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Staying on the Wagon April 22, 2015

Posted by J. in Genius.
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What motivates you?

I was slogging away on the treadmill on Monday. I hate the treadmill with the fire of a thousand suns. You want to learn to hate running, get on a treadmill. But I got my new running shoes (FINALLY!) and it was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock outside, so I got on the damned machine to get a couple of miles in. I haven’t been running much all winter and it’s time to get those muscles back into shape and all that.

So I’m at the gym, pushing myself through every sucktastic minute, when it gets to be 5:00 and the local stations all go to news. Monday’s lead story across the bank of TV’s overhead was coverage of the Boston Marathon. And I saw people in wheelchairs crossing the finish line, and a runner who’d lost a limb in the bombing two years ago out running, racers hugging and helping each other when they couldn’t stand up anymore. And GOD…this.

Boston MarathonLOOK AT HER FACE. She just ran 26 fucking miles and LOOK AT HER SMILE. They showed a clip of her and the men’s winner running together with their hands joined and up in the air and it took my breath away.

Suddenly my legs didn’t feel tired anymore. I cranked up the pace and ran my last half mile as hard as I could without going so fast that I ran the risk of tripping and putting a Jen-shaped hole in the back wall of the gym. It was only two miles and it still mostly sucked, but seeing that kind of dedication and endurance and sheer love of the sport made me want to keep running forever. It was the motivation I needed.

But this isn’t about running, exactly. I had a friend ask me a couple of weeks ago, “What motivated you to stay on track with your diet?” And I had to stop and actually think about it before I answered, because nothing sprang right to mind. The fact that I couldn’t answer her surprised me. I guess I figured there had to be something and I just couldn’t think of it when put on the spot, but it occurred to me that there might not be anything.

Shit. Now what do I tell her?

I don’t tend to look at other people who’ve lost a lot of weight for inspiration or motivation. Lately, that’s had the opposite effect on me. Seeing other people who’ve reached their goal weight and look phenomenal with their tight abs and smooth thighs kind of piss me off and make me not even want to bother. Believe me, this is part of my personality I’m not proud of. It’s the deadly sin of envy, and it’s part of what is eating at me, but that’s another story for another day.

So when I get down to it, I’m not even sure how seeing me lose weight inspires anyone else, to be honest. If I was my fat self and could look into the future at what I am now, I’m not sure I’d be inspired to keep going. Maybe the idea of what I could be kept me going for awhile, but as that image slowly evaporated, it’s no longer a motivating factor.

At the moment, the only thing motivating me to not eat all the things is the fact that I refuse to wear fat pants again. Which is less motivation than it is a deterrent. It’s a powerful one, but hardly inspiring, and you really can’t count it. And it sucks because I know people are looking at me as inspirational and one does want to find the right words when asked about it to help others find that motivation to get started, or keep going.

When it comes to my diet, I don’t have a lot of motivation to stay on it, and that’s the God’s honest truth. Another friend asked me if I’m always perfect with it and I was all OH HELL NO. I fuck up all the time. I make great plans and don’t follow them. I still binge. I still turn to food for comfort more often than I’d like, and there are foods that will always make me weak in the knees. Her response was OH THANK GOD and if it was motivating to hear that you can change your eating habits but all is not lost if you’re not perfect, they yay for me. Because I’m the poster child for Not Perfect by Any Stretch of the Imagination.

It’s a commentary on the state of the diet industry today that when I tell people I lost my weight by eating less and moving more, they look at me like they’ve stumbled across a unicorn. Like I’m one of a rare specimen of human being for whom diet and exercise actually work. Like I’m blessed with abnormal genes that the average human lacks.

I assure them, and you, that I’m not. I am not, at any given time, particularly motivated to stay on my diet. I would like very much to go back to eating the way I used to, even though it makes me feel unwell and makes my weight shoot back up.

So what do I say? What motivates me?

