Friday, April 30, 2010

WW Meeting - Levels of Change

Thought I would try something new and post a video blog. Faster and easier than writing a post.
video

Here is the graphic about the levels of change that we talked about at the WW meeting this week. Tough stuff.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Zumba

The majority of the searches that I get on my page are about Zumba -- what is it? Why do my feet hurt when I do it? How many Weight Watchers points is it? and so on...

I would like to attempt to give an overview of what Zumba is, interjected with a few of my own opinions and experiences and anecdotes. Per the Zumba website, Zumba is a dance-type class that "fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away." When I first started Zumba, I would not agree with the assessment that the moves were easy to follow. They weren't rocket science, but it wasn't something I picked up right away either. The good news is that -- although the songs in a class will change periodically -- there is usually some consistency from week to week, and the choreography for a song is always the same (often even from teacher to teacher). This allows you to improve over time, and to get the hang of what is actually going on. With time, new routines are easier to learn too (the basic steps or building blocks are the same, although they are combined in different ways in each song).

Here is a video of folks Zumba-ing. I like this one because it shows that there are people of all levels who Zumba. In the classes I've been to, this has definitely been the case. I started out like the person in the green who could barely keep up, but now I'm more like the one in the black who can do the moves, but doesn't exactly look natural doing them.



Depending on the teacher you have, there may be more or less of an emphasis on the Latin music. For example, I go to a class that has all Latin songs and moves and one that has a mix of Latin and more hip-hoppy songs. Find one that you like and works for you, and give it a shot.

A lot of the Google searches I get are about people's feet hurting. This happened to me and was initially enough to make me give up on Zumba. As I lost more weight, the pain dissipated and was less severe (I first Zumba-ed at probably around 270; now I am about 240 and have changed my body composition significantly so that I am now a lot of muscle). The key, though, I didn't discover until a few weeks ago.

I had very nice sneakers that were designed to be supportive. I got them specially fit at Fleet Feet to help with my overpronation and I have expensive arches to support my flat feet. However, I still had days wearing these sneakers when the work in Zumba made me want to keel over and die from the pain in my feet -- NO LONGER!!! Here is the secret (at least for me - and I was so skeptical): do Zumba barefoot.

The reason why is because your feet need to bend in the middle, similar to the way they would to point your toes. They can't do this when they are confined to a sneaker, and your arch will fight you and hurt like a mother to be able to do so. Have you ever seen dancing shoes? They basically have a sole only on the ball and heel of the foot, but in between (like on the arch) is leather so you can bend your feet. To Zumba I would suggest either getting a pair of dance shoes or just going barefoot.

Since I have gone barefoot (about 2 weeks ago), my feet do not hurt anymore during Zumba -- I think because they allow my feet to bend. The only problem with going shoe-less is that you lose a little support on songs where you have to jump -- but overall I highly recommend shoeless Zumba. Also, depending on the cleanliness of the gym or dance studio where you Zumba, your feet may get dirty. I don't consider it a big deal, but you might.

I have a BodyBugg that counts the number of calories I burn. As I said, I weigh 240ish so with that factored in I typically burn between 600 and 750 calories during an hour Zumba class. Not too shabby, eh? For Weight Watchers, I definitely consider this vigorous exercise and I factor it into the activity tracker accordingly.

Overall, my appraisal of Zumba is high. I first tried it last summer, and have been doing it on and off again since January. I really enjoy it, and I love that it is fun, goes quickly (more quickly for me than, say, working on a treadmill), and is helping me to move better. (I'm not ready for So You Think You Can Dance or anything, but I do feel more confident shakin' what my momma gave me now.) I recommend giving Zumba a shot. Please feel free to ask me any questions about Zumba in the comments -- I will answer them the best I can, or ask a friend who is a Zumba instructor.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Try try again

I used to hate failing. It's not that I relish it now, don't misunderstand, but failure now motivates me more than it used to, specifically with regards to athleticism and getting in shape.

You guys know if you've been reading the blog that I am recently obsessed with biking. Last week I made the plunge and decided to get a road bike. I have yet to name her, but I am leaning towards the name Carina which means "dear little one" or Eloise which means "very healthy and sound".

I decided to do it up and, in addition to getting a very nice entry level road bike, to get clipless pedals too. Real cyclists say that this is important to improve the transfer of power between your legs and the bike (allowing you to transfer power as you pull the pedals up in addition to just when you push the pedals down), so I decided why not?

The first day I got my bike I was really excited to ride it. The bike shop installed the pedals on my bike and the clips on my shoes, taught me how to clip in and clip out on a trainer (basically something that makes your bike like a stationary bike), and told me I'd want to go home and practice clipping in and out.

I took their advice. Foolishly, I decided to practice on an asphalt parking lot. Bad idea.

After I fell the first time, I decided that surely it was a fluke and if I just tried again I would not fall. Although I was humbled, I would not quit. I just spent a good chunk of change on this bike, and I will be using it darn it! I leaned up against the car, clipped in, and then practiced clipping in and out while leaning against the car. Once I felt more confident and comfortable, I did laps around the parking lot. I rode for 2.2 miles, pushing me over the fativersary goal I set for myself. I was happy. As I pulled up to my car, I had successfully clipped out my right foot and figured I was home free and would not fall.

Wrong. Fell again. Busted up the other leg, and got some scraped elbow as a bonus. I was humbled, and decided to quit for the day (it was getting dark and I was starving since I was just coming from the gym and it was about 8).

Well, last week was crazy. Truly truly crazy -- so crazy that I did not get another chance to practice riding my bike. However, I did get to watch a couple hours of TV (Survivor and Biggest Loser). As I watched, I leaned against the bar that separates my kitchen and living room. I clipped in. I clipped out. In. Out. In. Out. 3 hrs (-the commercials) worth.

Eventually it became more natural feeling and maybe even reflexive. It got easier to do. I decided I was ready to take it to the parking lot again. Yesterday the weather was rainy and crappy all day, but today I got to spend a half hour or so in the same parking lot, practicing. One of my students taught me a trick to clipless pedals. It is pretty genius and I wondered why I didn't think of myself. Here's the trick: clip in with one foot like usual. Use that foot to start pedaling and get going pretty well -- fast enough so that you can coast. Once you get going, then use the coasting time to clip the other foot in.

I decided to try this, and was kind of afraid I was going to fall. I didn't!!! I started, I stopped. Clipped in, clipped out. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I was proud of myself.

