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.