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Staying on the Wagon April 22, 2015

Posted by J. in Genius.
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What motivates you?

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

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

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

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

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

Shit. Now what do I tell her?

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do I say? What motivates me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goal? April 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11091497_10205886798078799_2784792768890149397_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burning House

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

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

Stupid body breaking down at the most inopportune times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Pains December 3, 2014

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This is some true shit right here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fair crop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

 

It Puts the Lotion on Its Skin September 8, 2014

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I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d updated. Things are ambling right along; lots of stuff is pretty much the same, and it doesn’t make for very interesting blogging, I’m afraid. Autumn is coming up hard and fast here, it’s beautiful running weather, and all three kids are in school full day.

Ooh! But I’ve gone back to work! It’s only part time on the weekends, but it’s the first time I’ve worked outside the home in ten years and it’s been a bit of an adjustment, to say the least. And get this–I got a job at the gym. It’s funny to read back to my first posts about losing weight and to remember all the emotions that came with working out for the first time. I’ve been showing new people around and getting them started towards their fitness goals, and I’m a long way from forgetting how it felt to be in their shoes. I know how scary the gym can be the first time you walk in, and how aware you are of just how out of shape you are, especially compared to the other people working out. I certainly know what it’s like to feel like people are judging you, and it’s nice to be in the position to reassure people that it only feels that way because for most of us, we’ve recently taken a hard look at who we are and what we want to be, and we’re the ones doing the judging. And that all those other people working out are doing the same thing: they’re looking at who they are and what they want to be, and they’re in there working towards it. Nothing more. 

It’s a long way from being that insecure person who fought tears on the treadmill day after miserable day. The upside of it is that I’m at a point now where the road behind me is much longer than what’s in front of me, and that’s a good place to be. At least it’s much better than the days when the road ahead of me was so long and I had to keep looking back all the time. I don’t look back much anymore, but when I do, it’s like HOLY SHIT.

There’s still road ahead of me, but I see that differently too. Much like running on a road course, your view and perspective change with every step. I think most of the changes are so subtle and small that I don’t notice them much, like so many trees or rock walls going past. And like running on a road course, it’s not about the destination so much as the run itself and being in the moment. And my goals are similar too. I’m not looking to be the fastest runner, but I want to go farther. I want to go longer, and stronger. I don’t care if I finish first, but I will finish. Or maybe, I’ll just keep running.

The fact that running is a metaphor for the weight loss journey that I’m on is telling, I think. As is the fact that I think of the journey as a fitness quest and not as a weight loss journey anymore. 

The mile marker I’m at currently is between 190 and 195 pounds. I crossed the 200 pound mark in the way that things have been going for months and months, which is slowly and a fraction of a pound at a time. It was a milestone to cross my soft target off my list, and keep my eyes on the road ahead.

I’m realizing, though, that as it stands, reaching a healthy goal weight is going to be impossible with the skin suit that I’m wearing.

I hesitate to say that anything is impossible, because that’s building a wall for myself. “Impossible” gives me permission to throw my hands up and quit. If it can’t be done, why try, right? 

Researching skin reduction surgery following weight loss has yielded varying results. People who lost less than 150 pounds seemed to lose an average of 10 to 12 pounds in skin and fat after surgery, whereas when the total pounds lost moved up over 150 pounds, the amounts got higher by quite a bit, especially in the closer-to-200 pounds lost area. Some of the extreme weight loss patients reported losing more than 30 pounds in excess flesh post-surgery. I’ve lost almost 170 pounds, putting me in the upper ranges of those reporting in. Results obviously vary person to person, but if I had to guess, I might be carrying 20 to 30 pounds of excess skin. Not fat, just loose flesh that can’t be dieted or exercised off.

It’s a new point-of-view on where I’m at. 190 pounds minus twenty pounds of skin…that’s 170 pounds. Hell, if it’s closer to 30 pounds, that would put me in the 160 pound range. What that means, practically speaking, is that I’m much closer to my goal weight than the scale shows on any given day.

With weight loss, especially extreme amounts like mine, the loss slows as you have less fat to lose, and I expected it. I just never expected it to be when I was a good 50 or 60 pounds away from my goal. But when I consider that I might not actually be 50 or 60 pounds away and it could be more like 20 or 30 pounds away, that’s far more realistic an outcome. Anyone who’s ever had to lose “only” 20 or 30 pounds can attest that it comes off way slower than for someone with 200 to lose, especially at first.

It’s really the only advantage to having to lose a lot of weight versus a little: the rewards of seeing big number drops relatively quickly is intoxicating. 

Losing 3 pounds a month is far less heady. But it’s still losing.

And I’m not as bothered by it lately. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thrilled about the skin. It’s an annoyance, for the most part. It’s part badge of honor at all I’ve accomplished so far, and at the same time, it’s a painful reminder of what I had allowed myself to become.

But when I start to dwell, I think of my sister’s response when I told her that: “It just is what it is.”

It’s just skin, and I want it to go. I plan on surgery, eventually.

