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Stay the Course, or… March 26, 2014

Posted by J. in Genius.
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Well, it’s here. Part of me knew it was inevitable. I have seen other people lose large amounts of weight and drop right down to where they want to be. Sure, it slows as the pounds come off, but it keeps going, the numbers keep falling.

Me? Not so much. I plateau. I am the queen of the plateau. I spend so much time here I’m the Mayor of Plateausville.

I hit this plateau every time I lose weight. It’s right around this length of time and this amount of weight and general pound area. Usually I get a bit closer to 200, but considering I started higher this time, it all comes out in the wash.

By “hitting a plateau” I mean that my weight loss has slowed to the point of nearly stopping. I am not eating more, or less than I have been. My dietary changes have been minor. If anything, my workout intensity has increased, as has my fitness level. It seems impossible that those things would cause me to come to the dieting equivalent of sitting in rush hour traffic, but here we are. The car moves, incrementally, after very long pauses. As you try to relax and listen to some music, but the longer you inch along, the grouchier you become.

I’m trying to be patient, but I’m an Aries, and it’s not my strong suit to start with. But I can talk myself into patience. I can and do frequently remind myself that this is a long haul kind of thing and not a sprint to the finish. There is no finish. The course doesn’t ever really end. I can do that much.

Still, I am having a case of the anxiety/depression attacks that I know stems from the fact that this is where I’ve always dropped out in the past. I get to looking good, to feeling good, and then things just stop. I find myself still working hard, eating right, exercising, but it’s all just to maintain an unacceptable level of fat.

Yes, I consider myself very fat, and for me, it is unacceptable. I’m 220 pounds and that’s at least 70 pounds overweight. I think. Math is hard. I’m wearing a size 14-ish top and 18 bottoms. I know that my physical size isn’t the whole story…not how I look or how much the scale says I weigh. My ultimate goal is to feel good about how I look and feel, whatever that turns out to be.

But my friend Haley asked me the other day if I could be happy if my size turned out to be say, a 16.

The answer is no. I don’t think I can be happy at 200 pounds, mostly because it’s still too fat. I can do better than that. Can’t I?

What if I can’t get there? What if “less fat” is as thin as I get?

What if I do get there? What if I look at myself at 140 pounds and still see fat?

I haven’t been thin since I was in the 3rd grade.

I think a lot of the positive reaction I get is because the change in how I look is so very remarkable. Everyone I know has known me as a Very Fat Person. I don’t think they can imagine me weighing 140 pounds, even though we all know people who weigh that, or less, even. We’re just used to seeing them thin. Me, not so much. Fat is part of who I have always been.

Easter sweaters, 11 months apart.

Easter sweaters, 11 months apart.

So I sit here at 220 pounds. I’ve lost 1.5 pounds in the last 3 weeks. February’s loss was 4.6 lbs. Even losing a pound a week, that’s 70 more weeks to get to the high end of my weight range. I don’t know that it’ll pick up. I don’t know if I’ll be 200 pounds for the next 6 months. Or six years. Or forever. I was looking forward to the clothes I bought this winter not fitting me come fall. Needless to say, I won’t be tossing them in a bag as soon as (if it ever) warms up.

That thought makes me sad.

I know…I should be looking at it as it’s still losing. I will still get there, eventually. And I’ll have a better chance of keeping it off.

I keep hearing the advice, “Stay the course. You’re doing the right things, just keep going. Don’t be so impatient.”

But what if I’m not doing the right thing anymore? What if my body has changed and it needs something else? More food? Less food? More exercise? Different exercise?

I don’t know how to get through a plateau because I’ve never managed it. I have always gotten so frustrated with working so hard to maintain my unacceptable weight that my brain just caves. I try to do things to shake it loose, and when it doesn’t work, I give up. I figure if I’m going to be fat, I’m going to eat. I’m going to relax and not worry every day about if I can get to the gym or not. Or if this food or that one is bad for me. I want to go to a restaurant and order what I feel like eating, not what “fits into my plan.”

I know that stupid. I know I’m still better off maintaining this weight for the rest of my life than gaining it all back. I get it. I know it. But the way it usually works is you eat a deficit in calories to lose the weight, then to maintain it, you add some calories back in so that your weight levels out.

My weight has leveled out, but the math says I should be losing almost 2 pounds a week. So does this mean I have to eat this little food forever? Maybe that’s the case, and I have to deal with that sad knowledge as well.

I don’t know if this is my body making some adjustments. Maybe my metabolism is shifting in some way. Maybe it’s the running. Since I’ve picked that back up and it’s going well, maybe I’m trading my leg fat for solid muscle. Maybe it’s ramping up my metabolism and I need to eat more. It would explain why I’m always so freaking HUNGRY lately.

