Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Beast Within

Having an off day. Not in the eating -- well, at least not yet. But mentally I'm not 100 percent.

It started last night, actually. When hubby asked me what was wrong I had a laundry list of causes: long day, messy house, PMS, which left me tired, frustrated and cranky.

And today I'm still off-kilter. I've been fighting off a full-blown headache for hours, as well as fighting off the urge to eat. When I walked into the house after work, I had a split-second thought of sneaking out my husband's leftover calzone, the half-empty ice cream container and going to town on them. Who would know? But instead, on auto-pilot I went through the motions of making my healthy lunch (a low-carb tortilla warmed in a skillet with soy cheese and leftover grilled veggies inside, topped with salsa and 1 Tbsp. fat free sour cream), ate it and made a beeline for the computer instead of the freezer.

All the while I've had these thoughts in my head, those insidious little thoughts that lead me to trouble: "Everyone's been saying how great I look. Maybe I should just stop where I am and learn to maintain at this size. Besides, the holidays are here, why not just maintain for the rest of the year, and if in January I still want to lose weight, start anew then?"

I know those thoughts. They are devious little things that sound so rational. But underneath that reasonable cover is the beast within, saying, "I want to EAT! I don't want to count calories and fat grams! I don't care how much fiber something's got. Trans fat? The more the better! I don't want to limit myself to the correct portion size! Fill me until I'm bursting at the seams!"

I could write it off as PMS, but that would be a cop-out. The truth is I've got a solid month under my belt, have been inundated with compliments, and my fortitude is weakening. I'm still coming down off the past weekend's food extravaganza and I have whetted my appetite for the upcoming "eatadays" (although in my family eating and holiday already mean the same thing).

I have to tell myself -- convince myself -- that this feeling will pass, as long as I wait it out. I don't have to give in to these thoughts and cravings. In a day or two the hormone surge will pass and I'll feel a whole lot better knowing I didn't sell myself short -- or fat.

Because the truth of the matter is, even though I am getting all these compliments and know I look and feel better than I did a few years ago, I'm not done yet. And I'm not just talking about the number on the scale, although I admit the goal to bypass 200 is a big factor. This may sound weird, but I want some extra insurance. If I'm maintaining at 190, it'd take a bit longer to balloon back up to 240, 250, etc., then if I was at 225. So if I did stumble and fall a little, I would have a little buffer there.

Besides, I really, really want to quit shopping in the plus size section! I'm straddling the fence right now depending on the store and brand, and I'd like to just tip myself right over the edge into the "regular people" section. The last few months I've really hated shopping for clothes: I feel too fat to be in the misses' section, but at the same time I don't feel like I belong in the women's section, either. It's clothing purgatory!

And most important of all, I know that mentally I still have a long way to go until I'm sane around food. In fact, I may never be a "normal" eater after all the years of overeating, dieting and other food issues I've dealt with. I've improved in certain areas, but I know I will always be prone to stress eating, party eating and entertainment eating. The trick will be learning to plan around those moments and do as much damage control as possible.

So, for today, I'm doing the best I can to quiet the beast, in my head and in my stomach. And I can hope that tomorrow will be a little easier.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Return to Sanity

Well, it's Monday, the weekend's over, and in the words of Our Lady of Weight Loss:

"All is forgiven."

So much for strategies and game plans. The food was so spectacular, so delicious and beautiful and artistically made. I would go into detail but I think we AFGers call that "food porn." I do have to say I fell head over heels for this cauliflower soup, although the peanut and raisin clusters with the cayenne-infused chocolate turned my head, too. I was utterly smitten with the brie baked in pastry, but I was floored by the freshest tasting strawberries and raspberries I've ever eaten.

It was definitely a "lost weekend" for a foodie, which most of our gang could be called. My hubby in particular raved about most everything, which is saying something!

Do I feel guilty about it? Well, honestly, not really. I really savored every mouthful, and I knew come Monday morning I'd be back to the old routine. So I tossed the scale under the bed when I came home, because I just didn't feel like punishing myself. I'll check back in on Saturday.

There were lots of people I ran into who raved about my appearance. People who haven't seen me in a while were really amazed at my transformation. I smiled and thanked them and enjoyed the compliments. I had lots of people to talk to and laugh with and had a marvelous time.

Right there is the difference between this visit to DC and the last one in June. This time I didn't eat to escape feeling awkward and out of place. I ate because it was a feast for all the senses. I didn't sneak off to shove food in my face. I ate with my friends in celebration. It was a happy time, and I was a happy person. What else could you want?

There I am in all my glory. Did I mention the connubials had a 1930s/Gatsby/Flapper theme? The costume was adorable but the shoes were killing me. A few minutes later I gave my congratulatory toast and didn't even stutter and mumble through it. A true success story!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Week Four Weigh-In

I'm feeling frustrated this morning because I really wish I could weigh in tomorrow; I'm just sure it would knock down another pound or half-pound. But since I'll be out of town, and I doubt there will be a scale in my hotel room (and I will NOT take mine along!), I have to do it today.

The thing is, I've been sailing along at 221.5 since Monday. Which isn't "bad" -- it's a 1.5 pound loss, making a total of 11.5 pounds since the beginning of October. And this is PMS week, which is typically the week that I stall out when it comes to losing weight. The good news is I then tend to lose more during the week of my TMOT (time of the month).

I must admit, however, that I was hoping for a little more gone so I'd go into the weekend with a little extra insurance. My resistance might be a little stronger if I had 220 dancing in my head. But 221.5 is nothing to scoff at. Losing 11.5 pounds this month should be enough of a badge of honor to keep me from falling face first into a plate of canapes.

