Weighty Matters

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The Ones Who Really Understand

I am very fortunate that the great majority of my family and friends understand me and my eating disorder struggles.  They are incredibly supportive of my efforts and recovery.  Not everyone is this fortunate.

I also count myself extremely lucky that I have some good friends who have also had weight loss surgery.  There are aspects to this journey that they also know and experience so the depth of their understanding is, understandably, greater.  They can and do offer insights that I can’t expect others to have and share.

During this annual round of holiday visits, I get to see a couple of my weight loss surgery sisters-in-arms.  I spent some time and a couple of meals with one yesterday.  We talked a bit about how it feels to struggle some after an extended period of success.  We also achieve a strong level of no-bullshit in which we can acknowledge to each other where we can and need to do better in our efforts.  We talked about recommitting to long term goals.  Near the end of the evening she said we should check in with each other every day.  We live in separate states but we have the internet and our cell phones.  January 1, let the daily text messages of support, encouragement and, when necessary, strong reminders, begin!

In a little while I’m meeting another friend.  Of all of my friends, she is the one who has long term time in OA and the one with whom I can best talk about the craziness of this eating disease.  We aren’t really crazy in the clinical sense.  (Non-politically correct terminology aside.)  There are simply some aspects, behaviors, and attitudes that make me feel a little nutty sometimes because, you know, “normal” people would do/think/act this way with food.

The timing couldn’t be better for me to get together with these ladies.  As I set up to knuckle down after the holidays, I can reconnect with what I need to know and do to be successful.  Hopefully, speaking to me will help them with things they need too.

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Positive Food Mind Games

Remember when I talked about buying a few high-end quality, handcrafted chocolates over the weekend and said that I planned to eat them one a night?

Raise your hands. How many of you are expecting me to say that I totally messed up on that plan and stuffed them all into my mouth the first night?

It’s okay if you raised your hand. I pretty much expected me to do just that despite my plan and great intentions. I’m happy to say that I surprised myself and that I also discovered something useful and important in the process. This commitment and practice helped me control other impulses. Let’s face it. I love chocolate. There is no way that I would willingly give it up unless you told me that eating even a single, minuscule piece would kill me faster than a dose of cyanide. Even then, I’d first ask, “How minuscule are we talking?”

I know that it is a mistake and completely sets me up to fail for me to keep a bag of M&Ms, or a bag of mini-candy bars, or anything like that in my house. I do not have the self control to limit myself on those particular versions of chocolate. If I’m at the supermarket and give into the urge to buy a small bag on my way out (You know, the bags they place right at the checkout line so you’ll see them, feel the urge, and buy?) I can tell myself forever that I’ll only eat some of the M&Ms and save the rest, but that’s complete b.s., even if I believe it at the time.

However, when I have good quality chocolate around, I absolutely can limit myself to one treat in the evening. I’ve now successfully done this enough times that I see a definite difference in my behavior pattern when the chocolate is high-end, as opposed to whether it’s the stuff I can grab at the supermarket. What’s more, when I know that I have that quality chocolate available to me for the one scheduled, permissible treat in the evening, it acts as a deterrent. I can talk myself out of other urges to buy and consume other candy or other sugary sweets like cookies, cupcakes, and ice cream. Seriously, I’ve had actual internal conversations with myself that go something like this.

Compulsive Me: What a stressful day. Ohhh, look at those cookies. They look yummy. I want one. (Hand reaches for package, about to put it in shopping cart.)

Healthy Me: They look yummy, but they’re junk. Don’t forget you still have those good chocolates at home and can have one tonight.

Compulsive Me: Oh, right! Those chocolates are so much better. I don’t need these processed things. (Hand withdraws from package.)

Healthy Me: Good choice. You’ll enjoy the chocolate so much more.

Compulsive Me: And I’ll feel better about it after, too.

Healthy Me: Smart woman!

Really, folks, as strange as it sounds, that’s my thought process sometimes. Sure, it’s a mind game to divert from the compulsive act, but it works. There are additional bonuses and benefits, too. When I buy good quality chocolate, I end up with food that has fewer calories and less sugar, but more of the healthy qualities for which chocolate is touted. I also eat less of it. That’s an extra win.

Here’s another food mind game that I discovered this week. I love certain nuts. Walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and almonds top the list. Nuts can be a healthy, nutritious snack — as long as I don’t totally pig out on them eating multiple handfuls. With the exception of walnuts, which I prefer to use in cooking instead of snacking, I have learned that I can’t eat nuts in healthy ways if I keep a jar of them already shelled in the house. The habit is there to eat them mindlessly.

