Monday, March 30, 2009

The First Notice

I've noticed changes occurring in my body for several weeks now and yesterday, for the first time, others noticed as well. 

I wore an old dress to church. It was a dress I got for my brother's wedding in 2006 and I think I've worn it only a few times since then. And it wasn't a dress really but more of skirt and a top. 

I didn't feel comfortable in the outfit when I bought it, but I had to have the outfit for that big day. That's probably why I haven't worn the outfit much since then. Well, yesterday I was sick of my clothes and sick of wearing all the old things I had in my closet. And I happened to try on that outfit . . . and what do you know? It fit. It actually more than fit. Suddenly, I had a new outfit. 

I actually felt pretty too. It was such a pleasure to wear something different, something that felt soft and beautiful and something that made me feel powerful and feminine all at once. 

I felt long and lean and I wasn't even wearing Lycra. 

I also cut my hair this week. I had several inches chopped off and so instead of throwing my hair back in a clip, I wore it down. Between the hair and the clothes, I created a little stir. I think when you look the same week after week after week after week, it is refreshing to see change. And that is what everyone was commenting on. The changes. 

The thing is I've been a bit worried about the comments. Last time (2004-2005), I found myself preening for every look and every comment. I found myself hungry for affirmation and attention. I felt a bit like compliment addict. Always wanting more. 

Two weeks before my big kaboom experience in February 2005, I seemed to be riding a compliment cascade. I couldn't go to church, work or any function without people coming up to me and commenting about the way I looked. Each time that happened, I felt a momentary rush and then I would revert to my head and my obsessive compulsive calculations of how much I could lose and fast I could lose it. Every compliment seemed to heighten my need to continue losing weight. Every comment put just another pound of pressure on me to continue to perform. Every word of encouragement my way sent me just a little bit more over the edge. 

Why did all of that happen? I haven't figured out all the pieces and parts to that puzzle, but here are some initial conclusions. 

  • Wrong focus: My focus was wrong from the beginning. My initial desire in 2004 was to get healthy but as soon as I started to lose weight, that focus shifted from "I want to be healthy" to "I want to be pretty." Well, it is a lot easier to control healthy than it is to control pretty. Today, instead of worrying about how I look, I ask myself more often, how I feel. Focusing on my feelings is something I can always do--big or small--and those feelings inform me more about the world and my purpose in it than how I look. I want to take the focus off how I look. 
  • Perfectionism: The one stunner of an Achilles heel that the plan had that I was doing in 2004-2005 was a phrase called "Perfect on Plan" or POP. I would get on the discussion boards and team up with other members and we would play a game for six weeks at a time where the goal every day was to be POP. POP meant you ate a meal every three house that was measured exactly and that you exercised every day. If you were POP every day, you gained more points for your team. I worked on being POP to perfection. Perfection is a doozy of bomb that will explode in your face the more you pursue it. I'm learning to live imperfectly now. 
I think both of these things contributed greatly to the extreme emotional blowout that I had. Both were fed and nurtured under the bright lights of "attention." 

Which makes me just a bit wary of that kind of attention again. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 76: What a Feeling!

So, this morning I went for a walk when the temperature was about 30 degrees and a canyon wind was blowing. I almost turned back once and went home to the treadmill. So, so cold. 

I came back from the walk and did some weight lifting and then some stretching. I watched Oprah while I did both of those tasks. One of the shows was on extreme morbid obesity--a situation that is devastating for too many people in this country. I think for the rest of my life I will be interested in health, eating disorders, morbid obesity and any of the attendant psychological, familial, biological and environmental circumstances that lead people down that path. 

With my own weight challenge, I've often felt alone, scared and misunderstood. The problem seems so large and the solution so out of reach. There are so many layers and issues and things that must be overcome. My body has felt like the enemy rather than a friend. 

This morning though, I realized that my body and I are fast becoming best friends. She likes me and I like her. We aren't engaged in a pitched battle for control any longer as I've come to understand her better and work with her weaknesses and strengths. And she as a result is sending me good wishes, great feelings and energy galore. You've gotta love that. 