I also have my victory last night with Mabel's trick-or-treating. We walked ALL over town collecting goodies, and I'm sure we trekked around 2 miles, which for my 8 year-old daughter is quite a journey. I noticed a lot of parents driving their kids door-to-door; part of me thought it would have been nice to have a warm car to slip into, since it was pretty chilly last night. But I was glad that we were out hoofing it and instilling some good habits into our daughter. I want to encourage my daughter to be physically active and not take the lazy way out -- driving a block for a quart of milk, etc. And the walking didn't hurt hubby or me, either.

And the best part of all, at the end of the evening when we went through all the loot, I had one small piece of candy (100 calories or less), and I was satisfied with that! I didn't feel deprived, put out or angry. It tasted good, I enjoyed it, then I moved on with the rest of the evening. It felt so strangely "normal."

I can't guarantee my relationship with food will continue this way the rest of this weekend. But at least I can go into it knowing I CAN feel this way. And knowing you can do something makes it a whole lot easier to keep trying. I probably won't post again until Monday, so have a good weekend and keep your fingers crossed for me. Maybe if I know I have some people rooting for me I'll try a little harder.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In the Mood for Food

I wrote this yesterday (Wednesday) but couldn't post it due to the "scheduled outage."

I realize more and more how my appetite and cravings are affected by external cues. At times I'm really good at recognizing these cues and can rationally work around them, and other times I don't figure it out until a day or two after the event. But it's rare anymore that one of them slips past my radar.

This first came blatantly apparent to me when I met my husband. He is addicted to the Food Network and when we'd hang out together at his place we invariably would watch a show or two. I admit I like several of the shows -- Paula Deen makes me laugh, and I adore Alton Brown's (Good Eats) sense of humor and quirkiness. But I did notice that if I watched too many of those shows in a row, I could really work of a bad case of the munchies and really bad cravings.

Last year when I knocked off the weight I had regained around the wedding, I skillfully veered my husband toward some non-food shows that we both could enjoy. Spike shows back-to-back reruns of CSI in the evenings, and it soon became our evening "down time" show. It's great, because you don't get a lot of food cravings when you watch crime scenes and dissected bodies on the autopsy table.

I find myself steering away from "foodie" shows more and more as I try to rein in my old out of control eating habits. I used to watch "Judging Amy" religiously, but two things happened: I finally saw every single episode at least four times, and it struck a nerve when Amy and her mom (the wonderful Tyne Daly) would destress at the end of their harrowing days with tubs of ice cream.

As I prepare for my friend's wedding in Washington DC, I'm thinking about the real-life cues that I can't switch off with the remote control. We're going to have the rehearsal dinner Friday night, followed by cocktails at a friend's house. On Saturday breakfast and lunch are free, but after the ceremony it'll be the dreaded hors d'oeuvres, then the buffet dinner, cake and drinks. Sunday will end the weekend with a group brunch before we head back home.

This events are always the hardest for me to fight off. I have to be in top mental shape and on a serious physical roll weight loss-wise for me to resist caving in to peer pressure and eating like "everyone else." The thing is, I can't seem to eat like everyone else. When I'm in those situations, once I start eating I can't stop until I'm bursting.

For a while I couldn't figure out why these social situations always did me in, but lately I've started to figure it out. I wrote a while back about being an introvert, and the description that an extrovert gains energy by being with people, while an introvert is depleted by it. I know I feel uncomfortable when I'm in public with a lot of people I don't know, and I really think the continual eating is my way of refueling.

The key here is "people I don't know." While there are some times that I'm with close friends and still eat too much, the worst times for me in the past year without a doubt have been the ones where the people I do know are occupied running the party, the person of honor, etc., and I'm in the crowd with a lot of aquaintances and friends of my friends that I don't know. The most specific incident of this was this past June -- the last time I was in DC, actually. I remember feeling out of place; not hip, smart, urban, cool or thin enough to mingle with the crowd I was in. And WOW did I eat! It was probably the biggest binge I've had in ages.

But I know I can prevent those disasters if I really try. About two weeks after this event I went to a high school graduation party for my daughter's babysitter. Again, I knew a few people, but most of the attendees were strangers to me. But I walked into the situation with a game plan. It was one of those all-day events, so I specifically went between meal times and had a healthy snack before I went. I already had supper plans, so I used that as my excuse when people offered me food. I carried one of my big seltzer water bottles with me and sipped on that. The biggest things I did, though, were the following: I sat down away from the food with people I knew; I pushed myself to start and continue conversations with these people; and best of all, I even got myself introduced to some new people and talked to them.

That was one of my proudest moments. Why? That weekend was the weekend of my birthday (my 35th, no less), and I was miraculously able to lose weight that weekend. My intial goal was to maintain, but on Monday morning I actually weighed a pound less.

If there are any AFGers reading this post today, here's a thought: we should have a sash like the Girl Scouts wear. Wouldn't it be great to iron on a patch recognizing "losing weight over your birthday," or "not gaining weight over Christmas?" We could have a bridging ceremony for each completed year of maintenance.

I could make a copy of my daughter's Brownie sash for and start my own badges of honor. Of course, seeing the word Brownie up there makes me think about warm, chocolate, fudgy... oops, there are those external cues again! Is CSI on yet?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Who, me?

I just finished signing up for the National Weight Control Registry, which "is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance." If you're over 18, you've lost at least 30 pounds and kept at least that 30 off for a year or longer, you're eligible to join.

Although I've regained and lost chunks of weight, that crucial (to them) 30 has stayed off for two years and counting. I guess that makes me one of the success stories. Who, me?

