Goal? April 9, 2015Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: angst, anxiety, BED, body image, change, crazypants, diet, eating disorder, exercise, fat acceptance, fear, fitness, plastic surgery, Regretsy, self-image, skin, weight loss
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.
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:
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.
It Puts the Lotion on Its Skin September 8, 2014Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: athlete, body image, change, diet, exercise, Fall, fat, fitness, focus, health, inspiration, lifestyle change, motivation, new skills, plus-size, running, self-image, weight loss
1 comment so far
I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d updated. Things are ambling right along; lots of stuff is pretty much the same, and it doesn’t make for very interesting blogging, I’m afraid. Autumn is coming up hard and fast here, it’s beautiful running weather, and all three kids are in school full day.
Ooh! But I’ve gone back to work! It’s only part time on the weekends, but it’s the first time I’ve worked outside the home in ten years and it’s been a bit of an adjustment, to say the least. And get this–I got a job at the gym. It’s funny to read back to my first posts about losing weight and to remember all the emotions that came with working out for the first time. I’ve been showing new people around and getting them started towards their fitness goals, and I’m a long way from forgetting how it felt to be in their shoes. I know how scary the gym can be the first time you walk in, and how aware you are of just how out of shape you are, especially compared to the other people working out. I certainly know what it’s like to feel like people are judging you, and it’s nice to be in the position to reassure people that it only feels that way because for most of us, we’ve recently taken a hard look at who we are and what we want to be, and we’re the ones doing the judging. And that all those other people working out are doing the same thing: they’re looking at who they are and what they want to be, and they’re in there working towards it. Nothing more.
It’s a long way from being that insecure person who fought tears on the treadmill day after miserable day. The upside of it is that I’m at a point now where the road behind me is much longer than what’s in front of me, and that’s a good place to be. At least it’s much better than the days when the road ahead of me was so long and I had to keep looking back all the time. I don’t look back much anymore, but when I do, it’s like HOLY SHIT.
There’s still road ahead of me, but I see that differently too. Much like running on a road course, your view and perspective change with every step. I think most of the changes are so subtle and small that I don’t notice them much, like so many trees or rock walls going past. And like running on a road course, it’s not about the destination so much as the run itself and being in the moment. And my goals are similar too. I’m not looking to be the fastest runner, but I want to go farther. I want to go longer, and stronger. I don’t care if I finish first, but I will finish. Or maybe, I’ll just keep running.
The fact that running is a metaphor for the weight loss journey that I’m on is telling, I think. As is the fact that I think of the journey as a fitness quest and not as a weight loss journey anymore.
The mile marker I’m at currently is between 190 and 195 pounds. I crossed the 200 pound mark in the way that things have been going for months and months, which is slowly and a fraction of a pound at a time. It was a milestone to cross my soft target off my list, and keep my eyes on the road ahead.
I’m realizing, though, that as it stands, reaching a healthy goal weight is going to be impossible with the skin suit that I’m wearing.
I hesitate to say that anything is impossible, because that’s building a wall for myself. “Impossible” gives me permission to throw my hands up and quit. If it can’t be done, why try, right?
Researching skin reduction surgery following weight loss has yielded varying results. People who lost less than 150 pounds seemed to lose an average of 10 to 12 pounds in skin and fat after surgery, whereas when the total pounds lost moved up over 150 pounds, the amounts got higher by quite a bit, especially in the closer-to-200 pounds lost area. Some of the extreme weight loss patients reported losing more than 30 pounds in excess flesh post-surgery. I’ve lost almost 170 pounds, putting me in the upper ranges of those reporting in. Results obviously vary person to person, but if I had to guess, I might be carrying 20 to 30 pounds of excess skin. Not fat, just loose flesh that can’t be dieted or exercised off.
It’s a new point-of-view on where I’m at. 190 pounds minus twenty pounds of skin…that’s 170 pounds. Hell, if it’s closer to 30 pounds, that would put me in the 160 pound range. What that means, practically speaking, is that I’m much closer to my goal weight than the scale shows on any given day.
With weight loss, especially extreme amounts like mine, the loss slows as you have less fat to lose, and I expected it. I just never expected it to be when I was a good 50 or 60 pounds away from my goal. But when I consider that I might not actually be 50 or 60 pounds away and it could be more like 20 or 30 pounds away, that’s far more realistic an outcome. Anyone who’s ever had to lose “only” 20 or 30 pounds can attest that it comes off way slower than for someone with 200 to lose, especially at first.
It’s really the only advantage to having to lose a lot of weight versus a little: the rewards of seeing big number drops relatively quickly is intoxicating.
Losing 3 pounds a month is far less heady. But it’s still losing.
And I’m not as bothered by it lately.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thrilled about the skin. It’s an annoyance, for the most part. It’s part badge of honor at all I’ve accomplished so far, and at the same time, it’s a painful reminder of what I had allowed myself to become.
But when I start to dwell, I think of my sister’s response when I told her that: “It just is what it is.”
It’s just skin, and I want it to go. I plan on surgery, eventually.
