Monday, December 15, 2008

Evil Christmas Elves

Apparently I need to pull out the bitch case, because I must have been too good this year. Last week I was visited by several evil Christmas elves bearing plates of scrumptuous no nos.

On Monday, I was given a tray of cookies. Tuesday, a fruitcake. Wednesday a box of Belgian truffles. Thursday, a rum cake. Friday, a box of assorted pastries from the local Lebanese bakery. Add to this the numerous seasonal lunches and dinners I was invited to and you have the making of a really ugly situation. All of this was lovely and I'm very appreciative, but it's hard enough to pour myself into my jeans when I'm not being fed on a regular basis.

The result? My weight's holding steady today, a fact for which I am very greatful. I've kicked up the activity, prioritized my holiday snacking and have taken to putting out the yummy goodness I receive for friends and family.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Down 3 Pounds--Thanks to the Flu

I'm back in commission after a week and a half in the clutches of a miserable bout of gastroenteritis. The result? I'm down 3 pounds. Sweet! I'm going to wait to adjust my stats until I see if it rebounds a little now that I'm better. The bottom line is that as long as I don't gain more than 2 pounds over the holiday season, I'll be on track for my goal to lose 1 pound in December. This New Year's, I'll have to remember to raise a toast to setting the bar low...

I have to say I was getting pretty sick of being sick, but after seeing the results, I sort of wish it would have lingered through the holiday. Mostly it was just stomach pain and decreased appetite. I could handle that for 2 more weeks, right? Handle it? I could probably bottle it and hand it out as a gift or sell it on the street corner. (I'm just kidding. I know I need to learn to make good choices even in the presence of my typically insatiable appetite.)

Today I'm off to an office lunch. I've already placed my order for nice green salad. I also fully intend to have La Bomba, which is basically an orgasmic dessert made from a ball of ice cream covered in a dark chocolate shell. This is the one outing over the entire holiday that I'm allowing myself dessert so I plan to enjoy every morsel. And, hey, I am making some sacrifices: I have to munch away on greens while everyone else eats warm, cheesy baked pastas and hot buttery garlic bread. I'm also planning a very light dinner tonight to offset the whole thing. I don't want this month to be a repeat of conference season, but I don't want to obsess so I'm doing some careful planning.

On a side note, I felt so good about my weight loss that I wrote out a Christmas card for the Lizard Lady today. Every year I pretend to forget her and then cringe when I get her magnificent, sparkly Christmas letter in which she talks about how perfect her marshmallow life is with her candy cane job and gum drop husband. Honestly, people! As a single person, if I sent one of these letters out, people would think I'm a total narcissist. Why is it just because she has a little ice on her finger she suddenly has the right to go bragging to everyone on her mailing list. I'd understand if she had kids or something, but it's just the two of them. Stop the madness! Anyway, as you can see, I've risen above it and decided to send her a card. That's how happy I am. Really.

Hope you've all had a smashing week!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The great thing about having the flu for the last week is that I haven't been able to eat much lately. The bad thing is that I haven't done anything.

Sorry if I haven't been checking in and stopping by lately. I'm not quite on the mend yet. I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone is doing!

Back to bed...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December Goals

The time has come to assess last months goals and establish some brand spanking new ones. I had three November goals which included 1)Lose 8 pounds 2.)Write down everything I eat every day, all 30 days! and 3)Get some physical activity 5 days/week.

The result? Well let's just say that I'm glad they're called goals and not rules. I didn't lose 8 pounds, I lost two. I wouldn't mind not reaching my goal if it wasn't for the fact that I know I didn't do my best. That said, regret is wasteful. It's far better to learn from mistakes and move on! I was much better at tracking my food, though I didn't manage to do it every single day. I did actually succeed in getting some activity 5 days a week, though. So 1/3 isn't that bad, is it?

It's a new month and my last shot at getting it right in 2008, so here are my December goals!

1.) Lose 1 pound. That's it, one pound. I actually considered aiming just to maintain this month, but I thought that would just be like giving myself permission to slack off too much. One pound is realistic, given the festive season, but still keeps my focus on losing.

2.) Record every thing I eat every day. Yep, trying this again. I think it's a valuable tool in my efforts to reign in my overeating.

3.) Get 45 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. More specific than last time, so not as easy to fudge.

What are you hoping to achieve this month? Let's make it a good one!

Monday, December 1, 2008

WIsh in one hand...

My mother used to say, "wish in one hand and shit in the other and we'll see which fills up faster." When I was growing up, I heard that particularly charming colloquialism at least once a day and it infuriated me. It was her answer to, "I wish I had some ice cream" or "I wish I didn't have to go to school" or "I wish I could take dance lessons like the other girls." The more it irritated me, the more she seemed to be entertained.

Probably it was her way of getting back at children who each had an inflated sense of entitlement since her "when I was a girl" stories didn't seem to have much of and influence on my my sister and me. It was hard for us to imagine the kind of poverty she described, especially since she seemed so self indulgent by the time we came along. Regardless of the reason, she repeated that phrase like a mantra until we learned to stop beginning sentences with "I wish."

Despite it's abrasiveness, Mom's mantra has real meaning in my life today. I've spent this year mostly wishing for success. I've spent a little time blogging about it and a lot of time commiserating with friends and coworkers about weight loss struggles. Most of what I've done boils down to wishing, and while I have no intention of cupping my hand over my bottom instead of using the commode, I think that I can see which up faster.

I think I need to be more action focused. I need to find ways to ensure that I will win more of those difficult moments than I lose. That said, I've devised a plan of attack. While this month is certain to be a time of joyous celebration, it's also laced with no fewer than 15 get togethers of one variety or another. All are sure to be positively replete with scrumptious things to eat and some tempting libations. I've mapped out my events and prioritized. For the get togethers that will be at restaraunts, I'm picking my meal ahead of time. For those that take place at someone's home, I intend to eat something filling and healthy before I go so I won't be as tempted. There will be precisely one (pre Christmas) event during which I will indulge in dessert. I will go into each event with a detailed, well rehearsed plan.

This planning worked well for me on Thanksgiving. While I started off being determined not to obsess over potential weight gain, I also didn't want to make it a feeding frenzy. The menu at my mother's house almost never varies, so I was able to decide ahead of time what was worth it and what wasn't. I brought a yogurt and a banana which I ate while my family was enjoying a pre meal chocolate munch. I decided early what I would allow myself to eat so I could feel in control. I also tried to make people the focus of my celebrating instead of food.

I'm also laying out some more realistic goals for this month. I'll post these later today or tomorrow.

So I hope you're joining me in my efforts to stop just wishing for success!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


As a morbidly obese, perennial dieter, I've almost come to view food as a curse. I've certainly referred to it as an addiction and a source of great misery for me. Thanksgiving is about celebrating the blessings and plenty in our lives, but it's that every day plenty that has been a major contributing factor in my unhappiness for the last decade.

This is one of the great paradoxes of our modern world. You can have too much of a good thing even while those around you are desperate for just a fraction of what you have.

I remember reading last year about people in Haiti who had to resort to eating cookies made from dirt just to survive. As an island nation, Haiti has to import many of the goods it's people depend on. Last year, as the price of doing that became astronomical and storms damaged much of the nation's crops, people had to resort to desperate measures just to ease the pain of their inconceivable hunger.

The situation is equally dire in Zimbabwe where hunger has become an inescapable master for many people. Political unrest has given rise to widespread famine. On my way in to work the other day, I couldn't stop crying when I heard the story of Katy Phiri, an elderly Zimbabwean who hadn't eaten in three days and was struggling to find food for herself and her grandson. She was foraging for kernels of corn that had been dropped and left behind after the harvest. Children are foraging for termites just to find enough nourishment to stay alive.

I know it sounds like I'm wagging a wooden spoon at you and saying, "children in China would be grateful for that food, young lady!" That's not my intention. Sometimes I'm just taken aback by the contrast of plenty and abject poverty in the world. It's unthinkable that while I struggle to force myself to push back from the table, someone else is starving to death in another corner of the world. There doesn't seem to be any justice in it. Why should I have too much when so many don't have enough?

