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When Self-Centered is Okay

Generally, I don’t consider myself self-centered.  I’m not the kind of person who thinks that she should be the world’s priority.  Honestly, for most of my life I’ve had trouble asking for what I need and want.  Hell, much of the time it feels like I can’t define what I need and want.  I say “it feels like”, because if I’m being totally honest, I’ll admit that I realize that I am often uncomfortable believing I have a right to see my needs and wants met — even if I’m the only one doing the meeting.

I grew up with a sterling example of a woman who put other people ahead of herself.  My Mom was a caretaker, a nurturer, a people pleaser.  Loving, caring, compassionate, friendly — Mom wanted everyone to be comfortable, happy, content and satisfied.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s good to care about other people . . . except if you care about and for them more than you do for yourself.  Mom was the eldest of three girls born to a well-off couple.  I never knew my grandfather but everything I’ve heard says that he was a generous, caring, affable man.  I knew my Nana very well.  She was smart, opinionated, self-sufficient, generous and fairly rigid in her conduct and her beliefs about what constituted proper behavior.  Her opinions were quite clearly and sharply defined.

Somewhere, sometime, I believe in early childhood, Mom absorbed the lesson that it was not okay to be angry.  She had great difficulty expressing her anger, even if the emotional reaction was absolutely justified.  Let’s face it.  Sometimes people, even the ones we love, are going to do or say things that make us angry.   For whatever reason being angry or expressing anger wasn’t something that Mom could comfortably do.  Eventually, her anger and upset came out via her alcoholism.  I remember one Christmas time when I arrived home and knew immediately that she’d “fallen off the wagon” after a long, solid stretch of sobriety and abstinence.   “What the hell is wrong?” I wondered.

We found out the following day.  Dad had previously decided to retire and he and Mom had plans to spend their winters at the vacation home in the Florida Keys.   That morning, Dad shared the totally surprising news that he was being considered for a position on the governor’s cabinet.  It would have meant needing an apartment/condo in the state capital, lots of work, travel, stress, time from home, etc.  It also would have meant that his plans to retire would be on hold indefinitely.  My brother and I looked at each other across the table.  I knew that this was exactly what had upset Mom but, true to form, she was unable to express the upset constructively through communication.  In her defense, Dad was pretty caught up in the honor of being considered and the challenge.  She might have tried to bring it up to him before and he might have discounted her objections.  I don’t know, but something happened and she communicated her upset by drinking.

That’s a longer story than I meant to tell, but when the words take me somewhere I go with their direction.   It’s part of the process as I pick my way through things.  🙂

Anyway, like I said a couple of paragraphs ago, it’s good to care about and for other people, as long as you can do so without detriment to yourself.  Just like we all know people who believe the world revolves around them, we all also know others who subvert their own well-being in service to those people.  I’ve been one of those people who’ve ignored my needs while I was busy trying to satisfy or serve the needs of other people.  It isn’t healthy.  In fact, it can be downright destructive.

I learned in OA a long time ago that in order to recover, our commitment has to be strong.  In fact, we need to be willing to go to any lengths to recover.  For me, having weight loss surgery is an example of being willing to go to any lengths to recover and live a healthy life.

Right now, it is absolutely okay for me to be self-centered.  That also is part of going to any lengths.  I have to commit to my food plan and be sure to have access to the food I need when I need it — regardless of whether my timing is aligned with that of other people.   It means limiting myself to a splash of wine instead of filling my glass or taking more when I’ve finished the splash.  I’m being vigilant about my behavior to guard against transferring my addiction.  Sometimes it means that, no matter how much someone else might want be to do something, if I need to do something else because it’s better for my recovery, then that’s what I choose to do.  The other people will either understand and support me or not.  If they don’t, that’s their problem.

Good self-care demands that we put our needs first.   No, it doesn’t mean that we callously ignore the family, friends and co-workers that also need us.  We don’t need to be obnoxious.   It simply validates that it’s okay and necessary to make ourselves the priority.   In the long run, not only will this make me better, but it will also help me eventually be better for those around me.  It takes me back to the airplane analogy that I’ve mentioned before.  When traveling next to someone who might need our assistance, we have to put the mask over our own face first.

Learning how to, and then becoming comfortable with, defining and verbalizing my needs is a process.  I’m making progress.    Acknowledging the progress makes the journey easier while I’m in transit.  With each successful attempt, I’m building a new foundation.

