I Am That Girl Now

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Well now.

On a whim, I weighed in this morning, one day early. I got on and off the scale several times before I believed it wasn't just having a hiccup.

Remember those six pounds I was up last week? Yeah, those are missing. And another three with them. I currently weigh one pound less than I did before the wedding.

I'm kind of puzzled about this, but I figure the mystery six pounds had to do with a) the sinus infection (Macbeth may have been amazed at how much blood a man could have in him; me, I'm more impressed by the huge amounts of snot), b) water retention before my period, and c) the self-medication with food during the week-long headache. Assume that one pound of actual non-water weight came on due to the Kitchen Valium, and that means that over the past three weeks I've been losing an average of two pounds a week-- and then add on the five possible pounds of water weight that I used to talk about all the time, all hitting at once. Voila.

The challenge, though, is not thinking about this in terms of weight, because weight-goals are wacky things: they're achievable, is the worst of it, and they waver around because a human body isn't a static thing. So basing a thought process on it is bad. I need to think of my weight as the canary in the mine-- when something is happening on the scale, I'd better take a look around and see what's going on with my environment and my actions and my habits, check out my general health.

This, plus my thoughts on remembering my health benefits versus those of my husband, have come together to make me think that I really need to get my priorities straight and get my brain set on maintaining my health. For some reason I don't mind the idea of having to work continually to keep my health up, whereas the idea of having to work continually to keep my weight down makes me frustrated and resentful.

Not to mention, if my weight happens to hit upon goal numbers I get sloppy. I don't have a history of keeping on course when my weight is around goal-- it's like I lose my reason and feel like I don't have to worry, or like I've earned the right to eat whatever I want. My body still works the same way, it still operates on the same principles; the numbers on the scale don't change that.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Life's not fair. Well, maybe.

A friend who's just a few months into the weight-loss journey reports that her husband has lost exactly as much weight as she has, just by eating the same things (and twice as much of them) that she's been cooking and eating. She finds this insanely frustrating, and I'm right with her on that one. Men get off easy on losing weight-- it's easier for them because of the blessings of genetics, the vagarities of societal expectations, and hormones geared more toward burning calories than toward packing 'em away to fuel baby-making. The fact that men can lose weight without even thinking about it while women have to knock themselves silly is a fact that, if you happen to be a woman and have a male on hand to compare the process with, will drive you mad.

I'm not comfortable with the fact that life is unfair. I occasionally fall prey to fits of class rage, in which the fact that 90% of my friends make twice as much money as I do starts to pull my brain into little pieces. Likewise, it used to make me go mental when I would bust my ass for a good grade and someone who finished his paper five minutes before class would get the same mark-- or a better one. There's a lot of my personality, I think, that's based on the concept that you only truly deserve something when you earn it with hard work, and so when the same results happen regardless of who worked and who didn't-- particularly when I'm on the "did" part of that equation-- it's more than a question of parity, it's an assult on a precious belief of mine.

My husband eats what I eat, about two-thirds of the time-- he just tends to eat more of it. The rest of the time, particuarly when it comes to breakfast and restaurants, he eats whatever he wants-- the greasier, the better. He does not exercise, whereas I do every day. For my efforts, I manage to stay around the same weight-- and if I have several bad days in one week, I gain. For his complete lack of effort, he gets... the same result. This can occasionally get extremely frustrating-- I start to wonder what sort of cruel fate forces me to work like mad just to stay in one place.

It finally occurred to me, in the middle of fuming about this today, that we're not actually getting the same results. I'm healthier than he is, now, I'm more flexible, I have better stamina, my heart's stronger, my digestion is better, I get sick less often, and my cholesterol and blood pressure levels are way down. I'm more in tune with my body. I'm more active and that activity is turning into experiences that I never thought I'd have, that I love. The techniques I developed to put together this healthy lifestyle are techniques that I'm also using to take charge of other areas of my life. I'm getting some quality results out of this, and they're all excellent reasons to keep it up. Being thin is just the part on the outside, the part that's easier to quantitate and keep an eye on; the real benefits are less obvious.

That doesn't particularly make it easier to deal with when he gets a giant chocolate ice cream cone while I have my little cup of frozen yogurt. But it's a reason to keep going, at least, which is something I dearly need at those times.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Four good days and most of another good day, and then I was cranky and crampy tonight and we're lacking fruit, and instead of doing what I knew I should do and go brush my teeth and wash my face and change into my pajamas, I did a fruitless (literally) search of the kitchen. My husband made sad noises about the lack of sweet stuff and that was all the excuse I needed: I got out the cookbook and made merengues. Along the way, of course, I snacked on bits of coconut and licked the beaters, and when the things came out of the oven I had about five of the dumb things, and when the second batch came out of the oven I had another one.

At that point, having put everything in the sink to soak, I forced myself out of the kitchen and went to do the personal clean-up routine. Then I recorded all the food from dinner and the merengathon in my PDA tracker. Not as big a hit as I thought it would be, but still-- there go about a third of my freebie calories for the week. Hell.

