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Goal? April 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burning House

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

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

Stupid body breaking down at the most inopportune times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Pains December 3, 2014

Posted by J. in Genius.
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This is some true shit right here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fair crop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

 

It Puts the Lotion on Its Skin September 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m not as bothered by it lately. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Toes Have It June 2, 2014

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Is there anything sexier than a woman in sandals who is missing two toenails?

Depends on your idea of sexy.

I don’t know exactly what happened or what I did after my two-week hernia hiatus, but within a couple of days of lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement, my toenails started to hurt. Specifically, the ones right next to the big toes. The two piggies that stayed home, if you will.

No longer hungry for lunch? You're welcome.

No longer hungry for lunch? You’re welcome.

I have no clue what I did. I’ve never had this problem before, and I’m guessing my shoes fit the same way they did three weeks ago. I suspect bad form. When I was first starting to run, I found myself clenching my toes. That’s bad for your feets, apparently. I had to learn to relax my feet and let my toes splay out naturally, but at the time, I wasn’t running very far or for very long stretches. I wonder if, after taking a break, I reverted to clenching again, and because I’m running longer distances for a longer time, in addition to my second toes being as long as my big toes, they just took a beating.

I fear the nails will turn black and fall off eventually. I hope not. I’m consciously correcting my form while I run and keeping them relaxed, but damn. Those fuckers hurt. Not so much during the day when I can walk around barefoot or in sandals. And they don’t hurt inside my running shoes because my toe box is roomy and my socks fit me well. There’s no pain while I run.

But at night. Dear God, at night. Even the weight of the blanket hurts. Or lying in a position where that toe touches the mattress. It wakes me up. I haven’t had a good night sleep in a week because of it.

And you know what? TOTALLY WORTH IT.

I ran my fastest time on my 2.21 mile loop around the village this morning, and it felt fucking fantastic. Toenails be damned, I’m looking forward to running 3.5 tomorrow.

Looking. Forward. To.

I know, right?

I don’t care if I look like Bilbo Baggins in my sandals this summer. I’d rather have the world’s most ganked up feet and be able to run for miles and miles than to have fat, perfectly manicured toes any day.

Oh, and speaking of hobbits, I changed my My Fitness Pal food diary settings to more accurately correct my eating habits.

I'm embracing my inner halfling. After all, if you're going to walk in to Mordor, you better be in shape.

I’m embracing my inner halfling. After all, if you’re going to walk in to Mordor, you better be in shape.

On days that I run in the morning after putting the kids on the bus, I like to have something light that’s a bit of energy before I start out.  And coffee, because my heart doesn’t beat without it. But when I get home, I’m starving. My muscles are screaming at me, “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, PLEASE FEED ME.”

So I have a second breakfast.

And my journey to the hobbit side has begun…

 

 

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.

What Doesn’t Kill You September 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will not beat me. You will not win.

You will not beat me. You will not win.

 

The Trick August 4, 2013

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

Okay, this is the blog post that’s going to make you think I’ve lost my marbles. That’s if you weren’t already questioning how tightly I may or may not be wrapped as it is, and as the case may be.

The weight loss continues on in a forward direction. As of tonight, I’m down around 83 pounds or so. Give or take some ounces here and there. And it’s getting me a lot of attention. It’s funny to talk to people at church who don’t see me that often because we go to different Masses and have them come up to me in surprise, actually eager to tell me how amazed they are. I won’t lie: it is really nice to hear.

The next part is people asking “what I’m doing.” What a great question. What method are you using to lose weight? What diet? What workout regime? One person thought I’d had gastric bypass surgery.

What is my “secret” to losing all this weight?

Eat less, move more. That’s it. I know they’re expecting to hear that I’m following the Diet of the Week, or that I’ve figured out some trick to making the weight come off. There’s no real trick to it. You want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to eat less, and move more.