The biggest thing I deal with is how it looks. My skin doesn’t fit anymore, and it’s like wearing clothes that are too big for you. It can be uncomfortable. Nothing fits in the right places. The extra material bunches and gets in the way of moving around. And it’s not attractive. Like a baggy pair of pants, it hides what I really look like. I can feel those muscles under the skin, and I know there’s a fit person in there, but I can’t see her. I’d like to!
And clothing itself is problematic. I am carrying my extra skin at the back of my upper arms, my belly (they call it an “apron”) and my thighs. So I have to wear larger sizes to accommodate it. Women’s/Plus sized pants are the only ones cut properly to have room in the thighs and hips while fitting in my relatively small waist. My torso is small…downright skinny in places, but I need a larger size to get my arms in. Knits are still my friend, bless their very forgiving construction.
But then again, show me someone who can put on any garment off the rack and look good in it. Everyone tries on clothes that look like crap on them, because not every outfit is made for every shape of body. We are human, after all, not coat hangers.
All that aside, it’s still a lot easier to dress a thinner body than it is to try to fit a much fatter one. Shopping is much more enjoyable than it used to be.
Athletically is where the skin suit really sucks. Beyond the annoyances of things like not being able to run in anything other than compression tights that extend below my knee, and even that’s merely a help, not a complete solution. I like my tights, don’t get me wrong, but running on a hot day? Not as much fun. Seeing folks go past in the light little nylon shorts, bare legs staying cool as they run…I’m so jealous. With the flopping that my loose skin does, I can no more run without my compression tights that I could without a bra. Even now, the pairs I have are not compressing as much as they should and as I run, the jerking motion of skin going up and then slapping back down with each step slows me down and makes me heavier on my feet than usual. It’s surprising how much momentum that flab gets. Same with my upper arms. I don’t notice it at first, but after a few miles, I’m feeling soreness at the back of my shoulders from the constant up-and-down movement of the skin as I move.
I guess how I’d describe it is if you were to put on a full backpack and go for a run. If the straps were tight and the weight was secure, you’d be running with extra weight, but it’s not moving around on you at all. You’d feel the effects, for sure. Now take the same weight in a bigger pack so that it moves around freely, and loosen the straps of the backpack. Still carrying the same amount of weight, but it’s free to move about the cabin. You’d feel chafing, and the constant up and down motion of the weight with each step would pull uncomfortably on your shoulders after awhile. Probably lower back too, as your body tries to compensate for the momentum.
It’s what I deal with every time I run.
But with good compression garments, I can take the edge off of it. It’s a hindrance, but not horrible enough to keep me off the course, yet.
My knees are where I have the biggest issue. Even as I write this, I’m babying my right knee (I call her “Tricky” because I never know what she’s going to do) because I did a nice, long 7.5 mile run last night on a whim. I pushed my legs past their comfort zone, and I was sore last night. My muscles are a bit stiff this morning, and Tricky is letting me know that I overdid it. Today will be a much easier, low-impact, cardio-heavy workout at the gym, even though it’s a beautiful morning for a run. I shall resist, because I have to.
My concern 170 pounds ago right up to this moment has always been taking care of my joints. It was awesome and wonderful to realize as the weight dropped off that Tricky was no longer a constant threat like she was at my heaviest. I’ve been (and will continue constantly) to build my leg muscles so that my knees get the best support they can, but I suspect damage has been done. I don’t know to what extent, though. And it’s not debilitating. Did I mention I ran 7.5 miles?
But there are weight-bearing exercises I still can’t do because of my knees, specifically Tricky. They say that for every pound you lose, you lose five pounds of pressure off your knees. It’s the primary reason that for me, weight matters and always will. Every pound I carry counts, and I want them to be the best pounds–the pounds I need to be healthy and fit. If I don’t get rid of the skin, that is 20 or 30 extra pounds I’ll always have. I’ll always be that much overweight. If it’s 30 pounds, that 150 pounds of stress on my knees, and it means they’re going to go all to shit a lot faster than they would normally.
At the end of the day, surgery will be necessary to excise upper arm, belly, and thigh skin. I have no idea how much more fat I have to lose before a plastic surgeon will consider operating, or how I’m going to pay for it, but the time for consulting one to make preliminary plans is drawing nigh.
As I re-read what I just wrote, it occurs to me how much I think in terms of fitness now. It’s one of those subtle shifts that you don’t notice as it happens, but one day it’s all BAM, right in your face. My goals are more physical now–I’m more concerned with what I can do as a measure of my overall health. The rest is rather secondary. I don’t know when it happened. I wasn’t really paying attention.
This summer I set myself a goal to run 10K, which is around six and a quarter miles. And I did it. Back in April, 3 miles was a long run. Now, that’s routine and over five is considered long. That’s a lot of improvement! The fact that I’ve only lost around 20 pounds in that time (when I used to do that in a month) doesn’t matter as much. Hardly at all, really.
I don’t know when I started thinking more in terms of fitness and less in terms of more concrete measurements like pounds and inches. Or what prompted it. I blame running. There’s something about it that has unleashed my inner athlete. Maybe it’s going from being someone who said “I can’t run” to proving myself wrong that did it. It could be that I’ve finally realized what it feels like to set a physical goal, meet it, and exceed it.
