Friday, December 11, 2009

On Clydesdales

I think Clydesdales are beautiful. I always have.

Years ago, my extended family used to gather at my grandmother's tiny house on the parade route of the local "Threshing Days" parade. It was the one time of year the extended family always gathered together. We ate, drank, and made complete fools of ourselves as the long, progression of parade entries went by.

We were known as the loudest house on the parade route. And (I think) the entrants appreciated our enthusiasm. My grandmother always got kisses from the politicians running for office. The younger cousins worked the parade participants for extra candy, stickers, pencils, and plastic visors.

My favorite part, however, was always the Budweiser Clydesdales. They were GIANT, and they clop-clop-clopped down the street like so many . . . . well, like so many Clydesdales.

It's probably this sweet memory of gatherings at my grandmother's house that recently saved my husband's life.

You see, my beloved husband, whom I now weigh LESS than for the first time in our married life, has informed me that I'm a Clydesdale.

This is NOT a term of endearment any dieting woman is likely to appreciate.

(In his defense, he called himself a Clydesdale, too.)

I THINK he was trying to be complimentary. You see, I've recently started jogging on the treadmill, and I'm toying with the idea of signing up for a 5K run sometime this spring. A former hack half-marathoner, my beloved husband took this new hobby of mine as an opportunity to "educate" me on some common running terms.

Apparently a Clydesdale in runner-speak is an overweight runner who moves with all the grace of a draft horse.

Oh, well. They're still gorgeous creatures.

Just like me.

It's been a good week. I hit 65 pounds down this week.

Current weight: 231. 4


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sixty pounds down! Woot!

So, I purposely skipped the weigh-ins over the Thanksgiving week, but I stepped up the workouts.

I knew I was eating too much, so I was determined to counter the excess consumption with extra calorie-burning cardio!

Wow! What a change in mind-set this is! Six months ago, the only exercise I would have added on the Thanksgiving holiday was a bicep curl with a turkey leg!

The good news?? My strategy paid off!

At my first post-Thanksgiving weigh-in this morning, I was 235.2!

That's 61.2 pounds gone! Woot!

In other news: Hell has frozen over, giving me permission to start jogging. Only treadmill jogging, mind you, but still. I jogged almost four miles on the treadmill last night.

I'm pretty sure that's more "running" (Yes, the quotation marks are intentional.) than I've done in the first 30 + years of my life.

And. It. Feels. Incredible!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November Photo Shoot

November 21, 2009

Weight: 238.6

Total Loss to Date: 57.8 lbs
Above is "goal dress" number one. I bought it last spring without trying it on. I got it home and looked like the Michelin tire man on acid. Now, it fits! Woot!

Below is the Christmas dress I boughts in a size 18. I haven't been a size 18 since I was AGE 18!

(Notice that the tags are still attached! Here's hoping it's too big by Christmas and will need to be returned!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Slacks and Slackerdom

So, it's been a while.

A month, to be exact. Not ONE blog entry in a whole month.

This is why I'm not Dooce. Well, this and my lack of 2 million followers and 40K per month in ad revenue.

Anyway, the last month has been mostly about slackerdom.

And a little about slacks.

Let's start with the slacking.

A brief snowfall in late October switched on my "hibernation" gene, and suddenly, the nutritional side of this journey hit the skids. I could blame Halloween, except I actually managed to exercise incredible self-control this year. The kids brought approximately 1.5 metric TONS of candy into the house after trick-or-treating, and I've consumed probably ten pieces, total. Sure, that's ten pieces of chocolate I didn't REALLY need, but, on balance, I'll take it. After all, last year I think I wrestled them both to the ground in the front yard as they arrived home after the annual neighborhood candy shake down, and I stole ALL the chocolate from their little plastic pumpkin carriers.

Sad, but true.

Well, except the wrestling part. That would have required exercise.

I think I just threatened them with bedtime.

Anyway, the slackerdom as of late refers mostly to my more casual attitude about food. Before the snow flew, lots of fresh veggies, salad, and lean protein. The second the first flake hit the ground, I'm pretty sure I ordered in pizza.


That said, I HAVE kept up the exercise, which is, I think, the BIGGEST part of the equation for me right now. I have NEVER been a consistent exerciser, but I realized recently that I have been moving my body EVERY. DAY. for the last six months.

And, amazingly enough, I haven't died.

Six months ago, I would have predicted that outcome. Especially on the day before I started this journey.

On June 17, 2009, the day before I stepped on the scale and read the number that sent me over the proverbial edge (296.4), I promised my kids I would take them to the park.

The park is less than ten blocks from our house, and we have walked the route to and from the park MANY times in our two and a half years here. But, on June 17, 2009 -- six months ago -- I started walking the kids to the park and just. couldn't. do. it. After just five blocks, I was so sweaty and winded and crabby and generally exhausted (JUST. FIVE. FREAKING. BLOCKS!!) that I SWORE I was going to die.

I remember stopping, right there on the sidewalk, and telling the kids we had to go home. They both threw a fit, but I turned around and headed home -- mostly so they wouldn't see the tears welling in my eyes. All the way home, they crabbed and I silently sobbed.

That is a day I will NEVER allow myself to live again.

Today, I walk an average of three miles a day. Some days, if time is short and I can't drag my carcass out of bed, it's a little less. Other days, like last Friday's AMAZING 6. 5 mile power-walk with my beloved husband, it's much, MUCH more. I've added a set of four pound hand weights now, and I can tell I get a better workout this way. I've shaved ten minutes off my three mile route since I started it, which means I'm either getting more efficient or just more impatient. Maybe both.

I've also started some toning exercises, mostly ab crunches with a few bicep curls and leg lifts here and there. This is mostly an effort to rid myself of what one woman at my church calls the "baby souvenir" around my hips and abs. I do notice a difference, but it will still be a while before I sport a swimsuit in public.

What can I say?? Years of apathy + gravity = MOMMY JEANS.

Which brings me to the slacks part of this whole wandering saga. I bought a pair of size 18 jeans at Goodwill one day as a motivator. I haven't been a size 18 since I was age 18.

So, it's been a while since I was within striking distance of trading in the initial digit "2" for a "1." (I'm LONG beyond even considering single digits, by the way.) But, I bought them anyway. And I decided to try them on.

I've always been a "both feet first" kind of girl, so I jumped in with both feet. And the jeans promptly got stuck somewhere around my knees.

But, I'm nothing if not determined. So, I proceeded to hop, dance, and shimmy my way into those things through a series of moves that could only be categorized as "ninja meets seizure meets African fertility dance meets Napoleon Dynamite on crack."

Miraculously, they reached my hips.

At this point, I can only surmise that the exertion of getting the jeans past my ample thighs left me so exhausted that my brain was deprived of oxygen.

Thus, I decided to try to button them.

I fell backwards onto the bed, forced every last molecule of oxygen out of my now collapsed lungs, broke both of my floating ribs, bruised both kidneys and deflated my (thankfully empty) bladder, and VOILA! They ZIPPED! And BUTTONED!

Only one problem: I was stranded in that position like an overturned tortoise in the middle of an interstate highway.

