Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weird, in a good way

First I want to clear this up -- to some it came across as though I was complaining about losing weight a couple posts ago. I want to clarify that I'm actually very excited about it, and am grateful to be headed back in that direction. There are some things that need worked through, yes, but overall it is a great thing.

I think it's like anything overwhelmingly positive. Say you won the lottery. It would be a bummer to deal with the taxes. It would be annoying/infuriating to deal with the leaches coming out of the woodwork to try to mooch off you. But, overall, experiencing something like winning the lottery I would imagine would be positive. It's the same with losing weight -- there's the potential for loose skin. There's the identity issues that arise, like not recognizing yourself when you look in the mirror, or still seeing yourself as 300 lbs when you're actually much smaller. There's the financial implications of buying clothes all the time. But overall? It is great. I am grateful to be losing weight again and if I didn't want to do it, I could very easily stop. So....hope that clarifies things.

I was writing today to let you know how cool and weird it is to be seeing new lows about 40-50% of the days I weigh (which is everyday) lately! This morning? 227.(I forget). I'm not going to post everyday there is a new low, as I'm basically in uncharted territory. And it is SO COOL to see a new low number on many of these days!!

I am just so grateful that I've made it past this imaginary and invisible 229 barrier. Thank you for helping to pray me past it. I am so grateful for this past year, where I have learned so much about myself, so much about WHY I am getting healthy, and so much about what causes me problems and how I can address those roadblocks. I think that, for me, working through those issues was worth so much more than just getting to some arbitrary number that I want to get to but having a myriad of undealt-with issues lurking beneath the surface. I have been faced with many of those issues. I've cried about them, battled them, and ultimately overcome or made peace with many of them. It's not been easy, but it's been WORTH IT and I think will pay very long term dividends.

And of course I'm thrilled that much of this behind-the-scenes background work has paid off and that now I'm moving closer and closer to a weight that is healthy for my body. Thank you all for the support you've given me as I worked through these issues. I am grateful the rewards are now manifesting themselves physically, and for your friendship virtual or otherwise :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Peanut Butter

When I went to Yosemite last month, I had PBJ for the first time in probably a couple years. It was SO GOOD! I loved it and didn't even realize what I'd been missing for so long. And I wanted to have some to make at my house!

I rarely have bread at my house -- it's not that I don't like it, it's just not something I can usually go through fast enough so it usually molds so I don't have it often. When I DO have it though, I make sure it is the good stuff either from a good bakery or something I've made myself.

About three weeks ago, I had bread that I had gotten to make grilled cheese (another favorite, which I am sure is no surprise). I decided I wanted to have PBJ sandwiches too, but I really did think long and hard before deciding to do that. Why?

PB has been a longstanding binge food for me -- one of those things that, in the past, I'd dig into with a spoon, a glass of milk, and more often than not a heavy heart. In the past it's typically been eaten by the jar, not the tablespoonful. So I wondered -- should I get the PB for PBJ? My typical workarounds for foods like this are either to get single serving containers (e.g., Doritos), eat the food at a restaurant (e.g., ice cream) so I only have a single size, or to avoid the food altogether. I could not figure out a way to easily do any of these things, so I decided a) that I really did want the PBJ; it was worth the risk and that b) if it became a problem, I would wash it down the sink (throwing it away isn't always enough -- I've been known to trash dig in the past).

I am pleased to report that my PB is still around. It's been about three weeks and I've enjoyed lots of PBJ delicacies including the straight up sandwich and the PBJ pizza. I think I will try it with oatmeal next week.

The best part? The peanut butter isn't even a temptation. I've been totally enjoying it but not obsessing over it or thinking about the next chance I'd have to eat it.

I am so glad that OA and God are helping me to overcome my food compulsions. I could not even have imagined having PB in my house a year ago and, if it had been there, I am sure I would have been absolutely on edge white-knuckling it through the temptation until I probably would have given in and eaten it all. Now I feel nothing toward that PB. I am so incredibly grateful (but I'm not ready to try to have Nutella in my house just yet).