So tomorrow, when I sit down to my Thanksgiving feast, I will not obsess about my food choices. I will not weigh and measure and worry. I don't intend to gorge myself, either. My focus will be on gratitude that I should be part of the fortunate few that has the option of overeating and of providing food for my friends and family. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I intend to enter into the true spirit of the season and direct my energy toward giving thanks. I will try to see food as the blessing that it is. My diet will be waiting patiently for me on Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weigh-in: Down 2 Pounds

I've been AWOL from the blogosphere for the last few days, but I haven't been slacking off (too much). I'm still ploughing away at my November goals. I'm managing to track everything and get more activity, but I am almost positive that the "lose 8 pounds" goal is not going to happen.
On the upside, I weighed in 2 pounds lighter this week. I don't have an official weight to report because I am currently trying out a new product called Mary Lou's Weigh. I'll be posting a review in the next few days, so check out the product website and stay tuned for my two cents.

The bad news? My calico sweetheart, Samantha isn't doing so hot on her diet. Despite our best efforts which included eliminating table scraps and canned food as well as purchasing a laser pointer to encourage activity, she is up .20 pounds from last year. For your Tuesday viewing pleasure I submit the following image. Take a look at 14.8 pounds of feline in an artificial Christmas tree! Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good News and Bad News

I'm still pressing on with my monthly goals and I'm enjoying varying success.

I'm struggling along with the exercise piece, and doing a little better. I've felt more motivated to walk on my lunch break which is great for a variety of reasons. It helps me to unwind in the middle of my day because it gets me out of the office and allows me to release some of my pent up energy. It's also the perfect time for me to get in an hour of activity. I'm not disciplined enough to get up early and if I wait till I get home at night, I'll be too tired or too lazy.

I have been really disciplined about tracking my food on SparkPeople, which has really opened my eyes. Firstly, it has reawakened me to exactly what I'm putting in my mouth. I'm surprised by how many calories there are in some of the things I eat and by how unbalanced my diet is. For example, while I almost never get the recommended amount of protein, I frequently exceed the recommendation for carbs. Not a good practice for a pre diabetic.

So while I stayed within my calorie limit yesterday, I also ate SEVEN Pillsbury cookies. SEVEN. I know weight loss is about calories in and calories out, but I'm not just doing this to lose weight, I'm doing it to get healthy. Consuming empty calories is going to do little to help me get there. I need to make a better effort to eat foods that will nourish me, not just satisfy my cravings.

The good news: I'm tracking, exercising and limiting my calories.
The bad news: I'm eating garbage.

What can I say? I'm a work in progress and I'm making changes everyday. Hope you're having a good day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Now That's What I Call Comfort Food

As the temperatures dip and the days go shorter, my spirits can dip a little too. Probably this has something to do with the fact that I get a lot less sunlight or it could be the sharp increase in my gas bill or just the fact that it's so damn cold here. Whatever the reason, my mind goes gooey with thoughts of cheesy baked pastas and, of course, cookies.

Basically, cold weather + holiday season = bigger pants, which is something I would seriously like to avoid this year. That's why I was so excited to learn about the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. This will be old news to anyone who has had their finger on the pulse of the nutrition world, but since I'm fairly new to this healthy eating stuff, it's all news to me.

Most of us know that omega 3s are good for our heart. I'm not sure of the precise processes at work, but I know that they make are blood cells slippery which means a decreased likelihood that blockages will form. What I didn't know until very recently is that omega-3s can actually improve mood.

Research shows that people who consume omega-3s have more grey matter in the amygdala, the hippocampus and the cingulate, the three areas of the brain that are smaller in individuals living with depression. That means that consuming foods rich in these fatty acids such as salmon, walnuts and flax seed can give you a real emotional boost during the winter months. That's good news for me, as I'm try to fight the urge for a second piece of pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving. It also highlights the value of good nutrition and supports the idea that the food we eat can and should be nourishment for our minds as well as our bodies.

If you want more information, you can read this article I found on USA Today online or you can just do a search on WebMD. You should also note that if you already have clotting issues or are on blood thinners, you should talk to your doc before diving into the omega 3s--especially if you intend to get your daily dose in the form of supplements.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekly Weigh In: 233.5

After a so-so week, the scale finally moved in the right direction. I've landed at 233.5, a total loss of 1.5 pounds for the week. Would I like to have lost a bit more? You bet! I just need to remind myself that if I can shed 1.5 pounds every week, I'll be down 78 pounds by this time next year and that's nothing to sneeze at! (I love the Mathematics of Affirmation).

I'm doing pretty well on my November goals. I'm not quite on track to lose the eight pounds and unless I come down with a serious bout of dysentery, it might not happen at this point. I'm not counting myself out yet; I've still got two weeks to make good on that goal, but since that would require me to lose at a rate of 3.25 pounds a week, I'm probably not going to make it.

My biggest single challenge has been tracking what I eat. Normally, I start out really well when I'm eating healthy foods, but somehow, when I eat something that's not so healthy to write it down. (Is it true if I don't write it down it doesn't count? My jeans say otherwise!) I've followed the advise of other bloggers and have begun tracking on SparkPeople. I've set it as my home page so every time I hit the Internet Explorer button I'm reminded to log my food. So far, so good with that.

Recording my food intake not only makes me more mindful of what I'm eating, it also gives me some data to analyze. What I've learned is that I've had a tendency to eat on the high end of my calories and I'm going way over on my recommended fat and way under on the protein. This is good information for me, because, while everyone else seems to know that having a piece of my mother's cheesecake every day may not be the best way to shed the pounds, I actually have to see the numbers for it to hit home. (Again, no Logical Blogger award for me!) Armed with data, I'm going to try to focus on nutrition as well as total calories this week.

I've been under performing a little in the exercise department. I have technically been getting a little activity 5 days a week, but I've sort of been phoning it in. Time to kick it up this week!

If you're a goal setter, feel free to share what you plan to do this week. Good luck everyone!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Remembering My First Time

Recently, I stopped by PQ’s blog and responded to her challenge to summarize the last ten years of my life in 100 characters. Without thinking too much, I fired off:

Gained 110 pounds, graduated high school, got job, college, grad school, job, back to grad school, lost 50 pounds (so far).

As it turns out, that’s actually 102 characters if you don’t count spaces, but that’s not important. What does matter is the somewhat unwelcome line of thought those 102 characters initiated. Gained 110 pounds. Wow. How does that happen? For me, it came on in less than two years, a mere blink of an eye and all the while I was oblivious to the changes. I didn’t own a scale, and while people called me fat, they’d always done that; it’s not like they were saying “You’re fatter.” Did my clothes get too small? They must have, but I don’t remember ever really noting it. Maybe I was determined not to realize. Sometimes I think that I was born weighing over 200 pounds, because while I’d be thrilled to weigh 150 or 160 now, I thought I was enormous then and it seems unthinkable that I was ever that small. I need to look at the pictures to even believe that I once wore the size 12 jeans that I didn’t bother to pack when I moved.

How does that happen? You can only gain that much weight if you get up in the morning and decide, consciously or unconsciously, to eat more calories than you burn most days of your life. At one point in my life, I didn’t do that, and then as if a switch was thrown, I got to it in earnest.

I can pinpoint it. I remember the precise moment, the first time I ate food seeking something other than nourishment, the first time I abused food in the way other addicts abuse alcohol or cocaine or sex. I can see it so clearly with one exception. I know that in reality, it was the summer before my junior year in high school, but in my mind I always imagine that I was very young and very small. I see myself looking the way I look in old pictures where I have straight bangs and corduroy pants, where I’m playing with my Barbie on the old brown linoleum with my sister or where I’m standing looking shy in my purple velvet dress.

But aside from the way I picture us, I know that I remember everything with perfect clarity. The front door’s open, inviting the muggy night air in. The firelight outside is casting fiendish shapes on the walls and floors. I can hear the rumble of rock music, turned up too loud on a second rate boom box to even be intelligible. I know my parents are out there, but their not rowdy as usual, they’re actually hushed, but they are drunk, which has become a matter of course for summer weekend nights. They’re more somber and I know that it’s because, frustrated by our poverty and an engine that wouldn’t start, my father has thrown a tomahawk through the windshield of his car. A tomahawk. A mistake that, stupid to be sure, will cost them money they don’t have. I know they think it’s my fault, because I made him mad. When the car wouldn’t start, I had touched his arm and said, “maybe it’s best, Dad. Maybe you’re too drunk.”

Later, my mother hissed, “You should have left him alone. You have no right to judge him.” I wasn’t judging; I was relieved.

In the kitchen, two girls, who can hardly stand a moment together under normal circumstances, huddle giggling together in the pale light coming from the bulb over the sink. They’re inventing a recipe for childhood escape: toast raisin bread, spread generously with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and one tablespoon each sugar and Nestle’s Quick. Consume while warm and repeat if necessary.

