you well enough, I can make suggestions based on what I know of you and what results you’ve had so far, but I’m not a doctor, or a nutritionist, or a dietician, or a trainer, or qualified at all in any way. I read a lot about nutrition and I follow my doctor’s suggestions, but other than that, I’ve been feeling my way along and going on personal experience.

In response to my post about excuses, my friend Jessica asked, “What if the excuse “I forget” isn’t really an excuse, but because I actually legit forget? I hardly eat during the day, because I run around chasing the kids, and I make them food, but always forget to make something for myself. I have tried a million of those food logs on my phone, but I forget to do those as well. Is there something you did to help yourself remember easier? Is writing it down VS phone logging easier? Different? What exactly did you write down? Okay, so that was a lot of questions, sorry.”

Don’t be sorry; they’re good questions! I’m glad the shit I write spawns questions, actually. The difference between “I forget” being an excuse or a reason is how true it is. If you say, “Oh, I didn’t journal that piece of cake because I forgot,” but you did remember, you just postponed writing it down so that it did kind of slip your mind, that’s not really true. If you are supposed to send a picture of your journal to your sponsor and you are ashamed of how bad it looks so you say you forgot, that’s not true. Those are excuses. If you are forgetful, that’s another issue altogether. That’s an obstacle, and how you get past it is what determines success or failure.

Journaling my food is a habit I’ve cultivated. I have a small notebook I keep on my desk…

See?

See?

…that cost me all of two-fiddy at Joanns. It’s convenient for me in that spot since this is where I work, so I’m always returning here eventually. I also occasionally track my calories on My Fitness Pal just for funsies. I’m not a computer-y, gadgety, app-tastic sort of person to begin with, so using that all the time isn’t the best for me. Plus, with journaling by hand, I have to sit down and write. When I’m struggling with overeating, I write before I eat. A lot of times just seeing it written out will make me tweak my menu and strip some points out of it, or keep me from eating some crap I know I shouldn’t. Even if I write after I eat, it slows me down. If I’ve bolted down a meal, sitting and writing brings me back into mindfulness of that. It makes my brain register that yes, I have consumed a full meal, and to not try to tell myself otherwise just because I ate it so fast I barely remember it.

At the end of the day, my food journal is a tool that I use to track what I eat so that I don’t overeat, which I do when I eat mindlessly. This keeps me mindful. As for how I do it…I just write down what I ate and its points values. (I use the old system because I’m too cheap and lazy to learn the new way. That’s why my points values may look wonky if you’re using the most current WW incarnation. Old tools.)

Sample page of my journal. Exciting, no?

Sample page of my journal. Exciting, no?

To me, however, there was more to Jessica’s question than meets the eye, and I realize this puts her on the spot, but I think her question is a really good example of the kind of lifestyle changes that the dieting experts are always talking about. Jessica knows she needs to keep a food diary and that’s the lifestyle change she wants to make. But I think the real question is not “how can I remember?” but more “How can I change my lifestyle so that my needs become important?” She talks about being so busy running kids around and feeding them that she doesn’t find time to eat, or journal, or I’m guessing finding much time to do anything for herself. She’s less important than everyone else.  “I forget” is a symptom of something bigger in this case.

So if I was put on the spot to hand out free, non-professional advice, the first lifestyle change I’d make is prioritizing “me time”. And that means meals. And it probably means rearranging the way you do things so that you can carve out that time. Feeding yourself should be, I argue, as important as feeding them. Make yourself a priority. Don’t lose yourself in them. You matter as much as they do, and deserve at least equal time. If that’s not happening, your schedule, your routine, your whole way of thinking about what role you have in their lives may have to change. I’d suggest making yourself something to eat when the rest of the family eats and have a family meal together, and then either before or after you eat, writing it down in some way. If you’re more app-driven, punch it up on your phone. Or set a reminder on your phone that sounds at the same time every day or some shit. If you need to slow down or you’re just kickin’ it old skool like me, get a cheapass journal and write that shit down.

I think complicated situations like this is why making excuses is SO much more tempting and attractive than looking deeper into what’s really going on. When you realize that making this small change might mean making major changes…well, fuck that noise. Now it’s too big. Now it’s REALLY too hard. Jesus. Changing your whole schedule and way of doing things, messing with family routines that are firmly ingrained? That’s a fucking HUGE challenge.

Now, here comes the “but.”

“I can’t change that” is different from “I don’t want to change that.” Trust me, it’s been a constant uphill battle for me, too. But hearing myself say “I don’t want to” a lot of the time will make me do it anyway. I don’t like how it sounds. “I don’t want to” puts the power back in your hands, where “I can’t” gives that power away. It’s crucial to know the difference.

I’ve come to understand that when the real experts talk about “lifestyle changes” they don’t mean just changing what you eat or taking a walk. That’s not enough. You have to create a life that makes good health possible. You have to stop doing the things that lead to unhealthy behaviors. And that is what is so FUCKING HARD. Jessica’s obstacles aren’t mine…I have my own well-documented struggles, and major (and a lot of minor) changes that I’ve had to make to my life. We don’t live the same life, so our paths will be different, but the need to really look deeply inside what holds us back and stands in our way is the same across the board for everyone who struggles.

As for the how I’ve lost the weight, the nuts and bolts are pretty simple.

I eat controlled amounts of good food. Lots of produce and lean protein, good fats, complex carbs, and I avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and simple carbs. And I keep careful track of it.

I work out six days a week. I give myself one day off to rest, but it’s not for my body, but rather for the part of me that gets tired of figuring out when I’m going to go and is sick of living in running tights. I do a little cardio, some resistance training, and a fuckton of crunches. I don’t go crazy. My workouts are usually around 45 minutes to an hour, I guess.

I drink about 9 cups of water a day, after my morning coffee is done. I don’t like it, but it flushes toxins and keeps me hydrated.

Other than that, I don’t know what else to tell you about what I do. Like I said in other blog posts, the most work I do is the mental work that lets the physical, tangible changes happen. It’s taken a year so far to sort stuff out, and it’s an ongoing process. It’s being honest with myself about what gets in my way and keeps me from where I want to be, sorting the lies I tell myself from the truth. When you get to the truth of what’s standing in your way, that’s when you can change those things. It smooths the way for the diet and the exercise to happen.

You know that saying, “Inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out”? And the joking response, “Yeah, that’s because I ate her”? It’s not far from the truth. I think there really is a thin person inside me trying to get out of this fat suit. And I know at least in my case that I’ve always wanted my body to change without having to change who I am fundamentally, and I see now that it was never going to happen that way. And it never did. I can’t keep being the Old Me and turn into some fantastic new thin, fit, healthy person as if by magic. I can’t wish myself thin and keep eating the way I used to. Scratch that. I can’t wish myself thin and keep LIVING the way I used to. It does take work. It does mean making some big changes. And it does mean having to look inside yourself and get to understand why you do things the way you do. When you understand that, and you embrace the idea that the changes have to happen, things will change.

IT’S FUCKING RIDICULOUSLY HARD SOME DAYS. STILL. But not every day. It does get easier and more natural for pretty long stretches. And I think–no, I believe–that EVERY SINGLE FAT PERSON (no matter if it’s 20 pesky pounds or a demoralizing 200 like me) has the same capability that I do. When you stop saying “I can’t” and making excuses for why you act the way you do, that’s when you’ll find the something that works. But it won’t be a magic diet, it’ll be your own ability that makes it work. There’s no secret formula they can put into a pill that will get you up off the couch and out for what is the first of many walks around the block. That comes from inside you, where the thin person is biding his or her time.

The nuts and bolts will get you there. The mechanics of dieting are important, more to some than others. Shop around a bit. Try stuff out. See how your body responds. Pay attention to it. But all along the way, getting your head in a place where you can actually change your life right to the core is the foundation for making those changes work in a way that will render them permanent.

I kind of wish I had an easier answer. Actually, if we’re being honest, I wish the whole thing was easier. I swear to Jesus if they ever come up with a pill that makes you stop being fat, I’m on that like fucking white on rice, man.

Until then, I guess I’ll just keep trying to be a better me.  It’s all I got.

No Excuses November 18, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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7 comments

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the day I dusted off my food journal, opened to a blank page, and began tracking my food intake. I didn’t know how much I weighed, and at that point I didn’t want to know. I really didn’t want to diet, and I was only keeping the journal and tracking my Weight Watchers points in a show of solidarity with a friend who was finding the nuts and bolts of dieting difficult. I couldn’t say, “Just do it, it’s easy,” and not do it myself because it was too hard, so I started writing again.

A year later, I’m still writing. In fact, I finished that first journal, filled a second one, and have just started a third.

The outward changes are very noticeable. I hit a point where it seems like all at once, people have just noticed. And lately, even though I’m not losing quite as fast anymore, the changes that do happen are more obvious. Back in my WW days, I remember someone posting in the 200+ to lose forum that it’s kind of like a roll of paper towels, or toilet paper. I forget which. When the roll is full and you pull off a few sheets, you don’t really notice the roll getting smaller. But when you pull a few sheets off a roll that’s nearly empty, it is very obvious. So it is with fat. The less there is, the more it shows when it disappears.

And because it’s so obvious, I get a lot of compliments, comments, and questions. I’m never offended, or at least I have yet to be offended. I understand that people are curious. It’s not every day you see someone who has lost over 100 pounds, and if you’re someone who struggles with weight, I know you want to know how I did it.

I thought of making this blog post about how I’ve lost the weight, but even as I started typing, I knew the nuts and bolts of dieting weren’t important. Honestly, you want to lose weight, pick a diet plan you like. If you eat less calories than you expend, you will lose weight. It’s math: calories in, calories out. Drink water, get some exercise. It’s not hard.