I realized that for me, staying on track is not about finding some carrot to chase to keep going. And it’s not entirely about the fear and loathing of my past keeping me from turning back, either. The truth is, I’m not always on track. I fall off. I have bad days. I have bad weeks…months even. I don’t just fall off the wagon; I jump off and hide in the bushes until it’s out of sight.

I think for me, the problem with chasing that carrot is that eventually, you either catch the carrot and have to keep finding new snacks to chase, or you grow tired of chasing things and not catching them, so you decide to just stop running. It’s where motivation fails me.

The only way I find myself able to hunt down the wagon and climb back on it is by looking at why I fell off in the first place. There’s always a reason that I went off track, let things slide, or just walked away for awhile. And it can be any one of a number of things, really too many to list. But I don’t accept excuses anymore, and I don’t say “I can’t”, either. I can, and when I put my mind to it, I do. There are obstacles that come up all the time, and I have to keep finding out how to get past them.

So when I’m off track, I have to take a hard look at why. Why did I throw up my hands and say “fuck it” this time? Is it something new? Or, as is usually the case, is it a recurring issue that still needs work? I think that dealing with the sometimes painful truth of the answers is the hardest part of losing weight.

I saw this graphic online back when I’d lost maybe 30 or so pounds and it stayed with me because at first it pissed me off. YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.

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It’s so very accurate, which is why it pissed me off. And I mentally argued against it, because that’s what I do when I’m outraged. And it’s what I do when I’m faced with uncomfortable truths about myself. It’s easier to make excuses for not doing something than it is to actually grow a pair and, you know do something. I know this now, and I knew it then.

The key to staying on track is not about being motivated to do so, but in being honest with myself. Becoming more self-aware. Know what my strengths are, but knowing my weaknesses, too. I think the reason diets fail for most of us is that people who attempt to diet are given the physical changes to make, but not the mental and emotional tools to accomplish it. There’s a big dose of Self-Awareness that needs to come with The Diet Plan and The Workout Schedule.

On the up side, the nice thing about knowing this information is that everything you need to make the changes in your life that will lead to weight loss is inside you already. And when you’re honest with yourself and learn to let go of all the things that are tethering you to the lifestyle that keeps you fat, the diet and exercise part really falls into place. It’s like if you get your mind in gear, your body comes along for the ride.

The down side is that it takes some work to uncover it, and as I’ve said all along, it’s not a lot of fun. It’s hard work and it’s exhausting, and sometimes painful. And at times, when it’s really rough, those excuses are soooooo attractive. They are so easy.

I think motivation can be fleeting. It’s fickle–there one minute, and gone the next. What’s important is what happens when there’s nothing pushing you forward, or keeping you from turning back. I’ve come to think that it’s a better use of energy to look for the reasons behind falling off the wagon and take steps to correct them than it is to look around for a carrot to keep me in the chase.

I keep getting back on the wagon because I can see that I am becoming who I want to be. It’s something worth working for, and maybe that in itself is my motivation.

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Goal? April 9, 2015

Posted by J. in Genius.
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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.

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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.

Growing Pains December 3, 2014

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This is some true shit right here.

I’ve come to recognize that every rough stretch of time I go through in this process of mine has a purpose.

It’s hell to go through, but as Winston Churchill noted, when you’re going through hell…keep going.

It’s been two years since I started down this road, and even as I type this, I’m nursing one hell of a sugar-withdrawal headache. The holidays are already kicking my ass this year, and they’ve barely begun. I’m on a new anti-depressant which seems to have EAT ALL THE THINGS as a side effect, and since that’s my default setting…yeah. Needless to say, being so close to my goal and fighting depression (and the treatment for it) has made my weight loss even more painfully slow, and dealing with the disappointment of being so far away from where I want to be, having my body not cooperate when I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, eats away at me at times. And when my brain throws up road blocks so I can’t even manage to do the things I’m supposed to do and the scale creeps back up again, I feel like I’m falling apart. Metaphorically.