It was necessary on hundreds of nights I can’t remember and a few I’d like to forget. It wasn’t always the same food, but it was always uncommon and excessive. It didn’t fix the windshield, it didn’t help me understand my parents or make them resent me less, but somehow, binge eating felt like my anchor. It’s a pattern that I’m struggling to break every day.

I’m not writing this because I feel sorry for myself or because I’m hoping for some sympathy. I’m writing it because I subscribe to the school that says that in order to fix the problem, you have to understand it completely. You have to turn it over in your hands, take it apart, analyze it, even if doing that is incredibly painful. That’s what I have to do if instead of recounting my first time, I’m going to some day write about my last.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Did You Know I'm a Size 4?


Does this mean that I contracted a flesh eating virus that munched off half of my ass overnight? Perish the thought. Actually, I find reality to be slightly more annoying that. The truth is that, finding most of my pants to be too baggy and unflattering, I finally broke down and decided go shopping.

I marched into Lane Bryant, went straight for the pants and was greeted with a rack full of sizes 1-10. All of the sudden I felt a waive of panic. Did I accidentally wonder into Express? I scanned the room for the droves of pale, waifs that would grab me under the arms and escort me out the door saying, "there's nothing for you here." No. I was definitely in Lane Bryant. I could tell because I was surrounded by size 8 mannequins wearing cinched plus sized clothes--I think that's supposed to make the clothes look better. We wouldn't want to actually see how they would look on a plus sized woman...but I digress.

The over-sized clothes on the dummy also ruled out my other thought: that Lane Bryant had stopped selling plus clothing. Next I called my sister over to confirm that I wasn't hallucinating. Nope. Sizes 1-10.OK, no need to panic.

"Excuse me," I said to the nearest employee. "I'm a little confused by your sizing."

"Oh, it's new."

"But how do I know what my size is now? Do you have a chart with equivalents or something."

"Nope, I have to measure you," she said advancing on me with a tape measure outstretched.

Panic again. No way am I letting another soul know the exact circumference of my waist. Well, no one except for the entire Internet, you guys are OK. (I know I'm not going to get the Logical Blogger award any time soon.) "No thanks, I'm good. I'll just buy a shirt." Crisis averted. She walked away and my sister assured me that I was officially the biggest dork ever.

Then I began the unscientific process of finding pants that would fit. As it turns out, the pants were also color coded based on bodily location of poundage. So I spent some time holding pant up to my body and then I brought about 63 pairs to the fitting room. It took me nearly 2 hours to figure out that I'm a red size 4. Awesome.

I hate to be grouchy, but this has really got me all fired up. The color coding does make some sense to me. I actually like that they're making jeans to fit different body types. But I have to say that the new numbering really ticks me off. I realize that the numbering system for all women's clothes, at least in the United States, is basically arbitrary. Who knows what size 18 or 10 or especially 0 means? It doesn't go by poundage, and it might be based on measurements, too, but the actual sizes give no indication. But most women know what their size is and have a basic idea of what the next size up and the next size down would be like. Even if I'm not happy with my size, it's convenient to know what it is. It's bad enough to have to shop in stores like Lane Bryant without having to completely refigure my size when I walk in the door.

Can anyone tell me what Lane Bryant was thinking? Maybe it's some marketing ploy that's meant to appeal to my vanity. Maybe some women are more likely to shop at a place that enables them to wear clothes with a tag that says 4 instead of 18.There are so many reasons this gets me ticked off. Let me enumerate some of them.
  1. It goes without saying that it irritated me that it took me so much longer to find pants.
    To me, it feels like an insult to my intelligence. I know there's no way in hell I could get even one leg into a pair of size fours from any other store. I'm fine with that; I don't need to delude myself and I certainly don't need anyone else to delude me!
  2. Looking forward, I feel like this partially robs me of a victory I could enjoy in the future. I was really looking forward to the day I could stop shopping at Lane Bryant. Now, in order to do that, I'll have to go from a size 0 in LaLa Land to a size 14 or 12 in the real world. Even though I know it's arbitrary, I think it's going to throw me for a bit of a psychological loop.
  3. It sends the message that smaller is necessarily better. If they were going to change it, I wish they'd made there pants size based on waste circumference combined with the new color coding system, but guess what? They didn't ask me what I thought.

OK. End of rant. Feel free to rant or defend in the comments.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can I Have a Do-Over?

When I was a kid, I was addicted to video games, which is probably one of the reasons that I ended up one of those childhood obesity cases that are all over the news today. I loved the escapism I could enjoy, especially in games like Final Fantasy, Mario or Zelda. I could traverse the veld on a chocobo, warp through time, don a frog suit and go deep sea diving and ultimately save the day. Mostly, I dug the fact that I could fall into a pit of fire, get eaten by a Dragon or bungle a challenge and not face any consequences. All I needed to do was hit the reset button.

The irritating thing about reality is that there is no reset button, so if I get eaten by a dragon, I just get digested. The same is true if I eat a dragon. I just have to face the consequences on the scale. That was the case when I weighed in this morning. I knew even before I got on that I'd be lucky if I just didn't gain anything. It felt like all week, I just couldn't seem to stop shoveling food in my face. I was anxious about work and classes and current events, a tired excuse to be sure, but true nonetheless.

Probably my greatest single downfall was that I didn't have a plan. I didn't make sure that I had healthy snacks to eat and I waited until I got home every night to decide on dinner. Consequently, I ended up eating out nearly every day last week, which probably contributed hundreds of extra calories to my daily intake.

If I was back in elementary school, I would just hit the red button with my big toe and go on with my life, but as an adult, I actually have to deal with the consequences of my actions or inactions. That means that I'm ending yet another week no closer to my goal than before.

I felt a little disheartened at first, especially knowing that I would have to blog about defeat once again. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I kind of do get a do-over. Every single new day and week is a chance for a do-over, a chance to assess my difficulties and adopt a new approach. Actually, even the moment after I finish my piece of pie is an opportunity for a do-over if I decide that I'm going to endeavor to make healthier choices from that moment on. We all want lasting success, and that means that at some point we need to forgive ourselves.

So here goes: I'm hitting the reset button. I'm going to plan my food out for the next day every night before I hit the hay. Maybe if I've got a course plotted out, I won't take a wrong turn and end up in Candy Land. Your welcome to come along. If you've had a bad week, take this as official permission to put it behind you and make the most of a do-over.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Change We Need

There are a lot of cynical people who assert that people just cannot change. Undoubtedly, people who make that claim are basing it on real experience. Maybe they've seen an uncle lose his fight with alcohol or drug addiction; maybe they've suffered through an abusive relationship, read the research that says that obese people can't keep the weight off or worst of all, they've endeavored to change themselves, stumbled and lost faith in their own personal ability to alter the course of their lives.

No matter how valid their experience, the trouble is that it's limited. It fails to take into account the resiliency of the spirit and the capacity of the individual to persevere. The truth is that sometimes people do change. They change for the better and they change for good. Their very existence is proof that change is possible. It's often painful and is almost always difficult. Usually, it's incredibly messy, but it's possible.

The truth is that millions of people are agents of positive change in their own lives and the lives of others every single day. Sometimes, change is hard for outside observers to appreciate, but every once in a while their is a transition so dramatic that it is impossible not to recognize it's existence and impact.

Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Independent, it impossible deny the tremendous change in our nation. President Elect Obama as well as the pundits and historians will and have characterized this shift much more eloquently than I can hope to. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to reflect on the enormity of the election, what it symbolizes and how it informs my understanding of human nature. It seems impossible that we need only to reach back a few generations to touch the dark reality of slavery. That segregation and racism, lynching, oppression and impossible hate exist in our living memory is unthinkable when viewed through the lens of our current world.

A number of people contended that the change that was necessary to elect an African American president was not possible at this time. They worried about the Bradley Effect, explaining that it was possible that polls were deceptive because deep down, Americans couldn't pull the lever for a black man. I confess that I shared some of that cynicism. I have known too many people who have exerted an incredible amount of energy arguing for their belief in supremacy of whites to be certain that reason was more powerful than hate.

I would never limit the complexity of the election to the race issue. In the end, most Obama supporters were focused on economic issues, a fact which underscores the enormity of the shift in American views. Until very recently, Obama's race might have dominated his candidacy. Today, we can recognize that we have witnessed a momentous historical event, but that's not all that matters to us.

This morning, I woke up thinking about possibility and promise. I woke up believing in the ability of everyone, myself included, to change. It was and continues to be an incredible struggle, but we have made the conscious choice to change together as a nation. We have challenged established prejudices and redefined the nature of reality.

