Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting Close

This morning I was 230.6 (BTW daily weighing is highly discouraged by the mindful eating folks, but this is something I am not willing to give up just yet). This means I am closing in on my lowest weight ever as an adult. I am just 1.1 lbs away. This is amazing given the incredible lack of exercise I have been able to do as a result of my injury!

Also, I think I may have crossed the bridge into old lady land last night. I was up three times to pee last night! That is absolutely crazy. I usually don't even wake up once (assuming I can sleep through the night without pain, which has been tough the last few weeks).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mindful Eating

Today marks a significant turning point in my get healthy journey. Actually, the switch happened a while back -- somewhat gradually -- but today I am going to go public with my intentions, and to officially mark the beginning of my mindful eating journey, and the end of -- at least for now -- my Weight Watchers journey.

I have written before how, if I'm not careful, I can get bogged down in the data and analysis portion of losing weight -- counting points, tallying activity, analyzing the nutritional content of food, etc. None of that in and of itself is bad, but when I obsess over that, it is simply replacing my obsession with food with an obsession with analysis. I don't want to be obsessed with any of this, really. I want it to hum along in the background of my life -- usually eating healthy stuff, but allowing myself the occasional treat and the occasional lazy day by the pool.

I have also written how I realize that this is my life, and there are times when I'm just not willing to stick to the uber-straight-and-narrow approach to weight loss. In particular, I have never ever been willing to go hungry simply because I am out of points -- even if the options are less than ideal.

I also wrote about how I started (but still have not finished) Geneen Roth's Breaking Free from Emotional Eating book, and how the main message of the book is to trust yourself: your hunger signal, and your ability to stop when you're satisfied. In the meantime, I started her workbook called Why Weight? which explores the reasons you're fat, the reasons you overeat, and helps you identify issues holding you back. I employed these techniques with success, and was able to lose weight even on vacation, and all without counting a single point.

This week, there has been much chatter in the WL corner of the blogosphere about a podcast hosted by Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone, all about this very issue. Turns out that that this "thing" -- this philosophy of listening to and trusting your body -- that I have been learning from books and by trial and error has a name. The name is mindful eating, and I'm giving it an official go.

Carla and Shauna, the hosts of the podcast, explain the concepts that underlie mindful eating (also sometimes referred to as intuitive eating). Much of what they had to say really resonated with me. Here are the two things that resonated the most with me.
  1. Everyone's path is highly individual. There are no one size fits all rules. The theme of listening to your body and your spirit applies not only to listening to and trusting your hunger signal, but also your ability to decide which rules should -- and shouldn't -- apply to you. For example, Carla said that "they" say you should not do anything while you eat -- no TV, no reading, no internet. You should instead focus on your food and enjoying it. She explained why that rule doesn't work for her. That really resonated with me -- not only her "defiance" of this rule, but also the fact that there can be logical reasons to override conventional wisdom sometimes, and the fact that "they" don't know more about you than you do. The rules and principles espoused by others are in many cases good to follow, but if you give them a try and find they don't work for you, discard them, don't stress about it, find something that works for you, and move on. No guilt necessary.
  2. The hosts said that for them (again, noting that everyone's path is different), it is not sustainable to count calories, points, fat grams, carbs, or anything else forever. They want to be able to enjoy their food guilt free and without thinking too deeply about things. For them, the key has been to listen to when your body is really hungry. Not when you want to eat because you're bored. Not when you want to eat because you're sad. But when you want to eat because there is actual, physical hunger.
There are a number of tools the hosts suggested when starting mindful eating. They suggested a food log when you start a program like mindful eating. Their idea of a food log and what I've grown accustomed to in WW are significantly different. In WW, I would simply track what I ate, and the associated points value with the food. These points values were not to exceed my daily and/or weekly points budget.

A food log for mindful eating records what you eat, but the amount or the number of calories or points in the food is not the important part and actually needn't be recorded at all. In addition to recoding what you consume, you also record your hunger before and after the meal, as well as how you feel during and after the meal. I have found the hunger scale available here (and seriously -- is there anything that MIT doesn't just rock at?!) to be helpful in charting how hungry I was at the beginning and conclusion of the meal.

I have learned/confirmed some things I don't want to accept, but must as a result of just two days of tracking my response to food. First, sugar makes me sluggish and tired. In just a few minutes after eating sugar, I get tired which is highly unusual for me after eating most other foods. Sadly, this happened to me today with a bag of Cheez Its too. Man the thought of giving those up makes me sad! But, on the other hand, it concerns me how I have been oblivious to this for nearly 30 years of my life! Am I really that oblivious to how the food I put in my body affects its performance? I think the answer is yes. And mindful eating will help me change all that.

Today has been a struggle food-wise. I am not proud to admit this, but for lunch I made some hamburgers. I bought 1 lb. of meat, enough for four good-sized burgers. I. COULDN'T. STOP. EATING. THEM. I ate all four. I felt so ashamed and dirty. Surprisingly, though, I didn't feel but a little tired after eating them (probably because the meat was lean, but still -- I should have been satisfied after the first burger, and the 2 ears of corn I ate with it).

Sometimes I feel like my relationship with food will never be mended, but then I am quick to correct myself. I believe that I can learn to trust myself and heal my broken relationship with food. It won't be quick or easy, but a) losing the 65+ lbs I've lost so far hasn't been easy either and b) things that come too quickly/easily are rarely appreciated and the results don't always stick. I will conquer this too and I will use mindful eating for this leg of the journey to help me do so.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The good stuff

I remember when I was almost 300 lbs, I would eat almost anything. I still eat what I love now, but I eat it a lot less frequently than I used to and I am a lot pickier about what I eat. For example, if I want chocolate I usually get fancy, tasty European chocolate now. I don't waste my time with the gross or tasteless stuff. Today I want pie. I am not going to get a $3.99 frozen pie from Walmart because I know it would get eaten in a hurry and it really would not taste that good. Instead, I am on a mission to find a good, single piece of cherry or strawberry rhubarb pie with a yummy homemade crust.

