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Another Year in the Books

Looking back on 2015, I can say it has been an interesting year.  In the grand scheme of things, I don’t suppose my year has been all that remarkable or unusual from most peoples’, but there were some standout moments — great ones, good ones, not so good ones. Sounds like life itself, doesn’t it?

I enjoy reviewing the past and then assessing where and how I am in the present.  This helps me look ahead for the future.  Here’s what comes to mind for me about 2015.

In January, I sailed off as a solo traveler on another Country Music Cruise and again had a wonderful time.  I met and made some new friends, enjoyed different adventures, and relaxed while having fun.

In February, I attended my first International Tai Chi workshop which motivated me to attend a couple of more not long after.  Overall, these and other experiences led to me increasing my commitment to my studies and practice of this ancient art and my service to our organization in keeping with its principles and philosophies.

Spring flew by with, unfortunately, a small car accident in May.  Thankfully I wasn’t badly hurt, although it took a few months for my car to be repaired and returned.  The weeks lead up to early June and my high school class’s 40th Reunion.  I traveled up home to New Jersey and saw several friends I haven’t seen in a while even before I got to the reunion.  It was a blast reconnecting and spending time with so many friends.  I hope we don’t wait decades before seeing each other again.

Immediately after the reunion, I went to a big conference for work and was completely surprised to receive a wonderful honor from the association!  There were a myriad of professional, work-related challenges and successes.  I think overall, it was a period of personal growth for me in this field.

Somewhere in the midst of all this activity, I did a course of Euflexxa injections to help alleviate some of the pain in my arthritic right knee.  I guess it’s good that I did so, because also in the first six months of the year, I developed a severe case of plantar fasciitis.  I suffered tremendous heel pain when walking.  This drastically affected my activity level and even made it painful and difficult for me to walk Nat and Pyxi.  Collectively, our exercise and fitness regimens were off.  Being stubborn and having experienced this condition before, I tried to gut it out and self-treat with exercises I remembered from years before.  Unfortunately, nothing worked and I finally went to a foot specialist.  I’m so glad that I did.  He diagnosed that I not only had the fasciitis, but I’d also slightly torn the Achille’s tendon and the fascia.  I had two plasma rich platelet treatments in that foot and spent time in a boot.  Those alone were great, but I supplemented them by regular visits to an acupuncture physician.  The modalities healed me and got me back on my feet without pain!

Unfortunately, my boat was not so easily treated.  One of the engines blew and could not be repaired.  I eventually bit the bullet and arranged financing to replace my power.  (Now I just need the wind to lie down so I can actually get back out on the water and enjoy the boat again!)

The most difficult part of the year came in late summer.  My darling Pyxi suffered a severe bladder infection and kidney damage.  We couldn’t get her stabilized to the point where I could support her and help her maintain a good quality of life.  She was wasting away and, in late September, we opted to take the humane action and help her go over the rainbow bridge.  I still miss that sweet face and her quirky personality but her brother Nat and I are soldiering on.

My weight loss stalled and seesawed some over the year.  With my foot injury, I was unable to work out, which only made things worse.  I struggled with my eating disorder and food compulsions off and on.  I stabilized soon after Pyxi’s death.  This was helped by me getting involved in a terrific new-to-me exercise routine – rowing!  I’m committed to this overall workout with its cardio benefits and strength training.  Although my weight is pretty much the same, I’m transforming on the inside with more muscle and less fat.  Mentally and emotionally, I also feel stronger.  Each day that I successfully resist my eating disorder and take care of myself the way that I need to, is another building block on the foundation of a healthy, sane life of recovery.

I finished the year with a vacation with family and friends.  The greatest gifts are not the ones wrapped in holiday paper.  The love and support of these people is the most valuable thing imaginable and I am so grateful!

The last remaining hours of 2015 are ticking away and I’m looking forward to what I’d like to experience and achieve in 2016.  I don’t make resolutions, but I have goals.  I want to continue to take care of myself, break through the current weight loss plateau and achieve more physical recovery.  I want to stay on track with my program and avoid any relapses into old, harmful, compulsive eating behavior.