But  it is.

The nuts and bolts of losing weight are as easy or as complicated as you want them to be. And if you’re reading this and you’re someone who has always had trouble losing weight, the thing you can’t figure out is why no diet ever works. You’ve tried them all, and they always work at first and then they stop working. Clearly, I’ve found a magic key, some diet that finally makes the weight come off.

In a way, I suppose I have. When I look back over the past year, where I started and how I got here, I realize I found the key on that first day.

I said, “Just write down what you eat. Keep track of it. It’s not that hard.” But I wasn’t doing it. I knew it was easy to do, but I still couldn’t do it, and at one point I had to ask myself why I wasn’t writing down what I ate. Here are a few answers:

“I forget.”

“I can’t carry a journal with me everywhere I go. That’s stupid.”

“I’ll start tomorrow.”

“I’ll start Monday, I have a birthday party on Saturday.”

And on and on. But none of them were true, really. I didn’t write down what I ate because I didn’t want to see it in print. If I wrote before I ate, then I didn’t have permission to eat whatever I wanted, in whatever amount I wanted. And if I went over too early, there was no point in continuing to write for that day because there was no coming back from it.

I made excuses for the real reasons I wasn’t writing. I did the same thing with making healthier food choices, especially at first. I know that while on paper I should be able to eat all my daily points in junk food, if I do that, I won’t lose weight. But I still talked myself into junk anyway.

“I don’t want to live a life that chocolate is not a part of.”

“It’s all I had in the house. I had to eat it.”

“It doesn’t count if you eat it in one bite, or if you steal it off someone else’s plate.”

“It’s low-fat/low-cal/no-cal/fat free so I can have more of it.”

“I can’t live on vegetables and protein. I’ll starve.”

None of those things were true, really. I chose shit food because I LOVE shit food. And for some reason, the worse it is for me, the more I like it. I like convenience food because it’s so much easier than meal planning and cooking. It was easier to eat something shitty out of the freezer than go out in the cold and pick up something healthier. Bites, licks, and tastes…they count. And they add up, too. I liked to volume eat, and I still do. Nothing feels better to me than sitting down and packing food in. I don’t know why, but even if it’s low-everything, it’s not a good thing to do. And I don’t much like vegetables, and protein is boring, and OMG I NEED SOME BREAD LIKE NOW.

I made excuses for the real reasons why I ate shit food in the amounts that I did. I did the same thing with exercise, especially at first. I knew moving more and burning more calories was not only good for me, but it would allow me to eat more food.

“I can’t afford a gym membership.”

“I need to get into better shape before I go to the gym.”

“I can’t workout at home because I have nowhere to do it.”

“I don’t have any gym clothes that fit.”

“My knees can’t take it.”

None of those things were true, really. Planet Fitness is only $10 a month. I spend more than that on coffee. I was afraid of being too fat and having everyone in the gym laughing at me as I walked wicked slow and still got red and sweaty and my blubber shook and rippled with every step. I have exercise videos, I just hate doing them. I hate exercising. I hate “going for a walk.” And I have things I can work out in, I just feel stupid in them, like I’m pretending to be athletic or some shit. My knees sure weren’t going to feel any better if I kept getting fatter, and moving them around will make them stronger in the long run.

I made excuses for all the real reasons I didn’t want to exercise.

The common denominator in all of this is the reason why I got up to 360 pounds, and it’s how I’ve lost over 110 of those pounds in a year. It all comes down to excuses.

If you’re seriously overweight, or if you’ve dieted and failed all your life, or if you “can’t seem to shed those extra 50 pounds no matter what you do”, I bet the reason behind it is that you make excuses.

I’ve thought a long time about the difference between reason and excuse, and I know that coming to grips with how I relate to food and my own rationalizations for my behavior has made all the difference this time around. I have no idea why it took me this long to figure out, or how I finally unraveled it, but talking to other people who want to lose weight, who try and struggle so mightily, I found I was hearing excuses, not real reasons.

Excuses are lies. They’re the lies we tell ourselves so that we feel better about our choices. We need to feel good about our choices so that we can look at ourselves in the mirror every day. When you drop the excuses and look at the honest reason why you can’t bring yourself to do something, that’s not usually a great feeling.

The hard part of making healthy lifestyle changes is facing up to who you are, why you eat, and why you’ve always failed. The truth is that diets don’t fail: people do. And we fail over and over because it is hard to stop making excuses.

The problem with the excuses and why they are so damaging is that they never force you to take a hard look at the real reason you behave the way you do. It’s realizing that the truths you find out are sometimes pretty ugly, and then having to actually deal with those truths so you can really make the changes you need to that is so goddamned hard.

The day I embraced the fact that there was a difference between a reason and an excuse was the day I started changing. If I sat here feeling like I didn’t want to go to the gym, my first thoughts always went to excuses. But it’s being able to look past that and ask myself “Why am I really still sitting here?” The answer is always, “I’m just being lazy.” I can make one lame excuse even stronger by tacking on extra excuses, but when I look at the real reason, it’s a lot harder to justify sitting here. No one likes to be told that they’re lazy, but sometimes that’s the truth.

I couldn’t get started if I hadn’t rejected my excuses right off the bat. I had to let go of the excuses about dieting and me, and admit that I didn’t want to even attempt losing weight again because I was afraid to fail again. I have no success to build on, no history of keeping weight off to show myself that I could actually do it. It was just so much work, so much deprivation, so much obsession over every calorie and every minute in the gym…it was just so much. Too much.

Admitting that I had failed, not the diets, was hard. Admitting to myself that I was scared of failing again was hard. But once I admitted it and the truth was out there, I could begin to work with that feeling. I addressed my own fears and I talked about them honestly and frankly. I gained perspective on the things that held me back and caused me to fail in the past. By unraveling those issues, I’ve made progress. 

Some of the truths about myself have been hard to face. I am lazy. And I love to eat. I look at food as a celebration, and I do love to eat past the point of being comfortably full. I miss my favorite foods so much some days I want to cry. I don’t have them because food is fuel, and when I remind myself of that, it’s easy to make the healthy choice, but that feeling of sadness and mourning the old lifestyle I gave up in favor of this new one hasn’t gone away. But at least I see it for what it is, now. The excuse “I can’t live without pizza” is a lie. I can. But living without it makes me terribly sad sometimes. However, acknowledging that sadness and dealing with it in a healthy way has allowed me to move on.

When I dropped the excuses, it felt like I shattered into pieces. All the truths about myself, who I am, my strengths and my weaknesses, all my issues sort of came crashing in. It made me feel shitty about myself, and I suspect that every time in the past when I’d felt the pieces begin to slip, I’d drown myself in the nuts and bolts. Focusing on every calorie, every step, counting everything that could be counted, doing the math, figuring out how to tweak things for maximum loss, throwing all my energy into obsessing over the process–all that was me controlling the things I felt I could control. The rest was too scary and too daunting to contemplate. I don’t remember when that clicked either, but it was fairly early on that I knew that obsessing over the process was how I was avoiding doing the behind-the-scenes work. And with good reason.

My own body image has been the biggest hurdle. One of the excuses I’ve had to let go of is “I look good fat.” I looked in the mirror and had to admit that I did not like what I saw. Aesthetically speaking, my body was and is a hot mess. I no longer accepted fat as healthy or attractive, so when I saw my body for what it was (and is), covered in blubber, skin stretched to its limits, that was hard to swallow.

In an effort to sort out the body image issues, when I was down about 25 pounds, I took an underwear selfie in the bathroom mirror. I hated that looking at it made me so upset, but I needed to be able to look at it and try to be objective. I had to do something hard and deal with all the feelings that came out of it. And one of the things I was told as I worked on unraveling my feelings about it was “You’ll be glad to have that picture when you’ve lost 100 pounds.” As horrifying as it was, I didn’t delete it just for that reason.

Today, I’m down 110 pounds. The nuts and bolts of dieting are all in place. It’s habit and rote and I don’t obsess about the process. I focus my energy on the mental processes, and while only the people closest to me get to really see it, the changes there are (I think) even more striking, and far more impressive.

I debated for months on taking a one-year selfie and posting it side by side with the one of me at 333 pounds. I’ve decided to go ahead with it, and if you click this here link you’ll get to see it. I figured a link would be better because it’s me in my underwear. My bits are properly covered, but if you have to see me on a regular basis and don’t want that mental image every time you see me, I totally understand. I don’t blame you for a second.

For those who would rather take a pass, I have a clothed selfie instead. I put it next to a picture taken over a year ago…

One year, 110 pounds, most of that baggage...

One year, 110 pounds, most of that in emotional baggage…

In the end, I decided to share the underwear selfie because I felt that it would be helpful. I think that picture is me being honest with myself, and I want to show what being morbidly obese does to a body. I want to show what losing weight does, and how the process isn’t necessarily magical or pretty. I want you to understand when there are days I say I hate what I see in the mirror so much I could cry, and why. But I also want to show why I’m proud of this accomplishment. I want to show what doing the hard work can do, and exactly what a big difference 85 pounds is. Mathematically speaking, I know I’ve lost 8 inches around my ribcage/bra band, I forget how much off my waist, but it’s a lot, and more than a foot off my hips. I have gone from a size 30/32 being too tight, to a 16 top and a 22 bottom, and getting looser every day it seems. I can see my face is so much thinner, my neck and chest have bones. My baby pocket is shrinking too, finally. And my butt (not pictured) while still vast, has taken on a nice, round shape to it. I can’t complain. Hell, I’ve even gone from a 9.5 wide to a 9 regular in shoes. My wedding rings fit on my middle finger. My bangle bracelet threatens to fall off on occasion. It’s some crazy shit.