It still feels weird to refer to myself as an athlete. I don’t consider myself “sporty” at all, but in reality, I work out every day. I eat like an athlete in that I eat to exercise instead of a dieter who exercises so she can eat more. I obsess more about getting my training in than about every calorie and meal and menu and pound.
Not that I’m training for anything in particular. I have yet to run a race of any length, and I don’t have much interest in it, to be honest. Yet I’m working towards training for a half-marathon. Why? Well, why not? Maybe I will run one someday. Maybe I’ll run a marathon someday. Or maybe I’ll just run because I can.
I don’t obsess as much over how I look, either. I guess when your body continues to stand up to the punishing workouts you put it through every single time, you start to see it as a pretty amazing machine. I’m still fatter than I’d like, but then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I stop and look. I still look at myself in the mirror and expect to see a 360 pound person, and when I see collarbones, I laugh.
I know that this is the focus change I’ve been struggling so long to get to. And I imagine that as Fall turns to Winter, the new focus will change gradually as well. Maybe become more fine-tuned into something I can live with long term. The idea of living with obsession over the pounds, or the calories day in and day out was a tiresome one. To get to where the hierarchy of what’s important in this long-term quest has shuffled around a bit is a welcome bit of relief.
I don’t quite know how I got here, though. Practice, I guess. Faking it when I didn’t feel it. Putting one foot in front of the other, and eating that elephant one bite at at time.
Stay the Course, or… March 26, 2014Posted by J. in Genius.
Tags: anxiety, body image, depression, diet, exercise, fear, Matthew Inman, plateau, running, self-image, The Oatmeal, weight loss
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.
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.
The Trick August 4, 2013Posted by J. in Domesticity, Genius.
Tags: body image, Christina Aguilera, diet, eating disorder, exercise, Fighter, fitness, inspiration, mental illness, music, self-image, self-love
Okay, this is the blog post that’s going to make you think I’ve lost my marbles. That’s if you weren’t already questioning how tightly I may or may not be wrapped as it is, and as the case may be.
The weight loss continues on in a forward direction. As of tonight, I’m down around 83 pounds or so. Give or take some ounces here and there. And it’s getting me a lot of attention. It’s funny to talk to people at church who don’t see me that often because we go to different Masses and have them come up to me in surprise, actually eager to tell me how amazed they are. I won’t lie: it is really nice to hear.
The next part is people asking “what I’m doing.” What a great question. What method are you using to lose weight? What diet? What workout regime? One person thought I’d had gastric bypass surgery.
What is my “secret” to losing all this weight?
Eat less, move more. That’s it. I know they’re expecting to hear that I’m following the Diet of the Week, or that I’ve figured out some trick to making the weight come off. There’s no real trick to it. You want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to eat less, and move more.
Though when I really thought about it more…”What are you doing?” I guess there are tricks of a sort that I do. I mean, I have lots of support, and sometimes reaching out to the people in my life who know my struggles and demons and can talk me through them is a trick. Learning how my body responds to different foods is a trick,too, I guess.
But when it comes down to bwass tacks, the reason I’ve been fat my whole life is because of one thing, and one thing only. All my other issues stem directly from this.
There’s a voice in my head, a person who lives deep inside of me whose voice is the one I do battle with all the time.
Her name is Mean Jen, and she’s a total Cuntasaurus Rex.
She is the voice of doubt. The voice that tells me I can’t do things. She tells me I’m fat, and lazy, and stupid. Talentless. She knows I’ll NEVER lose this weight, and as it falls away, she reminds me almost daily that it’s just temporary. She has a smug look on her face as she reminds me of all the weight I’ve lost and gained back, and laughs when I put another garment in the donation bag, certain that I’ll be needing that again someday.
She was the one who, when I’d bounce up to the gym doors feeling really good about myself and feeling confident and strong about my workout, would see my reflection in the glass and tell me that I’m the fattest person in the room and they’re all going to laugh at me.
For awhile, I worked out every single day fighting back tears because of her.
She’s the reason I went months without being able to look in a mirror or see a photo of myself. People would tell me how obvious my weight loss was, remark on how much better I must feel, but all I could see is a body ravaged by the excesses. The fat that used to be plump and round turned into flab–great hanging rolls of it. My tummy looked like pizza dough and my thighs…hell, they’re still measuring the same size as an average man’s waist.
I couldn’t stand to be naked. I made myself sick.
Yeah. Thanks, Mean Jen.
The problem with that angry, mean, evil voice in my head is that she’s so hard to fight. Maybe if what she was saying was patently untrue, that would be different, but everything she says comes from a place of truth.
For awhile, I was the fattest person in the gym. That’s without exaggeration. “You won’t always be” is small comfort. I know most people didn’t notice me at all, but I know some did. And I know there were unkind thoughts. You don’t spend your whole life overweight and not know that. You hear the whispers, and you know for every whisper, every unkind word, there are at least three unspoken thoughts about how your ass looks in those yoga pants.
I have lost hundreds and hundreds of pounds, and gained it all back, and then some. I’ve bought “thin” wardrobes and tossed my fat pants, only to need to buy them all over again. Not once. Hell, not twice, even. Mean Jen has reason to look smug. I have never lost weight and kept it off.
I am a quitter.
