Category Archives: Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Week 15: A Love Story in Two Parts (Part 2)

This post is for you.

If you’re reading this — I mean it — this post is for you.

You inspire me. You motivate me. You remind me of my worth. You have celebrated me. You have validated me. You have made me feel as though I am being cheered on and loved and supported. You made every single step of my journey so far possible.

I owe so much to you.

When I first started this blog, and indeed, started my wellness journey, I was so embarrassed that the journey even needed to happen. If you read the “Who Am I?” section of this blog, that shame is plastered all over it. I didn’t want the bitchy girls from high school to know I had gained weight. I didn’t want my exes to know. I didn’t want… myself to know, really. It was hard to admit to myself, and even harder to admit publicly.

And so starting this blog was both an act of penance and a leap of faith. By sharing that pain and that shame, I was trying to free myself from it — or at least admit that it was happening. I didn’t really expect anyone aside from my closest friends to read along. I certainly didn’t expect feedback. I just wrote, and put it out there, and did so not because I was self-promoting (I’m embarrassed by this journey, remember?) but because I had promised to myself that I would remain accountable.

But then you found me, reader. And you sent text messages. And you called me. And you messaged me on Facebook. You submitted recipes. You liked posts, commented on pictures, and told me when you ran into me on a random Saturday that you made one of my recipes and now, it’s a staple at your house. You asked me questions. You actually wanted MY advice. You came out of the woodwork after years of our not speaking for whatever reason. You admitted to me that you’re struggling, too. You talked to me about running. You told me new power foods to try. You cheered for me. You read along. You proved to me what I always suspected: That more people feel the way I feel than they care to admit.

The affirmation has been life-changing.

I am all about body positivity, yes, but my blog isn’t about loving where you’re at — at least, not specifically. It’s about finding the motivation to keep going and become better. I think finding that motivation can be just as hard — harder, maybe — than loving who you already are. The discipline and commitment required are no joke. And your support and validation helped keep me on track: knowing you looked forward to posts and knowing you were rooting for me helped me focus on just how much I wanted to really get this right.

I hate to indulge in the cliche, but here it is: You believed in me. And it makes me believe in me.

The best thing I ever, ever did was swallow my shame and write this blog. Becoming open and honest about my struggle with my weight was a huge risk/vulnerability, but in taking those steps, I opened myself up to such wonderful friendships and such genuine support. When I “came clean” about the things that were hard, they became easier. When you all showed me through your love and empathy that I didn’t need to be ashamed, I stopped feeling ashamed. And when you kept coming back to read, I kept writing.

On WordPress, we’ve got over 100 followers. On FB, we’re closing in on 150. And for the record: almost none of those numbers overlap, since my WP readers are people I’ve never met before and about 70 of my FB readers are people I know.

The very best advice I could ever give to anyone who is considering beginning a weight loss or wellness journey? Aside from the obvious — commitment, discipline, etc.? Tell the truth. Tell your story. Be honest about who you are, and what you want, and what you need. And you will be amazed by how many people who know you and love you will support you on this journey.

Week 15 has come, and with it, a new me is popping up out of the dirt and grime like a spring flower, dammit.

I changed my life.

And you helped me.

Thank you.

Week 15, A Love Story in 2 Parts (Part 1)

This post has been a long time coming.

Together, we have finally arrived at Week 15. Well, it’s Week 16 now, but we’ve reached/passed Week 15, and to me, that’s a big and special week. Long, long ago when this blog first began, I was struggling to keep up my motivation. In one of my posts, I wrote:

“One pound could be anything.

And so, it’s hard to celebrate 1.5 lbs.

It almost feels like the road to weight loss hasn’t started at all yet — it would be so easy to flail and give up now and go back to the world of non-obsessive eating habits. If a pound can fluctuate on any given day, how do I even know I can attribute its loss to my efforts? It’s so tempting to just “start next week,” or have a massive brownie “just this once,” and plan (and then re-plan, and re-plan) on starting tomorrow or next week.

But I suppose I’d never see week 15 then.

And I really want to see week 15. And week 30, week 54.”