I think this morning after all the exercise, I just felt giddy. Giddy and excited and full of energy. That is such an unusual place for me to be that I have to comment on it. If my bout with obesity, depression and struggle has been characterized by anything it is: low energy. So, to feel an abundance of it, even for a few hours is finger-lickin' good and makes me want to shout to the world. 

Today I have energy. Today I bounced down the stairs to my house. Today I wanted to run. Today I felt a giddiness and a glow that comes from good health. Today I feel peace and joy. Today is a great day. 

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 75: Lunchtime

Okay, so I did it again today. I struggled with the eating thing. Meaning I struggled with making sure I was eating regularly. 

It started a week or so ago. I just quit eating breakfast, then lunch, then I would come home from work very, very hungry and I would make something and eat. That eating would usually last for two or three hours as I cooked and ate and cooked and ate some more. I'm trying to get out of that very bad habit because when I eat late, I wake up the next morning unwilling to eat breakfast. Then I don't pack lunch and try to make it on nuts or apples at work. Then I come home starving and cook again and the whole cycle starts all over again. So, last night I was starving again and I didn't really want to cook so I ended up snacking on chicken, hard-boiled eggs and strawberries when I was helping my mom with a dinner she was doing and then I came home and made a spinach smoothie. This morning I made a smoothie again. 

Not enough. 

I went to work too without packing a lunch again. When the hunger completely overwhelmed me I decided to jaunt down to the health food store. This is what I came back with: 

1. spinach
2. Amy's Lentil Vegetable soup
3. apples
4. sliced almonds
5. canned wild salmon
6. squeeze bottle of canola mayo

So, I came back to work and mixed up the salmon with the mayo and put it on top of the spinach with some sliced apples and almonds. Then I warmed up the veggie soup too. All in all, I'm very happy, pleasantly full and the prospect of cooking and eating looks like so much fun. 

Something about routinely starving makes me anxious and unhappy about prepping food. But once I've gone through all the work of cooking and eating, I can't wait to do it again. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 74: The Hunger

I'm tired of being hungry. T-I-R-E-D. Cooking every night, cooking every morning, packing food, preparing a menu, shopping, unpacking, then prepping food. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just so excruciatingly lazy that I would rather have all of this done for me. Each and every day. 

Then I eat a real meal with some real food and quit starving myself and I realize that I like to eat and I like to cook. What I don't like is worrying about all of it when I'm hungry. Which simply reminds me that I spend a lot time wishing I didn't have to cook and eat and thus starving and finally eating and feeling better. Then I repeat that cycle the next day. 

Obviously one of the areas I need to make the most improvement is eating each day and eating frequently each day. 

It is all part of the plan. And one I need to work a whole lot better. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 73: The Clothes Don't Fit

I don't like to shop for clothes. In the past few years it has been particularly bad as I've grown out of the classic Lane Bryant-type shopping experience. That left me with one other store in town that sells mostly nasty clothes. I would make periodic forages into the store to pick up some clothes. This is what I call shopping desperation. The only time you shop is when you are desperate. You don't care about tailoring or color or even variety. You mostly just want something that fits that doesn't make you gag when you put it on. And as long as those clothes look clean and semi-presentable, you wear them to death. 


Why, you may ask? Because shopping for clothes makes you face the truth about your body, your issues, and this very big problem in your life that is not just going to go away because you repeatedly wish it will. Shopping sucks. You don't feel better afterwards, you realize just how badly you look, and you don't wish to repeat the experience again any time soon. 

Shopping usually brings on a serious bout of self-loathing. 

Which is why I prolong the distance between each shopping experience to unnecessary lengths. I can always find something else to buy before I'm going to buy clothes. Until the situation gets desperate like it is now. I have about five shirts to my name, a few pair of pants and some skirts. I've worn all of them repeatedly for months and months and months. I dislike most of what I wear. My best pair of pants never fit really well--the legs are too long and the pants too baggy--but I wear them all the time because they are the nicest ones I own. I have two nice shirts that I end up wearing every week as well as on alternating Sundays. 