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Those People"

You know "those people" who talk in meaningless sounding platitudes and talk as though they know everything about losing weight and living healthy lives? Today I realized that, even if I'm not yet one of those people, I am totally on the verge and I need to step away from the ledge slowly. I am so glad I caught myself, and I hope that if I ever start sounding like one of those people you will all let me know and TELL ME TO STOP!!

Today on Twitter, a blogger was talking about his/her struggle with healthy living and feeling really discouraged about where he/she was. You all know I've been there. Trust me, I. HAVE. BEEN. THERE!!! He/she was sounding desperate, lamenting the number on the scale and basically begging for advice.

Do you know what I twittered her? "It's not about the food."

Do I believe that? Yes. Pretty much whole-heartedly. I stand behind my thought.
Was it helpful to her? No. That's not helpful to hear.
Should I have said it? No. Not if it wasn't helpful, and it made me sound really like a smug ass -- which is not what I wanted to be and certainly wasn't helpful to anyone, least of all someone who is struggling.

In losing this weight, I've come to believe that for many of us -- and certainly myself -- that this is absolutely not about losing weight. Is it a part of the puzzle? Sure. Is it a way to measure our progress? Undoubtedly. It is objective and easy to track. But is it the end all be all? For me, the answer is no.

I think that the mechanics of losing weight -- barring some health problems like a thyroid issue -- is really pretty easy. Move more. Eat fewer calories than you burn, but not so little that your body thinks it's starving. Get the calories from healthy sources (e.g. 100 calories of string cheese or fruit >>>> 100 calories of twinkie).

So if we know all of this stuff, why are we fat? I think that most of us who want to lose weight know HOW -- it's the action and the follow through that is the hard part. For me, I know that years of food abuse and disordered eating caused some really poor choices on my part -- and some I did so long that they even became reflexive. And for me? THAT'S the hard part. Relearning how to deal with stress in ways other than eating. Deciding when to pass on that "I just can't live without it" treat. Realizing that sometimes, food's just not worth it. It's not that I don't KNOW (whatever not-stellar food choice) is bad for me -- it's that I decide that I don't care. I think it's that way for many of us. And THAT'S not about the food -- that's about dysfunctional food thinking.

These are things that I know are true for me. I think these things are true for many of us, and for many people who are still struggling with food.

...but I don't think sharing this stuff is helpful, unless people ask or genuinely care. And broadcasting it from a mountaintop or accosting anyone who will listen with the message? It's not helpful, and it probably won't be well received. But it will make you one of those people.

When I lost 60 lbs five years ago, I talked about saying goodbye to the fat forever. I said I would NEVER go back to the life I led before. One thing I've learned this time around is that I'm certainly not above a relapse, and that all-or-nothing thinking is a surefire shortcut to disaster for me. When I regained the weight, if someone would have told me it was not all about the food? I would have either rolled my eyes at them, argued, or felt even more like a loser than I already did. And really? None of those are good outcomes. So why would I say that to someone else?!?

Even though I talked about how I'd permanently changed my life and freed myself from the shackles of being overweight, compulsive eating led me right back to the old habits -- eating to deal with pain and loneliness. And with the old behaviors, the weight returned -- with a bonus, the way it always seems to.

And although it sucked, I am actually pretty glad it happened. I learned a LOT about humility from that experience. I learned that I am an addict and if I do not use God's help to overcome my addiction, it will suffocate me and eventually take my life. I also learned compassion, and the importance of consistency.

Part of me wants to share the "experience, strength, and hope" (OA buzz words) that I've gotten from this -- but not at the expense of sounding like an ass, or making someone feel bad when they're down. I don't want to be one of those people. I've been on the receiving side of that, and it is not fun so why would I do that to someone else?

Loose Clothes

As I've told you before, I've been mainintaining my weight for about a year or so. Recently, I think I've broken that streak and I've started to see the scale trending downward again. Overall, this is a great development.

However, there is something I'd forgotten about losing weight since I hadn't been doing it so long: I forgot that when you lose weight, your clothes don't fit anymore.