The people closest to me see it. It’s hard to write about and not feel like a whiny sack of crap.

But then one morning I wake up and the feelings have slipped away, like a horrible storm. I feel like I’ve been mentally tossed around, and on the inside I’m battered and bleeding and so very tired. But I realize that I’m alive, and with that comes that cool, clean feeling like after a storm passes. And as I’m cleaning up the mess, I can tell that I feel different about everything.

In a way, it’s very much like the old me has to die painfully for the new me to grow.

The physical changes are a lot like watching a plant grow, which is probably why the scale is so important to me. In the same way you can pull up a chair and watch a plant, and know that it’s growing, you can’t actually observe it. It’s too slow. My weight loss is that kind of slow. I’m changing, but so slowly that I can’t actually see it. And that has the power to throw me into a tailspin.

But once the spinning stops, I come out of it with new insights. I suddenly have new perspectives on this process that weren’t there before. To be fair, some of them are things that my friends have said to me. Words of comfort, bits of advice, things that seem so very “easy for you to say” at the time. But a lot of it is me needing to change the way I look at things, and my ability to do that seems to only come after a bad stretch of time where everything seems like a pointless waste of time.

It’s so hard to describe those feelings and how they eat away at me. I guess because when I start to describe my thought processes, and how they make me feel, I can argue them. I can say exactly what my fears are, and I can build a hundred arguments over why I’m worried over nothing. Or how I shouldn’t let “that” make me so upset.

And it seems like I don’t want help. In those moments, maybe I really don’t, in a way. Because I know what I’m supposed to be feeling. I know what I’m supposed to keep doing. Yet I can’t feel the right feelings. I don’t feel like I rock. I don’t feel like a superhero doing amazing things. I don’t feel strong and fit and healthy. I don’t feel hope that I’m ever going to be anything more than “less fat.” I don’t feel proud, or excited, or happy. And I’m still doing all the things I need to do, only it all feels useless. Like my life is a house of cards and one wrong move and it’s back to fat pants again.

But there’s no choice for me anymore. I have to keep going. Even when my feelings are all wrong, and when I’m feeling like I needed to switch trains a couple of stops back, only I’m not 100% sure, and don’t know how to find out, but fear I could be riding to the completely wrong destination.

And then it passes. I don’t know how or why. I’m not sure if there’s a catalyst or trigger of some sort that snaps me out of it, but I’ll notice that one thing has changed. And once that one thing is out there, more and more changes come into relief.

Two years later I’m at a point that I have some stuff figured out, but the more I get sorted, it’s like I find more stuff that needs work. And I confess there are days that…well, have you ever set to work cleaning something—like the garage or attic, where there’s a ton of stuff and you only kind of know a portion of what’s ahead of you—and you start moving  things and opening boxes and finding more and more stuff to sort and clean, so you close the door and go “fuck it, tomorrow is another day?” Well, that’s kind of what this process is like for me.

Some days I make great progress. I feel like you do when you’ve gone through a box, got it all sorted, cleaned, and filed away neatly and got rid of the stuff that’s no use to you anymore. Sometimes you feel so good you just grab another box and life is awesome.

And then there are days that the box is huge, all the stuff in it is filthy, and there’s no clear line as to what you should keep and what’s garbage. What if I need it later? Is this even my stuff? Where the hell did I get this damn thing? Oh man, that’s awful and useless and needs to go, but I’m so attached to it!

It’s days like that I feel like I’m sitting in a really dirty garage on the floor, surrounded by piles of crap, trying to weed out the things I need and clean them up and find a place for them, but it’s like the mountains threaten to collapse on me every time I touch something.

I guess if I’ve figured anything out recently it’s that I’m cleaning up a mess that was 43 years in the making, and I’ve only been at it for 2 years. It doesn’t make me much less impatient, mind you, but it helps a little.