Seriously, I couldn't even roll over.

And I was losing oxygen. Quickly.

"Honey!!!" I managed to gasp to my ever-supportive husband, "I need some help."

He arrived in our bedroom with only a faint smirk (and WITHOUT actually verbalizing the "What the hell??" that was surely on his lips), and just held out a hand to hoist me off the bed.

Once on my feet, I couldn't manage to walk, given the lack of circulation in the lower half of my body, so I just sort of hopped, in fits and starts, into the bathroom to have a look in the mirror.

"Look, Honey," I cried, "They FIT!!"

Or . . . maybe not.

But, this was about three weeks ago.

This morning, I zipped and buttoned those jeans whilst standing up. And I could still breathe.

I still can't wear them in public without breaking a few decency laws, mind you, but progress has been made.

Speaking of progress, here are the numbers:

June 18, 2009 -- 296. 4 lbs.

November 18. 2009 -- 238.4 lbs (This is actually up . 6 from yesterday, but who's counting??)

Total loss to date: 58 pounds.


PS: November photo shoot on Friday!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Photo Shoot

Okay, so it's a day early, but we have birthday parties and general busy-ness on the 18th, so here it is:

PRESENT: 246.4 lbs October 17, 2009 50 lbs. down! That's halfway to my "one hundred pounds in one year" goal!! Woot!
BEFORE: 296.4 lbs June 18, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

50 pounds down!! I'm halfway home!!

Just did the official Friday weigh-in, and the numbers were EXACTLY 246.4.


New challenge: I promised myself I'd start jogging after losing 50 pounds.

So, here I sit.

Running gear on.

Already sweating bullets.


What do they say about the journey of a thousand miles??

I will jog for at least one block today.

The rest is just gravy.

Mmmmm. Gravy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Under 250!

The numbers this morning were 248.8.

That's a total loss of 47.6 pounds!

2.4 to go before I hit my 50 pound goal!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Cold Weather Woes!

First the good news:

Weight as of this morning: 250.4

Total loss: 46 lbs

Just .4 from my next milestone of 250!

Now the bad news:

It supposed to snow here tonight! YUCK!

I think losing weight in the winter is difficult!

Summer is easy and lovely with its warm weather and locally grown produce. This summer, especially, with its cool weather and lack of rain made outdoor activity really easy. Most days, I walked between three and five miles, and it made a HUGE difference in the speed of my weight loss.

As the snow approaches, though, I become a wimp! It's back to the albatross and the stationary bike (which needs a good nickname, by the way. Any suggestions??). I have been doing 20 minutes on each, for a total of 40 minutes of exercise, at least five days a week.

Thankfully, the numbers have continued to decline, but I can feel the cold-weather-urge to eat and hibernate setting in. It always starts with chili. Then baking. By Christmas, all nutritional hell has broken loose.

Today, it's banana bread. I just can't seem to quiet the still, small voice in the back of my head that says "There's starving people in China! You can't waste those blackened bananas!!"

I'm using whole wheat flour, though, and applesauce instead of oil. I haven't found a suitable sugar replacement, though. Agave nectar tastes good, but costs a small fortune. I might have to break down and use it, though, since BACKSLIDING IS NOT AN OPTION!!

In a distinct change from previous cold-weather-crises, I'm finding myself MUCH more determined this year. I'm living by the mantra "Success breeds success!"

I just have to keep focusing on the FOUR dress sizes I've already lost in order to work my way, step by precious step, toward the FOUR MORE I intend to lose.

Size 20 today. (This, in itself, is pretty amazing, since I distinctly recall being at least a size 22 in the past when I weighed LESS than I do now. There must be something to this muscle tone thing.)

Size 18 by Christmas or BUST!!

(There's a new dress riding on this last goal, so keep your fingers crossed, and don't get near me with sugar!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

September Photo Shoot

Three months in.

256.8 lbs.

Total lost to date: 39.8 lbs.

Status: Hot enough to sport some rockin' polyester Granny-slacks, a gift from my beloved mother-in-law.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Under 260!

This morning's numbers put me at 259.8.

For the first time in 2 1/4 years, I'm under 260, which is, if I recall correctly, the weight I was when we moved to Sioux Falls.

In other words, I've lost all my "Republicans are stressful." weight.

Just kidding.

It is nice to see those numbers keep dropping though.

Next goal: 250.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another One Bites the Non-fat, High Fiber Dust.

One more pound down.

This morning's numbers: 261.2

This is one more pound down from last week, but, unfortunately, a pound UP from yesterday.

To be honest, I'm surprised I'm down at all this week. I skipped THREE days of exercise and let some unrefined carbs back into the house this week.

Unrefined carbs as in white pasta, Pepperidge Farm cookies, and big, fluffy white bread.

I swear, in terms of sheer addictive potential, that stuff is worse than crack. Or meth. Or the internet.

I guess I can take some pride in the fact that I think I have a MUCH better (not perfect, but better) sense of moderation when it comes to portion control and eating out of actual hunger rather than boredom, thirst, sadness, curiosity, whatever.

That said, It's clear that I'm starting to slack.

The start of the school year has put life on the "crazy busy" track again, and I'm still figuring out how to manage it all and get the daily exercise in.

Add to that an exchange student who doesn't know how to cook for himself, and I'm spending a lot more time in the kitchen.

Not. Good.

So, here's a plan to get my crap back in a row:

1. Make a weekly "plan" on the weekends. Carve out specific times reserved for exercise.

2. Get rid of the refined carbs. Again.

3. Develop a meth habit. I hear that stuff makes you skinny.

Okay, maybe I'll wait on number three. But it's always an option.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sweet Numbers!

This morning the numbers were at 262.2.

That's 34.2 pounds down!


And this is DESPITE the influx of high quality, European chocolate into our home!

Who knew I had this kind of self control??

Thursday, August 27, 2009

10% Down

It's like a down payment on a dream.

I hit 263 yesterday. That's 33.4 pounds down, and well over my ten percent goal!

Now, let's see if those nice numbers stick around until Friday morning.

*Weigh. In. Day*

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Photo Progression, Two Months In

June 18, 2009. Breakdown Day.

July 18, 2009 One month in. 15 pounds down.

August 20, 2009. Two months in. Making Progress. 28 pounds down.

(PS: This was taken in the midst of "Hoover Dam" week, hence the ankles. And the facial expression. Ugh.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hangovers, Hamhocks, and Holding Water like the Hoover Dam

I'm down another 1.4 lbs this week.

And this is a COMPLETE surprise.

I had been gaining steadily all week, starting with a binge on Indian food and raspberry mojitos last Saturday, from which I woke up Sunday morning with a throbbing headache and two feet the size of footballs.

Sodium + Alcohol = Water Retention

Which I thought would go away after a day or two of heavy hydration, but it didn't.

Every morning I woke up to another two pounds on the scale, and my feet at least a shoe size bigger. By Thursday morning, the only pair of shoes I could wear to work were a pair of Birkie knock-offs that had carried me through month nine of both pregnancies.

Finally, I got concerned enough that I consulted WebMD.

