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It Seems Like There Should At Least Be Confetti May 11, 2015

Posted by J. in Genius.
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3 comments

I suppose a lack of fanfare is to be expected when one moves the finish line a couple of miles before the end of the race. Or decides that there’s really no finish line at all and to just stop running altogether.

Wait. That’s confusing. Let me start again.

I decided yesterday–somewhat tentatively, mind you–that I’m done losing weight. I have, for all intents and purposes, reached my goal weight.

Thank you, RuPaul. That's more like it.

Thank you, RuPaul. That’s more like it.

I say tentatively because every time I say it out loud, I feel like I’m cheating. I feel like I couldn’t get to my goal, so I just moved the goal. The last couple of miles were too hard, so I dropped out and declared myself the winner. I cannot achieve Thin, and have decided to settle instead for less Less Fat. It doesn’t feel like a victory to declare that 180 pounds is the best I can do; it is way more like a crushing defeat to me.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve been hovering within 5 pounds of 180 for more than 6 months now. I have dieted and exercised like an insane person, counting every bite of food that went into my mouth and only managed to get down to 177 pounds. But I’ve had weeks where I’ve not written down one thing, not counted one calorie, eaten more than a few “naughty foods” that I shouldn’t have, and only gone up to 186. And all I have to do to slip back down to 180 is have a couple of good days of smaller portions and better food choices.

The bottom line is that maintaining this weight isn’t that hard. My body seems to like it here. And the longer it goes on, the less it feels like a plateau and more like true stabilization.

What’s been eating at me is the fact that my body has stabilized about 40 pounds shy of the end goal. So I reevaluated my goal and said there’s nothing wrong with being 155 pounds instead of 140. If I could get to there, I would no longer be labeled as overweight. As it is, at 180 pounds, I’m still labeled as obese.

I DON’T WANT TO BE OBESE ANYMORE. I DON’T WANT TO BE OVERWEIGHT. I WANT TO BE NORMAL.

*sigh*

But the fact remains that my body has ideas of its own, and I have come to realize that it had those plans all along. It’s all well and good for me to pick a weight or pick a dress size, or get a mental image of what I’m going to look like, but when I was 360 pounds, I had no idea what was going to happen to my body as I lost weight. I didn’t know, and couldn’t know, what I was going to encounter along the way. It stands to reason that I should give myself permission to make adaptations to my expectations, as the reality unfolds.

I’ve had to reevaluate the labels that I put on myself, and that others put on me, and consider how realistic they actually are. For starters, I still think of myself as fat. Referring to myself as anything else seems like a weird lie. Even when I’m dressed and looking in the mirror for lumps and rolls and flab and not finding any, I’m not believing that they’re just not there. When I put on a size 12 dress and it fits, I assume it’s vanity sizing, or perhaps it’s just been mislabeled. Maybe it’s just the way it’s cut or a forgiving fabric or something.

I have had to convince myself that I am actually a size 12. It still seems weird to me. It doesn’t seem possible. And yet I have the tags to prove it. And here’s the thing: when I was 300 pounds, I remember saying more than once that I’d cut a bitch just to be a size 12.

And here I am, and I have no idea what to do with it.

I was saying as much to my mother at dinner last night. She said that she hoped I wasn’t trying to lose a whole lot more weight, because she felt I am on the verge of looking too thin. Particularly from the waist up and in my face. Granted, I still have an ample ass and thunder thighs, but she said I could thank Grammie Aline for those. My sister and I have long resigned ourselves to the fact that we could weigh 100 pounds and still have a fat ass. It is what it is, man.

I said I wanted to be a size 8 and that there is really no reason for me not to be a size 8. It’s not an unrealistic size.

She asked me why I wanted to be a size 8. “You can’t be much more than a 12 now.”

She looks at me and sees a size 12, tops. I look in the mirror and see a size 16 or an 18. Someone a whisper away from having to shop in the fat section of stores again. But I confirmed that yeah, I’m a size 12 or so.

“Well, what’s wrong with that?”

…Um…I don’t know…?

I’m still not sure I have an answer for that. Maybe because I still feel too big. I fear my mind has not caught up with my body. The progress has outpaced the process, as it were. I have been a fat girl for so long that my head can’t seem to see anything but a fat girl. It won’t acknowledge anything but a fat girl.

Sitting there at the bar, a little voice in my head said, “You know, that has to stop.”

Mind you, the little voice had been drinking bloody Mary’s, so I took the advice with a grain of salt, as one does when one’s inner voice is in its cups.

There is nothing wrong with being a size 12. It was a size I chose randomly as being a nice, smallish size, but not too small. Not eat-a-sandwich-for-the-love-of-Christ small. I’m not sure why at some point I decided that smaller was better. I suspect because at size 12, I still see a fat girl, but I’m thinking that there’s no way I’d consider a size 8 fat.