Isn't that what we are all striving for on a personal level? At 278 pounds, I couldn't imagine what life would be like at 228. All I could know was what I was living. That made success seem impossible. Today, I can't visualize life 50 pounds from now, so I must struggle to believe that it's possible. I'm must confront my own cynicism daily and believe in my own capacity for change.

I certainly hope no one feels I am trivializing Obama's victory by discussing it's implications for me on a very personal scale. I think sometimes seeing is believing. That's why we read other people's success stories and click on their progress pics. We need to see that someone has done it to believe that we can. My difficulty is that I sometimes have difficulty believing that the kind of change I need to make is possible. This victory, this obvious shift in the nation, is a powerful symbol that demonstrates that all change, even the most unlikely and glorious is possible.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Personal Victory at the Polls

I didn't sleep last night. I kept having bad dreams about being disenfranchised. In some of the dreams, it was my fault. I'd overslept, just like I do in those dreams in which I show up to the SAT naked and without my glasses, and had missed the small window of time I had to vote. In some of the dreams, someone else was keeping me from casting my ballot either by moving my polling place or by saying that my voter registration wasn't valid. I know that I need to relax and I'm working on that, but it seems my subconscious mind isn't as dedicated to unwinding.
Consequently, I was up before my alarm and made it to the poll at 6:50. However, I soon learned that the people in charge of operating the poll had lost the keys to the building!! Lots of phone calls were made by a variety of people and they finally got the door open at quarter after seven. Then we had to wait for them to set up.

So how does this translate into a victory at the poll hours before I'll know with any kind of certainty how my candidate did? During this forty minute period, I had to stand in one place in line. As I drove to my office after casting my ballot, it occurred to me that there was a time that standing in place for even twenty minutes would have been too painful for me, maybe painful enough to convince me to give up and go home. I've been consumed by this election, but my passion probably would have been overridden by my discomfort. Today, the only discomfort I felt was the internal wincing I did every time the woman at the front of the line started to complain about waiting.

Enjoying the positive effects of my past successes only makes me feel more committed. At 278 pounds, I thought everyone's feet hurt when they had to stand. I couldn't imagine that my world could be any different. It makes me curious about what other wonderful things I'll discover about life as I push forward on this journey.

And speaking of, I've already been dragging my butt a little with regard to my monthly goals. I didn't get any exercise yesterday and I know that since I have five hours of class after work tonight, I won't have a chance today either. That means to achieve my goal, I need to hit the trail every day for the rest of the week. Feel free to kick my butt if I slack off...

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Told You Cookies Are Evil...

For those of you who are as stressed out about the election as I am, let me offer up some comic relief that's sure to keep you from seeking comfort in confections.

A recent trip to the video store confirmed that they just aren't making good horror movies anymore. I've seen some bad movies in my day. What can I say, I have a roommate whose addicted to Zombie flicks and horror movies in general, so it's not uncommon for me to sit down to films with titles such as Dead and Breakfast and Trailer Park of Terror.

I thought I'd seen it all until I saw what is quite possibly the worst film ever to go directly to DVD, The Gingerdead Man. No, this isn't a typo I really meant GingerDEAD. Allow me to enlighten you with a condensed summary:

The gingerdead man (pictured above), played by Gary Busey, is the pastry reincarnation of an executed murder, Millard Findlemeyer. In life, Findlemeyer happens upon a father and his teenage son and daughter during a robbery. He kills the son and father, but leaves the daughter behind. She provides the testimony that leads to his conviction and ultimately sends him to the electric chair.

The girl runs a bakery, which is Findlemeyer's big shot at revenge. He has his ashes shipped to her bakery as "gingerbread seasoning." She asks no questions when the mysterious package arrives--delivered by a figure in a cloak no less, adds the contents right to the batch of gingerbread she happens to be making, and proceeds to roll out the dough and bake it in the shape of a three foot gingerbread man even after one of her employees bleeds into the dough. (Somebody call the health inspector...)

I think the recipe goes like this: Add sugar, flour, eggs, ashes of the deceased and blood of the hired help. Bake for 30 minutes at 375. Add a jolt of electricity. Allow resulting demonic cookie to walk out of the oven of his own accord. Stand around reciting cheesy dialog and participating in gratuitous cat fights while cookie sets up a variety of boobie traps around the bakery. With the right amount of know how (and apparently a low enough budget), you can end up with a confection which wields knives, skillets, guns, and best of all, drives a car with the aid of a rolling pin that enables him to reach the gas pedal.

I won't spoil the end, but it's a must see for anyone who has watched every other movie in the Blockbuster or who just wants a healthy fear of cookies and bakeries in general.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November Goals

I woke up ready to welcome a new month, got on a scale and saw a frightening sight. I thought, "Hey! Halloween was yesterday!" But, I guess that was part of the reason that I've gained a total of 7.0 pounds in the last 2 months!

November 1st a great time for a fresh start! Time to get that scale moving in the other direction. Here are my goals or this month:

  1. Lose 8 pounds--2 pounds/week seems doable. I've pretty much accepted that I probably won't see less than 200 pounds before the ball drops. I've made peace with that.
  2. Write down everything I eat every day, all 30 days!
  3. Get some physical activity 5 days/week.

Feel free to share your goals for the month ahead. Good luck!

Friday, October 31, 2008


Some day, I will be able to live my life without looking at everything through the lens of weight, but today is not the day. Halloween has always meant two things to me: 1. The chance to pretend to be someone else for a day and 2. the chance to eat ludicrous amounts of candy.

Dressing up is probably the best part of Halloween. I love the idea of putting on a whole new, completely unique self. My co-workers are really creative. They build their own costumes from stuff they have at home and they usually come up with some pretty clever stuff. I on the other hand , tend to be fairly unimaginative in my costume choice. If I can't purchase it as a package deal, I probably won't bother. What I've noticed is that my options for costumes are much wider than they were 50 pounds ago. It's nice that I can choose something other than nun or ghost now. Hooray for non scale victories!

As far as consuming massive quantities of of candy is concerned, that should not really be an option for me now. (Especially since I broke up with Jack!) I have tried not to eat candy with the reckless abandon I used to. That said, by the time we shut out the porch light, I may have eaten almost as much chocolate as I handed out. Uggg! I could have taken steps to avoid such massive transgressions. I especially like MizFit's suggestion to indulge planfully. I could have tried to find candy that I actually wouldn't eat. But I didn't do any of that; I pigged out.

Thankfully, tomorrow's a new day and the start of a new month. It's a chance for a fresh start and the formation of new goals.

I hope you had a happy Halloween and took advantage of the chance to be someone else and make other people smile today!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oh Jack-O-Lantern, Jack-O-Lantern

Oh Jack-O-Lantern, Jack-O-Lantern, how I wish we had never met! You were meant to be festive, sitting with your joyful cranium stuffed with Kit Kat's and Reese's peanut butter cups. I could have waited to place you on the dining room table, but your wide grin won me over. I felt certain that I was strong enough to resist your allure. After all, your contents were intended for the tiny dinosaurs, vampires, clowns and princesses that will be coming to call on you this Friday night.

Perhaps the heart of my difficulty was the forbidden nature of our relationship. In the end, it made you positively irresistible. I meant to just grab my piece and break things off, but you've kept me coming back for more.

Jack, we're through. You're just no good for me! Wipe that silly smile of your face and turn away that seductive gaze. By the way, please don't pretend that we've been exclusive; I saw you with my grandmother this weekend!

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Joined the Wellsphere Community

I'm always looking for new resources to make my weight loss efforts easier. To that end, I've joined the Wellsphere community. Wellsphere is a website that combines medical information from physicians in a variety of specialties with social support networks. The site connects users with local resources as well as a variety of blogs.

But what really got me enthusiastic about the site was the level of personalization available to users in the My Wellsphere tab. Create a login and you can join a variety of teams and communities. You can also set goals and receive regular reminders via email or text message, which I was really grateful for today.

Originally, I had intended to brew a cup of Earl Grey and spend my lunch hour with my feet up, attacking my new stack of paperbacks. I'd just opened my tea bag when my phone buzzed with a text message that inquired, "How much have you walked today?" as a friendly reminder that one of my goals is to walk 60 minutes a day, 5 days this week. So instead of kicking back, I laced up my sneakers and taking my usual route to the park, I enjoyed a walk that was good for my mind, body and soul.