Yet I still look at it and first see the flaws, not the progress or the victories. I see a human landslide. Hanging skin, stretch marks for days, loose flab and major cellulite. I don’t feel sexy, or even pretty like that. I do better with my clothes on. I think everyone does, and I’m not surprised by my reaction, but figuring out how to change that perception of my own body is hard. I feel the clothed pic is less honest because I do look better dressed. You can’t see as much of the things that wreak havoc in my head. In all honesty, I worry that I’ll still hate my body even if I get down to a size 2. I worry that I’ll need surgery to correct the damage I’ve done and that I won’t be able to afford it and I’ll still live my life in Spanx even after all this work.

After things shattered, there were a lot of pieces to pick up and figure out where they go, if at all. Whatever came apart is going back together differently, that’s for sure, and some days are miserable, and some are absolutely amazing. There are days I feel like I will always be huge, and then other days where the realization of what’s to come is so beautiful to contemplate that it fills me with absolute joy.

Today is a good day. I’ve made great progress physically and mentally. I had a great weigh-in this morning and feel very much like I can do most anything I put my mind to. I think the lifestyle changes will be permanent this time because I can’t accept the excuses that will make it go away. With that new way of thinking, I look forward to what the next year will bring.

I Met Someone This Morning October 31, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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Last night was not a great night.

Well, it was a good night. The Red Sox won the World Series, and while I’m not a baseball fan at all, I do have a soft spot for the Sox. And it was way cool to see them win a pennant at home.

No, last night, I had started to unravel the problem with the SEO in my shop.

For the uninitiated, SEO is what makes your web page show up in searches. So if you type in something like “Snow White Baby Booties”, if my SEO is done right and well, this should come up:

Don't bother trying it...you won't find it. Just click this pic to find the listing, if you're interested.

Don’t bother trying it…you won’t find it. Just click this pic to find the listing, if you’re interested.

Anyway, mine hasn’t been touched because I really don’t know quite how it works, exactly. I’ve read up on it, but it’s kind of like taking a course that you missed the intro class too. You know you don’t know enough to take the class, but you’re not sure what information you’re missing, just that you’re missing…something.

Dealing with some computer stuff reminds me of being back in math class. I loathe math, and it’s because I’ve never really understood how that works, either. I remember doing my homework, reading the book and working out the problems, but not getting what the book was saying. So I struggled. And then I’d get to class and show the teacher and be told it’s wrong. Okay, why is it wrong? And he’d repeat what the book said. And that didn’t help, really, so I’d get frustrated and ask for a different explanation. And I’d try to work out the problem the way the teacher said, only at some point, it just clicked and I knew that there was some important part, some crucial bit of math I must have missed, only I have no idea what so I can’t even ask to have it explained.

That’s how I felt last night. I was overwhelmed and upset by something that should be really easy, but for me is dreadfully hard. Like math.

I went to bed, upset, and knew that I was going for a run this morning.

I started running again. I tried Couch to 5K some months ago, but realized after the first week that I was carrying too much weight still for my knees to handle. I really don’t want to blow out a joint and have to sit it out for weeks while I heal from surgery and get fatter, so I’ve been very careful with not pushing too hard, just hard enough.

But I really want to run. I don’t know why. I never have before. Hell, I’ve faked asthma to get out of running in gym class. (Sorry, Mrs. Nims.) I think it’s because it’s something I’ve never been able to do, and I feel the need to conquer it.

I don’t really like running, to be honest. Not really. It kind of hurts. I don’t really like exercise. If they create a pill that gives the same effect as working out without the sweat and breathing hard, I’m all over that shit like white on rice. In the meantime, I look at it as a challenge of sorts. I’m in a race with myself every day.

A day or two ago, it occurred to me that I look forward to doing my C25K routine. I’m kind of excited to lace on my running shoes and actually, you know, run. Then I get there and wonder for the whole 35 minutes if I’ve lost my fucking mind. It hurts. Hip is pinchy. I’m sweaty and red and trying to focus on keeping a good gait and relaxed shoulders, and pay attention to my breathing… it’s a lot to think about, really. Plus I’m trying to Keep Up With the Kardashians on E! while I’m running, and that’s distracting as hell.

But when I get done, I don’t know if I get that endorphin rush or runner’s high or what the fuck it is, but man, I feel like I can do any damn thing in the world. I might not be fast. I might be unbelievable to look at plodding along in my running tights. But I run.

1392615_603980829664354_1867805992_nSo, I went to bed last night knowing that this morning is my C25K day and while the run might not be fun, the post-run high will make it so much easier for me to tackle the SEO bullshit. Because I feel strong and powerful and hell, if I can run, I can do any damn thing.

And then it happened. I met someone in the gym today. And she’s TERRIFYING.

Usually when I run, I’m pleased that I can outrun Mean Jen. She just can’t keep up with my awesome and she knows it. So with this C25K program, you run for a bit, then walk for a bit, and eventually in stages, you work up to where the running bits are longer than the walking bits and at the end you’re running with no walking at all. I’m on week 2. I repeated week 1 figuring I’m not in a hurry and didn’t want to push it too hard, but felt after the repeat that I was ready to move on. And I’m doing very well. But I don’t like that it’s a 30 minute workout with only 20 minutes of actual interval training. I want to do more, so when I’m supposed to be cooling down, I keep running for that last bit, usually getting in a couple of extra bits of running.

Well, that little bit at the end is when I got Lady Gaga and Xtina singing in my ears. Those bitches are trying to kill me, I swear to God. Especially that little Aguilera girl. Man, oh man. She’s singing “YOU CAN’T STOP ME” and I’m all “RAAWWWRRRR!” and I boost that speed up and I flat out sprint. I’m not jogging or taking it easy. I’m running like something is chasing me, flat out, full speed. My chest is burning, my legs hurt, and I’m dripping sweat, but I can’t stop. And today I heard a voice in my head, right when I started to think I should slow down before my heart explodes, and she yelled at me, “KICK IT. YOU CAN DO THIS! PUSH THROUGH IT TO THE END! DON’T STOP NOW, MAKE THIS 90 SECONDS YOUR FUCKING BITCH, WOMAN!” And I ran. Shit, I was kind of scared not to.

When I slowed down to do my real cooldown, I think I might have looked around. I was panting, gasping for breath and my lungs were searing. And I smiled to myself as I wiped the sweat out of my eyes.

I think I just met Coach Jen. And there’s a chance she’s scarier than Mean Jen.

Mean Jen makes me want to build a blanket fort where I can eat Cheese Doodles and cry about not being able to do SEO, or because I still can’t buy pants in a regular store.

Coach Jen is ready to punch me in the face if I try to tell her I can’t do something.

I’m still sitting here an hour and a half after I got back from the gym, because I’m under mental orders to first write this blog post down so I don’t forget this shit later, and bookmark a site I found this morning that explains SEO for dummies and school myself properly in how to make this fucking website work, because, goddamn it, I need to be bringing in some cash to pay for my 5K entry fees and to keep me in top-of-the-line running shoes.

Coach Jen is scaring the crap out of me, y’all. I’d say more, but she says I’ve already wasted enough time with the navel gazing and I have fucking work to do.

And she also says I should go shower because I kinda stink.

She’s lovely.

 

Permission to Override Default Settings? October 19, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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So, I recently crossed the 100 pound weight loss mark. Yay, me!

The thing is, I’ve done it before. Twice. Both times, 100 pounds was right around the halfway mark or so, give or take. And both times, there’s been an unfortunate convergence of factors that has led to me gaining it all back, and then some. I mention this because sitting here at that same point, I can feel the factors swarming around me, coming at me from all sides. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

The first frontal attack comes from the realization that I’ve lost my enthusiasm for the widely heralded “lifestyle change” that I’ve made.

I’m not sure why that is. Change is hard, that’s for sure, and I don’t think anyone really likes it. Heaven knows I don’t like it one little bit. I am a critter of habit, and it seems in my case, changing bad habits into good ones takes a hell of a lot longer than 30 days, that’s for damn sure. My lifestyle change started on November 17th of last year. I’ve been at it for almost a full year, and while parts of it have become second nature, the main core of it has not. Living like I do is not a habit for me, it’s a conscious daily choice I make. And lately, it’s been a hard choice to make.

I know it seems like it should be a no-brainer. THIS SHIT WORKS. I have lost 100.8 pounds through nothing more than a change of diet and regular exercise. No drugs. No surgery. No hypnosis. No mystery extracts from the Amazon or dubious injections. Every day, I eat three healthy meals and write them down in my food journal. I drink a lot of water, get out and move my body around for a bit, and really, that’s about it.

To do all those things, though, I have to override my default settings. Sometimes I’ll go long stretches without questioning the override. It seems like it just happens naturally. It doesn’t. But the decision isn’t always a fully conscious one. Some parts of my thinking have become  habit.

The other day I was in the grocery store and it’s Halloween candy season. I fucking LOVE Brach’s candy corn, and this is the time of year to get it. And I found myself walking past it without slowing down before I could even form the entire thought process of leaving it in the bin. Which I realized was a good thing. The entire thought process involved me understanding that I can’t have a few candy corns and move on. I will eat the whole bag in a sitting. So it’s best to leave it there and not even taste it. All that went through my head in less than 5 seconds.

And yet, as I walked away, I was sad. Like my-dog-just-died sad. I mourned the candy corn. I mourned the fact that I will never again sit here happily munching away on a whole bag of candy corn. That fact made me sad. I overrode my default setting successfully, but the system wasn’t happy about it.

What should have been a NSV (non-scale victory) felt like anything but.

