Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm Back

So when people disappear from healthy living blogs, it's generally not because they're out there just living on the healthy straight and narrow.  This is true of me too.

Since I last blogged, I've gained a significant amount of weight and am now north of 250 again.  It is frustrating.  It is a result of my actions, obviously, but it is frustrating.

Since I last blogged so much has happened.  Most notably, I suffered from very severe hip injury where many times I was unable even to walk.  This meant exercise was out of the question, and I fell back on an old friend who has brought me significant comfort in hard times: food.  A fickle friend, food is.

The story is long and involved, but suffice it to say that through my hip pain and inability to walk I met God in the most real, tangible way I ever have and He changed my life.  Ultimately He healed me for which I am supremely grateful.  My life is a testament to His goodness, even when I do not understand what the hell is going on.

So, last week I knew it was time.  Time to exercise again.  Time to get going on living a healthy life.  At 252 I joined Weight Watchers.  It wasn't without its bumps, but things were working and I even took a walk one day and swam another.  Yay activity!

Then Friday afternoon, I got a text from my mom.

her - "How old was Titus?" (my cousin)
me - "I have no idea.  Maybe two years older than me?"
her - "He died of a heart attack."

It's hit me like a ton of bricks.  I am heartbroken for his family.  It's not because we were close.  Not at all, in fact.  It's mostly fear co-mingled with a helping of "Wow your family sucks."  The fear is because of the heart disease that runs rampant on both sides of my family.  Titus wasn't even obese as far as I know, but he died at age 35ish of a heart attack.  That is simultaneously crazy and terrifying.  The family sucking thing?  It's just true.  I'll keep the details off the blog but it is true.

I have been surprised how deeply this has affected me, but it is hard not to revert to stuffing my face instead of feeling the emotion.  Saturday was not good in this regard.  Sunday was better but also not great.

So that's where I am.  I am 252 right now.  Very few of my clothes fit.  I am sad.  I haven't been taking care of my body.  But I am a fighter and I know I will not give up.  Please pray for me, though, because this is hard.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Enough. This morning I felt a very definite sense of God telling me, "I am enough."

Work is stressful, but He is enough.
My back hurts, a lot. But He is enough.
I want to eat all the time, and things that are not healthy for me. But I don't have to, because He is enough.

Enough. It doesn't mean I get what I want all the time. It doesn't mean my back doesn't hurt. It doesn't mean I got my CAREER award. It might not even mean I get tenure here.

But He is enough, and I need to rest in that.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Dude, I am struggling so hard core on my eating. I just want to eat all the time. ALL. THE. TIME.

And although I don't ALL the time, I eat more than I should and the scale reflects that. And I am tired about it. And sad.

And, if I don't get a grip soon, in the not too distant future I will have no more pants that fit. And that SUCKS.

And my back/hip hurts like a mofo a lot of the time. I even tried to go swimming the other day and couldn't because of the excruciating pain. How pathetic is that?! I can't even swim, the gentle-st of all exercises. I am frustrated.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I think this cartoon does a great job giving a little insight into what depression is. More importantly, I think they it gives insight into what depression ISN'T. (Note, I'm sad that this was written so many months ago. This dude (dudette?) writes a very successful blog that used to publish regularly, came up for air, and has now disappeared into the ether again. Classic model of depression).

Anyway, depression isn't feeling sad all the time. Being depressed is just not feeling much of anything. Certainly not happy, but also not really sad. You feel devoid of emotion (possible exception: hopelessness). You feel like shell of a person. And worst of all? You don't really care. Apathy reigns supreme.

It sucks. It is hard to do anything when depressed. When you hear about depressed people not getting out of bed, be assured that that is a very literal thing. Severely depressed people cannot even muster energy to leave bed, let alone shower, get dressed, or go get groceries.* Your advice for people just "snap out of it" is perhaps well-intentioned, but it is just not possible when someone has sunken too deeply in the quicksand that is depression.