Maybe I’ve been eating too many carbs and my body is hanging onto them and turning them to fat.

Maybe it’s too much sugar.

Too much sodium?

I check my food journal and read labels. I’m weeding out the little bits of crap that have drifted back in as I attempt to feel a little more normal at mealtimes. I’m going to add free weights to my workout to build more lean muscle.

Beyond that…I don’t know what to do.

I know I should just keep swimming. But I’m just treading water, and right now, I’m scared to death of drowning. There are days that fear reaches near-panic levels.

And then there are days I feel good. I can run three miles at a go, and I do it once a week. I run every day now, usually only 2 miles though. Easier on the knees. I’ve increased my speed a little bit, and have determined that I probably won’t ever run fast enough to make racing worth it. But that’s okay. Being able to put my sneakers and earbuds on and head out for a run any time I want is plenty, really. I’m not competitive. I just like to do it. It quiets the demons for awhile.

Maybe it’s superficial. Maybe it’s adrenaline and endorphins and serotonin flooding my brain. But I don’t care. I run very fast because I desperately want to stand very still. I run to seek a void. The world around me is so very, very loud. It begs me to slow down, to sit down, to lie down. And the buzzing noise of the world is nothing compared to the noise inside my head. I’m an introspective person, and sometimes I think too much about my job and about my life.

I feed an army of pointless, bantering demons.

But when I run, the world grows quiet. Demons are forgotten, Krakens are slain, and Blerches are silenced.”

Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal, “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons I Run Long Distances

I have some pretty clothes and I’m confident that I clean up nice. Still not happy with all the hanging, flabby, saggy, blobby bits, which are getting more and more freakish by the day, but if I keep that shit covered, it’s fine. I can’t find pants to fit because I got an itty bitty waist and a big round butt, but I look good in skirts, so fuck it. Gives me an excuse to buy more sweet shoes.

There are always NSV’s and good days. Days I feel powerful, like I can do anything. There are days that the hard work isn’t all that hard. Sometimes it’s even pretty easy.

And then there are days where I’m acutely aware that my weight is going nowhere fast, and the notion that this level of suck is merely temporary doesn’t bring its usual comfort. ‘Cause what if it’s NOT.

You don’t know that it’s not. I don’t know that it’s not.

I have to stay the course.

Unless I need to change course.

I have no way on earth to know, and I’m scared. And disappointed. And today, I’m very discouraged. And on days like today, the victories have little soothing effect. I have to address the fear and disappointment over being stuck on this plateau. It is a lonely, painful, and demoralizing fight, and I can only pray that it doesn’t last for long, since I don’t know of any practical way to get past it.

The best I can do for today is try to outrun it, if I can.

 

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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.

If I Just Keep Looking… January 17, 2014

Posted by J. in Genius.
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I was surfing around the Internet this morning in an uncharacteristic bout of morning procrastination…I mean, I was looking around for some inspiring things to post…oh, hell. Okay, I kind of fell down a rabbit hole and as cabinets and pianos went drifting past me, I found this in a list of non-scale victories that a dieter on sparkpeople had posted:

I have reached the point where I’m not eating healthy because I’m on a “diet”. I truly feel better when I eat “clean” and that is motivation enough.

And it struck me that I could have written this, had it occurred to me. And then the fact that it’s true but hadn’t occurred to me seemed like a non-scale victory as well. A victory within a victory. Meta-victory. Victception.

I’d say 99% of the time, I don’t give a second thought to my diet. And I say “diet” in the meaning of the word that describes what and how an individual eats, not the way that means it’s a specific plan for losing weight or increasing health. Mindful eating has become my nature. Most of the time now, food is merely how I fuel my body. I don’t obsess over points or calories or grams of fat or any of that.

I believe that part of my past failures have been due to me never getting to this point. I’ve never put food in its appropriate place. It’s always been an obsession in one way or another, and neither is healthy. And obsessing about it in terms of eating Just the Right Things is harder and more exhausting than just eating All the Things. I know the main reason I’ve quit in the past is that it got to the point where living with that obsession just got too hard. It was exhausting in a way that obsessing about obtaining food just is not. And it’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to follow a prescribed diet. And it’s hard to describe to someone who doesn’t obsess about food to begin with.

So for most of my life, I’ve been swapping one compulsion for another. I came to that realization in Overeaters Anonymous. There were people in the group who were consumed by the Twelve Steps and the OA lifestyle. They were obsessed by it. And in a moment of clarity, I realized that I’ve done the same thing with Weight Watchers, and really all the diets and plans and programs I’ve tried. Granted, obsessing about counting calories, or points, or carbs is healthier physically than looking forward to eating lunch while you’re still eating breakfast, but it’s still an obsession.

