Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas at 265 pounds

My weight fluctuated around the 265 pound mark over the holidays. I want to capture a couple of things before the new year gets underway and I forget.

I wrote about my hopes for Christmas 2011 in this post. To be honest, most of the things I hoped to accomplish did not happen. I did eat crappy, packaged, processed treats throughout the month. Yet I am certain that without keeping records on this blog and making something of an effort, I would have done far worse (eaten far more junk, and likely every day).

I did put on a nice Christmas for my family, including a lovely meal and homemade cookies and eggnog. The house looked nice. But I want to be honest here: my ankles and back hurt like hell from standing in the kitchen. At this weight, I have very little stamina and my body aches when I exert myself more than usual. I also wore lounging clothes and the apron I cooked in during Christmas dinner because I didn't have the energy to fix myself up. I don't say these things to berate myself, but to get real. I tend to look at pictures of the cute little cookies I made and forget the rest of the story--that I looked and felt miserable making them. Others enjoyed them, but was it worth it to mess with sugar and eat scraps of damaged cookies and taste test and generally hurt my health? I'm not so sure.

The day after Christmas, I took my guests grocery shopping to stock up for the rest of their visit. They threw TONS of packaged junk into the cart: cheap ice cream bars, brownies, snack cakes, spice cake, sugar cookies. I'm not used to having that amount of stuff in my house and I'm trying to give that crap up for good, so I'm ashamed to say I ate more of it than anyone else. I have more difficulty than they do eating it moderately; for whatever reason, it's more stimulating to me. When they left a few days later, I did pack what was feasible for their road trip and threw the rest away. But not the remaining ice cream bars. Those I ate, when the house was finally quiet and I was alone. I did it to de-stress and promptly felt sick and depressed the rest of the day.

On the Wednesday after Christmas, I took them sightseeing and was hobbling by the end of our tour. Walking and standing for several hours in the cold caused me to be stiff for most of the next day as well. So stiff, in fact, that I couldn't walk down the stairs normally. It's frightening. Getting 70 pounds off my joints (i.e. getting down to 200 pounds) would be a massive favor to my body, wouldn't it?

My dad's addiction to cigarettes really saddened me on the day of our sightseeing tour. He wasn't able to truly enjoy himself because he was constantly focused on when he'd next get to smoke. I couldn't help seeing the parallels to my own food/sugar addiction. I understand the feeling of "IF I DON'T GET MY FIX RIGHT NOW I'M GOING TO LOSE IT", and I know I've failed to appreciate many interesting and beautiful things on trips (and during everyday life, too) because I'm too distracted by my addiction. I want better for myself, and I want to be a better example to others. I also want better dental health than he's got in his middle age; smoking has done a number on his teeth, but how can constant sugar intake be much better for the teeth and gums?

Last thing...I did not complain when people wanted to take pictures and videos of me during these activities, but I know they will be hard to look at. And if I have to watch video footage at some subsequent family gathering in the company of others --even the very people that were there with me, in person-- I know I will feel mortified. I kept telling myself "these are your 'before' photos, this will be your 'before' video too", just to get through it.

My home scale now shows something closer to 270 pounds. It's a basic analog scale that I have trouble reading; I rely on the gym's digital scale for official records. I'm eager to move on and start shedding this weight in earnest. I've got some ideas and plans for 2012 that I will write about soon. I know next Christmas doesn't have to be this way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When substitutions work

Really late last night, I had a fight with my husband.

After our fight, I headed to the pharmacy to pick up my thyroid medication refill. I knew I was in a vulnerable place and a binge seemed inevitable. I've bought junk from this particular pharmacy many times, and those big bags of red and green Christmas m&m's were on my mind for some reason. I sat in the car a long time outside the pharmacy, thinking "I don't want to do this. I want the pain to go away, and I know the binge is probably going to happen, but I'm so sick of being a slave to this compulsion." When I finally headed in, I had decided to go ahead and let whatever happen.

I walked the aisles stocked with cheap, mass-produced Christmas candy. I spotted the m&m's--the regular ones, the peanut butter ones, the peanut ones, the coconut ones, the mint ones, and the pretzel ones. (By the way, have the m&m, pop-tart, and Oreo minions decided to just keep "innovating" until every last American has diabetes, or what?) Nothing was looking that appealing. Then, lo! A thought occurred to me: this candy isn't going to change anything. The problem I'm having with my husband is still going to be there, whether I eat this crap or not.

I shuffled over to the other side of the store and picked up my prescription. Then I wandered the aisles that contain ice cream and packaged snack cakes. And THEN I remembered I had dark chocolate cherry Kind bars at home, and that I had planned to start using some of the more decadent Kind bars (there are a few varieties that are more dessert-y than others) to ward off binges at night. Something for those nights when I feel like I will go crazy if I don't have something comforting. I left the pharmacy with no junk food in tow.

I got home, ate the bar even though I was not hungry at all, and felt relieved. It was still emotional eating--still taking in calories my body didn't need at all--but it was 170 calories instead of however many are in a large bag of m&m's. I didn't feel compelled to have another bar, I didn't feel terrible about it afterward, and I didn't have a food hangover this morning.

I have days where nothing but full-on ice cream, chocolate, etc. will quiet the beast. PMS days come to mind. But there are days like yesterday and today where the beast is whimpering for a little something and is actually satisfied by a small taste/amount. NOT a small taste or amount of actual dessert, because that sets me off wanting more, but something dessert-LIKE. This afternoon, I was experiencing my millionth craving for eggnog so far this month, so I went home and made a whey protein smoothie with milk and a frozen banana. It was thick, cold, and slightly sweet, so it hit the spot. It worked today; it wouldn't have worked a couple of days ago in the midst of the PMS crazies. And frankly, I wouldn't want to be drinking a banana smoothie on Christmas while everyone else around me is having eggnog.

It's amazing to me that reasonable substitutions work sometimes. I hope I can get better at figuring out what kind of day it is, so to speak, and not going further with the comfort eating and indulgence eating than I need to on any given day.

Jim Gaffigan on the holidays...and food, as always!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My struggle with basic functioning

This is hard to explain.

