Weighty Matters

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Sometimes a Not Great Notion

First off, I managed to eat slowly most of the time today. I’ve been rushing around in work and life trying to get a lot accomplished in the day. When in high gear all day, it’s hard to slow down for any thing. I did the best at breakfast because I remembered to focus on eating slowly right when I picked up the spoon for the first taste of yogurt.

By the time of my mid-morning snack, I’d already had two meetings and was running behind schedule. Unfortunately, I plowed through my pistachio nuts. At lunch, I began by eating quickly but caught myself. I stopped, took a deep breath, reminded myself about slow pacing and mindfulness, and then proceeded to finish the meal much less rapidly.

I was en route to somewhere for the mid-afternoon snack but concentrated on chewing and savoring the crisp texture and juicy sweetness of the apple. Dinner time, same thing as lunch. I started out eating fast but slowed myself down, concentrated, and finished out in a much better place. I pledge to practice this skill again tomorrow!

Today at some point, I had a realization. I know that the way that I eat with the healthier choices, the reduced portions and the pace, coupled with exercise and cultivating an overall dedication to wellness and fitness all add up to a major lifestyle change.

I’ve said it before — This is about changing my life and choosing health. It’s not about dieting. I really do know these things. Just sometimes, I act like I don’t and keep behaving like what I’m doing is a diet that’s going to end some day. That is not a great notion on so many levels. I catch myself waiting, or projecting to the day that I hit goal weight and begin the transition to maintenance. It’s like I think, “Oh, be strict and perfect now and then one day you’ll be able to eat whatever you want.” For me, that is not a positive, healthy mindset.
In fact, it feels like a potential set up to screw this all up royally at some point in the future.

The realization that I sometimes still think this way — even when other parts of me are crying bull pucky at me — shows that no matter how far I go and how great I progress, relapse lurks. Goal weight will eventually be achieved and I will adjust my food plan for maintenance mode. It will not, however, be license to eat eat eat.

Healthy food choices with appropriate eating and adequate exercise and physical fitness are my life. There is no end to this journey, at least while I am alive. I guess even though I know this, I need to remind myself from time to time.

I’m happy the realization hit me and shined a light on some of my own faulty thinking. I can’t adjust, grow and improve if I don’t know that I need to in some area. Awareness and a clear picture are so helpful.

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Eating Slowly

For most of my life, I’ve eaten quickly. While I stop short of shoveling in the food, I know that I still eat too fast. It’s a good suggestion to slowwww down. Chew thoroughly. Pause before delivering another forkful or spoonful of food to the mouth. It’s also part of mindful eating. When I eat more slowly, I pay more attention to what I’m eating, how it tastes, and how I feel as I eat.

I’m horrible at it. I do all the wrong things sometimes like eat while watching television. I’m better when I share a meal out but that’s because I’m more conscious of what I’m doing. Plus, I’m chatting with whomever is at the table with me.

It is difficult for me to figure out why eating slowly remains a challenging skill. Sometimes I think it goes back to the compulsion. We sneak eaters are like pickpockets — make the grab and quickly conceal the prize so we don’t get caught.

Anyway, it’s a very hard habit to break. It’s one more area, however, where the weight loss surgery is such an effective tool. Prior to surgery, when I ate too fast, I could easily eat more than I wanted or needed because the food was already ingested before my stomach transmitted the signal that it was full. Now if I eat too fast, my stomach immediately feels uncomfortable.

I don’t like being uncomfortable. My goal is to not put myself through that, nor do I want to risk eating too much. It is possible to stretch out the small pouch of stomach that remains. I plan to avoid that happening.

If I pay more mindful attention to my pace, I usually enjoy the meal more. It takes time to savor the flavors, the textures, even the aroma of good food. You miss a lot when you don’t let a lot of time lapse between plate and mouth. Eating slowly helps me to feel my satisfaction develop and reduces my eating disorder reflex to still want more. Not eating more when my mind tells me I really want to just creates unnecessary stress. I have to argue with myself to stay on track.

The contrary thing is that I know the techniques that help me eat slow. Knowing them and using them on a regular basis often prove to be two different things. So, once more I return to the basics. Look at my food and my eating one bite at a time for one meal at a time. Through that I can progress to eating slowly one day at a time. So, tomorrow is another day. I have a goal. Be mindful and slow in my eating for breakfast and build from that point on.

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Choosing Not to Pig Out

One of the things that I continually reinforce to myself is that while I might have a compulsive eating disorder, ultimately, it is a choice whether to act with compulsion. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy to withstand when the compulsion hits. Often, depending on the circumstances, it’s downright hard and so quick that I feel like I eat before my brain even has a chance to slam on the brakes. However, there are other instances when I have time to think it through and make the healthy choice.