I think that since embarking on this healthiness journey, mindfulness is the word I would use to describe my revised attitude toward food (when everything is working right and I'm not battling through mental stuff). I try to eat mostly healthy foods. I work to make sure I am getting enough fruits and vegetables. But I also still enjoy treats, I am just trying to make sure that they are really something that I decide is worth it and not just a snap decision I make in a moment of weakness. I also make sure that they actually taste good and are not a cheap substitute for something I really want (ie, forgo the nasty stadium orange nacho cheese; get some good sharp cheddar instead).

Great News

Last night I slept through the night -- pain free -- for the first time in several weeks! Also, yesterday I went to the pool and did my water aerobics thing. I couldn't do everything because some of it made my foot go numb. I stopped when that happened, but it was great to be able to do something active. I am taking life easy this weekend, but I think I might be on my way to getting fixed! YAY!

Friday, June 25, 2010

PT Update

I've been home for a few days. First of all, can I tell you how excited I was/am to be home? The first night when I cooked my meal, I was in heaven. I had complete control over what I put in my food. I knew how much sodium was or wasn't in everything -- it was fabulous. I savored the food so much that night. OMG. Seriously, it was blissful. I was glad not to eat out. So glad. (but last night I ate out -- um, what?)

I was able to schedule an appointment with the physical therapist for the first day I was home. She confirmed that the problems in my SI had returned, but also thought that some of my symptoms are related to either a bulging or herniated disc due the pain I experienced on the side of my leg as she pushed around on my back.

She has decided that I need treatment 3/week at least for awhile -- I am glad it is summer so I can more easily accomodate this in my schedule. After my first treatment, she said my back was likely to be very angry with me. I decided to lay on my back and stomach all day to minimize pain and also the chance that my SI joint would pull out of alignment. Her main methods of treating me were ultrasound and electrical stimulation, as well as getting me back in place by poking, prodding and tugging me all over the place. She told me to use ice and rest; she encouraged me not to stretch and mess things up.

The following day, I had another appointment with her. The SI had gone out of place, but it felt nowhere near as bad as it had before. I told her how I had experienced a decent amount of tingling and numbness in my left foot when I was in certain positions -- sitting, laying on my back, etc -- and she seemed really concerned. She again used ultrasound and electrical stimulation, but we also added massage and stretching exercises to the mix. She told me that if I experienced pain or tingling/numbness, I should tell her and we would stop doing those exercises. We had to stop 2-3 of the exercises due to the tingling/numbness. I sensed that the tingling and numbness concerned her, but in googling around, I cannot figure out why.

After I left, the tingling and numbness sensations were both more common and more pronounced. I called the PT this morning to let her know (I do not have an appointment until Monday) and to ask if I should be concerned, but I have not heard back yet.

I have not taken Lortab today, and each of the previous two days I only took one. I am hoping to go completely without today.

The PT has indicated that swimming and water aerobics is probably ok. I am going to give it a go tonight, since not being able to work out has been driving me crazy, and causing me to lose muscle mass.

This morning I woke up discouraged and concerned because of the tingling issue. I decided, though, that I would adjust my attitude. I decided that today WOULD be a good day -- I couldn't control the issues surrounding my health and wellness, but I can control my attitude. And so far, I have and it is working :) This is a lesson I need to remember in the future.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Did Not Make it

I wrote how neat it would be to return from my trip at or below my lowest weight ever as an adult. I didn't do that. In fact, I was up two pounds (233.0). To be honest I'm surprised it was not more. Why?
  • Could not walk or exercise because it hurt too badly. My body fat percentage rose, my muscle percentage fell.
  • Did not make great food choices.
  • Portion control was marginal -- not abysmal, but not great.
  • Did not listen to my hunger signal to tell me when to eat or when to stop.
I will get there. I always am quick to remind myself that this isn't a race, and that health is about so much more than a number. I am looking forward to breaking new ground on the scale and pushing toward ever larger goals, but am realistic enough to know that right now my body needs rest and attention so it can heal.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

There but for the Grace of God go I

Today was largely a travel day. Blech. On my second flight – the one that would actually get me home from almost a month of NONSTOP TRAVEL – something so powerful happened. It still has me thinking.

There was a large woman who was older and had her mobility impared: she was confined to a wheelchair. I am not stellar at guessing weights, but if I had to guess I would say 350-400 lbs.

I was basically oblivious to the whole situation, but the folks sitting next to me in the waiting area at the airport were giving a blow by blow of a scene that, prior to me their commentary, had not caught my attention.

Because she was in a wheelchair, a gate agent accompanied this overweight passenger to the plane prior to letting the rest of us board. The woman was not totally immobile, as she was able to climb the stairs. This is the part of my neighbors’ commentary where I was first alerted to the situation.

I watched this woman make her way up each of the four stairs to the plane with such effort and determination. She would put one foot on the next stair, grasp the railings with all her might, pull herself up to the next stair, and bring her trailing leg up behind her. The effort was tough, so she rested for about 45 seconds after each stair. I made myself turn away, and tried to process the scene that had unfolded before my eyes.

I was jarred from my mental processing when my neighbors loudly pronounced, “She fell!” Although she had made it up each of the four stairs, she was unable to pull herself into the cabin of the airplane (probably because there was no railing), and instead fell forward into it. I felt absolutely terrible for this lady, her body almost certainly hurt and her ego definitely bruised. Poor thing.