At first that was a good thing. I'd been about 230 one other time in grad school -- and from that time, I had some clothes that I really liked. There were a couple of pairs of jeans in particular that I couldn't wait to get back into. Having worn them for a little over a year now, I don't give them too much thought anymore. That's probably because I've been at this weight before, and I've been at 235 +/- 5 lbs for about a year now, allowing me to accumulate a normal wardrobe. Actually, I don't give the idea of clothes overall much thought.

Until Saturday. Here's a picture from Saturday in one of the pink polos I've worn for a year or so (and I love this shirt -- it reminds me of Legally Blonde). As I put it on I thought "Why is this too loose?!?!" In just a second I went from confusion to elation to "Oh crap, this means I will have to buy new clothes again."

I'm now moving into uncharted territory. I haven't been this size or smaller since high school through sophomore year of college. I didn't save any jeans or other clothes from that era, which is probably ok since I am unlikely to be wearing carpenter jeans or tapered leg jeans anyway -- but what that means is that very soon I will have no clothes to wear! I forgot about that part of weight loss. It's not that I mind buying new clothes -- part of me thinks it's fun actually. But I really don't mind it presuming you'll be able to wear them for several months, not that they'll just be transient as you pass through on your way to something smaller.

Overall, it's a good problem to have. I need to focus on that rather than annoyance. On the bright side, I'm currently in an 18 (normal, not W) or sometimes a 16W. The good news is that that means I'm not restricted to stores like Lane Bryant or plus sized sections of department stores. This means both more selection and BETTER PRICES! In addition, these sizes are more likely to be available at consignment shops and thrift stores -- which is great.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Step at a Time

Photo credit: J@m's flicker page

Today I am not sure what was wrong with me, but I just felt all over the place at work. I got stuff done, yes, but I felt like I was not firing on all cylinders. That's a problem because now is a time I definitely need to be harnessing every ounce of productivity I have, and more. I was kind of frustrated, honestly.

Do you know what I did? I went to go swim. Then I went for dinner (pizza, which I had points to eat -- and I ordered an 8" mini pizza). I was not really feeling like I could work just yet again so I went for a "quick" bike ride -- 11 miles. It was so cathartic.

I was thinking to myself, who ever thought this was possible? Who thought I would deal with stress by exercising?! And who ever thought I would order a pizza smaller than a small?! AND BE COMPLETELY SATISFIED?!?!?!

I remember one time when I was sick (probably about 3 years ago) I circled the Walmart parking lot for literally 10 minutes looking for a spot right next to the door because I did not want to walk any further than I had to. Now parking far away is no big deal.

I remember when I used to walk up the hill where I work wheezing and out of breath. Now I do that, then take the stairs to my office, and I'm not even breathing hard.

I remember when not having soda or dessert every day was unthinkable; now it's not really a big deal (although I do admit, I still love soda).

I was trying to figure out, "When did this happen? When did I change so much?!" As I thought about it, I realized it happened little by little -- by taking one step and making one decision at a time. That's both incredibly gratifying and incredibly humbling all at the same time.

On the one hand, it's great because it just means I need to make just one decision at a time or take one little step followed by another followed by another and I can eventually end up where I want to be, even if it's a place I never thought was possible. When I weighed 300 lbs, I never thought it would be possible to be back down to 229 -- but for the last several days I have been. And it's incredibly humbling and amazing.

At the same time, it's humbling because I can make one "little" decision that's bad and if I'm not careful I can take the path to destruction. I know, because I've done it once before, gaining 70 lbs in just over 2 years. Just by making one little decision at a time. However, I've also made plenty of not stellar decisions over the last 3 years, but I've rebounded. It's not a single bad decision that will do you in, but a series of them. And it's hard to see that you're making them sometimes when you're just living in the moment.

Anyway, tonight I'm kind of on a high because of this new life I'm living. Who thought I would do 1.5+ hours of exercise just for fun, not because it's the right thing to do -- but because it was what I wanted to do -- even more than watching TV or reading a book.

At the same time, I'm humbled because I'm not thinking I'm "fixed" or that I've really arrived at a place of complete recovery -- but I am glad to be living a happy and healthy life today. And I'm convinced I can live another healthy day tomorrow. And the day after... And the day after...

I love this life.

Progress, not perfection.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Wow yesterday morning was so so hard. SO hard.