I was telling my husband about the registry last night and explained to him that they send you questionnaires that ask you what you eat and don't eat, and what you do to lose or maintain that weight loss.

"Massive amounts of willpower and superhuman strength," hubby said to me.

Who, me? I really don't believe that. I'm as weak-willed as anybody else. The trick is being stubborn and persistent. No matter how many times I've fallen victim to buffets, hors d'oeuvres and holiday meals, I keep picking myself up and getting back to the healthy habits I've learned. I'm kind of like the character Jason in the Friday the 13th movies -- you can chop him up, blow him up, even bury him, but he keeps coming back for more murderous mayhem. The only murder I'm trying to commit is the demise of flab!

This morning my sister-in-law called me for our morning vent sessions. Over the summer we walked together and shot the sh*t 5 days a week, but with the end of summer (there's snow here today) the walking's on hiatus and we talk on the phone. Today she gave me a gem that totally made my day, and it wasn't even 8 a.m. yet!

She was talking to someone we both know (I'm not going to name names here because who knows who's reading this) who has lost some weight but must be hitting a frustrating phase. Because this person told my SIL, "Why can Andrea eat whatever she wants and she keeps losing weight?"

Who, me? Into what twisted, crazy parallel universe have I fallen into?

Sister-in-law quickly informed this person that I am constantly watching what I eat and excerise religiously. Which is pretty much true. I understand why the person might think I can eat whatever I want, because several times over the last couple months when we ate together I did pretty much eat what I want. However, those moments were the rare ones. The truth is that I can get away with the occasional big meal like that, but only if I keep it to a minimum and stay vigilant and active the rest of the time.

And that's what people don't want to hear. Everyone wants the magical pill, the miraculous surgery, or the exotic fad diet that will make all the fat vanish in a month or two. Then, once the weight's lost, they can go back to eating all the deep-fried, breaded, buttery food they ate before. And that's why the success rate of losing weight and maintaining it is so low.

Now that I've completed my sermon for the day, I better get back to work. Like losing weight, it never ends.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

Have any guilty pleasures? Something you really enjoy but are embarrassed to admit to people?

Mine's Howard Stern. I've been a fan of his since my college days, and over the years he's always been not only a guilty pleasure, but also a rare commodity for me. When I left my college town and returned to the boonies, trying to hear Howard on the radio often required scientific calculations to try to pull the signal in from the nearest metropolitan radio station that carried him. Watching him on E! was okay, but they tended to feature my least favorite part of the show -- him and the guys drooling over the dime-a-dozen blonde strippers, centerfolds and porn stars.
So it was with great delight last year that I discovered Howard was moving to Sirius satellite radio, and I signed up as soon as I could. Now I could hear my favorite stuff: the gang relating their personal lives with each other, discussing current events, and of course Robin Quivers' news at the end of the show.

Today Howard said something that caught my attention. He was commenting how he went to an auction and was thinking to himself how he couldn't afford anything he saw. Robin laughed at him -- the man is worth mega-millions thanks to his satellite deal, yet he's still in the middle class mind set. "You're like one of those anorexics who looks in the mirror and sees herself as fat."

"Yeah," Howard replied, "I'm like one of those fat girls who loses a lot of weight and still thinks she's fat."

Count me in on that club. I hope I don't have a lifetime membership, though, because it's hard on the self-esteem. Just today I was uploading the new web site for my church, and I clicked on a photo of myself. I didn't really want to include any photos of myself, but I didn't want to be one of those people who erased themselves from history by leaving out all photographic evidence of my existence. Anyway, I continue to be startled at my size relative to other people. I'm by no means petite, but I still truly think of myself as the largest person in the room. So when I see myself in a group of people and I blend right in, it's weird.

The funniest thing was, my picture is in a photo gallery. When I moved on from the picture of myself to the next in line, the picture went short and wide to prepare for the next photo. As my body got stretched out and looked much, well, wider, I thought to myself that that was how I pictured myself. My head's as distorted as a fun house mirror!

Hopefully someday that perception will change. I don't want to delude myself that I'm thinner than I am, because I've been there and done that. It would be nice if one day the image in my head will match reality, and most importantly, that I'm okay with that. There would be no guilt in that pleasure.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sinful Sunday?

Thanks for the advice on dealing with major food events. Perhaps I'll try some of those tips and see if they work.

I know one trick I've read about many, many times that I've recently started to implement is to use a smaller plate. When I set the dinner table I give hubby and daughter the regular dinner plates and I give myself one of the -- gee, what do they call them, dessert plates, bread plates? Whatever the name, I've quickly grown used to it and it does give the impression you're eating more. There's something pleasing to the eye when you have a full plate, whereas a big plate with little portions of food on it can quickly bring on feelings of deprivation.

Well, I managed to survive Saturday without blowing my calorie count out of the galaxy. I did eat a lot, though. For lunch I made another batch of the Chinese cabbage I cooked a few nights ago with the infamous Vietnamese porkchops. I ate the entire thing, which was a lot of volume, but in adding up the calories it only amounted to a tad over 300 calories.

Then supper time came along. Hubby's parents asked us out for dinner, and they wanted to go to Pizza Hut. Normally I'd groan and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth I'd get there, eat to excess on their buffet and feel really badly about it afterwards.

But instead I hopped on the Internet and checked out the restaurant's website. Did you know they have a new Fit 'n Delicious menu with a Low Fat Pizza? The crust is very thin (which is my preference anyway), they use less cheese, more sauce, and you can pick up to three veggies or lean meats for your toppings. I went with diced tomato, green pepper and mushroom (although someone did sneak a few red onions on there, too), and it was quite delicious. In fact, I ate four pieces! If the nutrition information on the website is correct, I had a 600 calorie meal and left extremely satisfied.