The biggest thing I deal with is how it looks. My skin doesn’t fit anymore, and it’s like wearing clothes that are too big for you. It can be uncomfortable. Nothing fits in the right places. The extra material bunches and gets in the way of moving around. And it’s not attractive. Like a baggy pair of pants, it hides what I really look like. I can feel those muscles under the skin, and I know there’s a fit person in there, but I can’t see her. I’d like to!

And clothing itself is problematic. I am carrying my extra skin at the back of my upper arms, my belly (they call it an “apron”) and my thighs. So I have to wear larger sizes to accommodate it. Women’s/Plus sized pants are the only ones cut properly to have room in the thighs and hips while fitting in my relatively small waist. My torso is small…downright skinny in places, but I need a larger size to get my arms in. Knits are still my friend, bless their very forgiving construction.

But then again, show me someone who can put on any garment off the rack and look good in it. Everyone tries on clothes that look like crap on them, because not every outfit is made for every shape of body. We are human, after all, not coat hangers.

All that aside, it’s still a lot easier to dress a thinner body than it is to try to fit a much fatter one. Shopping is much more enjoyable than it used to be. 

Athletically is where the skin suit really sucks. Beyond the annoyances of things like not being able to run in anything other than compression tights that extend below my knee, and even that’s merely a help, not a complete solution. I like my tights, don’t get me wrong, but running on a hot day? Not as much fun. Seeing folks go past in the light little nylon shorts, bare legs staying cool as they run…I’m so jealous. With the flopping that my loose skin does, I can no more run without my compression tights that I could without a bra. Even now, the pairs I have are not compressing as much as they should and as I run, the jerking motion of skin going up and then slapping back down with each step slows me down and makes me heavier on my feet than usual. It’s surprising how much momentum that flab gets. Same with my upper arms. I don’t notice it at first, but after a few miles, I’m feeling soreness at the back of my shoulders from the constant up-and-down movement of the skin as I move. 

I guess how I’d describe it is if you were to put on a full backpack and go for a run. If the straps were tight and the weight was secure, you’d be running with extra weight, but it’s not moving around on you at all. You’d feel the effects, for sure. Now take the same weight in a bigger pack so that it moves around freely, and loosen the straps of the backpack. Still carrying the same amount of weight, but it’s free to move about the cabin. You’d feel chafing, and the constant up and down motion of the weight with each step would pull uncomfortably on your shoulders after awhile. Probably lower back too, as your body tries to compensate for the momentum.

It’s what I deal with every time I run.

But with good compression garments, I can take the edge off of it. It’s a hindrance, but not horrible enough to keep me off the course, yet.

My knees are where I have the biggest issue. Even as I write this, I’m babying my right knee (I call her “Tricky” because I never know what she’s going to do) because I did a nice, long 7.5 mile run last night on a whim. I pushed my legs past their comfort zone, and I was sore last night. My muscles are a bit stiff this morning, and Tricky is letting me know that I overdid it. Today will be a much easier, low-impact, cardio-heavy workout at the gym, even though it’s a beautiful morning for a run. I shall resist, because I have to.

My concern 170 pounds ago right up to this moment has always been taking care of my joints. It was awesome and wonderful to realize as the weight dropped off that Tricky was no longer a constant threat like she was at my heaviest. I’ve been (and will continue constantly) to build my leg muscles so that my knees get the best support they can, but I suspect damage has been done. I don’t know to what extent, though. And it’s not debilitating. Did I mention I ran 7.5 miles? 

But there are weight-bearing exercises I still can’t do because of my knees, specifically Tricky. They say that for every pound you lose, you lose five pounds of pressure off your knees. It’s the primary reason that for me, weight matters and always will. Every pound I carry counts, and I want them to be the best pounds–the pounds I need to be healthy and fit. If I don’t get rid of the skin, that is 20 or 30 extra pounds I’ll always have. I’ll always be that much overweight. If it’s 30 pounds, that 150 pounds of stress on my knees, and it means they’re going to go all to shit a lot faster than they would normally. 

At the end of the day, surgery will be necessary to excise upper arm, belly, and thigh skin. I have no idea how much more fat I have to lose before a plastic surgeon will consider operating, or how I’m going to pay for it, but the time for consulting one to make preliminary plans is drawing nigh.

As I re-read what I just wrote, it occurs to me how much I think in terms of fitness now. It’s one of those subtle shifts that you don’t notice as it happens, but one day it’s all BAM, right in your face. My goals are more physical now–I’m more concerned with what I can do as a measure of my overall health. The rest is rather secondary. I don’t know when it happened. I wasn’t really paying attention.

This summer I set myself a goal to run 10K, which is around six and a quarter miles. And I did it. Back in April, 3 miles was a long run. Now, that’s routine and over five is considered long. That’s a lot of improvement! The fact that I’ve only lost around 20 pounds in that time (when I used to do that in a month) doesn’t matter as much. Hardly at all, really.

