Saturday, May 29, 2010

Biking Update

I have mentioned that one of my goals for the summer is to ride my bike 1000 miles.

I'm pleased to report that I'm 25% of the way there. I'm not sure if that is where I need to be or not, because it is poised to get hot and humid here very very soon in Arkansas. In fact, this past week was very tough to ride in because of the high humidity levels (one morning it literally said 100% humidity on -- I questioned how this was possible without it raining?!). I was sweating buckets by the time I arrived at work each morning.

It's also probably worth mentioning that I went two days in a row last week without a car, which is unusual for me. To give you an idea what this means, I live 5.5 miles from work. I went to the gym, movies, the bike shop, and a restaurant on my bike. I am really getting into this biking lifestyle, and I love it. I would love to get to the place where I can take on hills effortlessly (I usually walk the bike up two big hills I face on my commute), and where I am car free most days and only use it for long trips, grocery shopping, etc.

I have not formally mentioned it, but I am going to be very flexible with my definition of summer. I started the clock when I got my odometer installed (sometime in April), and I'll probably keep the challenge open until it either gets really cold, or until I make it to my goal. I do not want to fail on this one.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Today I am sad

I don't really know why, but I am. I am incredibly sad, and I don't like it.

This afternoon I was so so lonely. I am single and I have not made too many friends since I moved here almost exactly three years ago. I tried in earnest for awhile, gave up, had a renewed burst of trying, and eventually settled into a place where I thought I was content even though I don't have too many friends here.

I am an introvert. I like me time. I love it actually. I love feeling like I can do what I want, when I want, unencumbered by feeling like I am inconveniencing someone else. I generally don't feel uncomfortable eating by myself, traveling by myself, etc.

But sometimes I just want friends.

I tried to find a church that I liked. I went to one here for awhile, but it was a square peg round hole situation. And I'm always hypersensitive about people judging/hating on the gays because my brother is gay. I just won't go somewhere that would not tolerate him as he is probably one of if not my very best friend, and I fundamentally believe that being gay is not a choice. Given that it is not a choice, I feel it is cruel that God would ostracize someone who he made, in the eyes of the church, "wrong". I wrestle a lot with this.

I have some work friends I like a lot, but we do not hang out much. There are different reasons which I won't go into here. I love them, but most of them are in very different stages of life than me. This makes it hard both to find time to get together and on some level a little bit harder for us to relate.

I don't know where else one goes to find friends and, to be perfectly honest, I am pretty guarded and jaded about the whole thing. I joined the hiking club, but I don't go regularly like I should. I want to join the beginners bike riders group but I haven't. It's almost like I am afraid of getting let down again and not finding friends there either -- but let's not forget the wisdom of Wayne Gretzky who said, "You will miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

I don't feel like I'm that odd. A little eccentric, sure, but not out and out odd. I've had lots of friends in the past but, upon reflection, every other stage in my life I have been in a very friend-rich environment with high turnover and lots of new people and friend making opportunities. I miss that.

So today I am sad and I wish I had more friends here. I am getting so much better at acknowleding underlying feelings and dealing with them in ways other than gorging myself. Today, however, I let food be my friend and, wouldn't you know it, I still feel lonely.

Ironically, this week I bought the Geneen Roth book "Breaking Free from Emotional Eating." I have been too scared to start it, but I should just suck it up. I really do want to decouple food from my emotions, both happy and sad. Today I am such a mess.

Being Consistent

There are many things I have wanted to write you, but I never simultaneously seem to have time and inspiration. If I'm inspired to write, it is when I am busy doing something else. If I have time, I usually want to either decompress or go for a bike ride or just be lazy. Tonight, I have both time and motivation.

In an effort to be more consistent, I am probably going to write a whole bunch of blog posts today and then post them later on throughout the week so the content is more consistent.