I missed my old life of gluttony. For a few minutes, I really wanted it back. I wanted to eat without counting the cost. I missed that so much it physically hurt.

I’m not sure why my default setting is Fat , Gluttonous, and Lazy, but it certainly seems to be the case. I mean, I don’t like the results of having the appetite of a barnyard sow, but hells bells, I do love me some shit food. I want to eat, and what’s more, I want to eat CRAP. I crave junk food like no one’s business. Don’t get me wrong, I like good food. I am a good enough cook. And I eat so well that I’m almost never hungry. I won’t lie to you: most days I make it look easy.

But shit. My dirty secret, thanks to my default setting, is that I want to eat fucking Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies until I puke. I want to scarf a whole bag of cheese doodles and eat at least half of a large, greasy meat-lovers pizza in one sitting. And don’t skimp on the breadsticks.

I don’t know why this is. I just know it’s the way I am. And l have no solid evidence to support that I can ever change myself into someone else.

There are people in the world who never crave junk. They don’t drive past a McDonald’s and actually mourn the greasy goodness that they’re not eating. You ask them if they’d like a snack and they ask if you have any apples. And not because they’re dieting–because they actually like apples. They prefer the taste of a fresh piece of fruit to a bag of cheap Halloween candy.

Freaks.

So every day is an exercise in overriding my default setting of Gluttonous. Every day, no exceptions, every single meal.  And as days turn into weeks into months into almost a whole year, it’s getting harder to hit that override button. The longing for the foods I used to eat is so strong right now. My desire for food that does NOTHING but serve to make me (and everyone who eats it) fat is sometimes so overwhelming I can barely stand it.

So what happens is I start to give in a bit. I have some ice cream after dinner at my mother’s house. I pop a couple of chips into my mouth when I hand Larry his sandwich. I ask for a bit of his pizza, and I take the biggest one I can manage. Bites don’t count, you see, so I don’t write them. (Only they do count, trust me on this one.) And while ice cream once a week after dinner doesn’t seem like much, especially since I measure it and count it and write that down, it’s ceased to be a once-in-awhile treat and is slipping into a habit. And “I can have ice cream once a week” turns into me allowing myself junk foods more and more often because what’s the harm, right?

Yeah, that line of thinking got me an ass with its own weather system.

So I guess the best way to put it is that mentally, I’m struggling with the fact that at the moment, the desire to be healthy and fit is not much stronger than my desire to eat a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s while watching Firefly. And when the desire to EAT ALL THE THINGS is stronger than being fit and healthy, the slips start happening.

The slips are happening, and I kind of hate myself for it. Every time it happens I can almost picture the window popping up in my head: “Permission to Override Default Settings?” and every time I mentally click “no”, I die a little inside. I lose a little more hope. I sink a little deeper in the quicksand. So far, I’m hanging on, but sometimes, just barely. I can correct for system overrides, but wonder when the day will come when I just can’t be arsed.

I know failure is not actually inevitable. But some days it feels that way. Remember that I have no success to go on. I have never lost all the weight I wanted and kept it off. Ever. I had to fight hard to even begin the process because the idea of setting myself up for that kind of failure yet again is soul-crushing.

The second attack comes at me and makes me not want to go to the gym. This one is sneakier. Because when it comes to eating shitty food, the excuses for not doing it are pretty damn lame, and I almost feel like an asshole using them. I mean, it’s actually easier for me to live with myself when I admit I ate something because I just wanted it, because trying to rationalize it by saying it was too hard to find a good food that fit into my eating plan is just fucking stupid. At the end of the day, you still had a “Fuckit” moment and ate it because you wanted it, so stop trying to rationalize that shit.

But the gym. Ah. That’s different. Head cold? Better stay home. It won’t be a good workout because I can barely breathe. Done right, you can drag that out for a few days. Maybe a week if it’s a Man Cold. Tummy bug? Ooh. You don’t want to spread that nasty shit to other people, and it’s going to be a couple of days before you can trust a fart completely, so staying home is a good bet. You can get a few extra days out of that if you play the Weak and Dehydrated card.

My right knee is feeling the effects of hauling my fat ass around for all these years, and there are days I really do have to rest it. I do NOT want to have to sit out weeks of recovery after I blew out my knee. There are things you just should not ignore, and times when rest is what your body needs more than a workout.

I’m at the point where I’m latching onto any little excuse and making it into a reason.

“I can’t get there until after supper and I hate working out that late because I can’t sleep.”

“My knee hurts.”

“I overdid it yesterday.”

“There’s no time.”

Bitch, please. I’ve got a million of them. My 6 days a week workout schedule wants to be five in the worst way, and from there it’s a slide to four, then three…one day I’ll realize that going back after a few days off is just too hard, and I’ll stop going.

A third attack comes from my own demons. Body image is kicking my ass. It was easier to love myself and how I look when I had accepted Fat as who I am. I admit I’m happier with how I look with clothes on. I’m more confident. I like fitting into chairs without a second thought and the idea that the next time I get on a plane I won’t be crowding the person next to me at all is a happy one.

And I know the majority of folks don’t love how they look naked.

I look like a human mudslide. There’s no way to put it more gently than that and be descriptive. And I know it’s temporary. But to look at myself in the mirror when I get out of the shower and not see how far I’ve come but how far I have to go before I resemble anything less than truly hideous is daunting. It’s disheartening.

I hate my weight. I currently weigh 257.9 pounds. That’s still morbidly obese. It still feels like I’m running with sandbags tied to my legs. I can’t do squats or any number of weight based exercises because I just weigh too goddamn much. My weight is holding me back from all the things I want to do. All that is left to me is plodding along at what feels like a snail’s pace.

I’ve been the same weight for two weeks now. Not gaining, but not losing, either. The dreaded plateau might be here. Maybe it’s the slips, or the blowing off of the gym too often, or a combination of the two. Or maybe it’s just my body readjusting for a bit before letting go of the rest of the weight. Or it could be that I’m eating too much. Or too little. Or building muscle. Or retaining water.

IT COULD BE JUST ABOUT ANYTHING, BUT ALL I KNOW IS THAT THE SCALE IS NOT MOVING AND I’M WICKED PISSED ABOUT THAT.

Simply put, it feels like I am never going to get there, wherever “there” is. And it’s so much work to go nowhere.

Logically, I know that going back simply is not an option. Like it or not, being 360 pounds again cannot happen. I will die. And the only thing between me and losing the next 100 or so pounds that will get me into the healthy weight range for my height is my own determination to make it so. It is entirely up to me whether I fail or not, whether I choose my default settings because it’s easier, or if I make the hard choices. But where the hell did my determination go? Why doesn’t it just hang out with me all day like it used to, and more importantly, why are there moments where I can’t I call it up anymore?

Why do I keep wanting to go back to my default settings of Fat, Gluttonous, and Lazy? Jesus, I wish I knew.

I wish I knew how to stay motivated for the long haul. I’d like to find that mojo again because the holidays are coming up and I know it’s the perfect time for me to go right to my default settings. So much good food, and everyone in the world splurging because “Hey, it’s only once a year!” They don’t understand that for someone like me, once a year can lead to a string of failures that cause a total system crash. I just need the power to maintain my control over food–to not let it control me. I’m losing that battle more than I’d like these days, and I’m a little scared.

I wish I knew why it was so hard right now. I wish I could just get a bit of that momentum back that’s allowed me to cruise along for months at a time. I know I’ve made a positive lifestyle change, and the results have been nothing short of stunning, but right now I’m struggling with it, and just wish I had some way of knowing that this isn’t going to be another failure on my record. I wish I knew that at some point, the changes will become permanent and I will have changed my default settings.

I just can’t say it for certain at the moment. And I wish I could.

Life After Etsy October 18, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius, Sticks and String.
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I believe in handmade things.

I believe in the artisan movement.

I believe that things that are made with skill and care and attention to detail have more inherent value than anything made by a machine or on an assembly line.

I believe in art for art’s sake, even if I don’t understand it sometimes.

I believe there is a market for handmade artisan goods.

I believe I am not alone.

I’ve been on Etsy since it was just about to celebrate its first birthday, and in recent years I’ve found cause to rant about its policies as far as what handmade is, how they enforce it on their own site, and I’ve seen a tide creeping in slowly but steadily during that time.

When I opened my first shop, I was as new to internet sales as Etsy was. We were both still feeling our way along. As my knitting skills improved with much time and practice, I began to understand more and more what the artisan handmade movement was really about. I stopped looking at the things that came off my needles as mere objects that were utilitarian, no different than what you could buy in a retail outlet somewhere, and began to see each thing as an individual work of art.

Every stitch is made by my hands. I am an artist, and I work in fiber.

And as that realization grew in me and took hold, I grew as an artist. I embraced what I am.

Etsy did the same thing, seeing what it is and where it wanted to go. It embraced what it was becoming, only we grew apart. Etsy saw that their biggest selling vendors (and biggest source of income) were hitting a ceiling. Some of their policies meant that when a seller felt that they couldn’t grow any more on Etsy, they’d close up shop and leave to where they could have parts of their products manufactured. They could use drop-shipping to fill orders. They could hire help to produce product and fill orders.

That kind of growth is what makes this country great, don’t get me wrong. I believe in growing your business as far as you can.

But at some point, you have ceased to be handmade.

That’s a conundrum for Etsy. How do we claim to be a handmade site, yet keep these very lucrative sellers with us bringing in all their money?

We redefine what “handmade” means.

I don’t think hobby crafters will mind so much. Etsy is a terrific platform for folks who make things and want a great looking place to sell them. Etsy has a name now, and a reputation (or at least it did), and if you understand that you need to drive your own traffic to your own shop and don’t expect Etsy to promote you in any way, it’s great. Easy to use, very affordable, and you can look professional with very little effort.

