Tag Archives: support

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.

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Waging War with the Frenemy Within

This year hasn’t been an easy one.

Before I go on, I’ll preface with this: I’m blessed. I am nearly miraculously blessed. I am living one-in-a-million odds in many ways, from my family’s continued (or newly re-begun) health to my arrival in a PhD program at age 24 to my stable, wonderful, soul-affirming relationship and its fast approaching trip down the aisle. I am blessed with two wonderful jobs (three, if you count side work and four if you count being a student) and while we are far from wealthy, there’s always some extra cash around for frozen yogurt, or a trip to the movies. I know I am blessed.

But this year has been really hard, even with those blessings in tow.

For even the most stable person, the beginnings of a PhD program are stressful. Coupled with my teaching college classes for the first time, preparing for my wedding, and trying to live my life on a budget — well, it’s kind of like having caffeine or kryptonite injected straight into my heart most of the time whenever I think about how much farther I still need to go to get to where I eventually want to be. I try to take things day by day; I try to focus on the moment. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and always I have a fresh slate in the morning upon which to try again.

I am — some of you may know — a person who lives with depression and anxiety. Not the fidgety-ness that many folks blame their inadequacies on… rather, the kind that grips my whole body and whole brain and makes it hard for me to feel, do, or grasp anything. For the past several years, this problem has been under control. I don’t require medication; I use a variety of mental and behavioral coping techniques that keep me in control of my own body, mind and life. This past school year has been really hard; this spring, I knew that my depression was skulking around in the back of my brain. I could sense it. As I’ve learned to do, though, I would not let it dictate a moment of my life.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know — whether you are a fellow WW-er or just an interested family member/friend or an adventurous cook or maybe you’ve even just stumbled upon my blog by accident — I want you to know that the best thing I ever did for myself was begin to take charge of my health. Specifically, when I began to exercise more — and even more specifically, when I began to run — I found a new and powerful way to manage the things that make my life uncommonly hard.

Everyone who’s into fitness will tell you that working out releases those happy endorphins into the brain. I think that’s probably correct, except my endorphins never arrive until after the workout is over. That’s okay. I know that on bad days, if I can get myself to go for a good run, I will walk back up my basement steps feeling calmer and in control.

And “control” can be a double-edged sword, I know; wanting to “control” my body might sound like dangerous language to be using. It can be seen as the language of disordered eating, of body dimorphism, etc. — but for me, I promise, it is nothing so insidious. Taking charge of my health has allowed me to maintain the vessel that HOLDS my poor Brain; Brain, who, for me, works overtime every day — whose goal in life is to work beautifully and well. I am an academic and a scholar. If my mind isn’t on the right set of tracks, nothing is. And protecting my body has served my mind well. Having control over my daily routine and my health has allowed me to plow through the most difficult academic year of my life with aplomb so far.

There are days where teaching is overwhelming. There’s a line in an Ani Difranco song — something like, “No one asked me if I wanted to be everything to someone.” I’m not “everything” to my students — but the responsibility of answering their never-ending emails, guiding them, teaching them and being a mentor and authority figure is SO MUCH HARDER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.

There are days when my coursework is too much. Independent study, coupled with a psychotic history class experience that has forever soured me on branching out from my department — blah. I am drained most days just by the struggle to keep up.

There are days when the future is TERRIFYING: the job hunt in the awful academic market, the baby that Chelsea and I will struggle to add to our family,  the difficulties of paying for school and paying for life on grad student salaries, wondering if our marriage will ever be legal in PA or if I’ll have to live a state away forever, wondering if everyone I love will stay healthy, wondering if I will stay healthy…

My brain latches onto all these things and can’t let go. I get stuck. I get overwhelmed. For the past several months, though, I’ve found a temporary re-balancing cure: I go for a run; I take care of my body, so it can take care of my mind.

By eating enough nutrients — through foods like kale, berries, etc. — I have avoided being ill for most of the winter and spring. This is new for me; I’m usually decrepit by now.

By exercising, I’ve boosted my weight loss and my self-confidence. I’ve also, interestingly, boosted my comfort. For those of you who have never been overweight at all — you can’t really imagine how uncomfortable it is to carry extra weight around. Not when walking, etc. but moreso when there’s no type of clothes that are wholly loose and cozy. Moreso when there’s no way you can lay where you don’t get in your own way. Moreso when you feel like you just have too much space that you’re occupying and you wish it were different. Roughly 18 lbs down, and my cozy clothes swim on me. My couch feels comfier. I think less about moving my body around obstacles it faces during the day. I am comfortable.