As does focusing on all that is well and good, and looking at how much I’ve done in 2 years. Two years ago today, I stepped on the scale for the first time in many years, and I almost quit right then and there. It was all too much. WAY too much.

  • I was 358.7 pounds.
  • I had plantar faciitis. I could not walk or stand without pain.
  • My resting heart rate was in the mid-90’s and my blood pressure was around 140/100.
  • I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without being out of breath and needing to sit.
  • I had recurring yeast-type infections on my skin from chronic high blood sugar.
  • My acne rosacea was very pronounced, with a very red face.
  • The symptoms of PCOS and perimenopause were present: hot flashes, flushing, very heavy periods, and a chin full of pimples.
  • I wore a women’s size 4X, 28/30. My feet were a 9.5 wide. My bra was a 46D.

fair crop

I really did almost quit right at the start. I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds and the process is never, ever fun. I don’t like it at all. And the sure and certain knowledge that whatever I lost would just come back eventually with even more weight sucked.

But I’ve written about all that at length. And God bless you if you’ve hung in with me for the past two years. Writing about it keeps me accountable, and it’s cheaper than therapy. And I’ve had the added bonus of knowing that there are a few people out there who can identify with some of the stuff I’ve written and have found it within themselves to give weight loss another try. I know that hearing “ME TOO” from other people has helped me feel less alone, and if you’ve read something here and felt less alone as well, that’s pretty cool.

So, it’s my two year Fativersary, and lots of stuff has changed. Here’s the state of the union:

  • I’m down almost 175 pounds. I’ve lost just about half my body weight. The amount of pounds left to lose is, in the grand scheme of things, really small.
  • Plantar faciitis has buggered off. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of it in ages.
  • My resting heart rate was 55 at my last doctor’s appointment, and my blood pressure was 104/70.
  • Stairs are no problem. I used to get to church and by the time I got to the top of the stairs that lead to the sanctuary, I had to sit for a few minutes to catch my breath before I could warm up. I can sing while going up the stairs now. I no longer take the elevator to go up a flight. In fact, I pretty much run up a flight of stairs without even thinking about it.
  • I can still tell when I’ve had too much sugar because there’s a couple of spots on my abdomen that will break out in a yeast infection. To that end, I keep my intake of sugar on the low side, but I don’t cut it out completely. Moderation is the key.
  • My face is a LOT less red these days. My dermatologist would like to take credit for that, but it was clearing up before I even stepped foot in his office. So he can suck it.
  • My gynecologist said that I pushed menopause back by a good ten years. I’m not sure if this is good news or not. But I do know that my skin has completely cleared up, my periods are regular and on the light side, and I would actually kill for the occasional hot flash because now instead of being sweaty all the time, I’m probably going to freeze to death.
  • And I’m wearing a size large (occasionally an XL) on the bottom and have retired my Lane Bryant charge card since I’m too small for their clothes now. I wear a size 16 pants and a 12/14 on top, and my bra is a 34D. I get called “skinny” all the time. Which is funny, because I’m really not. Oh, and my shoe size is now an 8.5 medium. Heh. I had fat feets.

I think the difference is most pronounced with my clothes on, to be honest. Clothes cover a lot of sins, man. fair crop-horz

The pics above say a lot to me. In the “before” pic, I’m wearing a 4X sweatshirt and a pair of black stretch pants because that’s all that fit me at the time. I was working at a fair at the church and had to take four Advil every four hours just to get through the day. And I was so sore at night I could barely move.

In the “after” picture, I’m still wearing black stretch pants, but they’re compression running tights, and they’re a size large. I’m also wearing good running shoes and a running sweatshirt (also a large) because guess what I did that day? I ran. Probably 3.75 miles. No Advil required. And I wasn’t even sore later. In fact, I took the kids out trick-or-treating that night.