Isn't that one of the really hard parts about this journey -- being consistent? Oy. My head is not in a good place today. It has been a hard one.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Living the WW life in the real world

This week has been great for me and tough for me simultaneously. As I posted here, I decided to take a hiatus from WW meetings and to go it alone online for awhile. This meant that I really needed to start tracking. So I did. Well, let me correct that -- I tried.

The second half of the week, we had a conference for work where folks from universities around the countries came to our school. It was good, but I want to write about the food and exercise aspects of things as it is the part that is relevant to this blog.

First, I made the commitment to ride my bike both days. It was bike to work week this week, and weather and hip/SI joint problems derailed me during the first half of the week so I was **determined** to get at least one day on the bike. This was tough since the rains we had made portions of the trails I ride to work really muddy (this is a problem when you need to dress up and don't want to end up muddy, or carry another pair of clothes in a backpack because they'll be bulky and get wrinkled). I sucked it up, wore a different pair of shoes to ride in than to work in, and rolled up my pant legs so they wouldn't be muddy. This worked fairly well. Although the biking did mess up my schedule a bit, it was overall worth it.

Now to the main point of the post: food challenges and social stigma associated with food. For this (and many) conferences/workshops/meetings I attend, lunches and dinners are provided. Since one of the main points/benefits of these workshops is networking, it's not really a good option to skip the dinner in favor of a healthy dinner on your own. Although it would have worked in this case, packing is rarely an option since these meetings usually are not in my backyard (instead in other cities). Furthermore, I do not want to draw attention to myself by having different food, or insisting on healthier options, or going ahead of time to get some sort of a different meal option. Maybe that is justified, maybe I've magnified how this would draw attention to myself in my own head but -- in either case -- it's just not something I'm willing to do for now.

Lunch the first day was catered by a local Italian restaurant. The options were salad, lasagna, two types of pasta both with alfredo or a cream based sauce, and cheesecake. Oh, bread too. What's a weight watcher to do? I loaded up my plate with a ton of salad (probably 3/4 of a plate), but there is no way that would keep me full until dinner time. I also had a piece of lasagna and a piece of wheat bread. I had packed 2 apples in case I got hungry, and I ended up eating one for dessert. I also had one later that afternoon.

Around 4:30, I was so hungry. Typically, conferences/meetings like this have several breaks to use the restroom, network, check email and make calls. Usually snacks and beverages are provided. Not the case for this meeting. I ate my second apple. 30 minutes later I was still so hungry, but out of food and there was nothing around except leftover cheesecake from lunch. I hemmed and hawed over what to do, especially since my lunch was much different/more points heavy from a lunch I'd usually eat when I'm counting points for WW. Eventually I decided that the hungriness won, and I had half a piece of cheesecake. It was good, but I wasn't really in the mood for it and it felt like a wasted splurge.

I had to ride home between the meetings and the evening reception (didn't want to bike home after the reception because it would have been so dark), and I had some fruit so I would not be as hungry at the evening reception. Again, the choices were not great. I had some but really tried to tune into my body's hunger signals. I think it worked ok.

The next day, I skipped the breakfast at the conference in favor of cooking for myself (except I did snag one piece of bacon, and boy was it good!). I felt ok about this. Lunch was a build your own sandwich buffet, chips, and some fruit. I had one piece of wheat bread, loaded it up with meat (trying to pick the pieces without fat on them) and vegetables and added one piece of cheese. I did have some chips, and I tried to have a bunch of fruit. I would have given this meal a C+ for healthiness instead of the D- for the previous day's meal.