For the record, whoever came up with the concept of WebMD must HATE all hypochondriacs and wish for them to live a life of constant paranoia.

My husband, for example, has a habit of diagnosing himself on at least a bi-weekly basis with either a deadly virus or a rare form of cancer. Currently, he's convinced that he is the only person in North America secretly suffering from the Ebola virus.

Anyway, five minutes on WebMD had me thoroughly convinced I was dying of congestive heart failure. (Who knows?? Maybe I am and I just can't tell. Boz???)

"Oh, well," I thought, "I'll take an aspirin and sleep it off."

Now, any sane person retaining this much water would avoid ALL salt, sodium, MSG, etc. and pile on the water, right??

Well, not me.

I let the kids talk me into Dairy Queen (though I was smart enough to split a kid's meal with one of them). I let my husband cook Thai food for dinner (Hey, I'm no dummy, if he's willing, who am I to argue??). I even had bacon one morning. BACON, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!


But, I kept walking. One hour. Every day.

And it worked. Again.

There must be something to this exercise stuff.

Today's numbers: 267.

I'm shooting for my 10% next week. 265.3

The plan: NO MORE BACON.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Under 270!

This morning's numbers: 268.4

That's 28 pounds down!

And it's under 270.


A Free-Verse Note to the Young Farmboys in a Hot, Red Sports Car Yelling "Suey!"

While your hog calling skills are impressive, I can only conclude the following:

One day soon

your girlfriends

or wives

or secret, salacious lovers

will surely be either


or uglier

or much less faithful

than I.

(Perhaps all three.)

And they will hurt you






And, in doing so, they will have freed themselves.

And, in some small, secret way, me too.

And they will have imprisoned you, my fine, pig-calling friends,



Friday, August 14, 2009

25 Down!!

This morning's numbers: 271.4

That's officially 25 pounds less than I weighed when I started this blog.

Wooo Hooo!

That's 1/4 of the way to my 100 lb. goal.

100 pounds won't put me at my "ideal" weight, but the long range goal, for now, is to be under 200.

And I'm 25% of the way there!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Pound Down!

Good numbers this morning!


That's 24.8 lbs down, total.

I think this three miles a day thing is working!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009



That's what my digital scale read this morning. That is six-tenths of a pound less than it read yesterday morning.

That's 23.8 pounds less than it read on June 18 of this year.

I know, I know. It's NOT all about the numbers.

But it is about accountability. And honesty. And patience.

In the past, I've gone through EVERY possible perspective on the value of using a scale.

Weigh once a week.

Weigh once a month.

Weigh only when FORCED to at the doctor's office.

REFUSE to be weighed at the doctor's office, since it's not really going to affect your treatment anyway. (Yes, Dr. Boz, that was me.)

And my personal favorite: Throw out the scales!! Just pay attention to how you FEEL! And notice how your clothes fit! (I imagine this advice is more effective for those who don't spend the lion's share of their adult life in pants with drawstrings or elastic waistbands or "muu muu" dresses.)

Now, I realize any of these methods may be effective for some folks.

But they were NOT effective for me.

I NEED honest, credible, unbiased feedback. And I need it on a regular basis.

So, I weigh myself once a day, first thing in the morning. Yes, I realize this is the "lightest" time of day, and that my weight can fluctuate anywhere from 2 - 4 pounds in any given day based on water intake, sodium intake, whether or not I consume enough food for three adults rather than just the one that I am . . . .

But it is consistent. And it keeps me honest.

It has also made me realize that, in the words of a good friend's husband, "The path to weight loss is not always a perfectly straight line."

Some days I'm up! Some days I'm down! (Like today! Yay!)

The key, I've decided, is not making bad short-term decisions based on temporary, short-term setbacks. Notice the numbers each day, but don't let them define you. If they are going down more than they are going up, you're on the right track.

If the opposite is true, it's time to re-evaluate and figure out the problem.

The older I get, the more I am trying to take "the long view." The old me would have noticed a small weight gain, decided I was a failure, and headed straight for the chocolate eclairs.

The new me knows that going up a pound or two for a day or two or even a full week given any number of variables -- time of the month, stress level, dietary setbacks, lack of exercise, whatever -- is NOT the end of the world. It is simply a useful piece of information. And it should help me make better choices.

And if I make those better choices, consistently, for a year or two or three -- however long it takes (Here's where the patience thing comes in handy.) -- I WILL reach my goal.

I took a counseling class once at a time in my life when I thought I might make a good guidance counselor. (I quickly decided that I don't always listen very well, and that most of what high school guidance counselors do is schedule classes and do a limited amount career and college admissions advising. No offense to the wonderful school counselors out there. I just decided I couldn't do your job.)

The one useful thing I did learn in that class, though, was the psychological concept of "intermittent positive reinforcement." Basically, this means that as long as I see positive results of my diet and exercise efforts on an intermittent basis, I am likely to continue the positive behaviors. If the numbers went down EVERY time, I'd be likely to stop trying as hard and simply EXPECT the positive results, rather than letting them pleasantly -- but with some intermittent consistency -- reinforce my good exercise habits and dietary decisions.

In other words, those days when the numbers go UP are actually pretty useful. They remind me that I must keep trying, and that a successful weight loss journey doesn't happen in some mysterious, magical way.

The numbers on that scale are a direct result of my efforts to make them move in the right direction.

Today, I'm proud of my success this far.

But I will still check those numbers again tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Satan Drives an Ice Cream Truck

(This picture was taken at Spezia's Italian restaurant on our 9th wedding anniversary. The dress I'm wearing here is a size 18/20, and it didn't fit AT ALL at the start of the summer. It's still a bit snug, but I was so excited I wore it anyway. Notice the painting in the background. Satan wears a red dress and comes bearing dessert.)

I'll start with the good news: As of this morning, I'm down to 273.2 pounds. That's a total loss of 23.2 pounds since I started this blog.

But I have NO idea how I managed to lose anything (except, perhaps, my mind) last week . . .

Because SATAN has been chasing me with sugar ALL. WEEK. LONG.

It all started with a three mile walk.

Our children were visiting Grandma & Grandpa on the farm for a week, so my husband and I took the rare opportunity of childlessness to exercise together. We mapped out a three mile route and pledged to walk it at least once each day for the duration of our kid-free week.

Then, the ice cream truck arrived. We were no more than two blocks into our walk, when the a faint, jingling tune emerged from the tree lined streets surrounding our home. At first, I thought someone had lost a cell phone or left one of those freakish singing dolls on a front lawn.

No such luck.

As we walked, the music kept getting progressively louder. Louder, louder, louder until finally that truck -- loaded with ICE CREAM, that delectable, deathly combination of sugar and fat (But, hey! It's got calcium, right? That's the argument I always tried to sell my OB doc. Yeah. She didn't buy it, either.) -- was RIGHT BEHIND ME.

And I wish I were kidding here, but I'm not.

It. Stalked. Us.

Seriously, Satan, driving the ice cream truck, drove less than five miles an hour for at least five solid blocks, TAILING my husband and I.

