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Mom and Food

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are celebrating with your kids and/or moms.  I hope that you’re enjoying a wonderful time.

I have to admit that this is always a bit of a bittersweet day since I’m not a mom and my mother passed almost 15 years ago.  Sorry, sorry.  I don’t mean to be a downer.  I actually had a nice day today.  My furkids, Nat and Pyxi, and I enjoyed a walk this morning and we’ve had a lot of relaxing time here at home, which is something that I badly needed.  Both of them are cuddlers so when I need to hug, one of them is always willing.  The wind lay down enough that I could take out the boat for a pretty ride.  I learned to love the water and boating from both my parents.  Even after Daddy died, Mom learned how to captain the family boat here in Florida and took me out fishing whenever I visited.  Whenever I now go out in my own boat, I think of both of them smiling down at me.

When I got back to the house, I took a creamy rose out to the seawall.  I pulled off petal after petal and dropped them into a water, one by one. A thought of my Mom’s qualities and characteristics accompanied each one.  A petal for her generous spirit, one for her unconditional love, one for her support, one for her joie de vivre, one for her optimism (every rain was always the clear-up shower), one for her way of welcoming everyone, one for her effort to gain and retain sobriety, and so on.  I’ve never done a little ceremony like this for her, but it felt right to do so today in her memory.

I thought a lot about Mom and food too.  She was overweight when she was a young girl.  Her father, who died a couple of months before I was born, was morbidly obese.  Sometime in (I think) high school, Mom slimmed down.  She was a beauty with a fun-loving spirit.  She and her friends must have lit up those USO dances during the WWII, let me tell you.  Oh how she loved to dance!  Her drinking didn’t really turn into alcoholism and become a problem until I was in my mid-teens.

Looking back, with everything that I’ve learned over the years, I think the chain of addiction ran down Mom’s side of the family.  Even though Dad has his chunky times, as did his mother, not everyone who has weight issues has an eating disorder.  I’m positive that the disorder came down maternally.  I wonder if Mom had not lost weight when she was younger, if eating would have become her disorder too, instead of or even in addition to the alcohol.  I don’t know.

I only know that Mom’s relationship with food by the time that I was born was totally healthy.  She loved food and ate well, but didn’t overeat.  She was also a wonderful cook.  Even before we moved to France for a year when I was 9 and she took lessons at the school Julia Child founded with her cookbook partners, she could create wonderful meals for the family or for a dinner party of a dozen friends from their social circle.  Our meals ran the gamut.  Mom could embrace the 1960s-1970s casserole that used a Campbell’s condensed soup as its base, or turn out a sumptuous gourmet dinner of classic cuisine.  She loved doing a red Jell-O heart mold dessert for Valentine’s Day but would also put together a Charlotte Malakoff with homemade lady fingers, almond cream with Grand Marnier and fresh strawberries that wowed our dinner guests.

No surprise that today, on Mother’s Day, I’d feel a little nostalgic for meals my mother made us.  Whenever someone was coming over for lunch, one of her standbys was something she called an open-faced sandwich.  Velveeta cheese on bread with a slice of tomato and a slice of bacon, broiled until the bacon crisped and the cheese melted.  Yes, Velveeta.  To my knowledge she only used this product on these sandwiches and in one casserole recipe for turkey tetrazzini.  At some point, she discovered a casserole that was made with chicken breast, broccoli florets and a “sauce” of cream of chicken soup, mayo, and curry powder.  That was one of my favorite dinners.

Today, in Mom’s honor, I decided to have these foods, but did my best to lighten them up.  Instead of a plain old white bread slice, I used half of a Thomas’s “thin” made of whole wheat and limited myself to a little of Light Velveeta and a single slice of bacon.  (I used to eat two or three of Mom’s “Open Face” creations.  My version was half of an old serving in amount and lower on fat and calories.

I had the remains of a rotisserie chicken already in the house, so I picked that apart.  I used the light and low sodium chicken soup and light mayo and used those ingredients sparingly.  Lots of crisp broccoli and, for even more texture, some diced water chestnuts.  Plus, of course, the curry powder.  It wasn’t quite as delicious as Mom’s version, but it tasted pretty good.  I figure that I eat so little of it, that with the lighter versions and extra veggies, I didn’t do much damage to my food plan.

