[sticky entry] Sticky: A long road

Sep. 5th, 2009 07:23 pm
ladymidnight: (Default)

Now when I was fifteen, oh I knew it was over
The road to enchantment was not mine to take
'Cause lower calf, upper arm should be half what they are
I was breaking the laws that the signmakers made
And all I could eat was the poisonous apple

And that's not at story I was meant to survive
I was all out of choices, but the woman of voices
She turned round the corner with music around her,
She gave me the language that keeps me alive
  -- Dar Williams, "You're Aging Well"

From my starting weight of 288, I lost 35 pounds in 2007. In January 2008 I decided to start keeping a weekly record. You can find that record of my slow and somewhat steady progress here.

Never let it be said that you can't get anywhere losing only a pound a week.

ladymidnight: (Default)
As I was getting ready for work today, I looked over at the mirror and thought, "Oh! I look good today." The thought was mostly about my outfit, but it included the whole picture. The only problem is, I had thoughts like that 25, 50, and 100 pounds ago, and now I look back on that and think, "How could I possibly have thought I looked good like that??" So today I discovered a whole new twist on not believing the mirror, only now it's that I believe that a positive self-evaluation could be objectively accurate. I know in the end it all comes down to trust, except I'm not sure how to start trusting myself again.
ladymidnight: (Default)
The problem with not overeating - and boy, those are words I never thought I'd write - is that when everyone else around you is overeating you end up totally out of sync with their meal times!

This weekend I went to a Sunday brunch buffet with about a dozen other people. We started eating at 10:30ish. I ate well, and enjoyed what I ate, but I didn't eat until I was stuffed. (These days, I hate that feeling.) Most of my choices were on the healthier end of the food options.

After brunch, we went to Downtown Disney and walked around for hours. Around 2:00 I started to get hungry, and I figured everyone else would want to get food soon. By 3:00, I was pretty hungry, and someone else was saying, "I would totally want to go into the Ghirardelli store if I wasn't still so stuffed."

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start overeating just to keep up, but I did feel weirdly out of sync with the rest of the group. Then again, I didn't say anything about being hungry, so maybe the other hungry people were also keeping quiet.

It's so amazing how much my life has changed. If I had been at the same brunch two years ago, I would have stuffed myself with muffins and scones and banana bread. This week I looked at that stuff at said, "okay, that's the caloric and nutritional equivalent of cake. Cake is not breakfast food."
ladymidnight: (Default)
Inspired by a post on 3FC about the benefits of strength training, I emailed a local personal training facility for more info. I spoke to the owner today, and he really wants me to come in for a 60-90 minute evaluation session. That's all well and good, but I needed a price range before even considering coming in. After much hedging and hesitation and explanations about customized plans, he finally told me that sessions ten to run between $50 and $75 each, and clients on average (more hedging and hesitation) come in three times a week.

Well. I had been feeling really good about having $250/month to spend on personal training. I don't make a lot of money, and was pretty please that I could carve that out of the budget. But with him sitting on the other end of the phone quoting me $600/month minimum -- well, that's a significant portion of my salary, one I can't afford to sacrifice. Sad, perhaps, but that's life. He also told me that his prices are about average for the area. If that's true, then private personal training is apparently out of the picture. I think it's time to take another look at what the university has to offer.

I know that there's a correlation between poverty and obesity. I'm by no means impoverished, but it was humbling and hurtful to hear someone talk about all the great things I could do for my health, if only I had more money. (And I don't mean "humbling" in a good way.) I ended up feeling like I needed to apologize for my finances, and while I definitely did not do that, I can totally see why people stop exploring their options or looking for assistance. I am not ashamed of what I do or how much it pays, and I refuse to put myself in situations that engender those feelings.
ladymidnight: (Default)
Even after all this time, when I get on the scale and see a loss my first thought is, "That can't be right." Even if it's only a one pound loss, my first assumption is that my scale is being wonky.

Last week when I was jotting down my weight, I automatically started to write a "2".

The last time I went shopping, I picked up an XL shirt and thought, "That'll never fit. It's way too small." I ended up needing the L instead.

