Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Not Sugar-Coated

Lately, I’ve been darting around, trying to latch onto some program—any program—that will help me lose this final 25 pounds. For a day, I’ll decide that Overeaters Anonymous is the way to go. The next, I’ll decide to see a nutritionist. Then, I’ll go back to Weight Watchers. Then, I’ll decide what I really need is a good shrink. And finally, I’ll chuck all of that, pour a stiff drink, and complain about it to my friends, who all assure me that I’m looking great.

Clearly, I need help.

Logically speaking, it doesn’t really matter what plan I choose, as long as I stick with it. No matter what particular plan I choose, all of them will involve eating less and moving more which guarantees (you guessed it) weight loss. But I keep searching, anxiously looking for the perfect plan that will solve all my neuroses, make me feel full 100% of the time, and make me magically thin, without breaking a sweat.

Even in my deranged state, I realize that such a plan doesn’t exist. You have to give me credit for that, at the very least.

You know, during the winter of 2009 (when I was at my heaviest weight), I remember lying in bed, imagining scenarios where I could magically become thin. I imagined my parents sending me to a year-long fat camp, where all I’d do was focus on losing weight and getting active. I imagined living in a place where my food and activity was out of my control, where I’d get thin no matter what, because I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I imagined how I’d emerge from that camp--130 lbs, tanned and fit, a whole new person. Then, everything in my life would be perfect.

Instead of waiting around for my parents to send me to this mythical camp, I joined Weight Watchers and began the process of losing weight and getting into shape. I have to say, while my experience has been a lot less glamorous than my fantasy, there have been a few magical moments. Being mistaken for my adorable, petite sister at Easter. Fitting easily into a size 12 jeans. Being carried by a guy. Wearing high heels without pain.

So, I need to re-learn my lesson from last year: No one is going to send me to fat camp. If I want to lose this weight, I need to do what it takes to get there. That means buying healthy groceries, preparing good meals and sticking to my points. It also means making activity a regular part of my life. It means that making peanut butter cookies and eating the whole batch can’t be a regular Sunday afternoon activity and that a pint of ice cream is not a serving size. Unfortunately, there’s no way to sugar coat this.

Haha, yes, I couldn’t resist the pun.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Those Ugly Pants

When I think back to what my life was like at my heaviest weight, an image comes to mind—a size 18-20 pair of brown, work slacks. For me, those pants seem to symbolize the most depressing aspects of being so heavily overweight; the ill-fitting cut, boring, non-descript color, and the cheap, flimsy material all are all reminders of the bleak life I led when I moved to Richmond. I was massively overweight, insecure, and broke.

I remember that I bought the pants in a moment of desperation in the fall of 2009, when I hadn’t done laundry in weeks and was desperate for a pair of clean, fitted pants. I went to the Lane Bryant, ten minutes from my house--that haven for plus-sized women where I figured that I could find a pair of pants that fit my chunky body. Except that I couldn’t.

I tried all the styles, and yet I couldn’t find a pair of pants that fit snugly over my stomach, hips, and thighs. Either the waistband was too tight, or the pants ballooned over my legs. It was a disaster. I remember walking out in front of the salespeople, twirling around, and seeing the confused looks on their faces. What possible style could fit my 5’5’’ body, carrying an additional 90lbs on its frame?

In the end, I ended up with a pair of too-long, brown slacks that fit too snugly around my waist and bagged out over my butt and thighs. I remember handing my credit card over to the salesperson and sighing with frustration—I guess this was the best I could do.

Here’s a photo of the pants:

I wore those ugly, brown pants throughout the fall and winter months of 2009-2010, usually paired with a baggy black shirt and my scruffy black loafers. I hardly ever wore make-up and my hair was a dull, washed out shade of brown. Needless to say, this was not a particularly pretty period of my life. Occasionally, I’d notice other women with flattering, stylish outfits--women who dared to tight dresses, leggings, and high heels. But when I went shopping and tried on louder, more exciting outfits, I was horrified by the rolls of my stomach, the fat hanging from my arms, the wide expanse of my thighs. The dark, looser clothing seemed to hide the flaws of my body, or so I thought at the time. I had temper tantrums and crying fits in dressing rooms, as the three way mirrors mercilessly showed me the person I had become.