For dessert, I bought a single key lime tartlet.  Soon after my folks bought this house in the Keys back in the late 70s, I gave them a key lime tree for the yard.  Mom loved harvesting the key limes.  She’d slice them up to squeeze in her ice tea and always baked a pie for visiting friends.  She’d even bring home as many limes as possible and freeze the juice to make pies up home in Jersey over the summer and fall.  That tree lasted into the early 1990s.  We replaced it with another one that lasted until I’d lived here a few years before getting broken in a hurricane.  One of these days I might put in another one.  Anyway, when I saw the tartlets at the supermarket, I thought of Mom.  This thing is barely the size of a quarter.  I doubt it’s going to put me over the edge of my calorie count.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be marking the day with food.  In my defense, it wasn’t the entire focus of the day.  I have no regrets about what I ate today.  I reimagined the recipes in healthier ways and didn’t overeat.  I miss my mother a lot, and if preparing some of her recipes helped me bring her memory closer to my heart today, then that’s a good thing.

Overall, I want to remember the things that I said as I plucked off the rose petals and cast them into the sea she so loved.  This is for your generous spirit, Mom.  This is for your unconditional love and support.  This is for always making my friends feel welcome and part of the family.  This is for your courage and joie de vivre.  This is for always being my hero, my sweet, loving, wonderful Mom.

I love you.


Internal and External Vision

At first I was going to title this post, “No Longer Always the Fattest Person” but that seemed sort of long.  For so much of my life I was always the fattest person wherever I went.  Even in a lot of OA meetings, that was true.  It always surprised me when someone else who weighed more showed up.

When I began losing weight, I talked about having “fat eyes” and not really accurately seeing my body shape and size.  Old habits are difficult to break or, perhaps, it simply takes time to retrain my brain.  I have to say that I don’t do as much stressful assessing any more.  By this I mean that I don’t look at chairs and wonder if I’ll fit or worry that they aren’t strong enough to hold my weight.  I don’t have angst about walking in between rows of tables in a ballroom and suck in my breath.  (Hey, just last week I navigated a crowded ballroom while wearing a full gown and hoop skirt!)

Those are major thought changes and I’m happy that I can see the improvement in my thinking and emotions.  That said, I still need to continue retraining.  Random things surprise me.  Earlier this week, I did a morning Zumba class and was simply awestruck at the way my body is reshaping to show a waistline.  The other night I wore a button down shirt that’s more fitted.  Clearly this is not a style that I wore many pounds ago.  A good friend remarked on how good it looked and how it really shows off the weight loss.  When I got home, I made a point of really examining myself in the mirror.  What a difference.  Before, I always dressed to conceal.  I wanted pretty clothes but they always had to be pretty in a shape that was, well, more shapeless so they wouldn’t stick to bulges and rolls.  These days, I realize that I have a shape that I can flatter.

Sure it’s still a larger shape but I’m not resembling Jabba the Hutt’s sister in my body form.  Hence, the belted little black dress, fitted shirts, and even that Southern belle gown with the tight waist and bodice.  I can pull them off.

The trick is being willing to try and experiment.  I need to get my internal vision and my external reality in synch.

At a Tai Chi open house this morning, I was helping new students register for class, which included giving out T-shirts.   There were two women who couldn’t decide what sizes they needed.  I realized that I’m not the only person who has difficulty assessing her actual size.  One woman was very concerned that we wouldn’t have a 2XL.  I was shocked because I just recently moved into a regular men’s Large T-shirt.  My first thought was that I was still the largest person in the room and if I’m not wearing a shirt that big, she sure wouldn’t need to.  Then I realized that, by comparison, she was perhaps a big larger than I am at this time.   I did a quick mental readjustment for my own body image, and at the same time realized that, even so, there’s no way she’d need a 2XL.   I smiled and suggested she take home a regular XL and we could always swap it for her if she wanted a different size at the first class.  This way, she’ll get to figure out what she needs in the privacy of her own home, but still be assured that, regardless, we’ll have what she needs.

The last few days have given me much to think about and I think the process will be extremely beneficial.  Every single time that I successful readjust my old thinking and attitude, I build another bit of support in the foundation I need for continued recovery.

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When Food Isn’t an Issue

For many millions of people, food is never an issue.  They enjoy it, eat when they’re hungry, stop when they’ve had enough and that’s that.

Then there are those of us for whom food and eating are always issues or challenges because they are not just food and eating.  They’re symptoms or drugs or whatever of other diseases, addictions and what have you.  Even after weight loss surgery, there are still many, many times when I obsess over food, crave things not on my food plan, and/or have to battle the compulsion to eat anything any time anywhere for various reasons having to do with an eating disorder.   I honestly can get crazy over it which totally sucks.  It’s a hell of a way to live, fighting the food demon or, as some people used to say in OA, facing the beast in the cage many times throughout the day.