Change can come like a tsunami or like a wave slowly wearing down a stone. Is the stone ever aware of it? Should I be starting to wait for (dread) the tsunami?
ladymidnight: (Default)
As of this week, I am no longer obese.  Officially, according to the BMI, anyway.  I know it's ridiculous for one pound to put me in a whole different health category (ridiculous! really!), but I guess they need to do it somehow.  110 pounds down, and mostly I just feel... tired.  Not tired of "doing this", because these days I can't imagine doing things any differently.  Just tired of caring about my weight.  It's been such a major part of my life for seemingly ever, and I've just come to realize that it probably always will.  But when it comes down to it, my choices are caring or not caring, and not caring is what got me to 288 pounds.  (Okay, that's not true.  I knew I was getting bigger, and I cared.  I just didn't *act*.)

So maybe what I need to do is start celebrating my victories again.  Because I really meant to all along, but somehow the 100 pound mark came and went and I never did anything special about it.  

I also need to get back to 3FC, because I've been MIA for a month, and the energy there really helps me care.  And I absolutely need to care to get going again.
ladymidnight: (Default)
I can't even count how many times in the past I've tried (and failed) to lose weight and make it stick. Sometimes I can't help but think about how my life would have been different if I had lost this weight at 24 instead of 34. But then I think about this:

Because I'm doing this now, there is never going to be a future me kicking herself for not having stuck with it. Because I'm doing this now, the 44 year old Lisa is not going to be sitting there wondering how much her life would have been better if only... Because I'm doing this now, I will have one less regret to carry for the rest of my life. And because I'm doing this now, I will have faith in myself, pride in my perseverance, and the confidence that I can change my life for the better.

I don't think it's a secret that, these days, I feel like I have lost my oomph. But I'm not going to give up or stop trying. I can't. The future me would never forgive myself.
ladymidnight: (Default)
The question came up on 3FC, "Is it ever okay to emotionally eat?"

My first instinctual response was, "Hell no!" But that's me, and I have a bad history with emotional eating. So I thought about it for a few days, and here's what I've come up with:

It depends on the person. No, really.

If the question was, "Is it ever okay to drink because you're upset?" my answer would be "sure!" And I know that there are others who would say, "Hell no!" But it's fine for me, because I don't have a drinking problem, I don't drink very often, and so it's perfectly reasonable to me to have a drink or two to unwind at the end of a difficult day. It's not a habit of mine - I do it maybe a couple of times a year - and it doesn't present a problem for me emotionally, physically, calorie-wise, or in any other way.

So, on the subject of emotional eating: Will it cause you problems if you do it? (Problems of any kind - emotional, physical, caloric, etc.) Will it leave you feeling better or worse afterwards? Is it something that you feel the need to do all the time? Are you afraid it will become a negative pattern for you? Once you answer those questions, you can answer the question of, "Is it ever okay?"

I'm really glad the question came up, because it gave me a chance to think this through and also to remind myself that just because something is wrong for me doesn't me it's wrong for everyone.
ladymidnight: (Default)
"If I get it all down on paper, it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to"
-- Anna Nalick, "Breathe"

It's been kind of an awful couple of days for me, and I really need to get it out before it starts festering. Today's my birthday, and while I don't have a problem with getting older or birthdays in general, it's serving as a pretty awful reminder of how alone I've become. I'm not really sure how it happened, but I have very few friends and of the ones I do have, none of them seem to know that today's my birthday. I know I could have said something, but that seems even more pathetic. I also don't want to make people feel bad about forgetting or not knowing.

My parents did call and send a card (they live on the other end of the country), and I had to admit that I don't have any plans for today or any plans at all to celebrate. Saying out loud was not a happy moment for me.

I just feel awful and alone and terribly sorry for myself. It's not that I haven't made an effort to meet new people and make new friends -- it's just that I'm not very good at it.

About twenty minutes ago, I almost bought a big, gooey chocolate cupcake. I deserved it, I told myself. I'm not going to have a cake, after all. But the truth was that I didn't want it to celebrate; I just wanted it to make myself feel better. Once I admitted that, I stood there telling myself that the only problem that food can solve is hunger. The last thing I need to make this day worse is to fall back into emotional eating.

I don't know that there's anything I can do to make this day better. Right now, I just want to focus on getting through the day without making things worse. Although my head hurts from crying (and trying not to cry), I feel a little better just from having written this.
ladymidnight: (Default)
I bought women's sneakers! For so many years my feet have been too wide to fit in women's sneakers, and I've been wearing extra-wide men's sneakers. But not any more! The sneakers I bought are still wide width, but they're women's wides.