The problem is two-fold. First, you’re not really overcoming the obsession with food. You’re changing the outer behavior, but not the inner, underlying issue. Which is not entirely bad. Those behaviors have to change. But if the reason for your overeating in the first place is obsessive, or compulsive–you can’t not eat–then you’re only tackling half the problem. Making permanent changes means changing everything, not just how you eat, but why.

When you don’t overcome that obsession, you are still under the thumb of it. Food still owns you. It still rules your life and determines how you are going to live it. And that is the second part of the problem. When you’re fat and eating everything you want, giving your body everything your obsession tells you you need, the outcome is you continue to get fatter. It’s why so many fat people don’t even start. When we say things to the effect of “I’m powerless over food” or “I can’t imagine never eating {insert junk food here} again” or anything of that ilk, it comes across as a lack of willpower. But it’s not that. It’s more than that. It’s worse than that. Telling a fat person the solution to their eating issues is to put the fork down and step away from the table is not helpful. Because even if we can do it, we leave the table thinking about the food we left. We obsess over what we didn’t eat. We long for and even mourn the food we can no longer enjoy because it’s bad for us. We figure out how to get that bit of ice cream, or piece of chocolate, or fast food burger into our day or our week because without it, life isn’t worth living.

That’s obsession.

So you pick up a diet plan you can live with, and you work it. You do the things you need to do. You work hard at changing your behaviors. And because you have this obsession with food, you get to keep focusing on it. You can plan menus, search for and try new recipes, buy new products that fit within your plan. When it’s new and exciting, there’s a challenge to it, like a hard puzzle and you’re up for it! You get to pay careful attention to your food, and it’s okay with everyone. You’re taking charge of your life! You’re doing something healthy!

But over time, logging your calories gets tiring. The old obsessions come back because they never really went away. They just took a different shape. And the new shape is harder than the old shape. You become a slave to your food journal. You stop looking forward to eating out because you know trying to find something on the menu that fits into your plan is going to be a pain in the ass. You get sick of the same foods because you eat them so often, since figuring out how to incorporate new foods that fit is no longer new and novel, but a tiresome chore. You crave the bread you gave up, or the sugar, or even just the freedom of ordering whatever the hell you feel like eating whenever you feel like eating it.

You become a prisoner to your food in a far less satisfying way than you were before. You’re healthier, and stronger, and fitter, but the obsession that used to keep you fat is still making you unhappy.

And then the Mean Voice comes in. It’s says, “Fuck it. You are who you are. You were fat and happy. You were a size 28, but you were confident, and confidence is sexy! Your health is fine, and wouldn’t you rather be a happy, chubby girl instead of a skinny, crabby, sad old bitch?”

Yeah, you would. I did. Over and over. I lost weight, it got hard, and tiresome, and the old face of the obsession, the one I was comfortable with, would win.

So what’s different this time?

Well, this time I have someone to talk to who understands the kind of feelings that food obsessions bring on. I don’t have to explain what a binge feels like when it’s coming on, or what it feels like to eat everything that’s not nailed down, and what the aftermath is like. He knows. When I say I threw out chocolate cake so that I wouldn’t eat it, and the act of doing so made me tear up because I was so sad, he understood. These are feelings I’ve never addressed before, mostly because to say them out loud sounds SO fucked up. Well, I suppose it is. It’s not normal behavior, and it’s not a healthy relationship with food. It’s embarrassing to have to admit a loss of control, and having a safe, soft place to talk about it with no judgement is a godsend. And getting encouragement from someone who struggles with the same issues in the same way has more of an impact than hearing it from someone who doesn’t understand exactly how hard it is some days to put one foot in front of the other.

I think blogging has helped just as much. I have a place to spew out all the shit that rolls around in my head about this. My readership is far from vast, and I’m not so full of myself to believe that I’m writing this for the betterment of the Fat World at Large so much as it’s for and about me as I wrestle with my demons. But to hear in the comments that something I’ve said has resonated, or that I’ve inspired anyone to tackle their own personal demons…it feels good, but not in an ego-stroke kind of way. It helps me to hear that I’m not alone. I’m not crazy.

Well, maybe that’s overstating it, but at least my crazy has company, and that is comforting. It’s strengthening. Never underestimate the power of a simple, “Me too.”

I wish I knew if there was a series of steps you go through to overcome eating issues like the ones I struggle with. Like the stages of grief, you know? I know that for me, it didn’t lie in the Twelve Steps as they pertain to addiction and recovery, so labeling myself as a food addict seems inappropriate. I would stand up and introduce myself as a compulsive overeater, but that never seemed entirely accurate either. Because by the standards of OA, sobriety is measured in sticking to your food plan. Well, for me, that wasn’t really sobriety, because it was my compulsive overeating putting on a costume and walking around as compulsive dieting. It might look different, but it’s not.