I don’t know when I started thinking more in terms of fitness and less in terms of more concrete measurements like pounds and inches. Or what prompted it. I blame running. There’s something about it that has unleashed my inner athlete. Maybe it’s going from being someone who said “I can’t run” to proving myself wrong that did it. It could be that I’ve finally realized what it feels like to set a physical goal, meet it, and exceed it. 

It still feels weird to refer to myself as an athlete. I don’t consider myself “sporty” at all, but in reality, I work out every day. I eat like an athlete in that I eat to exercise instead of a dieter who exercises so she can eat more. I obsess more about getting my training in than about every calorie and meal and menu and pound. 

Not that I’m training for anything in particular. I have yet to run a race of any length, and I don’t have much interest in it, to be honest. Yet I’m working towards training for a half-marathon. Why? Well, why not? Maybe I will run one someday. Maybe I’ll run a marathon someday. Or maybe I’ll just run because I can. 

I don’t obsess as much over how I look, either. I guess when your body continues to stand up to the punishing workouts you put it through every single time, you start to see it as a pretty amazing machine. I’m still fatter than I’d like, but then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I stop and look. I still look at myself in the mirror and expect to see a 360 pound person, and when I see collarbones, I laugh. 

I know that this is the focus change I’ve been struggling so long to get to. And I imagine that as Fall turns to Winter, the new focus will change gradually as well. Maybe become more fine-tuned into something I can live with long term. The idea of living with obsession over the pounds, or the calories day in and day out was a tiresome one. To get to where the hierarchy of what’s important in this long-term quest has shuffled around a bit is a welcome bit of relief. 

I don’t quite know how I got here, though. Practice, I guess. Faking it when I didn’t feel it. Putting one foot in front of the other, and eating that elephant one bite at at time.

 

Things You Should Never Say May 30, 2014

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My friend Heather (the one with the exact right words at the exact right time) posted this article the other day, and it gave me thoughts to chew on. Heather has herself lost a significant amount of weight, so I’m sure she’s heard a lot of these comments, as have I. And I always read any article that starts with the words “Things you should never say…” with a grain of salt.

There are always articles similar to this full of what amounts to the pet peeves that come along with communicating with other humans. Things to never say to a dancer. Things to never say to a new mother. Things to never say to a Native American. Google it. There’s a bunch. I call those articles How to Not Offend 101.

Sometimes I read these articles if I think they might pertain to me, and think that while I’ve certainly heard people say some dumbass things, and know I’m not immune to foot-in-mouth disease mahself, some of the comments…well, you have to wonder what kind of ignorant asswipe would say such a thing. I mean, it’s the kind of comment that would make you look at them and ask “What the actual fuck is wrong with you?” They just had to have been invented for that article. Either that, or the writer needs to hang with a better class of people. Ones who aren’t complete boobs.

But the comments that make you nod in agreement if you’ve been on the receiving end, and should make you wonder if that’s ever come out of your mouth, are the subtle ones. The left-handed compliment. The things you say to encourage or support someone that can come off sounding judgmental.

Not that I’m judging you for being judgmental.

Okay, yeah, I am.

We all judge. We judge people all day long. If we’re smart, we keep our judgments to ourselves and manage to not say something based on said judgment that’s just plain offensive. It’s a delicate dance, and some folks are really good at it, and some people just suck at it. Hard. Such is life. But these “Things you should never say” articles have their place, because if it’s well-written, you can get a glimpse into what others are thinking before you open your mouth. And if you’re really lucky and find that your experience and theirs are wildly different, it can give you a great insight into yourself.

To that end, I read the article I mentioned called “It’s a Question of Weight” because the author, Kathleen Long, and I seemed to have similar experiences. I expected before reading it to agree with most, if not all, of what she was saying. I was surprised that I disagreed with her quite a bit, and it wasn’t until the end of the article that I realized why she and I didn’t see eye to eye on what you shouldn’t say to someone who has lost a lot of weight.

I’m also learning to appreciate and be (mostly) patient with the people who were in my life before I started losing weight as they adjust to the changes I’m making. I’m observing their reactions, asking questions and being curious about how they’re relating to me as a physical being. I’m recognizing when someone makes me uncomfortable and using that as a tool to examine hidden feelings of shame or inadequacy. It is a process for them as much as it is for me, and if nothing else, I think the plethora of diet book authors, doctors and nutritionists can all agree that losing weight is ultimately about being self-aware and present.

I think that bit right there is why a lot of the things people say don’t really bother me at all. I have an amazing little world that I inhabit. I have so much support, and so many people that mean well around me. It’s rare that I get offended by a question, or take a left-handed compliment as an insult, because I know that it’s genuinely from a place of love, friendship, pride, admiration, or a true sense of wonder and disbelief.

For what it’s worth, I feel compelled to give my two cents on the Things People Say When You Lose a Metric Fuckton of Weight.

“Wow, you look like a completely different person. I didn’t even recognize you.” This feels awkward. Is it a compliment? I usually respond with thank you, to which the person heartily replies “You’re welcome!”