It's such a little thing, but it's making me strangely happy.
ladymidnight: (Default)
There's a line from a novel that has always really struck home with me:

"His mother had often said, When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. She had emphasized the corollary of this axiom even more vehemently: when you desired a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it."
-Memory, Lois McMaster Bujold

It seems so obvious, but it's so easy to forget that the things that we want aren't just going to happen -- we have to make them happen. I remind myself of this all the time.

And yet... the exercise thing?  So not happening.  There are really no excuses I can make.  I think it comes down to the fact that in my heart of hearts, I really don't want to do it.  I guess I need to work on figuring out if, in my heart of hearts, I really want the consequences of it.

ladymidnight: (Default)
I lost 100 pounds!!! Even though I've watched it happen - even though I made it happen - I still can't believe I've lost 100 pounds. (Actually, it's 104 - after being plateaued for nearly three months at 99, it took those extra few to make me believe the loss was for real!) But when I look at my before and after pics, then it's all too real.

If you had asked me two years ago whether I could ever lose 100 pounds, I would have laughed at you.  Really.

ladymidnight: (Default)
As much as I love 3FC (and I do, I really, really do), I get tired of seeing people talk about calorie counting as if it's the be-all and end-all.  I feel like a complete radical when I say that you can absolutely lose weight without calorie counting, and that for some people, doing so is the best possible strategy.  It isn't a secret that I've struggled with emotional eating, but one of the implications of that is that the idea of counting calories (or points or carbs or...) for the rest of my life makes me start twitching.  It takes me right back to the binge-and-starve diet mode I was in so long, when I was obsessed with every bite I put in my mouth.  I don't count because it has miserable associations for me, has only ever led to failure, and because I really do fear that doing so could trigger those behaviors or that mentality again.  

I've been asked how I do it, and the truth is, it started with this:  When I decided to give weight loss another shot, I sat down and thought about all of the things about dieting that make me miserable, and then decided I wasn't going to do them this time around.  No feeling hungry all the time, no feeling deprived, no counting calories or points or carbs, no feeling like I'm bad or a cheater if I don't make the wisest choice. If I'm going to maintain this for the rest of my life, there can't be parts of it that make miserable, otherwise it's doomed.  I wanted to find something I could do for the rest of my life, something that would be easy for me to sustain and that I could be happy with.  Since counting, weighing, and measuring were right at the top of the misery list, I needed to find a different way. It meant changing my approach to food and eating, and it took work, but it is so worth it.

Here's what worked for me:
When I first got serious about losing, I decided to cut out whole categories of food. For me, that meant no fast food, no deep fried food, no junk food, no "real" desserts (but definitely yes to diet desserts). I limited my snacks to things like fruits, veggies, nuts, cheese, and yogurt. The reason this worked for me is that I had a lot of trouble having just one cookie or french fry or pretzel (etc.) It was so much easier to say no altogether, and not to even have the first one, than it was to have one and then try to stop. Plus, it's mentally and emotionally easier for me to have a lot of flexibility within the categories of food I can eat. I can't deal with feeling bound to eat according to a laid-out menu, but I can easily deal with choosing one out of a whole bunch of acceptable snacks.

I don't wish to imply that I completely ignore calories and fats. I do things like check a restaurant's website to find out the healthier choices. But I think of that as just having the information, not being part of a plan that rules me. And while I don't regularly measure things, I've done it on occasion to learn what one portion looks like. But again, that's about having the information I need to make the best choices.

Now, here's the most important thing:
Willpower can only get you so far. I truly and firmly believe that willpower has its place, but you cannot depend on a strong will to keep yourself in line for the rest of your life. What willpower is great for is giving you the time and space to develop new habits. First you get used to the idea of an apple for a snack, then you start to accept that as the new normal, and eventually it is normal. And that time when you're depending on your willpower to firmly tell yourself, "no, I cannot eat that," is the time in which you're adjusting to your new normal.

Now here's the awesome part:
It is no longer a struggle for me to eat healthily. I never, ever, believed that this could happen, but it did. (And it was something of a shock when I first realized it was happening - I wrote about it here.) These days, it's just normal for me. And the other part I never expected is that now I can have just one fry, or half a cookie, or a sliver of cake, and feel completely satisfied with it. It's not that I try to convince myself that I've had enough; it's that I HAVE had enough. This also means that I can be at a birthday party or a pot luck and not feel deprived, and when I do have what I want I don't feel like I'm out of control or doing something wrong.