So, in the past two months these pants and shirts and skirts have not only been worn far too much but also they've grown bigger and bigger and bigger. My favorite black skirt was too big when I bought it and it has gotten much worse the past two months. I ended up pinning the skirt with two large safety pins after it fell off me one day in my house as I was getting ready for church. I didn't want a repeat performance of that event. My pants are so big they make me uncomfortable and my favorite shirt is so large now that it keeps slipping off my shoulder and I'm continually adjusting myself. 

When everything you wear becomes uncomfortable because it is so large, you start to hate getting dressed each day. Which forces you to go out do and do your next least-favorite task: shopping. 

Really though, at least this time around I can contemplate the fact that hopefully the shopping experience will improve incrementally. They will fit better, I will look better, and I can tamp down on the self-loathing. 

At least that is what I'm hoping. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

About Me: Photo Time

February 2009 at 322 pounds

August 2008 at 336 pounds

2004-2005 Weight Loss 

October 2003 at around 315 pounds

January 2004 at 315 pounds

February 2004 at 286 pounds

March 2004 at 269 pounds

Three side poses at 315 pounds, 286 pounds and 269 pounds

May 2004 at 244 pounds

Trip to London and Paris in May 2004. Gained weight on the trip. I had a hard time when I came back from the trip staying on my plan and slowly, slowly started to gain weight again. 

July 2004 at 249 pounds

In October 2004, I had my birthday. I had regained about 35 pounds at this point since May 2004. I kept trying to stay on plan but I just didn't. Around my birthday at 278 pounds, I recommitted to the plan I had been on. From that point for the next five months, I was pretty focused again. 

December 2004 at 234 pounds

December 2004 at around 225 pounds

January 2005 at 215 pounds

February 2005 at 209 pounds

February 14, 2005 I had the often-mentioned KABOOM experience. I then quickly gained back the entire 105 pounds I had lost and an additional 25 pounds. That meant by January 2006 I weighed in at 340 pounds. It was an incredibly overwhelming experience emotionally and physically and I dropped into a no-man's land after that. It took me a long time to sort through not only the emotions but exactly what had occurred to me through that experience. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 66: The State of Things

I've been doing a bit of review of the state of this health endeavor after my doctor's visit and after I received my test results and here is my review of how things are going and what I want to focus on next. 

Doing Well:
  • Following the allergy-free diet: I had one moment about a week ago where I seriously contemplated chucking in the towel that night and eating a cheeseburger and fries. It would not have been the end of the world if I had done so, but I'm glad that I stayed with my emotions, addressed my hunger nutritionally and let myself have a bit of a freak out. So, still on the allergy-free diet and even emotionally okay after that tough night. 
  • Cooking: I'm loving the cooking. Love, love, loving the cooking. It makes me happy to be in the kitchen, I've been making treats and meals and snacks and everything and I'm just enjoying food and its tastes and my own cooking. This little girl loves her some food. And it is good, healthy food too!
  • Menu planning: For a majority of the last two months, I was on a six week menu plan that I created. Now, I didn't follow it to the letter but it was such a treat to have a meal planned for every night and have the food in my fridge to make it. I think that is part of the reason I enjoyed cooking so much too. I love the the six-week menu plan because I hate doing it every week. So, that is a habit I want to keep. 
  • Weighing weekly or monthly: I'll admit that there has been a week or two that I was nearly weighing myself every day, but I recommitted to the notion to stay off the scale except on Saturdays. And I'm really planning on sticking to this one, except that last Saturday that I weighed, I had gained weight so I weighed myself again on Monday and had dropped 8 pounds. Yeah, water weight or something. So, there will definitely be such caveats but for the most part, I'm going to keep to my private weekly or biweekly weigh ins and then post my weight monthly. The goal being that I'm do not want to become OCD about the scale like I did in 2004-2005 when I was deep in diet mentality. So, the scale is not the source of my pleasure or my ever-present fixation. 
The improvements are things that I think will make a marked difference in my overall health the next few weeks. Also, I really want to get my HDL (good cholesterol) numbers up and I want to clear up this PCOS and the metabolic syndrome. Each of the steps below are ones that I think will help me make significant strides in that direction. 