I want to enjoy some wonderful trips.  Particularly in the last four years, I’ve rekindled a deep love of travel and adventurous spirit.  There are many experiences out there waiting for me to go and try them.  I can’t wait!

Tai Chi continues to be important to me, and I will remain on my path of study and practice.

There are some fix-up projects at the house that I want to get done.  I’ve put some of them off and they really deserve my attention and energy now.

Above all, I want to live a good, happy, authentic life.  I want to be kinder – to myself as well as to others.  I don’t want to take anything for granted, but seek to live in the moment with gratitude and full appreciation of my gifts and blessings.

I choose to do all within my power to make 2016 an amazing year!

Thank you, everyone for being here.  I wish you all the best and hope that 2016 is an amazing year for each of you, too!

 

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Food Calling

Where did December go?  I sort of saw the days fly by but I was so darned busy I couldn’t latch on for the trip.  In addition to being ultra busy with work, I also managed a week’s vacation up to the Northeast for my annual holiday time with family and friends.  I wish I could say that I also maintained my good eating habits while I was away, but I don’t want to lie, particularly not on my own blog.  Holiday cookies might as well be crack.  That’s how addictive they are for me.

Emotionally, I had a wonderful time away.  I love spending time with so many people whom I deeply love but whom I don’t get to see so often.  Physically, between the cookie binges and not working out for a week, I ended up feeling pretty crappy by the time I was on my way back to Florida this past Sunday.

I think it’s a good thing that stubbornness is part of my DNA and mental makeup.  I refuse to give up on myself.  I immediately began eating more cleanly, sticking to my plan, and even drinking more water.  Yesterday morning, I was on a rower at 7 a.m.   It’s only been two days and I already feel better.  I always try to remember that each day is the opportunity for a new beginning.  I don’t have to repeat bad behavior.  I can always choose differently.

My boss and friend and have shared a couple of discussions about this the last two days.  At some point yesterday I said that it isn’t really about the food for me.  It’s about my behavior with food.  Apparently that stuck with her and she’s been looking at, or raising her awareness of her behavior too.  We talked some more today about what it feels like to have an eating disorder and why, when we know our goals and our desire to follow out plan and eat responsibly, we go off track.  “It’s like there is an alien being in my head sometimes,” I said.  “The alien takes over and I grab at food that I don’t want because the alien being wants it.”

The alien being is my eating disorder, of course.

She then, sort of plaintively, wondered why only the bad foods call to her.  “If I have the food around, it screams my name,” she said.  “Why don’t the good foods ever call me?”

That lead to more discussion about behavior and thinking about how we can set ourselves up for success.  I’m glad we had that talk because it put it all in the front of my mind and helped me later on.  Every year I end up shipping home a box with the gifts I’ve received.  The box arrived today and in it was a package of white chocolate and dark chocolate mixed with peppermint.  I unpacked the box, looked at the candy and thought, “No problem.  I’ll just have a nibble now and then put the rest in the refrigerator.  I’ll be okay.  I can control this.”

I honestly don’t know if that’s my ego talking or my misguided illusions.  I broke off a piece and ate it so fast that it barely registered.  I did go so far as to stick the rest in the fridge, but I also went back to the fridge to eat another piece of chocolate.

That simply would not do!  I knew that my eating disorder wouldn’t stop thinking about that chocolate until I’d returned again and again and, eventually ate it all.  I had a choice to make and, this time, I made the healthy choice.  I grabbed the box from the fridge and marched it to the outside trash cans.  Bingo — One large chocolate bar rendered unable to tempt me any more.

I texted the tale to my boss.  She texted back, “Well played.”

The chocolate called to me, but it got the wrong number.

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Wisely Challenging Myself

Yesterday morning’s rowing class workout called for rowing 600 meters, then jumping off to do 8-10 pushups and 20 penguins.  (Penguins work the oblique muscles.  You lie on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor.  Lifting shoulders slightly off the floor you reach with each hand toward your heels, alternating side to side.)  We were allotted between 1:30-2:15 to do the floor exercises.  If we didn’t use the entire time, we could rest a little before starting the next round of rowing.  The objective was to do as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 45 minutes.

I love rowing class and the all over workout it provides.  Great cardio and some strength building combined.  The trainer changes things up and challenges us.  Each week, I try to do a little more or a little better.  Like in this session, I wanted to go lower on my pushups and reach further on my penguins.  That kind of challenge is good.