So...what can you do when some is depressed? That's a great but freaking hard question. I'd suggest the following:
  • Have compassion. If possible, empathize but if that's not possible, sympathize. I'm not suggesting that you enable, but be kind and gentle.
  • Be there. Physically. Be there. Even if they say they don't want you, they probably need you. Be there. Don't let them isolate.
  • Be rational. Depression somehow sucks you of the ability to reason. Help them to see the big picture.
  • Realize you're not a mental health or medical professional. Be there for them, but realize you're probably not completely equipped to deal with the problem. Point them to someone who is, and take them there yourself if that's what it takes.
  • Release them from the shame. Make sure you know that you don't judge them or think any less of them for seeking help. In fact, recognize and praise the strength it takes for them to admit their weakness.
I think depression is one of the most insidious health problems out there, perhaps third to cancer and dementia. Depression is not something that is made up -- it is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression is a MEDICAL problem, as evidenced by mounds of scientific evidence. The brain chemistry of someone who is depressed and someone who isn't is completely different. Depression is not a weakness anymore than cancer is a weakness. While of course I advocate prayer, I think that it's pretty irresponsible to not seek medical treatment for depression because you think you can pray your way out of it. Would you not seek medical treatment if you had cancer? Should you not seek treatment if you have high blood pressure? I'm not saying not to work on the underlying causes (e.g., obesity in the case of blood pressure), but I think to just not treat the blood pressure in the meantime is irresponsible. I see failing to treat depression is similar. And -- trust me as someone who is terrible at this so I'm speaking to myself here too -- ignoring won't make it go away. It will make the problem grow. And get worse. And that's not good.

Last topic -- antidepressants. Before I took them, I mistakenly thought they were happy pills. They're totally not. Taking anti-depressants will not solve any problems. They won't necessarily make you feel happy. But -- wow -- they will make you feel again. When I start back up on anti-depressants I am just amazed at the difference that they make. It makes me realize what a funk and fog I had been walking around in prior to taking them. A friend likened taking anti-depressants to emerging from a fog. I think it is the perfect metaphor (ok, it's a simile if we're being technical). Just because fog lifts, it doesn't mean you're in a luscious garden or anything. Quite the opposite -- sometimes you're square in the middle of shit creek! However, with the fog lifted, you can see where you're going. You can make decisions. And you even have the power to act on them. And that is key to getting out of shit creek, really. It's for sure better to know where you're going than to be stuck in the middle, powerless to do anything because you're immobilized.

Again, depression is an ILLNESS not an imaginary thing. And taking medicine for an illness? It's totally legit. And, if it's prescribed right and taken in the care of a medical professional who's watching out for you and monitoring your treatment, it can help you GET BETTER. And that is the goal.

So -- why am I putting this all out there? What if people find this who I know in real life?

Trust me, I have thought about this. I am not embarrassed that I suffer from depression. Do not misunderstand, I'm not proud of it. I wish I didn't. But I do, and that's that.

I have a passion for mental health advocacy. I think that the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental illnesses is crazy. And it has to stop at some point. While I don't advertise the fact that I suffer from mental illness to strangers and I recognize that there are socially inappropriate times to talk about mental illness, I also think that if everyone just keeps this to themselves, mental illness will never be socially accepted or understood. The truth is, the disease can be managed. And to shame people into not seeking treatment because it's not socially acceptable or well-understood? That is a crying shame, and a detriment to society.

If I can be even a small piece in the HUGE puzzle of getting the tide to turn, I am proud to put a face on depression and mental illness. It is real, and it sucks. And you can get treatment for it, manage it, and return to productivity. And it is worth it. It really is.

*Somehow I always managed the groceries part. Compulsive overeater through and through, this one is.

Making Progress and Not Making Progress

I started back on antidepressants once I realized I was depressed. I am amazed EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I start them how fast they work (in about 2 days I feel markedly different, and for the better), and how much more they make me feel like *me*. It is really great. I think it is so interesting how misunderstood depression is, and anti-depressants are. But that's another post.

The bad news is that I have not been doing well tracking my food. Last week this slippery slope started with an all day trip to Kansas City for work. I had little control over lunch and I had no idea what even was in what I ate -- so I used that as an excuse not to track. It was situation after situation like this last week so I didn't track the whole second part of the week. My roommate's birthday was Sunday and so yesterday was another day of indulgent eating. Today I was back on track. I don't know.

On the one hand I am tired of excuses. JUST DO IT ALREADY! Track all the time, lose the weight, get on with life. It's just food. No excuses!!!! There are plenty of militant bloggers (and just people) out there who take that attitude.