In my head, I had a budding romance with Week 15 the way little girls dream of their Prince (or Princess!) Charming. I waited for it. I worked for it. I wondered what it would be like. I imagined myself squeezing into old clothes with ease. I imagined myself running MARATHONS. Actually, I’m kidding about the marathons. Back when I wrote that post, I really hoped in the depth of my heart that I would be able to run a mile or two at once. That was all I wanted. Week 15 became the Camelot, the Promised Land, blah blah blah. Week 15 would not be one ambiguous pound, I thought to myself, Week 15 won’t be able to be denied.

I wanted to see Week 15.

I wanted to see it so badly.

Knowing that if I hung in there long enough, Week 15 would roll around, I realized I had to continually put in the work if I wanted this little waystation/weighstation (har har har) to be what I imagined. So I did. And you helped me. And here’s where we are today.

Today is just past Week 15. We’re on Week 16 now.

And as of a midweek weigh-in, it’s looking pretty definite that I will have lost over 20 lbs by this Friday’s weigh-in, and I’m closing in on the 160’s after beginning this January in the mid-180’s, and beginning WW in general years ago at 198 before finally getting my act together. So that one ambiguous pound has turned into twenty. It cannot be denied.

As of today, I am sitting at my desk and wearing my very favorite shorts. They’re khaki shorts from Loft and they’re comfy and cute and can be worn to look classy or slouchy, depending on whether I feel like a preppy lady or a hipster Q. I love them dearly — and for the PAST THREE YEARS (well, since two full summers and a winter ago) they have not been able to even be buttoned. Today, I’m wearing them slouchily with a flannel and a knit cap, and I’m wearing them with a belt, and I look adorable, and this is the first time I have worn these shorts outside my house (or at all) in THREE YEARS, and it cannot be denied.

When I first began runnning, a “long run” was anything more than a mile. The 30 minutes of Couch to 5K left me beat, every time. The only way I was able to convince myself to keep doing it was to say “It’s only 30 minutes,” and then think of all the other things I could do in 30 minutes and how short it seemed. 30 minutes for Family Guy episodes, a phone game, petting Tag, scrolling through FB… So I convinced myself I could spend the 30 minutes another way. Time went by; I graduated Couch to 5K; I kept running. Now, my shortest runs are 4 miles; my medium runs at 5-6 miles, and my longest runs are 6.5 miles and up. I’ve also cut my per-mile time from 12 to 10. When I first started running, my weight loss was stubborn and I didn’t see immediate changes — and that made it so hard to stick with it. Now, I am losing (on average) 1.7 lbs a week. Now, I look forward to my run each day (well, 5-6 days a week). Now, I do with the treadmill what I used to do with TV: “Oh, five more minutes, please!” I am running, and loving it, and have breezed through most of the 160’s weight-wise with such speed that all I can do is wonder why I didn’t start running sooner. I am a RUNNER, now. It cannot be denied.

Back when I first began my WW-hustle, I used to say to Chelsea pretty much every day: WHEN WILL I GET TO EAT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE AGAIN? WHEN WILL I STOP WANTING SHITTY FOOD? These days, I love everything I eat. I don’t WANT to go back to eating crappy food — the thought makes me queasy. So if that’s how “Everyone Else” eats, well, too bad/so sad. As for wanting shitty food: I don’t, anymore. Aside from the occasional NEED for chocolate, I don’t crave bad foods or large portions anymore. To me, this is perhaps the most shocking victory of all.  I used to get frustrated by smaller portion sizes, by the need to sub ingredients, by the thought that I could never have my “favorite” foods again. Now, I feel as though I eat like a queen. And I feel happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. It cannot be denied.

And so Part 1 of this “Love Story” is the story of all the things I’ve just shared — the weeks we’ve muscled through together, my body and I, and emerged victories. The one pound that has become twenty. The “changes” that became “habits.” The “running goal” that became the best part of my day. Wellness is the slow and beautiful journey of falling in love with yourself. I’m not quite there yet, but I do see more strength and conviction in me than I’ve ever seen before. Finally, my outsides are matching my insides: determined, proud, nuanced and hard-won.

It cannot be denied.

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me: It’s OK To Be Hungry

Hey everybody!

I think I’d like to start a new occasional series of themed posts on here. Oh, you’re all sitting there with baited breath biting your nails, eh? Wondering what, pray tell, will she prattle on about next? Well I won’t keep you in suspense long. 