Thanks to the baseball game last weekend, I realized that I exercise good portion control if I buy the nuts still in their shells. Sounds simple and logical, doesn’t it? I can’t grab handfuls of nuts and eat them when I need to shell them first. Yesterday and today, I measured out an appropriate portion of shelled pistachios, brought them in a container to work for my mid-morning snack, and ate them in a healthy, appropriate way. I didn’t overeat and I was completely satisfied. Booyah!

My takeaway on these lessons is that while we were taught as kids to not play with our food, developing and playing positive food mind games can actually aid my plan and recovery!


Taking Nothing for Granted

I haven’t been to a Zumba class in to weeks because of meetings, renovations to the place where classes are held and then my vacation. I looked forward to tonight’s class ever since I got home from my trip. After work, I took the dogs for a walk, fed them and then went to the bedroom to change into workout clothes. When I balanced on one foot at a time to pull on my exercise shorts, I flashed back to two years ago.

Getting dressed was a challenge. In order to pull on underwear or a pair of pants or shorts, I either had to sit down or I had to hold onto a bed post or table for steadiness. Even with that support, I still need to bend down as far as I could to drag the clothes on over my foot. Putting on sneakers was even more difficult. The easiest way was for me to sit on the bed, bend my leg at the knee and prop it on the bed too so that I could reach my foot. The other option was to again sit in a chair, bend over and sort of contort myself to get my sneaker on. I can remember a time when I had to pause and suck in a breath so I could finish tying the laces.

***** Before I forget, I need to digress a minute. Someone asked me why I share these memories of the way that I used to be when I was at my heaviest, most awkward self. I do it because it’s important that I remember what it was like. It also matters to me in case there’s someone reading who is struggling with morbid obesity. It helps to know that someone has lived what you’re experiencing and understands. I hope it also helps to know that things can be better. *****

Okay, back to the topic. Tonight I changed clothes with balance and ease. Putting on my sneaks was a simple as crossing one leg over the other, slipping on the shoes and tying in a few seconds. No stress or strain, no struggle or shortness of breath. In that moment I thought, “As long as I live, I will never take this for granted.”

I then grabbed my water bottle and hand bag and bopped out the door. Millions of people do this every day without giving the ability a thought. It’s just normal for them. Now it’s normal for me too, but I will never forget the days and decades when it wasn’t.

Zumba kicked my ass tonight. Even though I’ve been doing Tai Chi, brisk walking and that 7 Minute Workout, I could feel a reduction in my ability and endurance. I pushed on through to get the most benefit from the exercise, ignoring the internal whimpering. When we finished the cool down and stretching period, I picked up my water bottle and towel, said goodbye and made my way to the car. For a second I slumped in the seat and just felt the gratitude sweep through me. I thought again, “I will never take this for granted.”

I need to appreciate every day, every pound lost, every time I walk or dance or move with control and balance through the 108 moves in the Tai Chi set. I want to remember the times that I say no to eating the wrong thing and yes to healthy choices. It’s all hard work and I’m grateful for the willingness to put in the time, energy, effort and determination.

Recovery is precious. It also isn’t automatically permanent. I have to keep nurturing my progress, reinforcing the healthier practices, and maintaining my determination. I don’t want to lose what I’ve fought so hard to achieve so I can never, ever, take it for granted.


Reducing Self-Criticism

I’m going to post a really crappy photo.  That’s not a judgment of me.  The quality of the photo is crappy because I took it of a mirror image of myself in low light with my phone.  Here goes:

Mirror picture

Sorry for the lousy quality of the shot, but I didn’t think of this blog post topic until after I was already home from the community function I attended this evening. If I’d thought of it sooner, I would have had someone else take a decent shot. Anyway, onto the reason.

I bought this dress and found the hot pink shrug when I went to Ross some weeks back. I loved the colors and the fit and thought it would be great in my wardrobe. Plus it was on sale for a ridiculously low price which fit with the overall plan to not spend a lot of money on clothes while I’m still losing. When I tried on the outfit in the store, I almost didn’t buy it because the sleeves on the shrug are sort of short and my upper arms are really showing their flab and wrinkly, saggy skin. I do not wear sleeveless tops. Most of the time, if I’m around other people when wearing a bathing suit, I also wear a sun protection shirt or rash shirt. Some of that is to guard against excess sun, but mostly it’s because I don’t like how my upper arms look.

Even though I was unhappy with showing too much upper arm, I still bought the dress. Ever since I’ve looked for a pink shrug with longer sleeves, but I haven’t been successful with that quest.

Tonight when dressing for the event, I almost selected a different outfit, but the colors and pattern on this dress made me smile and I really really wanted to wear it tonight. I put it on and drew on the shrug. Honestly, it was like all I could see were my arms and I wasn’t happy. I looked straight on, then to the side. I even went to a couple of different mirrors. It felt like my upper arms flashed a message that said, “Look at us! Look at us! We’re hideous. Look at us!”