I can’t even say with any certainty that would be the case.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with those damned labels. I am still obese; ergo, I am still a fat girl. So it stands to reason that I must not be a nice, normal size 12, but I must be fatter than that. If I could maybe get to 170 and just be overweight? Damn it, why can’t I just get to 155?

This makes me pout. I occasionally stomp my feet and shake my fists towards heaven.

Fucking labels.

I know that logically, part of the reason I’m still overweight and will be for the foreseeable future is that I have a bunch more skin that the average body. Like, a whole bunch more. The people who came up with the weight charts used a normal body as a baseline. Two arms, two legs, a head, regular sized organs, average muscle tone, and the necessary amount of skin.

Bodybuilders don’t fret about being overweight in the least. The charts don’t allow for a metric fuckton of solid muscle. Doesn’t make them unhealthy. Doesn’t make them fat.

Dear God, it's disgusting. I'm sorry. I should have put a trigger warning on that.

Dear God, it’s disgusting. I’m sorry. I should have put a trigger warning on that.

The charts don’t allow for what could be anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds of extra skin, either.

But when I remove math from the picture, and think in terms of intangibles, it becomes easier. Consider: if I lost both my legs in an accident tomorrow, I’d lose a shitload of weight right there. Would I then be dangerously underweight? Well, of course not. The charts would no longer apply to me.

lightbulb

Is it possible, then, that I set goals for myself at 360 pounds that have proven to be unrealistic?

I didn’t know 180 pounds ago what body was under here. What I pictured and what emerged didn’t reconcile, and embracing what has come out has been a huge struggle. And it’s a struggle fueled by the idea that I’m just not there yet.

But what if I am there? What if there is now here?

dawn

What if I crossed the finish line 6 months ago and didn’t even know it? And what if it’s because I fell into the mental trap of thinking there was actually a finish line, when there are merely new stages of development and progress emerging and unfolding all the time? What if I kept fighting and struggling towards goals that were unattainable because I was unable to see that they were unrealistic?

Explosion_mushroom_shaped

I am declaring to myself and anyone who cares to listen that there doesn’t need to be any end point, or goal weight to be achieved. For now, 180 pounds is fine. The extra weight I carry isn’t fat, and it isn’t causing me any health issues. I am healthy by all measurable standards. Even my size 12 “not-too-skinny-but-just-right” size is affected by the surplus of skin. And if and when the day comes I can bid that skin farewell, I’m going to drop a few more sizes and a few more pounds. And what is realistic will change again.

And since I am now under the thumb of my own declaration of independence from labels and charts, I’m working on coming to terms with the fact that changing my goals and expectations of myself based on new information is not quitting. The part of me that has learned to be goal-oriented and driven to see results and refuses to say “can’t” is going to have to adjust to focusing on things that are harder to quantify. I’ve never had to maintain weight loss before and I’m in uncharted waters again.

I feel I have quite a bit of work ahead of me before I’ll be ready for any skin surgery. Part of me feels that even if a big, fat bag of money was to drop into my lap right now, surgery would not only fail to resolve my body image issues, but might make it worse. If I can’t see now that I’m not a big as I think, I could wind up in dangerous territory in a smaller body. Ultimately, I’d like to get to the point where I am able to reconcile what I see with my eyes with what my brain perceives, so that when I have the surgery, it’s more of a finishing touch and less of a hurriedly applied bandage.

And I want some time to work on new ways of dealing with food. I haven’t touched my food journal in over two weeks, and my weight has stayed put. I know what healthy portions look like, and I know good food from bad. Much like slacking up on the reins when it comes to pounds and inches, loosening my grip on the calories has caused my brain to think more in terms of intangibles as well. A good day is one where I’ve practiced good eating habits and made good choices. It’s a good day if I go out to eat, enjoy my meal, and don’t make myself a nervous wreck thinking that I blew the whole week because I ate too much, or ate the wrong thing. It’s a good day when I run 4 miles because I felt like it, and not because it burns a lot of calories and pleaseohplease let that show up as a loss on the scale.

I know I couldn’t have lost the weight being this relaxed about the process. At the same time, I don’t think I could be as relaxed about it now if I hadn’t worked so hard on mastering the process all along. I may have achieved my weight loss goal some months back, but it’s only now that I’m ready to accept myself as I am now, and let this phase of things unfold as it will.

I always thought of a goal as the end, but now that I’m here, if feels much more like a beginning. I had to make new habits and establish new thought pathways to come this far, and it’s time to do that all over again. Honestly, I have no more idea what I’m doing now than I did two and a half years ago.

But I reckon I’ll figure it out.