It really is a wonderful season for a long walk. I'm sure it's been said before that Autumn is an absolute feast for the senses, and today was no exception. The weather was brisk, but not cold. The foliage was nothing short of amazing. My path was lined with glorious trees, determined not to go quietly into winter, positively afire with shocking oranges and yellows in shades rarely seen outside of a box of paints. As I walked, I was met with the rich aroma and the symphonic crunch of a carpet of crimson castoffs.

So why are you sitting here reading this? Get out there and experience it for yourself! Go on! But before you go, check out Wellsphere by clicking on the badge on my page or going to Feel free to post your opinions of the site in my comments. Hope you make time to enjoy the season!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Assertiveness in Action

If there's anything worse than the feeling I get when I know I've made a bad decision, it's the feeling get when I know I've let someone else do it for me. In the former situation, I may feel remorseful, but I also am aware of my own personal power. But when I allow someone else to make choices for me, I abdicate that power, feel a loss of control over the course of my life and am faced with regret and resentment.

In spite of all this emotional disharmony, I regularly am a passive witness to my own life. This is especially true when it comes to my lifestyle, and most especially, my diet. I have blogged about allowing my co-workers' behavior to influence my own, but the truth is, that's only part of the problem.

Most of the issues arise when I'm with my family, which on the whole does not share my weight loss goals. I live with my sister, who in my days near 300 pounds, was my snacking buddy. We planned out our ice cream, pizza, cake and cookie feasts with serious delight and overwhelming anticipation. Then we would devour our food without a shred of guilt.

The trouble is that, much of the time, my sister still wants to do just that. She's not trying to sabotage me, but she's made it clear that she doesn't like to indulge alone. But sabotage she does, just by virtue of how guilty she makes me feel. She'll say that we should have ice cream and if I say that I don't want any, she'll say "but it's no fun to eat it if you don't." Then she'll tell me that I probably could have just a little; that it wouldn't hurt "just this once." Before long, she has me in the kitchen dishing out two bowls of ice cream.

When I view the problem in retrospect I know that part of the trouble is that I really do want the ice cream, and am, therefore, a lot easier to convince. But I think that the greatest difficulty is that I'm not accustomed to being assertive about what I want. Rather, it's more important that other people are satisfied. I know a lot of people, women in particular, who have a similar problem. My situation is complicated enough, but throw in children, a husband or sick parents, and it can be really easy to let your interests get lost to the general good.

I don't want that. I deserve to get what I need just as much as anyone else, but I know that I'm going to have to struggle for what I want. To that end, I tried my assertiveness hat on last night. My sister wanted to order dinner from a local Chinese restaurant, but she wanted to use our limited funds to get fried foods covered in sauces or surrounded by rice and noodles. I told her that those foods wouldn't fit with my goals. She could order them if she liked, but I wasn't going to eat them. She then suggested pizza, sausage hoagies and a whole host of foods that would provide an entire day's worth of calories in one shot.

I held my ground. She sat on the end of the couch looking sad and talking about how there was no food in the house. I said, "Let's go to the grocery store then." But she didn't want to. Finally, around 7:30, a whole 1hr 45min after this whole debate began, we struck a compromise and went to a place where I got a delicious salad and she got what she wanted.

It was exhausting and stressful, but I feel great this morning knowing that I was strong. I know change is hard for everyone, but I was very clear that she was welcome to eat whatever she pleased. I said this without judgment, but her issue was that she wanted me to follow her down the garden path. Part of me wanted to follow. It would have been incredibly easier, but I knew I had to stand firm for my goals. In the end my assertiveness won the day.

I hope everyone else is having courage and enjoying success today! Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Merits of Meetings

When I first started this process, I really didn't know how to lose weight. I thought that weight loss was a secret that only movie stars, athletes and Oprah shared. Along the way, I found ways to educate myself. I saw a nutritionist, surfed the web, and talked to other people who had reached their weight loss goals. Finally, I attended some Weight Watchers meetings.

By now, I know what to do. And yet, I don't always do it. In fact, I've blogged a lot recently about how this is the time of year when I seem to lose all of my motivation. As the days grow shorter and colder in my neck of the woods, pumpkin pie becomes a lot more tempting than walking the dog. I've done well up to this point, but if I'm going to stave off the wolf at the door, which is diabetes in my case, I need to do better.

That's why I've turned my attention this morning to weight loss meetings. I had attended weight loss meetings with some significant success, but I decided to stop going. A friend of my said, "You know how to lose weight! Why pay all that money to go to a meeting to hear what you already know by heart?" Her argument made sense, so I pocketed the cash and decided to try it on my own.

The result? Well, have you seen my weight loss ticker move recently? I'm not saying my recent struggles have been completely related to my decision to go it alone, but to be honest, I think there's a real connection. Many people reap serious benefits from attending weight loss meetings.

Firstly, in attempting to make any major life change, it helps to have support. You can get that in the blogging community, but face to face communication is always more powerful. I never actually shared much in my meetings, but I got a lot out of hearing others talk about their barriers and victories.

Secondly, having a meeting always helped me to stay mindful of my goal. It's easy to get diet amnesia when someone's offering me a piece of cake, but if I know that another human being is going to see my weight in bright red numbers on a digital screen, I'm more likely to stay strong. Also, the fact that I knew other people would be asking me how I did at my meeting was some serious motivation.

I also always felt that attending meetings was a concrete way to demonstrate the commitment that I was making to myself. Once a week, I set aside an hour to consider my priorities and evaluate my progress. It's easy to forget to do that now that I'm solo.

I know meetings aren't the answer for everyone, but as the holidays approach, I think I need to return to them. It's a significant financial outlay to be making at this time of year, but there's certainly no surer investment on Wall Street these days!

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Unpleasant Night

I had a low day yesterday. It was one of those days where I felt overwhelmed and invisible. It wasn't necessarily a logical state of mind, but I just couldn't snap out of it. It started because I ran into a guy I really like who couldn't even remember having met me. Ouch! I thought I'd been witty when we met, and even if I hadn't, how many twenty five-year-old obese chicks with braces does he know? You'd think I'd have made an impression, even if it wasn't positive. Things went downhill from there culminating with a meeting at work during which I just couldn't make myself heard.

I probably should have brushed all of this off and went on with my day, but instead these issues plunged me into some existential lines of thought that were anything but uplifting. When I got home last night, I felt like a caged animal. I was overwhelmed by that hollowness that I so often stuff with food.

And why do I do that? God only knows. I've read a lot about this common experience on a number of blogs. Most recently, Lyn from Escape from Obesity, has done an incredible job of putting words to something that so ferociously takes hold of so many of us. For a lot of people who binge, eating has become a way of soothing emotions that they feel are beyond their ability to deal with. Sometimes that hollow manifests in really physical ways. It seems like there really is an emptiness inside, so I eat out of a desperate desire to fill it up. While eating never makes me feel better, the truth is that it makes me feel bad in a different way. If I have my regret and disappointment in myself, I don't need to focus on all the other difficulties.

But yesterday, I knew I couldn't turn to food for comfort and it was agonizing to not be able to escape the way I was feeling. I've always known food wasn't the answer to my problems, but in its absence, I began to entertain the possibility that maybe some of my problems just don't have solutions or at least solutions within my grasp. All I could do was sit and wait for the sadness to subside (since eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's would have made me feel like a hypocrite after yesterday's post).

In the end, I accepted the fact that I was going to feel crappy the rest of the night. I took a hot shower, made some tea and wrote in my journal for a while before turning in early. I feel a little less melancholy today and am looking forward to the weekend.

I'm not sure what to do with all of this. Should I find a new way to self sooth or should I learn to sit with my emotions no matter how unpleasant? What do "normal" people do? Does everyone use a crutch to get by or is there some better adjusted way of being?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oooooh the temptation....

I expected yesterday to be a tough time for me. I was working on an event with a woman in my office who really just doesn't seem to like me very much. She was instrumental in getting me hired, but now, I get the impression that I've let her down somehow. I try. I take a genuine interest in her life but try not to be intrusive, but I still seem to bug her. I know I shouldn't let it get to me. I don't need the whole world to approve of me, but it does bum me out. It definitely added to the stress of the day and made me desperately want a brownie.

I've mentioned before that the most dangerous time of the day for me is right when I get home from work. I'm usually still stressed out or upset about something. The house is quiet; the food is there promising to comfort and fill the void that my day carved out. If left unchecked, I could easily eat half a day's points between 5 and 6, all BEFORE dinner!

