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The Nuts and Bolts, I Guess November 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

See?

See?

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

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

Sample page of my journal. Exciting, no?

Sample page of my journal. Exciting, no?

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

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

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

Now, here comes the “but.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Permission to Override Default Settings? October 19, 2013

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

So, I recently crossed the 100 pound weight loss mark. Yay, me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freaks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My knee hurts.”

“I overdid it yesterday.”

“There’s no time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Doesn’t Kill You September 9, 2013

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

I had another one of my epiphanies the other day, and because my occasional flashes of dubious brilliance seem to resonate with people I thought I’d share. So, as I sat here last night and started this, it’s poetic that on a chilly Sunday night, the smell of chocolate chip cookies was filling the kitchen. I’d worked out, I’d had my healthy, filling meals, but the smell of baking cookies was wiggling into my very soul and crying out my name.

“Pooooooops. Eeeeeeat meeeeeee. I’m deeeeeeeelicious! You know you want me!”

God, did I want you. I wanted you like no one has ever wanted a chocolate chip cookie in the history of ever. But I didn’t have you, you seductive demon. I resisted your siren song.

Now, lest you think I’m some sort of superhero (which is patently untrue, unless I’m wearing my Captain America thong, but that’s another post for another time), allow me to explain how this heroic act of strength happened.

It occurred to me that one of the things I did right from the start to help myself commit to this new, healthier way of eating is not having the things around that give me the kind of cravings that make me want to cut a bitch for just a single bite. I think it’s one of the first ways most people who are trying to lose weight cope with the constant cravings for shitty food. In my house, 10 months into my dietary overhaul, Larry still only buys snacks (like pretzels and Nutty Bars and Cool Ranch Doritos) that he knows I couldn’t care less about. He knows and appreciates what I’m trying to do, and he supports me by not doing things that will intentionally derail me. To his credit, he doesn’t bring home Girl Scout cookies (sorry, GSA) or Ben and Jerry’s because they’re so hard for me to walk away from.

But because a thing is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

I was talking with a friend over the summer, at the height of ice cream season, and she said, “I don’t know how you do it. I’m powerless against ice cream. I just can’t say no.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time, to be honest. It’s the kind of thing people say when they want to lose weight but the food always seems to win, and I don’t think I really heard the words. Not to mention that ice cream isn’t one of my trigger foods. But later on, recounting the conversation to my sister, it hit us both at the same time. That attitude–I can’t say no, I’m powerless–that’s why I’ve always failed, and why so many other people do. So you banish the foods that cause you trouble. You know the ones. The ones that you can’t have just a bit of and put back. The ones that call your name from the cupboard. The ones that are so very bad for you that they’re a gateway drug to getting in the car and hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru like a sailor in a whorehouse.

I’m not knocking it as a strategy. It’s a good one, a solid one. But sometimes I think it does a disservice as well.

Like last night, there were fresh baked, homemade cookies staring me down. There they were, only a few feet from me, and Larry walked up with the broken off bit of a cookie in his hand, the chocolate melted and gooey, the little wisps of steam barely visible in the cool kitchen, and he offered me a single, small bite. “You worked hard today at the gym…”

And with a smile, I gently turned it down. I explained that I know myself well enough to appreciate that one bite will just make me want more bites. A cookie turns into three. Or five. And then I’m saying “fuck it” and looking for what else I can stuff in my head. That bite could well be a one-way ticket to Binge City. For me, because I’ve had a lot of time to think about this kind of thing, I know myself, and I know that I’m better off not even taking that first bite. Some people can take a bite and be happy with it, feel satisfied. And I can do that with some foods. I can take a bite of ice cream and walk away, but not fucking homemade chocolate chip cookies, man. Down that path leads a binge it’ll take two weeks to atone for. *shudders*

I’m not sure if I’ll ever eat another chocolate chip cookie still warm from the oven again. I know for the longest time that I just couldn’t bring myself to say, “I can’t ever have {insert tasty food item that makes life worth living} again.” The idea of a life without a slice of birthday cake, or a wedge of that first apple pie in fall, or my mother’s fudge on Christmas Day made me give up my will to live. Or more accurately, my will to diet.

But what do you do when saying “no more, ever” makes you want to kill yourself, but at the same time you know that there are foods that will send you spiraling out of control? When experience tells you that one cookie will lead to a whole batch, or a handful of potato chips will mean eventually grazing through the pantry and eating everything but the baking soda?