Eventually I decided I needed to try crazier maneuvers -- for example, keeping one foot clipped in like I stopped at a stop sign and then would need to start again. The first time I tried this, I was so so sure (and disappointed) that I was going to fall. To my surprise, my left foot realized that we were going down and in a moment of reflexive genius, twisted and unclipped. I was grateful to avoid another week of Neosporin and scabs. I had one other close call too, but was able to use the weird instinctive nature that took over. Those three hours of practicing while watching TV paid off!

I'm still not convinced I'm ready for primetime yet. I live on the top of a big hill. It's big enough that I reach 25ish MPH going down the hill in my heavy cruiser. Worse than that, there is a freaking stoplight at a busy intersection about a third of the way down said hill. How am I possibly going to swing that without falling?! I will figure it out, and I WILL do it! And I WILL get back up the hill too! I usually walk the cruiser up, but with 10 gears on my new bike there is no reason why I should do that anymore. I will definitely blog about it when my roadbike gets, you know, some time on the road. Or at *LEAST* a bike trail. Anywhere but a parking lot or my hallway, for the love.

I wrote this blog to say that I am proud of myself. In the past, I would have let my failure be another excuse to sit on my butt. I would have used it to reinforce my idea that activity sucks, and that I'd better just sit this one out. That sedentary lifestyles were really the way to go. I mean, fat people don't break bones -- only the crazies on their mountain bikes and climbing rocks and such. (Never mind the fact that they rarely keel over dead of heartattacks).

The problem was that years of sitting out time after time had really impeded my ability to live life to the fullest and, if I wasn't careful, to live life at all. Yes, my obesity was going to kill me. It already had killed my spirit.

Now that I am living life again, I don't get nearly as afraid when I fail. Now I let it push me. It motivates me to work and work until I conquer something. This girl is back in the game.

Now I'm not under the illusion that I am going to be Lance Armstrong-ette (minus the doping of course), but I am confident that I *will* be a competent to good road biker by the end of the summer. I will have damn good legs too. You can already see a bit of definition in my quads but by the end of the summer -- watch out!

Relapse

This is a hard blog entry to write.

I am a food addict. If you google food addition, I fit most if not all of the signs. Here is one of the lists I found.
  • Obsessed with thoughts about food.
  • Eats to relieve worry or stress.
  • Feels anxious while eating.
  • Worries or feels anxious while eating which results in more eating.
  • Overeats because the food is there.
  • Eats too fast so they can eat more.
  • Eats everything on the plate even when they feel full.
  • Feels guilty when they overeat.
  • Hides food so they can eat in secret away from other people.
  • Goes on a food binge after dieting or after trying to cut back.
  • Sees food as something to be avoided or as harmful.
Yep, I'm a prototypical food addict.

In the last year I have been in recovery. I have worked to try to find a place of moderation -- the place where I can enjoy food, recognize it as fuel for life, and not give it an undeservedly and unnecessarily elevated place on priority list.

If you read some addiction literature, they state "Relapse is a part of recovery."

Crap. This has been me this week. I have been eating crap that is not good for my body, and too much of it.

I have tried to figure out why this is happening? I still don't really know, but I think a lot of it is busy-ness. I didn't get a chance to go grocery shopping last weekend and I felt the effect of that all week. I had no eggs to eat in the morning. I couldn't pack lunches. I ate crap instead.

At first, it didn't show up on the scale, but it is starting to now. I've gained about 3 lbs. I caught myself almost writing "only" 3 lbs. Isn't it funny how we are quick to dismiss modest losses, and even are sometimes disappointed with them, but here I am about to rationalize gaining "only" 3 lbs? That would be a very very good weight loss week, or more likely two pretty good weeks. I've sabotaged myself here and gained that back in a week, but I am quick to minimize it.

Can I make a confession though? I read a lot. From my reading (and from common sense really) I know my body is supposed to not like this food and not function as well on all the chemicals and sugar and fat. I have to say, though, I feel fine and like those chemicals haven't really affected me at all. I could be living in a state of denial but seriously, I did just as well at the gym this week as I did any other week. Nonetheless I know that donuts and sausage rolls and excessive amounts of pizza and soda are not good for me, or my heart and that I cannot make good friends with them like I used to be. I still believe I can stop by and say hi once in awhile, but we can't be besties like we used to be.

I will not let my hard work go totally to waste. I cannot let this become a gateway to gaining all of this weight back. I need to get back on track, but this is hard.

I remember when I first started this journey, every decision was hard. I had to fight to make most decisions wisely. Eventually, it became easier because the "good" decisions felt natural and the old decisions I used to make all the time felt splurge-y and indulgent. I am getting back to the place where those old decisions are becoming more natural and reflexive. I need to get back to the place where the healthy decisions are the default ones.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One Year Fativersary

4/21/09 I said enough. Enough being fat. Enough making excuses. Enough being unhealthy. Enough enough enough.

I had been going to counseling for awhile to work through some major depression issues, and finally I decided that I could take charge of my weight too. No more giving away my power to bags of chips and boxes of cookies. Although these things made me feel good for very brief moments, they had ultimately robbed the life from my eyes and the joy from my heart. And, one year ago today, I said enough.

I joined Weight Watchers. I decided to get serious about getting healthy. I decided I was worth it. I decided to make a change.

Today I can say that in many ways I am just not at all the same person I was a little over a year ago. The life is back in my eyes. I can do so much more than I could a year ago and, actually, more than I would have probably thought I could do ever. I am back in the game, and I love it.

To show you one of the ways in which I have changed, I will illustrate with a small story. Two bloggers -- Jen and Tony -- challenged each other to an exercise-off. Tony challenged Jen to do 99 minutes on the Stairmaster, and Jen accepted. They also challenged each other to get 200 other people to join them (virtually) on 4/20 for an hour long workout. I accepted (TEAM TONY!!).

Let me provide a little context for you. This is the end of the semester. I have been slammed. I haven't had time to watch any TV or to get on FB that much. It has sucked to be so busy. Tonight I had a banquet for work. I didn't get home until about 9:30. In the past that would have been the PERFECT excuse to not be able to do this workout. In fact, I probably wouldn't have even needed an excuse not to work out because I never did work out really!

Today, though, I soldiered through and did 1 hr. 15 min. at the gym despite my insane levels of busy-ness. I was proud of my self. Working out and taking care of myself trumps the excuses not to work out. Plus, I had to honor my commitment to Team Tony.

As a part of the challenge, Tony challenged us to get out of our comfort zone at the gym today. I realized, you know what? My comfort zone is pretty darned large and growing all the time. I remember when I started going to the gym a year ago, I only felt comfortable swimming. (Yes, I too find it ironic that the only place this 300 lb lady felt comfortable was in a bathing suit in the pool). Swimming was the one form of exercise I knew I could do without a problem. I remember a friend of mine at the time challenged me to take a group exercise class, and said it would be harder than swimming laps. I protested.