As someone who has been on the absolute cusp of 300 lbs, I could identify a lot with her struggle. Had I not taken control of my weight, I am virtually certain that I too would eventually be in a wheelchair and have extremely limited mobility. Seeing the reality of the situation really makes you pause, though. Wow. That absolutely would have been me in another 20 or so years (maybe even less).

I have written before about my complex emotions toward the morbidly obese. Sometimes I feel concern. Sometimes (I am ashamed to admit this), I feel judgement. Today I feel empathy and gratefulness for those who loved me even when I was fat, and support me in my quest to get healthy. What a hard situation to watch someone else who is in such bad shape.

SI Drama and another Life Lesson

After a really tough weekend, I decided there was no choice: I absolutely could not make it without going to see a PT. I used Google Maps’ search near me feature, and was so pleasantly surprised to learn that there were a good 20ish PTs and/or PT clinics in a half mile radius of my hotel. I looked around at their websites and sorted through the list to prioritize who I wanted to try to see first thing Monday morning.

I called many of the PTs’ offices Sunday afternoon to see when the offices opened. I was able to talk to a clinic that was willing to see me at 9:30, and also willing to offer me a discount if I paid by cash (my insurance is a regional insurance, and would not have a carrier network several states away – not to mention the hassles associated with getting a referral prior to seeing a PT, etc).

As I walked to the PT clinic (0.4 miles from my hotel, according to Google), I could feel myself leaving the swanky tourist area and getting closer to a sketchy neighborhood. I didn’t feel unsafe, but I did feel out of place and as though I were being stared at. When I arrived at the clinic, the building was nice and the inside was clean but I felt further out of place. There were folks outside smoking. There was a man wearing a crocheted doily to cover a huge wound on his neck (maybe one of those throat cancer things). There were several folks with thug-type baggy pants and huge gold chains with their names on them. And then there was me – white with not a single tattoo on my body – in my khaki pants and polo.

I had to sign a form that was literally 1.5 pages long about their narcotics policy – which prescriptions would and wouldn’t be issued, how often the prescriptions would be issued, how the drugs were and weren’t supposed to be taken, etc. There were signs everywhere about how lost prescriptions would not be replaced. As someone recently prescribed Lortab as though they were TicTacs, I found this so ironic. (I hate to take medicines unless there are no other alternatives – I prefer a natural and holistic approach whenever possible.)

I seriously contemplated leaving, as I questioned the type of care I would receive. I decided I would give it a go, though, largely because I was already there and because the other places I had called were unable to see me until much later in the afternoon.

I have to give the therapists and the office staff so much credit. Aside from the front desk people, all of the folks I dealt with – intake, billing, office manager, and PTs – were very very kind, empathetic, professional and, most impressive/important, good at their jobs.

I was seen by two PTs. They both worked with me at the same time. They verified that they thought the issues were SI related, and explained to me that my tight hamstrings were the source of the problem. They explained to me a way to stretch them that was more effective than what I had learned previously. Although I had been told by my previous PTs/PTAs (PTA = physical therapist’s assistant – generally equipped with an associates degree or some amount of lesser training than a “real” PT) to stretch the hamstrings, they either did not identify this as the source of the problem or did not communicate this effectively to me. I was grateful to be equipped with this new knowledge.

At the mostly-white people, non-indigent patient population clinic that I go to in Fayetteville, they are also reasonably professional. However, I almost always worked with a PTA who was helping two (sometimes even three) patients simultaneously. I have never received the amount of individualized, personal attention I received at the clinic I visited in Louisville. I recommend this clinic whole-heartedly. I definitely felt validated that my pain was legitimate, and treated like a person, not just one of a few patients that a PTA was dividing his/her time between. Also, I appreciated working with PTs rather than PTAs – and two of them, focused solely on helping me out!

The PT was able to align me reasonably quickly. His approach was more like a chiropractor, cracking me into place rather than the more gentle apply resistance approaches my previous PT/PTAs had used on me. He warned me that my SI joint was likely to pull back out of place since my hamstrings were so tight, and he was right: it was out by the evening despite stretching it and laying down most of the day to minimize activity. I have to say, though, the pain has been much less since visiting the clinic than it was before, and I honestly do not think I would have been able to make it through a travel day without loads of Lortab without his help. I have only taken one today, whereas I am certain I would have had to take 4-5 without the help of the PTs.

I feel I am being placed in lots of situations that make me think about who I am, how blessed I am, and how much I complain lately. I want to be positive, and see the good in things/people/situations even when they are not so rosy. I want to learn from life, and contribute positively to it. Realizing how snobby I am – even when I don’t intend to be – makes me realize that I have a ways to go. I am embarrassed that I almost left this wonderfully helpful clinic because I felt I was too good for it. I am grateful to the clinic for not only for fixing up my body and making it possible for me to go home without too much pain, but also for reminding me to be a lot less judgmental of others, and supportive of and grateful for people who work with the less fortunate.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bored bored bored

I have been in this hotel room almost for the last 48 hours. I am so bored. I have been laying on my back and side -- anything to avoid my hip hurting. The good news is that by doing this, I have been able to limit the amount of Lortab I had to take. I am sort of terrified of taking the stuff because you can get addicted if you're not careful and -- as is probably no surprise to many of you who are fellow recovering food addicts -- I am pretty prone to excess and might end up addicted if I am not careful. Also, it had begun to have limited effectiveness, so I wasn't that jazzed about taking it anyway anymore (and was not about to start taking two or three of those guys at a time).

I ventured out for food twice, but other than that have been subsisting on the continental breakfast here (thank goodness I was upgraded to a club floor!!). My eating has been terrible, and I have really been unable to move much. I brought workout clothes and intended to do weights for my arms. I tried that once and realized that was totally a joke; I left in 10 minutes because it hurt so bad.