There are definitely still times when I need to remind myself that the only problem food can solve is hunger. There are definitely still times when I feel the impulse to try to fix a bad mood with chocolate. But there are far, far fewer of them and they've gotten a lot easier to deal with. Part of that is that they've gotten a lot easier to identify - if I feel the sudden need for chocolate, I can recognize that it's not a normal thing for me, and then ask myself where the craving is coming from. Once I recognize the stress for what it is and figure out what's causing it, I try to figure out what actually might help, because food's not going to do it.

I don't know that what I'm doing will work for anyone else. We've all got our own issues, and I think that for me, part of being successful was trying to work within the framework of those issues rather than ignoring them or trying to fix them. That they did get fixed (at least, to a large degree) is an unexpected joy, but it wasn't part of my goal.

All of this is to say: It is absolutely possible to lose weight without counting and without making yourself into a crazy neurotic. It takes work, but then, any eating change is going to take work. You just need to figure out what kind of work you are capable of doing.
ladymidnight: (Default)
It's been a long (really, really long) and arduous journey, but I am thrilled to be able to say that I have completed my Master's thesis, and will be graduating next month. The last six weeks have been intense, stressful, and incredibly busy, which is why I ended up dropping off the face of the earth during that time.

I am really proud of myself for finishing this, because there were times when I seriously considered giving up. But on top of that, there's one other thing that I'm really proud of: I made it through the whole thing without stress eating. The amazing part is that, most of the time, I wasn't even fighting with myself over it - it's like the impulse to stress eat isn't really there anymore. Sure, there were a couple of times when I wanted chocolate chocolate chocolate, but it wasn't the uncontrollable stress eating that I would have done two years ago. It was even relatively easy to deal with those chocolate cravings (yay Skinny Cow).

So now for the accountability: When I realized how insane my life was going to be, I decided not to worry about losing and just aim for maintaining. And I did. Even with the holiday in there, I'm still at the same weight as I was the last time I officially weighed in, and it didn't vary more than two pounds the whole time. That's the plus side. On the minus side, I pretty much completely stopped exercising. I was never all that dedicated to it anyway, and I admit that it was actually a bit of a relief not to have to deal with it. But now that I have what feels like unlimited free time, I'm going to have to get another routine going. It feels like I have unlimited free time these days, so I imagine it will be easier to hold to a routine now.

All in all, I'm feeling pretty awesome right now, though I have no idea what to do with myself. Once upon a time, pre-thesis, didn't I used to do stuff at nights? I have no idea what I even want to do anymore, but I sure am looking forward to finding out.
ladymidnight: (Default)
More on emotional eating (ee? EmoE? I hate acronyms...) 

When I crave sweets - which I still do, quite a lot - I try to think about the why. Why do I want the chocolate/cupcake/cookie? Am I in the mood for something sweet? Would a Skinny Cow ice cream work instead? Am I just feeling snacky? How about some baby carrots and salsa?

Those are occasionally the reason why, but normally it's something else, something emotional. So many of us turn to food for comfort or to relieve other feelings. But really, not only doesn't it work, but it comes with extra added guilt. (Free with every candy bar!)

Emotional eating isn't necessarily a binge. For some people it is, but for some people it's just the thought pattern that leads us think things like, "I've had a crappy day and I deserve some chocolate." We just develop these habits of thinking that the food will fix things or help in some way. Even if we don't consciously realize that that's the reason we're reaching for the food, sometimes taking a few minutes to ask "why" can help us figure it out.

I'm a lot better these days, but still when I get really stressed or angry or sad I have to remind myself (sometimes out loud) that the only problem food can fix is hunger. And then I try to figure out what might really help. Do I need to rant to a friend? Write long posts about why life is hard? Sit down and have a good cry? Give myself permission to take a break from whatever I'm doing? (Yeah, that last one is a doozy. It took me a long time to understand that in my head, when I felt like I didn't have time to take a break, a break for food was acceptable.)