But I think there’s a lot of honesty in pictures with less clothes. Because with all the good you can see, the drawbacks to extreme weight loss are much more obvious, and I think it’s easier to see why looking in the mirror at my unclothed body is still difficult. I think it’s important that people see what being morbidly obese does to your body. Because while I’ve been able to fix a whole host of health problems by losing weight, I can’t do shit about what I’ve done to my stretched-out skin suit. And while on the one hand, it’s a reminder of the good that I’ve accomplished so far, it’s a pain in the ass to deal with, and it also reminds me of what I had allowed myself to become in the first place. cleavage 006-horz

It’s cool and everything, but it’s an honest picture of what I see. And if sometimes what I see makes me sad and angry, that’s okay. I have a right to feel what I feel when I feel it.

And today, the holidays are kicking my ass and it’s only just past Thanksgiving. So many parties full of good food…

Sigh.

Reining it in is hard. Fighting depression is hard. Fighting the treatment for depression is hard. Winter is hard.

My goal for the next 6 or so months is to maintain my weight. If I lose a bit, that’s cool. But if I can keep my weight within five pounds of 185, I’m good with that for now. I’m going to have to maintain eventually, and I need the practice. And I could use a bit of a respite from chasing that goal. I’m practicing my patience and persistence.

After all, winter is a time of dormancy around here, but life goes on. And then all at once, one day, it’s Spring.

 

It Puts the Lotion on Its Skin September 8, 2014

Posted by J. in Genius.
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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.

 

The Nuts and Bolts, I Guess November 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

See?

See?

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

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

Sample page of my journal. Exciting, no?

Sample page of my journal. Exciting, no?

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

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

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

Now, here comes the “but.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Excuses November 18, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
8 comments

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

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

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

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

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

But  it is.

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

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

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

“I forget.”

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

“I’ll start tomorrow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t afford a gym membership.”

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

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

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

“My knees can’t take it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fat City–You Won’t Find It on Google Maps May 31, 2013

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

This article by Karen Hitchcock called “Fat City” is currently making the rounds of my Facebook and is causing a huge uproar. I read it prepared to be outraged, but I am surprised to find that I’m not. Go on and give it a read if you haven’t already. I’ll wait.

As a fat person, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be angry about it. I am, but not for the reasons and rebuttals I see posted. I think I read it differently because I have 66 pounds of weight loss under my shrinking belt. But first off, here’s the truth: I’m still morbidly obese. I’m not Rubenesque. I’m not plump, or chubby. I’m fat. Fucking fat. Not just obese, MORBIDLY obese. As in “so fat you could die from that shit.”

I believe that fat acceptance has kept me obese for most of my adult life. I’m not saying that if you’re fat you shouldn’t love yourself. I’m not saying that if you’re fat, you have no self-worth. You deserve to be accepted because you are awesome. You should love yourself because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. But you are not your fat, and I am not my fat. But I didn’t always feel that way.

And I don’t write this to take on the Fat Acceptance movement. I know there will be angry responses to this post, and I don’t even know if I’m ready to see them. I’m not an activist. I’m a fat woman trying to gain some sanity, to come to grips with why I’m fat, not to condemn anyone else for the way they look or what their own beliefs on the topic are. I can only write what I know, and I have to say, as much as it hurt to read it, I think Dr. Hitchcock was spot on in her article.

You see, one day in the not-so-distant past, it dawned on me that my fat was not an asset, but the byproduct of some very fundamentally flawed thinking on my own part. And if I continued to accept and love my flaws, what impetus would there be for change? I speak for myself, but when it comes to fat, I believe in a nation where obesity has become the norm, we’ve taken to using excuses to blur the line between what we cannot do and what we choose not to do. And therein lies the problem. Or at least, it’s my problem. Or was.

serenity (1)

I’m ready for change, and I’ve had to tear down every single thought process about my size, my appearance, my weight, and my health and rebuild from scratch, because when you strip away the excuses and the complacency, there’s not much left to work with. Learning the difference between that which I can change and that I can’t is really the hardest part, because sorting out the excuses from the obstacles and figuring out just how high the walls I have to scale are is the biggest challenge of all of it.