If I sound like an alcoholic talking about a drink, you aren’t far off. I’ve done a stint in Overeaters Anonymous, and I have friends who are in AA. I think about a lot of foods the way alcoholics talk about booze. I remember one friend in recovery who used to tend bar. We asked how she could stand to be surrounded by booze and she says it doesn’t usually bother her. The only thing that affected her was seeing unfinished drinks. If someone left a drink on the bar and there was some left in the glass, she said the urge to finish it was almost painful.

I feel that way when someone scrapes the frosting off a piece of birthday cake and says it’s too sweet, and then leaves the glob on the plate. Or eats half a piece of cheesecake and says they’re full. I look at the food on the plate and the urge to just finish that dessert kills me. It’s nearly crippling.

And like an alcoholic, I know I can’t eat the way I used to. Of course with food, you have to eat. You can put booze out of your life, but you do have to take nourishment. In OA, sobriety is measured by sticking to your diet plan. OA doesn’t promote or endorse any particular plan, and most people define their own sobriety in terms of that. For someone on Weight Watchers, sobriety might mean staying within their points range. For someone counting calories, it’s staying under their limit. For someone who has identified as a food addict, it might be completely abstaining from white flour and refined sugar, or staying under a carb limit per day, or whatever the individual food addiction is. 

That’s where OA helped me the most. I had to identify what my issues with food really were. I’ve had to figure out if I have trigger foods and what to do when I encounter them in the wild. (Or behind me on my kitchen counter, as the case may be.) I know my biggest issue is with bingeing, and I know there are foods that can bring one on. I need strategies to deal with those foods so that I can move forward towards my health and fitness goals. But I also know that I can’t avoid crap food forever. It’s there and part of life, and it’s a matter of figuring out where they fit in.

Avoidance only works for so long. Eventually you’re going to have to say no. If I was to move forward, I had to stand up and assert that I am NOT powerless over any food. So I changed saying “no” to saying “not right now. Not today. Maybe tomorrow, if I still want some.” There’s a world of difference between “never” and “later,” and I’ve discovered that when later comes, it’s not that hard to put it off again. Eventually, I don’t want them any more. I can have them, but–and here’s the difference–I choose not to. Saying “later” to something I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want but know I shouldn’t have becomes easier every time I do it. It’s become a habit of mine.

Is it hard? Honestly? No, not much anymore. At first, yes. Hence the avoidance policy. But there’s something to be said for resisting what’s under your nose. When you have to turn down something that is always right there, you get good at saying no. The food loses its power over you. You practice, and eventually you get stronger.

Case in point: this is a picture I get sent to me on more than a few Fridays.

You should know that I would eat the fuck out of these. Seriously doubt I'd even taste the first three...

You should know that I would eat the fuck out of these. Seriously doubt I’d even taste the first three…

Every Friday is Krispy Kreme day at Bill’s job. He sends the pic for moral support. He curses the bastard unto seven generations that brings them in every. single. Friday.

And then he walks past them, and has been walking past them for almost a year now. I asked him if saying “no” to those donuts got easier as the weeks have stretched into months, and he said it has. It’s become easier to resist them because he’s practiced resisting them every week. He’s become stronger than the donuts.

There’s a school of thought when it comes to changing the way you eat that says that you should have some of what you crave so that you don’t obsess about it until you go on a mad binge. Advice to Bill would be to allot the calories so that he could have a donut on Friday.

Only here’s what Bill knows, and what I know. Friday Donut Day will become a weekly occurrence. That weekly donut is no longer a treat. It’s a habit. And a bad one. You know what donuts are? Fat and sugar. That’s it. They’re fucking delicious, but they’re useless for anything but building fat. And when what you’re trying to do is get rid of that last little bit of fat and build lean muscle, donuts are only counter-productive. They are a step backwards in every sense of the word.

I also think it’s horseshit that cravings don’t go away if you fail to indulge them. They most certainly do go away. Granted I’m still not in the habit of saying that I can never have chocolate chip cookies again, but I know for sure that I don’t need them. I can’t honestly say I’ll never have another donut in my life, but I can say with every ounce of certainty that I’ll never eat four of them for breakfast again and think nothing of it.

First of all, I’d puke. I can’t imagine what they’d do to my system now and how dreadful I’d feel.