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Goal? April 9, 2015

Posted by J. in Genius.
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3 comments

I have occasion to direct people to my blog when they find out about my weight loss and want to know what the what is up wit all dat. They ask for advice, and honestly, I have no idea where to start. I probably should come up with something, because working at a gym, I get lots of questions in that particular vein. I tell people I learned to eat less and move more, but that’s such a cop-out of an answer. It’s the short, small-talk version of “I didn’t have bariatric surgery, if that’s what you’re asking.”

The actual answer is so much more involved, and when the conversation is a more in-depth one and seems to head off in the direction of lengthy explanations and anecdotes, I tell them I changed my relationship with food, that it’s an ongoing process that I’m still working out, and in lieu of a facile answer, I direct them here.

The adage is that losing weight is 90% diet and 10% exercise, but that is just the physical part. It’s 100% mental, and I realize the math on that comes up to 200%, but math isn’t my strong suit and I’m not sure it can be quantified anyway. If there’s one recurring theme to all my posts about losing, it’s that there’s an awful lot of shit going on in my head, lots of it ain’t real pretty, and there are times I feel very much like I’m falling to bits.

I’m currently picking myself up off the ground after the last knock-down round and dusting off.

I had my first meeting with a plastic surgeon, just to get the lay of the land of what the next part of the journey will be.

After a lengthy exam in which he kneaded my abdomen like a cat and took careful measurements of my skin suit, the verdict was that I’m an excellent candidate for abdominoplasty, which is the fancy word for a tummy tuck. He said that what is left there, and under my arms is all skin. There’s no fat left there, so no liposuction would be necessary as is sometimes the case. He said I did that all with diet and exercise. He was a little less enthusiastic about my thighs, but it was because (as he explained) that legs aren’t his area of expertise. It’s a lot more involved and he’d refer me to someone who specializes in that particular area.

He’s confirmed what I had suspected from reading weight loss forums about results following skin reduction surgery, and that is that I’m probably carrying 20 pounds or so in excess skin that’s not going anywhere. As a rough estimate, mind you. But considering his years of experience, I’m going to assume his ability to eyeball such things is pretty darn good.

Now, I say it’s not going anywhere for two reasons. In the first place, I can’t diet or exercise skin away. He confirmed that the skin of my lower abdomen was shot, it was mostly stretch marks from hip to hip, and that the slack there was permanent, unlike the healthy, resilient tissue of my upper abdomen. Same with my arms and everywhere else. It’s not something that can be tightened up, and while healthy skin will shrink some, mine is mostly stretched past that point.

The other reason it’s not going away is that it will require surgery, and my insurance company does not approve claims for skin reduction after weight loss unless there is a medical necessity, and the only thing he said he’s seen them cover it for is in the case of a brittle diabetic with skin ulcers that would not heal. And even then he said they only covered a partial procedure to excise the extra skin and not the full procedure that basically resculpts the skin of the abdomen into something resembling a healthy torso. The tummy tuck alone is an $11,000 procedure, which puts it well out of my price range. That doesn’t include the upper arms or the more involved legs.

I’ve had a lot of well-meaning advice about how to get it covered, but in truth, insurance companies aren’t flexible, and plastic surgeons aren’t philanthropists. And I knew that going in. He pulled no punches about how my particular insurance company rejects claims for this particular procedure like it’s their job (which it is) and while I’m sure there are doctors who would maybe give a girl a break on some work if there was a true hardship, I really don’t have any hardships other than “I don’t have the money for this.” It’s nice to think about, but I can’t live my life with unrealistic expectations of the outcome. I’ve done quite a lot of that so far, and I’m trying to cut back.

So now I am at a point where I’m forced to sort out the ramifications of what that means for me, and where I go from here.

I should add that back in February, I sat down with my food journal and after bemoaning that I was “doing everything right” and still not losing weight, really took a good look at what I was doing back when the weight was coming off and found out I was WAY off track. I did manage to take it back to basics, and lo and behold, the weight dropped off. I had set 179 as a temporary soft goal to reach, and I met it. So now I’m down 180 pounds and have lost more than half my body weight. Which is a big accomplishment and being able to get to this point feels great.

As I sit here at 177 pounds, and factor in the loose skin estimate of 20 pounds, I actually weigh around 157, which is only 2 pounds over the high end of a healthy weight for me. I feel I still have fat left to lose from the waist down. My abdomen and arms might be all skin, but my thighs and ass are where the fat seems to want to hang on, and it won’t hurt me to continue to try to lose that fat.

Not being able to get rid of that skin means that there’s a sort of discrepancy between the two realities of my body, and I realize that this shit is all in my head. But in truth, all of this whole process has taken place in my head. My body is just along for the ride.