I looked at my husband, and we both laughed. "It's a good thing you don't have your wallet," I said, "because we are literally being chased by chocolate ice cream."

I realize this may sound rude, but I'm convinced there was a marketing strategy in all this. I remember thinking to myself, "This is one SMART ice cream man." He drives his truck around, looking for chubsters like me, trying to work up a sweat, and FOLLOWS them with a combination of annoying music and ice cream, the sugar-addict's drug of choice, and just watches the sales roll in.

Not a bad plan, really.

Finally, though, Satan realized we had no cash, and he moved on.

But, the seed had been planted . . . .

(Didn't they warn me about this back in Catholic school??)

For the next two days, we made our three mile trek in peace. (Apparently, Satan only stalks the fatties in our neighborhood on Sunday evenings. A bit ironic, eh?)

With the kids out of town, though, and the excuse of our 9th wedding anniversary on Wednesday, we went out to eat on no less than four occasions that week.

Taste of India. Check.

(Best chicken korma EVER, by the way.)

Grille 26. Check.

(AMAZING salad with chicken, spinach, bacon, apples, cherries, and Gorgonzola. Yummm.)

Obadiah's Seafood and Steakhouse, Sheldon, Ia. Check.

(Crawfish pasta and my first taste of alligator. Jazz music. GREAT staff. Highly recommended.)

In the end, it appears that Satan's work was completed in Italy, though.

Our 9th wedding anniversary was on Wednesday, August 5th. We had planned an incredibly romantic day of installing vinyl flooring in the family room. (Nothing says love like a home improvement project with an x-acto knife, right?)

Instead of getting to the project at the crack of dawn as we'd originally planned, though, we slept late, had lunch, walked our route, watched a movie . . . and started the flooring project at six pm.

By 8:30, we were on the verge of marital dissolution.

(Why didn't we learn from the great wallpaper episode of '04?? Our Duluth neighbors are STILL talking about that one.)

Finally, after a moment of contemplation over whether I should use it to help rip off my mathematically challenged husband's head, I set down the x-acto knife and realized this project could ONLY end badly if we continued to forge ahead.

"I'm starving," I said. "We need Italian."

"Done." he agreed.


Two showers, a flurry of primping, and forty-five minutes later we walked into Spezia's.

It was 9:17 and they close at 10:00. A clearly exhausted hostess greeted us, and pleasantly welcomed us despite the late hour.

We were seated at a table right next to the kitchen. Our waitress was fantastic. Friendly and attentive, but not overbearing -- exactly the kind of waitress one wants at a romantic dinner.

She brought out a candle. The lighting was low. The music was good. And we were the ONLY table in the place. It was really nice. REALLY nice. As in, I can't remember having a dinner this quiet, this calm, this nobody-is-screaming-or-spilling-their-milk in a LONG time nice.

Then, just as I was gazing into my beloved husband's eyes (Ha! GAG!), the kitchen erupted. As in BLEW. UP. into a frenzy of tears and yelling. Someone was crying. Someone else was yelling. Dishes were flying. Glasses were crashing to the ground.

"Ahhh! Feels like home," I thought, and I suddenly really missed my kids for the first time all week.

Now, having waited tables for a considerable portion of my adolescent and adult life, I've witnessed these scenes before. Double shifts combine with a day full of cranky customers to produce sheer mental and physical exhaustion. The staff can't take it out on the customers, so they take it out on one another. To me, THIS IS NORMAL.

But apparently not to our wonderful, attentive waitress.

"I'm SO sorry about that," she apologized profusely.

"Oh, it didn't bother us," I replied, "Been there. Done that."

(As in, recently. Like an HOUR ago, in the family room.)

"I'm just sorry you had to hear all that, especially on your anniversary!" she continued.

"Really, it's okay . . ."

We finished dinner in peace. Apparently the altercation in the kitchen had been diffused. Or the cops had been called in. I'm not sure which.

(The food was incredible, by the way. Mike ordered a gnocchi dish with a gorgonzola cheese sauce that I would, without question, have sold my soul for. I ordered a four seasons pizza, which was also delicious, and big enough to take half of it home for lunch the next day.)

Then, our wonderful waitress brought out the bill.


Apparently, the Devil really does wear Prada. Or something Italian. Like a waitress uniform.

"Happy Anniversary," our waitress smiled, "Here's something for you to take home and share. Again, I'm sorry for the disturbance."

"Thank you SO much," I replied, the drool already pooling near my taste buds.

So, of course, we went home and promptly got out two forks and ate a GIGANTIC slab of tiramisu at eleven o'clock at night!

(Note to self: Consuming ladyfingers, dipped in espresso, covered in some heavenly combination of heavy cream and marscapone cheese and sprinkled in espresso powder, immediately before attempting to FALL ASLEEP is a VERY. BAD. IDEA.)

The tiramisu was incredible.

The insomnia, not so much.

In the end, I'm convinced it was the walking that saved me. I ate like a starving animal most of the week, but I also exercised for at least an hour every day, too. There is just NO way around it. Exercise MATTERS. I've been trying to avoid that truth for 34 years, but, in the end, the TRUTH is setting. me. free.

My husband, the weight loss machine, lost over two pounds.

I lost two tenths.

BUT I didn't gain, and that is better than I expected.

And this week, it's back to veggies, lean meat, and whole grains. A dietary exorcism, of sorts.

And the THREE miles a day -- a trinity, interestingly enough -- continues.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Seven Weeks and Counting

As of this morning, I'm down 20.2 pounds since I started tracking my progress online using the Weight Watchers website. I'm down almost 22 since I started this blog, to 274.6.

That's under 275, which may not seem like a great number, but when I remember that I started this blog with less than five pounds to go until I hit 300 (hence the title), I'm pretty proud.

Twenty five pounds away from 300 is A LOT better than five!

The rate at which I'm losing is slowing down, but I'm just happy that the numbers keep moving in the right direction. I've caught myself "cheating" more often lately, but I'm beginning to feel more like I am making a realistic connection between the "If I eat more, I MUST move more" rule. Preferably, of course, I would just eat LESS and STILL move more, but, as with everyone, I'm a work in progress. And I AM eating less. A LOT less. And a lot BETTER.

Today, for example, my husband and I went to the Overlook Cafe in Falls Park. I ordered a turkey sandwich on multi-grain bread with alfalfa sprouts, tomato, spinach, and mustard, with a side of broccoli salad. When it arrived at the table, the sandwich was GIANT. Immediately, I said to my husband "I'm only eating half of this. The other half is for supper." He agreed, and we had a great, filling lunch AND I didn't have to cook supper! All for 15 bucks. I highly recommend!

Of course, I probably shouldn't mention that we also split a piece of strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. I know, I know. Sugar is the devil.

But "sinning" just tastes so DAMN good. (Sorry, pun intended.)

After lunch, we walked a while on the trail, and then picked up our CSA veggies and went home. By the time I got home, the sugar high had passed, and the subsequent dip in blood sugar nearly wiped me off my feet. I took a glorious three hour nap (Can you tell the kids are visiting Grandma this week?) and woke to the sound of my husband, chopping organic beets.