So...bla bla bla... about the food. What did I learn from this? A whole bunch of things. Things I have been thinking about since they happened.
  1. There are some sacrifices I will not make for weight loss. I am a person who, if I don't eat enough, will get debilitating headaches. They are not fun for me, they are not fun for those around me because I morph into a huge bitch when I get them. They're not fun period. I refuse to eat only salad to stay in my points range if it is going to adversely affect how I feel. Lesson learned: I will eat if I am hungry, even if cheesecake is the only thing available. This is a self preservation behavior, and it is a waste of guilt to feel guilty about this.
  2. Eating is so social. I am not to the place yet where I will go too far out of the mainstream for the purposes of saving points or losing weight. I have no problem asking for dressings on the side or vegetables to be cooked without oil or butter at restaurants. That having been said, I am not willing to pack my lunch when everyone else is eating one thing or from a buffet unless I know them well and/or feel comfortable around them and/or will never see them again. I won't do this at professional conferences where I know I will see these folks again. I want to be "Sarah the researcher who does ____" rather than "Sarah the food fanatic who is obsessive about packing lunches and eating only stuff cooked without butter" to these people.
  3. That having been said, there are things I can do to make these days successful. If I look at everything that is available on a buffet first and then choose, I can devise a strategy and make wiser choices. If I pack apples, I can eat them before receptions to take the edge off (and those are things I can pack in my suitcase easily -- don't need access to a grocery store in an unknown city or anything!)
  4. At receptions and luncheons, I should focus on the real reason I am there: networking opportunities. In the past, such events have been equally about food and networking to me. This shouldn't be how I approach these situations. The food is fuel for my body and to give me energy to network and get around, but it is really just a part of the supporting cast. The main reason I am at events like this is to network, and so this should consume my focus.
So how did I do? I give myself a B+ or an A-. I don't feel like I earned this grade because I ate only healthy things -- in fact, as you can see I really didn't at all. I gave myself this grade because I am starting to reach the place where I feel comfortable that my food, eating and exercising life will not and probably even should not be 100% perfect. I am developing strategies that will help me reach the balancing place between feeling normal and not drawing attention to myself because of what I am or am not eating, and sticking up for myself enough to get choices that I feel are healthy and balanced.

One of the things that was frustrating about this conference/workshop was not feeling like I could pull up my laptop or phone and track things right away. I also didn't feel comfortable checking the points values of all the foods I didn't know in public, so I just guessed what was the healthiest choice, wrote it down on a piece of paper, and tracked it later. It was frustrating not knowing how much a portion was and having to guess. Was a piece of the lasagna at the conference the same size as the peices WW considers? I had no idea, but just assumed it was.

So...that is a reflection on my last few days, and my first days back on plan in a ***LONG*** time. Guess what? I'm down to 237.3 as of this morning. This is only about 8 lbs away from the lowest weight of my adult life, and it marks the lowest I've been on this journey. This has happened during a week when I have been injured and unable to exercise like I'd like. This has happened during a week where eating right was more of a challenge than it usually is. This is a testament to what being mindful of your food choices and what you put in your mouth really matters. And this is proof to me that watching what you eat and doing your best even when it is not easy can actually work. This is something that I don't always believe, so it is wonderful to get this confirmation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Vlog!

Here is the post from Jen, the Prior Fat Girl that I was talking about in the vlog.

Here is a graphic depicting my weight loss, starting last April that I talked about in the vlog. (It's hard to see unless you enlarge it, but I started a breath away from 300 and am now around 242.)

And, no, I was not exaggerating. The weather here really has sucked lately. Here is the map from when I was considering biking to work around lunch (I worked from home this morning). Needless to say, I drove.

Monday, May 17, 2010


My back is absolutely killing me today. I cannot bend over it hurts so bad. Deja vu? I hope not. Hopefully aligning my hips will help. I did a bunch of stretches for my hamstrings yesterday (have had some indication this is coming, starting with weird feelings when bending over for about 2 weeks, but starting to get really bad in the last few days), but I feel worse today and my hamstrings are even tighter.

This means I will need to lay off the working out for a few days, I fear, which means I really need to get my eating under control.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fitting into the World Again

60 lbs ago, I really didn't fit in. Yes, there's the figurative sense -- feeling 0% confidence in myself which I am sure projected through, having only a very precious few friends in NWA, etc which made me feel like I didn't fit in -- but I also didn't fit in in the very literal sense. And that is a TERRIBLE feeling.