Though when I really thought about it more…”What are you doing?” I guess there are tricks of a sort that I do. I mean, I have lots of support, and sometimes reaching out to the people in my life who know my struggles and demons and can talk me through them is a trick. Learning how my body responds to different foods is a trick,too, I guess.

But when it comes down to bwass tacks, the reason I’ve been fat my whole life is because of one thing, and one thing only. All my other issues stem directly from this.

There’s a voice in my head, a person who lives deep inside of me whose voice is the one I do battle with all the time.

Her name is Mean Jen, and she’s a total Cuntasaurus Rex.

She is the voice of doubt. The voice that tells me I can’t do things. She tells me I’m fat, and lazy, and stupid. Talentless. She knows I’ll NEVER lose this weight, and as it falls away, she reminds me almost daily that it’s just temporary. She has a smug look on her face as she reminds me of all the weight I’ve lost and gained back, and laughs when I put another garment in the donation bag, certain that I’ll be needing that again someday.

She was the one who, when I’d bounce up to the gym doors feeling really good about myself and feeling confident and strong about my workout, would see my reflection in the glass and tell me that I’m the fattest person in the room and they’re all going to laugh at me.

For awhile, I worked out every single day fighting back tears because of her.

She’s the reason I went months without being able to look in a mirror or see a photo of myself. People would tell me how obvious my weight loss was, remark on how much better I must feel, but all I could see is a body ravaged by the excesses. The fat that used to be plump and round turned into flab–great hanging rolls of it. My tummy looked like pizza dough and my thighs…hell, they’re still measuring the same size as an average man’s waist.

I couldn’t stand to be naked. I made myself sick.

Yeah. Thanks, Mean Jen.

The problem with that angry, mean, evil voice in my head is that she’s so hard to fight. Maybe if what she was saying was patently untrue, that would be different, but everything she says comes from a place of truth.

For awhile, I was the fattest person in the gym. That’s without exaggeration. “You won’t always be” is small comfort. I know most people didn’t notice me at all, but I know some did. And I know there were unkind thoughts. You don’t spend your whole life overweight and not know that. You hear the whispers, and you know for every whisper, every unkind word, there are at least three unspoken thoughts about how your ass looks in those yoga pants.

I have lost hundreds and hundreds of pounds, and gained it all back, and then some. I’ve bought “thin” wardrobes and tossed my fat pants, only to need to buy them all over again. Not once. Hell, not twice, even. Mean Jen has reason to look smug. I have never lost weight and kept it off.

I am a quitter.

I am fairly lazy. I don’t like to exercise. I resent not being able to eat anything I want whenever the hell I want.

I don’t like to say “no” to food.

Mean Jen hurts because she’s pretty accurate. She knows me better than anyone, and she points out all my worst qualities and tells me the God’s honest truth. No softening it like a friend would. No generosity that a loved one would show.

She’s fucking ruthless.

So, I guess my answer to “What are you doing?” to lose weight this time is “I’m fighting Mean Jen.”

Her voice is always there, and depending on my hormonal state or whatever, she can be really loud.

The trick so far has been to drown her voice out with voices of my own. I have an amazing support team. People who build me up on low days. People who point out all the defiance I’ve shown her and tell me how proud they are of that fight. People who say my own words back to me–the same things I’ve said to them when their own Mean Inner Voice is raising hell with them. Their voices are loud, and raised in unison, they help me push back against the horrible truths that Mean Jen feels the need to remind me of.

But my biggest secret weapon is simple, and stupid, and kind of embarrassing, but here it is.

I can’t believe I’m telling you this.

It’s music. There are few songs that are like weapons against her. I don’t know how it works. Or why. Or even what it is about those particular songs. But they’re in my workout playlist, and I listen to them every day. And one I listen to even on my day off from the gym because I sing every damn word of it to Mean Jen. Right in her fucking mean, smug face.