I was thisclose to taking off the dress and putting on my second choice, but all of a sudden I got really pissed off at myself. I see plenty of women down here wearing tank tops, bathing suits, or sleeveless outfits with upper arms that are much larger than mine. Trust me. Their arms aren’t the first thing I notice, and when I do it’s never with the thought of, “Holy crap. That woman has arms like a ham. She’s brave to go sleeveless.”

Nah. I only direct that sort of thinking at myself.

Before I could change my mind and my outfit, I said the hell with it and walked out of the bedroom. I was going to the event in this outfit, short shrug and arms be damned.

From the time I picked up my boss/friend to the moment we left, saying goodbye to people we knew at the event’s end, I didn’t hear one negative comment or see anyone recoil in horror. All I heard were compliments on how pretty I looked, how great I looked, how much someone loved the outfit — all 100% positive. If anyone noticed the part of my upper arms that showed beneath the shrug sleeves, they didn’t mention it. I’m pretty sure that nobody cared. If they gave it any thought it all, it might have been, “Wow, she’s lost so much weight, she’s a little saggy in some places.” Honestly, I think the only person it was an issue for was me.

I didn’t worry about it at the event. I certainly didn’t obsess. Instead I just enjoyed myself, hugged a lot of friends, spoke with several acquaintances — you know, all that regular interactive stuff people do at such events. It was a fun evening.

On the way home I took a few moments to bask in the afterglow of the compliments. That’s when I thought of using the experience as a blog post and decided to take a photo when I got home so you could all observe and give feedback.

My takeaway message from all of this is that even now, I am my own harshest critic and when I think negative thoughts, it’s a good indication that I’m not being objective. I can do better. Moreover, I owe it to myself to keep working on reducing this form of self-criticism. It serves no healthy purpose. I can foster much more positive reactions to my changing, evolving body and build on them for the future.


Recipe Calculations

As I anticipated, I woke up this morning with too much chest congestion to go to Zumba class.  😦  I slept in a little, had breakfast, caught up on a few things and, eventually, went out to do a few errands.  Since Monday, when I was disappointed by the Portugese kale soup I had up on Cape Cod, I’ve had the proverbial bee in my bonnet to make kale soup on my own.  I’ve had some potential ingredients rolling around in my head so I decided not to search for recipes on line.  Instead, I decided to wing it and see if I could invent something tasty and nutritious all on my own.

I already had the kale that I bought at the farm market yesterday and a couple of containers of low sodium vegetable broth here at home.  At the supermarket I picked up a large onion, a large rutabaga, some fresh thyme and some chorizo.  I partially cooked the cubed rutabaga and then added it to the pot in which I was lightly sautéing the chopped onions. I sliced the chorizo into half circles and then let it cook in with the veggies which gave everything more flavor and some color.  After rinsing and patting dry the kale, I tore the leafy goodness off of the ribs and gave it a rough chop before adding it to the pot along with the broth and a couple of cans of drained/rinsed cannellini beans.  I tied up two bundles of thyme, stirred them in along with some black pepper and brought the whole concoction up to a full boil.  After a good stirring, I reduced the soup to simmer for 90 minutes while I went out and cleaned the pool.

When I came back in, the house smelled terrific.  There is something special about a house infused with warmth and the aroma of a pot of deliciousness simmering on a stove.  I am delighted to say that I guessed right on the ingredients.  The slight smoky heat of the chorizo married well with the slight sweetness of the onions and rutabaga.  The thyme provided another layer of flavor that sparked up the kale and beans.  All in all, I give the flavor of my creation two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Taste is one thing, but I wondered about the nutritional value of my new soup.  I went online and found a site that calculates the nutritional numbers for recipes if you enter the ingredients.  According to that site, here’s the breakdown for my Kale & Rutabaga Concoction, based on a one cup serving size.  (Although I rarely eat an entire cup.):

Calories-210; Total fat-4.7g; Saturated fat-1.7g; Cholesterol-9.4mg; Sodium 631.1 mg; Potassium 83.9 mg; Total carbs 31.6g; Dietary fiber 7.4g; Sugars-4.5g; Protein 11.6g.

In the grand scheme of things, this soup fit in great with my total daily numbers.  Although I’d love to reduce the sodium even more, I don’t get much sodium in other foods, so I’m okay for the day.  The fiber from the beans helps to reduce the impact of the carbs and I’m really happy about the protein grams.

Isn’t it cool that there are ways to calculate the values of recipes that we create?  The internet is such a terrific resource for helpful information.  I’m half tempted to revisit the site and type in the ingredients for my famous brownies.  Then again, maybe I don’t really want to know the truth about those particular treats. 😉  For right now, I’ll be happy to have the number for my soup.  I’ve already entered it as a food in MyFitnessPal so that I can call it up easily any time I serve some up.  The overall recipe made a lot.  I have a container in the fridge that will feed me at least three more times as well as three additional containers in the freezer for coming months.