I hit an emotional low on Sunday. I felt lonely, sad, and angry. That’s an emotional soup that, in the past, would trigger a binge. I’m happy to say that I worked my way through it without bingeing. I chose to eat healthy and exercise. Yesterday I went to a morning Aquacize class and then attacked my “room of doom”, firing the first salvo against the impossible-to-navigate around clutter that I’ve created in there over the years. I made really great progress and now feel that I can continue the effort in easy stages.

As a treat last night, I went to see the new X-Men Then and Now movie. I really enjoyed it and the lingering shot of Hugh Jackman’s naked body was just an extra bit of awesome fun.

Through it all, I chose to not pig out. I ate healthy food in moderation. That’s a victory over disease.

I’m over the emotional low, and out of it came the realization that I need to make some positive changes in my social life. I don’t quite have a plan, but the recognition creates the intention and starts the process. However, the key thing is that I’m happy with myself today.

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Going Less Processed

The weather is absolutely beautiful here this weekend. I had planned to go out on my boat today and tomorrow. Unfortunately, yesterday when I went out to check steering and engines, I discovered that my batteries were pretty much dead. They don’t have enough juice to start the engines. I tried charging the starboard batteries overnight and even that was enough. I am so disappointed. There’s no way that my boat guy could come over and install four new batteries in time for my friends and me to go out on our snorkeling trip. Picture me pouting big time.

I’m trying to roll with it, of course. I woke up this morning and set out for a 15 mile bike ride. Along the way I dodged a black racer snake that was sunning on the bike path. I saw dolphins swimming through the cut when I was at the top of a small bridge. I also saw giant false eyelashes attached above the headlights of a car. Only in the Keys!

Today’s exercise endeavor comes after a day that I declared to be car-less. Everything that I needed to do yesterday I did either by walking or riding my bike. This amounted to about 12 miles of bike riding plus two or three miles of walking — a good day for sure.

I’m going to use my day to be productive, since I can’t go out on the boat. Not that I’m obsessing about being landbound. (Not much anyway. Quite.) I’m going to attack the cluttered room of doom. I figure if I can at least neaten and organize the mess, I can more easily start going through the piles and clearing through it all. It’s either that or rent a backhoe.

In the meantime, I’m choosing to eat more fresh foods right now and looking for opportunities to go less processed. A month or so ago, I wrote about making my own low fat bleu cheese salad dressing with 0% plain Greek yogurt. Today I got it into my head to mix up a fresh herb vinaigrette. I have a little planter box with rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano and basil. I also had a small bottle of quince-infused vinegar that was all-natural with very little sugar. So, for my vinaigrette, I whisked together a minced shallot, two small minced cloves of garlic, finely chopped herbs, the quince vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and then extra virgin olive oil. The flavors combined into something yummy and I’m sure they’ll deepen as they spend more time mixed together.

Here’s how my concoction compares to a national brand of balsamic vinaigrette, according to that product’s incredient list: vegetable oil (canola and/or sobean oil, extra virgin olive oil); water; balsamic vinegar; distilled vinegar; sugar; salt; garlic; spice; xanthum gum; paprika (for color). I looked up xanthum gum. It’s derived from carb products and used as an addiive in many foods.

I’m feeling proud that I’ve produced something tasty that doesn’t have a bunch of unnecessary additives. It just has to be healthier for me, too. Tasty plus healthy makes me more inclined to eat salads, just because I can use the homemade vinaigrette. Don’t think I didn’t consider that fact.

It might be more convenient to grab the products off of the supermarket shelves, but I’m training my mind to not use convenience as an automatic fallback. I’ve been successful at this in a lot of areas, most specifically the great reduction in “fast foods”. I can’t even remember when I last bought anything at a McDs, BK or other competitor! Now their offerings don’t even appeal to me, so they don’t trigger the urge to eat. I hope that, as with many things, the more I practice seeking out less-processed alternatives to foods, the less the over-processed stuff will lure me. That’s the plan anyway.

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Why Did I Bother?

I’ve been struggling over something and wanted to get it more square in my head before I blogged about it. Problem is that I’m still not sure I’m square with it but it’s been several days since I posted. So, I decided to plunge in and write about it and see if that helped me even it out.