So I managed to finish the day guilt-free yet with a happy tummy. You gotta' like those days.

Then this morning came. I felt the old "I want to eat but I shouldn't" anxiety, and I've been doing my best to keep it from pushing me to the refrigerator. The last two weeks I've had "Sinful Sundays," where I ate more than I should have, and lots of calorie-dense foods to boot. There were "excuses" for each of those Sundays, but it still didn't give me a pass on the consequences of my actions.

This Sunday there are no excuses. Oh, I could quickly make some up. In fact, just a few minutes ago Mabel was requesting chicken noodle soup from one of her favorite all-you-can-eat buffet places. How easy it would be to take her there and then eat myself into a tizzy. But that doesn't mean I have to give in to her -- or me, for that matter. Sometimes you have to be the adult and use some tough love, even when the demanding child is the one inside of you begging for the bread pudding.

Instead of another Sinful Sunday, how about I make this a Strong Sunday? I don't have to deprive myself and let myself go hungry, but I don't have to clean out a quart of ice cream, either. I still have half of that yummy pizza in the fridge, as well as a freezer full of some new veggie combinations I found on sale at the grocery store. I can still have my love affair with food, but I need to learn that my attraction to the "bad boys" always leaves me burned -- and heavier -- in the end.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Week Three Weigh-In

After the last two posts I feel like I've been hubby bashing. Yes, he is critical about food, but I will say he's that way about EVERYONE'S food. Restaurants, friends, family, it doesn't matter. And he's always the harshest when it comes to his own cooking. It's kind of become the family joke, and in my two years with him I'm learning to take it with a grain of salt and a smirk.

And in his defense, in general Hank is exceptionally complimentary to me and often calls me "the perfect woman." Which I always scoff at, and he frowns at me and says, "I wish you'd let yourself believe how wonderful you are, because it's true." My sweetie.

Anyway, I'm pleased to say it paid off to change my weigh-in day to Saturday. Official weight this morning is 223, so a loss of 2.5 pounds, for a total of 10 pounds since my blog began. Yippee!

Now here's the challenge: I have no big parties, dinners, events scheduled for this weekend. So I have no excuse whatsoever to overindulge, pig out, or anything closely resembling it. While it's nice to have a "free day," nothing's ever free. I wind up paying for it by bloating up from the fat, sugar and carbs, and it takes me days to recover. This situation breeds the frustration of the "two steps forward, one step back" mentality that can quickly derail me.

When I can get through a weekend without eating too much, it's amazing how good I feel, and it's proven I can lose the weight a whole lot faster when I'm not sabotaging myself. So, that's my goal. Maneuver through Saturday and Sunday without going wild, and who knows where I'll be by next weigh-in.

You know, I just decided to make Saturday weigh-in day, but I'm going to have to change it again already. Friday we're leaving for Washington DC. One of my closest friends and his partner are having a commitment ceremony, and I'm one of the attendants in the "connubials," as he's calling it. His partner is a sommelier (trained wine expert) and a foodie, so I know there will be excellent meals in store for us. I know darn well I'm not going to be able to resist all the gourmet delicacies laid out in front of me. But if I can go into the weekend close to the 220 mark, I'd be one happy bridesmaid (groomsman? I have no idea what to call myself!).

My other goal, I've mentioned before, is to get to the Trader Joe's in DC and go shopping for some unusual healthy foods. One item in particular I can't wait to try is House Foods Tofu Shirataki Noodles. Hungry Girl has a ton of low-calorie recipes for these tofu and yam flour noodles, and I'm hoping these things will satisfy my longing for pasta dishes. I'll feel a little less guilty about my weekend if I spend part of it planning healthy meals for the future. One step back, two steps forward, right?

Friday, October 20, 2006

I'm Throwing in My Spatula

Yet again, I got too busy to post yesterday. I did have a brief moment or two to jot a quick note, but not enough time to write a solid post.

Last time I told you I'd report in on my Asian meal. The Family Food Critic (aka my husband) was off preparing for deer season and being chased by two coyotes (!) in the woods, so I was in charge of the kitchen. My daughter was getting hungrier by the minute, so I decided to go ahead and feed her and sample my recipes.

Amazingly, Mabel LOVED the Vietnamese porkchops I whipped up. Normally I have to cajole her to eat her meat, but she scarfed it all down and said my "chicken" was better than any Chinese restaurant could make. It was the first time in ages she cleaned her plate, and I felt pretty confident that if my picky 8 year-old enjoyed it, surely my husband could choke it down.

Well, you won't believe what happened. Hubby walked in, telling me about his coyote adventure, then stopped cold in the middle of the kitchen. In case you didn't read the previous post, I cooked the porkchops with the standard condiment/seasoning of Vietnam, nuoc mam or fish sauce. Hank turned to me with a look somewhere between amusement and horror and told me in very course terms that it smelled like an unclean woman's private area, if you know what I mean. I was horrified!

Despite this initial crushing blow, hubby proceeded to eat all the porkchops left in the baking dish and said they tasted great, although it was hard to get the image of the sweaty you-know-what out of his mind. Once again, he'd managed to find a way to compliment and criticize my cooking at the same time, although this time he'd hit a whole new level.