I have steady low-grade depression, with periods of major depression mixed in. I'm doing better than I have in a long time when it comes to thinking positively/neutrally, and not identifying with transient negative thoughts and feelings. I'm more mindful than I was a year or two ago.

But I'm not that much more functional. My sleep cycles are messed up, I have trouble getting stuff done, and I struggle with consistency and routine...for starters. What I'm writing about today sits at the intersection of these problems: I do not get up in the morning and get ready for the day (take a shower, get dressed, perhaps apply some makeup) like a normal person. I haven't done this with any regularity for a long time. It's insanely difficult for me. Ask me to do this for 30 consecutive days--or ask me to complete a major home improvement project in a month's time or write a book in a month's time, and I would find the latter two challenges easier.

This has consequences. I usually only get cleaned up and dressed in non-lounging clothes right before I have to go somewhere. This could be rather late in the day, or not at all. (If you are wondering about work, I currently write from home.) There are so many days where I don't have to be anywhere, so I wear the same thing I slept in the night before all day. Guess how motivated I am to attend a class at the gym when it means I have to shower and make myself presentable first? I would say sleeping in late and being too grungy to go out in public accounts for 75-85% of my pattern of skipping the gym despite good intentions the day before.

It's not just the gym, obviously. Everything is made more difficult by this; running errands, having an impromptu outing with my husband, answering the front door when someone rings!

This behavior was modeled to me by my mother. She and my sisters are still very much this way; it's not just me. But I'm an adult now and pointing fingers will get me nowhere. I want to change.

I'm not sure how I'm going to fix this. I need to sleep like a regular human being even though my body wants to go to bed at 3 a.m. and wake up in the early afternoon. Even though it resists all attempts at reform. I need to take care of my grooming in the morning and at night like everyone else does, and make full use of the day instead of letting it pass me by.

I'm going to start tracking some part of this puzzle in a tab above labeled "basic functioning." (Edit: tab has now been removed. I tracked my odd sleeping patterns and concluded I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.) This is the direction I see my blog heading, by the way. I want to explore (and fix) the ways in which various areas of my life drive and sustain my eating and weight problem. It's all connected--my thoughts, habits, identity, binge eating, depression, family history, dietary choices, hobbies, physical activity, grooming, career, spirituality, home environment, relationships... It's a tangled web with each point connected to every other point.

I'm talking about everything in relation to weight as though weight loss is the central goal, but really I hope to improve it all. Besides, I don't think I can keep excess weight off for any length of time unless I become a different person in several ways. I really don't.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The pain of shopping as a fat woman

Tuesday was difficult for me. My husband and I went out on a little day trip to see some historical sites, which was fun. But it didn't take long for me to feel tired and sore from standing and walking so much. I kept lagging behind and feeling annoyed at him for blasting past me, and ashamed of myself for my inability to keep up. My ankles hurt so much that it was hard to focus and fully enjoy the things I was seeing. I didn't complain out loud or betray my shame and annoyance--I did the Nice Cheery Fat Girl thing and kept it to myself.

Until I couldn't anymore.

After a day of sightseeing, we headed home. It was dark and cold, and I was beyond tired. About halfway home, my husband spotted an outlet mall and pulled off the highway to check it out. He'd been meaning to get a winter hat and some better shoes for awhile, and promised he only needed to duck into a couple of stores. I didn't need anything, and told him I was tired and that I'd wait in the car.

But he insisted he wanted my help in choosing stuff. So for the next two hours, we walked almost nonstop in the dark and cold and visited one store after another. I. WAS. PISSED. After the first three stores, I told him I was done. And he'd insist we go "to just one more store." Not only was he not respecting my feelings, he wasn't listening to me in other ways: in store after store, he pressed me to look at and try on clothes after I had already explained that the stores didn't carry things in my size. (There were no plus size stores at this mall, unfortunately.) I know my body and women's clothing lines way better than him, but in each store I had to repeat and reiterate and explain and persuade him on this point, again and again. It was humiliating--WHAT was he not getting? Why would I say Aeropostale (only one example) doesn't carry anything that fits me unless it were actually true? Why would I make up something that is embarrassing to say?!

He kept insisting he was in the mood to buy me something since we so rarely go clothes shopping together. Finally, in American Eagle I let him buy me a men's sweatshirt in XXL. It was the only thing that fit me--the largest men's size in the store and the most shapeless garment available. The XL was too snug. The shirt is soft and snuggly, but it has the giant brand logo across the chest, which is something I stopped liking after high school. What's more, taking it home reminded me of all the painful years that I wore men's shirts because I couldn't find women's clothes that fit me...even though I longed so much to dress and feel feminine. I've since learned where to look--Lane Bryant, online sources, some department stores--but I'm not happy with the selection available to me. Never have been. And more and more, I'm slipping back into non-feminine clothes because I'm tired of trying to "make it work"--tired of fitted clothes that show my rolls and/or require support garments (hence sloppy hoodies and jeans as my default outfit), tired of underwire bras that lift but are miserable to wear (hence my wearing a sportsbra 99% of the time), tired of the pain of low heels and even flats (hence tennis shoes daily)...

It sucks to go to an outlet mall with fifty stores carrying women's clothes, and not be able to buy ANYTHING. There was a time he and I could shop together and have fun. Even when I was 70 pounds lighter than I am now, I still had to buy the largest women's sizes available at a select few stores, but at least there were some options at places like The Gap.

All this was swirling in my head as we drove home. I cried quietly in the car, which led to my husband and me snapping at each other. What a way to end the day, right?

I have to change, but I know the more dramatic and self-hating my attempts at change, the more they backfire. I have a long, slow trek ahead of me, and I'll be making it in men's shirts and sportsbras and saggy jeans and tennis shoes for awhile yet.

***
Enjoyed this post today by Kelliann. She is handling holiday craziness without losing sight of what's important.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ugh

Dec 12 food log:

eggnog
hard candy
chocolate bar
chicken burrito with cheese

Prediction: tomorrow will go just fine, and the day after tomorrow will be cravings hell yet again. Don't know what to say.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Damn hyperpalatable foods

December 11 food log:

vada with coconut chutney
turkey chili with shredded cheese
broccoli; chard sauteed with onions and mushrooms
apple with natural (just peanuts) peanut butter

It was sort of hard to eat my vegetables today, after the hyperpalatable burger, fries, custard, soda, and eggnog latte of yesterday! It's scary how that works. I wrestled with the desire for eggnog again tonight. I protected myself by simply staying home.