By getting enough sleep, I’ve given myself the energy and stamina to tackle the above two things.

By mindfully tracking points and never giving myself the ability to make excuses, the plan continues to work for me. It might seem to you, readers, that I lose slowly — but at 5’3, if I lost more quickly, there’d be major problems.

All in all, this wellness journey hasn’t just healed my body (or hasn’t started to heal my body, I guess I should say, since I’ve got 35 lbs to go) — it has helped to heal my mind. Who knew these changes in lifestyle would heal something that pharmaceuticals struggled to manage?

I’ll end with a little anecdote.

Yesterday, I was sitting on my bed and getting increasingly anxious and frustrated about how much work is left in this semester — particularly because one of my professors has continually made life difficult. I started thinking about how busy this week will be, and about how I don’t have my usual day off on Friday and won’t be able to run, and about how we have company coming this weekend and what if I can’t run then, etc. etc. and my thoughts twisted and spiraled and wound around me like a vise. I got to a point that’s not unfamiliar to me: I felt like I couldn’t move. But instead of giving in to that anxiety, I asked myself this question: “Will you really feel better if you sit here?” The answer was no, and I knew it. Then, I asked myself, “Will you feel better if you run?” Stubbornly, I said, “I don’t know” (in my head, to myself). Through brute force — and those of you who have anxiety issues too will know the force it takes — I stood up and grabbed one of my workout tops from my closet. I flicked it at the bed and announced to Chelsea: “If I don’t go for my run, the anxiety wins. And it will not win today.” Off I went to the basement. It was a short run — 3.7 miles in 42 minutes, counting that 5-min walking warm-up — but I came back upstairs feeling better and feeling more in control. It changed the tone of my day and of my week.

Choices like the one I made yesterday? They have changed the tone of my life.

In short, I have begun to save myself from myself.

KNOW THY ENEMY, they say.

I’ll add: Yeah, know the enemy. And then, win.

 

NEW SHOES.

Long before every YouTube video became viral and oft-posted, there was the very finest video of all time — the one with the guy in drag who sings proudly, “Let’s get some shoes, betch,” and then sets out to do exactly that.

This last Friday evening, my mom called me up. Knowing that Chelsea and I were coming into town the next day to see my cousin star in a school show, she asked what time we’d be getting in. I told her we were driving first thing in the morning.

She told ME that she and my dad had been talking, and that they were very proud of me/my running/my weight loss thus far, and that they wanted to buy me new running shoes to celebrate.

NEW RUNNING SHOES?!

Oh, I was — and am! — so excited!

When Chelsea and I got into town, we hopped in Mom’s Audi and went off to pick a pair.

Coincidentally, with our similar feet and similar stride and similar taste, I ended up getting the same pair my mom has. They’re gorgeous!

I wore them for the first time today, and it was like running on a cloud.

THANK YOU, mom and dad! I appreciate the love and the shoes so very much. Can’t wait to wear them again!

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Refused Pizza and Lived to Tell The Tale

This is not a particularly thrilling post, probably, but I am writing it to remind myself of the logic I must follow to continue avoiding stupid food mistakes.

 

Last night, we went out of town for for a work event (we = Claudia and I) and pizza was being served. I knew pizza would be served, and that we’d be gone until 10PM. So I packed dinner — a little bowl of salad with some leftover tofu, and a tupperware with 3/4 cups of cottage cheese that I seasoned with chives, parsley and (too much) garlic. I also brought an apple for “dessert” on the way home.

This is not exciting news, I know.

But when I was at the event, the smell of pizza was pretty tempting — especially since my cottage cheese had too much garlic powder (I love garlic — I never knew there COULD be too much) and something sweet and savory like pizza sounded clutch. It was even cut into tiny party-size pieces — which is the most dangerous part of all. Why? Because it’s really easy to think “Oh, it’s just a little piece…” and eat it and then it’s over.