I anticipated that this nasty habit could rear its ugly head yesterday afternoon, so while I was walking at lunch, I developed a strategy. I decided that I would walk the dog for 20 minutes as soon as I got home, then I would put some laundry away and do an assortment of chores. Then if I had time left, I would start making dinner. I rehearsed it over and over and you know what? I went home and read for an hour instead. But what's important is that I didn't snack. I got it straight in my mind that I would not be munching, and I didn't. Yay!

But the temptation didn't end there. After dinner, when we were clearing up, my sister started talking about ice cream and about how she was really jonesing. She started listing our favorite varieties. She offered to buy. We live right next to a grocery store. Close enough for me to practically smell Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream. I thought, "I really deserve it; I had a tough day."
But then I had a moment of clarity. A pint of Ben & Jerry's is usually a whole day's points and I KNOW I don't have the restraint to eat just some of it. I need to poke my spoon around the little cardboard container until I get every last morsel of yummy goodness. (Then I usually lick the lid). I could almost feel a riot building within my chest. I could feel the loss of control, and I didn't like it. It's not like I'm never going to eat ice cream again, but I knew that getting it last night would be a defeat. So I said, "Let's make a deal. If we still want the ice cream when we go grocery shopping this weekend, we'll buy it. Neither one of us is hungry right now anyway." My sister agreed and that saboteur inside me was silenced for the night. I felt successful and in control.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mini Victories

Yesterday was definitely a day of much needed mini victories. I started the day out right, getting up early enough to have a decent breakfast so I wouldn't dive into the cookies in the office. I packed a nice lunch of chicken and broccoli, which I had the foresight to make on Monday night. I got a little off track when I got home and saw our little pumpkin filled with Halloween candy sitting seductively on the dining room table. I have to confess that I did indulge a little, but I wrote everything down and stayed within my points (back to WW because I just couldn't maintain South Beach).

I spent my entire lunch hour walking with a much more physically fit friend. We walked up to a park which is a little over a half a mile as the crow flies, then we walked a 1.5 mile circuit in the park and walked back. It's the route I used to do every day when I was loosing weight more quickly, and I find it incredibly challenging. When I got back, I was sweaty, but I felt like I'd really accomplished something.

Also, last night was grocery night and I made the mistake of going shopping hungry. All the cookies and danishes seemed even more tantalizing than usual, but I made a conscious effort to visualize what my success would look like and how I would feel when I got there. I reminded myself that buying baked goods would delay my success. That was enough to keep me motivated.

Finally, after dinner, although I felt full and lazy, I took a twenty minute walk. I felt focused and energized and am glad to have some good news to report.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goals and Rewards

The interesting thing about being a little messy and disorganized is that when I finally do set myself to cleaning I find letters and pictures, journals and pamphlets that sit patiently waiting like time capsules to remind me of how life and people change when I'm not looking.

I've been on a bit of a cleaning spree lately. I think I've been hoping that if I can purge the clutter and restore some order to my environment that my mind might follow suit. I decided to tackle my desk drawer last week. Mostly it was stuffed with old deposit slips, memos and post it notes with phrases like "pickles Thursday" which have long since lost their meaning.

I also came across a glitzy document labeled "Goals and Rewards" in large rainbow colored font. The sheet laid out six weight-related goals with corresponding rewards of increasing value. Gifts ranged from a new movie which I could purchase once I fell below 270 pounds to a European vacation which I'm to take when I get down to 180 pounds.

There were a few things about the list that struck me. Firstly, it was colorful and full of pictures. Each goal was printed in the largest font possible. Clearly, I spent a lot of time on it and designed it to be eye catching, but then I folded it eight times and stuffed it unceremoniously in the back of my desk.

Secondly, for all its embellishment that would seem to shout, "You can do it and get cool stuff along the way!" the list whispers a different message, hissing, "You can't do this." For each goal, it's not enough to reach a certain weight. I clearly laid out that I must also, "stay there for one week" before I earn a reward. From the beginning, I believed that I would regain any weight I managed to lose. The rewards themselves also demonstrate my lack of faith. For 50 pounds, I stated I would buy myself a brand new VW Beetle convertible! I knew when I created this list that it would be a very long time before I would be able to afford such a thing, but that was irrelevant, because I never imagined I would lose the weight.

So why did I neglect the list and tuck it away in a dark place? One reason is that undoubtedly, as I began to lose weight I realized that the change I felt and saw was a reward in itself, something that couldn't be purchased. The other reason is that I have a bad habit of not believing in my dreams. I didn't believe I could lose even 5 pounds when I wrote the list. I was hoping the promise of tangible reward would push me ahead, but I never expected success. For the first thirty pounds, I was able to rely on fear for my health, a shear terror that enabled me to pass up all baked goods and candy.

Now, as my rational mind has banished some of the fear, I need my dreams to push me along the next leg of my journey. I need to honestly believe that I can do this. I need to know how I can do it and I need to visualize my success. I need to make my dream concrete. I have to break them down into smaller units and to brainstorm ways to overcome obstacles. I need to mentally rehearse my reactions to the holidays and parties and bad days. I need to plan over and over again to make exercise a part of my life. I both need and deserve to focus on and believe in my dreams.

I think that's what we all need, not just in weight loss, but in life in general. So take a second to check in with yourself. Do you believe in your dreams? Are you doing everything you can to chase them?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting Centered

I feel like I've had a news IV for the last month. I wake up and I switch on the news. Then it's NPR on the way to work. Once I'm at work it's email alerts, news websites and CNN on my blackberry. The global economic crisis and the upcoming election are constantly on my mind. And you know what? It's making me feel like crap. I've developed a permanent eye twitch and a serious craving for comfort foods.

Today, I'm working to center myself and to find the inner peace that seems to have slipped away in past months. I know that part of the solution is probably to just watch less news. Maybe I need to start being informed in moderation. It's not like the economic system is going to come crashing down if I turn off the 24 hour news for a while. Anyone else feeling my pain in this area?

I've also been taking cues from some of my fellow bloggers. Last week Annette talked about the need to slow down a little and to give yourself permission to NOT multitask. I think that's excellent advice. I know I never do just one thing at a time. I can't drive without getting the news at the same time when I could probably really benefit from the quiet time a solitary car ride can offer. Even if my favorite show is on, I never just watch TV. I have to also be online answering emails or doing research at the same time. Even when I eat, I have to read or watch the news. The result? I probably end up doing a lot of things half assed and I probably never fully enjoy a TV program or, more importantly a meal.

This demonstrates the need for me to be way more mindful of what I eat. I so distract myself, that I hardly remember eating my meals or snacks and I'm almost always surprised when they're gone. Then I feel like I should have more food to make up for it! My new strategy is to write everything down before I eat it (which I should have been doing all along) and to make meal and snack time more of event rather than a habit. I WILL start eating at my dining room table instead of over the sink or in the living room and I will turn off the television and computer and shut my book before I begin.

Finally, I need to find time to get outside. For some reason this is very important to me. I get feeling caged if I spend all day inside. I need to make time to go for a walk and try to focus on enjoying the scenery rather than analyzing past conversations or planning my finances.

I've started writing down my foods, and I already feel a little more centered. I hope everyone else is having a successful day!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Malleable Me and the Conference 5

I like to think of myself as an independent thinker. I think that's at the root of American Culture: The desire to believe that you are an individual, that you're special, that you don't just march to a different beat but rather that you don't need a beat to begin with. That's probably why I was so dismayed when I discovered just how malleable I can be.

Fall is conference season in my office. That means that we do a lot of traveling together before the formidable winter weather makes it impractical to leave the area. I don't always have the same companions on my journeys, in fact, it seems that I'm the one constant in all the office travel.

What I noticed was that when I traveled with people who ate dessert, which was most of the time, I ate dessert. If they ate it at every meal, I did too. If they decided they needed a late night snack, I was totally game. It was a time of total indulgence with warm brownie sundaes and rich triple layer cakes. Uggggg!

Conversely, when I traveled with someone who was diet conscious, I made good choices. Of course, we had no choice but to eat out, but I stuck with things I knew would be harmless like broth based soups, grilled lean meats and veggies. I skipped dessert and we walked to a local store for fruit and yogurt. Unfortunately, I usually travel with junk food eaters, so I've gained a total of 5 pounds!

It troubles me that I could be so malleable. The fact of the matter is that if I want this enough, the company I keep shouldn't matter. Marie Antoinette might have said, "Let them eat cake," but that doesn't mean that I have to scarf it down. I have a clear idea of my goals and I know what it will take to reach them, so why don't I win those difficult moments?