I think figuring out that I have the food obsession/compulsion in the first place was part of getting out from under it. Truly, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming anything. If you live in denial that you’re fat, you’re unhealthy, and the way that you live comes with a high cost, even getting started is going to be so much harder. You have to look yourself in the metaphorical eye and admit, no matter how much it hurts, that you have a problem. I put that part off for a long time, because I knew what I was undertaking, and I knew I was probably going to fail again. You have to be willing to shake that off and set it aside and brace yourself for the fight you know is coming.

That’s some hard enough shit to handle right there.

Figuring out that compulsive dieting was the flip side of this particular O/C coin is another piece. When you’re aware of your behavior, you start to be able to see it for what it really is. Once I realized what I was doing, it made perfect sense. So asking myself why I was acting that way, and sorting out the answers, that made it easier to curb the behavior. I imagine everyone’s answers to the “why” of it are different. Sort of like figuring out why you eat compulsively in the first place, and the reasons for it are legion, how you handle dieting is just more of the same self-examination.

Like the first part, it requires honesty. You can lie to yourself about why you behave the way you do, but I think getting things in control comes only with true self-awareness. You have to face your demons, and that means looking at your dieting behavior and really deciding if it’s healthy, or if you are giving into unhealthy, obsessive behavior. And only you know the answer. What makes a behavior normal for one person and abnormal for another is the motivation behind the action. In the same way I have a binge eating disorder, the flip side of that (I’ve discovered) is that I am prone to bulimic tendencies. Bulimia is primarily bingeing and purging, and it doesn’t always mean puking after you eat, or taking laxatives. But I’ve been known to toss back some water pills before my weigh in, and that’s not healthy. It won’t hurt me, but it’s bad for my brain. Working out excessively so that you can eat more food is bulimic behavior, as is eating something not on your plan and then working out to burn those calories. That’s purging, and while extra exercise isn’t harmful in the way puking is, it’s still unhealthy behavior.

Those are the kinds of things I have to check myself on. I have to curb both bingeing and purging, and doing both of those things are easier now because I am able to get inside my own head and evaluate why I do them in the first place.

Facing my own fears and anxieties has certainly been a step, as has sorting through the emotional fallout of having to reject old thought patterns and feeling lost and adrift in my own life. But I still feel like there’s a piece missing somewhere and it nags at me so I keep searching for it. Like there’s some sort of Rosetta Stone of fat out there that will unravel the whole mystery for me. I imagine before all is said and done that I’ll hit on it. It’s like it’s right there, if I could just get to it.

So often, things happen without me realizing it until later, hindsight being so clear and all. Last night I went to the gym and had a good 650 calorie workout. I had a hankering for ice cream, and I hit the grocery, still sweaty and red in my ridiculous running tights and neon sneakers, and I stood there for a good 10 minutes reading labels. Maybe fifteen. I left without ice cream. Ultimately, I realized I didn’t want it that much. I had the calories for it, and I knew it would be tasty, but in that moment, I didn’t want to spend the calories on something that wasn’t good fuel for me.

Now, I know that won’t always be my decision. Sometimes I’ll eat the ice cream. Or something else with little nutritional value, and it’ll be fine. It would have been fine last night. I might have some tonight, who the hell knows? But the fact that I didn’t regret not getting it was big. Not mourning the loss of tasty frozen treats was a victory. Walking away feeling good about the decision and not vaguely angry that I can’t eat like “normal” people was new and different, and I went home and made a healthy dinner without giving it another thought.

Then this morning, I read that wonderful quote about not eating healthy because she’s on a diet, but because eating clean makes her feel good. And I realized that for me, that is very true. I eat well because…I eat well. Not to stay within some tricky puzzle of numbers, though I do still write down everything I eat so that I don’t over eat, or under eat for that matter, but because food is fuel, and the better I fuel it, the better I feel. I don’t remember the last time I felt despair at the idea that this was how I was going to have to live for the rest of my life because honestly, it’s no longer hard. It’s not bad. I like the way I eat now.

Letting go of the compulsive dieting and changing those behaviors has meant that I feel as good mentally with my weight loss as I do physically. I’m not kidding when I say I eat well. I am seldom hungry. I have occasional treats, and sometimes the obsessions creep in and old habits come back for a visit, but most of the time, I’m happy and content with how my life is going, food wise. I don’t feel like I’m “dieting” or “on a diet” but that I’ve changed my diet, and I don’t really pay it much mind anymore because I don’t have to. More important, the compulsions that drove me to  it are under my control, not the other way around. And that, my friends, is something totally new.