"Do you know how hard it is to swim laps?!" I asked. He did not relent. Eventually I went to a class to prove him wrong. However, I realized about 15 minutes into my first water aerobics class that he was right. Oops. I persisted though and now I think those classes are not bad. I feel I get a good workout in, sure, but I no longer want to die at the conclusion of each class.

Tenuous, I decided to explore other parts of the gym. In June I got a personal trainer. She taught me how to use the weight machines. She helped me understand how to lift free weights. She taught me about planks and pushups and Bosu balls. She got me started using that machine that I hated, the freaking elliptical machine.

Eventually, I got really pissed off at that stupid elliptical. How could I let this machinery beat me? I would definitely have to show it I could in fact conquer it. When I started I used to be able to only do about 10 minutes at level 1. I would then feel like I was going to die. I worked and worked and worked at it. My goal was to, eventually, be able to do an hour. I remember the first day I went 45 minutes in August. I felt so powerful. A few weeks later I knocked out an hour. Now it's not a problem to do an hour or more at all, even on level 10.

With time, I became more and more of a gym rat. I started doing Zumba. At first I couldn't follow the steps, and it definitely hurt my feet. Now I can do it without a problem, and it is something I looked forward to. I started going to spin class and I loved it. I went to BodyPump regularly (a weightlifting class), and eventually decided that I wanted a gun show. I continue working toward that goal now, and making very good progress. There really are no classes at the gym now that intimidate me. It's not that I can do everything in all of them (psh, don't I wish!), but the point is that I am not afraid. I do what I can and get better at these things every day. I have a very large comfort zone at the gym. I think the gym is my place of refuge now. Given the lengths I used to go to to avoid going to the gym it is ironic, isn't it?

I have not written about this on my blog, but our town hosts a big biking stage race every year. It is a big deal, and the cyclists who participate are professionals. I remember being curious last year and deciding to attend the criterium (basically like riding laps on the road in a bike race format). I remember being impressed at the cyclists' legs, particularly the definition of their quads. I silently thought to myself, "You know, I wish I could do that." It was so far out of my comfort range, though, I thought I would never be able to bike.

Fast forward a year. I am loving bike riding. I made a goal awhile back that I would bike 75 miles by my fativersary and I can very happily report that I made that goal last night, with a bit of room to spare. I am not going to pretend to be a cycling pro, but I have confidence that I will be a proficient road biker by the end of the summer. Someday I will even be confident in spandex; for now I just grin it and bear it though. Although biking is getting to be more in my comfort zone, spandex still is not.

In the last year I have lost almost 60 lbs.
In the last year I have gone surfing.
In the last year, I have been able to not need the belt extender on airplanes anymore.
In the last year, I have gone from a size 26 to a size 18.
In the last year, I have started to rock a gun show.
In the last year, I have begun to cycle.
In the last year, I started lifting weights.
In the last year, I have reached a level of fitness I thought I would never see again and maybe am in better shape than ever.

Most importantly, though, in the last year I have reconnected with myself. The light has returned to my eyes. I have regained my life. That is worth more than any weight loss is.

Happy one year fativersary to me. To bigger goals in the upcoming year.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mourning

First of all I wanted to make a correction to my earlier post. My dad was apparently awake yesterday for awhile. He did 2 hours of handyman type work at the house of a client of my mom's (she does assisted living/homecare agency type stuff). My story was (unintentionally) inaccurate.

I wanted to let you know that this afternoon has been kind of tough.

I remember spending the last week of my grandma's life at the hospice with her. It was tough too as her descent was very rapid and heartbreaking. She suffered from dementia when we arrived, but we watched her slip even deeper into that and, eventually, into a coma from renal failure during our week in the hospice before seeing her pass.

I learned a lot while we were at the hospice the hospice (including that I had not severed my emotional ties to food -- this was the start of gaining back the 60 lbs I lost), but the lessons I am talking about were primarily about myself and about death. Many people are able to resist death and fight through it for a long long time (up to two weeks or even a month sometimes) when they have unresolved issues. It was clear that it was my grandma's time to go about 3-4 days before she actually died.

It was also clear, though, that she was NOT ready and was NOT going until she took care of something. The nurses at the hospice kept telling my mom and I (who were there with her the whole time), "She is not ready yet. There is something she needs to hear or wants to take care of." My mom wracked her brain. What could it be? What did she need to hear?

She went through tons of hypotheses. None of them seemed to be what she needed to hear.

One night -- it was a Tuesday I think -- mom was talking to Mema, running through scores of possibilities of what it was that she needed to hear to feel comfortable crossing over, and also telling her that we loved her and would be ok when she decided to go. Finally around 11:30 I decided I needed to get some sleep. Mom continued to talk to Mema, telling her things would be ok for those of us who would be left here. Finally, she told Mema the thing she needed to hear (my mom had no idea this one particular issue was the one that had been troubling Mema, or she would have said it much earlier!).

The nurses came and woke me up at around 12:15. "I think you might want to come in here. I think she is ready to go," they told me kindly. I went into Mema's room and with tears in my eyes and love in my heart I told her that I loved her and would miss her, but that it would be ok. It was hard, but it was probably harder to see her in such a pitiful place before she left. She died at 12:22. I was glad it was over and that she could be in peace.

The last days were painful. They were hard on us, and I am sure they sucked for Mema too.

I agonized all day today over how I should handle this situation with my dad. Should I say anything? If so, what? And also how?

A letter? I was not sure that if I wrote one, that it would get there in time.

A phone call? No. There is a good chance he would say something stupid, and I would get even angrier. And I don't want to have to think about this anymore. And I don't want to blow up at him. There is a good chance that whatever I said would not be what he heard in the spirit it was meant, and vice versa. I don't want my last memory to be a bad one. What would that help? Nope. A phone call was definitely out.

I decided to text him.

"Just wanted to let you know I forgive you," I typed out on my keyboard. Not sure if he remembers that I have said this before. Just wanted to let him know that he has my forgiveness. If that is one thing that he needs to ease down the path toward whatever comes next, I freely and genuinely give it to him. It is out of my hands.

He tried to call me. I was at the colleague's house for dinner and mercifully I did not feel my phone vibrating to let me know I had an incoming call. He left a voicemail.

He sounded terrible on the voicemail. The message started with him coughing. "Thanks for the message Sarah. Wanted to let you know I love you." Click.