As soon—and I mean AS SOON—as I started to lose weight, I packed my dreaded dark clothes away in boxes and started wearing brighter shades of clothing. At first, I was super self-conscious, but after a while, I started to gain the confidence to wear clothes that hugged my imperfect figure and colors/ patterns that demanded attention. I put highlights in my hair (as you are aware, coloring my hair has been a major dilemma in my life, haha). I remember the first time I wore striped, sexy stockings to work. At first, people commented on my fashion changes—after all, I’d gone from dressing like a middle-aged person to dressing like a 20-something (or on my less fortunate days--a teenager, haha). But then after a while, they stopped noticing my clothing choices, just as they adjusted to my 60 pound weight loss.

Now this is not to say that my fashion sense has necessarily improved over the year. But for the first time, I feel that I have a sense of my own particular style. I own funky sunglasses, hippy dresses, artsy t-shirts, and tight jeans (that fit over my stomach and thighs, thank goodness). Now that I’m not so preoccupied with hiding my body, I can focus on wearing clothes that I like. Throwing out that pair of brown pants was one of my most liberating experiences as a result of my weight loss. Of course, in retrospect, I could have thrown them out at any time ;)

Do you have any items of clothing that symbolize your low self esteem at your highest weight? And, if you have gotten rid of the clothing, what compelled you to dispose of it?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Obsession with Kate Winslet

First off, let's talk business. I went to my weigh in this afternoon, and I gained a pound. I am officially 176.8 pounds on the Weight Watcher scale. Atypically of me, I am surprisingly okay with this slight gain. I had a difficult week, ate more than I should, logged exactly zero workouts, and deserved to gain a pound (if not more!). You know what, after being in the 200+ range since I was 18 years old, having a rough week and still being able to say that I'm in the mid-170s is not so awful. Now, that's not to say that I can't wait to get to the 160s (I really can't!!) but I'm okay with where I am...for now, at least.

Moving on, let's talk about what's really important in my hair. I have some big news, really big news. I'm talking earth shattering news. Drum roll please, I dyed my hair by myself on Tuesday night. And I didn't freak out when I saw that my hair had turned green.

Hahaha, just kidding. But in all due seriousness, I did dye my hair by myself for the first time ever and I didn't freak out when it came shall I put it...a little dull. My hair (pre-dye job) was actually looking pretty awesome. Blond and vibrant, just the right length, with a good wave. But my roots started to bug me. And then on Tuesday night, I happened to be home alone, with nothing to do except watch Mean Girls...and I grabbed the box of dye and figured, 'What the hell. What's the worst that can happen?"

If only I knew...

It would look almost exactly the same.

I'd like to be the kind of girl who has the guts to color her hair an extreme shade of red. Kind of like Kate Winslet's character Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.

But alas, I'm not that girl. Although, I do own nearly the same ugly, orange sweatshirt that Kate wears in the movie.

Except mine is red, with fake fur on the hood.

No, I'm not obsessed with Kate Winslet. And no I didn't just date my neighbor J because he resembles Jim Carey and I thought the two of us belonged together, like the characters in the movie. How dare you even suggest that? ;)

Anyhow, I'd like to work up the guts to dye my hair an outrageous shade of red or blue. But for now, I'm going to stick to dying it "natural" shades that resemble my true color.

With that said, I'll leave you with a few of my favorite lines, lines I've often wanted to memorize and recite to prospective guys...

"Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's looking for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours."

Oh and by the way, if I were to dye my hair an outrageous color, what would you recommend? Red? Blue? Green? Black? And what's your take on nose rings?

Oh, and if my mom happens to be reading this post, I'm totally just kidding.

Or am I? Guess we'll have to wait and see until Easter...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Overeaters Anonymous

It's hard to admit that you have a problem that can't be quickly or easily solved. When I first joined Weight Watchers, 60+ pounds ago, I couldn't even begin to think about tackling the root causes of my weight issues; I was just focused on making "baby steps" towards getting healthy.