Something else to chew on: this post from Skinny Mini about the importance of pleasure.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 9 & 10

December 9:

scrambled eggs
Mexican meal--included strip steak, mushrooms, spinach, guac, etc.
almond coconut kind bar

December 10th: I attended a seminar and then ran around the city with friends, all on no sleep. My eating reflects that!

eggnog latte from Starbucks
2 kind bars
burger, fries, and half a frozen custard
orange soda
6 inch chicken sandwich from subway

I need vegetables.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Binge

December 8 food log:

scrambled eggs with Canadian bacon
mini cupcakes
mini candy cane cookies
milk
nachos with melted cheese

Moving on...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Yesterday's descent

I'm full-out eating sugar today, but the downward spiral began yesterday.

December 7th food log:

Indian buffet for lunch: chicken, rice, vegetables, naan
pizza
octopus (part of an appetizer shared with others; I'm not insane.)
chips
root beer
skinny peppermint mocha frappuccino
a few mini candy canes

I woke up today still feeling the "itch" and thought to myself that I had to get rid of it. It's been bugging me for days now, and it presents a real dilemma. The choices?

a) eat sugar, possibly worsen my cravings, and mess up my effort to avoid desserts until Christmas (and store-bought crap in general)
b) don't eat sugar, keep white knuckling it, and risk feeling so crazy and desperate that I fall into a massive, multi-week binge in the near future.

I chose to eat sugar. Clearly I'm not going to make it all the way to Christmas without sweets; I've given in a couple of times already and we are only about a week into the month. But I can aim for minimizing my consumption--to rack up as many days as I can without the stuff, and thereby prevent December from becoming a free-for-all. I don't have to gain weight this month and start 2012 off with more of a burden to carry.

So the new question is: how many days in December can I avoid sweets?

I'm going to buy myself a little reward for each day I successfully avoid sweets. A song from iTunes is only a buck, for example.

***

I haven't had this blog for very long, but already I am frustrated with how much I contradict myself on this thing. I declare one thing one day, another thing the next. It reflects how much turmoil there is in my life regarding food, weight, etc. and how desperately I am grasping for workable solutions.

I don't see how it can improve, however, unless I keep putting the whole mess out there. I need to keep stripping away the hold that shame and perfectionism have over me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tough day

Today was so much harder than yesterday. I was crave-y, pissy, and dissatisfied. I developed a headache and for about 20 minutes this evening I felt like I was going to cry for no apparent reason. Nothing really hit the spot in terms of food, and I felt ill at ease in the grocery store. I wanted egg nog, but have already decided to try making my own this year.

Today's food:

some potato chips in the morning (why?!)
bowl of oatmeal
orange and dark leafy greens
nachos with low fat cheese, salsa, and guacamole
cup of herbal tea
boiled potatoes with gravy and broccoli
Kind bar and a glass of milk--this calmed the sugar cravings a little bit, but they returned a few hours later.

Meh. Good days, bad days. Moving on. I'm proud of myself for not getting a bunch of crap from the store. That much I can say!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Does this body look cared for?

Monday, December 5 food log

pork chop with warm apple-cabbage slaw
an orange
homemade chicken tacos


Today was the easiest day I've had in awhile. Having solid leftovers (the pork and cabbage) helped tremendously. And I was looking forward to my taco dinner all afternoon, which helped me not graze mindlessly. I was good and hungry when I sat down to eat...and that's rarer than I care to admit.

One thing I was pleased with today is that I caught myself wolfing down my pork chop too quickly and decided to try taking a drink of water between every mouthful. It slowed me down and I found myself chewing everything more thoroughly. By the time I was finished, I was pleasantly full and the portion I had consumed seemed just right. I didn't want or need any more. Remember this technique, self! What's that thing "they" say about a twenty minute delay between your stomach being full and your brain registering the fullness?

***
Other things from today:

1. I was taking a long look at myself in the mirror after my shower today and feeling down about the alarming state my body is in. I have really abused myself, and though I know things can improve, there is no way to undo all the damage. Nevertheless, a thought occurred to me: what if, instead of assessing whether this or that part of me is attractive (my thighs, my stomach, my nails, my hair, whatever), I simply assess whether it looks cared for? Striving to look and feel genuinely cared for is probably better for my mental health than striving to look somehow "hotter." (Whatever that means. And hotter for whose benefit, by the way?) Today, I could see clearly that the body reflected in the mirror hasn't been tended to and cared for in a long time, and that was the saddest thing of all.

Declaring it now: I want to look, feel, and be cared for.

2. My gym activity has cooled off considerably. I keep telling myself that I only have to go three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Just show up and do whatever. But I'm resistant to it because deep down I think the only things worth going for are the classes, and I guess a part of me is lazy and another part of me resents having to plan my day's schedule around a BodyPump or yoga class.

Even though I had plenty of time to get a workout in today, I didn't. I didn't because I didn't want to go to the gym, so I decided not to exercise at all. Typical stupid, perfectionist, all-or-nothing thinking! I have stuff at home I can use, and nice places to walk near my house...and somehow I think it makes sense to not use these resources because I'm paying for a gym membership and should be using THAT resource. So illogical.

I'm thus dropping the pressure to go the gym three times a week. I expect myself to exercise three days a week, whether at the gym or at/near home, regardless of the weather. I'm going to give it a couple of months, and if I find that I don't use the gym often enough to justify the cost of membership, I will cancel it and continue to do whatever is working for me at home, in the local parks, or at another facility.

Enough of these silly games!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I've been here before

Sunday, December 4 food log:

2 scrambled eggs, mixed leafy greens, and an orange
pb & j on wheat
pork chop with warm apple-cabbage slaw
oatmeal
mug of tea
too much ciabatta bread with butter
bowl of cheerios

This evening I just couldn't get satisfied and kept reaching for the one thing that always eggs hunger and craving on further: carbs. Frustrating!

But I'm not going to get all down on myself. I've been in this place enough times before to recognize what's going on, and this time, I'm going to handle it differently.