While I was away, someone I have a “conference aquaintanceship” with chatted with me about my weight loss. I’ve seen her once before since I had the weight loss surgery and the change in my body size is pretty dramatic. She was amazed and largely complimentary. Like many people, she wanted to talk more about my process and journey. I don’t mind. Often, if someone isn’t asking for their own benefit or need, they talk to me for information because someone they care about is obese and is either contemplating surgery or they wish the person would think about it. For the record, I never tell anybody they should have surgery. It is totally not for me to suggest to anyone that they should undergo a life-altering, potentially dangerous, operation. I can only express what has worked for me and how I feel about it.

Anyway, this acquaintance and I chatted for a bit and it was fine — up until the point where she realized that it’s been more than two years since my surgery and I’m not yet at goal weight. The woman asked, “If it’s taking you this long to lose the weight, why did you bother having surgery? Why didn’t you just do it on your own?”

She sounded a little scornful and disappointed, like the time duration had burst a bubble or destroyed an expectation she’d fostered.

I immediately experienced a range of reactions. I felt criticized for not losing all of my weight faster. I was shocked at what I thought was insensitivity on her part. Then there was a healthy dose of my asking myself, “What the f**k does she know about it?”

At the same time that I was trying to process my reactions, I also wanted to formulate a decent response that didn’t include obscenities and an abrupt departure. My fall-back position is to not reveal when someone’s words hurt or upset me. It’s a natural, animal reaction. Don’t show injury, illness or weakness. If you do, predators will kill and eat you. I didn’t particular feel the urge to educate her either. Normally, I’ll give as much time and talk as needed if someone has an honest desire or need. That I just wanted to vacate this conversation told me that what she’d said had pushed a button inside and I wasn’t prepared to deal.

I mustered up a smile and said, “If I could have lost all of this weight without surgery, I would have done it decades ago.” Then I excused myself and left.

I just had my breakthrough on why this has bothered me so much for so long. Her comments, although I don’t believe she meant them in a hurtful, malicious way, triggered my disease, believing-I’m-not-good-enough (B.I.N.G.E.) reaction. In that instant, I felt like I’ve somehow failed because I’m still not at goal weight. Even while I type this, I know that it’s screwy and untrue. I have not failed. This is a lifelong journey, not something with a finite beginning, middle and end. I’m still walking the walk, one step at a time. I’ve been on this road for more than two years. I’ve never before sustained an effort this long.

For the record, what I said to the woman is also the absolute truth. If I could have lost so much weight and kept it off without surgery, I would have done so. Years and years ago with every diet, I wished that I would get to goal weight and keep it off. I was never successful for longer than a year. Why did I bother having weight loss surgery? That’s why. I couldn’t do it on my own but I’m doing it now.

That’s victory, not failure.

Ok. I feel better now.

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Mental Satisfaction

I’m back from a few days of fun in New Orleans at the RT Bookreviews Convention. I had a great time hanging out with dear friends whom I don’t get to see often or spend nearly enough time with in a year. I also love New Orleans. It’s a fascinating, beautiful city with a variety of cultures, historical significance, wonderful art, fantastic music, and spectacular food.

I am not going to claim that I strictly adhered to my food plan. The best that I’ll say is that I did better than expected while also indulging in some treats that I love. I think I helped my overall effort by walking around a lot. In fact, on Thursday I logged close to 19,000 steps. I’ll find out how well I did when I get on the scale tomorrow but, more important to me, I will be back on good track tomorrow.

As several of you have reminded me over the months, recovery is not about always being strictly perfect or always depriving myself of foods that I enjoy. It’s about living a healthy, balanced life. I’m still learning how to do that balance thing. I might be learning how for the rest of my life. Sometimes are easier than others and I always need to remind myself that the key is progress not perfection.

Like I said, the food in New Orleans is mostly spectacular. I can’t tell you how many times I was enjoying something and actually caught myself wishing I could keep eating more and more. I don’t mean that I truly wished I could binge on it, but I also resented at times that I filled up sooner than I wanted to and was tempted to push my stomach past its capacity. Doing that is not good nor smart, and it leads to undesirable after effects like nausea, uncomfortable pressure, and, possibly, regurgitation of the meal. Food that was delicious going in does not taste good when it reverses direction.

A couple of times I went further than I should have and was uncomfortable. This at least led to me pondering what the heck was going on in my head. Sometimes I experience a real disconnect between physical satiety and mental/emotional satisfaction. Honestly, my stomach is ready to stop long before my head wants to call it quits. There is ongoing necessity for hard work on my part in this area.