But that aside, in the past, I’ve never been able to do that. I’ve never been able to stop mourning the loss of the foods I love that are just horrible for me. In the past, when I realized that things like cake and cookies and chips were eventually going to keep me from getting to my goal, I gave up on my goal. I chose the junk foods over my own health, over looking good, over everything, really. The idea of never again sitting in front of the TV with a bag of Cheese Doodles and eating the entire bag made me want to cry.

The morning I realized that I’ll never again eat four donuts for breakfast again and felt really good about it, that’s when I knew things had changed for me. I have changed my way of thinking. Practicing those new thought patterns has made them stronger, and they’ve replaced the old ones. I don’t know for sure if they’re gone entirely, but it’s been awhile since I’ve turned down something shitty-but-delicious and felt sad or angry about it.

That kind of denial hasn’t killed me. Putting crap food aside for later has been a good practice for me. It has made me stronger. Walking past those donuts every Friday has made Bill stronger. There comes a time when you just can’t avoid the things that tempt you the most. You have to say no. Or you say “later”. Or you just give twelve boxes of hot pizza the finger, grab your keys, and flee before you change your mind.

Seriously, Planet Fitness? What the fuck is up with Pizza Monday? You're a gorram GYM. Working out with the scent of Papa Gino's wafting through the air...NOT HELPFUL AT ALL. Assholes.

Seriously, Planet Fitness? What the fuck is up with Pizza Monday? You’re a gorram GYM. Working out with the scent of Papa Gino’s wafting through the air…NOT HELPFUL AT ALL. Assholes.

My point, and I do have one, is that turning down unhealthy food in favor of good, healthy, mindful choices has gotten easier because I’ve practiced it. I say no in a way I have to to make it right in my own mind; it won’t kill me, and it will make me stronger.

And that’s important. Turning down things like weekly donuts and pizza or even an ever present bag of potato chips in the cupboard or fresh cookies in the jar is a regular workout, only it’s not for my body, but for my mind. I am getting in the habit of turning down food that’s counter-productive to my goals. Those regular workouts are important for the times when Bad Food comes at me out of nowhere. Like going out to dinner and not knowing what’s going to be on the menu. Or going to a friend’s house for a party and there’s not a vegetable in sight, but there’s a fuckton of beer and chips. I don’t leave the restaurant. I don’t walk out of the party. It’s when all that practice of turning down crap food comes into play. It becomes easier to make a healthy choice because I’ve practiced doing it.

But being mindful also means knowing when food is part of a celebration and being able to control what you allow yourself to have, and how much of it. I’m not facing down a lifetime of never having a slice of my own birthday cake. But the days of bringing the leftover cake home and eating a quarter of a sheet cake for breakfast (no exaggeration) are over. My sobriety means staying in control of my choices and eating mindfully. If I eat something that has more calories in it than I can afford to spend, I make it my choice to do so. And sometimes I do make that choice. I had a cupcake at my cousin’s third birthday party because it was a celebration–a once in awhile thing. I stayed in control, and that, for me, is my sobriety.

And again, Captain America thong aside, this isn’t some mutant ability to resist food. It’s certainly not like those fuck it moments haven’t happened along the way. Did I tell you about the time I needed something sweet to eat so badly that I binged on pretzel rods dipped in an expired can of sugar free frosting? I’m not sure why that didn’t kill me, actually. Sometimes, when it comes to food, I take it on the chin. But getting back up and dusting myself off after a binge, writing down what I’ve eaten even when it looks like hell to see in print, owning up to my failures as well as rejoicing in my successes, that’s all part of getting healthier. Because in the end, long-term weight loss success starts from the neck up.

So…no. Just no. Maybe later, if I still want one.

You will not beat me. You will not win.

You will not beat me. You will not win.

 

The Trick August 4, 2013

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

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.

HOW?

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.

After all that you put me through,You think I’d despise you,
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
‘Cause it

[Chorus:]
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,
It’s over
‘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
‘Cause it

[Chorus]

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
YOU-WON’T-STOP-ME

I am a fighter and I
I ain’t gonna stop
There is no turning back
I’ve had enough

[Chorus]

You thought I would forget
But I remembered
‘Cause I remembered
I remembered
You thought I would forget
I remembered
‘Cause I remembered
I remembered

[Chorus]

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.

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.