When I stop binging on sugary foods, even for just a few days, I feel extra hungry and crave-y. I would estimate that eliminating the daily binge shaves off anywhere from 500-2000 calories that my body is used to having, typically late in the day. That's a big adjustment, and it's no surprise that I succumb to the bread and cold cereal when I'm only a few days into the change. There's a whole lot going on with sugar, insulin, and my brain chemistry, as well.

What has happened many times in the past is that I get mad at myself for replacing pints of ice cream with bowls of cereal, I don't give myself enough time to build new habits, and I have no patience for my body's desire to adjust to fewer calories gradually. I berate myself for my meal choices (there is always something to criticize!) and for not being a super dieter all-around. I expect too much too soon, and fail to live up to those expectations.

AND THEN I GIVE UP, AND GO BACK TO BINGING.

I don't want to do that this time! I want to love myself down the scale, not hate myself there. I'm in this for the long haul and I have a realistic goal set. I'd like to reach 200 by my 30th birthday at the end of next summer. And then I'd like to stay there awhile to give myself time to adjust and time to practice maintaining a stable weight.

There are so many aspects of my eating that need to be changed, but it can't all happen overnight. Cutting down on the desserts is a great first step. If I can prevent December from becoming a month-long binge on packaged holiday "treats", that itself is a vast improvement over every other December I can remember!

Keeping that in mind, some things that might help me going forward:

bigger meals (focused on protein and veg);
a fourth meal late at night;
or having the right kinds of snacks on hand, like boiled eggs and celery with no-sugar peanut butter;
more water

Calorie-free holiday enjoyment

Saturday, December 3 food log:
Mixed greens--collard, turnip, mustard, spinach sauteed with onions
Salmon
satsuma mandarin
some brie en croute (I'd never had this before. Not sure I like it.)
cheerios with a banana
mug of Yogi calming tea

I decorated the tree tonight--glad that's done! Gonna curl up by it to read for awhile: one of my favorite calorie-free holiday pleasures. :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Frightening Hungers

First, let me get Friday, December 2nd's food log out of the way:

a fried egg, satsuma mandarin, and 2 pieces of toast
a bowl of cheerios with a banana
a Kind bar
Dairy Queen double cheeseburger, fries, and a small blizzard
hot cocoa with mint marshmallows (this was gross)
a few crackers

The Dairy Queen meal was unplanned, as was that blizzard. I could dissect the whole incident at length--the way I was tempted by the novelty of a blizzard flavor I'd never seen before, the way I should have ordered the mini size instead of the small, the way I thought "fuck it" and had hot cocoa a few hours later since I had "blown the day." But I'd rather just brush myself off and move on, and not consider December ruined; my effort to limit desserts to just Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve is restarted as of this morning.

***

Sometimes I'm frightened by the amount of (metaphorical) hunger I feel. It seems I want so, so much from life. Knowledge, experiences, relationships, feelings, and of course, material pleasures too. There are so many things I'd like to master, so many things I want to do, and so many places I want to see that when I contemplate them, I feel crazed with lust and full of fear and despair at the same time.

How will there ever be enough time and resources?!

But I have to choose among these desires and prioritize. We all do. This isn't a bad thing; it's just reality. I'm lucky to even have all these possibilities open to me! I want life's array of possibilities and pleasures to be a source of joy for me, instead of a wellspring of anxiety and depression. Working on that...

It's amazing how binge eating dulls these hungers, though, isn't it? When I binge, I don't feel the overwhelming pangs of lust for life as sharply. It's there, churning and moaning beneath the surface. But if I'm physically bloated and slow and miserable--if I'm obsessing over my next sugar conquest--if I'm worrying about how I'll forever be fat and blow my knees out by age 35--I can't really focus on my deeper desires.

That's a big part of why I do it, and the biggest reason I've got to stop.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I want to weigh 200 pounds

Just typing that is a relief. It's also invigorating, because it seems attainable.

For a long time, I've been focusing on 175 as an initial goal and 150 as an eventual ideal. Those numbers have danced in my head for years now, and meanwhile I've gained weight or stayed stuck at the same high numbers. I was at my highest, 275, for a long time. I'm around 265 now, so I have my work cut out for me.

But losing 65 pounds doesn't seem as impossible as losing 110. Also, life wasn't easy at 200 pounds, but I can now say from experience that it's a hell of a lot easier than life at 265 or 275.

Frightening how numbers that used to horrify (200?! shit!!!) become something to aspire to after awhile, huh?

Numbers are useful, which is why I'm talking about them. But at the end of the day, what I want even more than a particular number is the security of knowing I'm no longer a binge eater. Knowing I can trust myself--that I'm an advocate for myself, instead of an enemy and saboteur. Knowing that I'm not a slave to certain foods and the companies that make them.

***

I didn't want to post my food for December 1st, because it seemed like so much. The whole point of the logging exercise is not about accountability to others and self-shaming to keep myself in line, though. (As I once thought.) It's about overcoming shame and secrecy, not feeling apologetic for being hungry or for eating, and no longer thinking I need to prove to anyone how hard I'm trying to be "good" (i.e., thinner, more ladylike).

It's still hard to do, though, especially on days like December 1st.

Anyway, this is what I ate between 3 a.m. on December 1st and 3 a.m. on December 2nd (my sleep is messed up right now):

a slice of gouda cheese with a slice of turkey
a bowl of bean soup; an apple with a bit of peanut butter
small amount of rice, seaweed salad, and roasted duck
curried paneer with spinach rice; a naan with a slice of cheddar
a bowl of Cheerios with honey and milk
3 Kind bars

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The holidays ahead

Today, the last day of November, was more reasonable than the last two days. I had a coconut-almond Kind bar, a bowl of bean soup, turkey/cheese/spinach on a bagel, a tall caramel brulee latte from Starbucks, and Turkish "pizza" (ground lamb and vegetables on flatbread).