I'm not sure I believe him. I am not sure he knows how to love anyone other than himself. I'm also not sure that it matters. I have done what I can, and I will definitely keep the message as something to remember him by just in case it is in fact time for him to go.

When I listened to the message as I left to go home, I started to cry. I cried several times today actually. And do you know what?

I realized that I am already in mourning. It's not so much for my dad's passing-- if it even comes now. I am sad because I laid to rest the possibility that he and I will have a relationship awhile ago. There was an outside chance that he would come around and we would reconcile, but that chance is growing slimmer and slimmer. If he dies, the chance will die completely. I am mourning the fact that I never really felt like I had a dad that I could trust, or one that put our family on his priority list ahead of himself, or one that I even liked after awhile. I am mourning for what never was rather than mourning for what might be lost if he dies.

Who knows what will happen next. I do forgive dad, and if that is the last he hears from me I am glad that he knows.

Wow this sucks for all involved. No one is really a winner here. And food will not help me deal with this situation. It didn't help when Mema died, and it won't help now whether or not my dad ultimately ends up staying here or moving on to whatever happens in the next life.

Numb

Yesterday morning I got a call from my mom. We usually talk on Saturday mornings (or at least IM ) to fill each other in on any news that transpired that week, so I was not surprised to hear from her.

What did surprise me, however, was the trepidation I heard in her voice.

"I want to talk to you about something hard," she said. I steeled myself, not sure what to expect but not expecting whatever the upcoming conversation was to be good.

She went on to tell me that my dad (who has recently retired and been struggling from health problems) has not been doing great. When she came home from working an overnight shift at around 9:30, he was still sleeping. For someone who used to regularly wake up at 4:30 or 5:00, but would "sleep in" until 6:00 on the weekends, this struck me as unusual. He woke up briefly to say hi, and then relocated to the couch, where he slept most of the day away. Mom woke him up for dinner at 5:30ish, and then woke him up at 8:00 PM to tell him it was bedtime. He has an appointment with the cardiologist this week, and who knows what if anything they will find. Hopefully they can help him. He is sleeping more and more, and generally just not doing well. Although it could be a raging case of depression, it could mean that his health is going downhill fast.

This understandably scares and upsets my mom. I could hear the fear in her voice as she told me that she wakes up several times throughout the night to check if he is still breathing. Her brother died in his sleep of a heart attack when he was around 50; my dad is now 65. Her brother had yo yo dieted his whole life, but was training for the Ironman when he died. He was in good shape then. My dad is not.

"I know this is hard for you to hear, but I just wanted to let you know. If there is any last business you want to take care of with your dad, you might want to do it now. I didn't want you to be blindsided."

Well, damn. That's pretty heavy to hear.

Although I have not gone into the details here (and I probably won't), my dad and I have a relationship that is tenuous at best but probably is more accurately described as non-existant. I found out my senior year of college that he had been living a secret life that caught my entire family off guard. Although I had issues with my dad prior (particularly his emotional distance from our whole family), this really brought the issues to a head. I felt like my world was crumbling down around me. This was probably the first really dark bout of depression that I faced in my life. I could barely do anything when I found out.

Dad ended up going to jail for what he did. It really put a cloud over my first year of grad school. If you ever want to feel like white trash, spend Christmas eve in jail with your father and the rest of your family. You will feel like a huge loser. Unfortunately I can tell you this from firsthand experience.

I think the time that dad had in jail ironically ended up giving me -- and I think the rest of my family -- hope. Dad was able to be released every Friday to go to counseling and to go to an AA-like group to help him work through his issues. My dad has always been self conscious about writing and had never been in good control of his emotions. While he was in jail, though, he would write us letters and tell us about how he wanted to change. His letters actually had substance, not just the vague puffery and small talk like conversations I'd had with him my whole life.

I really tried to build a relationship with him during this time -- one that I had either not had in a very long time, or never. Eventually, though, I became convinced that he had not changed. After his release, his promises were still empty. His words were still shallow. And what stung the most, is that he still expected everything to revolve around him -- AS IF!!!!! Basically, I felt like everything was back to business as usual, with two major differences. First, we knew about this creepy stuff he dealt with that had led him to jail. Second, he was telling us how much he had changed while doing the same old stuff. Sorry, this girl doesn't buy it.

The whole experience left me -- and both of my brothers -- really wanting nothing to do with the jerk. While it is sad, I think it is ultimately better and definitely a coping mechanism for us to just cut ourselves off. Things at home are so bad that I have not been home for two Christmases and I really try to schedule time to go home only when I know he will not be there. And it's not like I'm doing anything great on Christmas either. I usually just stay here -- alone -- and am sad. Nonetheless, it is better than going home.

The hard part is that it puts my mom in the middle.

So that's a brief and cryptic history of the situation. So back to yesterday.

"...if you want to resolve anything, I think now might be a good time."

*SILENCE*

I was surprised to know that I felt...nothing. I didn't cry. And to be honest, I really didn't even care.

I feel badly for my mom. I want to support her, but as to my dad's failing health? I was surprisingly ambivalent.

When I called a friend to talk about it, she said "You sound upset not at the fact that your dad is sick, but because you feel like you should be upset and you're not."

Ding ding ding. She was right.

The more I thought about the situation, though, the angrier I got. I don't even know who I am angry with.

Unfinished business?! I mean seriously, what can I do?
I have forgiven him. I have let him know that.
I have tried to have a relationship with him, but after being burned on this several times I am over that.

I am not the one who caused the situation in the first place. I have tried to build bridges and mend fences, but after having them sabotaged several times why would I bother anymore? And more fundamentally, HOW IS THIS EVEN MY RESPONSIBILITY?! I AM NOT THE ONE WHO WRECKED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE!! HOW CAN I ONCE AGAIN BE EXPECTED TO COVER FOR THIS LOSER?

Embarking on this journey to get healthy has really underscored to me the importance of not taking a day for granted and not letting life pass you by without really engaging in it. I am angry with myself that I spent so much time fat and a spectator in my own life, rather than grabbing the bull by the horns and steering the ship of my life myself. I am truly trying to live a life without regrets, and one that I can be proud of.

That is why, in this situation, I am sad that I am just numb to the whole thing. I really just want the situation to go away. I am sitting on the sidelines on this one, just like I used to do with my whole entire life.

I don't wish my dad a slow and painful death or anything, but I also don't really wish him a speedy recovery either. I really just don't care either way. And I am sad because of my indifference and because of the lack of a relationship with a father that I never really knew, not because my dad is dying. And that makes me feel like a huge bitch. I just feel numb to this.