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People Mean Well

A good friend shared something with me earlier that gave me flashbacks to early years of being a heavy child, adolescent, teenager, etc.  My poor parents.  In addition to the concern they felt over my weight, the mix of love and worry, I must have frustrated the hell out of them.  I’m sure they felt hopeless when nothing they said, did or tried worked.  I don’t blame them because, loving me like they did, they wanted to do anything that they could to get me to lose weight.  Nothing got through.  Not logic and reason mingled with fear — like when they explained how restricted my life would be if I developed diabetes.

Cajoling and bribery didn’t work either.   When I was a kid, I was obsessed with horses and riding horses.  So were my closest friends.   I wanted a horse of my own more than anything.   One day my father said that if I lost 50 pounds, he’d buy me a horse.  You would think that having my heart’s deepest desire promised to me would have been enough motivation.  It didn’t even trigger an attempt.  I remember being incredibly hurt and angry that the wonder of having a horse was contingent on such a strict condition.

Very often a well-meaning attempt to motivate or push me to do something set off a similar negative reaction.  I’m not clear in my own mind why I’d react poorly to people in my life who honestly meant well and resent their attempts to help.  Looking back and trying to work it out in my head and emotions, I think all these attempts made me feel useless and ineffective as a person.   I think in my response, I was really expressing my own frustration and feelings of helplessness.  I was probably thinking, “Don’t you think I would if I could?”  Along with that was a healthy wish for people to just get off my freaking back about my weight and leave me along.

I think one of the reasons I developed my skill for sneak eating was because I hated the thought that people constantly judged what was on my plate and how much I consumed.  One night I remember an aunt offering me a piece of pie for dessert.  I asked for a small slice and then went into the kitchen to get the coffee pot.  I heard her say, “I can’t believe Mary’s going to eat that.”  In my head I answered, “Then why the f**k did you ask me if I wanted some?”  No, I never said that out loud, but I sure screamed it in my head.  I’m sure she meant well.

To great extent, I got exhausted and fed up with everyone else focusing so much relentless attention on what I was eating or what I wasn’t, etc.   I was really concerned that this would happen post weight loss surgery.  I have to say that I am pleased and grateful that most of the people I work with and my friends consistently respect my boundaries.  They know that I don’t like to announce my weight loss progress on a regular basis, so they wait for Fridays when I reveal my current weight.  I so appreciate their willingness to support me in the ways that I say I need.  This helps in so many ways.

Now that I’ve had weight loss surgery and am experiencing such terrific success and progress and greatly improving my health, I have to give kudos to all of the people in my life who have NOT said, “Too bad you didn’t do it years ago.”  There might be many who are thinking that, but to date, only one family member has said it to me.  She’s done it on the last two phone calls we’ve had.  I have a feeling she might say it in every future phone call.   I give a mental shrug and reply that everything happens in its own time.  It would not be useful or effective to try to explain to her that telling me that achieves nothing constructive.

Oooh, I just got distracted by a story on Nightline.   A new study says that one in 10 bariatric patients develop alcoholism within two years.   Fact is that we have less tolerance for alcohol.  We get drunk on less alcohol but sober up really quickly.

They’re talking about cross-addiction or addiction transference.  I hope this isn’t a surprise to anyone.  I wonder if some of the people did not realize that they were food addicts before they had weight loss surgery.  I am really vigilant about this and do not overdo alcohol usage.  I have wine very rarely and don’t overindulge.  I had a couple of drinks the weekend of my nephew’s graduation.  Most of the time when I go out to eat with friends I order water.  Even though some of what was just mentioned in this news story seems elementary and obvious to me, I’m glad they did the story.  More people need to hear that the weight loss surgery takes care of the physical situation by making it impossible to overeat, but it’s only a tool.  The really important work takes place in the head and emotions.  That aftercare is as appointment as the follow-up appointments with the surgeon who checks your body.

Okay, back to my topic.  As I wrote this and thought back to the early years, I wish that instead of supporting me through a long list of different diets, I wish my parents had consulted a therapist when I was a kid.   I don’t think anyone understood food addiction and eating disorders back then the way that they do now.  How could they figure out the most effective way to help me if I couldn’t figure out what I needed?  I didn’t know what to ask for.  I do now.  I know what I need and I can more easily express those needs.  This makes a huge difference.

I’m not going to blame myself or anyone else for my lack of success earlier over the years.  In retrospect, we all did the best that we could at the time.  Even if it didn’t work, we all meant well.