For those of you who have been morbidly obese, I bet you identify. Not fitting into restaurant booths, choosing which movie theatres to go to based on which (if any) of the chairs fit you, taking a pass at amusement parks because you can't ride anything because you don't fit, and of course the dreaded airplane seats. Everyone hates those.

When I took ergonomics in college, we learned about designing stuff like this to fit everyone based on data that can be found in anthropometric charts. What this basically means is that you consult tables full of body measurements, and usually design stuff so that 95% of the population can use it easily and/or comfortably. I remember learning about this in college and thinking "Yeah, more people should do this!" What I failed to realize, however, is that people probably *do* do that, but I just was in the top 5% -- and while, many times, that is a great thing, here is a time when it isn't.

I am pleased to report that I feel like I am fitting back into the world in which I live. I went to a show at the Walton Arts Center (Momix by Botanica which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND if you are in town or get the chance to see it), and I had people on either side of me, and it wasn't a big deal. Fitting into the chair was no problem, and having other people on either side of me didn't cramp me at all. Usually, stuff like this -- fitting into a booth at a restaurant, going to watch a movie, flying on a plane -- is unremarkable. Every once in awhile (like last night), though, I will just pause, take it all in, and feel really excited and proud.

For someone who has felt abnormal for so long, feeling normal is a pretty amazing feeling. The world was engineered for me again. I can fit in stuff without feeling like a sardine smooshed in a can, or feeling like I will break something if I sit on it. While I love being remarkable and special in many ways*, being one of the huddled masses feels pretty great when it means you can fit into a chair without feeling uncomfortable or like you will break it. I feel like I fit again.

*This came out a lot more arrogant sounding than I mean. We are all special, not just me!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Doctor's Scale Victory

Today I saw a post about people lamenting the scale at the doctor's office. I don't really mind it anymore as I no longer avoid scales or find myself afraid of them much.

Today at the doctor's office, I went to go weigh in. In the past it has been mortifying to see those old school scales -- the ones that click further and further to the right, going up in 20 or 50 lbs at a time...but today I have a victory to report. I have been weighing in most mornings at around 238-9 lately. This is first thing, sans clothes, post potty so this is the best things get for me on the weight front. Add clothes, fluids, etc. and the number is bound to go up.

Anyway, today, I went to the doctor and do you know what she guessed I weighed (in the increments of 20)? 180!! Holy crap, a full 60 lbs less than I weigh. I know I have a ways to go, but for someone who weighs people in all day long to think that I weigh that was such a great feeling! I told her "Oh, no, it's closer to 240." She incredulously moved the scale and, sure enough, I weighed in at 242. She let me know by whispering that to me, like I would be mortified and ashamed.

If that girl only knew where I had come from, she would realize that for me 242 is feeling pretty freaking great. I'll take it!


As I have written before, this is not the first time I've been down the get healthy road. It is the second. Obviously, that means that things derailed the first time.

Both times I have gotten healthy been similar. I have, in both cases, reached a point where my ability to live life was severely compromised. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and, ultimately, reached a point where I said "ENOUGH!" and decided to change. And both times, it has been very very difficult initially, I reached a point where it felt natural and like life was great, and then it has gotten tougher. The first time, obviously, it got so tough that I gave up.

To lose weight -- both times -- I have taken a relatively healthy approach. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and try to limit the amount of processed crap that I eat. I exercise 5-6 times a week. I do it the old school way -- the way that I think is healthy and, both times I have tried it, it has worked like a charm. It's not easy, but it gets me results and I feel a ton better when I fitter than when I am fatter.