I make no excuses for my weight anymore. Hear me now: I’m fat, and what’s more, I’m fat by choice.

Let that sink in for a minute. I am fat by choice, because I am an intelligent woman and there are things about the human body that I know. These aren’t myths or lies. This is science, pure and simple. And some math, because behind every unpleasantness, there’s math waiting for me like a big old spidah.

First, I had to accept the simple truth that there is a limit to the amount of food any human’s body needs every day. Period. Every human. If you eat over that limit often enough, the extra fuel will turn to fat. It’s basic biology. It’s math. You can’t fucking argue with math, man. Believe me, I’ve tried. Math’s a right bitch, but it doesn’t lie.

The second simple truth that goes hand in hand with the first is that there are foods that are good for you and foods that aren’t, and like knowing the difference between the changeable and the immutable, knowing what every food does and measuring its benefit can be tricky. “But these are diet chips! And diet soda! I should be skinny as a rail!” They’re still CRAP, Poops! For Christ’s sake, just accept the fact that they are crap. Embrace the idea that they are crap, and that you’re feeding your body crap. It might be low-calorie, low-fat crap, but it’s still CRAP.

The third simple fact is that like a car, your body needs to be driven around. It’s full of moving, working parts that get no benefit from sitting in the garage. Muscles need to be worked to be healthy. Your heart needs to get revved up every single day to be strong and keep you circulating. You need to sweat. You need to breathe hard. You need to keep your joints oiled and your connective tissues flexible. Because if you don’t, well, it’s simple mechanics here. You’ll rust out and seize up. Oh, maybe not when you’re 20. Or 30. But 40? 50? Do you see many 300 pound women in their 80’s in anything other than wheelchairs or motorized scooters? I don’t. Not many, that’s for sure.

Can you be fat and healthy? Of course you can! Fat people exercise. I know because I do. I’m 292.4 pounds this morning and I workout like a bastard. I sweat like a whore in church. I do cardio and weight training at least 6 days a week. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in years. But as long as I’m lugging around the extra weight, I’m not truly healthy. It’s not like the fat is there for any healthy purpose.

Do all fat people eat nothing but candy and cake and pies and chips, bingeing and gorging themselves into oblivion with giant greasy pizzas constantly? Of course not. Not every fat person who is eating a salad is on a diet. Sometimes you just want a big bowl of something green and leafy. But you can eat too much good food just like you can eat too much crap. And you can eat bad food thinking it’s good.

The body is such a wickedly complex thing. Different people have different metabolic rates, and you can adjust your metabolism. No really, it’s science again. You can! You can eat foods that rev it up, and you can do things that slow it down. Fad diets and crash diets, if you do them often enough will screw you up. The type and duration of exercise you do vs the fuel you take in can affect it. Sleep patterns can affect it. Medications affect it. Age affects it. Allow me to reiterate that these aren’t myths. This isn’t stuff your doctor made up off the cuff. It’s science, and it’s really complicated. I do a lot of homework these days in an effort to figure my body out.

And man, that’s just the actual physical side of things. Knowing about food and how it works, learning all that…it’s a full-time job these days! What to eat, what not to eat, when to eat it–it’s like a master class in nutrition for me every single day. There’s homework, and a ton of it. Knowing how to work out–what exercises do what and how it affects all the parts of this very complicated machine that is my body is a full-time job. Again, more homework.

What’s been hardest for me is changing my feelings about it. It’s easy to be hopeless. “I can’t lose weight because I’m over 40 and menopausal and have PCOS and my medications and crash dieting in the past have screwed up my metabolism.” That’s a lot of hurdles to get over right there. And letting them be insurmountable challenges is not much of a stretch. It’s not much of a change to say, “My metabolism is fucked because I’m over 40 and menopausal and I have PCOS and have screwed the pooch by chugging Slim-Fast in my 20’s and injecting pregnant rat urine three times a week, but I can fix that” but it’s a damn sight harder, because that right there is where the change occurs.