Once again, bad mood plus physical discomfort equals self-medication. I really need to take the financial hit and go buy fruit and veggies; we're out of frozen and canned fruit, and I find myself craving steamed veggies-- green beans and asparagus and snow peas and edamame and broccoli. And fresh fruit-- grapes and pineapple and pears and apples and berries, berries, berries. I must be getting desperate for spring. I'm also sort of losing it with being poor while we pay back our credit card debt; half of the money I had left this pay period got sucked down the drain by going to the doctor and getting a prescription, and I'm left without options. It's starting to chafe.

On the up side, the salsa-dancing DVD arrived oday and I got to take a look at it, try it out a little. That should be fun, if I can find a way to work the hubby into it gently enough. I also found out that there are free water-aerobic classes at the local pool this summer; if I can snag one of the slots, I'm in like Flynn. More activity in things I actually want to do... that's a very good thing.

New day tomorrow. Pick myself up, dust myself off...

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Nothing more than feelings

I had a post last night, but hit the wrong button and deleted it. D'oh!

The antibiotics have finally done the trick and I had a completely headache-free day yesterday, for the first time in weeks. Not quite as good today, but we'll see how things go. I'm grateful to have any time off at all from the headache, because damn, does it put me off my game.

I'm sort of cranky today. I spoke a little too disparagingly about my husband's choice in breakfast (McDonald's, although he did choose the Egg McMuffin over the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit, which was a promising step), and I narrowly missed having a fight with a friend over-- of all the damn things-- Easter dinner. I should not speak to people when I'm hormonal; I say things I wouldn't say drunk and feel perfectly justified. Aieeee.

I started this blog, I have to admit, to give myself an outlet for everything I wanted to say about food, exercise, habits, choices, and all the weird epiphanies that go with taking your life in your hands and saying "No, it should be more like this." It had to go somewhere, and recently I've been getting the feeling that my friends are really tired of me talking about it. There's no chattier Christian than a recent convert, and there's nobody more annoying to talk to about food than someone who's still working through weight maintenence one day at a time.

I'm feeling self-conscious about it, anyway. The good thing about getting to hold forth on this blog is that I'm not doing any harm with it, I'm not posting under false pretenses-- this is a weight-maintenence journal, not one about my life, so anyone who stumbles across it gets exactly what's advertised. I'm not out there forcing this down my friends' throats.

Man, am I hormonal. I'm feeling guilty and judgemental at the same time. Very exciting.

I've been thinking lately about the way I deal with my more negative emotional states. I used to have a one-size-fits-all answer for it-- eat! I got to the point where I wasn't even waiting for the emotion to kick in, I was insulating myself against it ahead of schedule. I was operating at arm's length from my own emotions, and worse, I didn't even realize this wasn't normal. I barely gave a moment's thought to my dialed-down emotions; it was just how things were.

It's normal to use food, alcohol, sex, drugs, smoking, or, hell, shopping as a way of self-medicating for emotions or stress that you just can't deal with right now. It's when that self-medicated state becomes standard operating procedure that you have a serious problem, not just because of what the overdose does to you (or your credit card), but because when you try to quit and hit your first mild emotional bump, it feels like a huge crisis. You think of everything in these huge, overdramatic terms because you're used to listening to yourself with earplugs in, and now the earplugs are out and this shit is deafening. You may not have realized that you'd been using your bad habit as a way of avoiding the full IMAX experience of your own emotional state, but boy do you want it to stop, and indulging in the old bad habit calms the waters.

Earlier, I wrote that the problem with being sick last week was that none of my usual tricks-- things that I do that actually help my emotional state, things that I do instead of eating-- none of those tricks were working, and I turned to food in desperation because I just wanted to feel better. When I was composing the first draft of this post, I kept saying that the problem was that I didn't have enough experience being sick as That Girl, so I didn't know any tricks that would make me feel better. (Beyond, of course, the obvious answer of going to the doctor and getting medication.) It occurs to me, though, that there's a deeper level to that: maybe part of the problem there is my expectation that I will be able to do something to make bad emotions stop.

The things I've been tackling before this have been negligable on the great scale of emotions. Stress and vague "bad mood"s are nasty, short-term fears and anger and irritation are bad, but they're all conquerable. What happens when an emotion is more long-lasting? What about real grief, or a long illness, or depression, or a large-scale conflict with another person, or the stress of something huge and unavoidable like losing a job or moving from one city to another? Sure, I may be able to deal with the symptoms of those sorts of things, but the problems themselves will just keep aggravating those symptoms. I lose patience quickly when my usual methods don't cure the underlying problem (or relieve the symptoms enough for me to get past the problem quickly)-- and there's this flawed idea underneath it that in a pinch, I should self-medicate with Kitchen Valium and it will fix what the "lesser" methods won't.