First of all, after that great weigh-in early in the week, my weight kept inching upward. The perplexing part was that I was, as far as I know, doing everything right. I had the best week of workouts I've had in probably 2 months. I tracked every single (non-point) thing that I put in my mouth. As a bonus, I even made a conscious effort to drink less pop (successful but still room for improvement). However, in the end I was up 3.2 lbs for this week.

My main reaction was confusion, not anger or disappointment or wanting to give up. I was (and still am) perplexed, but my focus remains on doing the right thing -- eating nutritious food, tracking my points, and exercising regularly and aggressively. The weight will follow. I will only get concerned about the scale if my gains continue over the course of, say, a month. For now, there could be a myriad of causes -- water weight, hormones, stuff caught in my system, etc. Nonetheless, it got the morning off to a lackluster start.

That morning, our regular pastor was out of town. His pinch hitter is, at best, weak. Sometimes he's so glib he's even offensive. It is tough to sit through, and gets tougher with time. For this reason I wasn't excited to go to church. However, I texted some people and decided I should go. One of my friends texted me:
It's father's day and you know he loves his kids a lot so maybe it won't be so bad.
Then it hit me: "Oh shit, he's right. It's father's day and they will talk about this in church." And that's where the REAL fun for the day began, and I had an immediate and very very strong inclination to binge which I haven't done in a good 2-3 months thanks in no small part to OA.

I was a messy flood of tears, mostly sad and angry about my poor-to-non-existant relationship with my father who is an emotionally vacant and even emotionally abusive shell of a man. His behaviors have had long lasting and very deep implications on our fractured family. In addition to being mad about how much he had let me and the rest of my family down, I was mad at myself for my eating disorder and dysfunctional relationship with food which was making me want to binge with everything inside of me.

My reaction in the past would have been immediately to jump to the "screw it" stage and to soothe myself with food. I was determined to do what I could to avoid this situation from playing out let again.

I asked God for help. "Please let this compulsion pass."

One of the things you hear about in compulsive overeating circles is the need to "sit with the feelings" -- you have to really feel your feelings rather than just muting them or covering them over with copious amounts of food. Well I can tell you, in the moment, sitting with (binge food of choice) is a hell of a lot more comfortable than sitting with feelings when the feelings are so deep and hurtful and so shitty. But yesterday, I sat with my feelings. For a good 45 minutes to an hour I sat with my feelings on my bed and cried and cried and cried. I held tight to the serenity prayer, and I prayed for the compulsion to overeat to pass. And after awhile it did.

I was so grateful for God's help in surviving the compulsion to overeat -- the strongest compulsion I'd had for a long time. It also made me think, wow maybe it is actually possible with God's help to be restored to sanity when it comes to food (step 2). While I believed this step in my head, I think I am starting to actually see evidence of it in my life, and for this I am very grateful.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Staying the Course

Since I posted earlier in the week about how I'd reached a new low, my weight has gone up a little to 230.2 (not outside normal water weight gains/losses). I continue to work out, track everything for WW, and (I don't think I wrote about this) avoid meat. Everything will work itself out. If I do the actions for long enough, the results will follow. I am staying the course.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Here's an article that was written about me for a publication at school. I'm not super pumped about the article (it reads kind of blah to me, and the food is such a bigger harder piece of getting healthy for me than the exercise).

"Oooh, I like that too!"

Last night, our community group re-instituted the ice breaker. I don't know why, but I love those things. Quick, surface level questions that actually lead you to discover something interesting about someone you might not have known already.

The question last night was "What's your favorite candy bar?"

My answer was either a Ritter Sport with a Butter Biscuit or a Pay Day. It's probably been a month or two since I've had a Ritter Sport and it's been probably over a year since I've had a Pay Day. I really don't indulge very often on candy or chocolate, as I prefer to indulge on cheese (like those of you who have read this blog before didn't know that...).

It was funny, though, as people went around describing their favorite bars, I was like "Oh, I like that too!" Snickers. Reeses, both the cups and the pieces. Zero. Caramello. Sour Patch Kids. Peanut M&Ms. All kinds of good stuff. And, except for the Hot Tamales, I would say I loved everyone's candy choices. (I'm also not crazy about anything black licorice related -- but almost anything else is good. I also would say I like Butterfinger but I think it is nasty how it gets stuck in your teeth.)