But I wasn’t quite so smart on the rows.  On these machines, you can pull on the back motion with different amounts of strength.  Everybody is different, depending on where we are with our bodies.  I usually average between 115-125 watts of power when I’m in the groove.  I’ve pulled higher watts in short spurts before — even more than 200 watts for a couple of strokes in a sprint one day.  However, 115-125 is a pretty steady range and gives me a good workout.

Today, for some reason, I decided it was time to boost my average range of power.  From the first round, I tried to rip 135-150 watts of power with each stroke.  That first round, I was all caught up in my strength and the goal of pushing myself with the challenge.  The second round, I kept it up.  I concentrated on maintaining form, driving power with my legs and ripping those watts.  When I finished the 600 meters, I’d jump off the rower and go into the push ups, followed by the penguins, then end up with about :20 of rest time before starting the third round.  What a rush!

Mid-way through, I got hit with nausea.  Serious, “uh-oh-I-could-throw-up-right-on-this-machine” nausea.  The poor trainer stopped by my machine right at that moment to comment on the football game this past weekend.  I sort of held up my hand in a “Give me a second” gesture and squeaked out that I was trying not to hurl.

God bless that man.  Apparently, he’s seen it all in his sports and training career.  He very calmly told me to concentrate on my breathing and back off of the workout.  He also very reassuringly said that if I lost it, it wouldn’t be the first time and the floors were easy to clean.   I choked out something along the lines of, “Easy to clean, but not so easy to get over the embarrassment.”

I tried to gut it out.  I finished the round, working with far less power.  I completed the floor exercises.  I then got back on the rower and pushed for one more round of rowing. My stomach was jumping and my arms were trembling.   I knew I was done about half way through.

Thoroughly disgusted, I climbed off the rower.  Again, bless the trainer.  He told me that I had to listen to my body.  Unfortunately, at that moment I was listening to the voice in my head that was thinking “Workout fail”.  Some of how I was feeling emotionally must have showed on my face.  He said that I come to every class and work hard.  While challenging myself was a good thing, I need to do it in stages.

I probably felt lousy for another couple of hours afterward.  For awhile I wondered if I was actually coming down with a bug.  I wasn’t.  Gradually my stomach got over the upset.  It took significantly longer for me to get over feeling like an idiot.  Eventually, however, I could look at it with more logic than emotion.  It’s okay to challenge myself, but next time I need to do it wisely.

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Holiday Sweets

Recently a local doctor wrote a letter to the editor for one of our hometown newspapers.  I used to use this doctor several years ago as my primary care physician.  She also had a sub-specialty of working with obese patients.  For a while she served as the county’s medical health chief, too.  The doctor has always spoken out about weight and health issues.

Her letter was an open and deliberate request to patients and anyone else who visits her office during the holiday season.  Bottom line, she asked that they not express their thanks to her and her staff with gifts of food.  She appreciates their appreciation and hoped that they would understand that sugary sweets, baked goods and the like are not healthy for her and her staff.

While she couched the request as a personal one for her practice, it was pretty clear that she expressed this through a letter to a newspaper so that she could emphasize a strong point to the public at large.  Obesity is a significant issue in our country.  Our society tends to celebrate with food.  We’re compounding our own collective problems.  I admire her for taking the stand and hope that she doesn’t get a backlash for it or accused of holiday food-Scroogery.

I know that when lots of food surrounds me, I have a really difficult time saying no to it.  We get a fair amount of sweet treats sent to our office this season, too.  It sits in the office kitchen calling to me and I struggle not to indulge.

There is, however, one company that always sends our president a smoked turkey.  We plan a lunch around it with different people bringing a few side dishes.  We end up making a far healthier celebratory event with the turkey as the center.

This year, I’m hoping for more savory, healthy snacks than sugar/fat/carb laden ones.  Sadly, I don’t expect anyone to send a holiday basket of fresh veggies, but maybe some fruit, or even cheese.  I could handle proteins and fruit in smaller batches.  Not being constantly beset by food temptations would definitely make my holidays sweeter.