Eat Right, Exercise, Get Hit by a Bus April 19, 2013

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
7 comments

I’ve lost 45 pounds. I’ve taken most processed foods out of my diet and I’m continuing to weed them out every day. I eschew chemicals in my food. I eat vegetables and fruits at every meal. I drink lots of water. I exercise at least 6 days out of every seven. I feel better than I have in years. I have a spring in my step. I don’t gird my loins when faced with a staircase, nor do I seek out the closest parking spot to the door (unless it’s raining or snowing or some shit.) I don’t dread a “long walk” into a store, or get frustrated when I get to the dairy section of the grocery store and realize I forgot something in produce and have to walk allllll the way back over there.

Last week, when I had a touch of a particularly painful stomach bug, I called the doctor. And when I got to the clinic, I sat right down in a chair with arms on it. I fit. No moment of panic wondering if I’d fit. No seeking out the armless chairs. No standing rather than squeeze into a too-small seat and leaving bruises on my thighs.

That’s something those of us on the far side of morbidly obese have to think about. I don’t know if thinner people understand that–what it’s like to be scared of a chair. To wonder if you’ll fit, or be humiliated in some way by it. Chairs with arms have been the enemy for so long that it’s hard to get my head around the fact that I don’t have to fear them anymore. Granted, the way some are made is still not comfy. I’m not tiny. But I can stand up without holding the arms so that it doesn’t come off the floor with me.

Trust me--this is way funnier on TV than it is in real life.

Trust me–this is way funnier on TV than it is in real life.

But when I got in there and the nurse took my blood pressure….well now, there’s some cause for concern.

Not at first. A reading that high couldn’t be right. I don’t remember what it was exactly. I can only remember the systolic reading, ever. The bottom number always eludes me. Always. Even when I was in nursing. Couldn’t remember it from the reading to writing it down. Weird, huh?) But the top number was over 160. I’ve never had even elevated BP in my entire life. Even 9 months pregnant after walking up the stairs, it was only “slightly elevated.” 

So I was all, “This ain’t right.” But the nurse took it three damned times using a variety of cuffs. The doc, after telling me he thinks I had a stomach bug and not something more serious like diverticulitis, told me to keep an eye on that BP reading. Take it at home once a week and come back if it stays high. Technically, I wasn’t his patient. I haven’t selected a new PCP yet since my old one left, and I only see the doc when something is wrong.

For a few days I thought about it. About the high reading. About having a dad who is a heart patient. About how I have a strict policy of What I Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Me when it comes to doctor appointments. About not caring about having a PCP because I only need one when I’m sick and all they do is fling pills at me anyway.

But then, I really don’t want to be known as “the chick that had a stroke on the treadmill” either.

I really REALLY don’t want the words “my first heart attack” to be part of my vocabulary.

So I made an appointment and went back and set myself up formally as his patient. And told him I was concerned. He took my BP again and yep, it was still high. Lower than it was the week before, but still hypertensive.

Fuuuuuck.

So yesterday, this is the bus I was hit by:

I'm not happy about this, but it beats the hell out of having a heart attack on the elliptical.

I’m not happy about this, but it beats the hell out of having a heart attack on the elliptical.

I confess to taking the morning to mope about it. Really and truly. I’ve worked hard to treat my body well and get healthier. I confess to feeling a bit betrayed. I confess that my first impulse was to get in the car and treat myself to lunch at McDonald’s because FUCK YOU, BODY. I treat you well and this is the thanks I get. Bitch, PLEASE.

I mean, when the doctor told me to watch my sodium intake, I was all, “FUCK YOU. I count calories and fat grams and dietary fiber as it is. I read every cocksucking label on every product I even contemplate buying. I put stuff back for being not organic, over-processed, or just plain not good fuel for me. SALT IS THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES EATING LIKE A FUCKING MONK BEARABLE.” Well, not out loud. I’m not rude. But I was thinking it.

But instead of hitting the drive-thru hard, I came home with a fresh bottle of pills in hand and got out my food journal and started calculating my sodium intake over a random smattering of days. And since I’ve cut out so much processed food, my sodium levels hover right around the recommended levels anyway. Which is all he was asking. No dramatic cut-off of sodium, just keep it to “normal” levels. Holy shit. I’m doing something “normal” and not “extraordinary.” How weird is that?

I always tend to feel envious of people who don’t have to diet, whether they’ve accepted their fat and eat what they like, or because their bodies are super-human and aren’t affected by crap food. I still feel somewhat abnormal in my picking-and-choosing-carefully eating habits. I always bemoan the fact that I’ll never be able to eat “normally” ever again. I see someone diving into a greasy burger and fries or a big old meat-covered pizza and I miss it. It’s like mourning the loss of a loved one. Sitting in the pharmacy eyeing the Snickers bars and saying to myself, “You’re dead to me now,” I may have shed a tear. It’s hard to lose something that means so much to you. I don’t suppose normal people feel that way.