So, dumb as it sounds, I mentally stigmatized. Here is the chronology of my thoughts:

6:00 PM: Don’t eat any pizza until all the participants are fed and seated.
6:15 PM: You have to eat your whole dinner before you can even consider pizza. Wait and see if you’re still hungry.
6:30 PM: I KNOW YOU WANT PIZZA SELF YOU REALLY SCREWED UP THIS COTTAGE CHEESE BUT YOU BETTER EAT EVERY BITE.
6:45 PM: Self, if you ate that pizza, it would be over so quickly. You wouldn’t even realize you were doing it. It would just be over and you’d have eaten the points and FOR WHAT?
7:00 PM: I mean, if you think about it, that pizza is probably cold right now. Even if it WAS good pizza while hot, it isn’t hot now.
7:30 PM: There are three little pieces left and we’re starting to take down the event. Do I eat them or throw them away?
8:00 PM: The last three little pieces of pizza hit the garbage can, and did so by my own hand

Crisis averted.

I think the important parts of the above logic are the notions that it would be over quickly, that I only wanted it because I didn’t want what I had, that the longer I waited the less important it seemed, and most importantly: that I wouldn’t outright die if I didn’t have it.

While some of you, dear readers, aren’t on Weight Watchers or on a wellness journey, some of you are. And so this post is for those of you who, like me, still struggle with food impulse control.

The best advice I can give? Come prepared. Bring a dinner. Bring snacks of snap peas and apples. Bring plenty of water. Don’t give in. Remind yourself how quickly that snack will be over — and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.

It almost never is.

And you, friend, are.

So hang in there.

An Ode to “The Chelseas”

I dislike that spellcheck always wants to turn plural proper nouns into possessive nouns.

I am speaking, in this title, about the collective Chelsea persona — our supporters, our friends, our partners, our workout buddies.

My Chelsea amazes me.

She is kind, supportive, energetic and always looking for new recipes.

She is there when I am up, down, and in between.

She is the quintessential perfect example of how to love someone who is on the journey I’m on.

BUT WAIT: THERE’S MORE.

Chelsea, who has always been in pretty good shape and who has a body most envy, is not just encouraging me to make changes. She’s making them too.

She considers the points content of her food now, and sees places for healthier substitutions and then enacts them.

She was at first quite resistant to doing Couch to 5K and was insistent that she could do it on her own. After a few weeks, she downloaded the app too. And she gets her butt out there running 3-4 times a week, whether she enjoys it or not. (She doesn’t enjoy it.)

She has begun turning down unhealthy treats at work — banana bread, cookies, etc. because she wants to learn the same type of control and conscience that I’m trying to learn, and she wants to use that conscience whether or not I’m around.

For many people, it takes poor health or a horrifying photo or a shameful realization to begin a wellness journey.

My Chelsea (and maybe your Chelsea, too) just wants to be better. Not necessarily just skinnier or anything like that — she wants to be better.

And she’s working on it.

And I’m so, so proud of her.

Chelsea, My Lucky Charm

In case you didn’t glean this already, I love Chelsea and she makes me better every day. This post will reaffirm that a thousandfold.

That being said, all last week I was prattling on about Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s. I love them. I wait all year for them. I would probably give away government classified secrets to have one in the months they are not sold. It is a real, live thing in my life. Minty shakes and I.

So all week, I worked out each day. I ate within my points. I did all these good and right things. Because I wanted my shamrock shake.

But then Friday came, and with it, that wonky weigh-in (which, as of my writing this, has been further disproved — Sunday morning weigh in was 173.9, so take that, Friday’s mythical gain), and then the food tasting for our wedding.

And on Fridays we order sushi, since it’s the one “going out” food I can’t make at home, always crave, and can eat without totally crippling all my hard work.

So Friday’s setup: crappy weigh-in (which has since been disproved), food tasting for wedding, and sushi dinner.

I felt guilty about the idea of having a milkshake, too. And in the past I would have motioned to the 32 activity points and 49 flex points I hadn’t used yet that week and said SELF THIS IS YIUR CHANCE FOR A TREAT JUST GO HAVE IT ALREADY STOP WHINING.

But instead, I did something I never used to do: I looked up the points of my treat.

And damn it all to hell: a small shamrock shake (12 oz) was FOURTEEN POINTS.

A large? 22 points.

Yeah, no. Not happening.

I was genuinely disappointed — after looking forward to it for so long, I felt like I had ruined my own day. I reflected upon the tasting, the large sushi dinner, the weigh-in — and I said to Chelsea, “We can’t go get them.”

I explained why.

Chelsea looked at her phone and typed something.

“Does 5 points for 16 oz sound better?”

GO ON.

She then read to me a list of ingredients seen online to make a WW-friendly, medium-sized shamrock shake.

Instead of going to McDonald’s, we went to Walmart (we hate Walmart but this was fairly late at night and they were open). And we bought the ingredients.