So, on those days when food and eating are not issues, I really take some time to acknowledge and appreciate the freedom from compulsion.   I’ve had four days like this in a row since returning from Kansas City. This is semi-miraculous, considering that I arrived home to a jammed schedule and plenty of stress-inducing situations.  In other words, I’ve been compulsion-free even though I’ve been smack dab in the middle of things that used to trigger my compulsion and make me crazy in need of food to calm down, destress, and “cope”.

Can I tell you how much I love it when I can face food questions with a metaphorical shrug and “whatever” attitude?  I’ve been able to make my food choices, do my planning and consume my meals without emotional hassles bugging, upsetting, or stressing me out.  This, my friends, is what “normal” people must experience on a daily basis.  It’s a much easier way to live, let me tell you.

The fact that I notice when I’m not compulsion-ridden sort of shows how often the eating disorder impacts my thinking, even when I’m abstaining from the practice of compulsive over eating.  I think it’s good to notice, acknowledge, and ruminate over it too.  The goal for me is to have more days like the last four, than ones where I am fighting the disorder.  Success breeds success.  Each good day strengthens the foundation.

There were so many years (decades) when I was always in a heightened state, usually unhappy and stressed out, about food and eating.  Days like today, I enjoy realizing that I don’t always need to be wrapped up in the old ways.  I always need to be vigilant, of course, but food doesn’t always have to be an issue.


Good Luck, Governor Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced yesterday that he had lap band surgery back in February.  I want to wish him the best of luck in his weight loss endeavor and journey to better health and fitness.  Every day I think of the millions of people who struggle with weight problems and I say a little prayer for them to succeed in losing weight.  Governor Christie is now included.  All of us who can say “been there, tried that” know how hard it is.  I like to imagine a universal energy created by all of us in the same fight sending out our support not only to ourselves but to everyone else who needs it.

A lot of people are amazed that he managed to keep the procedure a secret.  Maybe it wasn’t appropriate for the head of a state to not tell his lieutenant governor when he was going to be, shall we say, incommunicado, for a period of time.   I can understand his desire for privacy and wish to announce it on his own time.  For years, his weight has been literally and figuratively out there front and center in all of his public activities.  He has been the target of fat jokes for as long as he’s been a candidate and then in office.  Attention comics and talk show hosts — fat jokes aren’t funny and they’re mean.  Even when the target is a larger-than-life politico in every sense of the phrase and a grown man, picking on his weight is cruel.  As cruel as if he was a teenager or younger.  Take it from a woman who still cringes when she remembers high school and the bully who used to yell, “Thar she blows” across campus whenever he saw her.  It sucks to be the brunt of those remarks.

I hope that Governor Christie’s efforts are successful, for his sake.  I also sort of cringe again knowing that he will be under incredibly intense scrutiny.  When I think of how much I hate the very thought of people watching what, how, and how much I eat, I can only imagine that multiplied three dozen times for the governor.  He’s tough, no doubt.  When the media questioned him on why he kept the procedure a secret, he flat out said that it was nobody else’s business.  He and I have different political ideologies so I don’t know if I’d have voted for him if I still lived home in Jersey, but I admire his straight talk and no bullshit attitude.  The man can get his Jersey on, that’s for sure.  I hope that will serve him well as he faces the questions, the attention, the public-level monitoring of his eating and everything else that will come his way now that people know he’s had the lap-band surgery and is losing weight.

Christie said he made the decision for his health and his future with his family.  Hands down, these are the most important reasons possible and, honestly, the only ones that really matter.  That said, whether he wants to be or not, he is also now an instant role model for countless other people who might be considering taking the same step, particularly men.  I don’t know the stats, but I have a feeling that more women than men undergo bariatric procedures.  I know that when I went to the informational seminar in fall 2011 and at every follow up doctor appointment since, women were the vast majority.  In fact, I don’t think there was a single guy at the seminar.  I know men have the procedure.  I know of three off hand in my own small community, but there are probably numerous more women around here that I just don’t know about.   Christie himself said that he made the decision after talking to a male friend of his who’d had the procedure — NY Jets coach Rex Ryan.   That kind of thing is bound to trickle down.  If Christie can make the choice and do the work, I believe it can open it up to other men.  More power to them.

Role model or not, Governor Christie, please remember that the rest of the overweight people watching are not your responsibility, at least not in relation to their weight loss efforts. (You still need to be concerned about some of them as your constituents.)  In this aspect of your life, you only need to be concerned with yourself.  It’s your recovery, your health and your business.  I hope you can ignore the extra attention, except to say thank you when people begin to compliment you on your weight loss.  I hope that you’ve spiked the guns of the comics who found you to be an easy target.