This is ALWAYS a compliment to me. After 150 pounds, I really don’t look like the same person, and when people I’ve known for years have to hear my voice to recognize me, I’m sorry, that’s a transformation in appearance that can’t be denied. And I’ve worked wicked hard to look this way. Hell, there are times I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and I’m surprised at my own face. If I’m still getting used to how I look, I can hardly fault anyone for seeing in me someone that wasn’t there before. If it takes them by surprise, too, I totally get it.

It's the hair that throws people, I think...

It’s the hair that throws people, I think…

Of course, my assumption is that people are meaning to be complimentary, and they’re not saying they don’t recognize me because I look hideous. Yet. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

“You must be so happy now that you’ve lost all this weight.” Well, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t unhappy before I started losing weight.

There’s some truth to this one. I wasn’t unhappy at my fattest. All in all, I’m a fairly well-adjusted person, and if you ask me on any given day if I’m happy, the answer is likely yes. Things get me down and I have a bad day now and then, but overall, I’m happy. And I was at 360 pounds. I didn’t lose weight to find happiness. I already had it.

But am I happier now, specifically about how I feel and look? Oh, hell yes. And again, my assumption is that they’re asking if I’m pleased with and happy about my weight loss. Does this accomplishment make me happy? Yes, I’m pleased to report that it does. The journey comes with horrible stretches of time where I’m full of fear and anxiety, and days on end where I look at how far I still want to go and it seems uphill and discouraging and exhausting, but there are an awful lot of days that are absolutely elating. Am I happy now that I’ve lost all the weight? You fucking betcha I am.

“I really hope you’re not losing weight too fast; you look too skinny.” Not at all, I’m still 40 pounds overweight.

This one almost always comes from people I know well. I’m hovering in the 205-210 range right now, and would like to get to around 140 or so. That’s 65 to 70 pounds left to lose. I’m a size 18 in the ass and probably a 14 from the waist up, which is far from skinny. And if you’ve known me well at 360 pounds, it is a huge difference, and yeah, I do look skinny in places. It’s hard to imagine me at a healthy weight, because I’ve always been fat. I can’t imagine what I’ll look like when I’m into single digit clothing sizes, so I’m not surprised that no one else can either. And I appreciate the concern in your words, because that’s what I hear.

In truth, I share your concern. Maybe not at 70 pounds overweight, but I know me well enough to know that I could take it too far. As much as I whine about the fact that I can’t get my fat ass under 200 pounds fast enough to suit me, I know the day will come where I have to decide enough is enough. There is such a thing as being too thin, and the concern that I could go all crazy pants to the point of having so low a body fat percentage that I stop having periods and I look like a cadaver, just because I can, is a real one.

And honestly, what do you do when you really think you’re seeing someone who might be in danger of hurting themselves because they don’t have a realistic body image and have dieted themselves down to skin and bones? Or when someone you know has become obsessed with exercise and counting calories almost to the exclusion of everything else?

I’m not really sure.

I can only speak for my own situation. I know I am completely capable of getting to that level of obsession, and I have enlisted people very close to me to throw a flag on the play when they actually see self-destructive, bulimic/anorexic, or just plain obsessive behaviors. I also trust their objectivity when it comes to an overall assessment of my health and appearance, both physical and mental. And they are people who can say to me, “You have lost too much weight. You don’t look good,” and I won’t be offended, or insist that it’s not up to them. It’s a wicked short list, though. Like, three people. It’s my own safety line, having seen weight loss stories not end…well.

I want to tell people who tell me that 140 will be too skinny, or that I’m already too skinny (bless your hearts, really) that it’s okay. I understand that you can’t imagine me at a healthy weight because neither can I. But trust that I’m not insane, and even if I do find myself taking it too far, I have a fantastic support team who will let me know when I really start to look like I have The Cancer, or to tell me to stop being a nutjob.

But I keep in mind that their “too” comments come from concern for me, and I take them as such. I ignore it, but I’m not offended, either.

“I guess there is a difference between eating healthy and losing weight.” This comment often comes after my interlocutor discovers I’m not vegan/paleo/juicing/gluten free/etc. I’m under a doctor’s care and my health is being carefully monitored, and I say so, but usually, my reply is drowned out by the statistics of whatever diet it is that ensures optimal health.

“Well… what I do is…” Usually, someone will first ask how I am “doing it,” then will argue with my answer despite the obvious fact that what I am currently doing is working for me.

Okay, these two bug the shit out of me. This one I was all nodding and going OH YEAH.

I have no fucking idea what makes someone, upon hearing that you’ve lost 150 pounds, ask if you’ve tried {insert fad diet of the month} here. I suspect it’s because they want a chance to proselytize about their favorite diet and really aren’t interested in hearing how I did it. Or they want the chance to tell me that I’m risking my health somehow if I eat {insert forbidden food here} because they read it on the Internet. Or they want me to join them in selling powders, supplements, shakes, or {insert money-making weight loss product here}.

