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.