So, I sit here and do nothing. The TV channels here suck. I have books to read, but for some reason haven't been reading. I've just been wasting time online and sleeping (depression anyone?). I have decided to go to a PT tomorrow. I know my insurance won't cover it, but it will be worth it to get something out of this conference. I am especially bummed since I had to miss the final day of my workshop; I simply could not walk that morning.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I have written before how I prefer salty/savory stuff to sweet stuff. However, I have been eating so much sweet stuff the last few days -- cookies, brownies, muffins, etc. At the conference I am attending, it seems that "continental breakfast" is code for "sugary stuff" and, in my book, life simply will not go on without eating some breakfast (headaches, etc for the rest of the day otherwise).

I am not going to eat anything from the official breakfast tomorrow, instead opting for some fruit and an egg I will get at the hotel where I am staying. I will also steer clear of their desserts for the most part tomorrow too. People talk about sugar buzzes, but I find the opposite: for me, sugar is a buzzkill. I am totally tired very shortly after I eat sugar, but I rarely experience post-lunch tiredness otherwise.

That having been said, for me sugar is addictive. Once I have half a cookie, I want more. For me, it's better to steer clear completely of sugar than to open the door a sliver and have the sugar want to keep jumping into my mouth.

Ok, another lesson learned. It's amazing what I can learn when I actually pay attention to when I am eating, or when I am willing to listen to what my body has to say (even if I don't always like what it says).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sacroiliac Joint

I have written -- although not as much as I feel like it -- about my sacroiliac (SI) joint problems. They have really put a cramp in my style. I wanted to link to several of the resources I have found helpful in dealing with my SI joint issues so that other SI joint sufferers can hopefully save a little time when trying to find ways to deal with this issue. If you are a person dealing with this issue then
  1. I am really sorry to hear that; I hope you find relief soon.
  2. Please let me know if you have any additional links or resources to add; I will happily integrate any commented stuff into this post.
  3. Please know you are not alone. I absolutely know how much it sucks to deal with SI joint issues.
First of all the standard stuff -- I'm not a doctor (well not a medical one anyway), I'm not a physical therapist, I'm not an official anything having to do with SI joint issues. I am, however, a frustrated civilian tired of dealing with pain, and a relentless researcher. That having been said, you should probably consult a medical doctor for any official diagnosis or advice. Additionally, these exercises/recommendations are things that have worked for me. Your milage may vary.

So what is the SI joint? This is in your lower back/hip area, where your sacrum (the lower 5 vertabrae fused together) meet your ilium (the largest bone in your pelvis)

I have read that SI disorders are much more common in women than in men. Personally, I injured my SI joint on my first surf lesson, and I have subsequently reinjured it by attempting to run using the Couch to 5K program -- I think I have to accept that running and triathalons just aren't in my near future, sadly.

If your SI joint is misaligned, it can smash your sciatic nerve. It is incredibly painful, and the symptoms are often mistaken for sciatica. However, if the underlying issue really is the SI joint, then re-aligning the joint can cause almost instant relief.

I have found that chiropractors are, counterintuitively, not that helpful at this as it may initially sound. Yes, they can align everything and put it back into place -- but more often than not, the reason why the joint is out of place is because of muscle imbalances. For example, if your hamstrings are tighter or more stressed on one side of your body than the other, they will keep pulling the joint out of place. Until the underlying muscle imbalances are fixed or resolved, a realignment will only be temporary.

The SI joint issues often cause the hips to twist out of place. I think this site's analogy on how this works is good, but the bottom line is that these problems will often show themselves in the form of a functional leg length difference, where one leg appears longer than the other. To determine which leg is longer, it is best to have a friend help you. This video explains how to assess this.

If you don't have a friend handy, you can try the following: experiment by putting a magazine or magazines under your feet until you feel like your hips are even again. This becomes easier to tell with time, and as you get to know your own body (for example, my right leg usually appears longer than my left leg).

You can then align your hips using this method. I suggest rechecking your leg length after this alignment

Here is another trick I found on a cycling forum. This works for me sometimes, but more slowly and I find with less success than the methods described above.
  • Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the bed.
  • Stick a pillow between your knees.
  • BARELY, gently, imperceptibly squeeze the pillow for 10 seconds.
  • Let off for 10 seconds
  • Do until you are bored silly. (generally you become bored when the SI's have returned and your bod is no longer excited by the gradually shifting SI's) Maybe 10 or 20 or 30 times.
To correct the underlying muscle imbalances, stretching is key. Some of the key stretches the PT told me that I should do are
  1. The piriformis stretch. This is key since many SI problems are caused by piriformis syndrome, where the muscle spasms out of control.
  2. Single knee to chest stretch.
  3. Spinal twist stretch. Note that if you're having a flare up, straightening the leg is probably a bad idea. This will make your already irritated sciatic nerve pain worse.
  4. Hamstring stretch. Any will do, but this one is super important.
If I am in reasonably good shape or just starting to feel a hint that something bad is about to happen to my SI joint, I have found Jill Miller's Hip Helpers DVD to be invaluable. In fact, this video was absolutely helping me -- so much that I took it on my last business trip. I literally forgot to do it one day, and the next day I was doubled over in pain. The fact that this video made so much difference was amazing to me. I will make myself do this 1-2 times/week once I get back to normal (during flareups, though, avoid the stretching as it will exaccerbate problems with your already tender sciatic nerve).