I wonder how I will feel when he actually dies.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Relative progress

You know, it is funny. Each time I post a set of these progress pictures, I am like "Dang, I am looking really good now!" Then when I post the next set of progress pictures and look through the old ones, I am like "Man I was looking pretty big there!" (For the record - Feb. '10, Jan. '10, Nov. '09)

The reality is that I still have 60-80 lbs to lose. However, seeing all of these changes to my body is really gratifying and the truth is I really do look better than I have in a long time. But I am sure when I post the next step I will think I looked big now. And the reason is because I am big now. I am still obese.

I guess what I am saying is, the way you feel about where you are really depends on where you are coming from. Coming from 300 lbs, I feel pretty darned good here in the low 240s. I know that weight would mortify a lot of people, but I am really enjoying it now although I am sure when I am in the 220s I will think I looked big in the 240s :)

It really is all relative. I'm going to keep going and, hopefully, be truly feeling great and looking great -- not only in the relative sense but in the objective one as well.

And, most importantly, I want to be healthy and able to take most any female DOWN in the gym. Not that I'm competitive.

Commit to Fit wrapup, Measurements, and Progress Pictures

This semester, I participated in a program called Commit to Fit. They had several strength training sessions throughout the week, and did an initial, midterm, and final assessment of body composition and weight over the course of the midweek program.

In parallel, I also decided to take initial measurements and final measurements. Over the course of the program, I lost 16 lbs. Their measurement says that my body fat percentage remained the same (which by the way is still good given that my overall weight decreased), but my scale says that my body fat percentage has decreased and my muscle weight percentage has increased.

Most encouraging, though, is the fact that I lost 13.25" in 10 weeks. Can you believe that?! I have lost 1.5" on each arm, as I continue to push toward that August 1 gun show goal.

I took another set of progress pictures.


This shirt is too baggy for you to really see what is going on, but things look much better underneath, I promise. What I can tell you, though, is that when I started this journey I could not even wear this shirt in public as it was too tight to look decent. (Also, my posture in the second picture is terrible. Although 4.25" of the 13.25 did come from the chest, I promise the situation is not as bleak as it appears. I came directly from the gym in this picture, and that Enell sports bra is really doing its job of keeping the ladies confined - I wholeheartedly recommend that bra to well-endowed active ladies.)

I think you can see a lot of improvement since the beginning of the year. My face looks skinnier. My midsection is shrinking, right along with my chest. My arms too. Everything is toning up. Gotta keep the progress moving!

Swimming a Mile

As I mentioned, this semester I took a swim class at the gym at school. This Thursday was the last time our class met, and we swam a mile for time. They had been warning us that this was coming for awhile, and helping us to build up our times.

Here is a picture of me with the instructors of swim class, Colby and Sarah Beth. This was taken after I swam the mile that I describe in this post.
PS Can you believe I am posting a picture of me in a swimsuit online? Because I can't.

In case you're not familiar, to swim a mile you should go 1650 yards. This is 33 laps, or "down and backs" -- 66 lengths of the pool. Now that I am in shape, endurance/stamina really is not my problem. I probably could swim 5 miles if I were really pressed to, in fact -- but I would be hard pressed to do it quickly. Thus, I was excited about the opportunity to do this race for time. It will be another way for me to document how I will improve at getting in shape over time (given that this is the first time I have ever swum this distance for time).

Sadly/fortunately, the ranks of our class really thinned out over the course of the semester. In fact, there were so few people on the last day that each of us got our own half a lane. I was on the outside half lane, so I didn't have a great view of everything that was going on.

Here's the rundown of the folks who were in the class: there were five swimmers. I will describe them in the order we were placed in the lanes. The cast of characters were:
  • Moi.
  • Hairy - Really nice guy who swam next to me. He swam in the faster half of the slow lane back when a bunch of people came. Named Hairy because he has been growing out his beard all semester. Doesn't he know that will slow him down by causing drag in?! (Joke)
  • New Guy - He came only for the last part of class. He is quiet and faster than I am. Pretty buff guy, but I know nothing about his personality.
  • The Situation - This guy is a complete moron just like that loser from the Jersey Shore. He is ripped, but I think his mouth/attitude/ego are even bigger than his muscles (which, admittedly are large). He talks a HUGE game about how fast he is but will often choke with muscle cramps and stop swimming. He has a huge crush on our instructor but will not admit it. I. CANNOT. STAND. THIS. GUY!!!
  • Igor - This is the dude's real name. Not too sure what to say about him other than I think he is the kind of guy who is good at things, but tries to get away with doing the minimum. He is kind of whiny when they make us do hard things in class.
The swim instructors told us to arrive early and get warmed up. I made sure to get a 200 in before class so that I was ready to go. I also stretched, which I had been sloppy about doing all semester.

When they told us to go, Hairy and I swam at the same pace for the first several laps. My flip turns are good, so I was able to keep up with him and pass him slightly on each turn. He would then swim faster than me and catch up by the end of the lane. We were even for probably the first 200-300 yards (out of 1650). Although my view was limited, I could see that New Guy and the Situation took off really fast and passed us early on. I was trying to be aggressive with my time, yes, but I also wanted to make sure I could go the whole time at a decent pace. I thought for sure the Situation would go fast but then flame out and that I would pass him at some point.

As time progressed, I could see that New Guy had lapped me twice. I also began to pull away from Hairy. My goal was to lap him. As someone who has been lapped her ENTIRE swimming career, I did want to know what that felt like to be able to lap someone else. (In case you're curious it feels great.) In fact, I ended up lapping him four times. I think what happened is that he would stop at the end of the lane to catch his breath, and the little breaks got longer and longer each lap whereas I just powered through (again, I am built for endurance but not really for speed). I could not see what the Situation was doing and -- because Igor arrived 8 minutes after the rest of us had already been going -- I had no idea Igor was even in the picture.

Around lap 10 I lost count of how many laps I had done. However, I was able to see that the New Guy lapped me twice. Because I had lost track of the number of laps I had done (and as a result, how many I had left to go), I did not know when to really give it my final push. Ideally, I would have loved to pick up the pace with about 5 laps remaining. However, I had no idea when that actually was in my part of the race. Our instructors had told us they thought it would take us between 30 and 40 minutes to finish. I calculated that if I did 1:00 laps, it would take me 33 minutes so I did not start to wonder how close to the end I was until the clock turned to 33:00. After that, though, I kept an eye for New Guy to be stopped and resting at the end of the lane. I knew that when I saw it, that was my cue to really pick up the pace and make a strong dash for the finish since I would have only two laps remaining.