Tracking points, starting up an exercise routine and weighing in on a weekly basis consumed my entire attention. Ask anyone you like, I was obsessed with Weight Watchers. I carried both my starter companion books with me in my over-sized purse. I liked telling people how many points they were eating (whether they wanted to know or not). I refused to eat out (to a great extent) because I couldn't accurately count the point values. I stopped putting butter on my English muffins.

Clearly, I had gone a bit nutso=)

Fast forward one year. By this point, I had memorized the Weight Watcher plan. I knew the basics of living healthy and more importantly I had developed strategies that worked for me. But I was still struggling with the all-too-frequent compulsion to eat large quantities of food in secret. I still sought the comfort that stuffing myself with an unlimited amount of [insert random food here] brought. I still struggled with the feelings of guilt and shame that I encountered every. single. time. I succumbed to binges.

And when I brought the issue up at Weight Watcher meetings, I got kindhearted, but perplexed, feedback. Very few people seemed to understand the compulsive nature of my problem. They assumed that there was some logical reason that explained my binges. But of course, compulsive eating, by definition, is irrational.

That's when I decided to go to Overeaters Anonymous. As per usual, I made this decision fairly last minute. I found the meeting on Monday afternoon, and I decided to just drive straight there after work. The meeting was held in a church (which kind of put me off since I'm not religious) and when I got there 15 minutes early, the church was deserted and all of the doors were locked. I almost drove home right then, but I decided to stick around until 5:30. So I waited, tense and nervous, smoking a cigarette in the church parking lot.

And then someone drove up. A thin, clearly pregnant woman, stepped out of a car and I hopefully asked if she was there for "the meeting." She nodded enthusiastically and mentioned that no one really showed up until 5:30. So we waited. All of a sudden four or five cars pulled into the parking lot and a bunch of people walked up to the church. I met Jill, the leader, who warmly welcomed me to the meeting and quickly put me at ease.

We walked into the church basement and entered a cozy room with couches and comfy chairs, arranged in a circle. I expected an auditorium with a microphone (like AA meetings I've seen on tv) but this was much less intimidating. I took a seat on the couch, and Jill handed me some information to read (meeting times, etc...) I looked around the room at the other members. There were about eight people there, six women and two men, ranging from the very thin pregnant woman to a more overweight, young, redheaded girl.

The meeting was very structured. The leader read the OA mission statement, talked about OA events, and then we proceeded to read from a book called The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Each person (if they so chose) read a section of the book (as long a section as they liked), and then they could discuss how the passage applied to their own life experience (if they so chose). It was incredibly moving. First off, I felt like I could have written the book. It wasn't sappy or overly academic--it just described the experience of compulsive eating, the guilt and shame associated with the action, and the ways we have tried to solve the problem.

It was amazing to hear from strangers in my community, as they told stories about how they struggled with resisting the muffins in the break room and hid the evidence of their binges from loved ones. And perhaps most importantly, it was empowering and freeing to openly confide my own secrets and have others listen without judgment, but rather with empathy and understanding. They've been there too.

And after the meeting, when everyone had warmly welcomed me and the leader Jill gave me a hug, I sat around and talked to the other members. We exchanged stories--funny ones and sad ones too--and it was uplifting to be able to openly and honestly talk about my own struggles and accomplishments. Before I left, I exchanged telephone numbers with a few people from the meeting, and yesterday I received this text from Jill: "Good Morning! Hope you're doing well! It was so great to meet you last night! Hope to see you again...You're not alone =)"

Overall, it was a great experience, and I'm definitely going back next week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Treating the Problem

I sincerely hope that you readers are more patient with me than I am with myself.

Because I have some bad news and some good news.