I hope this helps SI sufferers, and that we are able to pull together a comprehensive list of resources so that they are easy to navigate for others. Please let me know if you have other favorite resources or suggestions I have missed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Going Public

I am a daily weigher. I like to see how I'm doing, and I recognize that sometimes weird things happen to affect the number on the scale (too much salt, water retention for various reasons), etc. I don't freak out when that happens. Although daily weighing can make some people manic, for some reason this number is just a number to me, but is one of a myriad of benchmarks I can use to measure whether I'm making progress and headed in the right direction on this get healthy journey.

That having been said, I'm going to be without a scale this week since I am traveling. I was delighted that last time I was out of town -- to somewhere with delicious food and beverages -- I was actually able to lose weight as a result to listening to my body's signals. I am really excited to give this listening to my body thing another go on this trip. I am less excited about not having a scale, though but here goes nothing.

I have mentioned before that I have lost weight one other time in my life. I consistently lost weight by eating clean, but not tracking much of anything -- points, calories, etc -- but just eating what I thought was right. However, during that WL journey I stalled out at 229.5. I was there for a reasonably long time (probably about 6 months), but the scale wouldn't move. This marked the lowest weight I had ever been as an adult

This morning I weighed in at 231.0. I couldn't believe it. Just 1.5 lbs off my lowest adult weight. I want to go public on my goal for this week: I would love to return from my trip 1.5 lbs (or more) lighter, tied at or below my lowest adult goal weight. When I pass this, it will be so significant and emotional for me and will begin a totally new chapter in this WL journey. It will also mean I will have lost 70 lbs! I am excited and hopeful that I can make this happen. If I don't, though, it's not the end of the world. I will get there in a few weeks if not this one (after all it's not a race to a number), but it sure would be cool to see that number sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

There is no finish line

This is something that is striking me more and more. I have written about it before, but dealing with the underlying issues I have with food and its undeserved elevated status it has had in my life is really underscoring, italicizing, bolding, and highlighting that -- as far as I am concerned -- there is no finish line in this weight loss journey.

Part of me doesn't like the idea that this finish line is imaginary only. In some areas of my life, I am very goal oriented. In most areas of my life I am competitive like none other. On this journey, however, how will I know when I am "there"? Is making it to goal weight getting there? As I've written before, I don't think so. And even if it is, I don't think I even know what my goal weight should be, as I believe the recommended 164 is too low. (Another person told me today that I should stop losing weight, a full 70 lbs above my WW recommended weight -- I won't listen, obviously, but this external pressure will probably intensify as I continue to lose weight)

Food and weight will always be issues in my life. I believe these issues can eventually become part of my habit and my routine, but I think a part of me will always feel like a fat girl and I know I will always love cheese. Learning to live in moderation has been a process, and one that I still work on.

As frustrated as I am and have been with this lack of ability to exercise because of this back issue, I am pleased to report that the scale continues to move downward. This morning I was at 233.2, just under 4 lbs from my lowest adult weight ever. I have not counted or tracked anything in weeks, and I have worked to rely more and more on my internal signals -- hunger, pain when I am overdoing it, tiredness, fullness, what I want to eat -- and darned if it is not working. I feel satisfied, healthy, and strong (exception: back/hip pain). My skin is really great right now too -- so much more vibrant than when I ate the stuff I used to eat. It is truly amazing.

Now that's not to say I am not still struggling sometimes. Sometimes I cry the whole trip through Walmart because I want junkfood so badly (although this is rare). Sometimes I buy and eat an entire large pizza at once (that is always a bad idea) - but I rarely get hungry for a long time after that. Sometimes I just want to eat donuts that are around the office. Sometimes I say yes to the decisions that aren't ideal, and sometimes I don't. And I think that as long as it is a calculated decision -- not a fleeting moment of weakness or an "oh eff it" thing -- that is ok from time to time. Learning to trust myself and my judgement in such areas is a process, and one that I am starting to gain confidence in. I feel like *this* I can do for the rest of my life, whereas counting and being obsessive is hard for me and something that would get me to a "finish line", but probably wouldn't help me stay across the finish line. For me, I don't believe that is sustainable.

Although I have written about things that I love about the Biggest Loser and other reality/public weight loss fora, the emphasis on an arbitrary finish line drives me insane. Getting to a goal weight is only part of the picture -- staying there is going to be hard, but I feel up to the challenge. Time pressure is ok to a point, but I'm of the school of thought that I would rather this take 2-3 years and work out the issues along the way than propel myself to my goal in 1 year and deal with the emotional and environmental issues at a more shallow level or, worse, not at all.

I have really been getting more and more comfortable with this idea. Although I am so frustrated about this injury, I can recognize that parts of it are really helpful for my journey. I need to know I can face and conquer adversity in life. Although this is nowhere near as bad of an emotional blow as it would have been if my dad died or as it was to watch my grandma get sicker and die, I feel like this is a training wheels situation for the adversities that will inevitably come in life. I can weather the storms; excessive amounts of unhealthy food will numb the pain but it will leave the underlying issues unresolved and leave destruction in its wake. No bueno. It does not serve my long term goals, and will make me feel badly about myself. And my head and my heart and actions are getting closer to agreement on this, and it is great. I am hopeful that someday it will be as natural for me to realize food is not comfort as it is for me as it is to eat breakfast. I'm not there yet, but I'm inching closer.

I see weight loss bloggers who started their journeys much later than I did who have blown my numbers out of the water. Part of me is jealous of them. Part of me wants to be much further down the WL road than I am.

But I think a bigger part of me is proud of what I have done. WL and food issues are such an individual, highly personal thing. I believe there should be limited or no no competition. There are times when I peace out from WW. There are times when I know there is a huge issue that I need to deal with. For example, shedding my mental fat girl image and dealing with the emotional trappings of food are the current focuses of my journey. I continue to lose weight, yes, but that is really just a result of dealing with the other issues and isn't so much the focus right now. This approach is working for me. I've lost 65+ lbs in 14 months, and that is not bad. I am closer to the unknown number where I will be at a healthy weight, but I recognize this work I am doing will help me stay the course more successfully than waiting until I get to the "finish line" and then dealing with these issues.