So now December has arrived. Do I have the strength to limit myself to only homebaked goods (made by my own hands) on just a few special days this month? Some family members are planning to travel to my house for Christmas, and I'd like to make a couple kinds of cookies and try my hand at making eggnog from scratch for the first time. Maybe a red velvet cake, too. Homemade goods have become something of a rarity in my family, as most of our parties feature store-bought cakes, cookies, etc. But now that I have a house and the opportunity to play hostess, I'm trying to establish new traditions; when the people I love indulge at my house, I'd like it to be with something real instead of with various combinations of high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Not that I don't dump those very things into my body, but I'm trying to change. I'm trying to create an emotional association between those kinds of cheap mass-produced goods and the phenomenon of people not caring about one another. (Which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense. The companies that make these treats don't care about you or your health. And even though cake shouldn't be equated with love, more effort and care go into a homemade cake than into a package of Little Debbie.) I want cheap sweets to become emotionally repellent so that I don't have to struggle so hard with temptation anymore.

To get through December, I'm going to have to stay busy, engage in exercise for stress relief, and create a new habit like drinking tea each evening (my most vulnerable time for eating sweets). Oh, and remind myself that I'm NOT deprived in any way--that I'm CHOOSING to do something good on my own behalf because I care about myself. Perhaps most fundamentally, my vision of Christmas needs to change, to include a picture of myself enjoying and modeling vibrant health in the midst of all the festivities. My tendency is to fantasize about making the house, the meal, the everything (except me, of course) look like something out of a magazine. To make those things the symbol of a perfect Christmas, and not even think about my own well-being--if anything, to sacrifice my well-being in the service of ridiculous Martha Stewart-esque Christmas visions.

I will still endeavor to put on a lovely holiday for my family, but I want to be able to enjoy it. And I can only enjoy it if I'm feeling good. And that requires decent food, exercise, sleep, grooming, de-stressing...and reasonable expectations for myself and the holiday season in general.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eating poorly and thinking about Patrice O'Neal

The usual pattern for me is for my eating to get worse as the day progresses. If something is stressing me out, I make even worse choices.

Today I had a bagel with spinach, turkey, cheese, and mayo as my first meal. Drank a glass of milk with it. Then a turkey wrap at a restaurant. As a writing deadline approached this evening, I went off the rails (as is typical under stress). I ate a Green & Black's peanut and sea salt chocolate bar, followed by an almond and coconut Kind bar. Met my deadline, then ate a bowl of 15 bean soup and the second Green & Blacks bar I had purchased: milk chocolate toffee. (These bars are huge; looking at the wrapper of the toffee one now, after the fact, I see that it contained 525 calories and 55 grams of sugar.)

I was midway through that second chocolate bar, and browsing online, when I read that Patrice O'Neal had died. This is a comic I respect and had recently watched and enjoyed, dead at 41 from a stroke related to diabetes complications--or so the news outlets are currently reporting.

You know what's scary? O'Neal talked about the fact that he needed to lose weight to stay alive, and even that knowledge wasn't enough to motivate him. And I continued to eat and finish a chocolate candy bar--my second one of the evening--while reading about his diabetes, stroke, and premature death.

Food addiction is scary, serious shit.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is what disordered eating looks like

Today, I was worrying about the carb content of my meals. I had leftover bean soup for breakfast, grabbed a bagel with cream cheese for lunch, and ate three small chicken tacos for dinner. I felt bad about the lack of vegetables and the amount of starch I had consumed. I chastised myself for not drinking enough water and for skipping the gym. I wondered if eating oatmeal later in the day (complete with raisins and milk and honey and pecans) in the event of post-dinner hunger was "exactly the type of behavior that keeps me fat." I didn't come to a conclusion on this question, but it was on my mind.

At the end of the day, I found myself in Target and compulsively grabbed Limited Edition peppermint Oreos off the shelf and ate them all in one sitting when I got home. Not that I had been wanting Oreos--and they didn't taste like anything special.

I had no intention to binge, but I have to wonder if being down on myself throughout the day for "not being perfect" set me up for this: the old all-or-nothing thinking. I also have an assignment due tomorrow night that I don't want to complete, and my resentment and procrastination on that front probably fueled the fire as well.

My point is that I worried about the fattening effects of a bowl of oatmeal, but didn't think twice before consuming an entire package of Oreos. Really. At no point did I stop and have the conscious thought: THIS is exactly the kind of behavior that keeps me fat--downing a box of sugar and chemicals.

Yet it is. Oatmeal and beans aren't the culprit, for crying out loud! Yes, it would be great to reduce carbs, but the worst sources need to go first.

***

Daily records of food and exercise are just about the most boring kinds of blog entries imaginable, yet I think it would do me good to publish the truth on this blog.

I had big plans for the blog in the beginning, but backed off when I realized I was merely hoping to echo some of the successful weight loss bloggers out there that I read and admire. I wasn't positioning myself to be honest and genuine. What's more, I don't want weight and food issues to be the center of my life, identity, or writing activity. It's a real part of me and something that needs to be addressed continually, but there is so much more to me; devoting massive amounts of time to a blog about binge eating disorder and attempts to lose weight is not what I want to do or who I want to be at this moment in time.

So I stepped away for awhile. And by stepping away, I've realized a few things.

1. It would be best for me to not read other weight loss blogs for awhile so that I can rediscover my own voice.
2. I'd like to try a daily food and exercise log, and to post my weight regularly. It's boring, but it gives an honest picture of what is driving the scale up or down.
3. I think going to the gym three days a week, for me, would be an accomplishment. And exercising a fourth day at home would make me feel even better about myself. I do not expect myself to have a formal exercise session every day.
4. I'm only going to post actual essays on the blog when I feel moved to do so. Right now I'm thinking daily records and one essay a month is perfectly acceptable. I want to spend my time changing, not talking about changing, you know?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pilates is a special kind of hell

I knew it would be bad...just didn't know how bad. I went to a "Pilates for Beginners" class on Saturday. Fifteen minutes into the hour-long class, the part of me that was in extreme physical and emotional discomfort was battling it out with the part of me that thought it would be too rude to get up and leave. I really don't know how I made it through the entire hour. I could hardly do any of the moves--certainly couldn't execute them properly--and the instructor walked over to me and me alone to help me when the last thing I wanted was attention drawn to myself. She meant well, but dammit, I wanted to be as invisible as a giant panting woman in a bright pink t-shirt CAN be!