A long time ago, I spoke of picturing myself in a fat suit. There’s a skinny girl inside me trying to get out (I ate her), and all I have to do is take off the fat suit a pound or so at a time and she’ll emerge eventually.

11091497_10205886798078799_2784792768890149397_n

I don’t know to whom I should credit either the photo or the sculpture, but I love it very much.

I guess I didn’t really bank on the whole suit not coming off. I pictured what you see there: tight, flat abdomen, perky boobs, thin arms…I bet she’s got some amazing quads under that fat suit, too.

The reality is not that at all. I imagine I have a six pack of abs. I can feel them, but they’re still buried under the folds of loose abdominal skin.

I have an impressive set of biceps. Unfortunately, the four-inch long flap of skin that hangs from it is what you see first.

I have runners quads. I also have loose, ripply, wrinkled thigh flesh that sags over it and hangs down and partially obscures my kneecap.

I am seldom without a pair of control top nylons or a pair of Spanx. I do not wear anything sleeveless except to exercise, and short sleeves must come to my elbow. Skirts cannot hit above my knee. I am not at all sure that I will be donning a swimsuit this year.

I understand that I’m not much different than most women, and I’m sure more than a few men as well. Everyone has body parts they hate and do their best to disguise or hide with clothing. I know women thinner than myself who won’t wear shorts because they hate how their legs look. I know women who won’t put on a swimsuit for love or money even though I look at them and go, “Bitch, you cray.” I get it.

I guess when I thought about taking that fat suit off, what I pictured the thin person inside to look like was an actual thin person, not just a less fat version of myself. I’m pretty good at figuring out what looks good on me most of the time, but I’m not sure why I resent having to shop for camouflage.

I suppose it all has to do with unrealized expectations I mentioned, and coming to terms with the fact that my expectations may have been quite unrealistic to begin with. I expected that I would be able to get down to 140 pounds. Or at least 155. The skin is most likely going to keep me from ever seeing those numbers. I need to figure out how to let that go. I’ve always been so reliant on the numbers as a concrete measurement of how I’m doing. For me even to assert that my weight is in the 157 range feels like a lie, because the skin counts. It matters, even though I’m the only one who decides if it matters or not. I feel if I say I weight less than I do, that I’m lying. But at the same time, including the skin seems not entirely honest either.

Even my back-up tape measure lies to me. I can lose another 20 pounds, but my upper arms still won’t fit into a size medium shirt, even though the rest of my torso does. I’d love to shop for single digit sizes, but the skin is going to always be in the way of that. And the skinny me is under there. If I had a big, fat bag of cash, a good surgeon could find her. He could strip away the last of my fat suit and get me to my goals.

As it is, I feel like in some ways, I’m at my goal. I have done what I set out to do. Even though the number on the scale is still high, allowing for excess skin, I’m at a healthy weight for my height. Or I should say I’m not carrying an unhealthy amount of fat for someone of my height and gender. That, of course, is another drawback to the extra skin in that there’s no way to get any sort of an accurate body fat measurement because what I’m measuring is empty skin, not fat. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. No surgery. No pills. No fad diets. I have done what I have always thought impossible, and as much as I struggle with many, many parts of this process, nothing takes that away from me.

On the other hand, I feel robbed of my actual goals. Part of me has always been uncomfortable with even rounding my accomplishments up. “This is Jen, she’s lost 180 pounds.” I always stop them. “Well, no. I’ve lost 177 pounds.” I get looks, and a series of “pffffft”s, but it’s hard for me to take credit for something I didn’t actually achieve. So lopping off the skin weight like it’s not there feels like cheating. Like I’m throwing myself a bone. Or taking credit for something I haven’t done. I know it’s weird. It’s not that I’m unhappy with how I look, I just thought I could do better. To look at myself and know that this is really as good as it’s going to get…it is a little disappointing. I won’t lie. Some days it’s a lot disappointing, and if that’s vain, so be it.

I know logically that it’s up to me where I stop. There’s no one setting goals for me, or even advising me that yeah, you can and should lose another 20 pounds. I’ve not reached the point where my most trusted friends are ready to tell me that I’m too thin, or that I look unhealthy.

If I decide right now that it’s enough, then it is.

I’m on the cusp of making that decision. I don’t know in the grand scheme of things why it would be so much better to be 20 pounds lighter and maybe a size or two smaller, if the skin will be there fucking it all up anyway. It seems like it might be a lot of unnecessary work, you know?

I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to stop concentrating so hard on the straight and narrow that I have to follow to lose weight and shift my mental energy towards coming to grips with my body as it is. I don’t see it getting measurably better any time soon. I don’t see any reason to change what I’m doing, necessarily. If more weight comes off, great. I can afford it, still. I need to not go up at all, and staying where I am is going to be hard enough.