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Daddy Issues

I’m always a little sad on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day because both of my parents are gone.   Dad died in 1983; Mom in 1998.  I still miss them everytime I think of them.  That said, I’m going out on my boat in a little while and I know that they’re smiling at the thought.  I’ve talked before about being a water baby.  I believe I have my folks to thank for my love of boating and the ocean.  I have very early memories of family fishing trips.  I think there are some photos somewhere of me on our family’s first boat when I was only a few months old.  Good times all of my life.

So why did I title this post “Daddy Issues”?  Well, even when you grow up with loving parents who you loved and respected in return, you can still have some issues.  In my case, when your father is a larger than life personality with an awesome success story who was revered by our community, it made me feel like I never quite measured up.

The bar set by Dad just in the course of building his life was pretty damned high.  Son of immigrant parents, he attended college (The first of his family to do so.) on academic and athletic scholarships.  Served in WWII and then attended a prestigious graduate school before going to medical school.  He excelled academically and became a great doctor.  He and his partner delivered at least half the babies in our area.  Then, when it was determined that our area needed to be able to provide radiation treatment for cancer, Dad went back to study and do a residency in that specialty and became the first Chief of Radiation Therapy.  In the meantime, he and Mom served on other organizations and foundations.  We grew up learning that service to others is important.

I was not a wonderful student.  I’d get As in the classes that I liked and was good at, Cs in the ones that didn’t grab my interest as much, and struggled sometimes to make a C or D in math.  (I firmly believe now that I have some sort of low level math processing glitch in my brain.  I still struggle.  Thank God for calculators.)  A C was not acceptable.  I remember him saying, “Cs are average.  You do not have an average brain.  Work harder.”

I won’t bore you with an entire life history in which there was considerably more good than bad, but I can tell you that by the time I was in college, I was screwing up pretty badly and set myself on a horrible circle of messing up and partying too much so my grades suffered which made me feel worse because I wasn’t living up to expectations and that just fed my already degrading self-esteem.  Dad and I had some big yelling matches over my lack of academic performance.  That man could bellow when angry.  I mostly cried.   It was awful and at the time, like a typical person that age, I outwardly blamed it on “My parents don’t understand me”, but inside I told myself I was worthless and a failure.

In hindsight, I wish that we had spoken heart to heart instead of fighting.  I think we both were responsible for the poor communication.  I was no more ready to listen or self-examine my behavior so I coped with attitude which pissed him off no doubt.  Despite my best efforts to trash my college career, I graduated — not with honors, but with a GPA above a C at least.   I also got a job before I even graduated.

The girl who messed around with her classes became an ultra-responsible, dependable employee.  Along the way, the rough patches Dad and I experienced began to smooth over and I found it easier to open up.   I don’t remember what prompted it, but one day we had an epiphany-level conversation.  I told Dad how sorry I was for being a disappoinment in school, that I never felt like he was proud of me and that I figured I was pretty much his only failure.

Hearing that and  knowing that I believed it nearly broke his big heart.  I will always remember the stricken expression on his face and the way he reached out to me.  “Not proud of you?  Honey, if you could hear the way I talk about you and how hard you work, you’d think you owned the damn radio station.”   In that moment, I realized that my perspective was skewed and he realized that while he was telling other people of his pride in me, he’d missed making sure that I knew.

After this heart to heart, the nicks, scrapes and damage in our relationship really began to heal.  Where there had always been love, there was also now more ease.  I wasn’t defensive and on guard; he wasn’t critical.  It made the good relationship even better.

Through it all — even the rocky times — Dad and Mom were my foundation.  They were my refuge and comfort.  Talk about people being the wind beneath my wings!  Dad in particular was my safety net.

Losing him when I was 25 was a horrible blow and it took a long, long time to recover.  Yes, I took refuge in eating, trying to anesthetize my pain and sorrow.

I look back on all this 29 years later and still wish that we’d had him with us for many more years than we did.  Along with that wistfulness, however, is gratitude that we at least had him for as long as we did.  There are lessons that I learned from him, either directly or by following his example, that remain with me today.  I am a better, stronger person because of those lessons.  Because of him.  I also know in my heart of hearts that he would still be very proud of me indeed.

So on this Father’s Day, I’m going to go out in my boat, think of Dad and Mom and smile over the good memories.   Sure we had our issues.  When all is said and done, however, I have never respected a man more than I do him and I am very, very proud to have been his daughter.