The truth is, I have spent a lot (some would argue an inordinate amount) of time studying up on food, and how it affects the body. I’m far from a fanatic about what I put in my mouth, because it’s been my experience that my body can handle just about anything with which I pollute it. It might not handle it particularly well, but it won’t kill me. Or cure me.

What I have found is that there are foods that make my body run like a well-oiled machine, and others that clog up the works a lot. I’ve come to realize that because bodies are so different, everyone likely has a different combination of foods that keep them feeling fantastic. And that there are things they don’t eat because of how a specific ingredient affects them. When you’re on a path like mine where your ultimate goal is good health, you tend to be more aware of what foods make you feel good and what ones don’t.

But boy, there is a lot of junk science out there. Beware of it. There are no magic foods that boost weight loss, and honestly, most of the current scapegoats of the modern diet (I’m looking at you, gluten) are entirely benign in 99% of the population. The good news is that there’s a lot of really good science out there, and because I’m always looking to improve, I swim around in it quite a lot. I’ve given consideration to going back to school to get a degree in nutrition; in part because I think some formal, intense study of it would benefit my own lifelong journey, but also because every day it seems like I encounter someone who has no idea about food, how it works, and what effect it has on the body. Not to mention the special, precious few who constantly share “THIS ONE FOOD CAN KILL YOU” articles on The Facebook. God help us all. The more I know, the more I want to know, and I’m considering boosting my ability to pass this information on to people who could use it. Maybe help other people who were and are in the same boat as me figure out the mind/body connection. I don’t know for sure, but it’s a thought.

“I guess you won’t be able to eat any of this.” This is something people generally say anytime I’m anywhere in the vicinity of a dessert.

My knee-jerk reaction is to agree with this one, and when I hear that, shove a cream puff in both cheeks like a sugar-crazed chipmunk. But when I’m confronted with the Food Police, I try to give the benefit of the doubt that they’re saying one of three things with that statement.

First, perhaps they’re concerned for my strength in the face of temptation. I get it. I imagine alcoholics hear that in a bar, too. Friends want to make sure that I’m going to be okay with this, that they’re not going to have to drag me home and dump me on the doorstep with creme anglaise drooling from my lips and cookie crumbs spilling out of my cleavage. I actually do appreciate the concern. It means someone is thinking of my comfort. That’s a nice thing.

Honestly, I’m fine, and I deal with temptations all day, every day. And sometimes I eat things that are bad for me. I usually enjoy the hell out of those moments, too. I respond with a short variation of “I ran 3 miles this morning and did some work with the free weights, and have about 600 extra calories banked up. I also had a light breakfast and lunch of mostly veggies and lean produce because I knew there would be margaritas and onion dip here.” (It sounds something like “It’s cool, I worked out today. Is there whipped cream for this torte?”)

It could be that they’re thinking I’m judging them for going back for thirds on the pie. Like I’m the Food Police. “Oh my God! She knows all about food and nutrition and how bad this is for me! She’s going to lecture me on the wickedness of my ways!”

Perish the thought. Eat all the pie, man. Pie is awesome.

The third intention I think is behind it is one of pity, either for myself, or more likely, for themselves. It’s that idea of mourning food that I’ve talked about. I wonder if they’re thinking about my discipline when I’m eyeing the desserts but not partaking, and wish they had it themselves. It’s when I get the “I wish I had your willpower” comment, and it’s so hard to turn that into party small talk. Willpower, and the lack thereof, is such a huge part of that mind/body connection that makes weight loss possible that I can’t even really skim the surface.

Especially while what I’m actually doing is trying to decide between a brownie or an eclair.

“You’ve lost like a whole person, if not more. How much weight is it at this point?” For many, weight is an uncomfortable subject, especially admitting the exact amount of “before” weight. It has been for me for many years.

This is something that doesn’t bother me personally, but she’s right: weight is a touchy subject and not a lot of people are comfortable disclosing what they weigh. I’m doing this so publicly that it’s become non-issue for me, and I’ll tell you what my before weight is, my current weight on any given day, and how much I’ve lost. But I can tell you that at first, admitting even to myself that I weighed 360 pounds was hard. And painful. I couldn’t admit it to anyone or say it out loud for a little while. As it became less something that I was currently dealing with and more a number that was firmly in my rear view, it got easier to admit to, and by this point, it’s a source of pride. I’m not proud that I got up to that weight, but I know what effect it has on people. That’s not being a little heavy, or even merely “fat.” That’s morbidly obese. That’s dangerously heavy. That’s far above the weight where a lot of well-meaning doctors start discussing cutting up your intestines to take care of it.

I know seeing me at my heaviest inspires people, and I don’t take that lightly. I want people as fat as I am, as fat as I was, and as fat as I know I could have eventually become to know that they have it in them to lose weight. They–you, if you’re reading this and doubting all the doubts that have ever been doubted–can transform. You can make your body into whatever you want it to be. I believe that with everything I am. I know you have things that stand in your way, but I also know that there is no obstacle that can’t be overcome, whether you have to go over it, under it, around it, through it, or just fucking outrun it every day. It can be done. I’m living proof of it, and I want to continue to be that proof and that example for the rest of my life. So I don’t ever want to get so comfortable as a thin, healthy person that I forget who I was. I have no problem with being reminded that I used to weigh 360 pounds.