Last night, Chelsea and I were talking about how there are so many things that could have changed my journey so far if I knew them sooner. 

Now, to clarify: Weight loss is an intensely personal journey. I know that; you know that. Further, there are a ton of things that no matter how many times someone tells you the thing, you won’t absorb it until you’re ready to do so. I get that. But when I started WW, I wasn’t someone who was eating three Big Macs a week, and I wasn’t someone who never ever worked out. I wasn’t someone who ate a gallon of ice cream because i was feeling my #feelings. If you ARE that person, then that’s okay too — but so much of the dieting/healthy eating literature out there (I hate the word “dieting,” because I’m not “dieting,” I’ve changed my life) focuses on how to like, avoid eating 3 McChickens for dinner rather than what to do if you’re someone who already eats baked chicken at home, who doesn’t mind salad, etc. 

Finding advice for someone like me was harder, because though battles with weight are always both mental and physical/behavioral, it’s hard to advise someone whose most obvious struggles are sins of omission or things that exist only in his/her head. I read a ton of advice about drinking more water — but I’ve always drank enough water. I read a ton of advice on how to avoid full-fat cheese or fried food. But I was already DOING those things, and was unhappy with my weight. Where was the advice out there for someone like me?

The purpose of these “Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me” posts will be to share with you guys some of the things that I learned the hard way — things that (though some of them I wouldn’t have been “ready” for had I been told before I discovered them) might help you NOW, instead of months later. Things that might help you re-think behaviors or habits you’ve been stuck with so far. Things that, maybe, if someone tells YOU, you’ll change sooner and smarter than I did. 

Here’s the first thing I wish someone had told me in 2011, the first time I tried to start WW: It’s OK to be hungry.

Some of you are thinking, “Duh.” Others are thinking, “Go on…” and for the sake of the latter, I will.

For my ENTIRE LIFE so far, I’ve had this weird kennel-dog mentality about food. I could never explain to you WHY, but I spent about 24.5 out of my almost-25 years of life being so terrified of becoming hungry. I would eat big lunches because “What if I get hungry before dinner?” At dinner, I would want seconds, because “What if I’m hungry before bed?” And the cycle went on and on.

I wish someone had said to me, “Karen, so what if you’re a little bit hungry?”

So what? 

We’ve talked about this before, on here. I say often the awkward and privileged (but no less true) phrase: “In a first-world country where you are living above the poverty line, you absolutely will not die between lunch and dinner, or between dinner and breakfast.” I mean, will you? What is the WORST THING that will happen between when lunch ends at 1 PM and dinner begins at, say, 7? WHAT IS THE WORST THING? I wish someone had asked me that.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “Well, I don’t know what time dinner will be tonight, so I better eat this now, right?” OM NOM NOM.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “This piece of chicken can’t POSSIBLY be enough. I’ll be hungry in a half hour! I’d like two pieces, please.” OM NOM NOM.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “There’s no way a salad can be filling unless there’s shit that’s not salad on there, too. Gimme some croutons. Gimme more of that chicken. Oh, and salad dressing please. Gimme more of that corn. Those black beans. Those weird little Asian crisp strips. More. I need more. Salad for dinner is gonna leave me starving in an hour, so I need more in it.” OM NOM NOM.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “If my plate isn’t full, there’s not enough food on it.”

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “Feeling full is the same thing as having my stomach be hurting because it’s so stuffed.”

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “If you’re hungry, you absolutely need to eat right now.”

But I did think all those things. I still fight not to think them. I still remind myself that though it’s always very smart to keep a healthy snack in my backpack or purse for in case I’m hungry and in danger of making a really bad choice, I don’t necessarily need to plan my life around making sure I am a constant eating machine. I still remind myself that if I’m hungry in the evening before bed, that’s not dinner’s fault — and that I should go eat some berries or an apple, and get over it: BECAUSE I WON’T DIE OF HUNGER BEFORE BREAKFAST THE NEXT DAY. 