I am fairly lazy. I don’t like to exercise. I resent not being able to eat anything I want whenever the hell I want.
I don’t like to say “no” to food.
Mean Jen hurts because she’s pretty accurate. She knows me better than anyone, and she points out all my worst qualities and tells me the God’s honest truth. No softening it like a friend would. No generosity that a loved one would show.
She’s fucking ruthless.
So, I guess my answer to “What are you doing?” to lose weight this time is “I’m fighting Mean Jen.”
Her voice is always there, and depending on my hormonal state or whatever, she can be really loud.
The trick so far has been to drown her voice out with voices of my own. I have an amazing support team. People who build me up on low days. People who point out all the defiance I’ve shown her and tell me how proud they are of that fight. People who say my own words back to me–the same things I’ve said to them when their own Mean Inner Voice is raising hell with them. Their voices are loud, and raised in unison, they help me push back against the horrible truths that Mean Jen feels the need to remind me of.
But my biggest secret weapon is simple, and stupid, and kind of embarrassing, but here it is.
I can’t believe I’m telling you this.
It’s music. There are few songs that are like weapons against her. I don’t know how it works. Or why. Or even what it is about those particular songs. But they’re in my workout playlist, and I listen to them every day. And one I listen to even on my day off from the gym because I sing every damn word of it to Mean Jen. Right in her fucking mean, smug face.
And I’m not pretending that this is anything other than silly. I know it is. But I swear to you, it keeps her at bay. It keeps her from coming at me hard and fast and hitting me in the face over and over. Oh, she still sneaks up, and she changes her approach, but the full-on frontal assaults are few and far between.
It’s important that I’m able to fight the assaults. I realize that she’s what’s held me back. That belief that I can’t do this. The belief that I can’t change. I believed it because she told me that over and over for years.
They say you’re supposed to love yourself.
That’s the part no one addresses. How do you love yourself when the voice in your head that knows you the absolute best tells you that you’re not worth it? And not only tells you that you suck, but does it by highlighting the very things you know to be true, way down deep in your heart?
I’ll tell you how.
You fight back. I have my faults same as anyone. And I’m taking what she tells me and I’m using them to my advantage. If I want to be a better person, I have to know the absolute worst things about me, and change what I can. I have to be a fighter.
I’ve always kind of liked this song. Give it a listen. I don’t care if pop music isn’t your thing, or you don’t care for Xtina. And I know it’s a really stupid video. All artsy and shit. Whatever. It’s a breakup song, if you take it on its face. But there’s something in the way she sings, “You won’t stop me!” that makes me know that Mean Jen won’t stop me. She can’t. Not this time, not if I fight, and I’m a fighter now because she made me that way.
But in the end I wanna thank you,
‘Cause you’ve made me that much stronger
Well I thought I knew you, thinkin’ that you were true
Guess I, I couldn’t trust called your bluff time is up
‘Cause I’ve had enough
You were there by my side, always down for the ride
But your joy ride just came down in flames ’cause your greed sold me out in shame
After all of the stealing and cheating you probably think that I hold resentment for you
But uh uh, oh no, you’re wrong
‘Cause if it wasn’t for all that you tried to do, I wouldn’t know
Just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter
Never saw it coming, all of your backstabbing
Just so you could cash in on a good thing before I’d realize your game
I heard you’re going round playing the victim now
But don’t even begin feeling I’m the one to blame
‘Cause you dug your own grave
After all of the fights and the lies ’cause you’re wanting to haunt me
But that won’t work anymore, no more,
‘Cause if it wasn’t for all of your torture
I wouldn’t know how to be this way now and never back down
So I wanna say thank you
How could this man I thought I knew
Turn out to be unjust so cruel
Could only see the good in you
Pretend not to see the truth
You tried to hide your lies, disguise yourself
Through living in denial
But in the end you’ll see
I am a fighter and I
I ain’t gonna stop
There is no turning back
I’ve had enough
You thought I would forget
But I remembered
‘Cause I remembered
You thought I would forget
‘Cause I remembered
I warned you it was stupid, and I own that with everything I am. But that’s my trick. It’s that song. And all I know is that these days, I look in the mirror and think I look pretty. I looked at my vacation pictures and didn’t wish I wasn’t in them, or pick apart how I looked. I was happy with the images. I’m happy with my reflection. I get dressed and feel good that my waist is looking small, my ass is still big but taking on a nice, round shape, and even my tits are holding their own. Being naked is still hard…my body has a long way to go, and knowing that I’ll never recover from the damage I did by being fat for so long is disheartening. It makes me sad and angry. That happens whether or not Mean Jen tells me. It’s just something I know, and I’ll keep dealing with. I’m far from perfect, but now I’m able to look past the flaws and see the good, and it’s because I fight for that. I’m using her own weapons against her and it’s making me better than I was before. And that’s why I’m going to succeed this time, where I’ve always failed.
I am a fighter, and I’m not going back. I am changing those things that Mean Jen pointed out about me. I’m not letting the negative self-talk force me into a crying ball in the corner. I’m not letting it be an excuse to give up before I’ve started. She can hurt my feelings from time to time, but in the end, I’m going to keep proving her wrong.
Mean Jen can kiss my ass.