I've kicked around a few theories. A good friend suggested that I'm afraid of success or that I don't want to be happy, point to examples of other major examples of self-sabotage in my life. She made a good case, and I suppose it's entirely possible, but I really do think that all people want to be happy. I may choose frustration and unhappiness when I order dessert, but I don't think I consciously decide that I don't want to be happy. Therefore, I reject this possibility on the grounds that it runs contrary to my fundamental nature and that it might be too complicated to solve if it was true.

More likely, I think it stems from two converging difficulties. Firstly, I was away from my computer, my major source of support on this journey, most of the time. Secondly, I'm uncomfortable in most social situations, especially with people I don't spend a lot of down time with. Food was a comfort and a bonding experience that helped me ignore my discomfort. In the future, I'm going to try to be more aware of the choices I'm making and to be mindful of the fact that I do often have the opportunity to choose between happiness or despair.

I think my reaction to this situation is key. My weight loss came to a screeching halt this time last year. The holidays follow quickly on the heels of conference season, and I just gave up. I'm developing a plan to keep that from happening that includes:

1. Writing down every bite I eat.
2. Walking at least 45 minutes a day.
3. Posting 4 times/week.
4. Checking in on other blogs daily.
5. Forgiving myself and moving on.

What will you do to help you succeed?

Friday, September 26, 2008

These aren't for me...

So it's conference season and I've been away quite a bit. Sorry for my inconsistent posting...So how have I been doing separated from the accountability of the blogosphere? Not so hot. I actually gained a pound this week and I still need to high tail it over to Chubby Chic's to post my sad news on the Christmas Challenge page. Can't say I'm surprised given the travel, but I know that a lot of people manage to make healthy choices on the road, so no excuses!

That's not to say that I pushed my goals completely out of my mind. As a matter of fact, when I know I'm not doing what I should do, my goals are even more present in my mind than usual, constantly beating just below the surface like Poe's tell-tale heart.

That was my frame of mind when I walked into the grocery store with the express purpose of buying cookies. I'd promised to bring oatmeal cookies to a bake sale and the ones I had baked had become little ebony disks in our cheap oven. (You'd think that the thing I'd miss the most about living with my parents would be my parents, but it's actually thoughts of my mother's cookware that cause me to get all sentimental and misty eyed from time to time).

I was on my lunch and in a hurry because the first store I went to didn't have any cookies in their bakery section, so I rushed past cases of soda and displays filled with Halloween Candy and went directly to the cookies with the urgency of someone on one of those televised shopping sprees. I scooped up about five boxes in a variety of flavors and hurried to the check out.

Standing there, feeling the judgemental gazes of my fellow patrons, I began to feel self conscious about my purchases. Maybe I should have bought some apples or some broccoli to demonstrate that I had well-rounded tastes. Maybe I should have grabbed some novelty birthday hats so I could pretend that I was bringing the cookies to a party. I felt so cliche: The fat girl buying 8 dozen cookies. I was certain the woman next to me looked at her husband as if to say, "Well, no wonder why she's fat!"

I considered actually striking up a conversation with someone in line and telling them loudly about the bake sale and explaining that I'd lost 50 pounds. "Wow," they'd say, "Fifty pounds you say? That's something else. Hey Alice, this girls lost fifty pounds. We were wrong to think she's going to go sit in a closet and eat all those cookies!" Then I could nod and say, "these aren't for me."

Then I realized, I was sandwiched between a man who was literally purchasing 35 boxes of spaghetti and 12 cans of Spam and a woman who kept harassing her husband about how much she had to use the rest room, but who refused to use the bathroom 12 feet away.

"I have to piss, George. I'm going to call the manager if this kid doesn't hurry up!" she kept saying.

Why do I care what they or anyone else thinks? What does their judgement do to me? And why do I automatically assume that I'm even on their radar? Just because I'm a people watcher doesn't me everyone else is. It should be enough that I know what I've accomplished and that my body is healthier as a result. Maybe if I spent half as much time planning out my healthy choices as I do rehearsing imaginary conversations, I'd have lost weight this week!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weigh in Day

It's weigh-in day, and sadly I haven't lost a single pound this week. I can't say that I'm shocked that I didn't lose. I went away to a conference on Thursday and Friday. I always have a blast at these things and this time was no exception.

So I overate. I'm not angry at myself, but I do think it's important for me to note that, for me, having a good time and pigging out are still incredibly entwined. I had dessert, my biggest weakness at lunch AND dinner. (Also, the university that hosted the conference is an old land grant school. They have a good agricultural program, their own dairy AND THEY MAKE THEIR OWN ICE CREAM. It's awesome stuff.)

That said, part of my challenge in the coming months will be to shift my focus from food to people. If we did a word association and you said Christmas, I would most definitely say COOKIES! If you said Thanksgiving, I would say PUMPKIN PIE. You get the gist. I need to refocus a little.

On a side note, I did get to meet some interesting folks while I was at my conference. Apparently, the university was also hosting Univ-con, a paranormal conference, at the same time. I visited information booths and learned about psychic massage, tarot cards, paranormal investigators and most interesting of all, the "phone to the dead" which supposedly would allow me to communicate with any dead person I wanted to talk to for the low low price of $90!

Also, the folks from the show Paranormal State were there. My sister was totally impressed that I got to talk to Chip Coffey, who the Univ-con attendees seemed to hold in high esteem. I'm a Ghost Hunters kind of girl, so the novelty was lost on me, though.

Monday, September 15, 2008



When I first started this blog, I viewed my journey to lose weight as somehow separate from the variety of neurosis and isms that I have floating around my cranium. Or, rather, I thought that fat me was making thin me miserable and if I could just unload that bitch, everything else in my life would fall into place.

I'm gradually beginning to realize how intricately related all of my issues have become. There is no good me and there is no bad me--there's just me and the woman that I want to become someday. Being overweight isn't what's standing in my way. Rather, in many ways, the weight is a symptom of a larger problem. I don't believe that's true for everyone who packs on the lbs, but it's clearly the case for me.

Over the weekend, I had an unpleasant exchange with a woman I've been collaborating with. We're working on developing a non profit that helps local children and families cope with pediatric cancer. Our interpersonal difficulties began to pop up a few months ago. My side of the story is that she's abrasive at her best and downright rancorous when she's at her worst. A lot of people move in and out of her life as a result of her attitude and she's just fine with that. When we were only friends, it wasn't such a big deal, but now that we're working together, I usually end up going home feeling incredibly angry at her.

This weekend was different, though. This time I went home angry at me. I realized that regardless of what I had convinced myself, I really wasn't following through with the commitment I'd made to our organization. Starting up a nonprofit takes an enormous amount of energy that I just wasn't putting in. The trouble is that every time I sat down to get some work done on it, I would think about old grumpy and the hurtful things she said to me, and I would feel angry and sad all over again. Thinking about it now, I realize how selfish that is. Like some kid with osteosarcoma should miss out because I'm having interpersonal issues!

The kicker is that the more I thought about it, the more I recognized that this particular situation is part of a repeating pattern in my life. I start out with an incredible amount of passion but I veer off course at the first obstacle. In this case, the obstacle is our inability to get along (which could still be a fatal difficulty).

Some other examples, (not that I think anyone needs a laundry list of my mistakes) include that I dropped out of an Ivy League college to come home because being away from my family felt like too much of a risk; I gave up on medical school because the preparation was difficult; I have left scores of novels and paintings incomplete because I was afraid they weren't good enough. In short, I've let a lot of opportunities blow away.

This is the same pattern that has been common throughout my attempts to lose weight. I start out with a lot of zeal and then I run into a holiday or event or I start obsessing over the possibility of loose skin or someone hurts me and I go looking for food. I don't follow through. The trouble is, that in this case I haven't just disappointed people who have counted on me; I've disappointed myself.

But I'm not too regretful. I may not be able to go back in time to reclaim missed opportunities and, in some cases, there's nothing I can do to repair the damage I've done to relationships that I valued. (I wish life was really like My Name is Earl).

However, there is good news. Firstly, I can recognize my self-defeating behavior for what it is. Most people never take a long hard look at themselves, so I'm fortunate that I've had an opportunity to see myself with warts and all. I don't usually get to examine my character through the lens of someone else's opinion so this has been useful even if it was painful.

Secondly, I'm fortunate that I'm not a static being. I'm capable of growth and I'm capable of change. I've demonstrated that in my weight loss over the past year. I may not have been 100% consistent in my efforts, but I've never given up on myself. This departure from what has become my status quo gives me confidence that I'll follow through this time and that I have it in me to extend this new approach to other areas of my life.