For me personally, I cannot exchange my passion for and obsession with food for a passion for and obsession with losing weight. Because, when the weight loss is done, then what? What will I have to obsess over? This is why eating healthy food and making healthy decisions just needs to be part of what I do, like taking care of my hair and riding my bike to school when I am healthy.

Thanks for letting me process out loud. I appreciate all this blog is for me -- an encouragement, a record of where I've been, a place for accountability, and a sounding board. Knowing that people read this is just so neat for me. I can't even explain why, but I appreciate your readership.

Mess mess messity mess

Today I am a mess. My back/hip issues have been so so bad lately. Yesterday I had a trip for work that I could basically under no circumstances miss. The meeting I had to attend took place about 3-3.5 hrs away from home, and I was beyond apprehensive about the drive. Fortunately a colleague was willing to do the driving, allowing me to lay down in the back seat the majority of the time. The same colleague helped me to adjust my leg length, temporarily relieving some of the pain and allowing me to sit up for the 3 hr meeting and the lunch that followed. By the time we got back though, I was spent. I laid down flat on my back when I got home around 5 PM, and that felt great. So great, actually, that I fell asleep until 11 PM. I woke up, watched a little TV, took some more ibuprofen, and then tried to go to sleep again around 1. I woke up this morning at 6. For those keeping score, that's 13 hours of sleep in 24 hours (I had to be up at 3:40 to go on the trip).

Today was supposed to be the only day I am in the office, as I leave for another fracking trip tomorrow. I really wanted to go in and take care of a lot of stuff (I was only in the office one day last week as well because of travel), but unfortunately there was absolutely no way that could happen. The pain was simply excruciating and intolerable.

I called the doctor first thing this morning and was very fortunate to get her last appointment for the day, which was around noon. I needed to get a referral for physical therapy (which was helpful but really dragged out last time these SI joint issues presented themselves), and was hoping to get something that would help get me through my trip this week.

When the doctor came in, I immediately started crying. This really surprised me, but is a testament to both how badly this injury hurts, and how absolutely insanely frustrated I am. She gave me a cortisone shot, and controlled-substance-level prescriptions for both muscle relaxers (Flexerol) and pain relief (Lortab). She also told me, "If I could tell you the absolute worst thing to do, it would be to travel and to be forced to sit for long periods." As luck has it, of course, this is the day before I fly to Louisville for a three day 8:30-5 workshop that I was totally stoked to attend.

This morning, my stomach was really letting me know it was super hungry, probably because I went to bed (aka fell asleep on the floor) at 5 without eating dinner, and had only a banana when I woke up from 11-1. Although the physical signs of hunger were there, I didn't want to eat. I could not believe it. This behavior was totally uncharacteristic of me. I just didn't want to have to find a way to sit comfortably, and I could not think of a way to eat lying flat on my back. I ended up eating a bowl of oatmeal with a banana, blueberries, and milk -- but I didn't want to eat it.

For lunch, I was again hungry and I was a little more excited about eating, but not all that much. I ate two tacos.

When I went to pick up my prescriptions this afternoon, I started crying immediately upon entering the Walmart. I was just so so frustrated, and I wanted to binge. I wasn't hungry, but I wanted red velvet cake. I wanted ice cream. I wanted chips and dip. I wanted chocolate. I wanted basically everything.

I thought about that morning in the doctor's office. The technician guessed I weighed somewhere between 160-180 (down from last time when she guessed 180-200). These last 10-15 lbs I have lost have really made a difference in my appearance. Several people have told me they think I look great now, and a few have even suggested that I stop losing weight. I thought about this and weighed it against the prospect of a huge binge. I thought about the two donuts I ate the day before, and how they tasted great but made me feel tired, sluggish, and not myself. I thought about the new clothes I have bought, and how I am maybe 10-15 lbs away from being out of the plus sized section and able to shop in "regular" stores. I also thought about how I just feel better about myself now.

I decided I like my current life better than my old one -- even with this temporary injury -- and reminded myself that binges really lead to nothing good. I cried the entire way through Walmart (and felt like an idiot, but fortunately ran into no one I knew) -- partially out of pain and partially because my brain was screaming for junk food. I steeled myself, and I made it out of there only with my prescriptions, some cottage cheese, and some mandarin orange slices. These are admittedly a treat, but a calculated one.

I am sick of feeling bad, but I am proud of myself for remembering that food will not fix this problem. If anything, carrying more weight will mess up my SI joint even worse. I hope I feel better soon, but I am glad that the mental aspect of figuring out how to live a healthier lifestyle is something that -- at least for now -- I am still able to control.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gun Show Update and Pictures for my Mom

I have not spoken much about my gun show goal in awhile. There are a few reasons. The first is that I haven't been training like I want to be. Because I reinjured my SI joint, it is tough for me to bend down and bend over correctly. This makes it tough to do the Body Pump class I had been doing twice a week -- my favorite and primary way to lift weights. Although I have been doing other weight lifting activities, they're ad hoc and probably not as frequent as they should be. I do believe I have a serious set of guns, but unfortunately they're buried in fat. I believe to seriously rock the gun show, I need to continue to work on both the lifting and losing weight. While I continue to work on both initiatives, the injury is making it tough to lift in the way that I want and as much as I want. Nonethless, I soldier on though I am careful not to push it too much so as to hurt myself worse than I already am.