The first time I lost weight, I really wanted to become a health evangelist. I am not sure how obnoxious I became, but everytime I saw someone fat I thought, "You know, there is no reason to be fat!! You will feel so much better if you lose weight, and losing weight really isn't that hard!!" I rarely (at least as far as I remember) actually said such things out loud, but I thought them often. And when I saw overweight and especially obese people, I judged them. I wondered why they did that to themselves. How could they not just change their eating, their bodies, and their lives? I mean, changing your diet and exercising isn't that hard right?

And then I relapsed. And then I got up to 299.4, about 10 lbs higher than my previous high weight. And then I felt bad for having judged the fat people, because I once again was one. It is a lot easier to dole judgement out than to be on the receiving end, you know?

As a re-morbidly obese person, I saw the world differently than I did the first time I was that way. I was cynical when people on Biggest Loser-type shows would say goodbye to the 400s forever. "Ha!" I thought. "This is so much harder than you realize, and you will be back!" It's not that I wished failure on anyone, but as someone who had been down the road to being healthy and then back up the road to being unhealthy, I was incredulous. I thought everyone else was destined to fail too. And, unfortunately, statistically speaking most people do.

I hope this is the time my lifestyle changes stick. I hope that I am one of the 5% who does not regain the weight back that they lose. I am working to overhaul my life -- AGAIN -- to be one that I enjoy living, is healthy, and I am proud of. It is hard work, but I am finding it worth it.

This time, when I see overweight people I don't judge them. It is hard to describe my feelings toward them. I am a lot slower to see their "laziness" that I used to see the first time I lost weight, and now usually see their sadness. I remember how I wanted to change for so long, but was sad and afraid to fail. I remember how there were points where I felt like food was my only friend. Mostly, I see a lot of the old me in the current them. And it makes me sad.

Yes, losing weight and feeling great is part of the equation, but fixing the me underneath -- the feelings, habits, behaviors, and environments that helped me to get to a breath away from 300 lbs -- is the harder part, and the part that will allow me to be part of the 5% that succeeds at getting and keeping the weight off. I am working so hard at this, and hope I get it. And if I do, I pray that I will not be judgmental of those who are still not there yet and those who are fighting the good fight to get healthy. It is a very hard and tiring fight but one that I imagine will feel great to win.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Salsa Recipe

I have been wanting to post this for awhile. Are there ever times when you want salsa -- the good kind, the kind that your local hole in the wall Mexican place makes -- but you just don't want to have/can't justify a dinner out? I have.

I learned a great recipe awhile back from a Pampered Chef party. It really is a good recipe, and their gadget to cut everything up with does make things easier...but I thought I would share it in case you ever get the hankerin' for good salsa.

You will want to use about half an onion, cilantro, and a can of DelMonte stewed Mexican Recipe tomatoes. Optional ingredients are garlic (fresh is the best) and lime juice (drain the tomatoes if you want to use lime juice). No salt is necessary -- the canned tomatoes have plenty.

Dump them all into a bowl and cut them up (I typically do not drain the juice, but you could to make the salsa thicker and less watery). As I mentioned, the magic PC tool makes the cutting/chopping easy, but other kitchen gadgets will work well too. I prefer the cut to be fine, but not to make a salsa soup like would be made in my food processor.

Here is the finished product. It will save in the fridge for about a week. It's probably better after a day or two so the flavors get a chance to meld, but I usually eat it right away.

I love this stuff, and make and eat it pretty frequently. I like it best on fajitas and in fajita bowls, but it is also great in scrambled eggs (add feta and avocado for an extra treat). Basically, anything you eat salsa in is game. I think this stuff is relatively inexpensive and so much tastier than any canned salsa I've found. I don't eat the canned stuff anymore -- this is so much better.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Progress Pictures

I have turned into a terrible blogger, but this is because I have been busy doing real work (i.e., for my job) and out enjoying my life. I wish I had time to do it all, but I am realizing I don't and that certain things are going to fall by the wayside...and that that has to be ok for right now.