So as I'm walking into the kitchen or standing in line for coffee, I try to take a minute and ask myself why. Not "why don't I have any willpower?" or "Why am I so bad at this?" (I try not to beat myself up.  It really doesn't help.)  Instead, I ask: Why do I want this? What am I thinking it's going to do for me?  If the only answer I can think of is that I'm in the mood for a sweet, I promise myself that if I still want one at the end of the day, I can have one after dinner.  And sometimes, I really do.  And sometimes, I've completely forgotten about it by then.
ladymidnight: (Default)
It's hard to explain that this change has been mental/emotional as much (if not more) than it has been physical.  I knew that I tied food in with my emotions, but I never realized quite how much. Emotional eating was a way of life for me. I ate because I was happy, sad, frustrated, stressed, tired... you name it. It took a lot of work for me to recognize when I was doing that, and even more work to reprogram myself so that I don't reach for food for comfort. I still struggle with this sometimes, especially when I'm stressed out, but it's a lot easier now. (These days I like to remind myself that the only problem food can solve is hunger.)

What gave me the most help on fixing this, especially at the beginning, was Geneen Roth's books. "When Food is Love" and "Breaking Free from Emotional Eating" really changed the way I thought about myself and about food. It wasn't as easy as simply reading them (I wish!) but they gave me the tools to get started.   When I read them (which was years ago, maybe ten years or more) I was struggling with binge eating.  The books helped get me started on overcoming that, but it's strange that they didn't translate over into the more day-to-day emotional eating.  I suspect that it's because it seemed so normal - I didn't recognize it as "emotional eating" because it wasn't out of control the way binging was.  And besides, I just assumed that everyone wants chocolate on a bad day.  It took me far too long to recognize that even if that's the case, it's not a healthy way to react to a bad day.  Funny, because if the sentiment was "everyone wants alcohol on a bad day" I would have clued in pretty quick.
ladymidnight: (Default)
Well, the good news is that last night I dreamt about cats. (I don't even know.) Hopefully that signals the end of the food dreams, at least for now.
ladymidnight: (Default)
Two nights ago, I had this really detailed dream where I was at some kind of banquet/party, and there were these little chocolate desserts on the table and I kept eating them and eating them. When I woke up that morning, I started to think about how I could adjust my week to account for the extra food - and then I realized that it never actually happened. Last night I dreamed about a chocolate chip brownie I had been served over the holiday. I only had a small bit of it in reality, but in my dream I ate two. WTF?

I don't know if this is because some part of me is feeling deprived because I didn't really indulge over the holidays, or that I've just got chocolate on the brain (yes, I noticed that trend). It does suck waking up thinking about sweets. I can't help but wonder if I'm just being a weirdo here, or if other people go off plan in their dreams.
ladymidnight: (Default)
My body is becoming unfamiliar to me. Not just the appearance, but the feel of it. My body is my core, my stability. Even when I don't love it, it lets me move and breathe and watch the world. Now there are protrusions - bones in my wrist and along my collar, bumps on my spine. Things that, okay yes, they do belong there, but I never knew them before. They're strange and odd a little bit shocking. I know people waiting with gleeful anticipate for their collarbones to appear. I keep seeing shadows on my throat and wondering how I got bruised.
ladymidnight: (Default)
This is my body / This was my body

When I stand naked in front of the mirror, I see the same body I always have. In clothes I see a difference, in my silhouette, in my shadow on the ground. Naked I see who I was last year, the year before that. Maybe it's because I never paid attention to parts. I was fat everywhere, and so didn't spend time looking at my fat thighs or belly or neck. When I looked in the mirror, I noticed that I was fat, and that's about all I saw.

When I look in the mirror now, I notice that I'm fat. That's about all I see. I'm sure there's some difference between last year's fat and this year's fat, but I can't tell you what it is. My face looks thinner. I can see that, but mostly because I keep comparing it to my driver's license. The lack of naked pictures of me (and I'm not complaining, believe me) makes these comparisons impossible.

This is the body I had. This is the body I have. Ninety-two pounds later, I should feel like there's a difference. But there's not, because this will always be my body. For years I thought of my body as a shell, a suit of skin to walk around in. It didn't belong to me, it wasn't really me. The real me was in there somewhere, and so this outer me, this fake me, didn't matter. It made it so much easier to hate my body. I wasn't really hating myself, you see, so what's the harm?

This is my body. Sometimes I still hate it.