Despite not being able to progress as quickly toward this goal as I'd like, I am proud to report that I am no longer embarrassed to walk around with sleeveless shirts. In fact, I mentioned that during the conference I attended, I wore mostly sleeveless stuff. Crazy, right? Here is a picture of me that I took today in my gun show dress. I can tell a significant difference from the before pictures, particularly in my face and I have to say that I think my legs look great too. (I should have been more careful to pose in the same way in both pictures, but I forgot how I posed in the before pics and I took these in the JC Penney's dressing room to use their full length mirror and I am too lazy to go back again to take more pics). Also, notice how misaligned my hips are (caused by the SI crap- I am not straight up and down, but my hips push out toward the right and smash my sciatic nerve. Ouch.)

February 28, 2010 (L) - 248 lbs.


June 12, 2010 (R) - 235 lbs.

I also wanted to post a closer-up pic of the hair for my mom. I took the braids out just a half hour ago because I have a big meeting in Little Rock on Monday where this isn't really an appropriate look, but they were cute and fun while they lasted.

And notice, almost no double chinnage now! Hip hop hooray!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Working Vacation

I just got back from a 6 day conference/vacation. Tough life.

It was great. Absolutely great. I learned so much about myself on this time away from my "real" life, and the time I had to reflect was much needed and appreciated. I loved it.

On the plane ride down, I read a few chapters of the Breaking Free from Emotional Eating book I mentioned earlier. If I had to summarize the parts of the book I've read so far, I'd say the theme is listen to your body. Straightforward. Hard, but straightforward.

Listening to your body means eating when you're hungry. Listening to your body means stopping when you're satisfied. Listening to your body means eating what you want, not what you think you should have. Listening to your body means resting when you're tired and not exercising when you're hurt.

For someone who either ignored or muted my body's signals for so long, this is kind of a tough one for me. In fact, I wasn't really even sure if I could tell what my body wanted anymore or if I was now deaf as far as listening to my body was concerned. This week proved to me that this is not at all true. When I am truly listening to my body, it will tell me what it wants.

Since embarking on living a healthier life, I've begun to listen more closely to when my body is hungry. I have learned that sometimes weird things mean that I am actually hungry -- for example, many of my cravings are actually hunger in disguise.

One of the things I was surprised to learn on this trip is that I'm actually starting to learn when I'm satisfied, too. On this trip there were several times when there was tons of food left on my plate and I was just not wanting to finish the rest. Times when there were some of my favorite things, and I knew I couldn't take them home for later (no fridge), and I STILL said I was finished. Unbelievable. Seriously. If you would have told me this just six months ago -- about 45 lbs into this journey -- I would literally not have believed this would be possible. But it is. And I experienced that this week.

Another thing that I learned on this trip is that my body can seriously respond to what it's eating and tell me if it's happy or not. For example, after a few days I thought "OMG I have absolutely got to lay off this sodium." I also thought "Man, no more cheese or excessive fat for awhile" and "I've got to eat more vegetables." When I listened and did what my body told me, it was ok again in about 24 hours (and cheese eating could resume!).

I'm not going to lie. I ate really well, and had some really rich foods on this vacation. I had several cocktails which were delicious, I ate cheese dip a few times, and I had two or three really big breakfasts, complete with eggs, sausage and hashbrowns (I ate all of these). I had dessert several times when I went to dinner. And with the exception of some granola bars and almonds I brought from home, and bananas I bought at a Mexican Walmart, I ate every single meal out.

Net result? I lost a few pounds. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted (including several fatty and splurgey foods), and I was fine. I mean to be fair, I ate more salads and fruit once I became less afraid of being food poisoned. I did work out several times with friends. I watched my portions. I drank 14+ L of water in the 6 days I was in Mexico. But living an active lifestyle, and eating what I wanted felt natural and right. And the results were great. And I felt like this is something I could do my whole life.

There was a scale in my hotel room (seems a bit cruel to have one of those, right?), and I did my daily weigh ins. I was surprised/excited to see the number progressing down down down all week. The last day I was there, the scale read 232 (turns out it was a fluke, as I was a bit dehydrated, and the scale is 1-2 lbs lighter than my scale at home). I was eating my final breakfast -- complete with an egg and 2 links of sausage and a huge pile of hashbrowns and pico de galo -- and looking into the Carribean Sea. I thought about how (I mistakenly thought) I was 2.5 lbs heavier than my lightest weight as an adult, ever. I realized that a goal I had set to lose 31 lbs before my 31st birthday coincided almost exactly with this weight. I reflected on how I had worn sleeveless shirts most days of the conference -- something that had previously terrified me and that I had never really felt comfortable with, and that I wasn't even sure I would be able to do a few months from now on my birthday. I thought about how I have now lost the most weight I have ever lost, surpassing my previous record of sixty pounds by a good 5-8 lbs.

I thought, probably really for the first time really on this journey, "I can do this. I am doing this. And I am strong and will continue to do this." And there at my table, alone overlooking the sea, I cried. My life is changing, and I am too. And, damn it feels amazing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Still Fat

I have read a few posts this week that have really resonated with me. As you longer-term readers know, I started off seriously a breath away from 300 lbs. My decision to take action was independent of this number, although when I actually took the step to weigh myself, I have to say that I was absolutely shocked at how high it was, and my resolve to do something about my weight was strengthened.

I now feel so much better than I used to. I can and do ride my bike to work. I love to go to the gym. I crave vegetables. I’m so much healthier than I used to be. The difference really amazes me when I stop to contemplate it.

Sometimes, though, I’ll really be struck by how I’m still fat. I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in a three way mirror, or a full body mirror with bad lighting, and I’ll have to suppress my gag reflex. While I am really happy with the changes in my body and my habits, I’ll occasionally be reminded that I’m so not there yet – and when it happens, it sucks.