Please Pass the Kale April 3, 2013Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI.
Tags: BED, binge eating disorder, body image, diet, eating disorders, eating healthy, exercise, fat, fat acceptance, fitness, food journal, fruits, gym, health, mindfulness, motivation, Planet Fitness, produce, vegetables, Weight Watchers, workout
I turn 44 in a week and I have finally realized that fruits and vegetables are good for me and I need to eat them to feel good.
I can’t believe I just admitted that in public.
Back in November, I offered some weight-loss advice to a friend. I felt qualified, because even though I’m fat as fuck, I’ve lost (without exaggeration) hundreds of pounds in my adult lifetime. Talking the talk is no problem for me. I know everything to do to get pounds off, I just chose not to do them.
But doling out the advice, hearing myself say “You need to…” and not doing it myself seemed hypocritical. I knew I was at the heaviest I’d ever been. The biggest clothes you could buy in any Fat Person Store were too snug. I ached all over. I was tired all the time. I knew I didn’t feel well, but such are the wages of sin. You want to top off half a pizza with three pieces of cake, it’s going to cost you.
“You need to…” rang in my ears every time I said it, though. Little things, mostly. You need to eat more produce. You need to drink more water. Stuff like that. I could eat more produce if I put a mind to it. I could drink more water if I put a mind to it. And so I put my mind to it. Maybe it was seeing someone else make that commitment and feeling like I couldn’t be very good support or guidance, or even a sympathetic ear when things got dicey, if I couldn’t even bring myself to walk the walk that got me started again.
I dusted off my Weight Watchers materials, turned to a fresh page in my food journal, and started in. I guessed on my weight, having thrown out yet another bathroom scale after my last dieting attempt succeeded for awhile before being abandoned. It came back to me pretty easily, all things considered. And because I wasn’t really doing it on my own this time, there was a certain accountability to backing up my own advice with actions of my own.
It helps that I have a lot of support at home. All I have to say is “I’m trying to eat better” and Larry picks up healthier foods for me. He doesn’t bring crap into the house, and if he does, he chooses crap that’s not my favorite crap in the whole world. Some crap I can take or leave, but some crap…oh, it lies in wait, calling my name. Fucking Girl Scouts and their fucking cookies, man. Yeah, I’m looking at you bitches. But Larry doesn’t judge what I eat. He knows if I bite it, I write it. I account for it, and I know what I’m doing.
It’s more support than a lot of people get, I’ll tell you what.
About four weeks into my renewed efforts at losing some weight, I had no idea what I weighed. I was eating better, following my own “you need to” advice, and keeping careful track of how much I eat, and what kinds of foods I eat. And I happened to stop into the drugstore after a dentist appointment, and saw a scale way down on the bottom shelf for sale. I don’t even know how I noticed it. It’s selling point was that it weighed up to 450 pounds, and those tend to be a lot more pricey. I bought it.
I got home and found out that after four weeks of dieting, I weighed 358.7 pounds. The scale wasn’t wrong. I was THAT FAT.
And I had likely taken at least 8 or 10 pounds off already.
Jesus weight-watching Christ. That certainly got out of control, didn’t it?
I don’t know if you know what it’s like to step on a scale and realize you have to lose the weight equivalent of a whole, grown man. It’s…daunting. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to say “Oh, God. Why bother? It can’t be done. I’ll lose the weight, put it all back on again, plus 20 to 40 extra pounds just for good measure because that’s what I do. I suck, I’m a loser, and I’m going to always be fat. Oh, and it’s all about being healthy and fit at any size? FUCK YOU. I’m not healthy, I’m not fit. I weigh almost 360 pounds. NO ONE is healthy and fit at that size except Shaq and maybe some pro wrestlers. And power lifters. Not my fat ass, that’s for sure.”
That was a sobering, and then utterly depressing moment. I mean, the urge to say fuckitall and just fill my face was strong.
After I wrapped my head around the whole thing and decided to keep going the way I was, I came to grips with a few things. The first was knowing that setting my usual goal weight of 140 pounds was stupid. Yes, it’s what’s considered a healthy weight for someone my height. And it’s attainable…by someone, I’m sure. But in the past, I’ve made it down to around 200 and stalled. Plateaued. And I look good at that weight. I’m still fat, but I’m curvy, and I feel pretty good about myself and how I look and feel. But the mental issue of being stuck there, of not losing past that point no matter how hard I work and finally giving up because it’s too much effort to not be able to get where I want to go is where I lose it every single time. I let things slide until I give up entirely. I “take a little break” and the weight creeps back on, and I’m back into my fat clothes again.
This time I’ve set my goal weight at 200 pounds. It’s a soft target. I know I can do that. Mentally, I can cope with idea of losing 160 pounds better than I can losing 200 pounds. I don’t know why that 40 pounds matters, but it does. I figure, if I get to 200 and stall again, I will call it maintaining and focus on that. If, at that point, I can continue to lose weight and the numbers keep going down, I’ll let them. I won’t live or die by that magic number this time. At least I hope I won’t. There’s a lot goes on in my head when it comes to losing weight.