Business crafters will be in heaven. The ceiling is gone. If you need to hire other hands to make your handmade items, if you want to have your creations mass produced in a factory, you can. Oh, there will be new rules and new caveats, but you are no longer hampered by having to run a one-person show.

It leaves artisans in the lurch. When you create art, whether it’s a painting, a fine aged cheddar, or an embroidered pair of baby booties, it is essentially a solitary process. It’s as much about the process of bringing an idea to life as it is about seeing the idea realized. It’s putting yourself into what you make, and it’s why paintings by fine artists sell for way more money than prints or reproductions of the same picture. The original is where the artist has left himself, in every brush stroke and line and shadow. It’s why you eat an artisan cheese slowly, tasting every bite, pairing it carefully with the right complementary flavors, as opposed to slapping a square of Cracker Barrel on a Triscuit and munching away while you watch football. And it’s why that pair of hand-embroidered booties gets packed away carefully in a cedar chest until the baby that outgrew them announces that they are expecting a child of their own, unlike the $10 pair that came from the Gap and went into the bag being donated to the Goodwill.

I believe that when you say something is handmade, that should mean something.

Etsy and I disagree on what that something is, and it’s why it’s time for us to part ways.

I’m in the process of opening my own online shop. Etsy has always served as my own personal craft fair and art gallery. I make whatever comes into my head, and Etsy gives me a place to show it off and maybe exchange it for a little cash. But I’d like to be more than a hobby knitter, and I think I have the skills to see that happen.

When I went to Seattle over the summer, my main reason for going was to check out the Urban Craft Uprising show and find out why I didn’t get in. It was eye-opening, for sure. It was a large hall, and it was full of artists and craftsmen. And my art was easily up to (and in some cases far beyond) anything I saw there. It was gratifying to see that if nothing else, I have the skills to compete at that level.

But I needed to see what the vendors that got in were doing that is so different from what I was. And about halfway through the show, it was starting to become clear. It was at the booth of a crafter who made all felted things. I was interested because I do a fair amount of felting myself. She had a very small line of items: vases, coasters, bowls, and some wall art. She used a limited palette of colors, and very simple designs. And I remarked at the time (out of earshot of the artist) that I didn’t think I could be that sort of crafter. I’d be bored to tears reproducing the same simple designs and colors all the time, and not being able to give my creativity free rein.

It was a common theme, too. Soap makers produced a small line of really good soap. A woman selling leather bags and cases had a limited number of sizes, and a very unified design theme. Jewelry makers created to a theme or a medium, like the one seller who embraced the 8-bit geekery of old video games, and another who worked in laser-cut wood. And every booth was like that. They made one thing, and they made it very well.

By the time we left, I knew that if I’m going to be an artist at that level, I need to focus. If I want to “quit my day job” and compete in that lucrative marketplace of artisan handmade, I need to figure out what I do well and concentrate on it. I don’t need to leave myself room to grow…I need to figure out how to keep myself in check!

I thought about it a lot, and there was a lot of discussion about what my focus should be. I can knit anything. It’s kind of a point of pride with me.

But looking at it from a business standpoint, my biggest seller and most popular item that I make, by far, are the knit booties with hand-embroidered soles. Without boring you with the numbers, focusing on booties is kind of a no-brainer from a business standpoint.

Creatively speaking, I could make them all day long. And lately, I do. Because every pair is different, and the only limit to what I stitch on them is my own imagination, when I say the possibilities are endless, I mean it. Even though they’re all the same, they’re all very different. It’s hard to get bored with them.

Using booties as the centerpiece, I added baby sweaters and hats under the same umbrella. I chose a palette of colors and a limited selection of styles that I’d produce. So rather than just booties, a customer could get a set, or individual pieces, and can always have something made and personalized just for them.

I’ve also found that less-traditional baby designs are wildly popular. Sure, the monkeys sell, and flowers and such. But a Killer Bunny with Big Teeth? Sold the minute I list it. Skulls? Can’t keep them in stock. Dragons? Sold. When I think of the expression, “This is not your grandma’s knitting,” it strikes me that many people my age *are* grandparents, and we’re defining what “grandma’s knitting” actually is.

So the new shop is called Sprogtoggery, and my focus is on baby things. I have a Facebook page started and ready to go, and the shop is just about ready to launch. I had a vendor supply issue getting buttons (because I insist on using artisan handmade buttons and not just any old thing you can get at Joanns) so I’m a bit behind getting sweaters finished. I hope to be open by November 1, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

My logo is simple, and when the graphic designer showed it to me, she had added the words “100% artisan handmade” under it, and that pulled it all together for me. That’s the focus, and the emphasis, and the whole reason I do what I do. I know that the artisan movement is alive and well, and it is because there are buyers out there who know that when you buy something handmade, you’re not just getting a “thing”. You are getting something special, something beautiful, and something worth preserving.

Now I have to get back to work. These ends aren’t going to weave themselves in, and there are no Chinese kids in my basement gonna do it for me…

I Love You Just the Way You Are June 26, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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1 comment so far

This last time I let my blogging slide, I did so before answering the last couple of questions from what I can only assume is an ardent and faithful readership. I saved Gary’s question for last, not because I didn’t want to answer it, but because it requires the most thought. I felt it was a thoughtful topic for discussion, and deserved a thoughtful response. Also, I confess that I’m a bit of a coward.

You see, a few years ago on its Facebook page, the Catholic News Service ran a news item about a Catholic university that was planning on offering a class on gay marriage. I honestly think that’s how ham-handedly they worded it, too. And the crux of the article was about the local Bishop getting his knickers in a knot over it. It was “an inappropriate thing to teach in a Catholic institution.” I made the crucial mistake of reading the comments. I know, I know. And the die-hard, militant, EWTN Catholics were out-fucking-raged and siding with the Bishop. A few voices supported the university, as did I. Call me a pinko-commie-liberal if you must, but to me, Catholic or not, universities are institutions of higher learning. You’re supposed to think and question things. I said that gay marriage (seriously, it’s just marriage–it’s neither gay nor straight) is the law in my state and is spreading. Marriage equality will happen, and quickly, and discussing federal lawmaking decisions in a university classrooms seems perfectly appropriate.

Well, one of the other posters took offense, and because the idea of locking my Facebook page down was new to me, I had my profile available for anyone to see, and she saw that I had “catechist” on my list of “shit that keeps me off the streets.” She used that information to send an e-mail to my Bishop’s office, and one afternoon I got a call from the head of religious instruction at the diocese accusing me of…well, I’m not sure what. Because when I figured out that this woman was calling me out on the carpet based on an e-mail from some woman from Michigan (yeah, Internet sleuthing works both ways, sweetie) questioning my ability to teach religious education at my Parish, I freaked the fuck out. I started shooting back, and I went OFF. She never read the article. She never read my intelligent and thoughtful comment. She did not know the woman’s name. She didn’t even have the e-mail handy.

I managed to not say “What the actual fuck is wrong with you?” on the phone. And when I hung up, there was no further mention of my ability to teach religious education in my Parish. Nor was my comment or phone conversation ever reported to either my Parish’s director of religious ed, or my priest. But I realized that internet comments could get my ass into trouble, so I’ve locked down my Facebook page, and now I try to avoid commenting on things that could upset my personal apple cart.

Plus, I’m just not political to begin with.

In matters of politics and faith, I’ve found it’s best to not delve into controversial issues where those things are concerned. Because someone is always going to take offense.

But Gary said, “Ok, lets touch on the two topics you said you wouldn’t discuss; a devout (?) Catholic with multiple gay friends. I honestly believe folks who have strong opinions one way or another on this never have to face the reality of having strong faith and friendship loyalty.”

I have an answer, but it’s something that, should word get around, might keep me from participating in the life of my Parish. I love to sing, and I’ve tried to avoid saying anything that would keep me from being asked to leave that ministry. And I’ve stayed quiet on the topic in public, not because I don’t support my gay friends, but because I have something to lose by speaking out.

Then, this happened.

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If you’re on The Facebook, you’ve seen it around. It’s the symbol for support of marriage equality. Lots of my friends changed their profile pictures on the day the Supreme Court was hearing arguments for and against the Defense of Marriage Act, which attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

After much soul-searching, I changed my profile picture, too. And in my head the whole time was the knowledge that just one person making a phone call could make it so that the one thing I still love about Church is taken from me.

And the hypocrisy of that hit me like a banjo to the face.

Marriage equality is a no-brainer to me. There has yet to be so much as a single argument made against it that makes a lick of sense. Come to that, I don’t understand homophobia. The most succinct description of how I feel about it is this quote:

I hate the word ‘homophobia.’ It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.

It’s attributed to Morgan Freeman, but he didn’t originate it. But the long and short of it is, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to lose something that matters very much to me–singing with the choir and being a cantor. But I got to thinking about what it means for me to call myself a disciple of Christ. Jesus said a lot of things, and the thing that sticks with me the most is when he says in the Gospel of Matthew, “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.” What matters is how we treat each other.

And I also know that as a Christian, I have to be able to love without counting the cost. Loving the way Jesus taught means it’s sometimes not convenient, or popular, and you might be called on to make sacrifices for that love.

I support marriage equality because I believe it is the right thing to do. It is the just thing to do. Maybe homosexuality is sinful…though I doubt it. If God made all things for good, there’s got to be a good reason for it. I suspect it’s to teach us lessons on tolerance and small-mindedness. I mean, you think we’d have learned our lesson about discriminating based on other factors like skin color, nationality, or gender, but it seems we’re not done learning. But that’s just my theory. I could be wrong.