Thanks, Daddy.  Love you.

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It Isn’t About Willpower

In her terrific, informative comment to yesterday’s post, Mary wrote, “The scariest part of all is why do so many people regain weight? It can’t all be willpower because well over 90% of people do regain. Studies suggest it is the hormonal signals the body starts sending out once we lose a significant amount of weight.”

I haven’t read the studies and I can’t speak about all overweight people, but Mary’s absolutely right. In my case, overeating and being obese wasn’t about willpower or the lack of it. It took me a long time to understand that compulsive overeating is a disease with the emphasis on compulsion. Suffering from it did not mean that my will was weak. Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you that I am extremely strong-willed. When you have a disease, you can’t will it away. You need a treatment plan and tools to combat the illness.

I don’t know if anyone understood this about the disorder when I was a kid. I’m not sure people really got it about alcoholism and drug addiction decades ago either. I know I heard a lot of admonishments that I needed to have better or stronger willpower to lose weight.

Sure, you can gut it out on willpower for awhile, but eventually I always stumbled and went back to my regular way of eating. Will power? I have it in abundance and it helped me stick to some really extreme diets over the years. I’ve been on some doozies in my life including one where I drank only this horrible liquid protein stuff and didn’t eat anything at all for almost a year. I lost over 100 pounds on a plan where I ate no more than 9 oz of protein (usually chicken) and a cup of salad a day.

Optifast and variations of it offered by different hospitals, Weight Watchers, Atkin’s, Pritikin, one that didn’t have a name but included shots of human placenta. I’d do great for awhile — gutting it out with willpower — but sooner or later, I’d fall off and game back all of the weight.

When I started going to OA I was also seeing a therapist who was the first to talk to me in terms of compulsive overeating. That therapist was also in the program, although not at the same meetings, so she walked the walk and talked the talk. I attended meetings three to four times a week and, in the beginning, kept waiting for someone to give me the diet I was supposed to follow. Then I realized that everyone else talked about their different individual food plans. Some abstained from all sugar or white flour products, or from sugar and white flour. There were low carb and no carb plans. I didn’t know what I needed. The therapist helped by suggesting we look not so much on the individual food choices, but instead focus on how I ate — the actual behavior of eating.

We designed a food plan that was pretty simple. The guideline was that I could eat whatever food that I wanted but only in the way that I pre-decided that morning and I had to write down the plan and commit. I can still remember her saying to me, “If you decide in the morning that you’re going to consume an entire pizza for dinner, that’s okay. However, if you commit in the morning to two slices for dinner, then that’s all. No compulsively reaching for additional slices.”

As outlandish as that “entire pizza is okay” sounds, setting up my food plan in this way and sticking to it relieved a great deal of stress, anxiety and shame. Each day that I successfully stuck to what I’d committed in the morning meant that on that day I’d abstained from compulsively overeating. Abstinence fueled more abstinence.

It was not a matter of willpower, of clenching my fists and fighting my cravings. This was about being conscious, aware, and clear-headed about food and eating behaviors.

When I am in a good place in my head about food and the eating disorder, I can make healthy choices. Quite often, the choice has nothing to do with what foods I eat. Instead, it’s about whether I eat compulsively or don’t. That’s still the choice that I need to make today, even with the weight loss surgery. My food plan is to eat six times a day, mostly protein followed by veggies or fruit, with carbs last and in a small amount if at all. This does not mean that I can graze and graze and graze, eating small amounts of anything and everything throughout the day. There are days when I set myself up and consciously make the choice to deviate a little — permit myself the piece of chocolate or a couple of bites of a dessert.

I know for some people it’s hard to understand the distinction. Sometimes it’s a very subtle difference between operating on willpower and making conscious choices, but I get it and that’s what really matters.

Mary also mentioned the hunger hormone in her comment. Again, I don’t know how much it affects, or doesn’t, different people. Likewise, I don’t understand why some people reach the point of satiety before others or how someone without weight loss surgery could be happy with a few small bites. I guess I don’t understand it because I was never one of those people of light appetite. Until now. I don’t get the same hunger cues that I used to feel. The area of the stomach that secretes the hunger hormone was removed in the surgery. I do not physically feel hungry unless I’ve made the mistake of skipping one of those six meals. Some folks who’ve had surgery tell me that this will change and I’ll start to feel hunger sooner. I’m not too concerned at this point. Even if I experience hunger, I do have the tool of a greatly reduced stomach so I am satisfied with relatively few bites. As long as I continue to be conscious and aware of my choices, I should keep doing fine.