Bad news first--I went off the deep end (AGAIN!) this weekend. Can you catch a whiff of my frustration here? Or is that the lingering residue of chocolate, ice cream sandwiches, and toasted cinnamon raisin bagel thins that you smell? ;)

Yup, after writing my upbeat and empowered post on Thursday about how I've learned how to recover from mistakes, on Thursday night I set out and ate eight ice cream sandwiches in. one. sitting. And my binge didn't stop there =(

I woke up on Friday with a swollen tummy and a bruised ego. I couldn't even think about my goals or this blog or getting back on track. All I could think about was numbing my guilt and pain from my binge. So, I continued to eat poorly for the rest of the weekend. I stuffed myself with all sorts of goodies--chocolate, macaroni and cheese, etc...--to avoid thinking about my never-ending cycle of binge/ diet repeat. I prayed that no one noticed my swollen face or the chocolate crumbs on my sweatshirt. And in my attempt to anxiously hide the evidence of my compulsive eating, I acted bizarrely and had trouble connecting with people. Overall, a. complete. utter. failure.

And then I snapped out of it. I 'fessed up about my binging, threw out the junk food, and decided that once again, I'd have to try again. But this time, I have a different game plan. This time, I know that I can't do this alone.

I decided to brave the doors of an Overeaters Anonymous Meeting. I went to their website and found this checklist, which convinced me that OA was the place for me.

1. Do you eat when you're not hungry? Yes.

2. Do you ever go on eating binges for no apparent reason? Yes.

3. Do you ever have feelings of guilt or remorse after overeating? Yes.

4. Do you give too much time and thought to food? Yes.

5. Do you look forward with pleasure and anticipation to the time when you can eat alone? Yes.

6. Do you plan secret binges ahead of time? Not really...

7. Do you eat sensibly before others and make up for it alone? Yes.

8. Is your weight affecting the way you live your life? Yes.

9. Have you ever tried to diet for a week (or longer), only to fall short of your goal? Yes.

10. Do you resent others telling you to "use a little willpower" to stop overeating? Yes.

11. Despite evidence to the contrary, have you continued to assert that you can diet "on your own" whenever you wish? Yes.

12. Do you crave to eat at a definite time, day or night, other than mealtime? Yes.

13. Do you eat to escape from worries or trouble? Yes.

14. Have you ever been treated for obesity or a food-related condition? No.

15. Does your eating make you or others unhappy? Yes.

So, as you can see, I scored about 13.5 out of 15 on this questionnaire, so I'm pretty sure I have this problem (if I wasn't convinced before). But the good news is that I'm not alone. There are other people in my community who struggle with the same problem, other people who sabotage themselves and hurt their bodies because they cannot control the compulsive drive to eat.

And perhaps more importantly, notice how I said "control." I think that's a key factor. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that I can control my urges to binge. I believe that if I just had the willpower and discipline, I could completely cut binging out of my life. So I diet. I structure my meals. I try to outsmart the compulsive part of my brain. But the truth is--I have a disease. According to OA, I have an "illness, an unhealthy condition of body and mind that can be relieved on a daily basis." In other words, this is not my fault.

I'm not trying to say that some leprechaun is putting butter in my mouth as I sleep. But what I am saying is that, for whatever reason--be it genetics or experience--I have developed a compulsive eating disorder that is causing me pain, sabotaging my weight loss efforts, and killing my self esteem. Now, this doesn't mean that I have to sit back and take it and become 500 pounds and have to be wheeled out of my house by eight construction workers. This is not an excuse to let this problem spiral out of control.

In other words, while the disease may be out of my control, I can choose to cure it. Because now that I am aware of the disease, I can work on treating it. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to continue going to OA meetings, because my first one was great. I'm going to continue going to Weight Watchers and weighing in. I'm going to take each day one meal at a time. I'm going to work on fighting this disease by getting all the help and support I can get from wherever I can get it.

I'd like to tell you that from now on, I'm never going to have another binge, but I can't do that. What I can tell you is that I'm not going to binge today. That's the best I can do right now.

If you made it all the way down to the end of this long post, thank you! And if you don't mind sharing, can you relate to any of the items of OA's checklist?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recovering from Mistakes

If there's one thing I've learned throughout this weight loss journey, it's this: No matter how bad things get, no matter how much weight you gain or how out of shape you get, you can ALWAYS turn things around. I started out this journey at the respectable weight of a professional football player, with the small thread of hope that with hard work and time, I could turn things around. I didn't have much to base this hope on--only the amazing stories of others who started out like me. Others--like Beth, Andrea, Leah, Jen, and Lisa, just to name a few--who took a leap of faith, started monitoring their food and exercising, and, by doing so, transformed their lives.