When I saw he had stopped, I began to push really hard toward the finish line. I gave it what I had. When I pulled up to the finish line, I heard that someone finished in 38:41 and someone finished in 38:44. I thought the Situation beat me by 3 seconds and I was SO ANGRY at myself. When I asked "Did he really just beat me by 3 seconds?", my instructor said, "No! You beat him!" Man, did that feel great!! My final time was 38:41. This equates to 50s that were done around a 1:10 pace. So nice to beat him, even though I tried not to be a sore winner.

I was pleased with my time (although I didn't really know what to expect), and was certainly happy that I had beaten the Situation. However, I was slightly annoyed at myself because I had some gas left in the tank and I wish I would have been able to turn up the effort a few laps earlier. Oh well, next time I will keep better track.

This semester in swim class, I had three main goals.
  1. I wanted to improve my stroke. I think I can consider this a success. My freestyle is probably a bit better. They taught me to correctly do the backstroke, which I think is now much better than when I started. I can kind of do the fly, which is more than I can say at the beginning of the class. I still suck at (and despise) the breaststroke though. Overall, though, I say this goal was met.
  2. I wanted to get faster. I do not have any data to confirm that this goal was met, but I do think it was. Plenty of room for improvement on this goal though.
  3. I wanted to be able to get out of the pool on the blocks. Even in high school, I used to have to use the ladder to get out of the pool. I wanted to not have to rely on this anymore. I can now easily get out of the pool on the blocks. This feels great to have accomplished. GUN SHOW BABY!!
Overall I would give myself a B+ or A- for my effort in this class. All of my absences were "excused" (not that they took attendance, but I didn't go if I was legitimately sick, out of town for business, etc. and always went when I could). I could have improved my attitude toward the relays, but overall I really did give my best in 95% of all cases, trying to do what they asked even when I was too slow or unable to.

I hear they are offering this class again in the summer. I am excited to take it. I would love to be able to swim the mile in 35 minutes next time. Thanks Sarah Beth and Colby for a great class, and thank you Situation for allowing me to feel the thrill of victory!!! Better luck next time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Big Milestones Ahead

Have you ever driven on a trip before and, because it's not new to you, you start to anticipate milestones that you know are coming up?
"Oh, we're about 20 miles from the mountains and it's so beautiful when we drive through them."
"Wow, the snack bar at the QuikTrip is to die for, we should stop and get a soda when we get to the Springfield exit."
"I can't stand the smell of cows when we get to the Oklahoma border."

This is kind of where I am on my journey right now. As I've mentioned, I've only ever lost this weight one time before, but wow was it memorable! I'm coming up on some familiar territory, and I'm looking forward to it.

The first time I lost weight was in graduate school, and I started out at 289.5. I eventually worked my way down to 229.5. I lost these 60 lbs not by doing anything special really. I ate healthy and swam a lot, but I did this totally without a program. I basically just tried to eat whole foods, including tons of vegetables. I didn't count calories or WW points, I just freestyled it. It worked, but I was not able to get any lower. In retrospect although my diet was healthy I was eating too much and not controlling portion sizes. Having been on WW for awhile now, I can also say that I drank a ton of milk the first time around. This isn't something I do much anymore because milk is actually pretty high in points.

I hung out at 229.5 for awhile (probably 4-5 months). During the Christmas season, I gained 5 lbs. and hung out around 235 for a good long while (probably 8 months). I then began to gain weight, as I have written about before. The most intense period of my weight gain was after my grandma died, but traveling around to get a job and not cooking much while finishing my dissertation did not help either.

I am pleased to announce that I am about to enter this territory once again. This morning I weighed in at 241.8, which is about 2.5 lbs away from a total of a 60 lb. loss. This was where I bottomed out the first time. I am also about 12.5 lbs away from my lowest weight ever as an adult. I will be elated when I get there. I'm already fitting back into many of the pants that I wore back when I was at my lowest weight, and wow does that feel great!

What lies beyond this familar-ish territory that I haven't been to in awhile? I have no idea.

I have to say that I never really understood it when people got scared as they are losing weight. I can mentally process why people freak out when they get unwanted attention from men, but -- having never been the focus of men's attention -- I could not really identify with it.

Now, I can say that I am kind of afraid of losing this weight. I have no idea why. I don't even consciously acknowledge this fear. However, when people do talk about reaching their goals, I cry -- and I am pretty sure it is not a happy cry, but a fearful "OMG what will I do?!" cry. I am not sure what I think about this, but I continue to explore this question when I have time to think about such things. I want to be proactive about dealing with this BEFORE I get anywhere near my goal weight rather than getting near the goal, freaking out, and running like hell away from it.

Speaking of goals -- I am only 15 miles away from my fativersary goal. I have ridden a total of 105 miles since I got my odometer/computer put on my bike and I can't wait to knock this goal -- the one I was so skeptical about making -- off of the list and out of the park.

Friday, April 9, 2010

OBSESSION!!!!

I have always been...how can I phrase this politely or not paint myself in TOO bad a light...highly passionate about some things. The things change over time, but man, when I get engaged in an activity or hobby or interest, I devote myself to learning about it and participating 100%.

This can be great, but the unfortunate part about it all is that once I am over something, I am SO over it. I used to watch the Rosie show everyday when I was in college. This was in the days before DVR, so this meant that I would arrange my schedule so that I could be home to watch that show. I watched with intense interest as she had her desk competition that had different viewers design a desk everyday. I read her biographies. People told me that in real life she was mean and short with her staff, but I would not believe it and ignored them. I wanted to believe what I wanted to believe. Now I am completely over Rosie, and I cringe when I see her. Man she drives me nuts.

There are other things that I get obsessed with and then I just kind of fizzle out on. I used to be this way with keeping up to date with what is going on on Broadway -- I would read message boards like BroadwayWorld and All that Chat... Although I still like Broadway and especially musical theatre, I am in no way obsessed with it anymore and I just don't have the capacity to be so so into it anymore.

This kind of scares me about the weight loss thing, and is one of the beefs I have with Weight Watchers (although this one is an indictment of me and my personality, not Weight Watchers). I like to track. I am an engineer, and I love data and metrics and numbers. This part of the point system really appeals to my analytical side.