I don't know what's different now. Maybe I'm more motivated than I was--keeping a blog and reading other blogs certainly helps. Maybe it's just that I'm older or that I've grown. Whatever the reason, I have come to realize that, as Stuart Smalley would say, I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it people like me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Still Looking for My Inner Lobster

Some two years before I was born, a woman named Eda LeShan wrote a short piece for Woman's Day entitled The Risk of Growing. Eda, who was turning 59 said,

"I met an oceanographer who asked me if I knew how a lobster was able to grow bigger when it's shell was so hard...The only way, he explained, is for the lobster to shed its shell at regular intervals. When its body begins to feel cramped inside the shell, the lobster instinctively looks for a reasonably safe spot to rest while the hard shell comes off and the pink membrane just inside forms the basis of the next shell. But no matter where a lobster goes for this shedding process, it is very vulnerable. It can get tossed against a coral reef or eaten by a fish. In other words, a lobster has to risk its life in order to grow..."

When I was a girl, I felt the full force of life's possibilities. I never allowed myself to be limited by fear. I was constantly open to possibilities. It's not that growing up was easy. As an overweight child, I was teased every day and I rarely found support in my troubled family. But for me, my every day was about journeying toward the new and seeking out ways to make life more fun. I didn't conceptualize it that way, but that's just how I lived my life. I knew I was a good person and that I was smart and talented so I was confident that I would succeed. Somewhere along the line, probably in junior high, I forgot all of that and shrank back down inside of myself.

Lately, I've tried to challenge my tendency to shrink from risk. It felt like a tremendous risk putting up the current photos in my progress post. I was worried about haters and how the things they might say would hurt. I was also afraid that no one else would see a change in me. Then I thought about the lobster and realized that a fulfilling life is a series of calculated risks. I've spent too much of my life dodging negativity. I've been embarrassed so many times by people who have used various colloquialisms to poke fun at my size. But why should I be ashamed? People of character work to fortify those around them and those who feel the need to tear other people down are insecure and cruel--who cares what they think?! So I took the risk, and I'm glad I did. Thank you to those who posted encouraging feedback. Support is so important on this path and your kind words meant a lot to me.

My risk-taking attitude carried through to my mini vacation this weekend. My sister and I decided to hit the beach for a couple of days. We couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather. There really wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was beautifully sunny without being the least bit hot. Standing on the shore, feeling the water tag my feet, run away and return to tag my toes again, I felt like every wave was filling me up. I felt whole and complete and entirely comfortable within myself. Next to the ocean, I always have an understanding of the universe that seems to elude me everywhere else.

On the beach, my body image issues no longer felt significant. I wore shorts and a sleeveless shirt, which is unheard of for me, and I think I would have worn a bathing suit if I owned one. And do you know what? No one stared at my bare skin (my hello Helen arms) and no one said anything. I'm fairly confident no one even noticed. Everyone else was dedicated to enjoying their own day.

I realize that it may seem egotistical to think that others will be fixated on me, but I've had enough bad experiences to know that sometimes people are focused on others. I can only guess that such people find it too painful to be focused on themselves. But I was fearless on the beach. I didn't care. I even felt beautiful.

That said, I was also fairly uninhibited in my eating. I didn't feel out of control, but I also didn't feel the need to be too strict with myself. The night before we set out, I thought about how I would handle my vacation eating. I decided that I would enjoy myself, even if it meant that I gained a pound or two. I knew if I was too strict over my mini vacation, I might feel deprived rather than victorious. Today, I really feel refreshed and ready to get back on track and ready to take some more calculated risks.

So have you released your inner lobster lately? What risks will you take to grow today?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


So here are some progress pictures. A couple notes: when I took the "before" picture, I never anticipated that I would be posting it for others to see. That's why I'm in my pjs. I wore my shirt inside out on the progress pic because the design was distracting. In the "before" pictures, which will appear on the left in each grouping, I'm just shy of my highest weight. I'm at 228 in the current pics. Overall, I think I look less like a bean bag chair than I did before and I call that progress!

Front Views

~278---------------------> 228
Side Shots

I don't see a huge difference in the side shots (except that my boobs look smaller).

~278--------------> 228
The Scary Back View

~278--------------------> 228

Weigh-in: DOWN 50 LBS!!!!

I lost a total of 5 lbs this week, so I'm officially DOWN 50LBS today!!!! That means I'm ten pounds shy of the halfway point and only 8 pounds away from a BMI in the "obese" range as opposed to the "extremely obese" range. To me, the latter is the more meaningful. I guess I'm a pessimist, but I never really thought I'd make it this far. 120 pounds is an enormous goal, and I just didn't think I wanted it that bad. I had tried and failed too many times and I couldn't help thinking that it was too late to change. But getting this far is validating. Now I honestly think that another ten or twenty or seventy pounds isn't such a huge deal. It's just a matter of time and effort--and I stress the time part.

The change has been very difficult at times. I have always used food as comfort when I was feeling overwhelmed or really down. I also, coincidentally, used it as a way to celebrate. The hardest part of this whole process has been learning to separate grief and sadness from food. When I binge, the pain goes away for awhile. I feel soothed and focused on the pleasure of eating. Even afterwards, the regret I feel distracts me from more difficult thoughts and feelings.

Making this change means learning to sit with my emotions and give them space to breath. It means accepting the sadness as part of my life rather than rushing to cover it up or extinguish it. If nothing else, it forces me to examine what is at the root of my difficulties rather than denying that they exist. Sometimes, I haven't been the most pleasant person to be around during this process, but I am working and healing and am fortunate to have great support.

So I'm pushing on. I suspect that next week will be a challenge for me. I'm attending a conference and going on a short vacation. I know this success will fortify me as I tackle the temptations ahead of me. (EVEN IF THERE'S COOKIES!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Heafty Cost of Weight Loss

This weekend, I was really struck by how much losing weight costs. I know some of the expenses are my own doing, but I was amazed when I began to break it down.

First, there's the cost of books. I scarcely ever enter into any endeavor without doing a fairly thorough review of the literature. As far as weight loss goes, I have the benefit of a dozen or so really good weight loss blogs that I've been consulting for information. But along the way I have also purchased and read books on the pathology behind overeating and I've bought some weight loss memoirs. I also have tons of cookbooks and nutritional guides. I know what you're thinking--"doesn't she own a library card!" The truth is, when it comes to weight-related books, I prefer the anonymity of

I also spend a significant amount of money to attend Weight Watchers meetings. Having recently switched to South Beach, I could probably let go off this particular expense, but the truth is that I'm afraid that if I don't have a public weigh in to attend, I won't stay on target. I also suppose that posting here keeps me fairly accountable, but I'm not ready to fly solo yet.

Then, there's the clothes. I needed to spend $300 this weekend to replace my ill-fitting clothing. I waited as long as I possibly could, but with the approach of fall, I had to spend a little cash to avoid looking like a vagrant at work. This is no exaggeration. At my heaviest, I bought most of my clothes so they would be too big on me. Those are the same clothes I'm wearing 46 pounds later so you can imagine that, by now, shopping was completely necessary. (I have bought some new things along the way, too). That said, this was a fun expense. It was lovely to go into a store and not need the biggest size on the rack. It was also incredibly foreign to actually like the way some things looked on me. It was a fun time.

When I first started mentally composing this list, I was doing my grocery shopping. The cost of healthy food seemed almost overwhelming, especially now that my diet includes far more lean protein than I ever ate. And just forget it if you try to shop with a conscience. Cage free eggs, for example, can be really pricey.

But when I got to the register, I noticed the total was just about the same as what I used to spend. Why? Conspicuously absent from my shopping list were the tubs of Ben & Jerry's, the banana and coconut cream pies as well as the chocolate cupcakes and m & m cookies I used to pile in my cart. And what about the prepackaged cupcakes and boxes of pizza? Were they hiding under the romaine lettuce? No. I just wasn't buying them anymore. In the past, I paid a king's ransom in the grocery store for snack foods. If my sister wasn't joining me in my efforts, the cost of groceries would be outrages, but since she's along for the ride, expenses on this front are staying the same.

And what about the intangibles? What about the cost to my quality of life? My energy level is off the charts compared to where it used to be. I can climb the stairs to my third floor office without needing CPR, I can walk a mile and a half on my lunch, I can make it through the day without a nap. I'm also more confident in myself, not just because I feel like I look better, but because I'm aware of what I've accomplished so far. I feel empowered.

One thing I'll never know is the price I would have paid in my health and in years of my life if I'd never begun this journey. That's worth ten times what I pay in the grocery line.