I hate beets. I've always hated beets.

But, I'm also a chronic Midwestern pragmatist. Wasting beets is just not in my DNA.

Mike roasted the sliced beets with a tablespoon of olive oil and a little kosher salt. He forced me to try one, against my will. (This forcing me to do things against my will thing is not something he succeeds at very often, so I the beet battle is a bit of a victory for him.)

Right there, at my kitchen table, my world view relative to beets shifted.

They were delicious. They didn't taste like dirt, as I remembered them from childhood. They were the perfect texture, a little "earthy" tasting, and a little like the potatoes I've almost eliminated completely from our menus.

So, we got out the leftover sandwiches, finished off the roasted beets, and put on the running shoes.

Time for the power walk. We went for an hour and fifteen minutes. I don't know the distance, but I suppose someday I'll waste the gas to figure it out with my car.

As we approached the last two blocks to our home, I decided to "jog." I put the word in quotes because my "jogging" is more reminiscent of an elephant in labor than a human athlete in training. I could barely lift my feet off the ground and I could feel every pound of flab and blubber bouncing around wondering what the hell was going on.

It was quite a scene, something akin to geriatric night at fat camp, I suppose. I swear I could feel the sidewalk cracking behind me as I went and hear new fault lines forming in the tectonic plates of North America.

But I made it. And nobody threw anything or yelled nasty epithets out of a car window (Yes, this has actually happened to both my husband and I before).

I made it to the front door after "jogging" two blocks, and promptly pledged never to try that again.

Okay, maybe in another fifty pounds or so, but I'm pretty sure my finely coiffed neighborhood is NOT ready for a jogging fat lady.

Oh, well. I'm still under 275, so that's something, right?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Cheeseburger in (Suburban) Paradise" or "Two (Thousand) Steps Forward, One Step Back"

Today, I had a cheeseburger.

I saw it coming. I even thought about "willing" myself over the craving, but I caved.

And, sadly, it wasn't even a decent cheeseburger. I had high hopes, since it was from one of those cute, small town drive-in places that often have actual hand shaped "real" hamburgers, but when it arrived, wrapped in silvery paper, it was one of those frozen, pre-shaped affairs. COMPLETELY un-noteworthy.

Of course, I still scarfed it down like deranged wolf with a serious case of Prater-Willi syndrome.

A male friend of mine -- not a boyfriend, mind you, just a male -- once said, "Pizza is kind of like sex. Even when it's bad, it's good."

This guy's twisted love life aside, I think the line applies to cheeseburgers, too. And, incidentally, given the choice, I'd rather sleep with bad pizza, bad cheeseburgers, or even moldy brussel sprouts than this particular friend. Let's just say I wouldn't let him date any sane woman I know.

Anyway, back to the actual -- non-perverse -- cheeseburger. I ate it. The WHOLE greasy, nasty thing. In about two minutes flat.

And then, there was the fried cheese. What kind of nutritional masochist decided it was okay to take little balls of cheddar fat, slather them in refined carbs, and fry them in boiling, artery clogging, death grease??

They were amazing.

So, I dove off the dietary wagon, fat-arse first, and drove my chubby carcass the rest of the way home. By the time I got there, I felt like there was a boulder lodged firmly between my floating ribs and my currently unoccupied uterus. Seriously, it was like my small intestine had suddenly sprouted a five hundred pound internal torture device.

I. Thought. I. Was. Going. To. Die.

In COMPLETE honesty, I laid down on the bed, said a decade of the rosary (that's my penance for the sex talk, Mom), crossed my arms over my chest and waited for the light.

While I waited patiently to enter the great hereafter, my mind started to wander. (Clearly, I'd never make a good Buddhist.) "I could lie here," I mentally mused, "and wait to die. OR I could get up out of this grease-laden death heap, and get back on that damn wagon."

This thought process, my dear Internet, is PROGRESS.

Two months ago, I would have come home after slamming the cheese burger/balls fest, launched into a round of self-loathing and mental battery, and cracked open a pint of Chubby Hubby.

WITH my chubby hubby.

Instead, I got up. I put on some ugly gym socks and a pair of barely used running shoes, and I got my schlumpy self outside. I walked the neighborhoods surrounding my house for a full hour, at a pace swift enough to get my heart pumping, my arms swinging, and my fingers swollen to the size of Polish sausages.

(Mmm . . . sausage.)

Anyway, on my recovery walk, I noticed a few things about my neighborhood:

A: There are apparently some folks in my neighborhood who have SERIOUS mail box issues. Starting with the 1.5 million dollar uber-casa (Yes, I realize I'm mixing linguistic heritage here. Relax.) on the corner, my neighbors mailboxes are encrusted in individual brick fortresses apparently designed to withstand nuclear attack or an insurgent uprising. I realize I've never been the highest brow lady on the block, but, seriously, what gives with the mailbox forts?

B. There are significantly more houses for sale in the wealthy part of my neighborhood than in the early 80s multi-level peasant-ville paradise block on which I live. I have no idea, of course, whether or not my McMansion-ite neighbors are really that wealthy, but I start to get nervous when I see the mailbox fortresses and the little security system signs designed to make burglars opt for the next house down the street. I'm betting Mr. Rodgers would love those. Nothing says "Won't you be my neighbor??" like a sign screaming "Rob the next guy's 80 inch flatscreen, not mine!!"

C. There is, however, at least one house in my 80's big-hair "hood" that is apparently in foreclosure. Sad. It's a cute house, too, but it's getting to be an eyesore. (Wow. Did I just use the word "eyesore?" When did I get this old??)

D. One of my neighbors, a short, portly man probably in his sixties, likes to work on restoring his classic car, in his driveway, with no shirt on. Now, I'm really not one to judge, but he really should NOT do this. Aside from obvious burning and chaffing hazards, the aesthetics are just downright creepy.

And, that was when I stopped checking out my neighbors' houses . . . .

By the time I got home from the walk, the boulder was gone. I kicked off my shoes, ran 64 ounces of water into my daily "jug," and put the rosary away.

Dylan Thomas would be proud. I did not go gently into that good night.

Of course, a girl my size can't really go gently ANYWHERE.

So, what were my lessons in all this??

A. I should never go all day without anything to eat but a six am apple. By the time five pm rolls around, willpower and rational thinking are a thing of the past.

B. "Working through lunch" is an evil, destructive concept.

C. I hope NEVER to resort to topless car restoration in my driveway as a hobby. Seriously, if it ever comes to this, PLEASE, someone, force me to join a homeowners' association (BLECH!) and have me arrested by the beige siding police.

PS: My apologies to Jimmy Buffet and Paula Abdul (the early 90s version) for the heinous title.

Clearly, It's been a rough night . . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009


So, I'm down 18 lbs.

My husband, on the other hand, has lost 32.

I have to admit that there's a part of me that would like to begin spiking his morning coffee with bacon grease.

But I won't.

Together, we've lost 50 lbs.

That's like an above average second grader, right?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm down 15 lbs total.

And that's good.

But it's always about this point in the process where I begin to get impatient. The water weight is gone, so there are no more five to seven pound weeks. Now, it's down to the real work.