I feel like the Ferdinand Magellan of weight loss.

I know now that when they tell you as part of dieting advice, “You can’t just go on a diet, you have to change your lifestyle,” that they’re talking about changing the actions that you do. But it’s not enough, and it’s why I think so many of us fail over and over again. If you change your actions and not your relationship with food, your actions have no foundation under them. If you look at the role food plays in your life and work to change that, then your lifestyle changes will match what is going on in your head.

As to how exactly you do that…I don’t know. Like I said, there’s some key I think I’m missing that will unlock it for me. I’m not sure how I got to this point. No one told me a lot of this stuff, it’s just what I figured out on my own, and it got me to a good place by dragging me through some shitty ones, and I’m sure it’s not over by a long shot. I guess if I had to make a rough draft for the steps it would look something like this:

  1. Admit that you have a weight problem and be honest about how serious it is. Evaluate how you feel, and have a doctor talk to you about your weight-related health issues. Find out exactly how much you weigh, and how much you should weigh. And take some time to come to terms with what might not be very good news. Allow yourself time to be upset about it, but don’t deny it. Don’t make excuses for it.
  2. Consider the behaviors that got you to where you are. You’re not fat by accident. You’re fat because you made yourself that way, and you’re the only one who can make you thin. The percentage of people who are fat through no fault of their own is very, very tiny. Everyone else got there by choice. You have to figure out what bad habits have contributed to your weight gain, and what good habits are missing from your life and resolve to change them.
  3. When you look at your behaviors, think about them. Talk about them. Write about them. And get some help with this if you need to. Whether that’s a friend who can relate to your particular set of struggles, a support group, or a professional therapist, find someone to talk to. There is a reason you eat the way you do. Everyone has a reason behind the way they act, including how they relate to food. You have to look at the role food plays in your life, and if the answer is anything other than “fuel”, it’s time to stop and look at why that’s so. This takes a long time, is an ongoing process, and won’t happen overnight, so get right on to step 4.
  4. Change some shit. You know how you got fat, if not exactly why, so you have to change the things that made you fat. And I’m no expert, but I think the answer is going to lie in the realm of eating less and moving more. Again, don’t make excuses and don’t accept them. While the changes are easy and new and exciting, start building good habits that root out the bad ones and get them established. Because the day is coming when Step 3 is going to come back around to bite you in the ass, and you’re going to want to have some good experience under your belt before you tackle it.
  5. Repeat Step 3 and 4 as often as necessary for the rest of your life. Continue to poke around in your own head and figure out who you are. The more honest you are with yourself, the more easily the changes happen. I find that every time I go into a period of time where I’m introspective and am dealing with a lot of the mental processes of losing weight, shit goes off the rails with my eating plan. I have trouble with keeping on track. The obsessions and compulsions go nuts and take over when I’m at my most vulnerable, and sometimes it’s only digging my heels in and refusing to go quietly that keeps me from quitting.

What’s missing is not so much a step as it is the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s the HOW of all of step 3 that makes 4 possible. I don’t know how you change the way you look at things. I don’t know how you change the way you think about food. It just seems to happen for me, and then when it’s done, I’m all HEY, LOOK AT THAT, WOULD YOU? Check out what I did!

Which is less than helpful.

I know that when I got to step three and started talking about the things in my life that have added to my obesity, and worked on trying to figure them out, I gained a lot of insight. I don’t think my insights are universal, since I suspect that every one of us is different, even if some of our struggles are the same. I learned about me, and knowing who I am and what makes me tick has let me make the mental changes I needed to, and that’s lead to the physical changes sticking and those reinforce the mental changes and…well, repeat step 3 and 4 as necessary forever.

I’ll keep looking for that missing piece though. Man, it’s like it’s just out of the grasp of my fingertips, or on the tip of my tongue.

Don’t you hate that?

What Defines You? December 24, 2013

Posted by J. in Genius.
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I was sweating away on the Arc trainer the other day, as I often do, watching the bank of TV’s overhead to take my mind off the aching in my thighs and the sweat trickling into the crack of my ass. I actually like watching A Baby Story because it’s nice to see women in more pain and sweating harder than I am, but I happened to be Keeping Up With the Kardashians that day, and a commercial came on. I usually ignore the commercials because they don’t tend to close caption them, and besides…commercials. But a Special K ad caught my eye.

Defined by a Number

It says that from the time we are born, we are defined by a number. And they show a baby and kids being weighed and then adults standing on scales. The point of it is they’re asking about what your goal is. Is it just a number, or is it something more? Shouldn’t it be something more?