I guess it’s more accurate to say that I’m not a devout Catholic. My faith is complicated. It’s more accurate for me to say that I follow Christ, but I believe his Church sometimes gets it wrong, with tragic results. History has shown this to be true, and will continue to show it for as long as there is a Church, because the Church is human, and we humans are prone to fucking things up in epic proportion.

I love the faith tradition of the Church. I appreciate that it traces back to Christ himself. I believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but if I have to some day set that aside over a difference of belief, I can. I’d rather not. I draw strength from that nourishment, and it lets me put my big girl panties on and love the way Jesus himself taught us to. That love is hard, man. Damned hard, and as disciples, we need all the help we can get. Jesus knew that.

I think there is room for interpretation and investigation and that we always have a chance to make things right. At the end of the day, I put my faith in God, first and foremost. I pray, and I follow his gentle guidance. I’d rather risk sinning in the eyes of the Church and love my gay friends with all my heart, then to condemn them for being made in His own image.

Love one another as I have loved you. It’s a tall order.

Please Pass the Kale April 3, 2013

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
5 comments

I turn 44 in a week and I have finally realized that fruits and vegetables are good for me and I need to eat them to feel good.

I can’t believe I just admitted that in public.

Back in November, I offered some weight-loss advice to a friend. I felt qualified, because even though I’m fat as fuck, I’ve lost (without exaggeration) hundreds of pounds in my adult lifetime. Talking the talk is no problem for me. I know everything to do to get pounds off, I just chose not to do them.

But doling out the advice, hearing myself say “You need to…” and not doing it myself seemed hypocritical. I knew I was at the heaviest I’d ever been. The biggest clothes you could buy in any Fat Person Store were too snug. I ached all over. I was tired all the time. I knew I didn’t feel well, but such are the wages of sin. You want to top off half a pizza with three pieces of cake, it’s going to cost you.

“You need to…” rang in my ears every time I said it, though. Little things, mostly. You need to eat more produce. You need to drink more water. Stuff like that. I could eat more produce if I put a mind to it. I could drink more water if I put a mind to it. And so I put my mind to it. Maybe it was seeing someone else make that commitment and feeling like I couldn’t be very good support or guidance, or even a sympathetic ear when things got dicey, if I couldn’t even bring myself to walk the walk that got me started again.

dinner 030I dusted off my Weight Watchers materials, turned to a fresh page in my food journal, and started in. I guessed on my weight, having thrown out yet another bathroom scale after my last dieting attempt succeeded for awhile before being abandoned. It came back to me pretty easily, all things considered. And because I wasn’t really doing it on my own this time, there was a certain accountability to backing up my own advice with actions of my own.

It helps that I have a lot of support at home. All I have to say is “I’m trying to eat better” and Larry picks up healthier foods for me. He doesn’t bring crap into the house, and if he does, he chooses crap that’s not my favorite crap in the whole world. Some crap I can take or leave, but some crap…oh, it lies in wait, calling my name. Fucking Girl Scouts and their fucking cookies, man. Yeah, I’m looking at you bitches. But Larry doesn’t judge what I eat. He knows if I bite it, I write it. I account for it, and I know what I’m doing.

It’s more support than a lot of people get, I’ll tell you what.

About four weeks into my renewed efforts at losing some weight, I had no idea what I weighed. I was eating better, following my own “you need to” advice, and keeping careful track of how much I eat, and what kinds of foods I eat. And I happened to stop into the drugstore after a dentist appointment, and saw a scale way down on the bottom shelf for sale. I don’t even know how I noticed it. It’s selling point was that it weighed up to 450 pounds, and those tend to be a lot more pricey. I bought it.

I got home and found out that after four weeks of dieting, I weighed 358.7 pounds. The scale wasn’t wrong. I was THAT FAT.

And I had likely taken at least 8 or 10 pounds off already.

Jesus weight-watching Christ. That certainly got out of control, didn’t it?

I don’t know if you know what it’s like to step on a scale and realize you have to lose the weight equivalent of a whole, grown man. It’s…daunting. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to say “Oh, God. Why bother? It can’t be done. I’ll lose the weight, put it all back on again, plus 20 to 40 extra pounds just for good measure because that’s what I do. I suck, I’m a loser, and I’m going to always be fat. Oh, and it’s all about being healthy and fit at any size? FUCK YOU. I’m not healthy, I’m not fit. I weigh almost 360 pounds. NO ONE is healthy and fit at that size except Shaq and maybe some pro wrestlers. And power lifters. Not my fat ass, that’s for sure.”

That was a sobering, and then utterly depressing moment. I mean, the urge to say fuckitall and just fill my face was strong.

Name "Sisyphus" mean anything to you?

Name “Sisyphus” mean anything to you?

After I wrapped my head around the whole thing and decided to keep going the way I was, I came to grips with a few things. The first was knowing that setting my usual goal weight of 140 pounds was stupid. Yes, it’s what’s considered a healthy weight for someone my height. And it’s attainable…by someone, I’m sure. But in the past, I’ve made it down to around 200 and stalled. Plateaued. And I look good at that weight. I’m still fat, but I’m curvy, and I feel pretty good about myself and how I look and feel. But the mental issue of being stuck there, of not losing past that point no matter how hard I work and finally giving up because it’s too much effort to not be able to get where I want to go is where I lose it every single time. I let things slide until I give up entirely. I “take a little break” and the weight creeps back on, and I’m back into my fat clothes again.

This time I’ve set my goal weight at 200 pounds. It’s a soft target. I know I can do that. Mentally, I can cope with idea of losing 160 pounds better than I can losing 200 pounds. I don’t know why that 40 pounds matters, but it does. I figure, if I get to 200 and stall again, I will call it maintaining and focus on that. If, at that point, I can continue to lose weight and the numbers keep going down, I’ll let them. I won’t live or die by that magic number this time. At least I hope I won’t. There’s a lot goes on in my head when it comes to losing weight.

I have an eating disorder. I’ve known about it for awhile. For years I joked that I was half-bulimic. I binge like a motherfucker. I mean, true bingeing, but unlike a bulimic, I can’t purge. I have a lot of the same thought patterns as a bulimic, except where that disorder is marked by a psychological need for control, binge-eating is the opposite: it’s losing control. It’s more like an alcoholic on a bender. It’s not eating for fun or enjoyment, just as an alcoholic isn’t drinking herself to oblivion because it’s a party of one. “I started and I couldn’t stop” is the feeling.

In May, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is going to be added to the new DSM V as an “official” eating disorder along with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. I first read about it more than 20 years ago. Even back then, there was an understanding that binge-eating was more than just eating too much. And that when someone with BED is dieting, there are mental obstacles to succeeding long-term that need to be addressed. For someone like me, the advice “Just put the fork down and step away from the table” is not only useless advice, it’s hurtful. Being told “you just need a little willpower!” is like slapping me in the face.

I got a lot more insight into it when I joined Overeaters Anonymous. I don’t believe I’m a food addict. And I stood up at meetings and labeled myself as a “compulsive overeater” when that’s not entirely true, either. I have an eating disorder, and the way I think about food, the way I relate to it, and my power over it is not the same as either of those things. I can control over-eating by just paying attention to what I’m eating. That’s not the issue. That’s not even hard for me. I have that control when I choose to exercise it. Bingeing is another whole story.

I don’t think I ever got anything practical out of the 12 Steps as they relate to food. But it did make me take another look at why and how I over-eat. I did realize that I use food the way an alcoholic uses booze, just not all the time. And unlike alcohol, you can’t just not eat. I mean, I can take the crap food out of my house and I’ll still binge on good food. The actions are the same, even if the damage is minimized.

I’m not even remotely cured of my binge-eating, and I still binge. Again, it’s about minimizing impact and doing damage control after the fact, but it’s still there, though it’s a lot less frequent now, and the duration and intensity have decreased. I’ve rid myself of triggers that I know about, and as such, I spend a lot more of my time in control. But sometimes there’s a “just barely” tacked on, and that feeling of being on the edge of a binge, of hanging on by your fingertips is a dreadful feeling. It almost feels better after the binge when you can sweep up, write down what you ate, assess the damage and take steps to neutralize things. It’s about control, and that’s when the bulimic impulses take over.

I fight the scale. See, there are things that logically I know to be true. But there are things my head tells me that I don’t believe, but hearing them still affects my impulses and my actions. I know that if I’ve had a good week, worked out, stayed within my points range, drank all my water, made good food choices, and that scale doesn’t move, or goes up, that it’s probably water. Logically I know my body didn’t gain fat by doing everything right, but oh…those numbers. I NEED TO SEE THEM GO DOWN. When you’re staring down a 160 pound total, every little bit counts.

So I start thinking of how to trick the scale. I start doing things to make sure that every ounce is squeezed out. I play games with my points, sometimes under-eating in an attempt to jog the scale into moving, or taking water pills before my weigh-in to make sure I’m rid of as much water as I can. Logically, I know it’s stupid. You can’t fool the scale. It’s all going to come out in the wash. But it’s about control. Losing it, regaining it, trying to get a firm grip again when so often I feel like I’m flailing.

I know my body is getting smaller. My measurements have gone down. But that scale is what MATTERS in my head. I can’t seem to let that go. I advise others to, but I can’t do it myself. In that aspect, I’m a hypocrite. But I try. I keep talking the talk in hopes that like so many other things, it will fall into place eventually.

I’ve come to realize that just telling myself that it’s about being healthy, not losing weight, is a lie too. Not a complete one, but if there was no payoff to this–if I wasn’t going to look better as a result–I’d have a lot less reason to keep going.