I have an eating disorder. I’ve known about it for awhile. For years I joked that I was half-bulimic. I binge like a motherfucker. I mean, true bingeing, but unlike a bulimic, I can’t purge. I have a lot of the same thought patterns as a bulimic, except where that disorder is marked by a psychological need for control, binge-eating is the opposite: it’s losing control. It’s more like an alcoholic on a bender. It’s not eating for fun or enjoyment, just as an alcoholic isn’t drinking herself to oblivion because it’s a party of one. “I started and I couldn’t stop” is the feeling.
In May, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is going to be added to the new DSM V as an “official” eating disorder along with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. I first read about it more than 20 years ago. Even back then, there was an understanding that binge-eating was more than just eating too much. And that when someone with BED is dieting, there are mental obstacles to succeeding long-term that need to be addressed. For someone like me, the advice “Just put the fork down and step away from the table” is not only useless advice, it’s hurtful. Being told “you just need a little willpower!” is like slapping me in the face.
I got a lot more insight into it when I joined Overeaters Anonymous. I don’t believe I’m a food addict. And I stood up at meetings and labeled myself as a “compulsive overeater” when that’s not entirely true, either. I have an eating disorder, and the way I think about food, the way I relate to it, and my power over it is not the same as either of those things. I can control over-eating by just paying attention to what I’m eating. That’s not the issue. That’s not even hard for me. I have that control when I choose to exercise it. Bingeing is another whole story.
I don’t think I ever got anything practical out of the 12 Steps as they relate to food. But it did make me take another look at why and how I over-eat. I did realize that I use food the way an alcoholic uses booze, just not all the time. And unlike alcohol, you can’t just not eat. I mean, I can take the crap food out of my house and I’ll still binge on good food. The actions are the same, even if the damage is minimized.
I’m not even remotely cured of my binge-eating, and I still binge. Again, it’s about minimizing impact and doing damage control after the fact, but it’s still there, though it’s a lot less frequent now, and the duration and intensity have decreased. I’ve rid myself of triggers that I know about, and as such, I spend a lot more of my time in control. But sometimes there’s a “just barely” tacked on, and that feeling of being on the edge of a binge, of hanging on by your fingertips is a dreadful feeling. It almost feels better after the binge when you can sweep up, write down what you ate, assess the damage and take steps to neutralize things. It’s about control, and that’s when the bulimic impulses take over.
I fight the scale. See, there are things that logically I know to be true. But there are things my head tells me that I don’t believe, but hearing them still affects my impulses and my actions. I know that if I’ve had a good week, worked out, stayed within my points range, drank all my water, made good food choices, and that scale doesn’t move, or goes up, that it’s probably water. Logically I know my body didn’t gain fat by doing everything right, but oh…those numbers. I NEED TO SEE THEM GO DOWN. When you’re staring down a 160 pound total, every little bit counts.
So I start thinking of how to trick the scale. I start doing things to make sure that every ounce is squeezed out. I play games with my points, sometimes under-eating in an attempt to jog the scale into moving, or taking water pills before my weigh-in to make sure I’m rid of as much water as I can. Logically, I know it’s stupid. You can’t fool the scale. It’s all going to come out in the wash. But it’s about control. Losing it, regaining it, trying to get a firm grip again when so often I feel like I’m flailing.
I know my body is getting smaller. My measurements have gone down. But that scale is what MATTERS in my head. I can’t seem to let that go. I advise others to, but I can’t do it myself. In that aspect, I’m a hypocrite. But I try. I keep talking the talk in hopes that like so many other things, it will fall into place eventually.
I’ve come to realize that just telling myself that it’s about being healthy, not losing weight, is a lie too. Not a complete one, but if there was no payoff to this–if I wasn’t going to look better as a result–I’d have a lot less reason to keep going.
Unfortunately, realizing I didn’t like the way I looked has brought up a whole new crop of issues for me.
When you are a Person of Great Size, if you want to be able to love yourself, you have to look in the mirror and accept what you see. You have to love the fat as part of who you are. I’ve been a big girl my entire sexual life, and have never let my weight get in the way of feeling sexy and beautiful. I have had a lot of practice in becoming confident, and confidence is sexy. It’s never been a problem.
I’ve come to realize that my own self-acceptance is what has kept me from keeping my weight off. I’ve become complacent in my acceptance, and have told myself for so long that “I look good” that I have believed it. When the truth is, my fat is not attractive to me. My confidence has made me appear more attractive than I am, but my body, objectively speaking, is a hot, blubbery mess.
And not long ago, I realized that, and I looked in the mirror for the first time in years and I felt disgusted. I looked hideous. And it was doing a number on me. I’d put on my shoes, happy to get out to the gym to work out. I’d trot across the parking lot feeling good about myself and then I’d catch a glimpse of myself reflected in the glass doors of the gym, and I wanted to die.
Fat. Fat fat fatty fat fat. Fat.
I had to make myself go in. I fought tears the whole time I was on the treadmill. I’d look around and see that I was the fattest person in the room. “You’re the only one thinking that.” Yes, but I’m the one that counts. I know what I know to be true. I am often the fattest person in the room in a country where morbid obesity is an epidemic. That does NOT make a girl feel good about herself.