However, if I am not careful I let the obsessive side of me take over and let tracking take on an unnaturally and unjustifiably large place on my priority list. I see points in everything. I become OBSESSED with tracking both food and activity points. I'm not very good about letting Weight Watchers be in the background of my life -- it is either front and center, or I'm really not tracking at all. Though I lose a ton of weight when I track, I hate that I feel like I have to be so obsessive about it. I want WW to be just one more thing I do, like driving to work, or brushing my teeth in the morning. I don't want to think about it all the time. I realized that if I am not careful when I am tracking, I think about WW as much as I used to think about food which was almost always. I am trying to reach a point of moderation with this. Does anyone else identify with this or have suggestions? I welcome them.

Also speaking of obsession I think I am kind of obsessed with bike riding right now. Although I am glad to be obsessed with something healthy, I realize that being obsessed with anything isn't great. I am now about 30 miles from my Fativersary goal of riding 120 by April 21. This totally doable -- all I will have to do is ride my bike to work 3 more times and I've got it in the bag!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Credibility

Because of traveling with work, double booking myself, and having my brother in town, I have been unable to attend my regular WW meeting. I really like my usual meeting and it is far and away the best one for my schedule since it doesn't interfere with my workout schedule or work like those at night and those during the day (not at lunch).

However, the weird things going on in my schedule have caused me to bounce around a bit to see different meetings and different leaders. I have really enjoyed most of them. However, today's makeup meeting has me a bit flummoxed.

I loved the meeting. The leader was upbeat and I loved her personality. LOVED IT! However, this lady was overweight. I am not good at estimating weights or anything, but if I had to guess she is probably about my size or bigger. Now I'm definitely on my way/weigh to doing the right thing, but I am definitely not there yet. But here's the thing: I'm not a Weight Watchers leader.

This is an important reminder to me that you really need to walk the walk if you want to have credibility. Although I know for a fact that you need to move more to lose more (the topic of today's WW meeting), it was hard for me to take everything that the WW leader said seriously since she was overweight. Her credibility with me was limited at best.

I'm not sure what to think about the whole thing and, more broadly, I'm not sure what to think about plus sized role models. I'm all about loving yourself and accepting yourself. But I'm also all about bettering yourself which involves getting healthy and usually involves losing the weight. This is something I need to think about some more I think.

Weight Watchers - Week 13

This week I gained 3 lbs. I had an indulgent Easter, but it wasn't too out of hand. I have been traveling this week, so my exercise was not up to par nor was my eating. Probably I'm also retaining a bit of water too because of the travel. Next week I'll do better. I'm in this for the long haul, so although this is a bump in the road it is not the end of me. My gain is not incredibly unexpected although I am surprised at the amount I gained.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weight Watchers - Week 12

Forgot to mention it, but I lost 4.6 lbs last week on Weight Watchers. I had started tracking again after a long hiatus from it and wow it made a difference! DANG!

I will write a post at some point about my feelings about tracking. I know it works, and I actually like it -- but part of me dislikes it because I get obsessed with it, just like I used to be with food and eating. I am trying to find a place of moderation, which has never ever been my strong suit.

Cute picture

Here is a cute picture of Daisy I took on a recent bike ride to Lake Fayetteville. Actually, this was the first time I found the street linkage between the trail system, and the trail around Lake Fayetteville.


I usually take my camera on my adventures, but it is harder for me to take pictures while biking than when I walk. I need to do better about this, and I want more pictures of Daisy and I together.

Spring Break

Spring break here was several weeks ago. My brother David came from Ohio, and we rented a cabin in Ponca, right on the Buffalo River. This country is truly truly beautiful. If you ever get a chance to visit this area of the country, you should.

Our days were filled with hiking. We had a great time. Here are some of my favorite pictures.

Ironically it snowed. During spring break. In Arkansas. REALLY?!? (Really. Photographic evidence here.)

We did not let this deter us. We hiked up to Eden Falls in the snow and the rain. I even hiked across the river to get this picture. Was I cold and wet for hours afterwards? Yes. Would I do it again? Probably not. But it was memorable and something I will always remember doing with my brother (with pleasure).


The next day we walked to Triple Falls. All of the melting snow had really helped the waterfalls to really get moving. Beautiful and a super easy walk. Treacherous driving, though, down steep, muddy roads in a minivan.


Here is David at the end of a trail that I don't remember the name of. It was seriously down a dirt road to nowhere. FOREAL! Deliverance, Arkansas at its finest.


Me beneath Haley Falls.

Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker Point. One of the most photographed spots in Arkansas. It was even on the cover of the atlas a few years ago!

On this vacation, David and I were talking about how he came to Arkansas last year for spring break. Would you believe that I was so deeply entrenched in the haze of depression that I did not remember this at. all?!? I could not believe it. Wow, I am in so much of a better place this year than last. David and I had a great time.

Cardinals

My grandma's favorite birds were cardinals. She loved them. I am not sure if there are more cardinals here or if I just notice them more, but I would say that most of the times when I go walking or lately even riding my bike I see cardinals. Here is one that I saw when I was walking the trail to the Crystal Bridges overlook.


One day one seriously followed me. This was the spring/summer I was coming out of my depression. I was feeling kind of low and, no kidding, this little guy flitted around the 5.5 trail around Lake Fayetteville, following me and hopping from tree to tree. It was a powerful reminder that I am not alone.

I love it when I see the cardinals. They remind me of Mema. I loved her, and I miss her. Here she is, teaching me to ride my first bike in her driveway.

The environment

I have been riding my bike quite a bit lately. I love it. Incidentally, I want to go public and so I am more likely to meet my fativersary goal. I would like to ride between 75 and 80 miles from the time I wrote the post. I will meet this goal when the odometer on my bike reads 120. As of today it reads 76.6, which is progress from the 45ish that it read when I started on Saturday. Maybe this goal *is* doable. It depends on the weather, as well as my schedule (for example, I am out of town for a few days this week, making it impossible to bike then). I thought it was a real stretch when I made the goal.

One of the things I have been noticing is the importance of the environment when biking. My commute is about 5.5 miles each way, and it takes me about 35 minutes on a normal day. However, life can change a lot depending on the wind. A headwind (aka, riding into the wind) sucks so hard, and -- although I am sure a tailwind is great -- I have to say I rarely notice it.

Isn't that how life is? I am often so quick to realize (and complain about) it when life sucks. However, when life is going really well, I don't always notice it. It is just like riding with a tailwind. The going is easy and I feel so fast. I feel like I am floating sometimes. I can't take credit though. I mean, ok, I am doing SOME of the work but mostly it's just that the environment is making easy for me to succeed. It helps out, and without even making a huge impression or without me even noticing it.