But others might. So when in doubt, if you’re curious, know that not all questions require an answer. And you might be making someone really uncomfortable with your question.

And for the record, I’ve lost a whole person. A good-sized one at that.

“Well, good for you, but I’d rather live well. Life is short.” I’d understand the defensive response if I was proselytizing, but this is usually offered spontaneously, as if my mere presence is an argument for restrictive eating.

I wouldn’t put this in the category of “things to not say” exactly, but it’s one of those statements that does invite discussion, and usually argument. And like she says, it’s like my mere existence is a challenge to their own status quo.

Thing is, it’s not something I think even deserves an argument. If that’s how you feel about being fat, go nuts. I’m not telling you to lose weight. Only you can make that decision. And I have had people tell me “I’d rather eat and be fat and happy than hungry, skinny, and miserable.” What do you want me to say? Okay, then? I don’t need you to defend your decision to be fat, if that’s what makes you happy. And I’ll bite my tongue when you start listing the reasons why you could never do what I’ve done. It’s why I will usually make some non-committal response and extricate myself from the conversation. If we’re discussing weight and you’re pleading a case for obesity, we really don’t have anything to talk about.

I know where it comes from. When you’re fat, you’re on the defensive constantly about your weight, and you endure far more well-meaning but ultimately insulting and irritating comments than you do when you’re losing weight, or if you’re thin. And if you read the articles about “Things You Should Never Say to a Fat Girl” you can do the same thing I’ve done here. If you hear what’s behind the comments people make under the guise of being helpful, there’s usually a lot of subtext.

What she goes on to say at the end of her article is that ultimately, what we hear when people make comments that irritate or flatter us has as much to do with our own feelings about ourselves, our journeys, and our choices as it does about the person making the comment. It’s not news that sometimes perception and intention aren’t in sync. I argue, along with the original author, that what the comments should do is make us look at how we feel about ourselves and what’s going on with us, even if we react the way we do because the answer isn’t pretty, or neat, or pleasant to hear about. And that holds true about anything people comment about, whether it’s your weight, your choice of college major, or the car you drive.

Fielding comments about my weight loss and my appearance has been an interesting learning experience. There’s a school of thought that says that you should never comment on someone’s appearance because no matter what you say, it can be taken as an insult. Which is weird, because unless you’re blind, it’s the first thing you notice. And I wonder if we need more articles that teach us to listen with different ears than we do articles telling us what not to say in the first place. If you assume that people are saying things from a place of kindness, and it’s been my experience that they usually are, you will hear a compliment. If you assume they are criticizing you, you will feel attacked.

There are enough douchebags out there who work hard at being insulting that we don’t have to invent insults where none were intended, I think.

Oh, and the last one: “You’re disappearing.” Not true; you’re paying more attention to me than ever!

This is one of my favorites, right up with my sister’s remark, “Remember when you used to be fat?”

I know what she means! With the people that I know–we’re talking friends and family, people in my community, at church, my physicians–it seems like the smaller I get, the more notice I get. It’s the exact opposite of disappearing!

But when I think about it more closely, I realize that I no longer stand out in a crowd. When you’re morbidly obese, you do. While I’m still fat, I’m pretty close to our (pathetically fat) national average and if you saw me walking through an airport or standing in line at a checkout, I doubt you’d give me a second thought. For the first time in a long time, I blend. I disappear.

Or would, if my hair wasn’t such a vibrant shade of floozy red.

If I had to add my own little pet peeve to her list, I confess I look forward to the day when my weight isn’t the first thing people comment on. The other day after Mass I said “hello” to a group of friends and we had a quick little exchange of pleasantries, and not one of them said a thing about how I looked. And it wasn’t until I got to the car that I realized how good that felt. As nice as compliments are, and even though I don’t mind discussing my appearance, it was nice to just have a conversation that didn’t include it. I wasn’t singled out or the focus of attention, and I had forgotten what that was like.

It’s not that I don’t like talking about it, or that I don’t appreciate a “you look nice today” or anything, but to get to the point where my transformation isn’t noteworthy all the time will be nice. It’ll be part of who I am and maybe not feel so much like all of who I am.

Perhaps when the thin person has fully emerged and the fat girl is locked up inside me where I can keep a close and wary eye on her, I will really get to the point where I “disappear.”

That’s a weird-ass thing to look forward to.

 

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

Posted by J. in Genius.
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2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delightful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m going to need patience and perseverance.

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

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

And staring.

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

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

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

Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so do I.

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

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

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

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

I will not be doing crunches.

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

Stay the Course, or… March 26, 2014

Posted by J. in Genius.
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5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easter sweaters, 11 months apart.

Easter sweaters, 11 months apart.

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

That thought makes me sad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe it’s too much sugar.

Too much sodium?