This week, I re-learned this lesson, albeit on a smaller scale. On Saturday night, I screwed up. It had been a stressful week and a tumultuous start to the weekend. Not to get into too many details, but there had been a series of guy issues/ friend problems all combined with way too much alcohol, which left me feeling a enough to pig out on cinnamon raisin bagels, chocolate pudding, cookie dough--you name it. On Sunday, I woke up feeling stuffed and disgusted with myself, which led to EVEN more self sabotage, if you can believe it ;)

Which led to Monday, when I figured I had two options. I could continue to have a bad week and eat whatever I wanted and start over on Thursday (my weigh-in day) or I could get back on the wagon, knowing that my weekend of insanity would probably lead to a bad weigh in, even if I stayed on plan for the rest of the week.

Well, bizarrely enough, I took option two. I went for a jog on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and I made sure to stay within my points on those days as well. On some level, I guess I realized that my weigh-in wasn't the most important thing, and that seeing a gain wouldn't wreck my weight loss journey. All that really mattered was getting back on track--emotionally and physically--for the rest of the week.

And so I proceeded to dig myself out of my hole. I ran, even when my stomach gurgled from too much booze and bagels. I restrained myself from eating McDonalds, even when part of my brain said, "You've already screwed up, you might as well go down with a bam!" I forced myself to buy groceries, eat vegetables, and basically get back on track, even though I knew I was going to face a punishment on the scale on Thursday. I figured that gaining one pound was better than gaining three.

And, of course, you can guess what happened. I lost 0.4 at my weigh in =) I'm still on track to my goal, and I'm so glad that I didn't let the weekend's slip-up derail me from my progress. I think this week re-enforced an important lesson for me--you can always recover from mistakes. As long as you have faith in yourself, and are willing to work hard and accept that it may take time to recover.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Answering the Why

Beth, from Beth's Journey, brought my attention to this fantastic blog yesterday morning, Can You Stay for Dinner, by Andrea Mitchell, a 26-year-old foodie, who has successfully lost and maintained 135 pounds. I'm really excited to share this passage from her blog:

"I read a lot of weight loss stories. I’m always interested to see how others have gone about their journey. More than the path they chose and the foods they ate, I’m looking to see introspection. Not the diet, not the will power, not the tips. I want to know the ‘why.’ Because at the end of the day that is the only question that matters."

Andrea eloquently and simply summed up exactly what I've been pondering lately: Why did I get so overweight in the first place? There are some easy answers that come to mind. Lack of portion control? Absolutely. Love of junk food? Sure. Disdain for exercise? Okay. But somehow I don't think that those reasons adequately explain why (at my highest) I was carrying 90 extra pounds on my 5'5 frame.

As I've gotten closer to my more "normal weight"--i.e. the weight I was in high school--I've become more aware of the deep-rooted issues that caused me to become overweight in the first place. After a year of doing Weight Watchers, I have re-learned how to eat healthy (for the most part) and I've developed a better sense of portion control. But at the same time, I've continued to struggle with binges. I am, by definition, an emotional eater (by the way, I truly resent that term. It makes me think of that prissy character from Gone With the Wind, Mrs. Pittypat, who reaches for the smelling salts every time something unexpected happens). I'm not entirely sure what causes me to eat compulsively, but I'm trying to gain a better understanding of the problem.

I met with a therapist the other day, and I explained my problem to her. Her response was interesting. She said, "Nothing happens randomly. People are fairly predictable." Her point was that by thinking my binging was random and could happen at any time, I'm allowing the binges to take away my feelings of control. If instead, I can gain a better understanding of the problem, I might be able to change. I've struggled with this since I was 13-years-old, so I'm not saying it's going to be easy. But it's something I'm going to try to work on.

At some point, I'd like to have a better answer for the "why." I'm curious to hear others' you know why you struggle with weight issues?