And while I tidied up the kitchen and living room, Chelsea made us each a shamrock shake.

THEY WERE SO GOOD.

And they were FIVE POINTS.

And I became further convinced, as if I needed further convincing, that Chelsea loves me and will always be the MVP of Team Us.

What an awesome treat!

I’ll post the recipe post-haste.

OH! I Should Tell You This Before I Forget!

So yesterday I had a really stressful day. I won’t bore you with details — but it was an emergency/unforeseen situation related to schoolwork and deadlines. I was so stressed that I was shaking — couldn’t sit still; couldn’t calm down. I knew I needed to get myself into a better place before I could accomplish anything to fix the situation.

SO WHAT DID I DO?

I went home from work and — to my shock and delight — my knee-jerk impulse re: how to calm down was to RUN!

And I did! I’m on Round Two of Week 4 for Couch to 5K — I’m not repeating weeks, to be clear, but I run more than three days a week so each week I just repeat that week’s workouts until the weekend, when the “next week” begins.

But yes, for the first time, I sought solace in going for a run.

And it worked.

I fixed my emergency situation feeling much more calmly about it all.

How cool is that?

C25K, Week Four: A Story of Redemption

You know how I keep saying I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, re: running?

Well, it kind of did, on Sunday.

I woke up early-ish and went to go run. My legs were still and sore from the day before but, having not ever really taken rest days before, I thought to myself, Why start now? (YES I KNOW how foolish that is, in retrospect. But that’s the point of this entry. Don’t try to beat me to it. Ain’t nobody like that guy.)

So I went and I got started. And I did my usual speeds (6 for running, 4 for walking) throughout, until I got to the last 5 minute run before the cooldown. And you know what? I really didn’t want to do it. Like, really, really, really.

And so I didn’t.

I did 23 minutes out of 31 for the day’s program, still went as far distance wise and as much calorie wise as I had during week 3. Not a terrible showing. I decided to just not count the workout since I hadn’t completed it in its entirety.

But I felt so darn disappointed in myself.

I had stopped, for the first time.

I called my mom, who is a runner, and talked to her. She said to take my speed down a notch — that as the workouts increase in duration, they might need to decrease in speed and that for someone who is “not a runner” (AKA me), running at 6.0 might be a bit much at this stage in the game. She also told me to consider taking the rest days, doing yoga or crosstraining instead of running every day.

In the future, I do plan to use the rest days because she’s right: this is getting to be harder than it was for the first few weeks. But yesterday, I had to prove to myself that I could complete that workout just fine, just as I had on Saturday.

Down to the basement I went.

I did the three-minute running intervals at 6.0 and the five minute ones at 5.0. I completed the workout and then walked for a bit. I SLAYED that damn workout and am ready to tackle its next appearance the next time I head to the basement.

Feeling redeemed, I came upstairs and flopped onto my bed, screeching, “I DID IT.”

Tag-Along, ever supportive, cleaned every last bit of salt from my face and hair, then sat on my back.

Never underestimate the value of feline support. Unlike dogs, the lovable goobers of the animal world, cats don’t show you love unless you’ve damn right earned it.

Speaking of supporters — Chelsea started Couch to 5K yesterday! No doubt she’ll find it easier than I do, as she’s in much better shape. I’m really excited though – I love when we do things together!

And so there you have it: my story of both failure and redemption. In the future, I’ll go a little gentler on myself to make sure that I always complete the workouts when I attempt them.

Meanwhile, I’m still basking in the satisfaction of having climbed right back up onto that horse, and riding it to the finish line.

Hmph.

I Am Breaking Up With The Internet.

Sort of.

Not completely.

Here’s what I’m thinking. It is absolutely my personality — that of the traditionally rabid grad student — to research to death anything of interest. So now that I’ve been working hard on my health, my eating, my fitness — what do you think preoccupies a huge amount of my time? Yes, researching ways to do it harder, better, faster, stronger. (Thanks, Daft Punk, for the phraseology.)

I have the personality of a terrier in this way. And, at the risk of sounding snotty, you don’t get the job I have or get this far this young in academia without an inordinate amount of energy devoted to making yourself better. So it is intrinsic to who I am — can’t turn my brain off, and can’t settle for half-assed work.

So here we are, with me and my fierce Googling addiction.

I think it needs to stop.