Isn't that what this weight loss journey is like sometimes? For me it is. Sometimes life is going so well, and I barely notice that I'm making progress towards my goals. It's just part of the routine. I've got a weight loss tailwind. Sometimes, however, I have to struggle for every. single. good. choice. I need to try to notice when life is good, and when I am actually riding with a tailwind rather than just lamenting the headwinds.

To all of my friends in real life, I really appreciate it when you help me out with my journey. I appreciate it when you are willing to go to healthier restaurants. I appreciate your patience when I have to ask for nutritional information. I appreciate when you have fruits and veggies instead of or in addition to normal unhealthy appetizer food. And most of all, I appreciate you listening to me when I am upset, or encouraging me along this road. You are my tailwind, and I will try to take you for granted less. You have been an important part of my journey so far, and I am grateful for your help -- even when I don't even realize that you're helping.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Upcoming Fativersary Goal

This morning I had the lowest weight I have seen so far on this journey. I think it was 240.8 (although I don't remember exactly). I feel like I have my WL mojo back. I have been counting points again (I took a few week hiatus from it), and the scale is really moving.

My 1 year fativersary is coming up soon. On April 21, 2009 I said "Enough" and decided to join Weight Watchers and get serious about getting healthy. Although I am by no means "there" yet (wherever "there" even is), I am SIGNIFICANTLY closer to there than I was last year.

I want to set an aggressive but achievable goal for my fativersary. I hate to make weight goals on a timeline, so I am hesitant to do that. Does anyone have any other types of goals that I could set for the next 18 days? I welcome your suggestions (as well as what types of healthy celebrations would be appropriate on my fativersary)!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Back in the Game

My blog, as you can tell, has been hijacked (by me) for reasons other than weight loss. I am considering starting a blog about whatever -- my general musings in life -- but I am not sure. I'm still mulling it over. If I start one, I will let you know and stop interrupting this blog with other stuff.

Today's post is back to the normal topic: my struggles with (and victories against!) the war on fat, slovenliness, and being unhealthy. Let me start with a story.

Since my senior year of high school, I have liked swimming. In college, the gym was up a ginormous hill (seriously -- this hill was so steep and long they called it cardiac hill because several people died of heart attacks on this hill). Although I love to go swimming, the trip up this hill to the pool from my dorm prevented me from going as much as I would like.

Despite the distance, my freshman year (1997-1998), I managed to get a gift at the pool: I got some sort of fungal infection on my foot. That spread to my toenails and, for 10 years, I struggled with fungus toenails. If you have never seen them, don't go out of your way to do so. They are gross and yellow, and are so thick that I eventually had to use tools like pliers and as well as my engineering degree and creativity and knowhow (no exaggeration) to cut them. Finally, this year I was able to stay the entire course of treatment and now I am happy to report that the nails are growing out normally. THANK. GOODNESS!

I always told myself that if I was able to get rid of that fungus (I had tried a few times before), that I would go get a pedicure as soon as I was able. I am pleased to report today is the day I will go for a pedicure. I will probably cry tears of joy as I get it. The person dealing with my toes will think I am crazy, but that is ok too.

I was thinking about that this morning in the shower. Why did I let this incapacitate me for so long? Why didn't I take care of this early and stay the course earlier? I have always felt really awkward about my feet. I got nervous in the pool, and was always careful about using flip flops so I would not spread my fungus around. I went 11 years without wearing open toed shoes because I was self conscious about my feet. I hated to go to friends' houses where they take off their shoes if I was wearing closed toed sandals. This stupid thing made me self conscious and altered my life for almost 11 years. It doesn't anymore, and tonight I will have the pedicure to prove it.

As I was thinking about this this morning, I realized that this is just a microcosm of what my life used to be. I used to be afraid of and/or feel awkward about most everything I did because of my weight. Would I fit in the chairs? Would I spill something down the front of my shirt and look like a slob? (this used to happen ALL. THE. TIME. because it just wasn't far from my mouth to my "shelf" as I called it, and I was shoveling so much garbage into my mouth) Would people want to walk up stairs or something else that would make me puff like someone with emphysema? My weight and my unhealthiness seriously messed up my life and made me feel awkward and self conscious at every move. It is a terrible feeling not to feel comfortable in your own skin -- yet I have been this way most of my life.

I am pleased to let you know that this is no longer the case. Do I feel self confident 24-7? Um, no. Far from it actually. However, I know that at my core I am worth something and doing my best to do the right thing and be a good person. I don't question my fundamental worth anymore, which is something I used to second guess all the time. Most importantly, I don't feel awkward in my own skin anymore. I feel OK about myself.

Here is a quick story to illustrate how far I have come. This week, I was invited to a scholarship dinner at a sorority by some of my students. I was very honored to learn that not that many professors were there, and that the ones who were had been hand-selected by the sorority sisters because they had made a difference in their lives. It was hugely rewarding to be invited (but that is not the point of the story). You should also know that I have been incredibly curious about sororities for the past 8 years or so. Ever since I started teaching in grad school, I got interested in the sociological aspects of groups and everything...and, I loved that show Sorority Life that used to be on MTV. The lives I've seen depicted in stories like Legally Blonde (one of my favories) have left me intensely curious about living in a sorority (although, I don't think it could have ever been for me). Needless to say, I was pumped just to be able to go inside a sorority house and look around when I got this invitation.

In the past -- despite all of these reasons why I wanted to go to this dinner -- I am virtually certain I would have said no and politely declined the invitation. Why? I would have been scared of feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. I would have been scared to feel judged. When I picture a sorority girl, I picture someone who whines about being fat and the cellulite on her size 6 thighs. I see someone tan, petite, and cutely dressed. At almost 300 lbs and a size 26, this clearly was out of the realm of someone I could relate to (you try to find a cute size 26 dress that is flattering!). I would have felt certain that they were laughing at me on the inside. However, I now feel so much more confident in my body and, more fundamentally, myself that I went. I had a nice time and was glad to see what the inside of the sorority was like. My suspicions were confirmed: there is absolutely no way I could live with 85 girls (the year I tried to live with 10 almost killed me!). I didn't really think about my weight once (but I did wonder how those girls stay skinny with the food they were feeding!).

Although this is just one story, there have been many more like this this year. I am happy to report that my unhealthiness and weight is holding me back from less and less. I am doing more and more things, and am less fearful of them. There are still things I can't do that I'd like to that I can't yet. For example, I'd be hard-pressed to go shopping with a group of skinny people and be able to find anything at a normal store. I can't ride a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon yet (you must be 220 fully clothed and geared). I still can't skydive. But there are so many things I can do now, and I am doing. My weight is holding me back from less and less, and it feels great. This girl is back in the game. Bring it!
 
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