You would think after this semi-disaster that I'd never cook again. Ha! Yesterday Hank pulled out a pack of salmon from the freezer and we quickly realized it was more than the three of us could eat. So I called my sister-in-law and invited her, hubby's brother and their son to dinner. Hank had to stay after work, and dinner was scheduled for 5:30, so I figured I'd better work on some side dishes because I knew they'd take more time than the fish.

So I once again hit the internet, looking for a wild rice and brown rice pilaf. I found a great-looking one, altered it slightly to make it a little less fatty and calorie-rich, and by the time hubby came home it was already in the oven and nearing completion.

Well, the family came, we sat down to eat, and I thought everything was pretty tasty. Brother and sister-in-law were very complimentary about everything, including my rice, noting they were impressed that I had made it very low-fat.

Then, towards the end of the meal, I looked over at my husband's plate. Two-thirds of it was empty, except for a big pile of rice.

"So, you didn't like my rice, huh?" I asked.

He made one of those faces -- contrite, I believe it is. "It was kind of bitter."

Aargh! I looked over at my sister-in-law and exclaimed, "I just can't win!"

Thank goodness we had guests that night who not only liked the rice, but even asked to take leftovers of it home. Otherwise I think I would really just throw in the towel -- or spatula -- and never cook again. But I know I have to realize I have a husband who's even pickier than my 8 year-old daughter, and I need to learn to take his criticisms with a grain of salt -- or a dash of fish sauce!

Anyway, back to the weight loss. I think I'm going to change my official weigh-in day from Friday to Saturday. The previous two weeks I reported my weight on Friday, then checked the scale Saturday and it was a pound or two less both times. It sounds silly, I know, but I want to give myself every advantage I can, and if I can feel better by just changing a day, why not? There's no rule saying I can't.

This is all about motivation and attitude, and I need every trick I can muster to keep this train a rollin'. Because it's so darn difficult to get that engine rolling; believe me, I've tried and tried, and had false start after false start. It's a real magic act to get that momentum going and keep it going for more than a few weeks. Because if you want some real weight loss, you've got to get a solid two, three months or more to really knock it off. And I'm determined to propel myself out of the 200s. So tomorrow I'll hop on that scale, and let's hope I'm closer to that goal.

As for cooking dinner tonight? Yeah, right. I'm not that much of a glutton for punishment.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Set Loose in the Kitchen

I'm taking a break right now from the kitchen. For once I'm doing the cooking while hubby is off working on his tree stand (for those of you not living in BFE/Hicksville/Huntin' an' a Killin' US of A, it is a wooden platform built on and around a tree to sit in and wait for deer to come walking by so they can be shot). The first day of deer season in these parts is the Monday after Thanksgiving, and the schools here extend the holiday that day because a huge percentage of the student body and the faculty will be in the woods that day. So now is the time when all the hunters start preparing for the big day; checking their guns, making sure their fluorescent orange gear still fits, maintaining the deer stands.

In our house my hubby Hank (like my daughter, I'm giving him a Blog Name to give him a little anonymity) is the primary cook. Whenever this comes up in conversation I explain to people, "I figured out that when he does the cooking I do the dishes; but when I do the cooking, I still do the dishes! So I figured I'd save myself half the labor." This is true, but not all of the story. Hank loves to cook; he is so good at improvising with ingredients and food combinations. Most meals are real culinary treats. And since we got married he's been really supportive about cooking healthier meals. At first I still caught him adding a good bit of oil and butter to some dishes, but he's been improving on that, too.

I'm not so good at just whipping a meal together at the spur of the moment. I'm a planner and a researcher. I love browsing through cookbooks and perusing the internet for intriguing recipes. Hungry Girl has been a recent treasure trove of healthy recipes, although some of the ingredients are a little hard to find here in the boonies. But we're going to Washington, D.C. next weekend and I'm making my shopping list for our visit to Trader Joe's, one of my favorite stores for unique food items.

So tonight I am concocting an Asian meal (my usual go-to style when I grab the cooking reins). I found a recipe for Vietnamese Pork Chops, and for the side dishes I'm whipping up a stir-fried cabbage dish and some teriyaki rice. Most Vietnamese dishes call for nuoc mam, otherwise known as Fish Sauce, which I have on hand since have several Vietnamese dishes in my repertoire. The stuff smells terrible (the main ingredient is anchovy extract), but through the magic of the cooking process it makes food taste great. Fish sauce is Vietnam's version of soy sauce and the predominant condiment there (I know all this because I adopted my daughter from Vietnam and learned a few things about the place).

I've discovered that I'm very self-conscious about my cooking skills when my husband's hovering around. I guess it's because he's so darn good at it that I feel inadequate in comparison. Today, however, with him off in the woods building his hunting treehouse, I felt very free and comfortable in the kitchen. But this is true about me in many other circumstances; I don't like people looking over my shoulder and I'm always dreading the critique that's always on the tip of their tongues. Nothing makes me cringe more than when I hear, "Why are you doing it that way? This is the way I would do it..."

So this afternoon it was quite pleasurable to be left to my own devices. I cut the vegetables the way I wanted to, adjusted ingredients the way I wanted them, and there was no second guessing about it. I admit it, I'm a control freak and I don't like people telling me what to do!

Now I'm just hoping Hank likes the meal. I've never made these porkchops for him before, so I'm pretty sure I'll get his standard response: "They're pretty good, but not what I'm used to." The other response is, "They're okay, but I prefer them [insert his or his mother's cooking method here]." Once in a while I get a true four star rating from him -- my pepper steak is his favorite recipe of mine -- and that gives me a good bit of satisfaction.

Time to go finish the rest of the meal. I'll let you know what the food critic says tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cleanliness is Next to... Maintenance?