Someone was like "Oh, you really like a lot of candy!" It's funny. Although I like a lot of candy (guilty as charged), I don't eat it much anymore. I guess it was just interesting to me that "normal" people don't like candy as much as I do (or at least they don't vocalize it, and some even comment on my like of it although not in a critical or judgmental way).

It is true. I love candy and, more generally, I LOVE food. But that doesn't mean I have to eat it all the time, or eat it in jumbo sized bags to enjoy it. These are lessons that I'm learning and, shockingly, even starting to believe at a deeper heart level.

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. At least one who wants to learn them, like me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Low

This morning I weighed 228.0, eclipsing my old low of 228.4. The funny thing is that I'm learning that just like food and my attitude toward it don't define me, my weight doesn't either. The next thing that needs to go is my identity as a former fat girl. I sometimes still think of myself that way (often?). It's not that I think it's bad to remember where I've come from; I think that's good/important. It's more that it should not define me -- moving it out of who I think I am at my core.

Now here's the thing -- every other time I've hit a new low in the last year, there is some sort of self sabotage involved (see picture above). It's never conscious and it's always subtle, but it's always been there. Soon after I get to a new low, I get sloppy or gain weight or something. I need to figure out why and not do it now. After all, if weight doesn't define me, why should it dictate my behavior? It shouldn't.

I am cautiously optimistic that this is the week I can break the cycle. I will be praying about this with my higher power. If you are into such things, would you mind praying for me too? I hope to have good news to share soon. Hopefully this is the time where I can break through this maintenance phase I've (unintentionally) been in for the last year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Giving it Up

Since I started to attend OA (which I do pretty much exclusively on the phone, but usually 3-4 times/week), my journey to get healthy has taken a decidedly spiritual turn. These themes play heavily in this post.

This morning, I went to go see Fork over Knives. It's basically a film advocating a vegan-based diet and advocating viewing food as medicine -- something that can not only prevent but also heal chronic diseases (they focused on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes). A little preachy, but not too bad.

While I do eat tons of produce (I calculated last week that I probably have 1.5ish lbs of produce/day), I also eat meat and dairy. While meat is something that I feel I could cut out of my diet without too much heartache, I would have a really really hard time giving up dairy. I love yogurt. I love milk. I love cottage cheese. I love kefir. I love basically all forms of dairy that I've tried.

But most of all I love cheese.

One of the big arguments in the film against dairy was that it is high in casein, a protein that some studies show can encourage the growth of cancerous cells. I thought to myself, "If I had cancer and after researching it concluded that dairy was hurting me, would I really be able to give up cheese?" I batted this idea around for 5-10 minutes while I continued watching the film and decided I could not. I'd rather die than give up cheese. And I really did mean it literally.

Only after I rendered this decision did it strike me how absolutely absurd this was, and how deeply engrained my dysfunctional food thinking is. To be willing to continually self-injure or at least not prevent something that will happen as a result of your actions is just -- I don't even know. It's sad. But in that theatre, I decided I'd rather do that than to give up a food that I loved.

This reminded me of the passage of the rich young ruler in the Bible. Basically, a rich young guy asks Jesus what he needs to do to go to heaven. Jesus tells him he needs to sell everything and follow Him, but the man is sad and ultimately can't do it. And for me, the money is food. Would I really be willing to give up food and rely on Jesus instead?

It's one of those situations where you're not really sure until faced with the situation (as opposed to a hypothetical musing), but after praying and working through this issue much of the day I can finally say that I think I could do it. I would give up dairy if it were hurting my health or if I felt led by God to do it. And that is submission in its ultimate form, and a very huge step for me. One more step in this long, difficult journey.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

Our family has terrible genes as far as heart disease is concerned (but great ones for avoiding cancer -- so yay!). On my Mom's side, my grandpa had multiple heart attacks. Both of my Mom's brothers have had heart attacks and one of my uncles even died before he was 60. Sad. We found out my Mom's mom (Mema) had blown a heart valve right before she died. Mema also had really really high cholesterol. On my Dad's side, my grandpa died while my Dad was in Vietnam of a heart attack. I know my grandma had a stroke, but I believe she also had a heart attack. My Dad's brother also had a heart attack -- I bet he was in his late 40s or early 50s when that happened. My Dad has had heart problems, although gratefully never a heart attack.