Of all the things I've tried at the gym, Pilates is the activity that makes it most clear just how out of shape I am. I can feel my body's weaknesses and sense just how absurdly heavy my thighs are when attempting these moves. I feel self-conscious and ashamed--even somewhat unwelcome. I think I'd have to lose a ton of weight and practice this stuff for months before I could even begin to keep up.

Having said all this, I don't know if I should run away screaming, or start going every week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Husband on board?

Tonight, my husband and I were out eating dinner and he starts telling me about a guy at his dojo that has transformed his body by cutting out carbs. I wanted to smack my forehead. Or maybe his. I've been trying to sell him on moving in a more primal or paleo direction with me for some time, to no avail! And now he says he'd like to try eating more "like that guy." Okay, so I've got an opportunity on my hands. I know I'll forever love my sweets and my south Indian husband is forever going to love his rice, but we can make most of our meals a low carb affair together. Hooray!

Then he tells me that he's got to have a VARIETY of vegetable side dishes at any given meal if he is to successfully slash his rice intake. Apparently, he can't eat a piece of meat and a side of greens and be satisfied like me. But there's no way I'm cooking five types of vegetables for lunch and three more types for dinner; if he wants more than I'm already making, he's going to have to make it himself. I care about him and his health (he is a healthy weight, by the way), but I also care about my sanity and my ability to keep cooking fresh meals. Having to do more than I feel is reasonable is a surefire way for me to become resentful and ditch the whole low carb cooking venture.

So in the end, I'm not planning on changing my current approach much at all. I'll keep adding to my vegetable repertoire; he really liked the roasted beets and sauteed beet greens I made the other day for the first time. And I'm going to figure out some nice low carb Indian meals for his enjoyment. I'm thinking tandoori chicken and curried cauliflower, for starters. I will continue to insist we start going to restaurants that serve something other than piles of cheap starch, even if it means paying more and eating out less frequently.

With us, it's clearly a matter of "direction, not perfection"...but I like where we are headed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How cake makes me feel

The creator of Hyperbole and a Half is the only person that has ever captured the way cake makes me feel. Click here and prepare to laugh!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Experiment

I've made a conscious effort to avoid nutrition websites, debates, and the like lately. I'm not watching The Biggest Loser or any other weight loss shows this fall. I'm not picking up cookbooks or magazines for new recipes. I try not to check the couple of diet blogs I follow as frequently. And you know what? I feel so much better. There's more space in my head for other interesting things.

An unexpected thing has happened with my eating. My meals and snacks are fairly low carb, and that's cool. Yet I'm still eating desserts--regular ones, not low carb ones. It has been easier for me to skip bread, pasta, rice, and other starchy staples than it has for me to give up ice cream and baked goods. But the overall effect of embracing what comes easiest to me is that I'm eating fewer carbs overall! And that is progress! Instead of two or three plates of pasta followed by dessert, it's now meat and vegetables followed by dessert. This feels better. Oh, it's far from smart eating, but it's smarter than what I'd been doing for years and years.

Sugar is a drug. Desserts are legal drugs. I know this. Even so, every time I told myself that I "had to" or "needed to" stop eating sweets, I felt deprived, resentful, and anxious (because I am addicted to them). I've tried the abstinence route--complete with a stint in OA, had a sponsor, the whole deal--and I've gone the other route with intuitive eating-type philosophies, which claim that listening to one's body and declaring nothing off limits will transform desserts from forbidden fruits into insignificant foodstuffs. Well, I hated OA for so many reasons (perhaps I will write about that in the future) and my desire for sweets never lessened through intuitive eating or allowing myself to have whatever I wanted in whatever amounts. For a time I tried the No-S diet, which allowed sweets on Saturdays, Sundays, and special days like holidays and birthdays; you can read about it here. Most recently I have explored paleo/primal/low carb eating, but my dessert anxieties and obsessions continued. The idea of eating sad little almond flour/coconut flake paleo cookies or whatever on Christmas is enough to make me want to whip up a batch of iced sugar cookie Santa heads right now.

What's finally making me feel sane is tuning everyone else out and hearing my own voice. And my own voice says: you are crazy about sugar and you always have been. This carries problems and risks. But the past 30 years show that you are going to keep eating sugar despite these problems and risks. Furthermore, whenever you try to drastically reduce or eliminate your dessert intake, you rebel and go overboard with it in short order. So how about this--just eat less of it, and eat really solid meals and snacks. Don't displace real food with sugary stuff. Save the bulk of your carb intake for dessert, since you like cake more than you like bread. And be a little more selective with your sweets. You're gonna have them regularly, so pass on the crappy stuff and enjoy the really good stuff.

It seems to be working. I am passing over many mass-produced desserts easily now, without those old feelings of suffering. (The result being I'm eating less dessert!) This is due to two things: I know I can make something better at home, something fresh and delicious and free of trans fats. I am allowed to do so. And secondly, I don't want to be some corporation's hopelessly addicted lab rat anymore, responding mindlessly to whatever garbage they package brightly, advertise aggressively, and price cheaply. I am already sugar's bitch, I don't want to be Nabisco's bitch and McDonald's bitch too. So when it comes to dessert, I'd like to mostly stick with the homemade stuff. I love baking and sharing with others and seeing them enjoy what I've made. I know I'm peddling drugs when I do this, but I cannot deny how much I enjoy it and do not see it changing anytime soon.

So, I feel saner. The question is, can I continue to lose weight eating this way? Taking this relaxed approach to sweets? I view this way of eating as an experiment, and will assess the results on my blog in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Relief

I went to the gym today for the first time in a couple weeks, and it was such a relief to get back into the swing of things. I was anxious to weigh myself on the gym scale (which is what I use for my official records) because I was expecting a significant regain. I've been binge eating alot lately, not exercising, and feeling totally out of control.

Somehow, I was only up two pounds.

I blew through a quick strength training workout without any cardio warmup or stretching afterwards. This is not how I usually do things, but the gym was crowded, I was agitated, and I just wanted to get something done.

I'm feeling good now. Off to Trader Joe's for some groceries!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The truth

When I stop posting, you can rest assured I've lost my way. You can also assume I'm spending lots of time hunched over my laptop or iPhone, reading about nutrition.