 

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Why as the Booby Prize

First off, some self-congratulation.  I’ve made all of my exercise commitments for the week so far!  I exercised in the pool on three evenings, moving non-stop for 40 minutes each time.  I made it to Tai Chi class last night.  What’s more, I really enjoyed all of the activity.  On Saturday we have a three hour long Tai Chi intensive which, call me crazy, I’m really looking forward to.

I didn’t write a fresh post yesterday because I’ve really been musing over my Openness post and all of the comments.  There was much to think about and the process caused some other things to drop into place and, wouldn’t you know it, triggered more questions for me to ponder.

Mostly I’ve been thinking about the Why of it all.  This is not a new exercise.  For decades I’ve wondered about the roots of my compulsive overeating and food addiction.  Going far, far back to my childhood, why did I start to use food for some other purpose than just nourishment?  Why did I first decide that food could do something more than fuel my body?  Why did overeating become necessary in my psyche?

Damned if I know.  I still can’t figure it out.  Sometimes it’s possible to point to some sort of trauma as a trigger for diseased thinking and behavior.  Physical, emotional, mental, sexual abuse.  A sudden tragedy.  Parental abandonement.  The list is long, but none of them apply to my childhood.

Through therapy and much self-study, I know I used food to cope with certain circumstances in my teens and beyond, but those things weren’t the triggers either. For example, my mother’s alcoholism didn’t evolve until I was a teenager. My overeating started when I was much younger.  Food as a coping mechanism was already in place when I needed it for new things I experienced.

I wonder if my earliest chubbiness was really just the normal stage that many, many kids go through, but instead of resolving it and growing out of the “baby fat”, the diseased food behavior developed later than I always thought.

I think it’s a safe bet that addictions run in families even if the substance changes.  My mom was a social drinker even when I was a kid, but it did not disintegrate into a problem until sometime in my teens.  Her father died a few months before I was born, but in every picture I’ve seen, he was morbidly obese.  Possibly he also suffered an overeating disorder.  Possibly the seeds were planted from birth for me to develop some sort of addiction but the conditions that proved perfect for the seeds to germinate and flourish didn’t come together until later.

Again, damned if I know.  Honestly, I do not believe I’m ever going to reach a point where I can sift the information and memories until I’m left with that one shining nugget that I can point to and declare, “That’s why.”

Which brings me to the most valuable realization.  It doesn’t matter.  The why is no longer important.  Knowing why I developed an eating disorder won’t help me fix the problem.   Maybe, and the jury’s out on this, it might provide some sort of consolation, but it won’t change what I need to do on a daily basis to continue to heal.  I don’t need to find someone or something to blame.  Honestly, laying blame anywhere — whether on myself or on somebody else — is counterproductive.

It’s all very simple when I get down to the heart of the matter.  A) I have an eating disorder — the disease of compulsive overeating.  B) I am constantly faced with choices of whether to eat according to my healthy plan or to veer off and eat compulsively.  C) No matter what happened in the past, if indeed anything did, or what I experience today or tomorrow, the choice to remain in recovery is up to me.  Nobody and no thing can make me overeat unless I consent and choose to do so.

I used to think that unraveling the knotty questions and getting down to the why would empower me.  Now I know that I empower myself every day, every meal, every time I choose not to inappropriately eat.

That realization is the prize worth keeping.

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Therapeutic Power of Openness

I’ve written more than 100 posts on this blog.  With the exception of a handful of people, I’ve never met most of you who come here to read what I write.  I know you only through other blog communities and the one that we’re creating right here.  Yet, I come here and share things that often make me cringe inside to even think about; events, feelings and actions that have embarassed or upset me, caused me pain, or weighed me down with shame.   I hid a lot of these innermost thoughts for years, not even telling them to my family — the people who love me the most.  When I first went to OA back in 1992 and for the years that I frequented the program’s rooms I learned to share with others who were also battling eating disorders.  Nobody else.

Thinking over the last few months during which  I’ve pretty much shared more stuff about my obesity, eating habits, worst times and recovery, I’m trying to figure out why it feels safe to do so.  In OA, we have the protection of anonymity and the knowledge that those in the rooms do not judge what is experienced and shared by others.  There is no anonymity on the Internet, particularly when you write a blog under your own name, as I’m doing.