It got me to thinking hard about my goal weight, and whether that was a term I still wanted in my life. When I started, I set my goal weight at 200 pounds. I know it’s still fat, still outside the healthy weight range for a woman my height, but for mental reasons, it seemed like all I’d be able to manage. I didn’t want to set myself up to fail if I didn’t have to. Plus, I know I look pretty darn good at 200 pounds. I’m still plus sized, but the pluses are all in the right places. It’s nothing to sneeze at, and still meant a 160 pound weight loss, which is pretty daunting all on its own.

As I’ve crept closer to 200, my thinking has changed. My health has improved and the things I can do are growing all the time, albeit slowly. Just being able to walk for 30 minutes a day seemed huge at first, and now it’s nothing. Hell, it’s a bare minimum. I do that if I’m sick. A 30 minute walk at this point is practically phoning it in. And as I close in on that original goal–I’m within 40 pounds now–getting to my healthy weight range seems more important. Two hundred is still too overweight for my frame. There is no reason I can’t get to between 120 and 150 pounds. I can’t imagine being under 140. I really want to look good, and healthy. If that happens at 150, sweet. If I get to 120 and look amazing, that would be great, too. I have made my closest friends and family PROMISE me that if I start looking like I have The Cancer, they’ll intervene. And on my part, I PROMISE to listen and not make excuses.

It’s a concern. I doubt my ability to be objective. We all know there’s a line between ” you look great” and “okay, enough is enough” and I want a safety line there so that I’m not constantly pushing myself to a lower and lower goal just to prove that I can do it. Or because the allure of being in sizes I’ve never conceived of draws me in. Or because having been fat my whole life I feel like I have something to prove.

I still don’t have a hard number for a weight goal. I keep waffling, because I really don’t know where that line is. One-forty seems like a good round number, but it’s fairly arbitrary, and I’m leaving it that way. At the end of the day I know I have nothing to prove by hitting it, or not hitting it, by staying at it, or by keeping on past it.

And as the thoughts consume my brain, I see this commercial come on between shots of Kim K’s ass asking me “What defines you?” Is it a number on the scale? Or on a tape measure? Or on the tag of a piece of clothing?

Or is it something else? What, Jennifer, is your REAL goal in all of this?

That opened up a whole new line of thinking. Goals have always been weight oriented. Number oriented. And they have their place. Numbers are used to measure things, including health, whether people like it or not. Getting to a healthy weight and size is important, and the numbers are there for a reason, and will continue to be. Kind of like how you don’t need a thermometer to tell you it’s cold out, but you do need one to make sure you won’t get food poisoning from the meat in your fridge.

But what are my real goals? I think I was on to something when I set 200 as an initial goal. Because I set it to something I could attain. I knew I had done it before and ergo, I could do it again. I set a goal for myself to “not fail.” It was an intangible, unmeasurable goal and I felt like it was a cop-out. I was scared of 140 because I’d never made it that far. But I realize now that the thought was right, even if the number was not.

The Special K commercial asks the question, “Is a number inspiring?”

Hmm.

Sometimes it is. You should see the look on people’s faces when they ask how much I’ve lost and I answer “120 pounds.” You’re probably making the face right now. And I can imagine the expressions when the answer is 240 pounds. That’s an inspiring number. And when I think of my progress and my journey in terms of numbers, that healthy weight range is inspiring. It’s motivating. It’s a very real, tangible goal.

But it’s not the end of the story. The commercial goes on to say “We believe in a more powerful motivation. Pride. Self esteem. Confidence. Not a number, but the way we want to feel. Beautiful.”

The tag line of the ad is “Tell us, what will you gain when you lose?”

Now that’s food for thought. It takes weight loss goals out of the tangible and brings into focus what really matters. What will you gain when you lose? Jesus…I don’t know.

I guess I’d start with what I have gained so far. Today, I know I think of myself in different terms than I did a year ago. It’s Christmas Eve, and I went to the gym. I was happy to go to the gym. I’m going to eat Chinese food later, and knowing that I offset the calories with a good workout made me feel…nothing. It was something that is healthy to do. Tomorrow, I’ll eat more than I usually do and foods that I wouldn’t touch the rest of the year because they’re not good for me. But this year, I’m not white-knuckling my ability to get back on that wagon. I’m not preemptively ashamed of a binge I know is coming. This year, I know that it’s a holiday, and everything is a little more relaxed. I’m going to eat and not count the cost, and I know, unlike last year, that I will step right back into my groove on Thursday morning, because it is who I am. Healthy is who I am.

Last year I was unsure, and the success I had gained seemed tentative. This year, I am confident.