From someone else who’s on the journey, I offer you the very best wishes and support for your success.  You go, Gov!


License to Chill

Did I mention how often I was cold out in Kansas City?  Very strange turn of events.  When I arrived on Tuesday, it was 80 degrees outside.  I felt right at home in my cropped length jeans with a lace-trimmed camisole under a pretty, floral cardigan sweater and flip flops.  That ensemble had been great for traveling on the planes too.

Basically, I’d packed what I wear here in the Keys, with the exception of that southern belle gown, of course.  So, I arrived in Missouri without a jacket.  All of my pants were cropped-length or capris.  I had one pair of close-toed shoes — my sneakers.   Wednesday the temp had dropped a bit and the skies were gloomy with intermittent rain.  I took a walk outside, across the street to a small shopping center, and realized that the weather wasn’t quite Florida Keys-fabulous.  I wasn’t too concerned until a few hours later when I heard someone say that the highs on Thursday were expected to be in the 30s.  The 30s???  Holy heck!  Around that time I became very glad that I didn’t have anything that I absolutely had to do outside of the hotel.

Good thing, too, because by lunchtime, the rain turned to snow.  Snow, as in real flakes drifting through the air and sticking on the ground.  Ugh.  Ugh. Ugh.  Yes, I was definitely staying indoors.

Not that this was the best option all of the time.  I noticed that, depending on where  I was, I was frequently cold.  I had to turn up the temperature in our room and often wished I could find the thermostat to do the same in some of the workshop rooms.  By far, the worst area for me was the ballroom during rehearsals.  I was practically shivering but none of my friends felt the same way.  Finally, after listening to me mutter under my breath about the chill and watching me stand on the stage, with my arms wrapped around myself, a guy friend said, “It’s hell getting thinner, isn’t it?”  He then walked off of the stage and grabbed an unused tablecloth, brought it back and draped it around my body like a blanket.

I was still gobsmacked about his comment.  It never once dawned on me that my thinner body was more susceptible to cooler temps.  I never really thought of my extra fat as insulation, but it must have served that purpose.   Now I’m going to have to keep this new development in mind and plan for it.  I have a conference coming up next month.  Sometimes conference hotels are, indeed, cooler than usual and I don’t want to be distracted from the workshops and roundtables by shivering like I’m in the arctic circle.  Carrying around a light sweater or wrap should take care of the problem, don’t you think?

Given that I live in Florida and we’re heading toward the summer, I’m wondering now if this temperature sensitivity will work to my advantage.  Will the thinner me be more comfortable as the days heat up?  We’ll see, won’t we?


RT Week – The Wrap Up

I’m home from RT and exhausted.  Yesterday was a long travel day and I stayed up in Ft. Lauderdale rather than driving home alone at night when I was tired.  The tradeoff is that I got up at 5 a.m. and drove down today right to work.  I won’t say that my entire brain is still in Kansas City, maybe just the part that I need to think.

My food was so-so over the past week.  I was good on my plan most of the time but also veered off the straight and narrow sometimes.  I know what the problem was — the frazzled, non-routine schedule.  I felt not out of control, but not fully in control of the when, what and where of eating.  I did what I could when I could but all too often found myself grabbing available foods at random when they were available.  Not to bury myself in coulda/woulda/shoulda but I have to recognize that in order to have been more successful, I needed to be even more disciplined.  And I wasn’t disciplined enough a number of times.

My body does not like this randomness and I don’t just mean in weight loss or lack.  Physically, my stomach and digestive system do not react well if I shake up the program.  Even if I didn’t eat too much, I often ate too fast and that alone can cause problems.  One time I had to leave a party because we not only had to eat later than usual but I was starving so I didn’t take my measured bites.  The food items were perfectly on plan, but it isn’t only what I eat but how I eat that affects me.  My stomach began to hurt and I wasn’t at all sure that I wasn’t going to throw up in a few minutes.  I didn’t, but the ache and the time to let it ease up wore me out.

Shaking up my food plan does a number on my digestion and how my body processes what I eat on its path to, let me say this discreetly, elimination.  My systems are still adjusting today.  I think I should be back on track by Wednesday.  At least I hope so.  Because of this aspect, I’m not exactly sure right now if I successfully maintained my weight number.  I have learned that my body reacts to change by holding onto fluid and bloating up.  It’s possible that I gained a few pounds but I know that, if I did, it really is water weight and should come off quickly.