Chelsea has been saying — and my friend Ben said, too — that I’m changing a lot of things all at once and that it’s hard to see specific results over short spans of time. I believe they are correct. My friend Arielle says to be careful about obsessing — that it hurts more than helps. I believe she is correct. And I said to MYSELF, “Gosh, golly, gee — when I peruse the internet there are as many results saying running causes weight gain as saying running is the best way to lose weight, as many sites saying one thing as saying its polar opposite.” NO WONDER I AM SO GOSHDANG CONFUSED. It’s impossible to get real, factual, nonbiased answers on the internet because, there, everyone is both an expert and a critic.

I realize I could go see a nutritionist, but I reckon at this point there’s little they could tell me that I don’t already know, plus it’s expensive, plus I don’t need a standing appointment of any kind. I’m not in bad shape. I don’t need THAT type of extensive help.

But I do need, I think, to distance myself from the raucous frenzy of the internet and all its fitness gurus, self-help gurus, experts of all varieties. I must remove myself from it or I’ll go crazy.

Chelsea, Ben and Arielle are right: If I continue to do what’s healthy and right, and I give it time, and I am consistent, I will absolutely achieve the results I want.

So I suppose that’s the plan.

From here on out, for a whole month (AAH!) I will not use the internet to look up things about weight loss. I will, instead, only use it for recipes and other various types of fun/food purposes. I will still obviously do WW and count points. But I will not scour the internet looking for new ways to make myself feel like crap when I am doing EVERYTHING right.

Hmph.

I — and my longterm health — do not need more rain on Parade Day. It’s hard enough to feel good without other folks seeking to make you feel bad. Or nervous.

Knowing your sanity is worth it?

Definitely part of the Points of It All.

Confusion.

Lately, I’m a little confused.

I’ve been eating within my points. I’ve been running regularly. And at my midweek check-in weigh-in (I don’t really obsess over numbers but I do like to see if/how/when they fluctuate throughout the week), I gained about 1.5 lbs.

Realistically, I know this could be from anything. I’ve looked into it all on the internet, and what do I think now? I THINK I WISH I DIDN’T HAVE THE INTERNET, because all sides of every argument have wildly compelling statements to make, and I don’t know who’s right. I mention this because I looked up “Running, weight gain,” and found a ton of sources saying running can make you gain wait. These sources spouted everything from ideas about water retention to soothe muscles to a slowed metabolism and beyond. This seems fishy to me – running is exercise: the burning of calories. And if I’m not eating extra calories, shouldn’t it only help – not hurt? Of course, to Google “Running, weight loss” gets another vast set of answers, all declaring that running is the single best way to lose weight.

Who is right? I don’t know.

I do know that these pounds I’ve lost have come at the cost of such effort and hard work. To gain some of them back isn’t acceptable. I don’t know what to do.

I looked into, also, if there are any dietary factors contributing to my weight gain so far this week (though, like I said, numbers aren’t everything and plus I have two or three more days until weigh-in). Some things I discovered:

  1. After not eating grains for awhile, it’s possible that my eating bulgur and quinoa and oatmeal last week resulted in my body’s hanging onto those things longer than it should. Think of the way folks on Atkins gain ALL THE WEIGHT BACK when they eat like, a single bagel. This might be a minor version of that hustle. I’ll try a grainless week again and see what happens. (For the record, I am absolutely still eating carbs and getting enough of them. I just am not using grains to do it.)
  2. It is possible that I’m not getting enough fats – which can, apparently, slow weight loss. I’ve been trying to look up how much fat a person my height and size should eat, but am struggling to find a number. I do know that my breakfast has about 2 grams of fat, my lunch has 2.5, my dinner has somewhere between 5-10, and my nightly yogurt has 4.5, putting me at an estimated total of 19. That number, friends, is low no matter how you slice it. When I add in my healthy oils, I get 9 extra grams. So 28. Still sounds a bit low. I’ll investigate.
  3. I’m willing to make any dietary changes necessary to stay healthy and stay losing. If eating nuts will benefit me more than that nightly yogurt, so be it. If I need extra olive oil, so be it. I want to lose weight AND be healthy. There’s GOT TO BE A WAY to do both. But whenever I take to the internet to explore what’s happening with me, I find so many conflicting opinions and ideations of what’s wrong or right or what to do next that I just… I don’t know. It’s discouraging.

So here’s hoping that Friday sings a different tune when I hop on the scale. Midweek, I’m feeling really confused and discouraged – I’ve been working out and eating right, and for the first time in a few months, it somehow has backfired.

*Shakes fist to the sky, wrathfully.*