For me, it doesn't work. I lived life as a very all or nothing person for a long time. Black or white. Do or don't. In or out. No middle ground. If I am not careful, I still think like this. For me moderation is a LEARNED skill. I do almost nothing in moderation. This was one of the main things that came up in my various stints of counseling -- breaking free of all or nothing thinking. Because to me it's just not reasonable to never have _____ again. I believe in the concept of trigger foods, and think that everyone is different. But I reject out of hand just never having something forever just because someone else thinks it's bad (e.g., flour). To me it is not sustainable.*

Honestly, I think that starting to break free is part of is what has helped me to be successful at overhauling much of my life. I went almost totally crazy with food for 2 months in November and December. I gained 15 lbs. But you know what? I am back in the saddle. I am not ready to let this fat thing lick me. I think to myself, "Wow, not exercising was a bad decision. Please don't let your core get weak again; the back pain is not worth it." But I also think to myself, "OK, we learn from this. The cookies were good, but probably not *that* good. Can you just gain 5 lbs next year?"

I lived with a subtle but definite sense of self-loathing when I was obese. Yes, I was still selfish and self-serving for sure....but if you get right down to it, I had a very healthy dose of not feeling comfortable with my body and not liking myself. And to me, that is as emotionally unhealthy as I was physically unhealthy -- and my goal here is to be healthy, not skinny (though a healthy weight will put me skinner than what I am today). That includes my emotions, and being emotionally healthy means being kind to myself.

So -- back to the point. I think that this "NO EXCUSES JUST DO IT NOW!!!!!!" talk is well intentioned, but for me not the way to go. The self talk is so NEGATIVE. When I hear "NO EXCUSES DO IT NOW!!!!!" in my head, I can't help but tack on a "YOU STUPID FAT COW!! WHEN WILL YOU EVER GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER MORON?!" on the end of the sentence And honestly? That is just not healthy. And so I won't do that.

I'm not advocating not setting goals for yourself. I'm not advocating not owning when you make a mistake. But I AM advocating being gentle with yourself. Because -- at least for me -- being hard on myself when I did not make [what often were unrealistic or super-perfectionist] goals happen, that would drive me to the food. I am being gentle on myself and forgiving with myself, because then I am sane enough to realize what poison compulsive overeating is to my soul and sometimes even body.

So -- there's where I am. On the one hand I'm not making much progress if you believe the scale. I weigh about the same as I did last week. But on the other hand, I'm making mental progress. And, to me, that is where the REAL battle of compulsive overeating is won. The fat and the food is just a symptom of being sad and feeling broken.

*Note -- but this is for everyone to decide for him/herself and it's between you and your higher power. That having been said, I know that there is no way I could have something like Nutella in my house anytime in the forseeable future. NO. FREAKING. WAY. That thing would be gone so fast.....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mixed Results

I've got good and bad news to report.

The good news is that I'm down from that gross 243 number. Last week I lost about 5 lbs, placing me squarely under 240 again. The other good news is that I'd say I'm about 80% past my SI/sciatica issues -- probably the most quickly resolved bout of that I've had. This is probably due to the PT's exercises, knowing how better to stretch on my own, and an army of friends praying for me to get better. Whatever it is, I will take it.

The bad news is that I've realized I'm depressed again. Not getting out much while I was sick over break just really put me into a slump that has been hard to break out of. I've told friends (when I'm depressed, I isolate myself and then that isolation is the bottom of a deep spiral downwards), so I am hoping that helps me break out of this rut. Sunday I went to church and ran home, eating and watching TV under a blanket all day until I went to bed at 8 PM. Definitely a down day.

But, things are getting better. I think that is a post all its own though.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Deja Vu

So if I had to pick a word to describe this break, it would be "sucked". I had the worst bout of sciatica I've had in a long time. I barely left my house because it hurt so much to move.

Well, general holiday-ness + frustration from pain and immobility + immobility due to sciatica and pain = weight gain. To be exact, I was up to 243 Tuesday when I finally braved the scale.

Part of that is from traveling and stress in November. Lots of it is from the holiday food that seems to be pervasive. And what's sadder is that the weight gain doesn't tell the whole story. Working out very little or not at all over those months led my body composition to change rather significantly, exchanging muscle for fat.

So here I am in a place I've been before -- heavier, squishier, and with limited ability to work out due to the sciatica. And despite my having been here before, it somehow seems very different. I am not freaking out. I started seriously tracking things two days ago and I have stayed the course (and let me tell you there are times -- usually in the evenings when I am home by myself -- that it takes almost everything I have not to gorge myself). I will get this weight off and push myself even further. I will honor my body and work through the sciatica issue (which is already markedly better. Last night was my first night without Vicodin and muscle relaxers and though my sleep was terrible, I did make it through).

I just wanted to do a brief check in and be honest about this weight gain because goodness knows I'd get on here and trumpet my success if I had lost 15 lbs rather than gained it! Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year.
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