I realized today that the ongoing nutrition research, compulsive checking of my favorite weight loss blogs, and all the rest has become an addiction of its own. I'm a sugar addict, sure, but I'm also an information junkie. At this point, I think the latter is almost more problematic than the former.

Only today did I realize that I am scared to interrupt the constant incoming stream of information about food, exercise, and health. It's like I'm frightened that tuning those things out will lead to ignoring my food/weight/health problems and result in devastating weight gain. Another fear? That the final missing piece of the puzzle--the magic detail that will make everything fall into place for me--will get overlooked if I'm not constantly taking in new information.

The (not-so) funny thing is, I've been gaining weight while all this learning and obsessing has been going on. I have knowledge, but no results to show for all my reading and ruminating. Something has got to change.

I tell myself that I've learned enough to get going on a healthier track. I do okay for a bit, then I have a few bad days of eating, freak out that I clearly don't have the answers I need, seek refuge in the stories and research and views and programs of others, try to adapt to some of models I read about (trying OA, eating low carb, going paleo, whatever), hit a roadblock of some sort, repeat cycle. It's tiresome.

I miss having a life outside of this obsession.

Here's the other bit of truth telling for today: starting this blog has shown me, yet again, how hard I try to perform for others. I want so badly to appear that I've got my shit together; another part of me longs to be vulnerable and real and honest about how out of control my life often feels.

When I was getting things set up on Blogger, I sat down and made a little weekly schedule for my blog. On Monday I'm going to write about this, and Tuesday about this, and so forth. I wanted to go from not having a blog to having an amazing one that shows how awesome and determined I am, and I wanted it to happen overnight. When I got busy and couldn't create the kinds of posts I was envisioning right out of the gate, I opted to skip posting altogether. It's classic perfectionistic, all-or-nothing behavior and it invades many areas of my life.

Isn't a little post that simply tells the truth about what's going on better than nothing? And why would a person that has 100+ pounds to lose try to pretend that everything is smooth sailing all the time in Dietland?

Tonight, I'm admitting that I'm shipwrecked.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Out of sorts

I'm all over the place at the moment. I had guests over the weekend and on Monday, which left me exhausted. (It always does.) So yesterday I slept most of the day away before going out for dinner and a late movie. Today I start a certificate program in writing that I'm very excited about and I'm unable to focus on much else.

Some meal planning, grocery shopping, and a trip to the gym is all that I need to get the wheels in motion again, and that's how I want to spend my day tomorrow. I don't like this directionless, scattered feeling.

My reward for losing 10 lbs. arrived this afternoon, though, which is both a bright spot in my day and a reminder that I want to resume my efforts and earn more rewards! I will post pics when I get it assembled.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Exercise plans for this week, 9/19-9/25

I'm all caught up with moving my handful of posts from Tumblr to this blog. So starting with this post, the dates you see are correct.

This is my plan for the week:

Monday (today)--off
Tuesday--Body Pump class at 7:35 p.m.
Wednesday--a bit of cardio plus Gentle Yoga class at 9:15 a.m.
Thursday--cardio and strength training on the machines
Friday--day off. Will be shopping and walking around a lot.
Saturday--Pilates mat with props class at 11:30 a.m.
Sunday--take a walk

I need an eating plan too. I've had four horrible days in a row, starting on Friday. I prepared carmelized nuts that evening for the guests we were having over for a potluck the next day. I couldn't stop eating them. The day of the potluck, Saturday, was completely off the rails. Sunday the madness continued. Today has not been as bad, but I've had more carbs than I think is reasonable and I'm not feeling good. I feel completely lost and want to get back to the sane way I was eating before. I hate how sugar intake narrows my focus down to the pursuit of more sugar; there is a whole wide world out there and so much potential in me, but sugar shrinks all that down to nothingness.

Cunningham muffins

Sugary muffins are never a good breakfast choice. Especially if they are Cunningham muffins.

A little less conversation

It started happening again almost as soon as I started blogging. I got sucked into the world of nutrition research, laying in bed with my iPhone reading late into the night. Compiling lists of links and resources to put on my blog for the benefit of others. Wringing my hands over the latest debates.

The deal is, I’m taking cues from low carb advocates such as Gary Taubes and various people in the paleo and primal communities when it comes to changing my diet. The more I learn, the more I understand that there is significant diversity and disagreement among these folks. That is not a bad thing; the back-and-forth is part of scientific advancement and I value the ongoing scholarship. But as I explained in my very first post, I need more action, less contemplation. Many of the finer points being debated don’t matter to me because it’s not like I’m going to tweak my diet every day based on the latest thing I read.

I think of the Pareto principle and tell myself that 20% of the changes I make will yield 80% of the results I want. So cutting out grains and sugar from my everyday intake will get me most of the way there. And once I’m 80% of the way there, and weight loss starts to stall or whatever, maybe then I can freak out about how many yams I should allow myself each month or whether poultry and pork are tipping my Omega 6:Omega 3 balance the wrong way. I have a long way to go with more fundamental changes to make before I start fussing over all those details. I do not have to go from 0 to 100 overnight.

(Not only that, but I find people who place their nutritional ideologies at the center of their lives and identities to be absolute bores. Really. I’m not vying for first place at the Paleo Pageant; I want a healthier body so I can do things OTHER THAN sit around with a laptop researching diet and reading the latest ego-driven arguments engaged in by laypeople on various message boards and blog comments sections. Ugh.)

I wonder what it would be like to do an information fast? Block all the chatter. Use the knowledge and resources I already have, including the cookbooks I already own. Stop worrying so damn much about doing things “right”! See how far I get. When I can’t get any further, go look for answers amidst the noise. Until then, stay away from the noise and focus on execution.

I think I’ve got my new plan!

Brian Regan on serving sizes

Wow. The serving sizes you find on junk food labels annoy this (skinny) guy as much as they do you and me!