The Improvements:
  • Eat breakfast: This one has taken on a particular importance recently as I realize that when I eat breakfast, I usually eat lunch, and then dinner instead of starving myself for breakfast, not eating lunch and then packing in all my food intake within a two-hour window after I come home from work. I'm sure that this is not helping. I'm more irritated, more emotional and just generally more off. But eating breakfast takes work. So, I'm focused on work this month. 
  • Exercise daily: I'm ticked because my HDL numbers didn't improve over the last two months and I know my eating has been wildly improved so I can only attribute that to my lack of exercise. So, another goal for the next month is to walk 6 days a week. Then I think the goal will be established. 
  • Pack food the night before: If I can conquer eating breakfast, the next step is packing food for each day. I have had the most success at good health when I've packed food and snacks for work each day. Then I'm not starving and going searching for food at the bewitching hour of 3:30PM when I don't always make the best food choices. So, I will be more conscious of prepping, freezing, and then packing food for each work day. 
  • Make a new 6 week menu plan: After my 6 week menu plan ran out, I didn't start it over again. And so I've defaulted again to trying to figure out what to cook each night and staring at the fridge for a while and generally snacking and munching rather than making an entire meal. So, I've got to get the menu plan back in rotation. 
And that is the state of things around here. Let's see where these improvements take me. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How Sweet It Is

This post is also available on my writing blog

I've been trying to get this entry done for a week. I have so much to say about this topic that I find myself writing too much and trying to fit all of my opinions and experiences in to one little post. So, I did my best to stick to the point of the benefits of low-glycemic eating.

I read a couple of articles the other day from the December 2007 O, The Oprah magazine that I wish had been written when I was a teenager going through the first throes of a body image horror. Not that I would want to promote diet mentality or further push myself into self-loathing, but simply so that as a young girl I could biologically understand MY BODY and why it was so different than everyone around me.

The articles deal with low-glycemic eating, what it is and how it affects people who are high-insulin responders.

The first article, "How Sweet It Is" by Nancy Gottesman shares the example of a woman who started to put on weight when she hit puberty. Insulin is a hormone and as the hormone stew takes off in puberty, high-insulin responders can have a reaction that includes piling on the pounds.

When LeeAnn Henn turned 12, extra pounds almost magically appeared on her frame. "I was always a little chunky," she says, "but right around puberty I put on a lot more. . . Though she tried to cut calories and fat on a number of different diets over the years, the numbers on the scale just kept going up. "I'd eat less, exercise more, get frustrated, then quit," recalls Henn, now 28. "I could never lose much, and over time, I just got heavier."

I was always a little chunky too and found that when puberty hit my weight took off as well. I spent most of my teenage years wishing for a different body. That never happened and gradually I began to learn how to work with the body I was given.

Also, I REALLY liked the article because of this quote below. I used to get mad when I was younger and people would say that a calorie in and a calorie out and that losing weight is as simple as that. Yet, this was not my experience. I felt like I put on weight whenever I just looked at food compared to someone like my brother Adam who seemed to be able to eat anything and everything and store it in his hollow leg without gaining an ounce. What I didn't know at the time was I was high-insulin responder comparing myself to low-insulin responders. When I ate things like bread, pasta, crackers and fruit juice, I really was putting on weight because of the way my body responded to such foods. Which is why I agree with the statement below.

[Dr. David Ludwig] is one of a handful of researchers trying to prove that all calories are not, in fact, equal; some of us are genetically programmed to pile on pounds much faster when we eat the wrong type of food, even foods we think of as healthy.
I knew from long experience that a calorie in and a calorie out theory didn't work which is why I would get upset when I heard it repeated over and over. It is so comforting to have that innate belief backed up by hard data.

An easy way to gauge if you are a high-insulin responder is the example below.
"High-insulin secretors tend to be apples, with more fat around the middle," maintains Ludwig. "Low-insulin secretors tend to be pears."
I never developed broad hips, but I've always had a tummy. And that tummy is the last thing to go when I do lose weight. So, I'm an apple shape for sure.