Honest to goodness: I have found, in the real core of my heart, that my biggest problem with food was never type or even specifically portion control — but rather some strange, never-ending, body-gripping fear that I wouldn’t have enough. It makes very little sense, since I grew up in a house where I always had enough to eat — without question. SO where does this weird neurosis come from? Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing that these thoughts and the behaviors they incur don’t reflect reality or genuine situations; instead, they just reflect a disordered pattern of thinking. 

My friend Arielle tells me all the time about how it takes about thirty days to make or break habits. That if you can get yourself to do something for that long, it feels more natural. Same goes for breaking habits. My biggest WW break throughs came at times I forced myself through those 30 days with every bit of strength I had. One of the things I had to do without giving in for that amount of time: limiting my between-meals snacking AND my meals. 

And letting myself get a little hungry.

Here’s the progression of how it went, back in the day: I would eat my meals, have my meals be pretty big, then I would eat a TON of zero point foods, especially fruit. Then, I scaled back my meals. Still ate a huge amount of fruit. Then, I realized that much fruit was still too much sugar and was stalling my weight loss. I began to eat a TON of vegetables instead of fruit. Then, I realized I was only eating out of habit — not because I needed the food (I realized this because when carrots are all you have in your bag, they don’t always seem appealing whereas pretzels always do, and so if the food wasn’t appealing enough to eat then certainly I wasn’t actually hungry, just bored). Then, I realized I needed to scale back my between-meals zero-point fiestas. So I did. And now, I eat fruit and vegetables freely, but only when I want ’em. And while it took me two years of yo-yo-ing and about 5 months of solid effort this time around to get it right, it has changed my eating habits and my life.

All this being said: I absolutely think that getting ravenous is a dangerous thing. Ravenous people make heinous food choices. WE ALL DO IT, GUYS. So don’t let yourself become ravenous — keep snap peas in your purse. Bring carrots with lunch. Have a CUP of grapes. Have some watermelon, an apple, etc. Don’t starve or let yourself get dangerously hungry.

But try to realize that if you are a little hungry between meals, or you think a portion can’t possibly be enough… think to yourself: So what if I get hungry later? So what if this isn’t the most filling thing I’ve ever eaten?

I promise you — I bet anything I have — that if you ask yourself those questions, do not over-indulge, and stick with it for thirty days, by the end of the thirty days you will literally almost NEVER think about being hungry. Nor will you BE hungry very often. 

Of course, the caveat to the above is you’ll need to eat “real food,” not TV dinners or frozen stuff or snack packs. Eat real food, eat 3 meals a day, limit snacking, and stop being afraid of hunger… and you’ll see that, like most phobias, hunger stops being scary the less you live your life in deference to it. 

These days, I drink a protein shake for breakfast, maybe snack on some berries and almonds during the morning. For lunch, Greek Yogurt with flax seed and some snap peas. Mid afternoon? Beef Jerky. ONE SERVING ONLY. Post-run? A banana or a protein bar. Dinner? Whatever nutritionally fortified concoction we’re eating that day, usually about 7-10 PP worth. Snacks: an apple, a frozen Greek yogurt, or blueberries and creme (see my previous posts for the recipe). That’s it. That’s genuinely all I eat. And I run, on average, about 25 miles a week. And I work 4 different jobs. And I am busy all the goddamn time and stressed all the goddamn time. I just stopped eating to make my stress go away, and stopped being afraid of being hungry.

I wish someone had told me that I could sometimes be hungry, and that it would be okay.

I wish someone told me that if I limited what I ate, after awhile I wouldn’t keep looking for what wasn’t there anymore.

I wish Arielle had told me years ago that if I made it through thirty days, I wouldn’t keep looking back!

But I know these things NOW, and that’s better than never having known. And so I’m telling you.

If hunger is your mental boogie man, you are far from being alone. Being afraid of being hungry is a real phobia that makes weight loss super hard. However, it can be faced. Face it with the knowledge that you will not die between meals. Face it with the knowledge that clearly, if you are trying to lose weight, something was wrong with your eating/working out efforts so far — so STOP MAKING FREAKING EXCUSES, and put down the extra cookies (or extra chicken, or extra… anything) and sit with that hunger for a hot minute and question if it’s real, if it matters, and if it’ll kill you before your next meal. If the answer to any of the above is “Yes,” then drink a glass of water instead and move on.

The boogie man can’t get you if you’re not afraid of him anymore.