Went to yoga class

Another thing, demystified! I went to a Gentle Yoga class at the gym tonight and I’m glad I did. It was non-intimidating and very good for someone like me that’s been to maybe two yoga classes in my life (and that was probably almost ten years ago). I was surprised how much it revealed about my body. I could feel that my right arm and shoulder is still messed up despite the physical therapy I had done on it earlier this year, for one thing. Strangely, I could feel that weakness more clearly in tonight’s class than I do when I’m strength training. I saw how inflexible I am in some ways, and also how much my flab—especially stomach and thigh fat—gets in the way when I’m trying to do certain things. The more scrunched up I got, the more I felt like a tangled mound of sausage links. But surprisingly I wasn’t disheartened at all. Instead, I’m looking forward to going back at least once a week and tuning into my body.

Two other nice things today:

1. On the way to the gym, I saw an orange and pink sunset that literally made me gasp with delight. The drive to the gym is hilly and gorgeous; it’s a reward unto itself. On the way home, a lovely big moon with wispy clouds trailing across it. Plus there was a chill in the air. My favorite season is here!

2. I reached the ten pounds gone mark, so I can order the reward I picked out for myself a few days ago! It's a piece of furniture for my kitchen and I'll post pictures when I get it set up. So glad I rejected my husband’s pressurized “suggestion” to go out for Chinese food last night.

(note: this post originally appeared on Tumblr on September 15th.)

Patton Oswalt on KFC Famous bowls

Contains some profanity; may not be safe for work. (But oh so true!)

Mental workouts at the gym

I joined a really great gym about a month and a half ago. It’s got everything: updated equipment, a women’s-only fitness room, cafĂ©, a nursery and different daycamps for kids, two pools, a hot tub, saunas, racquetball/tennis/basketball courts, massage therapy, and over 140 different classes offered throughout the week. The classes are what really drew me there. I wanted to try BodyPump because I had read so much about it on Shauna Reid’s fantastic blog years ago, and they offer it every day of the week—sometimes twice a day.

So the gym is fantastic, and here’s the (oh so predictable) catch: I struggle with feeling like I do not belong there. I feel too fat, too unathletic, too clumsy, too ugly, too shy. I compare myself to more attractive women and feel downhearted. I’d like to go to the pool, but currently am too self-conscious to don a swimsuit and strut past whatever tanned, -3% body fat, 18 year-old Adonis happens to be on lifeguard duty that day.

But I’m still going to the gym a few times a week, and still trying different things despite my mental discomfort. Oh, there’s physical discomfort as well, as I’m way out of shape and overweight. But at this stage in the game, it’s more of a mental battle than a physical one. What I want is to feel less self-conscious and timid by the end of my current three month contract. I’m not expecting a dramatic physical change in such a short period of time; I’m in this for the long haul and besides, I believe my dietary choices are going to do more for my physical transformation than anything else. (I have exercised intensely before without losing any weight, so I know firsthand that diet is key.)

I am expecting a mental change in a relatively short period of time, though, and I’m working consciously at it. When my eyes start to wander, I snap myself back to attention and focus on my form. When the negative brain chatter starts, I talk back to it, argue with it, tell it to shut up. When I feel scared of something, like the pool situation, I take note that it’s something I must do—precisely because I’m scared of it. I may not do it today, but the day is coming. I tell myself it’s inevitable and to start looking for a good swimsuit.

I am excited to see how this kind of mental work will transfer to other areas of my life. Continuing at something despite emotional discomfort, questioning my identity (in this case as “unathletic”, for starters), learning to focus, resisting the urge to compare myself to others, trying new stuff that makes me feel awkward until I don’t feel awkward anymore…it’s all highly applicable to other scenarios. Realizing that the gym can be a vehicle for mental and emotional growth—not merely a place to punish myself for being fat, or stave off disease, or sculpt myself into a shape more pleasing to others—has been a real step for me.

Laughing at Hot Pockets

Here's Jim Gaffigan on Hot Pockets. Processed crap like this deserves ridicule!

Beep. Boop. Too much input.

When I was growing up, my Dad had a gentle but specific way of joking about things he found overwhelming or draining. Whether it was an unpleasant, complicated task, a difficult person, a tiresome event, a frustrating crowd, or just some jumble of information or sensory stimuli, he would make a funny face and say “too much input” in a robotic voice. Sometimes he’d keep going in the robot voice: “Too much input. System overload. Processing….processing…”

It always made me laugh, and I always knew exactly what he meant. Today, my siblings and I say “too much input” to describe things and events in our lives, especially frazzled emotional and mental states. No robot voice needed—it’s now such a part of our family’s colloquialisms that everyone, including Dad, says it in a regular voice.

There are a LOT of weird phrases employed by my family, but I digress.

So, the other night I was researching various health topics online until four in the morning. Why? Because I need to lose between 100 and 125 pounds and I’ve been fighting binge eating disorder for years now. I have atypical depression. I have hypothyroidism and I worry that I’m pre-diabetic. Therefore, I’m constantly trying to educate myself about nutrition, fitness, autoimmune thyroid disease, weight loss, insulin resistance and diabetes, mental illness, and so forth.

Typical of my marathon reading sessions, one link led to another, one study contradicted another, and I kept going until I was practically cross-eyed with exhaustion and overwhelm. As I stumbled to bed in the early morning hours, I thought “it’s all too. much. input.”

I had to smile to myself, even though I felt miserable. That phrase captures so many elements of my struggle.

Too much input when it comes carbs and calories and crappy processed food.

Too much input when it comes to competing nutritional dogmas, competing health claims, competing talking heads that Believe They Know What’s Best for Everyone.

Too much input when it comes to other people’s demands and expectations in my personal life. When it comes to other people’s influence, period.

And not enough output on my part.

I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. Instead of taking some sustained action, imperfect as it might be, I keep acquiring more and more information. I keep analyzing and obsessing and worrying. My brain is whirring along while my body sits still. The longer I do this, the worse I feel. I’ve decided many things have to change, including my self-imposed silence on the subject of my individual deterioration (a silence which is entirely fear- and shame-based, for the record).

I’ve gone back and forth for literally years now on the question of whether or not to start a blog, whether to risk embarrassment and public failure or not. When Too Much Input popped into my weary head a few nights ago, I decided to go for it. So here I am!

Switching from Tumblr

I recently started a blog on Tumblr but was quickly overrun by spam, so I'm switching to good old Blogger. Thankfully, I only have a few posts and things to move from that site to this one.