This is all in the forefront of my mind since one of my uncles was admitted this week to the ICU for a heart attack. It freaks me out because my Mom has struggled with her weight like I have and still do (although she has lost and maintained a 50-ish lb. weight loss for almost 10 years; very proud of her). She is older than her brother was when he died, and older than her remaining brother who had a heart attack this week. It is crazy.

It also makes me concerned for me and for my own health. I used to think in my 20s "This heart stuff only really becomes important when you're 40 or older." I am glad that I don't think like that anymore, and am trying to be proactive about eating (mostly) right and exercising most days.

I am surprised how much it is being underscored to me that all of this getting healthy stuff is so not about the skin deep issues -- about looking cute and skinny. It is about changing how I approach food and why I eat. I also initially wrote "it's about not dropping dead of a heart attack" -- but actually it's not about that. Instead of living a defensive life of fear where my goal is to avoid bad things happening, I want to live live on offense -- I want to be in the very best physical shape I can so that I can do fun things like climbing to the top of waterfalls or kayaking or running around playing with little kids. Really, it's all about living a full life where I enjoy myself and am not obsessed with or inhibited by the food I put in my body. To me that is the goal of this whole healthy living thing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The title of my blog is that food will not define me forever. The genesis of the title is that nearly everything I used to do or think about revolved around food. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but if so it is only a very slight exaggeration. I realized that having so many obsessive thoughts about food was extremely unhealthy and I vowed to change it. And I've made huge strides. But it's funny that a lot of my identity with some of my friends is still tied up in food. Let me explain...

I counted the other day and I have literally 15+ friends who are currently pregnant. I'm not exaggerating for effect; I literally have that many friends expecting kids, which is both great and kind of underscoring where I am in my life and where they are in theirs which makes me feel...well, I don't know. But that's not the point of this post.

For the friends in my community group having babies, we are planning on helping them by bringing meals soon after they deliver their children. This is a great service and I am so glad that we will be able to do this for them. I hope that it in some small way makes their transition to parenthood just a little bit easier.

It's funny, though, because I've only joined the group about a year ago and no one has had kids in that time -- hence, no meal sign up sheets for meal delivery service. People in the group are now so excited that I will be in the rotation to bring them food. They've made several comments about being so glad that I will cook for them, really looking forward to my meal, etc. I'll be honest and say there's a little performance anxiety it's causing!

Most of all, I take it as a complement -- that they enjoy my cooking, that they're looking forward to my meal. I am grateful to be able to serve them in this small way that I really enjoy (I like cooking a lot).

It's just funny that this one thing that I've worked so hard to have a functional relationship with and to move out of the center of my life (food) is a big piece of how people in this group view me. They enjoy my cooking (which is great and a good thing), but it is just funny given that I've worked so hard to distance myself from having food at the center of my life. Irony, for sure.

I told them and I will tell those of you who are my friends -- you don't have to get pregnant for me to cook for you. If you ask nicely, I will probably be more than happy to invite you over and cook for you. I really do find joy in cooking and sharing meals with others, even if it doesn't and won't define me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Not the Answer You Expected...

The other day I was leaving work to go to lunch. One of the coworkers I don't get to see often (she is in administration and in a different part of the building than I am) was headed out of the building the same time as I was.

We made some smalltalk, exchanging our plans for and accomplishments so far during summer. She then paid me a compliment, saying I looked great. She asked me, "So I never did hear how you lost all the weight. What did you do?"

I am sure she was expecting a short and succinct answer -- something along the lines of Jenny Craig, or gastric bypass, or Weight Watchers. I simply couldn't give her one. The further and further I get down the path of healthy living -- a path along which the scenery and tools will change, but that I should never leave -- the less convinced I am that there are quick answers to what are meant to be easy questions about this journey.