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Changing My Mind is Okay

There are a lot of different things I could title this post.  Traditions Can Change; Abandoning Tradition; Choosing Wellbeing Before Cookies; Holiday Health.  They all came to mind when I opened up the window to start writing.  Here’s what’s going on.

I always travel to the Northeast to spend the Christmas holiday with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews, and also to see as many friends and other family members as possible.  A couple of weeks before I fly up, I ship my family’s gifts so I don’t need to lug them on the plane.  For the last few years, I also rekindled a family tradition of baking delicious Italian fig and date cookies.  My grandmother made them for us every year for all of my life that I can remember.  When she passed away, Mom and I continued the tradition.

Sometimes, I bake them once I get to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, but there isn’t going to be time this year.  So, I thought I’d make them today, seal them up really tight, and ship them with the presents.  (I know the cookies will not go stale if packaged correctly.  My grandmother once sent a batch from New Jersey to France when we lived there for a year.  They were perfect on arrival and this was in the days before overnight or even two-night shipping.

I added the ingredients to my weekly shopping list and off to the store I drove.  I even bought a new rolling pin and pastry mat to help with the baking.  That’s how fully engrossed in the holiday fa-la-la I was this morning, anticipating the process and reveling in continuing the tradition.

In my head, I had everything planned.  I could envision myself happily wrapping gifts while the aroma of melty-fig cookies perfumed my house.  Then, a funny unexpected thing happened on the drive home from the supermarket.  An alien thought entered my head that said, “You know what?  I don’t really want to bake those cookies today.”

This really surprised me and it triggered not only an internal debate, but also a scramble of different emotions.  Happiness that I acknowledged that I didn’t want to bake.  Guilt that I didn’t.  A healthy dash of, “Oh, but you should!” spiced the mix, sharpened by the trepidation of knowing that I would overeat samples of the cookies.

I went back and forth on the decision a couple of dozen times.  Bake, don’t bake.  Yes, no.  Do it, don’t.  Thankfully, when I pulled into the driveway, the wise voice overrode the clamor.  It said, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to bake the cookies, and you don’t need to feel bad that you don’t want to.  The family enjoys them but they aren’t holding their collective breath waiting for them.  What’s more, they might like the cookies but they love you.  They’ll be happier that you’re making the choice you need to make for yourself.”

That was the decision maker.  I’m in a good place right now with my food plan, eating, and exercise routine.  I know if I start baking today, I’m going to throw myself off.  Changing my mind about making cookies is not only okay, it’s the right, healthy choice.

I’m so glad that I listened to that first thought when it popped up and that I didn’t let the other thoughts and emotions overrule my instinct.

Holiday and family traditions are wonderful things, but they don’t take priority over healthy choices.  In fact, me making healthy choices is a new tradition in itself.

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Mental Relaxation

Having compulsive eating disorder weighs on more than one’s body.  It weighs on the mind and the spirit. I spend a lot of time thinking about the disease; hoping that I’ll stay on track and worrying that I won’t.  Then there’s the residual mental ass-kicking I deliver to myself when I mess up.  The thoughts and stress are almost as obsessive as the eating challenges.

This is one way that having a defined food plan truly benefits me.  When I pre-plan my choices and prepare, I don’t have to spend all day thinking about what I’m going to eat, stressing about each meal option, etc.

Just like the act of binge eating or any kind of compulsive eating can create other issues for me, when I am deep in diseased thinking, the stress bleeds over into other areas.  I start to worry and fret over other things in my life from work situations to managing routine daily activities at home.  I don’t fall apart and become ineffectual but I don’t sleep as well and I use more energy coping with things that I normally handle with ease.

It is a huge relief when I am not beset by the thoughts and emotions of compulsive overeating.  I am so much more at ease when I’m living in abstinence and recovery.  Right now I’m in that good, evenly balanced mental state.  I’m less stressed and more relaxed.

All in all it is a much better state in which to live.

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Feeling Fit Again

Another thing that has been contributing to me not feeling great about myself in recent months is the fact that I wasn’t feeling as physically strong and fit as I had been.  After discovering the joy of physical activity over the course of the first couple of years and really embracing different types of exercise, last spring I started to hurt more.  My right knee gave me chronic pain.  Then I developed the horrid heel pain with plantar fasciitis plus slight tears in my Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.