In other news, as the day went on I felt better and less congested.  I started getting antsy from lack of exercise.  Even though cleaning the pool took some energy, after drying off a bit and testing the soup, I figured I’d give that 7 Minute Workout a try.  I love the app I found for my phone.  It not only provides the timing for the 30 second exercise periods and 10 second rest intervals, but it also gives the user a head’s up on which exercise comes up next.

In the interest of honest disclosure, I cannot perfectly do all of the exercises on this workout.  I sort of suck right now at jumping jacks.  I need to do the slightly easier versions of the pushups and planking.  Frankly, I can’t correctly do the side plank either.  However, I gave everything my best shot for the full 30 seconds and I improvised on the exercises that gave me trouble and made them as challenging as I could.  When I was done the 7 minutes, believe me, my heart rate was up and my body knew that it had worked.  I think it provided a good pop of intensity and exercise to the day.

Coincidentally, I had the Dr. Oz show on this afternoon.  One of his guests was Chris Powell, the trainer from Extreme Weight Loss.  They were tackling the problem of people who are doing their best to diet but who aren’t seeing the results.  Chris pointed out how many people think that they’re eating less than they are in reality.  He provided the basic calculation for the basal metabolism rate.  (Your current weight X 12 = Number of calories you burn just in living every day.)  He also offered great suggestions on how to cut back, how to use your hand to estimate the right serving sizes of protein, veggies, carbs and fat, and explained something to the audience that I blogged about a while back.  Keep the snacks at 100 calories and measure them out into small bags or containers so that you plan, have what you need available, and know that you’re not eating too much.

He and Dr. Oz also demonstrated a five minute exercise boost that mixed low intensity with high intensity in 30 second intervals.  Basic steps that you can do anywhere.  I can’t see that the five minutes burn too many calories, but it was further evidence that it can be helpful to incorporate these short periods of exercise into our busy days.   They add up!

All in all, I’m feeling good about getting myself back on track.   There are roughly 19 weeks left in the year.  My goal is to be down another 20 pounds by the end of 2013.

Putting everything into the mix, I’m confident that I can do this, based on my calculations.

Anyone else have a goal they’d like to share?


I Need a New Scale

I don’t want to complain (much) but these last 60 pounds are kicking my ass.  The weight came off soooo much more quickly and easily in the first months after weight loss surgery.  Now I feel like it’s all stop/start, lose a little then plateau, lose a little, flatten out.  At least I know from the changes in my clothing that I’m still losing inches and building muscle, but really.  It just plain sucks.  I want it gone and I want it gone now

For the next two weeks, I’m going to try to shake up my metabolism a bit by consuming more of a “full liquids” diet with less bulk solid food in meals.  Protein drinks, smoothies, no fat Greek yogurt, soups, sugar free gelatin — that kind of stuff which will still deliver the protein that I need without lots of carbs, sugar or fat.   This starts on Monday.  I’d start today but I’m involved in two days of business related functions away from home this weekend and I can’t control my food choices to this degree until I get back.

Before I start, I also need to break down and buy a new scale.  Mine is driving my nuts because it can vary two to six pounds depending on where I place my feet or if my weight is accurately centered.  I end up weighing myself three times in the morning and then taking whatever is the heaviest weight.   I bought the scale several years ago from a company that specialized in all sorts of products for obese and super obese people.  They had everything from airplane and car seat belt extenders to foot stools and beach chairs that bore more than 400 pounds without buckling to tools that assisted with maintaining good personal hygiene and dozens of other products that you probably don’t even think of needing unless you’re really, really overweight.

There are many scales on the market.  Many of them are not at all accurate if the person weighs more than 200 pounds.

I have many more options now and I think I can find a new scale at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  So I’m going to take a little shopping trip after my official activities are over.  This is the Florida Keys.  We have very few big box chain stores.  There isn’t even a BB&B in Key West where they at least have a Ross, Sears, Champs, and Pier One.  I have to go to Florida City, about 90 minutes away to find the BB&B, but that’s okay.  They also have a Petco so I can pick up some special stuff for the pups.  I might even stop into Kohl’s and entertain myself by seeing if there are clothes in their that I can fit into.  I’ve never shopped at Kohl’s before.

Saturday night is my graduation party from a seven month business-related program.  I have a sassy little black dress to wear that hits slightly above my knee and has a belt at the waist.  I’m psyched.  I bought the panty hose that I need to mask my “shrinkles” (Love that term, courtesy of Pink Pelican.)  I’m not even dressed in the outfit yet, but I feel excited and terrific.

Onward and upward, my friends!  I might be stalled in my efforts right now, but I am nowhere near defeated.  I will be victorious against these last 60 pounds.  On this I am determined!