I must mention again how much I appreciate all the comments I've been receiving -- even a link from another blog! It's so validating to have people understand what I'm writing about, and definitely flattering when people think I've written something worth linking to.

The last two days I've been working hard, both at work at in my personal life. Monday became my anti-procrastination day (any of you who read FlyLady know what that means), and today I continued my massive decluttering of my daughter's bedroom. It's finally nearing completion after several days of work, including lots of reorganizing and rearranging.

I have to admit my daughter's room is my "snake in the pet shop." [In "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," Pee-Wee Herman discovers a pet shop on fire. He rushes in and proceeds to save the cats, dogs, mice, etc., each time looking at the aquarium full of snakes and shuddering with disgust. Finally, at the last minute, he makes one last dash inside the burning building and comes running back out with snakes in each hand; he then screams and passes out.] For month's I've been walking into my daughter's room, complaining about the chaos within, then walking back out, not having the time to deal with it. There always seemed something better to do.

I guess the 8th birthday had something to do with it. She got so many presents from family and friends, and I couldn't bare the thought of stacking it into that cesspool of broken crayons, disarrayed doll accessories and mountains of stuffed animals. So, while Mabel was at school, I turned her TV on to my crime shows (CSI Miami, Law & Order, etc.) and attacked it. I threw out garbage bags full of junk, packed up lots of old toys and clothes to donate, and set things aside to keep and organize. Today was vacuuming and dusting work, and this evening I really started to put things in their new places.

You could say my weight loss journey began that way, too. Something about turning 30 made me stand back and take a good hard look at my life. I slowly began to realize I didn't like the direction my life was heading and, step by step, began to make changes. Like Mabel's room, it was done in a series of stages, and it times it seemed like I was making more of a mess than there was to begin with. But now the improvements are beginning to show and I'm feeling pretty proud of my accomplishments.

However, neither of these projects will ever be over. My body, like my daughter's room, will need to be constantly maintained. She and I will have to be vigilant about putting things in the right places and keeping up with the regular chores to keep them looking nice and orderly.

Funny, when I started this post I really had no idea what I was going to write about, and it turned out to be a pretty decent one. It seems I can find a weight loss/maintenance correlation in almost anything!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Skin I'm In

"Mommy, what's that on your legs?"

I turned around in the swimming pool and looked at my daughter's face. It was pinched up in that "eww" look she gives me when I put new food on her plate.

"What?" I looked down at my legs and didn't see anything. Then I moved them back and forth, and I realized what had astounded my child. The loose skin on my legs swirled and flopped around my thighs and calves like ... actually, I don't know anything else like it. I grabbed a pair of my daughter's goggles and proceeded to spend the next several minutes watching this bizarre phenomenon until it began to freak my daughter out and she pleaded with me to stop.

Now I knew before this moment that I had loose skin. Anyone who's lost a considerable amount of weight or has been around someone who has knows about this side-effect. I am remembered on Frances Kuffel's Amazon.com blog as the person who described my upper arms as "tavern hams." But it wasn't until that instance in the pool that I realized just how much of what I thought was remaining fat on my legs -- and my entire body -- was in fact excess skin.

I had very mixed emotions about this revelation. Part of me was impressed that I had been able to lose enough weight to make such a difference. But I had a lot of sadness about the damage I had done to my body -- my poor skin was stretched to such an extreme by the weight I carried around that it's now left looking like a semi-deflated balloon. And it depressed me to realize I could do a million crunches and eat celery sticks for the rest of my life, but it wouldn't do a thing about getting rid of it.

I love watching the Discovery Health Channel, especially when they're dealing with obesity and weight loss, whether it’s through surgery or medically supervised. Sunday night I watched one on plastic surgery; the one woman highlighted had lost 180 pounds after gastric bypass and had serious amounts of loose skin. She underwent a “full body lift,” which is a series of three or more surgeries that remove excess skin from the arms, thighs, and torso. Back in the summer I watched an entire show about one British women’s difficult time with these surgeries, and it scared me to death. But last night’s patient seemed to recover very well and wound up taking off somewhere around 20 pounds of skin.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m very leery of doctors, hospitals and surgery. So for me to consider elective surgery is really something. But when I saw that woman’s tavern hams vanish into … normal looking arms, I must admit I was seriously tempted. The thought of being able to buy any shirt and not worry about my upper arms being strangled in the sleeves was like a dream. My husband, God bless him, is from the camp of “whatever makes you happy, I love you just the way you are.” But even he was impressed with this lady’s results.

The cynic in me wonders, however, how much the show was slanted in a pro-plastic surgery light and really glorified all the cases. I’ve seen other shows about plastic surgery nightmares that had me swearing off going near any surgeon unless my life depended on it. I guess the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

It all comes down to vanity. In the grand scheme of things, how terrible a fate is it if my arms jiggle when I wave hello, or my leg skin swirls around my thighs when I swim? Is it the end of the world if my boobs seem like they’re sliding off my chest? Thanks to the modern marvel of clothing (love those support bras) and living in a cold climate, few people will ever see these things other than me. And if they do, how many will really bother to stop and evaluate my body? Without a doubt I will always be my own harshest judge.

As for now it’s a moot subject until I hit the Onederfuls. When I can reach a weight below 200 pounds that I can maintain without being a miserable human being, then I’ll stop and seriously evaluate the skin I’m in. And if some of it has to go, I have a feeling I know exactly what will go first. Bye-bye, tavern hams!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mental Health Day

I didn't post yesterday because I pretty much did nothing. I never set foot outside the house and spent a good part of the day playing my daughter's new computer game. (If you want a new non-food addiction it's called Bookworm -- it's basically Scrabble and Tetris combined. I adore the brainy word games!)