Unfortunately, realizing I didn’t like the way I looked has brought up a whole new crop of issues for me.

When you are a Person of Great Size, if you want to be able to love yourself, you have to look in the mirror and accept what you see. You have to love the fat as part of who you are. I’ve been a big girl my entire sexual life, and have never let my weight get in the way of feeling sexy and beautiful. I have had a lot of practice in becoming confident, and confidence is sexy. It’s never been a problem.

I’ve come to realize that my own self-acceptance is what has kept me from keeping my weight off. I’ve become complacent in my acceptance, and have told myself for so long that “I look good” that I have believed it. When the truth is, my fat is not attractive to me. My confidence has made me appear more attractive than I am, but my body, objectively speaking, is a hot, blubbery mess.

And not long ago, I realized that, and I looked in the mirror for the first time in years and I felt disgusted. I looked hideous. And it was doing a number on me. I’d put on my shoes, happy to get out to the gym to work out. I’d trot across the parking lot feeling good about myself and then I’d catch a glimpse of myself reflected in the glass doors of the gym, and I wanted to die.

Fat. Fat fat fatty fat fat. Fat.

I had to make myself go in. I fought tears the whole time I was on the treadmill. I’d look around and see that I was the fattest person in the room. “You’re the only one thinking that.” Yes, but I’m the one that counts. I know what I know to be true. I am often the fattest person in the room in a country where morbid obesity is an epidemic. That does NOT make a girl feel good about herself.

My instinct? Skip the gym. Pop into Shaw’s and hit the baked good section hard. Sit in my car, eat until I literally can’t get another bite down, hide the evidence, and then go home and lie about how hard I worked out. If I came close to quitting, it was then. And it wasn’t once. It was every day. I’d get dressed and realize I’m nowhere near ready to abandon most of my fat clothes. Sure, a few shirts are fitting more loosely, but I’m a long way from needing new pants. And that sucks. What do I need? Bras. My tits are shrinking. How’s that for a cosmic kick in the crotch? The only good thing about being fat is having big boobs, for God’s sake!

I told myself that what was important was not that I was the fattest person in the room, but that I was in the room in the first place. I was in the gym, not in my car with a dozen Boston creme donuts and an iced coffee. God, that was hard to do, though. That little voice that was fighting back was so much quieter than the one yelling “FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT FATTY MC FATTERTON FAT FAT FATTY FAT FATASS FAT!!!” in my ear.

I had a really hard stretch there of feeling just wretched about myself because of it. Reject the fat, reject what I see every time I look at myself. I realized that I don’t want to be a fat person anymore. I don’t love the fat. I want it gone. And the fact that it’s still there bothers me. It’s hard enough to love yourself when you accept what you see. I have no clue how to do it when you actively reject it. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’ve lost the weight. Will I still feel fat? I don’t reckon this journey is over by a long shot.

Just call me "Bubbles."

Just call me “Bubbles.”

I’ve come to peace with it for the moment through a bit of mental gymnastics. I told you so much of this is head games for me, and I’m not joking. I was looking in the mirror naked one morning, absolutely loathing what I saw. Pinching and pulling at big, nasty rolls of flesh, watching it do all the gross things fat does. Then later, quite out of nowhere I found myself thinking about it, and somehow in my mind, I pictured it as a fat suit. All of a sudden. It occurred to me that the real me is in there, and while she might not be skinny, she’s fit and healthy. She’s just wearing a fat suit!

I can’t go into wardrobe and take it all off at once, just one pound at a time. And when I went back and looked in the mirror again, I pictured a fat suit. I am a healthy, fit person wearing a fat suit. I just need to get it off to see the real me. I can stand to see my reflection again.

Now, I know what I’m supposed to be concentrating on is my health. I’m supposed to be doing this for health reasons. I’m supposed to be focused on making healthy changes so that my body will be greatly improved, and the weight loss and improved appearance will be a wonderful side effect.

Whatever, man. I want to buy clothes in human sizes. Vanity, thy name is Poops.

In my case, it’s more accurate to say that my health has been a wonderful side effect. I hate to even admit it out loud because honestly, I’ve always been pretty proud of the fact that my body runs as well as it does with the crap food I’ve put into it. The fact that I can move at all is damned amazing when you consider the junk with which I fueled it.

Vegetables are my Achilles heel. I loathe the fucking things. And it’s another thing to wrap my head around. My new mantra is “food is fuel.” At first, I’d tell myself that when I was eating produce and I’d rather have had pizza. Or when I was having salad because green leafies are absolutely wonderful for me, but the McDonald’s french fries smelled soooooo good. Food is fuel. At first, it was a way to dismiss the idea of food as a celebration, or an event, or merely as something designed to give me pleasure. Unfortunately, food is kind of like sex in that respect, really. You can do it to make a baby and get the job done, or you can do it RIGHT, and when you do…hnnnggghhhhh….

Which is how it is with food. You can make eating a drudgery, something you have to do, or you can eat all the things that make drool run right down your face. You can eat just to keep your body going, or you can do it RIGHT. And like sex, I’m starting to understand that crap food isn’t better than no food at all. I figured out the last time I embarked on this weight loss journey that I lose more weight per week if I don’t eat crap food. Now, the beauty of WW to me is that it’s flexible. You don’t have to cut anything out. You can eat anything you want as long as you have Points enough for it. If you need to have a Dairy Queen or a cocktail or a Cadbury egg because it’s not just Easter without it, then you can. And I always made sure I wasn’t “deprived.” I kept all kinds of low-Point snacks on hand and had some every day because it gave me a sense of normalcy, a “See, I can eat like regular not-fat people, too!” kind of feeling.

And on weeks where I did everything right, stayed in my points and exercised faithfully, I’d gain, or stay the same. For no reason. It should have worked, but it didn’t. Then I noticed on weeks where I pulled way back on the snacks, limiting myself to a treat after supper, I lost more. But I hated it. I hated that I had to deprive myself after all! NOT FAIR.

Well, life isn’t fair, and that’s a fact. If life was fair, vegetables would cause unsightly face boils and chocolate would cure cancer. I wish to God there was an easier way. I wish fad diets worked. I wish cutting out one food or one food group or one thing was the key, but it’s just not. There’s no magic pill. Just “eat less, move more.” Anyone trying to sell you something else is…well, selling something.

This time out, it’s been the same thing, only more so because now I’m older. I’m 44, almost, and menopausal. I’ve had three babies. I’m fatter. And did I mention I’m older? My poor metabolism is lying there, gasping, and giving me the finger. This time, right from the outset, I had to adopt the “food is fuel” way of thinking. I know crap slows me down, so I got rid of it. And the weight loss was STILL slow. So I looked for what I’ve come to think of as “hidden crap” and started weeding it out. High-fructose corn syrup–out. Artificial sweeteners–out. Packaged snacks–out. Potato chips–out. Fast food–out.

Bit by bit, week by week, I’ve been replacing shitty food with good food, and telling myself that food is fuel, lamenting with rent garments and a wailing and gnashing of teeth that I am doomed to a lifetime of eating like a monk. *dramatic sigh* Only as the weeks have stretched into months, I swear by all I hold holy, I feel better.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I. FEEL. BETTER.

I have been openly disdainful of anyone who extols the virtues of kale or adds flax seed to anything. Fucking hippies, man. GET OFF MY LAWN. The notion of “eating mindfully” was just a lot of dirty hippie lingo to me. Until I found myself actually doing it. When you eat, and then write what you eat in a food journal, you become mindful of your food choices. When you look at your patterns of eating in order to see how and where to make changes, you’re being mindful. When you sit down with a meal and find yourself saying “food is fuel” and you feel really good about that because the food you’ve prepared is not only good for your body and is going to give you energy through the day, but it’s also pretty damned delicious as well…holy shit, you have become a hippie! You’ve gone over to the dark side!

The day I said “food is fuel” not by way of encouraging myself to choke down something I didn’t want, but instead as an affirmation that my body was in for a treat, I stopped shaving my armpits and rubbed on some patchouli. In for a penny, in for a pound, baby!

dinner 029

It’s like apple crisp in a bowl. With bananas, because YUM.

I don’t think I’m ever going to truly love vegetables. But I have hope. I just ate my breakfast and it was amazing.

Oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar, seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla, and with an apple and a banana cooked in. It’s sweet, filling, full of fiber, hot, and so good. I have almond milk in my coffee–it has 50% more calcium than milk, and is full of fiber, too. I will eat that at 9 in the morning and not be hungry again until 1. The fact that I love this makes the person I was back in November want to punch me in the face. 

But back then I wouldn’t have believed that eating cleaner would make me feel so much better. I’m not hungry all the time. I don’t crave crap like I used to. I still have the urge to binge, and I still have the days where the control is so tentative that it makes me want to cry, but they’re fewer and farther between. I can sit in my kitchen all day and not have to get up all the time to see what else I can eat. I just don’t have the urge to.

I always hated the expression “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” because I can’t relate. I’ve never been thin in my entire adult life. I have amended that to my own use and I’m pretty sure that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. I like how I feel. There was a box of Cap’n Crunch on the stove this morning, and while the thought crossed my mind that a couple of bowls of that would be tasty, I knew I’d have a headache by noon and feel like shit. It just wasn’t worth it. 

Fueled by fresh fruit and Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey.

Fueled by fresh fruit and Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey.

My body is responding to being crap-free. The better I eat, the better I feel, and that’s the truth. I find out new things all the time. I’ve discovered that artificial sweeteners make me crave sugar, but pure cane sugar doesn’t. I might have either an allergy or a sensitivity to MSG. Processed foods make working out harder, where whole foods improve my performance.