When I do it right, I do it well. For example, even though I was thoroughly enjoying the red beans and rice with andouille sausage, I stopped before I overate. I reminded myself that, as good as it was, I needed to quit eating and remember that it wouldn’t be the last time in my life that I could enjoy this dish. Later on, I remembered that I’d enjoyed the robust meal at mid-day and contented myself with a lighter, small salad in the evening. That’s how “normal” people eat. 🙂 I wish I’d been as successful with the beignets a few days before. I didn’t eat all three of the large, puffy, fried pillows coated with powdered sugar, but I should have stopped at one and not eaten a large percentage of the second. In retrospect, regardless of how delicious I think a treat is, it isn’t worth the yucky physical feelings afterwards.

So, as I continue to retrain myself and reshape/improve my relationship with food and eating, I need to focus on the mental satisfaction aspect.

I stopped at the supermarket on my way home from the airport today to get in the food that I need. I bought Greek yogurt which has become a staple that I use in many different ways. I have fresh fruits and veggies for smoothies, snacks and side dishes. When I got home, I took out the chicken stock I made the other week and will make up some fresh chicken soup tomorrow night.

Part of my process involves revving myself up to eat healthy. While I might occasionally experience old diseased resentments, I am far more frequently joyful and excited about making healthy choices and continuing to shore up my recovery. Doing so, and taking an active role in positive progress, is good reinforcement. I’m not defeated by the challenges and rough spots. They are in their own ways necessary to my recovery. If I don’t experience and notice them, then I have no hope of working through them and teaching myself a better way for long term success.

Here are few photos from the trip. They were all shot with my phone under less-than-ideal photographic settings, so please forgive the fuzziness.

"Step Up" - At Mardi Gras World

“Step Up” – At Mardi Gras World

Me and the King at Mardi Gras World

Me and the King at Mardi Gras World

Friends on a Float at Mardi Gras World

Friends on a Float at Mardi Gras World

At the Vampire Ball - RT Convention

At the Vampire Ball – RT Convention

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Concourse Death March

Miami Airport appears huge to me. No matter where I park in proximity to my terminal it seems to take forever to get to the check-in counter. Not well organized, one then must trundle to the TSA line before going down a concourse that feels endless.

Seriously. It took Dorothy less skipping down the yellow brick road to arrive at Oz. Being extremely overweight and completely out of shape made navigating this airport a painful struggle. It equated to a death march or Moses leading the chosen people out of Egypt in my mind as I sweated, huffed and puffed my way to the gate.

Today, I’m bopping down the long, long concourse with a downright spring in my step. Distance? Bring it on and let the steps add up on my FitBit. No pain. No gasping for air. No problem.

Booyah!

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Getting the Why

I don’t know why it is so hard sometimes to make the right choices and so much easier to make wrong ones. What complicated maze of crossed wires between our psyches, emotions and bodies redirects us from the obvious best options and leads to us taking an unhealthy course of action?

To great extent, choices are a matter of black and white. You either do this or that. Humans being humans, we lighten the black and muddle the white to create various shades of gray. In that gray we screw up sometimes. It’s like a fog obscures the issue and blankets our common sense just long enough for us to make the wrong choice.

Don’t ask me why I’m in this pensive, philosophical mood of confusion tonight. Overall I’m in a good place. I’m not perfect and I eat wrong more often than I’d like, but I’m not rolling into relapse. Honestly, I feel strong and able to balance my urges and occasional missteps with healthy choices and positive actions. I know the “what”. Tonight, I’m just caught up in the “why”.

It’s funny because I’m not usually a “why” woman. A long time ago, I decided that I didn’t need to know why I did certain things. I just needed to not do them, regardless of whether I understood my motivations or loss of motivation, depending on my actions. The bottom line is that this is still, well, the bottom line. When the choice is between a positive action or a negative one; healthy choice or unhealthy; I need to choose positive and healthy versus the alternatives. Even if I have excuses or imagine there are good reasons, that justify the opposite choices, I need to ignore those “whys” and stick to what I know is right for me.

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Objective Body Image

I’m going on a trip in the near future. I’ve talked here and there about picking up some new clothes. Today I pulled out everything that I thought I wanted to take with me on vacation and tried on different outfits. I always used to hate seeing myself in the mirror. Seeing my supersize body always made me feel like crap. I never ever looked good. At best, I could sometimes train myself to look and see good-enough-considering-the-extra-200-pounds. Not that it felt good, but it was the best I could do at the time.

Even when I was on a losing trend, I always had “fat eyes”. I still struggled with that “objects in the mirror are larger” mentality and vision even after surgery as my weight loss progressed. The inside of my brain is sometimes like an old time funhouse mirror that distorts the image. No lie, I despaired of ever developing the honest objectivity to see my body image as it truly is, without my diseased thinking and poor self-image picking out only the flaws.