The accompanying article then gives some guidelines for what to eat on a low-glycemic diet. First though there is an explanation of the glycemic index.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the number, the more quickly you'll digest the food and trigger extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. Low scores (55 and lower) mean the food is digested slowly and produces only gradual changes in blood sugar. . . . Ludwig advises that you avoid "eating by the numbers" and instead follow these simple guidelines.
The guidelines are:

1. Eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables (dark leafy greens—good; corn—not so good), beans (all of them), and fruit (apples, pears, peaches, and berries have a lower GI than tropical fruits, like papaya and mangoes).

2. Limit potatoes to small side dishes.

3. Choose grains in their least processed states. For example, replace refined and white breads with stone-ground whole wheat, sourdough, or pumpernickel. Swap jasmine and arborio rice for basmati, brown, or long grain. Instead of processed cereals like cornflakes and instant oatmeal, stick with old-fashioned oats or cold cereals that have at least four grams of fiber per serving. Ration white-flour sweets like doughnuts and cookies for the occasional treat—there are no healthy substitutes for these!

4. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, and drink no more than one cup of 100 percent fruit juice daily.

5. Consume protein and fat at most meals and snacks. Eating a balance of nutrients will help keep your blood sugar steady and your hunger in check. Vegetable and lean animal sources (including dairy) are your best options for protein. Olive oil, nuts, avocados, seeds, and nut butters are healthy fats. Cut back on saturated fats, and banish trans fats completely.
My perception of eating healthy as a young girl was to not eat a lot of treats and to eat less food at each meal. What this led to was a constant battle with hunger and the feeling that if I didn't control my hunger better I was somehow a bad person. Now I understand that when I was eating potatoes and bread and cereals that those foods tend to make me more hungry because they spike my blood sugar--especially when they are eaten alone or without accompanying good fats and lean meats.

It has been such a relief over the last few years to discover that hunger is a normal, natural state and that feeding that hunger with foods that are low-glycemic is one of the best ways to eat for my body. This is not about depriving my body of any foods--this simply is about learning the balance and learning that eating lean meats, fruits and veggies, and good fats like olive oil and raw nuts as well as whole grains or complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes or butternut squash makes my body feel its very best.

And now, my stomach is grumbling and I wish I'd started dinner an hour ago. At least I know exactly what to eat.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Day 54: Visit to the Doctor

So, it's been nearly two months now on the allergy-free diet. I'm still plugging away. Two months without dairy, wheat, oats, corn, most grains, soy, peanuts, sugar or any preservatives, artificial flavors, or MSG.

And I'm actually enjoying myself.

I know, can you believe it? Someone said to me the other day that I must be pretty committed to it to do it. I don't know that it is so much committed as desperate and grateful and a little bit crazy all rolled into one. It is nice to feel better.

I went back to the doctor today. We chatted about it and how I was doing. I did complain because I'm supposed to be off all citrus (limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit) too and I've not been as strict about that one. I really like lemons and limes. I also like whining when something seems particularly hard. I got no love from the doc. She just smiled and said "Do it anyway."

Okay, then.

The next question was "how much longer?" Oh, three or four months. Then likely another allergy/sensitivity test to determine the next step.

I tried to start this elimination diet twice before and both times I crashed after about three weeks. Fortunately, those crashes taught me some valuable information for this attempt.