I began to gain some weight back which made everything even worse.  Emotionally and mentally, the combined affects of the injuries, the arthritic knee, and the extra weight slowly eroded my enthusiasm for exercise.  I backslid into more sedentary ways.  I lost my excitement about all the great things that I could do with my body that I couldn’t before my weight loss surgery.  I couldn’t even do my Tai Chi, which I absolutely love.  Overall,  I just felt like more of a blob as time went on.

As soon as possible after the foot doctor cleared me to restart more physical exercises, I went back to Tai Chi.  Then I discovered the wonderful, amazing rowing classes.  Somewhere along the line, my spirit rejuvenated and I became determined to reclaim the level of physical fitness that I’d achieved before.  That led to me committing to three rowing classes a week – even getting up extra early to make it to the 7 a.m. classes!  (If you knew me, you’d know that this was alien behavior for me.  :-) )

For the last couple of months, I have consistently rowed three days a week.  I guess it’s about a month and a half since the trainers started incorporating some additional strength and conditioning exercises in the classes.  I give every class all of the energy and effort that I can muster and push myself when I feel like I can’t.  In the last few weeks, even while I struggle with the number on the scale, I can see and feel physical improvement in my body.  Last week I experienced that wonderful realization of how much stronger I am in my core, as evidence by my much-improved form in sit ups.

Recognizing the improvements is having an incredibly positive effect on my emotions and mental attitude.  This really became obvious to me over this Thanksgiving weekend.  Even before, I prepared by going to rowing classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  (We knew the rowing studio was closed Thursday through Sunday.)  I think I shared before that on Thursday I not only took Nat out for a long walk, but I also did some exercising at home with free weights, push ups, sit ups and planks, then even a full set of Tai Chi.

I kept my activity going on Friday with another long walk.  Today, I rode my bike to and from Tai Chi class and around town a little doing some errands.

Before dinner, Nat and I went out for a long walk.  As we were walking, I tuned into how my body was feeling.  I felt the regular slight twinges I get in my knee, but really acknowledged how great I felt overall.  Strength in the muscles; a free and easy stride; from head to toe, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, lungs and other organs all smoothly work together.  In that moment, I realized that I finally feel fit again.

This, my friends, is glorious.  Not only does it lighten my spirit, it energizes my heart.  I am truly enjoying my own physical ability.  Glorious and wonderful, indeed.  I’m inspired to keep it all going.  I’ve already signed up for my three rowing classes next week.  Tomorrow morning, even though it’s Sunday, I’m meeting a friend at her condo community.  We’re going to workout together in the community’s gym.  They have great machines.

I’m inspired as well to not waste the effort by making poor eating choices.  Maybe this is the piece I needed to reclaim in order to finally break through my long lasting plateau.  We will see!

 

 

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Post-Thanksgiving Post

Yesterday was a curious day for me but, ultimately, a successful one for which I am very grateful.  I did not have any plans to share a holiday meal with any friends.  A funny thing happens down here.  I think my different groups of friends assume that one of the other groups or couples have invited me to spend the holiday with them.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this year.  One friend did invite me last minute to come for dessert later in the day.  Another friend/co-worker was in the same situation and we sort of half-heartedly said that if we had the energy or desire mid-day to go out to a movie together, we’d get in touch.  Neither of us did.

For about a week ahead of yesterday, I veered between feeling sorry for myself/lonely/resentful and being completely okay with the circumstances.  While I would have liked to be in a group of friends for the human contact and camaraderie, I really, really, really didn’t want the day to be about feasting and overeating.  Then again, I did experience some yearning for turkey, some of my favorite side dishes and the like.  I just worried over whether the emotions would send me into binge mode.

It was a dilemma for sure, but I approached it with a healthy mindset.  From the time I woke up, I was determined that I was going to make this a healthy day for myself.  I started out by taking Natty for a longer walk than usual.  The weather is gorgeous right now — sunny but cooler — and he and I both enjoyed ourselves.  Throughout the day, in between doing other things and watching football, I also did other exercises.  I worked out a little with light weights and also did some situps, pushups and planks.  At another time, I did a full set of Tai Chi.  (By the way, since the rowing gym is closed through the weekend, I did rowing classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.)