I still turn to food when things get rough. After seeing the doctor, I got through Monday okay, but woke up Tuesday fairly despondent. If it had been only one thing, just the disappointment of seeing this door close for the time being would have been sufficient unto itself. But life has a way of tossing extra shit in sometimes, in the when-it-rains-it-pours phenomenon. Or as April Winchell of Regretsy fame once pointed out:

Burning House

So I spent a few days wrapped in the embrace of Easter candy and toast dripping with peanut butter and marshmallow while I licked my wounds (and fingers) and sorted some shit out in my head. And talked some stuff out that needed addressing. And did the things that were needed to heal. The toast didn’t help much, but when life gets to be more than you can bear, you get through it however you can with the skills you have.

A weight-loss guru would have pulled herself up by the bootstraps (or shoelaces) and gone to the gym to exercise out the frustrations. Especially when she’d normally outrun her demons, only her new running shoes are still backordered and she’s just healed up yet another IT band issue and doesn’t want to screw that up again with being impatient.

Stupid body breaking down at the most inopportune times.

But then I’ve never claimed to be anyone’s guru. I’m human. I have a binge-eating disorder. I self-soothe with food.I eat my feelings more often than I care to admit. I’m far from perfect and most of the time I feel ill-equipped to advise anyone about anything.

I think if I focus hard, I can learn to be more accepting. I feel pretty certain that I can let go of the disappointment of not weighing what I thought I should, or being as small as I had planned. I know it’s all up to me, and I need to try to see myself through other people’s eyes more. I need to try to gain a bit more objectivity about something that is so painfully personal, and that’s a tall enough order.

The hardest stretch will be learning to love my body as it is, folds of wrinkly, ugly, stretched out, floppy, flabby skin and all. So far, it’s been the most difficult thing to handle. Knowing that I’ll probably never see the beautiful muscle tone I work so hard for is something I am going to mourn. Like food, or more accurately, the ability to eat whatever I want whenever I want in whatever quantity I want, it’s going to take work to get to a place where that doesn’t make me sad. It’s a genuine loss, and I have to allow those feelings to happen because no matter who invalidates them or how hard I try to shove them in a closet, if I don’t deal with them, they’re just going to come rocketing out of nowhere and knock me on my ass forever.

I’m going to mourn the loss of cute sleeveless dresses, or a pin-up bathing suit because I just don’t have the body for them. It will be okay. I have the body for lots of things that other women don’t. Fitted tops and tight sweaters. Pencil skirts. High heels. Turtlenecks. You know how many women can’t pull off a wrap dress? Lots. I can, and I look smashing.

One of the hardest things, and something that knocked me on my ass out of nowhere recently is seeing other people lose weight right past me. Hearing a friend say she bought clothes in the size I currently wear, even as she self-identifies as overweight, and is herself losing weight, made me realize that she is going to be thinner than me. She will find the success that I won’t see because of this stupid skin.

Knowing that she has a lot less to lose than I did is only a bit helpful. Being told that she is in the first mile of a 5K while I’m on mile 24 of a marathon was a bit helpful. But sweet bleeding Jesus did I begrudge her that victory. And I hated myself for it! I wanted to be happy! I know I’m an inspiration to her and a lot of people, but seeing others find success where I feel I have failed is hard. I think it’s part of why giving up on my original goals is so hard. I feel like a failure. I feel like it’s quitting or copping out. Or dropping out of the marathon at mile 24.

Before you jump in my shit for this, I know I haven’t failed at anything. I know it’s not a race or a competition. I’ve succeeded beyond my own hopes and dreams, and I think past what most people thought I could do. I have made other people consider that maybe they, too, can figure out their own relationship with food and make changes that will last. But I am learning to let go, and to be accepting, and meet myself where I am. And that’s going to be a hard slog.

This is all part of the work. No one tells you about it, but there it is. So if you find yourself in a place like this at some point, hopefully you won’t be blindsided by it like I was.

Maybe someday I will be able to afford the surgery and I’ll find the thin girl that I ate all those years ago, with a few new long, purple scars. Maybe I’ll never have the surgery and I’ll come to love the thin girl who’s just got a bit more meat on her than I thought she would. Maybe I’ll see a thin girl in the mirror who wears the remnants of her fat suit as a badge of honor and with pride of who she was, and what she’s transformed herself into.

Maybe it’s time to let go of goals, and accept that there’s no end. The only thing to work towards is happiness.

Get Hit by a Bus, Volume 2 May 23, 2014

Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

No one told me when I lost weight that my body would start betraying me every goddamn chance it gets.

First it was the high blood pressure. Never had that in my whole fat life. Lose 45 pounds, though, and WHAM. Your ass is on meds.