I told her that I hadn't lost weight in a year, but that it has been an important year mentally for me with respect to staying healthy. I told her how I've worked to get a handle on my compulsive eating. I told her how I work to integrate exercise into my everyday life, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and riding my bike to work when the weather is nice. I told her that I eat tons and tons of fruits and vegetables and make healthier choices. I told her I had to focus on getting my mental health in order. I told her that I haven't cut out certain foods altogether, but I really make it worth it when I splurge.

Basically, I told her the truth. For me, the truth of how I've started to change my life and my habits cannot be summed up in a short 2-5 word phrase. It's the result of hard work. It's sometimes a struggle. Sometimes, I mess up.

And, finally, I told her I'd done Weight Watchers but that that's been a more minor piece of the get healthy puzzle. After all, I've been "doing" WW intermittently for the last year, and I've just gained and lost the same 10 lbs over and over. Weight Watchers is really a tool for me to manage what I put in my body, and not an answer in itself.

But all of this? This healthy living thing? It is worth it.

I can climb stairs without getting tired. People don't look at me with "that look" when I'm in public. I am starting to be able to shop in normal stores and normal sections -- ie, something besides Lane Bryant and the tiny corner of old lady fat clothes in regular department stores. I can fit into restaurant booths. I am not so fat that that's the first thing people notice about me.

And although Weight Watchers has played an integral role in all of this -- one that I will forever be thankful for and proud of -- I am the one who has done the work, with the help of my "higher power". And most of it has gone way deeper than just the food I eat -- to why I eat, how I view food, and the emotion behind the food.

And all of this? The changes I've made in my life? I would not trade them for a mountain of cheese dip. There really is life beyond the food. It's so much more than just looking cute walking around in nice clothes. And it is so so so much richer than I would have thought or imagined.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail Hike

Me and Kristi at the bottom of Yosemite Falls. We climbed the whole way up!

So, as I said last post, I did it. I climbed up to the very top of Yosemite Falls and it was really no small feat: 7.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2500 ft (that’s twice the height of the Empire State Building for those keeping track at home). And let me tell you...I don’t think I’ve had a more physically demanding experience in my life, or a physical demand with such a huge emotional high at the end. Let me chronicle the journey for you.

I got up at 3 AM Friday so I could shower and catch my 6 AM flight. I flew to Reno, where I rented a car. Google maps told me I had a 4.5 hour trip to Yosemite ahead of me. What it didn’t know about this trip is that it would actually be 10 hours due to navigational errors and seasonal road closures I wasn’t aware of, and that I’d get the first speeding ticket since I was 18 (I guess we'll be glad for the 13 year streak…). Sigh. I finally made it to Yosemite Friday at 10 PM, and was frustrated, disgruntled and tired. That all went away, though, when I saw my friend Kristi who I hadn’t seen since our November trip to Disney. It is always so very very great to see her, and was even greater when I learned some exciting personal updates about her life! She and I stayed up until 1 AM chatting and catching up – and yes, for those of you keeping track of the time difference, that is a full 24 hours of being awake for me. That’s really not the way I roll (I get 7 hrs of sleep/night like clockwork). It was a small price to pay to see Kristi and to have arrived in such a beautiful place (even though I could not tell it was beautiful under cover of darkness!).

The next morning I woke up at 7:30 AM. The good thing about being so tired was that I acclimated to Pacific time from central with no problem! Kristi and I got a slow start – eating a big breakfast, making sure to pack a healthy lunch and a lot of snacks for our hike, checking out the visitor’s center, seeing Yosemite Falls from the ground – before we finally started up the trail around 12:30. The hike was supposed to take 6-8 hours, so we all figured we’d be fine and back on the ground by sunset around 8 PM. And I would be remiss if I did not mention that the weather was perfect -- very slightly overcast with a high of around 60-65. PERFECT weather to be outside.

An overview of the trail. 135+ switchbacks. 7.6 miles roundtrip. ~2600 ft elevation gain.