I have gained confidence in my ability to do the things I need to do, and to bounce back from the occasional events that come up. That’s big, because they are always going to come up. Life happens, and being able to roll with it is important. I will not be derailed by Chinese food or tomorrow’s pie. I will enjoy every bite, I will savor it, and it will pass into memory.

Last year, I was not an athlete. I have gained health. When I started, walking for half an hour was a chore. I couldn’t do the elliptical or the Arc trainer at all. At this time last year, I was about to get a gym membership as a gift. The idea that after a year, I’d still be going 6 days a week seemed impossible. But I’ve done it. And I am measurably stronger, fitter, and healthier. I can sit in any chair. I fit in restaurant booths again. I run up flights of stairs without breaking a sweat or even breathing hard. They’re things healthy people take for granted, but I don’t. I remember not being able to do those things, and I’m not going back. If I never lose another pound, I’m sure I’ve gained years I might not have otherwise had.

I keep looking at my body image issues as a loss. I have felt for so long like I lost the person I used to like. To go for the better part of a year not wanting to look at myself in a mirror has been painful beyond words. And the fight for that self-love has been so hard fought.

So very, very hard. I am battered, and bruised, but I refuse to break.

But to look in the mirror and see myself as I am, and be okay with it has come as a joyful relief. I’ve gained back some self-esteem, or maybe a new self-esteem to go with my new self. I’m seeing myself as new, I guess. Not the same fat person I was. I’m seeing a thin person coming out. I see her now, and while I’m still trying to gain patience where this is concerned, knowing that she’s there, and she’s beautiful is a wonderful gift. Or maybe it’s not a gift. Maybe it’s a reward I’ve earned. I think that’s more likely the case. I’ve gone to the mat for months with Mean Jen over how I feel about myself and I got back up. I earned the right to look in the mirror and say, “You’re damned right.”

I have gained strength I didn’t know I had. I’ve learned to reach inside myself and really look for those things that matter, while rejecting the things that don’t.

I’m not going to be defined by the numbers that measure me. My goal is not a number: not a weight, not a size, not a percentage. My goal is to be whole. My goal is confidence, self-esteem, pride, strength, and courage. My goal is control, discipline, and drive.

I know no one is going to give them to me. I can’t pray for them or wish on a star. I have to work for them, and fight for them, and pay for them in sweat and tears.

So to answer your very excellent question, Special K, “What will I gain when I lose?”

Me. I will gain ME. How fucking cool is THAT?

Merry Christmas, and here’s to a mind-blowing 2014.

I’ll Take It December 17, 2013

Posted by J. in Genius.
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Today, I had a feeling come over me that I’ve never felt before.

I’ve mentioned how so far I haven’t felt like these lifestyle changes are permanent, or that this is the time I’m really, actually,  honest-to-God going to lose all the weight and keep it off. It’s been more than I can contemplate. In my own defense, I have no success to build on. I’ve never done it, so it’s not like I know I can do it. I’ve already lost more at this moment than I ever have before, come further than in the past, and I’m in uncharted waters. I don’t know what the next year, or two, or five will hold for me. There’s no way I can know.

And all along, over the past 13 months, this has all felt both unattainable, and very tentative. And lately…hoo boy. Mean Jen has been hammering at me. Every day, for what feels like hours. I’ve felt low, like giving up, and at the same time feeling trapped. Let’s face it: if I fail this time, I’m going to do it very publicly. Even if I want to quit, the thought of having to admit it here, for my friends to see me get fat again, isn’t something I can face, so I grit my teeth and keep going.

Today, I was getting dressed for the bus stop. It was 10 below zero, and I gotta tell you, I’m fucking freezing to death. No lie. I’ve lived here my whole life and this winter has hit me like a ton of very cold bricks. I have lost 120 pounds of insulation, and apparently my body won’t really thermoregulate well until my weight stabilizes, so as i continue to lose, I can count on being cold.

Joy.

So I pulled my LL Bean long red union suit on over the t-shirt I slept in, and pulled my new jeans on over them. I haven’t worn jeans in many, many years because I’d reached a level of fat where there was no way they were ever going to fit properly, and stretch pants are so much more comfortable. But now I’m in a 20 petite, and they fit over my long underwear. Which felt pretty cool. And all at once I felt that this wasn’t temporary. Only the size I’m in right now.

I didn’t have much time to consider, or even enjoy the feeling because I had to get the kids to the bus, but when I got back, I thought about it for awhile. It was the first time I really felt like I was going to lose this weight. It was a small, kind of quiet knowledge, but the feeling of “this is going to happen” was there. Like there’s no stopping it. No room for discussion of any sort. Just a certainty.

And somehow I knew that I wasn’t going back, either.