It’s okay, though. I’ve passed the 150 pounds lost mark and it’s well-controlled to the point that my doctor cut my dosage in half. As he pointed out, when I went on them, he was dosing someone who was 100 pounds heavier. I don’t need as much. That’s pretty cool.

So, two weeks ago on a Thursday, I got up in the morning and ran two miles. Did my best time ever on that particular route, showered and changed, and felt great all day. Went to my in-laws that night to celebrate Larry’s birthday.

About halfway through dinner, I started feeling really crampy, right in the middle of my abdomen where my belt was hitting. I thought maybe it was gas. My mother-in-law is the best and I love her, but she cooks things that I don’t eat often, and I thought my delicate constitution (*snort*) was rebelling. It’s been known to gas up at anything out of the ordinary. Eating well has turned me into a delicate snowflake, I tell you what. I won’t even talk about what Chinese food does to me now. Suffice it to say I don’t think I should have to count the calories in it because I only borrow it for roughly 20 to 30 minutes.

So I got up and used the bathroom. Nothing. But it still hurt. I went back to the table and the longer I sat, the worse I felt. I sipped some cold water thinking that might help. It didn’t. Dave had to go in to wash his hands and I took him in. I had to sit on the toilet because it was making me sick to my stomach to stand. When I stood up and dried his hands, I thought I was going to black out. I got to the couch and lied down, and by then, I had to tell them that I was unwell. Like, in a lot of pain unwell. Like, let’s go to the ER unwell.

Normally, post weight loss, my abdomen looks and feels like an unrisen loaf of bread dough. Very smushy. But there was a firm lump right behind my belly button that has never been there before. My mother-in-law felt it and said she thought it might be a hernia, so we piled into the car and with seat reclined, I was taken to the ER.

My time in the ER was as most visits go. You get triaged, you wait to see someone, you wait for tests. Also, there was puking, because that shit HURT, and when I said I was an 8 on the pain scale, I got some painkillers. Morphine first, more puking, then anti-nausea and Dilaudid, and that was like magic, bitches. Long story short, doc felt my gut, ordered a CAT scan, and the result was an incarcerated umbilical hernia. For those not wanting to go Google that shit, I’ll try to ‘splain.

See, when you were formed as a fetus, you were connected to your mom via the umbilicus. It was cut at birth, and the hole in the connective tissue between your abdominal muscles where it went into you closed up over time. Mostly, anyway. It’s usually pretty small. Everyone has one.

Sometimes, that hole gets bigger. One of the leading causes of that hole getting bigger is pregnancy. I carried three big babies to term, and every time, that tissue stretched out. I stayed fat and out of shape, so that hole stayed larger than normal. And on Thursday, while doing absolutely nothing, a loop of my intestine slipped into that opening and got trapped.

It seems there are a fuckton of nerves in one’s intestines because that shit HURT.

“Incarcerated” means it was intestine trapped in the hole. Sometimes a hernia has fatty tissue stuck in there, but with less fatty tissue to fill the space, my guts made a run for it. This is bad, because if it’s left to sit there, first of all, that’s a lot of HURT, and second, if the tissue dies, you get a strangulated hernia, which is all kinds of bad and a much harder repair because they have to cut out dead tissue before it decays and kills me.

Delightful.

Also, I’m not a doctor and I probably have some of this wrong, but in my defense, when it was explained, I was tripping balls on an awful lot of painkillers. You get what you pay for, people.

In any case, they were pretty adamant that it meant surgery ASAP, and as there were no beds in either Laconia or Concord (because apparently the Lakes Region is practically Namibia when it comes to health care) I chose to be transported to Speare Memorial in Plymouth at 3 in the morning. By 4, I was told I could have all the Dilaudid I wanted and that the surgeon would be in early to see me.

At 7:00, I met Dr. Casey. He is a lovely man with a terrific bedside manner. He felt my hernia, which didn’t hurt at all even though it had been hours since my meds, and said that it had reduced while I slept. Which is good news. That meant the intestine went back inside where it was supposed to be. It’s why it didn’t hurt. However, the hole was still there and my guts could try another escape at another time and we’d have to start this whole circus all over again. And since I was already in a johnny and had my IV secured, what the hell. Let’s close that bastid up for good.

Because it was no longer incarcerated and I wasn’t in any pain or immediate danger, and because of an emergency that came in, I didn’t get to the ER until 4 in the afternoon, but once I got there, things moved pretty quickly. He fixed me up and I woke up in recovery.

I was chatting with the nurse, while I was coming back to consciousness, about my overall health, and I told her how much weight I’d lost. She was impressed, and asked if I was a runner, because she said she had to shut off the alarm on the monitor because while my heart rate was low, my BP was low, and while my oxygen sats were at 100%, my respirations were lower than the machine liked and it kept beeping unnecessarily. She said I have the vital signs of someone in really good cardiac shape, and that made me feel awesome even in my post-surgical haze.