And yes, I’m working out again. Right now I stick to the treadmill. I can control the calories I burn and my heart rate very easily and I feel I get maximum results from it. I didn’t like the 30-minute circuit thing at all–too much up and down, on and off the equipment. It felt jerky and disjointed and like I wasn’t getting a really good workout. My trainer is back at the gym after being away, and I’m going to start adding weights back to my cardio routine again. I always loved weight training and I’m looking forward to it. But to be honest, I hadn’t done it because I didn’t want that lean muscle to show up on the scale. How stupid is that? It’s that head game with the numbers again. I have to let it go, and cling to the reality that building lean muscle will help me burn fat more effectively, and faster, no matter what the stupid scale says.

And for now, the scale says the weight is coming off. I’m officially down 36 pounds, though there was a good month at the beginning where I didn’t weigh myself, and if history is any indication, I lost a fair deal of water weight in those first few weeks. Even if I averaged a modest 2 pounds a week at the beginning, I’m probably down another 8 or 10 on top of that, but it’s hard to say. I try to tell myself that the number doesn’t matter, but the eating disorder won’t really let me do that. It is important to me. It’s something measurable that I can hang onto when the non-scale victories are scarce.

I have a long way to go before I shed my fat suit, but I feel like this time it will come off for good. I’ve never done this much work on the mental aspect of losing weight. I could always say the words, “I’m making healthy lifestyle changes” but without really changing a damn thing. The thoughts have to change first. When you change your mind, changing the way you live becomes easier, and after that, changing your body practically just happens.

For the first time in my life, I don’t accept any excuses from myself. I know my limitations, and I work on pushing past them in whatever way I can. No, I can’t run, but I can walk. I can build the muscles that will eventually protect my knees so that I can run. I’m working towards it. No, I don’t like vegetables, but I can figure out what ones I tolerate and find better ways of preparing them, trying new ones, adding them bit by bit until I grow accustomed to them. I can learn to like them. I don’t let my eating disorder act as a license to lose control. I don’t win every binge-battle, but I don’t have to accept defeat, either.

Will this work in the long run? I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve been gung-ho before, and determined, only to get to that stupid plateau and let my mind decide for me that I was done. I’m hoping my advancing age and multiple experiences will help me put the pieces together. I feel like my thoughts have changed in a way they never have before, so we’ll see where this takes me, I guess.

"The journey of a million miles begins with a single step...and a new pair of running shoes."

“The journey of a million miles begins with a single step…and a new pair of running shoes.”

St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Barry White February 14, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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Today is St. Valentine’s Day! In honor of the day, I answer the question, “How does St. Valentine tie into this Hallmark Corporate Sponsored ‘holiday’?”

But I’m gonna tell it Badass Saints style. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.

Badass Saint ValentineFebruary 14

Badass Saint Valentine
February 14

 

I know what you’re wondering: how did a third-century martyr come to be remembered by cheap boxes of drugstore chocolates, sappy cards covered in glitter hearts, and bouquets of flowers from the gas station?

St. Valentine’s life is a mystery, most likely because he died in Rome in 269 (well played, God) and was not known for any heroic or super-saintly deeds. In fact, much of his history is thought to be bits of the lives of three different dudes all muddled together like some sort of hagiographical mix-tape. In fact, so little is actually known that in 1969, the Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the calendar of observed feasts, though he remains venerated as a Saint.

Val was a bishop back in the happenin’ town of Rome, and he—as so many Badass Saints did—fell out of favor with the Emperor. Claudius wasn’t a fan of Christians to begin with, but Claudius was also a soldier, and like so many rulers before and since, he felt a burning duty to involve himself in the sex lives of his troops. Claudius believed that unmarried men made better soldiers, so he forbade his men to marry. And he did it at a time when violating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could get you disemboweled and your own dick fed to you on a stick.

Here he is in prison performing what appears to be a gay marriage between soldiers. (Gonna get another call from the Bishop about that little crack. You just wait and see...)

Here he is in prison performing what appears to be a gay marriage between soldiers. (Gonna get another call from the Bishop about that little crack. You just wait and see…)

Even back then, people were not going to stand for being kept from marrying the person they love, so they found ways to defy the emperor, and Bishop Valentine became the go-to guy for marrying soldiers on the sly. Of course when you’re the go-to guy for anything, word gets out, and Valentine pretty much had his dick handed to him for defying the Emperor on matters of love, marriage, and soldiering. He was beaten with clubs and rocks, and when that didn’t kill him (Badass!), he was finally beheaded. Suddenly, having to celebrate the day with a box of candy doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It’s all about perspective, man.

So that’s how St. Valentine became associated with love and marriage, though the two were never officially linked in any way until Geoffrey Chaucer got creative with his quill and connected the dots, and introduced him as a patron of courtly love. Literally, the dude made it up, and folks seemed to like it, so the tradition of showering one’s beloved with gifts on this day can be blamed on the premiere poet of the Middle Ages. Yes, Chaucer was both the Father of English Literature and the inventor of the Hallmark Holiday.

That's him. Chaucer. Sitting there with his quill just making shit up as he goes along. *snorts* Writers...

That’s him. Chaucer. Sitting there with his quill just making shit up as he goes along. *snorts* Writers…

As a side note, there’s some flimsy evidence that we celebrate St. Valentine as the Patron of Love simply because his feast day was celebrated the day before the pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia, though that theory has been generally dismissed by scholars who study such things. And even though the Church has a long and storied tradition of playing fast and loose with pagan rites and rituals, in this case there’s no real connection between Lupercalia and the modern tradition of getting down with a box of wine and a Barry White album.

Badass.

St. Valentine’s official feast day, though no longer celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, is on February 14, and he is the patron Saint of engaged couples, bee keepers, love, happy marriages, and the plague and is invoked against epilepsy.

Something Sucks Around Here October 29, 2012

Posted by J. in FYI.
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So, the opening of the last chapter of the Twilight Saga is just around the corner. And I have a confession to make.

I can’t WAIT.

Here’s what happened.

My daughter brought home the first Twilight book. I wondered if it was appropriate for a 4th grader to read. Sometimes I’m a dutiful parent. Mind you, I think I read The Thorn Birds when I was in fourth grade, but I was curious about it. I started reading, and about four pages in I got so mad I threw it.

I do not approve of that novel for any age level to read. It is bad. I washed my hands of it. I figured it was not up my alley because it’s a YA novel, and I am no longer a Young Adult. I’m an old adult and prefer to read something a bit more challenging. I let it go and figured Twilight was something I need never again worry my head about.

Then my friend Loraine found out I’d never seen the movies. “I don’t want to,” I said. “I have no interest at all.”

“You HAVE to. I have them on DVD. You will come over some morning and we’ll watch.”

She talked me into it. I brought knitting that I later had to rip out because my gauge was so tight from anger. She sat and laughed as the movie went on because I kept getting madder, and madder, and madder. I started yelling at the TV, and then at her. She dropped me off at home and I was PISSED. Super-pissed, even.

The story was already Not Great, so the movie wasn’t going to be Citizen Kane or anything. I knew Robert Pattinson wasn’t going to be the handsome, ruddy youth of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (rest in piece, beautiful Cedric Diggory). I knew whatsherface has one facial expression.

What made me mad was the fact that somewhere, the author of those books is raking in money hand over fist and is swimming in a pool full of gold coins like Scrooge Fucking McDuck somewhere. I could go off on a diatribe about what was wrong with the movie and the book, but I’ll let Matt Inman of The Oatmeal explain it. He does it so much better than I.

So when she asked if I was ready to watch New Moon while crouching behind the circulation desk at the library and well out of the reach of my swinging fists, I said yes, but this time I brought a big, honkin’ cup of coffee with a healthy dram of Bailey’s in it to take the edge off. And take the edge off, it did. Plus, New Moon had werewolves. Some very yummy werewolves. I was a little buzzed and liking the shirtless boys quite a lot. They weren’t so emo as all the vampires. It was a refreshing change. I found myself…enjoying it a little. I was not super-pissed when I got home.

Then there was another one, and I got me some coffee with a good, stiff shot in it and by this time I was rolling with it. I knew what was coming, and as it unfolded I just sat back and enjoyed it. It was hilarious. I was a little drunk. So when the first part of the fourth one came out, I was all over it. Now, up until this point, Loraine had seen them all. In the first and second ones, she sat and watched my reactions and laughed her ass off. She knew what stupidity was afoot and was wetting herself while fearing for her very life.

She hadn’t seen the fourth one. I hadn’t either, but I’d also watched three of these stupid movies in a row, fortified by Irish cream liqueur, and I was getting quite used to it. I was looking forward to what inanity they could dream up next, and I wasn’t disappointed. The first part of Breaking Dawn reached new heights of horrible awesomeness, but the best part was watching Loraine.

Rage face ensued. LORAINE SMASH. She was yelling at the screen. She almost stabbed the cat with a knitting needle. She was mumbling epithets about Scrooge McDucking in a swimming pool of cash.

When she dropped me off, she was super-pissed and I was the one laughing.

Honestly, for me the movies are like Rocky Horror. You know how the first time you see a cult classic like that you think to yourself, “This is the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Why do people like this so much?” Then you watch it again, and again, and before you know it, you’re hooked. You just get it. I will never understand why anyone is seriously in love with this franchise, but for me, it has all the appeal of a cult classic. The whole saga is so bad it’s actually amazing. It’s amazingly bad. But it’s serious in it’s badness and that makes it terrific.

And I can’t fucking WAIT to see the last chapter.

I’m dragging Loraine’s ass to the movie theater. No worries. Smitty’s serves alcohol. It’s going to be EPIC.