We normally have lots of things to do on Saturday; yesterday Mabel was supposed to be at acrobatics at 11 a.m. and was scheduled to cheer for pewee football at 1 p.m. But Thursday she got sent home from school with an unruly bout of asthma, and Friday morning she had a fever of 99.5 degrees F and I kept her home for the day. Saturday morning she still had the nasty cough, so I decided not to drag her out in the 40-degree weather and risk her taking a downhill plunge.

As a side note, we've been dealing with my daughter's asthma since she was 2. When she turned six she had her only hospital stay due to it, which scared me to death. It was at that point the doctor prescribed Advair, and that has amazingly improved our control of the asthma. This week's attack is due to the fact that Mabel left her Advair inhaler at her cousin's house last weekend. It was too soon to get a refill from the pharmacy (darn health insurance) and my sister and I have such hectic schedules that it's hard to get together to transfer our daughters' left behind items.

One more aside: I grew up with asthma, and I thought when I adopted a daughter I would prevent passing this joy on to my child. But some Higher Power decided I still needed to help someone else cope with this disorder, so HP gave me Mabel. Funny, huh? The good thing is, despite the asthma, my daughter is still very active and hasn't had the weight gain issues I had. (Of course, I come from hearty German stock and a grandfather nicknamed Tubby, and she's Asian, so there's a lot of other genetics at play there.)

Anyway, I took great joy in calling to note Mabel's absence at her activities and relished my time standing still. In the morning I read Jonathan's post from Friday the 13th entitled "Please Understand Me" and it gave me such validation. His descriptions of the difference between introvert and extrovert perfectly described my husband and me:

"[The] best way to think of it is this: at a social gathering, an extrovert gathers energy, whereas an introvert spends energy. So on Saturday mornings I may deal with 100 people and enjoy every minute of it, but by noon, I'm beat and I need to sit alone quietly for a couple of hours."

My husband literally thrives on being with people: he's told me repeatedly he could have his friends and family around him 24/7 and he would be thrilled. I'm the opposite. Even if I'm with my favorite people in the world, after a certain period I can feel myself dragging. Maybe that's why I never feel refreshed from the "typical" vacation that involves lots of activities, dealing with lots of crowds and being with your fellow travelers around the clock. In fact, I usually need a few days of inactivity to recover.

Even though I enjoyed my day off, I had one big challenge. I woke up ravenous. I ate one bowl of cereal and still felt so friggin' hungry afterwards I ate a second. It was measured portions of low-calorie cereal and skim milk, so I didn't cause any damage at all. But still, throughout the day it felt like there was a fierce lioness inside of me prowling the house for the nearest gazelle. I don't think I've mentioned this before, but last month I had at least two other Saturdays like this. I just couldn't seem to get satisfied, and both times I finished the day with an unglorified amount of food.

When I mentioned my unceasing hunger to my husband yesterday he wrote it all off as my body needing more nutrients and energy because I had "deprived" it all week. But something told me there was more to it than that. After reading Jonathan's post I was almost certain it really wasn't my physical body that was feeling starved. My weeks are so hectic with work, family, errands, etc., that by Saturday morning my mental batteries are drained. And from the time I was a baby, my comfort source, my relaxation and enjoyment have been food. And with fall here, my body's reacting to the new chill in the air and reminded of warm apple crisp or apple dumplings, pot pies and chili and all those satisfying, fill-your-belly foods. Face it, a salad just doesn't sound very appealing when the frost is on the pumpkin (ooh, don't forget pumpkin rolls with the cream cheese icing!)

So, even though yesterday was an R&R day, I still battled within and resisted my urges to overeat. I lost myself in the computer game, played with Mabel with her Bratz and Barbies, and amazingly, I made it through.

Today, however, is another story. I'm a church secretary, and today is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. I scheduled myself to be the reader/communion assistant at the service (because I didn't want to deal with someone else bailing out on me at the last minute), and I've also been asked to say a few words at the roast beef dinner to be held after the service. The luncheon is at our community building with the meal cooked by our volunteer fire department's women's auxiliary (yes, life in a small town). These women make the best stick to your ribs food -- and their dressing is coveted by everyone in town. As for vegetables, you might get some cole slaw or green beans, maybe some applesauce (?), but otherwise it's a protein and carb extravaganza.

I've managed to maneuver through these meals before while trying to lose weight, so I know it can be done (portion control!). But after yesterday's skirmish I'm feeling a little wobbly on my feet, so I'm a little cautious. And if I do indulge, by golly I'm going to enjoy it. I won't mindlessly stuff my face, I'll savor and really experience it. I'll walk away having a really good meal, and I'll know it doesn't mean I've sabotaged myself for the rest of the day/week/month/year. It's just a meal, and there's always a new meal on the horizon to redeem myself.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Week Two Weigh In -- Deja vu all over again

After forcing myself not to weigh, I got on this morning hopeful and anxious. The scale read 225.5, a three pound loss from last Friday. Not bad. In fact, it's great. But why am I so unenthused about it?

Maybe because I've been at 225 so many times this year. It's been my so-called maintenance weight (which means I've been hovering above, below and around it for 10 months), and maybe I'm just tired of seeing it show up once again.

And maybe the scale highs I talked about in yesterday's post aren't as great as they used to be. Okay, so I lost three pounds. Do I get a medal? A pat on the back? Perhaps a listing on the Dieters Hall of Fame?