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

Beyond that…I don’t know what to do.

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

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

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

I feed an army of pointless, bantering demons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have to stay the course.

Unless I need to change course.

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

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

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Naptui, and Me February 5, 2014

Posted by J. in Domesticity, FYI, Genius.
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8 comments

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve no doubt heard that a few days ago, another celebrity lost his battle with addiction. Philip Seymour Hoffman was only 46 years old. A year older than me. He was found with a heroin needle still in his arm.

Today, I read a blog post in response to his death written by a recovering addict. By the end of it, I was in tears. Not just because of how beautifully written it is, but how big the problem is. It’s a very frank, very simply put view of what addiction really is. How it works. And why people like Hoffman, who had the world by the balls, succumb to it.

I urge you to read it now, especially if you don’t deal with the demons of addiction. It gives a new, painful perspective on things from someone who lives daily with those demons. If you are an addict, I urge you to read it now, too. As the friend of mine who posted it said, “It reminds me not to be complacent in my choice of sobriety.”

Addiction, Mental Health, and a Society That Fails to Understand Either by Debie Hive

The part that struck me is where she says this:

The only way to really deal with addiction is one that is multi-faceted, one that makes us uncomfortable. It is messy and complicated and takes a lifetime of effort. It involves relapses and second chances and third chances. It involves support, sometimes sponsors. It involves therapy and counseling until whatever the root cause is has been revealed and addressed. It involves consideration of not just the physical withdrawal, but the emotional withdrawal, the social withdrawal, the psychological withdrawal. It involves a mental health system with adequate resources. It requires support instead of judgement.

And sometimes, even when all those things exist, it fails. It fails because addiction can take people and swallow them whole. It can rob them of everything they value, everyone they love. It can strip them of everything they care about, rob them of reason and logic. It can convince them that they aren’t worthy, that they have failed not just themselves, but everyone else. It tells them that they are broken and irreparable. Then it shoves them back down and does it again.

As I read that post, and found myself tearing up at her words, I realized I wasn’t thinking about Hoffman, or drugs at all. But I understood completely what the demons are that she talks about. About having forces and compulsions inside you that rob you of reason and logic, that shove you down and swallow you whole.

I get that. I live with that, too. I would not DREAM of putting a needle in my arm because drugs aren’t my bag.

Food is. And it’s a long, painful, goddamn slow way of killing yourself.

Like addicts, fat people get looked at with pity. Scorn. Anger. Frustration. We are called weak. Losers. A waste.

We are fat for the same reasons addicts are high and alcoholics are drunk. We use food the same way they use drugs and booze. We eat instead of shooting up. We binge on donuts, not booze.

And I wonder if any other people like me who have had a lifelong battle with weight see the same parallels.

I think the reason this blog post resonated so loudly with me, even though I don’t deal with a drug or alcohol addiction is that a month or so ago, I saw part of a show on TLC called “My 600-Pound Life.” And the episode I saw followed a man on Guam named Ricky Naptui, who at his heaviest topped out at nearly 900 pounds.

900-Pound Man: The Race Against Time

Maybe it’s because I’ve been wrestling my own demons so hard over the past year that I was able to watch this show and see it from the point of view that I did. I didn’t look at Ricky with disgust. Or even pity, really. I did get mad at his doctors. What Ricky thought he wanted and needed was weight loss surgery that would make him lose weight. The problem with that is that in order to do the surgery, he had to lose hundreds of pounds, first.

If you eat yourself up to 900 pounds, it’s not like dropping a couple hundred is going to be a walk in the park. The doctors were approaching it from a purely physical and surgical standpoint. If you eat less, you will lose weight. If you lose weight, we will do a life-threatening procedure that has more complications than benefits to help you lose weight. Convoluted thinking at best.

NOT ONE PERSON ASKED RICKY WHY HE EATS.

Maybe they just assumed it was because he was a pig.

I’m sure it’s what they assume about me.

Doctor speak for "Bitch, you fat."

Doctor speak for “Bitch, you fat.”

I use the present tense because I’m fully aware that at 226 pounds, I’m still obese. People who don’t know how far I’ve come see a fat woman, and that’s not an unkind assessment or self-deprecation. I still have at least 80 pounds to lose. That’s pretty fat, any way you slice it. I am fully aware that people look at me and have the thought cross through their mind that I should put my fork down and step away from the table once in awhile. Jesus, have some self-control.

They’re the same people, no doubt, who look at Philip Seymour Hoffman and say, “Jesus. Just don’t use drugs. How fucking hard is that?”

Fuck Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

So I watched as Ricky’s doctors expressed concern with what he eats, and how much. He needs to eat good food. He needs to eat less food. He needs to get him to the point where he can at least stand up unaided, which he could not do. They couldn’t get an accurate weight because he could not stand unsupported.

And the whole time they were telling him that he needs to lose at least 150 pounds on his own before they can consider surgery, I could see the frustration and desperation building in Ricky. He kept trying to find the words to tell them, “If I could lose that weight on my own, I wouldn’t need you. I wouldn’t be stuck in this bed. I can’t stop eating, and I don’t know why.”