All of this said, I can’t quite bring myself to regret experiencing crisp bacon strips dipped in chocolate at the chocolate fountain.  Some things just must be tried and enjoyed.  At least I walked away before I could make myself a complete oinker.  I did, however, encourage even pushed friends into trying it too.  There are several new bacon and chocolate converts in the world tonight.

I am very pleased that I absolutely took advantage of some down time to exercise.  Even though it was a large hotel and conference center that called for a chunk of walking just to get to different activities and workshops, I purposely logged treadmill time twice at the fitness center and did some Tai Chi every day.  That’s happened, like, never before at one of these conventions.  I would have gone three times but I managed to work a blister on the bottom of one of my toes and it hurt like a bitch for two days whenever I walked.

Now that I’m home, the task ahead of me is to get right back on track with rigorous attention to detail and completely honest assessments of my progress.  I’ve had a good day today and anticipate having another one tomorrow, then Wednesday and the day after and after and after.   I can’t make it to Zumba tomorrow evening but am doing my best to flex out some time the following morning to squeeze in a class.  Now that Nat, Pyxi and I are reunited, the morning and evening walks will resume to the benefit of all three of us.

Eventually, I will share additional photos.  I have some on my camera but, honestly, I’m simply too wiped out to fool with them tonight.  Please be patient.



On Stage

I’m not name dropping. Heather Graham really is a dear friend. Otherwise there’s no way on God’s green Earth that I would have dressed up in a variety of funny costumes and performed on stage as part of her Vampire Parties at the RT Conventions since 2006.

Oh I’ve had fun and become good friends with terrific people as we put in these shows with very little rehearsal, but I always had to block out my image in my mind.

If I’d really thought about my hugeness I would never have stepped on stage. Figuring out costumes that would fit always presented challenges.

With the weight loss I don’t worry so much about how I look and can throw myself more freely into my performance. I don’t try to hide behind others in the back for the cast photo. I just have fun and try to be as entertaining as possible.

It’s another positive reinforcement as well as another way to simply relish life all the more.

Here’s a photo from rehearsal. Ones from the actual show are on my camera and will have to wait.



More Conference

Having a great time. Yesterday I had another good food day. My goal is to maintain my weight while away. If I lose I lose but as long as I don’t gain I will be happy. This way I don’t stress, can enjoy a treat here and there and just live my conference life.

This is a big hotel and conference center so we walk a lot just going from workshop to workshop. A friend and I also did another fitness center trip yesterday. 35 brisk minutes on the treadmill. I also do some tai chi in the room every day.

Seeing more friends has been great. I always love seeing them when we’re reunited. This year their genuine pleasure for me surrounds me in warmth. I also appreciate their honest interest in how I feel and the fact that they understand the effort that has gone into this journey.

Last night was the big anniversary ball for which friends and I portrayed heroines from historical novels by legendary authors.

I blogged about the gown I was loaned that didn’t quite zip a couple of months ago. Well the last ten pounds did the trick and it closed all of the way for last night. My lungs had to adjust before I could take a full breath but I was okay in a few minutes.

Add a hoop skirt and full long, flowing wig and I did indeed feel like a Southern belle.

Tonight I have another show and costume. It’s a Victorian dress that Heather Graham loaned me from her vast collection of costumes. It too fits!

Here’s a photo from last night. I have others but they’re on my camera and I forgot my cord.



Conference Check-in

It’s Wednesday night and the end of a very long but great day at the RT Convention.

Yes, I’ve received a lot of enthusiastic and congratulatory reactions to my weight loss. A couple of people’s reactions also touched my heart because of the wistfulness I saw in their eyes and on their faces. They too battle excess weight. I want to hug them all and find some words of encouragement.

I don’t know what to say other than to be honest and open. Look, I struggled for decades and the bald truth is that I couldn’t achieve, let alone maintain significant long term weight loss on my own without surgery and a complete lifestyle change.

So, honesty and openness are what I offer and hope it helps.

Travel and the conference routine are challenging. I didn’t prepare and plan well for travel day yesterday. I ate some crappy carbs including chips and not enough protein. By early evening my stomach was not happy.

Today has been much better. Protein shake for breakfast. Small servings of protein every few hours. I took a walk outside and also did a brisk 35 minutes on the treadmill. I had a healthy dinner.

I will confess to one decadent treat. The evening party had chocolate fountains. Among the bowls of fresh fruit and cakes there was one of crisp bacon strips. Sounds gross but bacon dipped in chocolate tastes amazing. With supreme strength of will I walked away after one strip.

I wore my new dress tonight, the size 16/18. I think I looked pretty good. What do you think?