I thought for the first time at that moment (and I probably voiced it aloud to her) how infinitely glad I was not to have to have had that surgery at 360 pounds. And I’ve thought it a lot more in the two weeks that have followed.

I thought of the size of the exam bed in the ER. Of my own mobility getting on and off of exam tables and the CAT scan machine. Of having to be loaded onto a gurney and transported. Getting on the operating table. Even sitting myself up in my bed, or standing and walking. Those would have been painful and humiliating at my heaviest. And I imagine operating on someone that obese is probably a lot harder as well.

I was released to go home the next day with a Vicodin prescription and orders to take it very, very easy. No aerobic exercise. No bending. No lifting. Go slow on stairs. Gentle walking. And for the first few days, I didn’t even want to do any of those things.

Demons still follow you to the hospital, though. Surgery doesn’t remove them.

I had weighed myself that morning because that Monday, my weight had gone from a low of 206, back up 8 pounds. I was devastated when I saw that. I knew part of it was because I had had the flu for a week and didn’t exercise at all, so I probably lost some muscle mass. Then when I got back on my feet and started right back into running, I got it right back. I retained some water because of the exercise. But eight sure seemed like a lot and to be that far away from 200 again just punched me in the face. It takes me a month to lose that much weight all over again, and I wanted to just cry. To throw my hands up and say “fuck this shit” and flip some tables or something.

I was down to 211 when I went into the hospital, and when I got home, I got on the scale. I was bloated as fuck and back up to 229.

There was a lot of poofiness going on. I looked 7 months pregnant. My fingers and ankles were huge. I knew it was water, and a lot of air, and bruising and swelling going on. And I knew that this is a temporary setback due to illness and once I recovered, I’d go back to where I was.

And two weeks later, I’m down to 210, a bit lower than when I went in, but still working my way back to that lovely 206. I got a clean bill of health yesterday from Dr. Casey. I have a 4.5-inch patch of mesh behind my belly button that is screwed into the back of my abdominal muscles that will keep my guts from trying any of that escape bullshit again. I’ve been cleared to work out, but at the moment, I’m still sore. Less and less every day, but as he told me, muscles are unforgiving places to screw stuff into, and they’re unhappy with the screws. But those will dissolve and my muscles will get over it. Until then, do what doesn’t hurt, and if it does hurt, stop doing it.

I’m going to need patience and perseverance.

One of the hardest parts of my recuperation was not feeling like following the straight and narrow. I was not up to cooking. I hurt. I was whacked out on painkillers. I wanted easy, comforting food.

And I had some. I didn’t feel like tracking calories or writing in my food journal. I felt like napping.

And staring.

So I did quite a bit of that for the first few days. I ate…whatever. And didn’t move a whole lot. I was on the Sloth and Gluttony diet and recovery plan.

A week later, I had to fight my way back to good habits, and I’ll tell you right now, it takes a long time to establish good habits, but no time at all to get the bad ones back. And as I was trying to claw my way back from gluttony and sloth, I was coming off of the Vicodin, and that’s a process that apparently comes with anxiety, restlessness, and full on bitch mode. And a fair amount of soreness, too, in my own defense.

I almost punched Larry in the face for eating pretzels. I was incapable of making the calm request that he not bring shit food into the house and eat it ALL FUCKING DAY LONG when I’m living like a goddamn monk and resenting every minute of it.

Jesus.

After a couple of days, I calmed down, but I’m still envious of people who can and do eat everything they want. Sometimes I miss eating without counting the cost, and that sometime is right now.

I also realized that sitting still for two weeks made me remember the old me. Walking tired me out and made me sore. I just wanted to sit and eat, and I did. I gave into cravings. I binged. The only difference between the old me and the new one is that while I was acting like the old me, I missed the new me. I didn’t like not wanting to move. It reminded me of the aches and pain that come with being fat keeping me from going out for a walk. I didn’t like eating whatever was easy, because that’s how I got so fat to begin with. I really didn’t like my super-loose pajama pants fitting again, or not being able to get into my jeans. I didn’t like looking thick around the middle again. Or having my shoes feel too snug.

I knew it was temporary from the surgery, but it made me feel the way I used to. It was unsettling at times.

Remember the joke about there being a skinny girl inside every fat girl…I ate her? I think in my case, the skinny girl is emerging, but now the fat girl is inside, and I’m pretty confident at this point that she’s always going to be in there. I really do feel like I have these default settings that my mind keeps asking permission to revert to.