And I’m not pretending that this is anything other than silly. I know it is. But I swear to you, it keeps her at bay. It keeps her from coming at me hard and fast and hitting me in the face over and over. Oh, she still sneaks up, and she changes her approach, but the full-on frontal assaults are few and far between.

It’s important that I’m able to fight the assaults. I realize that she’s what’s held me back. That belief that I can’t do this. The belief that I can’t change. I believed it because she told me that over and over for years.

They say you’re supposed to love yourself.

HOW?

That’s the part no one addresses. How do you love yourself when the voice in your head that knows you the absolute best tells you that you’re not worth it? And not only tells you that you suck, but does it by highlighting the very things you know to be true, way down deep in your heart?

I’ll tell you how.

You fight back. I have my faults same as anyone. And I’m taking what she tells me and I’m using them to my advantage. If I want to be a better person, I have to know the absolute worst things about me, and change what I can. I have to be a fighter. 

I’ve always kind of liked this song. Give it a listen. I don’t care if pop music isn’t your thing, or you don’t care for Xtina. And I know it’s a really stupid video. All artsy and shit. Whatever. It’s a breakup song, if you take it on its face. But there’s something in the way she sings, “You won’t stop me!” that makes me know that Mean Jen won’t stop me. She can’t. Not this time, not if I fight, and I’m a fighter now because she made me that way.

After all that you put me through,You think I’d despise you,
But in the end I wanna thank you,
‘Cause you’ve made me that much stronger

Well I thought I knew you, thinkin’ that you were true
Guess I, I couldn’t trust called your bluff time is up
‘Cause I’ve had enough
You were there by my side, always down for the ride
But your joy ride just came down in flames ’cause your greed sold me out in shame

After all of the stealing and cheating you probably think that I hold resentment for you
But uh uh, oh no, you’re wrong
‘Cause if it wasn’t for all that you tried to do, I wouldn’t know
Just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you
‘Cause it

[Chorus:]
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Never saw it coming, all of your backstabbing
Just so you could cash in on a good thing before I’d realize your game
I heard you’re going round playing the victim now
But don’t even begin feeling I’m the one to blame
‘Cause you dug your own grave
After all of the fights and the lies ’cause you’re wanting to haunt me
But that won’t work anymore, no more,
It’s over
‘Cause if it wasn’t for all of your torture
I wouldn’t know how to be this way now and never back down
So I wanna say thank you
‘Cause it

[Chorus]

How could this man I thought I knew
Turn out to be unjust so cruel
Could only see the good in you
Pretend not to see the truth
You tried to hide your lies, disguise yourself
Through living in denial
But in the end you’ll see
YOU-WON’T-STOP-ME

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

[Chorus]

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

[Chorus]

I warned you it was stupid, and I own that with everything I am. But that’s my trick. It’s that song. And all I know is that these days, I look in the mirror and think I look pretty. I looked at my vacation pictures and didn’t wish I wasn’t in them, or pick apart how I looked. I was happy with the images. I’m happy with my reflection. I get dressed and feel good that my waist is looking small, my ass is still big but taking on a nice, round shape, and even my tits are holding their own. Being naked is still hard…my body has a long way to go, and knowing that I’ll never recover from the damage I did by being fat for so long is disheartening. It makes me sad and angry. That happens whether or not Mean Jen tells me. It’s just something I know, and I’ll keep dealing with. I’m far from perfect, but now I’m able to look past the flaws and see the good, and it’s because I fight for that. I’m using her own weapons against her and it’s making me better than I was before. And that’s why I’m going to succeed this time, where I’ve always failed.

I am a fighter, and I’m not going back. I am changing those things that Mean Jen pointed out about me. I’m not letting the negative self-talk force me into a crying ball in the corner. I’m not letting it be an excuse to give up before I’ve started. She can hurt my feelings from time to time, but in the end, I’m going to keep proving her wrong.

Mean Jen can kiss my ass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

serenity (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can fix that. 

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

I can fix that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can fix this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuuuuuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m crazy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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