My instinct? Skip the gym. Pop into Shaw’s and hit the baked good section hard. Sit in my car, eat until I literally can’t get another bite down, hide the evidence, and then go home and lie about how hard I worked out. If I came close to quitting, it was then. And it wasn’t once. It was every day. I’d get dressed and realize I’m nowhere near ready to abandon most of my fat clothes. Sure, a few shirts are fitting more loosely, but I’m a long way from needing new pants. And that sucks. What do I need? Bras. My tits are shrinking. How’s that for a cosmic kick in the crotch? The only good thing about being fat is having big boobs, for God’s sake!
I told myself that what was important was not that I was the fattest person in the room, but that I was in the room in the first place. I was in the gym, not in my car with a dozen Boston creme donuts and an iced coffee. God, that was hard to do, though. That little voice that was fighting back was so much quieter than the one yelling “FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT FATTY MC FATTERTON FAT FAT FATTY FAT FATASS FAT!!!” in my ear.
I had a really hard stretch there of feeling just wretched about myself because of it. Reject the fat, reject what I see every time I look at myself. I realized that I don’t want to be a fat person anymore. I don’t love the fat. I want it gone. And the fact that it’s still there bothers me. It’s hard enough to love yourself when you accept what you see. I have no clue how to do it when you actively reject it. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’ve lost the weight. Will I still feel fat? I don’t reckon this journey is over by a long shot.
I’ve come to peace with it for the moment through a bit of mental gymnastics. I told you so much of this is head games for me, and I’m not joking. I was looking in the mirror naked one morning, absolutely loathing what I saw. Pinching and pulling at big, nasty rolls of flesh, watching it do all the gross things fat does. Then later, quite out of nowhere I found myself thinking about it, and somehow in my mind, I pictured it as a fat suit. All of a sudden. It occurred to me that the real me is in there, and while she might not be skinny, she’s fit and healthy. She’s just wearing a fat suit!
I can’t go into wardrobe and take it all off at once, just one pound at a time. And when I went back and looked in the mirror again, I pictured a fat suit. I am a healthy, fit person wearing a fat suit. I just need to get it off to see the real me. I can stand to see my reflection again.
Now, I know what I’m supposed to be concentrating on is my health. I’m supposed to be doing this for health reasons. I’m supposed to be focused on making healthy changes so that my body will be greatly improved, and the weight loss and improved appearance will be a wonderful side effect.
Whatever, man. I want to buy clothes in human sizes. Vanity, thy name is Poops.
In my case, it’s more accurate to say that my health has been a wonderful side effect. I hate to even admit it out loud because honestly, I’ve always been pretty proud of the fact that my body runs as well as it does with the crap food I’ve put into it. The fact that I can move at all is damned amazing when you consider the junk with which I fueled it.
Vegetables are my Achilles heel. I loathe the fucking things. And it’s another thing to wrap my head around. My new mantra is “food is fuel.” At first, I’d tell myself that when I was eating produce and I’d rather have had pizza. Or when I was having salad because green leafies are absolutely wonderful for me, but the McDonald’s french fries smelled soooooo good. Food is fuel. At first, it was a way to dismiss the idea of food as a celebration, or an event, or merely as something designed to give me pleasure. Unfortunately, food is kind of like sex in that respect, really. You can do it to make a baby and get the job done, or you can do it RIGHT, and when you do…hnnnggghhhhh….
Which is how it is with food. You can make eating a drudgery, something you have to do, or you can eat all the things that make drool run right down your face. You can eat just to keep your body going, or you can do it RIGHT. And like sex, I’m starting to understand that crap food isn’t better than no food at all. I figured out the last time I embarked on this weight loss journey that I lose more weight per week if I don’t eat crap food. Now, the beauty of WW to me is that it’s flexible. You don’t have to cut anything out. You can eat anything you want as long as you have Points enough for it. If you need to have a Dairy Queen or a cocktail or a Cadbury egg because it’s not just Easter without it, then you can. And I always made sure I wasn’t “deprived.” I kept all kinds of low-Point snacks on hand and had some every day because it gave me a sense of normalcy, a “See, I can eat like regular not-fat people, too!” kind of feeling.
And on weeks where I did everything right, stayed in my points and exercised faithfully, I’d gain, or stay the same. For no reason. It should have worked, but it didn’t. Then I noticed on weeks where I pulled way back on the snacks, limiting myself to a treat after supper, I lost more. But I hated it. I hated that I had to deprive myself after all! NOT FAIR.
Well, life isn’t fair, and that’s a fact. If life was fair, vegetables would cause unsightly face boils and chocolate would cure cancer. I wish to God there was an easier way. I wish fad diets worked. I wish cutting out one food or one food group or one thing was the key, but it’s just not. There’s no magic pill. Just “eat less, move more.” Anyone trying to sell you something else is…well, selling something.
This time out, it’s been the same thing, only more so because now I’m older. I’m 44, almost, and menopausal. I’ve had three babies. I’m fatter. And did I mention I’m older? My poor metabolism is lying there, gasping, and giving me the finger. This time, right from the outset, I had to adopt the “food is fuel” way of thinking. I know crap slows me down, so I got rid of it. And the weight loss was STILL slow. So I looked for what I’ve come to think of as “hidden crap” and started weeding it out. High-fructose corn syrup–out. Artificial sweeteners–out. Packaged snacks–out. Potato chips–out. Fast food–out.