But they talked over him. They cut him off. They were so concerned with pointing out the path he was going to have to follow that not one person took the time to listen to why that path seemed utterly impossible for him to even attempt.

And I wanted to reach into that TV and hold his hand and ask him why he eats. And listen to him. Because I know that helpless feeling. I know feeling scared.  I know all about not understanding why you can’t seem to eat like normal people. And I know the pain of knowing how people look at you. The pity, the scorn, the disgust, the sadness. It’s demoralizing. And I know he just wanted someone to help, and the best way anyone could do that was by listening.

Only no one did.

Ricky died at the age of 36, and the cause of death listed was “morbid obesity.”

I didn’t immediately look at Philip Seymour Hoffman and think “There but by the grace of God go I.” But I looked at Ricky and I did. Ricky needed an angel. Someone to listen to him, to help him sort out his feelings. He needed someone to talk about food with him, and help him figure out what part it plays in his life and how he could work to change that.

But all they wanted to do was push him into a diet. They wanted to cut him up and hope for the best.

What Ricky needed was help with his addiction. He needed help with his demons. But as Ms. Hive pointed out in her blog post, our mental help resources are lacking. We want to be able to cure addiction with rehab or prison, and when those things don’t work, we are left with waiting for death to take them. In the same way, obesity isn’t solved with dieting or gym memberships or obsessively counting calories. It’s certainly not solved with surgery.

It’s solved with change, and that change happens inside your mind as much as inside your body. And it’s hard, and not everyone can do it alone. Hell, maybe no one can do it alone. I’m not doing it alone. I have an amazing support system who should get gold medals for getting me through this.

I have a best friend who listens to me without judging and only reminds me of the things I already know to be true. He offers me the reason and logic that my demons try to take away, putting back the bits that break apart from time to time when the battle leaves me damaged.

I have a husband who knows that he is the one person who can make me feel beautiful in this world at a time where my self-esteem is at an all-time low. He supports my efforts and puts up with me when the battle gets to be too much. He is my safe, soft place to fall.

I have a sister who knows what it feels like to have never been an athlete in her whole life, but has done the work to become one. She tells me that I am an athlete, too, reminds me that my daily workouts are training, and keeps me reined in when I get too far ahead of myself, and holds me up when I fear I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

My support system grounds me and keeps me tethered to sanity. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that my sanity, my own sobriety, is tenuous at best. I have people to talk to. I have people who support me.

Ricky didn’t have that. His wife didn’t know what to do to help him. Hive says in her post, “Until you’ve had to tease out where the line between believing in someone and enabling them is, you can’t know what it is like.” She wanted him to be happy, but the only thing that made him happy was the thing that was killing him.

People who turn to food for comfort, for happiness, for friendship–we have a lot in common with addicts. We want to feel better, if only for a little while. Food helps us cope. And sometimes, the food just calls to us and we can’t stop eating, even when we want to. We hate ourselves for bingeing for no reason at all. We hate that we just can’t stop.

We hate ourselves for it.

We hate ourselves.

Much like drug and alcohol addiction, people with food issues habitually need more help than what we get. We don’t really need another diet plan. We don’t need another 7-minute workout. We don’t need another app for our phone. We certainly don’t need surgery, and we don’t need a magic pill that makes the fat go away.

We need someone to listen. We need someone to talk to us. To talk with us, not to us. We need professionals, from doctors, psychologists, therapists, and nutritionists who understand that the problem with our fat is not in our bodies, but in our heads, and if we work on sorting through our issues and get guidance with battling our demons, we can and will find a way to lose our weight.

And even if we get that help, there are no guarantees. Addicts relapse. Hoffman had been clean for 23 years before he relapsed. He was considered a sort of guru in AA because he helped so many other people. You can’t cure addiction. The fight never ends.

I know as well that this battle of mine will never be over. I fear relapse. I know people are watching me and seeing my progress and many don’t know what it takes for me to do this. If I fail, if I put weight back on, they won’t understand why. Some will. Or maybe some will just shrug and say “What a waste.”

There is hope. There are addicts who make it. There are people like me, and even heavier, who make it. I don’t believe I’m doomed to failure, but I know the odds are not in my favor.

It’s my hope that this fight gets easier at some point, but I kind of doubt it ever will. I’m not expecting it, or counting on it. I suspect it’s more likely that it will be as it has been for the past year: some hard stretches, and some easy stretches. Sometimes the demons will beat the shit out of me, but I’ll get back up, bruised, but stronger for the fight.

That thought is exhausting, to be honest, and after 23 years of it, I can see why a talented actor who had everything to live for put a needle in his arm.

He was tired. He was bruised. He was battered. He just wanted the demons to leave him alone, just for a little while.

Ricky never had a chance against his demons, because “the system”–whatever that is–failed him. Food was all he had, and in the end, it killed him.

There, but by the grace of God, go I.

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.

No Excuses November 18, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius.
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7 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.