Problem is, Kitchen Valium never fixes the real problems, either. And while I never really got tired of continually applying Kitchen Valium in spite of its lousy track record, it seems that I am more easily disillusioned by my newer methods. It seems to me that I'm really in need of three things:

1) The awareness that all symptom-treating methods are created equal, and that just because they didn't cure the problem doesn't mean I should stop applying my current treatments,

2) The ability to distinguish between the symptoms and the problem-- and go beyond treating the symptoms and get a move on actually treating the problem at the root of it, and

3) The willingless to actually experience the emotions I'm feeling and not panic over them. They're there, they're fine, they're normal. Freaking out over feeling them only makes matters worse. Okay, so I get angry: people get angry. Guilt? Same thing. Sorrow? Ditto. Sick and miserable? Fine, whatever, I can perfect the art of whining. The problem is not that I'm feeling something; the problem is something seperate that I am reacting to. The reaction is normal. It will continue to happen while I deal with the problem and treat the symptoms. That's life.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Obligatory First Post

This isn't a weight loss blog. This is a weight maintenance blog.

To make a long and very complicated story short, I had my watershed moment in late November of 2003, joined WeightWatchers via their online program, started exercising January 1. I'm 5'3", if you fudge the measurement a bit, and I started out at 185 pounds; I lost sixty pounds in seven months.

For me, weight loss came pretty easy; I had a lot of support from my boyfriend-then-fiance-now-husband, and I applied myself with a will of iron. The rewards kept coming regularly, in the form of downward scale movement and smaller sized clothes, so I could easily bolster that iron will and just keep chugging. This was it, I thought; I was going to get to the end of the weight-loss portion of my life and then I could live like a normal person. A normal person who exercised and kept a careful eye on her portion sizes, sure, but compared to the long push toward my goal weight, maintenance was gonna be a breeze.

Then, one day, it happened: I was done losing. And when I started easing up my iron restrictions, all the wheels came off my little red wagon and the numbers started going back up. Old habits came back; the binge-eating problem that I thought had gone away reared up again. I was terrified. I was furious. I felt betrayed. It was inconceivable to me that after all that hard work I wasn't going to get the easy maintenance I felt I'd been promised, that was owed me; sure, I knew that maintenance was something I'd have to deal with for the rest of my life, but if it was going to look and feel exactly like being on a diet I didn't know if I could face it.

I despaired. I wallowed. I raged. And somewhere in there, I finally accepted that obesity isn't something you cure; like cancer or diabetes or alcoholism or some kinds of venerial disease, it's something that you wrestle into a controlled state, then spend the rest of your life working to keep it there. It's not a cold, not some invading virus that you get over; when you've been overweight to the point that taking care of it means losing 1/3 of your starting weight, being overweight didn't just mess with your mind, it reprogrammed your body, your cellular structure.

The choice came to this: I could either be the girl who had a brief Flowers of Algernon-style period of thinness before succumbing to fat again because the upkeep was too hard, or I could become-- for life-- the girl whose habits and preferences keep her thin and fit. I chose Option B.

I'm about six months into Option B right now, having to do all the adjustments to lifestyle and outlook and habit and sense of self that they sort of hint at in WeightWatchers, but that never really looks like a big deal until you have to do it. This blog is going to be about becoming That Girl (no, not Marlo Thomas), about becoming the girl who just does these things because that's who she is, becoming the girl who has likes and dislikes that just happen to mesh with what it takes to keep the fat in remission, about becoming a girl who's in touch with her body and emotions, who has confidence in herself and her appearance and her decisions.

This blog will also be about what I learned while losing weight, and my theories about how the whole thing works, and links to articles and other blogs and whatnot. What it isn't meant to be is a one-size-fits-all concept of how to lose weight and/or keep it off. One of the biggest things I've discovered over the past six months is that there's no one true way to do this, not even one true way per person. You put it together yourself.

To use a tortured metaphor, starting out on a weight-loss plan is like getting a car-- a really, really used car-- and having to repair and improve it using parts you scrounge from other old cars. Now, you might luck out-- the car might start up beautifully the first time and drive like a dream, never need maintenance, never break a thing. This, however, is highly unlikely, so you have to get used to digging through the junkyard in search of replacement parts. Some parts won't match up; some do, but break after a few hundred miles; some parts cause amazing improvements on the performance of that old car, but cause so much wear and tear on other parts that you end up having to upgrade a lot more parts than you were planning. People give you endless amounts of advice and opinion on your car saga-- they send you to a different junkyard, they prefer one kind of part over another, they have some sort of crazy scheme involving how to put a jet engine in that old clunker and tear ass down the highway (and they swear it worked for their cousin or co-worker or friend). Advice and opinions are also welcome, but at the end of the day the only one with a real feel for this car is you, and you make the final call about what needs to be done and what upgrades to consider.

It won't look pretty. It will undoubtedly break down when you least expect it. After five years of constant work you may not even have any of the original parts left. The thing is, you get it running, and you keep it running, and in-between repairs you keep an eye out for parts that might work, just kind of stockpiling 'em for the next time things break. As long as you're willing to put the work in, though, and keep trying different parts until you find something that will work (for now), you will be the owner and operator of a working motor vehicle. You can't expect it to run perfectly, but it will get you from place to place.

Read. Research. Learn. Keep scrounging. This isn't a hobby, man, this is a necessary part of keeping the machine running. So it's not new and perfect; so nobody else can fix it for you and you have to put in all this work. That's reality. It's what you do from that starting point that determines whether you're going to have a working machine or a broken one.

Cut for length-- click to read more.