I don’t know why I felt like this would be a safe place, although I know that my inspiration came from Lucy March’s A Year and Change blog that sparked the creation of the Bettyverse community.  God knows, Lucy let it allll hang out on her blog and emotional magic happened.  I thought about starting this blog a few weeks before I actually sat down to figure out WordPress, and while I was preparing, Krissie Stuart, Lucy/Lani, and Jenny Crusie started Reinventing Fabulous, a blog that is fertile ground for more openness and sharing about happiness, pain and personal growth, with lots of Try It Fridays, all about us and WTFs for good measure.  The response from readers helped reinforce my thought that blogging about my journey after weight loss surgery would be a good thing to do.

It has been — in spades and sparkly rainbows.  There’s a saying in OA that we’re only as sick as our secrets.  By opening up the blog window and airing out the things that I’ve done, felt or experienced shame over, I’ve grown healthier.  I feel stronger and know that I have resolved some issues and am in the process of resolving others.  I truly feel like I can come here, share anything, and not fear that I’ll be judged.  Honestly, if anybody is secretly judging me, you’re being nice enough to keep the judgments to yourself which keeps this space light and free.

Keeping secrets is hard work and drains our energy.   It runs in parallel to the old habit I had of sneak eating.  One of my friends from childhood told me once that I baffled my parents.  They couldn’t figure out how I continued to be heavy and even put on weight when I didn’t overeat at meals.  They didn’t realize that I achieved incredible levels of creativity in my methods of sneak eating.   For much of my life, I did most of my overeating in private and, when around other people, carried stress around as I worried about getting the food I needed and consuming it without anyone else seeing.

I don’t do that anymore.  It’s another secret that’s been banished  so it cannot make me sick.

With each passing day, I grow more confident that my weight loss success will last long term.  Will I still be blogging about it two, three, five, ten years from now?  I don’t know, but I’m going to keep going on as long as I need to.  I’ve come far in the last five months, but there’s still a long way to go and I’m counting on the therapeutic power of openness to help my healing continue.

Thanks for being part of the process.

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Water Baby

I’m a water baby and have been pretty much since I was born.   I have lived the majority of my years within minutes, if not steps, of the ocean.  (Exceptions — the year we lived in France and the two years I was away at prep school.)   Although I was born in January, I’m sure my mother brought me to the beach as soon as the weather warmed up enough for her to do so.  At four I was a competent doggy-paddler and by age five I was already doing freestyle, although I’m sure my form improved over the years.

Growing up, every summer we spent most of our days at the beach and I spent as much of those days in the ocean.  Even if we didn’t swim or paddle around on rafts, my cousins and I would spend hours jumping over or dunking under waves and body surfing to shore.  I love boats and fishing.  I think it’s amazing to go sailing, powered only by the wind.  I can happily spend hours on my porch looking out at the harbor.

It is no surprise to me that my favorite form of exercise includes being in the water.  From my early years of loving the silkiness of water on my skin, surrounding me, grew a deeper affection for buoyancy.   When you’re heavy, it’s incredible to feel lighter.  Bobbing with the ocean swells or floating on the surface, it was always a welcome relief to not feel the weight of my own fat sinking me.

Over the years, my excess weight has really affected my knees, particularly my left.  When I reached my top weight last year, it became truly difficult for me to walk even short distances.  Even before that time, I never enjoyed taking a walk as much as I liked going for a dip.

A few years ago, I started going to water aerobics classes and loved them.  Exercising was so much easier when I was embraced by H2O.  Unfortunately, the local classes don’t meet early enough for me to do them, shower, change, and get to work on time.   I couldn’t continue for more than a couple of months although I’d still go if I had a day off on a morning when classes were scheduled.

Last year I decided to put in a small pool in my backyard.  Originally, I wanted one of those endless pools with a constant current to swim against, but the structures I read about didn’t seem to be strong enough to withstand hurricane strength winds.  Since those storms are a real possibility here every year, I reconsidered my options and had an in-ground pool installed.  It isn’t huge.  I can swim a few strokes at a time.  However, at four feet deep, it’s great for doing water exercises.

I’ve devised my own routine.  I take out my iPod and my phone so I can set the timer.  I jog in place for awhile, varying the steps and the speed, singing along to the music.  I do lunges and walk from end to end, forwards and backwards.  I balance my hands on the steps and do extra kicks, or hold onto the side and perform a variety of leg movements, regularly increasing the number of reps.