Our holiday meals always began with a fresh fruit cup.  (No, none of that canned stuff.  Everything fresh!)  I didn’t go full tilt with the full array of fruits Mom and I used to combine, but I cut up an orange, an apple and half of a banana and had it as a snack at lunch along with a  small salad.

Not knowing whether I’d end up at an afternoon movie, I had shopped to make myself a healthy but delicious Thanksgiving dinner.  I bought turkey thighs, a rutabaga, and yes some boxed stuffing.

Mashed rutabaga aka yellow turnip to some, is my favorite side dish.  It was a staple on our family Thanksgiving table.  Here’s the good news – it is a cruciferous vegetable, nutritious and delicious.  Although I put a little butter in it when mashing, I don’t overdo and I used skim milk.  This was, for me, a better choice than mashed potatoes.  I feel it also helped counter balance a little bit of stuffing.

Once it was determined that I was staying home, I really enjoyed preparing my meal.  I chopped up fresh herbs from my little garden to season the turkey and added chicken stock that I’d made and frozen to keep the meat moist while it roasted.  This also made for a delicious gravy after the fact.  I used more of the chicken stock in the stuffing, too.

When dinner was ready, I very carefully took appropriate portions instead of overloading my plate.  Even with the restricted stomach, if I put too much food on the plate at the outset, I tend to eat too much and then I feel sick and uncomfortable.  This ruins my enjoyment physically and emotionally.  I am really concentrating on continuing to train my eyes and my serving utensils to put the amounts I should eat… not what I would have eaten in years gone by.

I sat down and savored what I’d made for myself.  It was delicious and balanced.  I felt really good about how I’d planned and executed my holiday meal.

Now what about dessert, you might be wondering.  Yes, I’d put some thought into that as well.  I hate feeling deprived of dessert.  Emotionally, it’s unhealthy for me to feel deprived and often leads to me wanting more and then bingeing.  Last week, I researched and found a recipe for Pumpkin Souffle.  Very easy to make with a can of canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, two eggs and half a cup of sugar in the entire thing.  I counted up the calories.  Per serving, my souffle had only 180 calories.  As far as desserts go, this was a winner that I could absolutely fit into my meal plan.

I waited until my main entree settled a bit and then spooned out an appropriate serving and thoroughly enjoyed it.

All told, for me the holiday was a food win.  I feel really terrific about how sanely and carefully I planned, cooked and consumed my meal.  I’m also pretty darned please with the physical activity that I included in my day.  I took care of myself.

The result is that today I am not suffering from a food or binge hangover.  I feel good about myself and my recovery and am looking forward to building on this today.  I took the day off from work and have some fun activities planned.  I started with a healthy protein smoothie for breakfast.  Now Natty and I are going out for a walk.

I hope you all had a great day and are enjoying your Fridays.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all of you a happy day. May you be nourished with the love of family and friends. 

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Operating on Faith

Sometimes it is really hard to not get frustrated or impatient.  (Remember the old joke, “I want patience NOW!”?)  I need to constantly remind myself that as long as I follow my food plan and continue to exercise, I will lose weight.

Have I mentioned that I am not a very patient person when it comes to my own endeavors and performance?  Yes, I know that I put an awful lot of pressure on myself.  Unfortunately, it’s a lifelong habit.

I’m used to turning over the physical stuff to my program and Higher Power.  It is much more challenging to let go of the mental and emotional things.  Every morning when I first wake up, I express my gratitude and I ask for help in remaining on my food plan and staying abstinent.  When I say abstinent, I know that I’m thinking about the act of abstaining from compulsive eating or binging.  Today I realize that I need to broaden that and ask for help in abstaining from certain thoughts.  Thoughts like, “I should have lost X number of pounds this week” or “If I do this, I should lose X amount of weight by X date”.   Those are only two examples.  There’s no end to what I can think up.

For today, I will keep working on having faith in program, Higher Power and myself.  For today, I will ask and be open to help in not getting caught up in my head so much and in not pressuring myself with expectations over which I have no control.  I am responsible for sticking to my food and fitness plans.  That’s the priority for me every day.

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