For my height, the weight charts indicate that I should be between 124 and 164. When I graduated from high school, I weighed around 195 (I think I actually weighed more and that our home scale was really generous with me). The lowest I’ve ever weighed in my adult life is 229.5. Lately, I’ve been weighing in in the 235-239 range. I think that if I get to around 180, I will be very very happy with my figure and may talk to a doctor about whether this is a healthy weight for me or if I should lose more weight.

If you run the numbers (and being an engineer, of course I do), I’m only about halfway there! I’ve done really really well with this lifestyle change and the fact that I’m only halfway there…it kind of sucks! Especially since the last 10 or 15 lbs are so much tougher to lose than the first.

Another thing I’ve been struggling with is the fact that I don’t like some of the changes in others that I see when I see them thin. For example, I love Jennifer Hudson and agree she was probably overweight when she started her journey. I’m also pretty sure that Weight Watchers won’t let her get too thin while she is their paid spokesperson. But her new body? I’m not feeling it. I think her head looks too big on her body now. And I don’t like it.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not used to her the way she looks when she's bigger, or what. I’m not sure if it’s becase I usually feel quite happy when I look at myself in the mirror now that my 2+ chins rarely show up in pictures anymore – I usually just see one. I’m not sure why, but I have a harder time accepting the new bodies of some people who have drastically overhauled their lives. How much harder will it be to accept my own? This is something that I struggle with. (But PS it's really not any of my business. They are the masters of their own destinies, thanks...)

I am glad that I acknowledge this issue that I have now and am really really working hard to resolve this so that I don’t sabotage my progress as I get further down the road. One of the bloggers I really respect and identify with and have learned a lot from, Lyn at Escape from Obesity, has discussed this at length over on her blog. Seeing her thoughts on this issue have helped me to identify and begin to wrestle with my own thoughts. I really appreciate this and am determined not to let this mess me up as I get closer to my own goals.

Lonely 2.0

Thanks to everyone for the kind words on the lonely post. It is amazing to me that so many of us feel alone. I was also mentioning this to the stylist where I get my haircut, and she and another stylist echoed my lonely sentiments and lamented how tough it could be to make friends in the area where we live.

It is absolutely shocking to me how many of us feel this way! I know several who commented either on the post or to me privately in real life, and I know they’re likeable, kind, friendly, normalish people (I say normalish endearingly – what is normal, anyway, and are any of us really normal? I vote no.)

It makes me want to find meaningful ways to connect those of us who struggle with feeling alone, but what can I do? As I mentioned before, a sliver of me is afraid to get in the game for fear of rejection but I think I’m about to get over it. I will keep you all posted.

I wanted to thank you all of validating my feelings of being alone. Although I would love to have more and deeper relationships with real, live in the flesh friends where I live, I appreciate the virtual support I get from the comments you leave and from people who let me know that they read my blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I hope to eventually supplement these friendships with real ones and I will keep you all posted on my quest for more real friends!

Balancing your Greedy Side

One of my favorite twitter pals – Josie, a.k.a. Ms. YumYucky – always talks about balancing out her greedy side and her greedy desires. I’m pretty sure she aims to be silly, but I was thinking about it the other day on a day when I was struggling pretty hard core. I decided that for me, this is ultimately the way to go and is something that for me I believe can be sustained.

Today has not been a good travel day for me. I was supposed to be in a fancy tropical location right now, but due to travel delays I’m instead stuck in an airport. Blech. I stuck up for myself, called BS on Continental’s stance that there was a weather delay (no inclement looking weather on the radar between my airport and the hub airport I was headed to), and scored a travel voucher. I ended up at the hub airport, surveyed the food options, and decided on a swanky seafood place. I knew the voucher wouldn’t cover it completely, but decided it was worth it anyway.

I wanted to order something delicious. Perhaps fried calamari. Perhaps fried shrimp. Something decadent and indulgent.

After thinking about it some more, I decided that I wanted lobster bisque. I felt like this was indulgent (I love virtually anything with butter, cream, or cheese), but not that overboard. A google search reveals that 8 oz (the size I got) is about 300 calories. I also ordered a side order of veggies (green beans and a few new potatoes) steamed without veggies or oil. They were the fresh kind, not canned, and they were good. I felt that this was really a successful balancing of my greedy side with my “No I’m serious about getting healthy” side.

I should also mention that since my layover is so long, I went for a long walk to the neighboring terminal. I am glad that I am learning to incorporate activity into my everyday life, even when it’s not feasible to go to the gym. I am glad that I am able to have treats, and that I’m learning which treats are more indulgent and which actually aren’t as “bad” as you might expect. I feel like this is something reasonable that I can sustain in the long haul.

Afterall, I just can’t swear off cheese dip forever. My greedy side simply wouldn’t allow it – so I will just work to keep the greedy side in check.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm worried about you

One of my colleagues is as fat as I was when I started. I can hear this person's heavy breathing every time he/she walks by me or my office (not in a gross sexual predator way, but in an "it's hard for my body to support all this weight" way). I am concerned for this person -- genuinely so, not in a passive aggressive way that I just wish this person would lose weight.

I think back to my days on morbidly obese island (I've now been upgraded to plusher accommodations on only obese island), and I remember every time someone expressed concern about my weight or health I either got offended or I felt like more of a failure because I was so fat. The real change didn't come because someone else told me I should change or want to change -- the real change came when I was ready. People's worry -- whether genuine or not -- was completely lost on me. Seriously.

I hope this person's health is ok and that his/her weight does not hold him/her back from having a full, healthy, productive life. In the meantime, I will keep my concern -- while genuine and I think coming from the right place -- to myself.
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