Tonight I figured out that if I sit on the middle step and use my hands to help balance myself in the water, I can do crunches and other exercises that are good for the abs.

Forty minutes of this combination of activity doesn’t exhaust me, but at the same time my body tells me that it definitely worked.   I’m now pleasantly relaxed!

The key is for me to do this as soon as I get home.  That’s how I did it tonight.  As soon as I arrived, I let Nat & Pyxi out to play in the yard while I quickly changed into my swimsuit.  I didn’t give myself any time to flip through the mail, stall, do a chore or anything else.  Exercising in the pool was my priority.

I’ve been slacking and not doing the exercise on a regular basis.  My goal this week is to exercise tonight, tomorrow and Thursday.  Wednesay night I have Tai Chi class for an hour.  Saturday morning we’re doing a three hour intensive class.   That will give me five solid motion sessions in the week, which is a pretty good goal for me.   It’s important to stick to a regular commitment.  Not only does the exercising do good things for me, but I feel so darned good after I’m done!

In other aspects of water-love, although I shower every morning I have long been a fan of soaking in a bathtub for relaxation.  A few years ago, I started to fear that I’d gotten too big and might get stuck if I went into the bathtub.  I’m pretty sure now that it wouldn’t actually have happened, but I was too apprehensive to take the risk.

I no longer have that apprehension.  I know that, at my current weight, I will not get stuck.  So tonight, after I get some things done around the house, I’ve decided to reward myself with a nice hot bath!

It’s a great way to end the day for anyone — particularly a water baby!

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Purging the Closet

A friend was in town this week who is also, currently, a “women of size”.  She’s on her own journey toward reclaiming her health and is moving toward having weight loss surgery in the future.  For those who don’t know, one doesn’t decide to have the surgery and then just schedule a date.  There are numerous requirements for tests and evaluations, psychiatrist visits, nutritional counseling and so on and so on.  It can take months.

Anyway, we had breakfast together and she mentioned that if I had any clothes that I was ready to get rid of, she’d be interested.  I was going to sort through my closet at my leisure and then ship some up to her, but I called her and asked if she had room in her suitcase.  Since she did, I figured I’d start the task right then.

Wow, what fun!  I started pulling out tops of all styles, for all seasons.  There were lightweight summer tops and some good fall sweaters.  A sweatshirt I know will be too big for me by the time it’s cool enough in Florida went into the pile.  A polo shirt here, a t-shirt there, a soft knit or two.  Once I began, I didn’t want to stop.  I didn’t even take the time to try any of them on “just in case”.  I simply folded them up and put them in one of three piles.

After a fast hour, I had three groups.  The largest went into two shopping bags for my friend.  Another pile held shorts that I was sure were also too big for my friend as well as other clothes that were okay, but that I thought better suited for donation.  The last pile had things that, on close inspection, revealed a pesky stain or a too-stretched seam or some other flaw.  Those garments went into the trash.

I didn’t keep count, but I estimate that I purged about three dozen garments out of my closet and drawers!  The day before yesterday, I dropped off a bag and a half of garments to the Salvation Army that I’d previously purged.  All this work has made a big difference in space.

The exercise also made me realize that I’ve held onto one hell of a lot of clothes in a wide range of sizes.   Looking at all of the bags, I struck a Scarlet O’Hara-esque pose and declared, “As God as my witness, I’ll never wear these large sizes again!”  It was a fine, dramatic moment that made me laugh out loud.

Best of all, this was only one closet.  I still have two more I can go through.  Down here in the Keys, we’re ultra-casual.  The closet in my bedroom holds all of my work clothes — T-shirts, a couple of polo shirts, and shorts — plus my other casual garments like cropped and capri-length pants, and lightweight tops and blouses.  In the guest bedroom closet I hang what I call my “conference” clothes.  These are mostly dresses and pants outfits that I would wear for a special dinner or event here in town or take with me to business conferences.  There are also some heavier weight garments that I keep for when I go up to Jersey and PA at Christmas.  Some of these clothes were tight on me when I started the weight loss effort.  As written about before, I successfully “shopped my closet” and was delighted to find outfits now fitting that I hadn’t been able to wear for several years.  Well, those that fit me two months ago are now too big or soon to be too big.  That’s the next closet scheduled for a purge.