It's also this point in the process when I begin to consider all the strange "tricks" used to lose weight. Here's a few I've tried, unsuccessfully, in the past:

  • Pills. You name them, I've probably tried them. Most of them just made me feel like I was vibrating all the time and prevented me from stringing together a coherent sentence. Since I have trouble with both of these skills WITHOUT the use of pills, I promptly discontinued their use.
  • Severe calorie restriction. I have tried this in various incarnations since age five, when, along with my two year old sister, I wrote my first "diet plan." My mother keeps this document in her memory chest, and one of my sisters was kind enough to read it aloud at my high school graduation party. It begins with the line "Only 1 mayonnaise sandwich per day." I'm not sure that qualifies as "severe" calorie restriction, but the framework for later starvation diets was clearly in place. Needless to say, this technique was unhealthy, and it usually only worked until I caught sight of a doughnut or chocolate cake.
  • Giving up ALL bread products. Mike and I did well on the Atkins diet for about a month. At that point, I found myself seriously considering vehicular homicide on a woman I saw walking down the sidewalk with a loaf of bread. Thankfully, I remained rational enough to keep the car on the road, but I decided this probably wasn't a healthy approach, either.
  • Fiber laxatives and over-the-counter diuretics. I'll leave this one to your imagination, which can't possibly be as bad as the reality.
  • Strange exercise techniques. I've tried all the CURVES equipment, some of which I believe must be designed by orthopedic surgeons trying to drum up business. I've tried the Gazelle Freestyle, on which I resembled, much more closely, a seizing moose than a graceful gazelle. The Thighmaster very nearly resulted in an involuntary tubal ligation, and, since this was before I married and had children, I discontinued its use. (Hmm. Perhaps I should think about that one again.) The AbWorks, the NordicTrack, the Big-Ass-Rubber-Ball that, only later, I realized doubled as a device women can torture to relieve the pain of contractions during childbirth. The exercise "bands" which, luckily, did NOT result in my loss of one or both eyes. Step aerobics. Sweatin' to the Oldies. Jane Fonda. (I have a trunk full of aerobics videos, each one of which helped me produce at least one self-inflicted injury. I'm still healing, psychologically, from the Richard Simmonds era.)
  • Strange clothing. Rubber suits (I actually still use this every once in a while, so I guess old habits die hard, but, yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds.). Spandex in every possible format. I once actually had a doctor ask if I was "abusing myself" after witnessing the resulting chaffing. While I do consider full body girdles (along with panty-hose, rogue under wires, ALL corsets, and high heels) to be the clearest example of modern masochistic torture devices, I was still a bit uncomfortable trying to defend my own mental health to my concerned physician.

This time I think I'll just try patience. A balanced diet and patience.

I'm trying to stay focused on the fact that it took me 34 years to get to this point, so it's going to take me some time to get to a healthy weight.

At this rate, by the time I turn 70, I'll be HOT.

Do they run beauty contests in nursing homes??

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Alabatross.

According to

Albatross (al buh traws):

any of several large, web-footed sea birds of the family Diomedeidae that have the ability to remain aloft for long periods.

a seemingly inescapable moral or emotional burden, as of guilt or responsibility.

Meet the albatross. My albatross. She is blessed with this moniker based on the second of's given definitions, of course.
Some days she is more of a "moral or emotional burden" than others, but, more and more, I am trying to look at her simply as a responsibility, and an increasingly satisfying one at that. I force myself, each day, to do at least 20 minutes. This is a remarkable feat, given the fact that three weeks ago I could not remain standing upright on the thing for more than thirty seconds at a time.
Each morning (or occasionally, afternoon or evening) I climb aboard the albatross with just one goal: to keep moving. The first few steps are free and easy. So free and easy, incidentally, that I usually begin fooling with the resistance knob, realizing, in short order, that a level "3" is all the "burn" my butt and thighs can handle right now. I started at level 1, though, after gaining the ability to avoid toppling over into the adjacent treadmill (my perpetual nemesis and the only motivation needed to learn this particular skill), so progress has been made.
By five minutes in, I still usually wish I was dead. But it IS getting easier, and this small fact, alone, gives me hope. I've started playing mind games to distract myself from my discomfort. I'll look out the windows, onto our back lawn, and try to force myself not to look at the timer for one full minute. This has been an excellent means of gauging just how radically out of whack my perception of time is. I may last ten seconds, max.
If there is wildlife on the move in our backyard, I concentrate on that. There is a cadre of squirrels that run a frenetic loop around the yard before skittering up the trees to perform a hostile takeover from the local bird population. Red breasted something-or-others and a sundry mix of local avian residents explode from the leaves like feather flocked fireworks, which reminds me, ironically, of the first, more literal, definition of albatross.
The birds aren't web-footed, of course. Nor do they remain aloft for long periods of time, but they do fly. And they make me wish I could. For the briefest of moments, I feel the tiniest bit lighter, and I forge ahead with renewed resolve to just keep taking those single, small steps, one after another.
Interestingly, an albatross of the bird variety, figured prominently in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It seems these birds are considered good luck by sailors, and some poor, fictitious schmuck in this epic poem has the bad taste, lack of sense, or perhaps simply the poor marksmanship to shoot one of them. He is forced by his fellow sailors to wear the bird's corpse around his neck as an indication of his singular responsibility for the grave offense against the bird, ostensibly sparing his ship mates the wrath of the sailor gods.
This image appeals to me, and it seems to fit with my current efforts to get honest about my weight and take responsibility for my health. I have finally come to realize that my body is MY responsibility -- my FAULT, really -- and I have no one to blame but myself for its current state of disrepair. Nobody did this TO me, and no one but me is going to get me to a better place.
Even if they wanted to, they couldn't.
I was lamenting my long history of obesity to one of my sisters a few days ago, via email. I was in a pretty low place, emotionally, at the time, kicking myself for "cheating" big time at a buffet dinner with my in-laws last weekend. She had written about her own struggle to keep up a workout routine, and I replied with a long self-pitying, somewhat resentful response about NEVER having been "thin" and how she, one of the "skinny girls," couldn't possibly understand a LIFETIME of fat jokes, catcalls, animal noises, and sub-zero body image. I revealed that I was even considering bariatric surgery, even though I know its long-term success rates aren't always great, and I don't really have the money for it. "I just want to FEEL what being thin feels like ONCE," I whined, "even if it only lasts a moment."
She wrote me a simple, beautiful reply, that brought tears in only the way a sister's deep and abiding love can: "I'd give it to you on a platter, if I could . . . "
(I trust, by the way, that the choice of the word platter was NOT a thinly-veiled fat joke. My use of the word thinly, however, is the worst kind of bad pun.)
But she can't hand it to me on a platter. Or in a bowl. A cup. Not even in the most spectacularly healthy of non-out-gassing workout-diva water bottles.
This is my body. My fat. My blood sugar and cholesterol counts. And it is up to ME to get them under control.
I'm confident I won't be hanging my albatross around my neck in order to take this responsibility seriously, though such a spectacle might make for an interesting workout.
Of course, that doesn't mean I'll never shoot the damn thing.
* Note about the formatting: For some reason, the post was not recognizing my paragraph separations, so I used the asterisks for readability. Please let me know if they are more annoying than helpful.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Killing my Best Friend.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

"Good writing is about telling the truth." -- Anne Lamott


I did forty minutes of cardio today, and, as Lamott suggests, I'll tell the truth.