Bit by bit, week by week, I’ve been replacing shitty food with good food, and telling myself that food is fuel, lamenting with rent garments and a wailing and gnashing of teeth that I am doomed to a lifetime of eating like a monk. *dramatic sigh* Only as the weeks have stretched into months, I swear by all I hold holy, I feel better.
Let that sink in for a minute.
I. FEEL. BETTER.
I have been openly disdainful of anyone who extols the virtues of kale or adds flax seed to anything. Fucking hippies, man. GET OFF MY LAWN. The notion of “eating mindfully” was just a lot of dirty hippie lingo to me. Until I found myself actually doing it. When you eat, and then write what you eat in a food journal, you become mindful of your food choices. When you look at your patterns of eating in order to see how and where to make changes, you’re being mindful. When you sit down with a meal and find yourself saying “food is fuel” and you feel really good about that because the food you’ve prepared is not only good for your body and is going to give you energy through the day, but it’s also pretty damned delicious as well…holy shit, you have become a hippie! You’ve gone over to the dark side!
The day I said “food is fuel” not by way of encouraging myself to choke down something I didn’t want, but instead as an affirmation that my body was in for a treat, I stopped shaving my armpits and rubbed on some patchouli. In for a penny, in for a pound, baby!
I don’t think I’m ever going to truly love vegetables. But I have hope. I just ate my breakfast and it was amazing.
Oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar, seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla, and with an apple and a banana cooked in. It’s sweet, filling, full of fiber, hot, and so good. I have almond milk in my coffee–it has 50% more calcium than milk, and is full of fiber, too. I will eat that at 9 in the morning and not be hungry again until 1. The fact that I love this makes the person I was back in November want to punch me in the face.
But back then I wouldn’t have believed that eating cleaner would make me feel so much better. I’m not hungry all the time. I don’t crave crap like I used to. I still have the urge to binge, and I still have the days where the control is so tentative that it makes me want to cry, but they’re fewer and farther between. I can sit in my kitchen all day and not have to get up all the time to see what else I can eat. I just don’t have the urge to.
I always hated the expression “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” because I can’t relate. I’ve never been thin in my entire adult life. I have amended that to my own use and I’m pretty sure that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. I like how I feel. There was a box of Cap’n Crunch on the stove this morning, and while the thought crossed my mind that a couple of bowls of that would be tasty, I knew I’d have a headache by noon and feel like shit. It just wasn’t worth it.
My body is responding to being crap-free. The better I eat, the better I feel, and that’s the truth. I find out new things all the time. I’ve discovered that artificial sweeteners make me crave sugar, but pure cane sugar doesn’t. I might have either an allergy or a sensitivity to MSG. Processed foods make working out harder, where whole foods improve my performance.
And yes, I’m working out again. Right now I stick to the treadmill. I can control the calories I burn and my heart rate very easily and I feel I get maximum results from it. I didn’t like the 30-minute circuit thing at all–too much up and down, on and off the equipment. It felt jerky and disjointed and like I wasn’t getting a really good workout. My trainer is back at the gym after being away, and I’m going to start adding weights back to my cardio routine again. I always loved weight training and I’m looking forward to it. But to be honest, I hadn’t done it because I didn’t want that lean muscle to show up on the scale. How stupid is that? It’s that head game with the numbers again. I have to let it go, and cling to the reality that building lean muscle will help me burn fat more effectively, and faster, no matter what the stupid scale says.
And for now, the scale says the weight is coming off. I’m officially down 36 pounds, though there was a good month at the beginning where I didn’t weigh myself, and if history is any indication, I lost a fair deal of water weight in those first few weeks. Even if I averaged a modest 2 pounds a week at the beginning, I’m probably down another 8 or 10 on top of that, but it’s hard to say. I try to tell myself that the number doesn’t matter, but the eating disorder won’t really let me do that. It is important to me. It’s something measurable that I can hang onto when the non-scale victories are scarce.
I have a long way to go before I shed my fat suit, but I feel like this time it will come off for good. I’ve never done this much work on the mental aspect of losing weight. I could always say the words, “I’m making healthy lifestyle changes” but without really changing a damn thing. The thoughts have to change first. When you change your mind, changing the way you live becomes easier, and after that, changing your body practically just happens.
For the first time in my life, I don’t accept any excuses from myself. I know my limitations, and I work on pushing past them in whatever way I can. No, I can’t run, but I can walk. I can build the muscles that will eventually protect my knees so that I can run. I’m working towards it. No, I don’t like vegetables, but I can figure out what ones I tolerate and find better ways of preparing them, trying new ones, adding them bit by bit until I grow accustomed to them. I can learn to like them. I don’t let my eating disorder act as a license to lose control. I don’t win every binge-battle, but I don’t have to accept defeat, either.
Will this work in the long run? I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve been gung-ho before, and determined, only to get to that stupid plateau and let my mind decide for me that I was done. I’m hoping my advancing age and multiple experiences will help me put the pieces together. I feel like my thoughts have changed in a way they never have before, so we’ll see where this takes me, I guess.