When the hike started, I had serious serious stomach issues. I was not feeling well AT ALL and was not even sure the hike was a good idea because I felt so badly. I knew deep down that I would regret it if I did not at least TRY the hike so I decided to go despite stabbing stomach pains. About ¼ - ½ mile into the hike let’s just say the spirit moved in a major way (TMI) and I was feeling a whole lot better. I was glad that I had decided to press on and was now sure that I would make it up the mountain. A little bit later we stopped for lunch. I had the first PBJ I’d had in probably 3-4 years and wow it was great! I also had some fruit and a string cheese, and then we soldiered on up the mountain. The first 1-2 miles were not that bad. Some switchbacks, yes, but the rocks weren't slippery or unstable feeling, and I was grateful for whoever had constructed such a cool trail to the top. We made it to an overlook and I was feeling pretty good. I definitely wasn’t fast, but I thought “I’ve so got this.”

Us at the first big outlook. It is after the first set of switchbacks. A lot of people quit the trail here, but not us!! Great view of Half Dome in the background.

We then hit an odd part of the trail that took us downhill for like ¼ mile. For anyone trying to reach the top of anything (mountain, waterfall, whatever), you know that extended stretches of downhill are not good when your goal is to go uphill. Finally, though, we started to go uphill again. This is where things got bad.

The last part of Upper Yosemite Falls trail is steep, long, and has lots of slippery, unstable rocks. My psoas was spasming with nearly every step I took. It hurt so so badly.

…and this stretch of the trail was where I learned I was not in as good a shape as I thought I was and that my friend Kristi may truly be the most patient person on the planet. I googled it and found that there are more than 135 switchbacks to the top of the falls. I started off able to do 2-3 switchbacks before needing a break. It got to the point where I would need to rest once or twice EACH switchback. Kristi never got annoyed or impatient, and was incredibly encouraging. It was incredible. Although I seriously (and I mean it literally and not for dramatic effect) considered turning back twice, I didn't. And it was due in no small part to Kristi's encouragement. She is such a great friend and was so kind to be so helpful and patient.

This might give you an idea how steep and rocky the trail was. But probably not -- I think you have to see it to believe it.

Finally we made it to the top. And would you believe I did not get a single picture? I am virtually certain we had some taken, but I think the camera was switched to the wrong setting because I'll be darned if I didn't get to the bottom and learn that we had no pictures. So so sad.

But I will never forget it at the top. To actually get to the overlook you had to go over these extremely scary stairs (with no guard rail) cut out of the side of a rock face. Despite my exhaustion and fear of heights, I DID IT and Kristi and I enjoyed a beautiful dinner at the top around 5:30. We enjoyed it and I almost cried because I was so proud of myself. It was a full circle moment to have made it to the top of the falls; the fact that I used to not be able to climb a single flight of stairs without getting winded certainly wasn't lost on me.

Scary scary stairs to get to the overlook -- yes, you had to go downhill after climbing and climbing uphill. Crazy. But serious gratitude and props to those who made this trail and these stairs!!!

The way back down? I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. And I definitely thought it would be a lot faster than the way up. I will say this: it killed my knees and we didn't make it to the bottom until 9:30. Fortunately I had bought a headlamp and I had it with me because, even with the headlamp, it was one of the scariest things I'd done in my life. However, we made it unscathed and I was so so proud.

View from the top of the Falls. Yes, I stole this picture from someone online (as I did with the pictures of the trail and the stairs).

And more than being proud I was sore. My psoas was killing me (the uphills). My hamstrings killed me (the uphills). My quads killed me (the downhills). My knees killed me (the downhills). My back was killing me (the stress and exhaustion and the fact that I just have back problems). It. was. rough.

I thought I would be ravenous but honestly I just wanted to go to stretch and go to bed. I did have some pizza, but only two or three pieces -- my body just was not up for more, despite the fact that I'd done 9 hours of hiking. I thought I'd go to bed and sleep for 12 hours; however, I just slept for 7. I guess that's all my body wanted/needed. Strange.

I will say that this is the toughest thing I think I've ever done physically. I felt pushed to and past my limits. Though I wanted to die at times, I made it. And it was sooo worth it. I won't forget it. It makes me want to get in shape and be able to breeze up the falls next time -- and I will be SURE to get a picture before I leave :)
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