Finally, in the third bedroom that serves, right now, as a storage room/pseudo office, is a closet that has some old evening clothes, cocktail dresses, suits from my Jersey life, and some costumes.  I’d held onto the cocktail dresses and heavier suits “just in case” I ever needed them in the Northeast and managed to fit into them.  The costumes I’ve worn over the years.  In my purge frenzy yesterday I finally accepted that I’m never going to need the suits and, if I did, they’d be TOO BIG!  If I ever have a reason to wear a cocktail dress then, as God is my witness, I’m going to treat myself to something new, that fits me perfectly, and is absolutely fabulous!  I’m going to research an organization in the Northeast that outfits women from lower income circumstances who need clothing to reenter or improve their positions in the workforce and ship them that entire wardrobe.  The costumes are huge, but we have an active community theater in town.  A talented seamstress could easily take them in.   Hopefully they can use a Regency-style gown, a Scottish vest, a fairy-esque skirt and blouse and a couple of assorted other dresses.

I think I’m on a roll with this purging of clothes.   I’m not quickly replacing the garments since I continue to lose fairly quickly.  I buy a few things here and there to get me through.  In the meantime, the act of getting rid of the old, too-big is very freeing and affirming.  It’s like shedding my old skin along with the excess pounds and confirming my determination to never put them on again.

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Milestone! (Updated with Photos)

I didn’t set many milestones for myself along this weight loss journey. I knew going in that it was going to be a long process and I would have to take my hits of happy along the way on a regular basis. Still, there were some markers in my mind and I’ve reached one today.

Before I share it, I need to backtrack a little because some of the celebration about this milestone also involves releasing another area of shame. All along while I’ve shared the number of pounds I’ve lost and been open that I wasn’t just morbidly obese for super obese, I do not believe I ever brought myself to say exactly how much I weighed before the surgery. The number was so huge that I flinched to think about it and it still makes me clench a little inside. So, today I get rid of that shame too. The last time that I got on my scale at home before driving to Miami a day before my surgery I weighed 386 pounds. Whew. I can feel some emotional lightening just in typing that number. I’m not hiding it anymore.

Now to the milestone. Today when I stepped on the scale, I weighed 299 pounds. I’ve lost 87 pounds which is, pardon the pun, huge. Even moreso, this is the first time that my weight has started with a two, not a three, for decades. I honestly do not remember when I last weighed less than 300 pounds. My sister-in-law says I was in the 170s when she and my brother married in 1982. I honestly don’t remember being that low. I’d lost a bit over 100 pounds prior to that happy day but I’d started that particular diet when I was 303.

Anyway, I know I’ve been over the 300 pound mark for at least 20 years, maybe 25. A sobering thought, as I enjoy my older nephew’s visit, is that I’m the thinnest I’ve been in his entire life.

299. That still means that I’m obese, but holy wow! I’m out of the 300s and that’s a tremendous achievement. I’m going to celebrate, not by eating, but by simply enjoying the beautiful day. I think I’ll also ask my nephew to take a picture. It’s been a while since I posted a comparison shot and this smilestone is an appropriate day for one. (I just made up a word — smilestone, as in milestones that make us happy!)

Next milestone: Hitting the century mark of losing 100 pounds. It’s not far off at all!

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Something messed up and the old version reappeared, so I’m updating with photos again.

At or close to my highest weight.    

This is a pre-surgery picture from last year.                     This picture was taken today.  I have no idea why I pointed my feet in one direction but turned my body the other way.  LOL

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Moving

No, not leaving the Keys.  I’m talking about my increased movement.  I’m not walking marathons, but on a daily basis, I can see how much more willing I am to walk at all.  Even short distances had become an effort months ago but already my body has changed enough that I can do more.

Even though I’ve mentioned it all before, it’s worth repeating.  Besides seeing the weight loss in the mirror and in my clothes, feeling it in my body with the increased mobility is a self-reinforcing boost.  It builds on itself because the more that I move, the more I feel the changes, the more I want to move.

The more I move, the better I feel each time.  I need to focus on this and build up more consistency.  I can still lapse into mental laziness, meaning that my mind tells me I’m too tired after work so I just want to sit down and rest for a minute.  I need to call bullshit on myself.  😀

So, goals for this week are to walk or swimercize more days.  We also had a break from Tai Chi, but I’ll return to that on Wednesday and Saturday.

What do you do to motivate yourself to exercise more frequently?  How well does it work?

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