I made a promise when I started that as I lost the weight, I’d get rid of my fat clothes. If I don’t have them, I can’t gain it back. I can’t keep them and prepare myself to fail. So I’ve been passing them on as I go along, replacing my wardrobe as necessary. Today, for no reason at all, I went through all my clothes again and tried stuff on, and this time as I filled a garbage bag with things that are too big and will never fit again, it felt good. I didn’t get that usual feeling of “What if I need them again? I liked this shirt, I can’t ever replace it once it’s gone.” I knew I’d get better shirts. Smaller shirts. I will NEVER need the big ones again.

I took a few pictures of me in things I’d worn in the past. I was told I could keep one thing from when I was at my heaviest just to pull out to see how far I’ve come. I picked my “good shirt.” It was my go-to when I wanted to look good. It was the most flattering top I owned. And this is how it looked a couple of months before I started my diet.

At my 25th High School Reunion

At my 25th High School Reunion

You’ll have to pardon the bad mirror selfie, but this is how it fits now.

Fucking crazy, man.

Fucking crazy, man.

It’s at least 3 sizes too big at this point. My pajama pants that I bought at the beginning of the summer to take on my trip literally fall off my hips now. My compression running tights don’t really compress anymore. My 2X workout shirts are too big to be comfortable or practical to wear to the gym.

For weeks, all I’ve been able to see is how far I have to go. Every time I look at my body, I see what’s left, not what’s gone. I mean, I know I look better. But better isn’t necessarily the same as good, and I was having a hard time.

Part of that is because I haven’t been able to run. I’ve started the Couch to 5K program twice now. The first time I quit because it was killing my knee. I don’t want to need a replacement at 44, so I went back to walking. Lost some more weight and decided to give it another go. This time, while walking, I pulled a damned glute, so my ass and hip were killing me. I couldn’t even walk, I had to switch to the Arc trainer instead.

It felt like defeat, and Mean Jen wouldn’t let it alone. I know, because I’ve been reminded by my sister, that there’s never been an athlete alive that trained for something that didn’t have to deal with an injury. And that’s what I’m doing, so some setbacks are bound to happen.

But I also know that I got hurt, and it took a long time to heal, because I’m carrying too much weight for my muscles and joints to handle. Doesn’t matter how much I’ve lost, or how many inches, what matters is that I’m too fat to run.

I felt like I did when I first started at the gym. Fat. Slow. Like I didn’t belong there. And having to stay on the Arc because it’s low impact was the worst. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t see the progress, or the fitness level I’ve achieved, only that I was stuck babying my joints because I was so very, very fat. Not with the runners, the real athletes. With the people who can’t run.

Logically, I know the Arc is hard work. I know I have some pretty rockin’ stamina on it. But not having that choice bothered me. Still does. Not being able to do a lot of the exercises I’d like to because my body can’t support my weight is hard. All I see is how far I have to go, not how far I’ve come. And for weeks now, Mean Jen hasn’t let me see all the parts of where I am.

I don’t know what happened, or what changed, but I looked in the mirror today and saw a huge change. The difference between who I was and who I am is astounding. I looked at myself in the mirror for a long time, and was able to point out the things I really love to see.

The curve of my hip is smooth, it no longer bulges.

My waist is small and my tits are holding their own.

I have collar bones, and a jawline, and bicep definition.

I look at least 10 years younger.

And I thought of the things that go with it, beyond what I can see.

I can run up a flight of stairs without being winded.

Walking to the bus stop is no problem. Except for the freezing to death part.

There are tons of things I can do now that I couldn’t when I was fat.

That’s actually a joke between my sister and me. I said something one day and she said, “Remember when you were fat?” She wasn’t being snarky, or funny, or mean. She meant it. I thought it was hilarious because let’s face it: I’m still really fat. But I don’t think like a fat person anywhere near as often anymore. I think like a healthy person most of the time. I take for granted being able to do the things I avoided at my heaviest. When I was fat.

Today, I felt that. I’ve been feeling all along that it’s a process. What I could feel was changes, and they’ve been hard. It’s been painful. I’ve cried. I haven’t enjoyed seeing the scale go down, or seeing smaller numbers on the tape measure or clothing tags, or any other non-scale victories for a couple of months. It’s been a hard, long, dry, awful stretch.

Today, it clicked. I’ve had that feeling and I can feel it again. I will feel it again. There’s a calm, quiet, serene knowledge that I will get there. It will happen when it happens. And right now, I look good. Yes, better than I did. And not as good as I’m going to look. But right now, in the moment, I can smile at the reflection in the mirror.

I’ll take it.

The Nuts and Bolts, I Guess November 19, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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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.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
8 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.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

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.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

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…