It was good to sit here and deny the reset, but it does make me contemplate a future where this struggle between the fat girl and the thin one goes on forever. I do think the tide has turned in favor of the thin girl. The more I see of her, the more she seems to be in charge, and that comes as a welcome bit of relief. But I still think like a fat girl sometimes, and suspect I always will. I think they will always struggle for supremacy, and I’m also pretty sure that the fat girl could win again at some point.

In my last post, I talked about the fear and anxiety that comes along with being at this particular point in my journey. And from a lot of the comments here and on my Facebook, I got the feeling that it came off like I was planning on quitting.

Stand down.

I’m not giving up. I know it’s my choice to continue this new life I’ve chosen, or let the fat girl win. I can choose to revert to my default settings if I want. I don’t want to, but I always have in the past, and while I don’t necessarily want to, I also know how easy it is to let the fat girl run the show.

It’s a scary damn thought, and I have to thank my friend Heather for calling me the day that post went live. The first words she said to me were EXACTLY what I needed to hear, because she heard what I was saying. She told me that she understood how I was feeling, and that I had every right to feel the way I did.

Heather validated my feelings and acknowledged my fears as real, and deserving of acknowledgment. No admonition. No cheery pep talk. No ass pats. Not even a whole lot of advice, really, beyond some really basic stuff. Just that it was okay to feel scared of failing, not that failure isn’t an option. That she understood the struggle was hard and how it feels to want to give up, not telling me to never give up. They were the words I needed to hear on a day the anxiety level about how huge this is had reached critical levels.

The support I have is wonderful, both from friends and from people who’ve stumbled on my blog by accident and are following along at home. And I appreciate the helpful suggestions and advice, and the words of encouragement all along the way. But after I posted that, I almost took it back down. I got to feeling like I had no right to whine and complain because of all I had accomplished. I was begged not to quit. I was told it was all up to me.

I know all that. It doesn’t make the fear any less, or the anxiety go away. And it’s something I think maybe you only understand if your path has been similar in some way. I left it up because Heather called and said she understood, and that my feelings were normal and healthy, and I had every right to feel that way. And I want anyone reading this to know that if the day comes that you’re feeling that way too, it’s okay.

I understand how tiring the fight can be some days. Struggling against your own compulsions is exhausting. The effort it takes to get through even one day on track when you’re going through a rough stretch can feel Herculean, and I want you to know that if you are feeling like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill, I understand. I’ve cried too, from sheer exhaustion and frustration.

I understand if you’re afraid of failing. If you haven’t even taken the first step yet because you already know you’re going to fail again and put the weight back on, or you know you can’t stick to any kind of diet plan at all, I know how you feel, and you have every right to those feelings. It is scary as fuck to have to start. Or start over. Or start over AGAIN. And again. And again. It’s scary to feel the fat person you carry with you all the time (whether that be inside or still on the outside) taking over. To feel the anxiety build when hard fought pounds slip right back on, and pants get too tight. I understand that feeling of panic when you feel the slide and you don’t know how you can find the strength to stop it. It’s terrifying, and you have every right to be scared. Especially if your boulder is like mine, very near the top, and experience has taught you that any minute could be the one where it starts rolling back on you, and what if you never get to shove that bitch over the other side and plant your fucking flag at the top?

I understand, and you have every damn right to feel whatever the hell way you feel about this.

And so do I.

My soft goal was 200 pounds, and it’s still so elusive that it’s driving me nuts. I knew I could get to 200 so I set that as something realistic I could achieve. I’ve come to believe that I’m capable of so much more and my goals–both those on the scale and the ones that have nothing to do with my weight–are way more far reaching than that. I know I’ll get there.

But the fact that I get so close and then slide away again is driving me up the fucking wall. And you know what? I have every right to be frustrated by it. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE EASY GOAL, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! Yeah, there are plenty of other things that are going smoothly, and I’ve got a lot of wins in that particular column, but I’m entitled to be bitchy about the marks in on the loss side, too.

Surgery was a setback, and it’s annoying to take two steps forward and 7 steps back. Hell, two steps forward and one back was bad enough. Sitting at a plateau for a few months sucked. And this is some more suck to deal with.  But I’ll deal with it. I feel like I have my footing again, hard as it was to get back to this point. There were a few ugly, white-knuckled days this week to be sure. But I’m on track, and the weight is coming off. I still have moments where I feel like I’m going to be fat forever, but I try not to let them get to me too much.

And now I’m heading out to the gym for the first time in more than two weeks. I’m going to see how my body feels about a little low-impact cardio and maybe even a very short, slow run to see if the discomfort is tolerable, or if we should wait a few more days.

I will not be doing crunches.

And I kind of hope that it’ll be awhile before the next bus comes around the corner.

Stay the Course, or… March 26, 2014

Posted by J. in Genius.
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5 comments

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.