  • Do not deprive yourself. I've always had the mentality in the past that I just ignore what I can't eat. In fact, I wouldn't even look at a food item if I wasn't "supposed" to have it or if it wasn't healthy. All that led to was tunnel vision--literally--in the grocery store because 90% of what I walked by was something I didn't want to put in my shopping cart. Well, that behavior has flown the coop and I threw it out gladly. Now, I make sure I indulge regularly in treats and goodies. If a treat or goodie is being served that contains a food I don't eat right now, then I try to figure out a way to modify the recipe and make my own version of that food. Then I don't go around wishing for it. Which is why I've eaten things like blueberry muffins, chocolate cake, candy bars and chocolate chip cookies the last few weeks. Did I mention that I'm not really big on deprivation?
  • Indulge in sensory pleasure: I was sitting in class the other day and the girl in front of me kept snacking on a big bag of Swedish fish. I started automatically to not look at the food and not think about it, but then I changed my mind and just gave in to a big, old craving for those tiny, red gummy candies. I don't know what it is about this allergy thing but I seem to have a particular sensitive spot for Swedish fish--an item that I rarely ate before this. Maybe it is the texture or the sweetness or the combination of the two? Whatever it was, I just indulged. I sniffed the air for their scent. I imagined having a big, old bag for myself too and then . . . I took the thought one step further and remembered how I felt often after indulging like that: headachy, irritable, tired. Is that really what I wanted from that experience? And then once I took the thought through the end result, I realized I was REALLY HUNGRY and had not eaten lunch. Aaaah. Sure sign of a craving for sugar will hit when I starve myself.
And that was my big revelation for the day. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Day 51: Exercise Your Demons

So, how has the exercise been going the past 51 days? Well, it has been improving. My goal is to be exercising 5 to 6 days a week for up to an hour a day. Right now, I'm at about 3 times a week for 30 to 40 minutes. Which is a definite improvement over the big ZERO times a week that I was doing it previously.

So, yes the exercise is starting to get its groove on in my life.

The best part about exercising now is that it doesn't hurt as much. It took a few weeks for exercise to quit being such a hard thing. Now, I start to feel good when I exercise. I kind of crave it. My body moves with more fluidity and it is easier to stretch and bend and do things. I'm still rocking life at 315 pounds but it is different when you are on your way down the scale than when you are on the way up. Things just feel better all around. When I'm on the way up the scale, I could weigh 250 pounds but it feels like 350 pounds may feel when I'm on my way down the scale.

I'm not sure if that made sense. Suffice it to say that when I'm going in a good streak, when the food that is fueling my body is good food and when all the wheels are turning in my body and the energy is going up and up and up and the scale is going down, well all of that is much easier than the other side of the coin when I can't stop my body from piling on 20 pounds a month and every joint aches and I feel tired and swollen and awful every moment of every day. That is not a good state to be in.

I'm just thrilled exercise is feeling good right now.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

When I Feel Full

I just made some smoked paprika almonds this afternoon. When they are hot they remind me of really good popcorn--hot, oily, salty and crunchy. Yummmmm. 

They hit the spot this afternoon. 

What I love about eating really good food is the feeling of fullness. Feeling full is a great feeling. Feeling full and not bloated is a spectacular feeling. I almost didn't know the two could go together. 

The feeling of fullness has been such an elusive experience in my life that I remember at times believing that I had a stomach of iron, a stomach that wouldn't quit, a stomach that could put up with any abuse that I sent its way. 

Now I know I do not have the kind of stomach. 

What I did have was high blood sugar, constant cravings and nearly unmitigated hunger that seemed to go on and on and on. What I ate was mostly carbs in the form of bread, cereal, pasta and crackers with some dairy, protein and lots of treats thrown in. Periodically, I upped my intake of fruits and veggies and while I liked this (or at least grew to like it) what I didn't like was the feeling that no matter what I ate I might never get full. At least not a pleasant, mild kind of fullness. The fullness I experienced most often was of the I'm-about-to-burst quality. And no middle ground seemed to exist. I was either famished or I felt like I was going to pop. 

What I've learned about my body in the last few years is really kind of magical when I consider that it took me nearly 30 years to figure it out. I learned that eating every 2 or 3 hours helps especially when it is small amounts of protein with fruit or veggies. I learned to eat breakfast. I learned to stay on top of my hunger early in the day and to front load my meals at the beginning of the day instead of loading up on food at the end of the day. I learned to limit the bread and flour products I consume. I learned to drink lots and lots of water (at least half your weight in ounces). And eat fresh, gorgeous, delectable food. All of that helps me conquer the hunger beast. 

And finally, I'm learning to feel full in a pleasant, mild way. And it is lovely. 


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