The journey has helped, particularly this blog and posting pictures of myself along the way. Just taking pictures of myself was a big step. I’m used to hiding behind others, attempting to minimize my size. I never wanted pictures of just me or at least no full length/whole body photographs. Ugh. They all made me cringe and hate my body even more. Somewhere along the line of these last two plus years, a healthier vision began to develop. I’ve become more comfortable looking at myself and am learning to accept and like what I see at every stage. This is terrific progress, particularly when I know I still have about 25-30 pounds to use. Are there still flaws? Oh sure. The skin of my thighs and upper arms is incredibly loose and wrinkly. Although the two stomach rolls I have are much, much smaller, I am still not roll-less. However, when I look I don’t want to immediately look away or cover my own eyes. I’m objective. I can really celebrate my overall smallness and pat myself on the back for the improved muscle tone and shaping from my fitness efforts.

Today I tried on outfit after outfit and looked at myself — really looked — in a full length mirror. Rather than dread, I experienced joy. There’s real happiness found in putting on that flirty party dress with its tiered ruffles and the bold pink/black/gray splashed print of the fabric. I was in love with the funky, almost steampunkish styling of an awesome blouse that I found on Friday and the way that it nips in at my waist. One new top has a really great neckline that shows off just the right amount of chest, including collar bones that were previously buried under fat. It also has an asymmetrical hem and a festive, eye-catching print. It makes me feel like partying just looking at it.

Admittedly, I selected styles and designs that minimize the flaws and accentuate the positives. I’m not at a place yet where I am comfortable showing my bare upper arms and I want dresses and skirts to be long enough to cover the wrinkly-jiggly thighs. But I’m not hiding behind voluminous outfits. I have tailored blouses and pants that show off my improved waistline. That flirty dress still hits above the knee. You know I’ve come a long way when I can twist to get a rear view and not even wonder if my ass looks fat. Instead, I smiled at the lack of “shelf butt” and the smooth lie of the fabric over my behind.

There was a time when I really had to go through these trips with blinders. I had to work hard not to think about how I looked and block out to the best of my ability what I imagined other people thought when they saw me. This time, I am delighted that my suitcase will be filled with fun, beautiful, perfect-for-me, fashionable clothing. I can’t wait to wear every single garment and will do so knowing that I truly look my best.

It might not be my ultimate best, but it’s pretty darned great!

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Feeling It

When I lived in a state of morbid obesity or super obesity, I only felt the ill effects of too much eating, or of eating too much crappy food after a binge. It really took stuffing myself with massive quantities of food for my body to complain. My spirit, my head, my emotions suffered, but I was so physically conditioned to eating a lot that lesser amounts didn’t make an impact. Even if my lesser amounts would have caused gastric distress in a “normal-sized” person, they didn’t register.

Now that I’ve lost more than 180 pounds, my body is much more sensitive and aware. This is beyond my surgically altered stomach. I’m not talking about how packing too much food in at one time triggers me to throw it back up. I truly notice physical reactions if I eat too much in a given day — even spread out over several meals — or if I indulge too often in crappy or not-as-healthy-for-me food.

This past week was a perfect example of this new awareness. As I’ve shared, I was incredibly busy at work with three days of media filming that required longer days, largely spent outside. My schedule of eating was thrown off and it was more challenging for me to find time to sit down and eat one of my normally healthy meals. Add in the stress and, let’s face it, I ate more crappy food than I usually would in a month. Ok, ok, the occasional small serving of french fries alone wouldn’t kill me, but when combined with other food items that have too much salt, too much fat, or too many carbs over a few days, my body sent clear messages. Eat crap = feel crappy. I bloated, I ached, I felt sluggish so I had to work harder to muster the energy I needed for the job. I’m sure this all made me feel even more tired at night. Overall, I was just off.

Sorting through all of this, crystallizing the realization, and processing the experience helped me take action to feel better. I ate unhealthy for so many years. Now that I’ve made it a practice to make healthy choices — not only in quantity and selection but in the quality of the food selections, I know how much better healthy feels.

Yesterday and today I’ve consumed mostly vegetables, fruits, and yogurt while also raising my hydration level. I haven’t had overly processed foods, nor anything that salty. It’s amazing to me how much better I feel, and in how short a time. I just took the dogs out for a long walk and felt really connected to my energy again. Honestly, I could have gone longer but Pyxi is still building back up after her mild injury. I may pop in an exercise DVD just for the hell of it.

I’m psyched that I’m more in touch with how and what I eat affects me. I’ll take it as another sign of my ever developing recovery. I like that, for the first time in my life, I’m aware of my body’s signals rather than being numb and oblivious.

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