It sucked.

As is the tricky case with most exercise, I felt fabulous afterwards.

But it still sucked.

I'm now two weeks into the "move my body everyday" pact that I have with myself, and it is getting easier.

But it still (mostly) sucks.

I've developed a strange little routine to my workouts. I get up in the morning, make sure the kids have eaten something, and then force myself to exercise before I've done anything else. I don't even brush my teeth first. I know. Gross. But I don't care. If it doesn't get done first thing in the morning, it won't get done. On the days when I allow myself to get distracted by something (like the beckoning computer, for example) or, since complete honesty is my aim here, when I'm really just DREADING the exercise, it's just that much harder to start, so I've been trying to get my body moving FIRST thing.

I put on socks and shoes, get out the iPod, and get on the albatross. There is exactly one song on my iPod, "How You Live" by Point of Grace. It's exactly 4 minutes and 25 seconds long, so I force myself to just KEEP MOVING through at least five repeats.

By two minutes into it, I'm sweating from every pore of my body. By the third repeat, I'm exhausted but, mentally, feeling pretty good, a little cocky even. By repeat number five, I'm usually sobbing.

He would never admit this, but I can tell that my husband worries when he sees me go through this strange, emotionally draining process. I assure him that I'm fine, even though he knows not to ask. And then I tell him there's a reason I don't exercise in public or within sight of anyone except him and our kids.

There comes a point in the workout when my legs are throbbing, and my heart feels like its ready to explode, and there are tears streaming down my face. I'm convinced, at the very core of my being, that I can't go on. But I do. Often, almost involuntarily, I find myself muttering "just one more" under my breath. One more step. One more breath. One more second.

Sometimes I'll even implore the women singing to keep me going, "Come on, girls. Just one more."

And gradually, all the "one mores" add up. And the five repeats of my theme song are over. The endorphins kick in. I wobble, weak kneed and light headed, off the albatross, and I take a long, deep drink of water.

And I feel, in a way I have rarely experienced, truly fantastic. This has to be what keeps fanatical workout divas coming back. This feeling that I have, at least for today, beat back the demons and, to manipulate (slightly) another quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, "done the thing I think I cannot do."

Now, I'm sure there are those out there thinking, "What's the big deal? It's only a little over twenty minutes??" I've had many a well-meaning, athletic, fitness minded friend offer me advice on how to REALLY get a workout, and I can hear them snickering as I type this. But, let's remember here, that I weigh almost 300 pounds.

I used to marvel at the stories my brother, a national title winning wrestler in the early 1980s, would tell me about their training. It seems that while attending practices with the Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling Team, Coach Dan Gable would have the atletes run the stairs of Carver-Hawkey Arena while carrying another wrestler on their backs. It strikes me, as I write this, that this is akin to what a 300 lb person is doing when they exercise. They are hauling with them, essentially, the weight of two fully grown adults. It also strikes me that, having never been an athlete in ANY sense of the word, my attempting to workout AT ALL is a little ludicrous. To employ a metaphor closer to my own area of expertise, my efforts at exercise seem as ridiculous a proposition as my asking a functionally illiterate or a non-English speaking adult to write a critical analysis of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Well, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but, I'm confident the point has been made.

Most of this workout process seems reasonable to me. Except the tears. I don't have those completely figured out yet. They truly come out of nowhere, and I can no more summon them voluntarily than I can stop them once they arrive. They really just happen.

And I don't really know why.

I've been wrestling with that question lately. Why, when I am doing something I KNOW is good for me, does some deep, nameless part of myself that I rarely reveal to ANYONE, suddenly hurt so much? Of course my legs hurt, of course my muscles strain. But where are the tears coming from?

The only thing I can figure so far is that this journey is, and will be, as much a spiritual and personal transformation as a physical one. I know that I am challenging some notions about myself and my place in this world that are firmly rooted in 34 years of habit and self-image. I was, after all, first diagnosed as "mildly obese" at just nine months of age. So, my fat has been with me from the beginning.

And, in many ways, as ironic as this may sound, my fat has been my best friend. A manipulative, co-dependent, ultimately bad-for-me best friend, but a best friend nonetheless. My fat has NEVER left me for someone or something more interesting or more advantageous, as other friends and lovers have. It has put up with my mood swings and irrational behavior, as other friends and lovers have not. It has stood faithfully by my side, despite the cussing and the hatred and the pure, deep loathing I've showed it in return. This is not a trait easily found in a friend.

My fat has, without question, helped shaped my identity. I was the cute, chubby kid who made friends and family members smile or giggle, especially in times of trial. I was the funny fat girl in high school and college whose quick wit and sarcastic cynicism helped her separate smart, loyal friends from dull, shallow acquaintences and enemies. I was the big, strong, vociferous English teacher who could wrestle a classroom under control through sheer bulk and attitude. I am, now, the paunchy middle-aged wife and mother of two, whose harried life and hectic schedule give her an excuse to find solace in cheesecake and sanity in the McDonald's drive-thru.

On the other hand, my fat has caused me deep sorrow and self-loathing. It's undermined my confidence and circumscribed my life in a way nothing and no one else ever has. It has made me rule out countless goals and activities I might truly have enjoyed by insisting that its mere presence disqualified me from aspiration and participation. My fat is the reason I don't take my kids to the swimming pool on a regular basis. It's the reason I don't dance in public or feel at ease in any room of more than five occupants. It's the reason I gave up the stage and no longer find pleasure in singing at public events. There are countless, tiny ways in which I've allowed my fat to control my life, and I am not one that is easily controlled.

My fat has caused me obvious health problems and serious self-image issues as well, but it has, strangely, been my protector, too. My fat allows me to explain away the rejection of others, to place the blame at their feet for their inability to look past my appearance and get to know the "real me." My fat has made me really unattractive, which has, at times, acted as a filter for those whose motives I presumed shallow or dishonest. My fat has been a physical barrier against the cold, a cushion for my many falls, and an emotional shield in times of sorrow and pain.

Now, with each new step and drop of sweat, it feels as though I am trying to kill that friend. It's as if I am purposely trying to rid myself of something that has been a central part of my identity since infancy. And this is incredibly draining spiritual work.

My relationship to my own body has been a complicated one, to be sure. I have, for most of my life, hated the vessel that houses my soul. I've mistreated and abused it, accordingly. At times, though, I've been completely astounded at its capability and resilience. I've admired it's willingness to heal from illness and marvelled at its ability to grow and birth and nurture two living, breathing, miraculous human beings.

So, I suppose it stands to reason that an aggressive endeavor to rid myself of between 1/3 and 1/2 of this place my soul calls home might be fraught with some degree of angst. Hence, the tears.