But now I see that I’m the one that eats “normally.” My sodium intake is for the most part quite normal. Most Americans eat two to three times the recommended amount and don’t even know it. I’m not doing anything freakish. Most people don’t actually eat half a dozen donuts at a sitting. Or sit down with a can of frosting and a spoon. Most people don’t drive through McDonald’s and order two meals, eat them in the car and throw away the evidence before they get home because they’re ashamed. If there’s no evidence, it didn’t happen.

“I eat like a bird! I don’t know how come I can’t lose weight! My body is broken!” Yeah. Denial’s not just a river in Egypt, Poops.

The hardest part has been changing how I think about food. Always in the past, the idea of a life without a slice of birthday cake was a dim one. Or knowing that my summer will go by without a clam roll or a dish of ice cream from Jordan’s. But it goes back to my perception of “normal” eating habits. Ice cream every night in the summer is not normal. That’s a lot of sugar and saturated fat for anyone. God on a wheel, when I think back to the amount of iced coffee I consumed with real cream in it last summer, I want to cry. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are things I can have once in awhile, I just don’t need them every day. Even yesterday, I found myself looking at a bag of pretzels and the amount of sodium in a serving and saying “I won’t be eating these anymore.” I’m not sure why I’m hard-wired to see things as all or nothing when it comes to food. I don’t do it in other areas of my life. I’m so much of a gray-area kind of thinker I’m practically a waffler. I’m as middle of the road as they come–except with food, it seems. It’s crazy.

I’m crazy.

So anyway, to make myself feel better, and because it’s the time of year to weed out winter clothes and rotate in the warm-weather stuff anyway, I threw out a bag of clothes.

I can't bring myself to call them "fat clothes". These are my "fattest" clothes, and they don't fit me anymore. Buh-bye!

I can’t bring myself to call them “fat clothes”. These are my “fattest” clothes, and they don’t fit me anymore. Buh-bye!

I realized awhile back that because I yo-yo diet, I always have an assortment of clothes that don’t fit. And I’m bad about getting rid of my fat clothes. I’m more likely to get rid of “thin” clothes because they make me feel bad about myself when I start packing the weight back on, but I keep the fat clothes because it’s good to have them around for when the weight inevitably comes back. It’s hard to trust myself after trying and failing as often as I have.

Back in November, I was wearing the biggest clothes I owned. Buying new clothes was nearly impossible because the biggest sizes they carry in plus-size stores were too tight. I bought three t-shirts at Lane Bryant a few years ago in the biggest size, got them home, and realized they were just too small. I was too humiliated to return them for being too small, so I tossed them aside. Well, they fit now. It’s still a bittersweet victory. Fitting into the largest size LB carries isn’t exactly a thrill. It’s not like having to cancel your credit card there because you no longer fit into their smallest size. That day is coming, but it’s still a long way off. I try not to dwell on it, but unless you’ve ever had to lose more than a hundred pounds, you can’t really know what staring down that long road feels like. Focusing on the path right in front of you is the only thing you can do, but sometimes you put your head up, and feel kind of tired. So it’s good to turn around and see how far you’ve come.

I kept one fat shirt. It’s staying in my wardrobe so that on days when I put my head up and see how far I have to go, I can put that on and remember to turn around and look at how far I’ve come.

As for ignoring how far I have to go...that's still very much a work in progress.

As for ignoring how far I have to go…that’s still very much a work in progress.

So, that’s enough navel-gazing for one morning, I think. I have to go make my oatmeal. I’m adding ground flax seed to it now, because my body deserves the best fuel I can give it. I took the supplements that keep my depression at bay and my lady bits working as well as possible considering my advancing age, and yes, I took my blood pressure medication. And unlike yesterday, today I feel really good about it. I feel like I’m in control of my own health. I think I won this round.

Please Pass the Kale April 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name "Sisyphus" mean anything to you?

Name “Sisyphus” mean anything to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fat. Fat fat fatty fat fat. Fat.

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

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

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

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

Just call me "Bubbles."

Just call me “Bubbles.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let that sink in for a minute.

I. FEEL. BETTER.

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

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

dinner 029

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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