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!