And it’s when you realize, or at least I did, that I was using excuses to cover the fact that losing weight is hard, and it was not serving any good purpose in my life.

I can fix that. 

It’s 90% mental, and since it’s the hardest part, you can bet your ass it’s a lot of work. WORK. And the moment I heard myself admit out loud that the reason I really haven’t managed to ever get my ass into shape and maintain that health is that I just didn’t want to work that hard…I didn’t feel so good about myself. I made excuses because they hurt a lot less than admitting that I didn’t want to work out because I’m basically lazy and hate to exercise. It’s so much kinder to blame my weight on genetics or illness than it is to fight against those things. It’s easier to accept that this is the way I’m made. I’m a flawed person, and I love myself anyway. It’s harder to admit that I’m a flawed person, and be mindful of my flaws and work on fixing those flaws. Being aware of my own shortcomings as a person makes me uncomfortable, to say the least. But the feeling that comes when I fight against my own instincts–whether inbred or conditioned–is beyond description. That feeling of being better than I was. Stronger. More confident in my own abilities. Feeling freer, like the fears that kept me tied down are gone and where I can go…I don’t know. I feel like I have no limits anymore.

I can fix that!

But back to the article. The author is a bit of a cunt, if you want to know how I feel about it. Her tone can be snotty and condescending, and it rubs me the wrong way when someone who’s never walked a mile in my plus-sized pants tells me what’s wrong with me. Maybe she’s right, but she lacks empathy because she simply cannot know what it feels like to live with fat. But I’ll tell you this: I’ve now read every word of it three times and it’s absofuckinglutely true.

Last June, I’d have RAGED against this. How fucking DARE SHE? You don’t know my struggles!

But she does. It’s about how we accept fat, and in doing so, give approval to the things that make us fat, because we don’t want to address the mental and social issues that stand in the way of being not-fat. I won’t say “thin” because not all thin people are healthy and not all fat people are sick. But I don’t know a better word to use to describe the body at its optimal weight.

I know why I accepted my fat as a given. I know what was behind my own thinking. I can’t speak for every fat person in the world. I know I didn’t want to “diet” because I couldn’t stand the idea of a life without all the yummy things in it. I wanted the pleasure of eating, of laying about, and accepted fat as the consequence. I chose it, because wanting the food was a bigger priority than wanting to be not-fat.

Nothing tastes as good as thin feels. I wouldn’t fucking know, man. And this big ass slice of cake feels pretty damn good.

I guess what I’m getting at is that there was a time I’d have fought everything she said simply because of how she said it, but more deeply because she makes me see as a person how I’ve failed myself. She knows it’s hard and writes from the perspective of someone who wants to help, but is limited to what she can do. She has her own frustrations. I write from someone inside a fat suit I built myself, so my perspective is different than hers, but I’m seeing the same thing, just from another angle is all. I agree with her: this shit I’m doing is HARD. And anyone who says doing it is easy should be kicked in the crotch. If it was easy, there would be no obesity epidemic. No one would be reaping untold fortunes from diet pills and supplements, and eating plans that cut out whole food groups or make you inject weird shit into your body. No one would undergo surgery to alter their body just to gain that bit of control.

I say I’m fat by choice, but I also believe that today I’m less fat by choice, and will some day be at a healthy weight by choice as well. The notion that it’s all out of my hands for any reason is part of the excuses that kept me at 360 pounds. I reject all excuses I’ve ever made and have reworked them so that they are nothing more than challenges to be overcome. Period. And I will overcome them. There will be a day when I am not a fat person. It’s not today. But it’s coming, because I reject the idea that my fat is normal, healthy, or good in any way. The only thing about my own fat that I accept today is that it is temporary, and for my own well-being it has to go, because it serves no positive purpose in my life.

I can fix this.