Something clicked late last week for me. I wanted to eat healthy. I just don't want to eat most processed junk right now. I want real food. It tastes better, and actually serves as real fuel for my body. I am still not tracking (not a great Weight Watcher), but I am confident that I will begin that again soon.

I wanted to post a couple progress pictures. In preparation, I was looking through some old pictures I've posted on the blog. Although I've come a long way, I still think every time I see these pictures "Man I've got a long way to go!" I am drawn toward looking at my belly, how if I don't stand right I still have two chins, etc. Nonetheless here are some pictures from yesterday.

I felt really skinny yesterday. I think it is the jeans and the fact that the shirt is black. Whatever it is, I'll take it (and a healthy dose of it, please!)

When I look back through the pictures I posted, I have really mixed feelings. Same with the blog entries. For example, I saw that a little over two months ago I weighed 6 lbs more than I do now. Part of me thinks "Geez, what a waste of two months. Only six freaking pounds?! What am I wasting my time on?! Get it together girl, and get that scale moving!!"

The other part of me thinks, "You know, six pounds in two months. That is great! Two years ago, you would have been gaining weight, and probably at that rate. You're fitter than you were 2 months ago, and you're making the real changes you need to to make this a lifestyle change."

So which of these two voices in my head is right? Probably both of them are. I could definitely be doing a better job at this. I could definitely lose the weight faster, and should definitely have fed myself less crap (i.e., food with little to no nutritive value). However, I think any progress in the downward direction is good. I will work to be at peace with myself, and continue to press on toward my bigger goals (riding 1000 miles this summer and working on that gun show).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Did you Die?

No I didn't die but the last few weeks have been really busy. Really, really busy. This is what happens when you’re in the academic world and you have finals, final projects, etc. due. I try to support my students by being available for consultation and office hours because I want them to do well on their projects and exams, but this comes down to one thing: time. Also, I know the students spend a lot of time working on everything, so I spend time being thorough in grading their work but this too comes down to time.

While I value making this investment in students, their work, and their development, if I am not careful this can crowd out the time I usually spend on me and on my journey to get healthy. This has most certainly been the case in the past few weeks. I’ve eaten out a lot, cooked very little, and just in general been kind of caught in the haze of busy-ness (not a haze I like). When grades are turned in at the end of the week, it’s time to turn over a new leaf and recommit. Time to get back to cooking and packing healthy lunches.

I know I talked earlier about how eating crappy food didn’t seem to affect me. Well, that was true – but after about 1.5 or two weeks of consistently eating crappy stuff, I have to say I felt worse. I also have to say I started to require more sleep – at exactly the time when I really couldn’t afford to sleep more. It surprised me that the change was so dramatic and so sudden. It was as though I hit a brick wall, and my body started to revolt.

“Really? Are you sure you want pizza?”

So, I have started to listen. I pack fruits and vegetables for snacks, and have been trying to make sure to eat protein at each meal in an attempt to keep my energy up. I also have been trying to make healthier choices when I eat out, but I have been eating out a lot. I am excited for this to die down as I finish off the semester. Back to eating healthier and back to getting this scale to move downward

Editor’s note: I gained only about 2 lbs. during all of this. While it is a gain, it is nowhere near as significant as I would have expected. This tells me that my approach to portions is changing, and that I am actually changing part of the way that I deal with food. I’m by no means there, but I am making progress which is not something that – prior to the last year – I would have been able to say. Let’s celebrate the small things J

Another editor’s note: I wrote this Wednesday in a room with no internet as I proctored an exam. I learned later that day that I lost 3 lbs on WW. That gave me the motivation to start eating way more clean again. In fact, I even got to cook last night, and my food was so delicious -- I made spanish rice, fajita style shrimp, black beans, corn, sauteed peppers and onions, salsa (which I have been meaning to post a recipe for), and put some sour cream and cheese on there. So delicious -- and I have enough packed for 4 lunches!

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