I will continue to workout, of course, and it's quite likely the sobbing will stick around for a while. But I'm confident it will get better. As Roosevelt suggests, I will look this fear in the face, and I will gain strength, confidence, and courage in return. I will live through this "horror" and, emerge, ready and able to "take the next thing that comes along." As this process continues in the months and years ahead, I will adapt to a shifting sense of self that is sure to challenge a few of the notions central to my current identity. I will do the physical, mental, and, perhaps most importantly, the spiritual work, and I am confident that, in the end, this journey will leave me a stronger, healthier, more resilient person, in body, mind, and spirit.

But for now, I'll take the tears. And the throbbing legs, and the sweat.

I'll take them all just one more

just one more

just one more





Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Doing the Math.

I sent a link to this blog to one of my many sisters today.

She's a brilliant woman. An engineer for over twenty years, and a gifted writer, though she'll never confess to that last claim. Apparently one's ability to herd a few words doesn't garner much respect in the heavily masculine, heavily mathematical, logical-sequential world of designing bull dozers.

Anyway, her immediate response was no surprise. "You need some graphs and charts," she wrote, "so we can follow your progress."

As one of the few in my family who didn't end up in a field with strong mathematical and scientific underpinnings, I always get a chuckle out of the immediate need for logical, data-rich communication amongst my siblings and in-laws. Family gatherings are sometimes a bit like math and science conventions, with pocket protectors and calculators appearing frequently and the occasional conversation taking place only in binary code.

Okay, it's not quite that bad. Close, but not quite.

So, in response to my sister's clear need for more math, I emailed her the following story problem:

In search of breakfast, Nichole plunges her head, face first into a chocolate cake, accidentally consuming 1500 calories in fudge frosting in the process. How many times does she have to fall off her treadmill in order to burn off those calories??

She didn't appreciate the humor. Or the math. Especially since there is no good way to calculate the calorie burning potential of treadmill gaffes.

Anyway, for those of you who are data driven, I will work on getting the charts and graphs. For now, I've got as many charts and graphs as I can handle with my use of Weight Watchers online. Plenty of data tracking there.

I'll close with a few facts, just to satisfy the number nerds among you.

Number of minutes I've tortured the albatross* today: 20
Pounds lost to date: 11, give or take a few ounces
Number of Weight Watchers points in the beet & black bean brownie I had for breakfast: 6

What can I say about the brownie? Some habits die hard.

* See previous post entitled "Sweat."

Monday, June 29, 2009

The "Before" Picture.

I can not believe I'm publishing this. I hate cameras. Mirrors. All reflective surfaces.

I've spent most of my life under the rule that if I don't look at myself in the mirror, I don't really exist. And if I do, I sure as hell look a lot better than this. I've had some really bad moments when this rule was forcibly broken by some kind, well-intentioned soul handing me a picture of myself.

Immediate meltdown.

The most memorable of these moments occurred on my 26th birthday. My husband and I went to church, and his boss (He worked for a church at the time.) handed him a picture of me from a recent get together. Innocently, he handed it off to me.

Immediate meltdown.

We didn't even reach the car before the floodgates opened. I recall sobbing the entire 45 minute ride home. I couldn't speak, and my husband had no idea what was wrong. I just kept staring at that picture, completely hating myself.

For some reason, though, these moments never resulted in real motivation, as they might have for others. They simply led to deeper self-loathing and a variety of creative coping mechanisms. This time my weapons of choice were shopping, hair control, and, the old standby, food.
Once the deluge of tears concluded, and I was firmly planted back in that comfortable place called "denial," I went to the mall. I spent 200 dollars I didn't have, on clothes I didn't like and couldn't afford.

Then, it was off to Regis Hairstylists. After all, one only needs a trendy haircut to mask those extra fifty pounds, right? All the while, buried deep in the part of myself that has a voice of cut throat honesty, I was thinking, "Honey, there ain't a stylist in the world that can undo what you've done to your body." But I didn't listen to that voice. I simply needed to control SOMETHING, and since my spending and my body were clearly out-of-control, my hairstyle seemed like a good replacement.

Finally, on the evening of my 26th birthday, I insisted that my husband take me to our favorite restaurant, The Common Grill in Chelsea, Michigan. To this day, The Common Grill is the one restaurant where I will drop 100 dollars on dinner and leave feeling like it was worth every penny. But on the evening of my 26th birthday, that food was not the simple, joyful pleasure it should be. It had a job, and I made it do its duty. That food was there to numb my pain, to distract me from the reality of what my body had become, and to drive back the feelings of self-hatred that would, without it, wreak havoc on my ability to function on a daily basis. As it had so many times before, this plan worked, and by the time my wonderful, loving, incredibly accepting husband drove me home that night, I was happily back on the isle of denial.

Years later, sitting in a teacher's lounge in the high school at which I taught, a tall, stick-thin guidance counselor I worked with unknowingly revealed for me exactly what I had been doing in these moments of crisis. He stood up, stretching his six-foot-five, 145 lb frame, after polishing off a huge piece of lasagna with a side of garlic toast and proclaimed, "Ladies, there isn't a problem in the world 1400 calories can't solve." Light bulb moment.

So, today I face the camera, and I'm putting it here for anyone who's curious enough to look. I'm doing this not so much for the gawkers, but for the much more important purpose of getting honest with myself. I'm also hoping that the feeling of having an "audience" on this journey will help me hold myself accountable. I've never been one to let down a crowd, and I'm not about to begin now.
(PS: I realize I am dressed like a sofa from the mid-70s here. I happen to like the mid-70s, so I really don't care. I also realize that the expression on my face makes it appear that I have just lost a close family member or pet. It really wasn't intentional, but my hope is that the "after" pictures will look all the better in comparison as a result.)


It has always been a dirty word to me.

Now, I know it's necessary. I don't really like it any more than I used to, I've just come to a point of acceptance:

I must move my body to be healthy.

I've tried for years to get around this simple fact, and there are a host of stories, memories, humilations, and chaotic moments that chased me through the last 34 years of avoiding exercise. I'm sure I'll get to some of them later.

For now, the goal is simple. 20 minutes. Every day.

I started on June 18, the same day as the breakdown. Breakthrough?

So far, so good. 2o minutes of treadmill (my perpetual nemesis), elliptical (my albatross), or recumbant bike (my refuge on days of low motivation).

Today, I did 40, and it feels damn good. 30 on the elliptical and 10 on the treadmill. I'm pretty sure I'll feel this in the morning, but right now, I'm focusing on the positive.

I did 40 minutes of exercise. I got my heart rate up, and it did not kill me.

Right now, non-dead is a blessing.


The intent of the blog is to document a journey.

This particular journey began eleven days ago, when I stepped on the scale and had a breakdown. Breakthrough?


I was less than five pounds away from hitting the 300 pound mark. I'm not sure why that threshold is any more horrifying than any of the other numbers I've blown right through in recent years . . . 250, 260, 275, 280,290 . . . but it is.

I refuse to get there. And I am ready to battle back the forces that have gotten me here in the first place.

My intent, my prayer, and my last, best hope is to document that battle here.