I guess I'm feeling let down because after two weeks of blummin' hard slog (I've been watching a lot of Britcoms lately, and it rubs off), what have I got to show for it? The number I've been chained to throughout 2006.

I suppose that's part of the reason I started this blog; I so want these 220s to be a thing of the past. I want to put a huge burst of effort into this the next few months and start 2007 in the Onederfuls, or at least as close to them as I can get by Dec. 31.

I know, it seems crazy to do this to myself at the "worst" time of year: the trifecta of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I did it last year: 50 pounds from September to December. Somehow I managed to maneuver around the holidays and succeed when most people wouldn't even attempt it. Why not 26 more pounds from mid-October to December? That's less than 2.5 (2.3 something) pounds a week for 11 weeks. And if I only lose 2 pounds a week? Then I'd be at 203.5. One pound? 214.5 pounds.

Forget Friday the 13th, just get me away from this 225!

Scaling back

(I wrote this Thursday, but due to two circumstances -- more technical difficulties at work in the morning and a sick child home from school in the afternoon -- it never got posted. So here it is)

The past two mornings I have forced myself to not step on the scale. This was after weighing myself Tuesday and being so unhappy with the number I saw that it wrecked my mood and made me just nasty in general. I was so put out with my behavior that I shoved the scale under my husband's side of the bed and ordered myself not to touch the thing until Friday.

It makes me angry that I let myself get so worked up over a number. Why do I let some digits on a screen determine if I start the day with a smile or a scowl? I knew before I stepped on the thing that it was going to be higher than I'd like from my indiscretions Sunday with the Chinese food and the cake and ice cream. The sodium content in Chinese food always makes me bloat up, but it's a temporary thing and goes away. But even though I knew this, I still spiraled emotionally when I saw the numbers.

Years ago when I was at my heaviest weight, I rarely weighed myself. I'd usually grudgingly get right before a doctor's appointment so I wouldn't be caught off guard when I faced the "gallows" at the doctor's office. Was I living in denial? Yeah, definitely. Not only about my weight, but other factors in my life that weren’t making me happy. I just didn't want to know about it. I wanted my Food (not food as in sustenance to live, but Food as in my drug of choice), and I wasn't about to change that.

I suppose it was the new high of losing weight that changed my behavior with the scale. It was so exciting to see those numbers go down, I couldn't wait to get on there and get that emotional boost. Because my weight can fluctuate a good bit with water retention, etc., I got on there every day because I was afraid the day I didn't weigh would be one of my "low" days and I'd miss it. It’s getting to the point where the scale has become my main barometer for success and failure. For example, this past Saturday I weighed myself and I was down to 226, which made me question if I should make Friday or Saturday my official weigh-in day.

But like any exciting ride with its exhilarating highs, there are the lows. And what a bummer that low can be. It causes me to beat myself up, find ways to punish my "bad" behavior, and overall just feel about myself. And that gets carried over to my family; I'm snippy with my husband and irritable with my daughter. Which of course makes me even think more negative thoughts.

So the past two days have been interesting. Part of me is dying to know what the scale says right now since I’ve been doing great all week. Not knowing makes me feel unsure all this work is worth the effort.

But there’s another part of me that is actually pleased to not have myself labeled by a number. Why should a 230 Andrea be horrible, but a 220 Andrea would be cause for celebration. Which makes no sense; because at this time last year I was praying I could get back to another 230 Andrea.
So the question is, what happens tomorrow? What if I get on the scale and the results don’t meet my expectations? Do I throw a fit, rail against the unfairness of my life, and take my frustrations out on those I love? Instead I need to congratulate myself on the hard work I’ve done this week: getting lots of cardio exercise, drinking plenty of water, avoiding the many opportunities to overeat and instead make healthy choices. The results may not show up on that machine with the “right” numbers, but if I stick with it the health benefits are being made and will stick with me in the years to come.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Family Time

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. I sure wanted to, but in the morning my internet connection was really acting weird and couldn't get here. Then came the afternoon, and from that point on I was in constant motion until plopping into bed.

A lot of it was family time. Being my daughter's birthday, I did the Fun Mommy thing and brought treats in to her class. That meant driving to our nearest Dunkin' Donuts and picking up two dozen donuts. Mabel claims the icing on cupcakes upsets her stomach, so her request was donuts. Not sure what's better about the chocolate-iced, sprinkle covered balls of lard and sugar, but apparently her stomach has no problem with it. Believe it or not, I managed to keep myself from eating a few of the donuts myself, and I even turned away from the free samples of cookies on the counter.

After school was my nephew's junior high football game, so we headed off to that. Fortunately, the football boosters didn't sell any "food" (I'm not sure if nachos and processed cheese count as food) until the end of the 4th quarter, so I stuck with my bottle of water. Supper came after the game, and my husband cooked a meal he thought my daughter would like: baked rice, chicken and gravy. God bless him, he saved me some chicken breast sans the rice and gravy, and I ate that. And to further help me out, he served the California blend vegetables with cheese sauce on the side. So I managed to have a very healthy supper while everyone else could have their gravy and cheese.

After supper I had to sit down with my hubby and discuss an issue that's been increasingly getting to me. We live in a small town, and both his parents and my mother live in very close proximity. If you look out my bathroom window you can see my in-laws' backyard, and my mom is maybe a mile away. There are some positives to this. We are a close family, and it's nice that Mabel gets to spend a lot of time with her grandparents. The problem is, more and more the parental units drop by unannounced, sit themselves down and stay for extended visits. This is particularly a problem during the work week -- in last week's Monday through Friday, we had "drop-ins" four of the five days.

Issue number one is the disruption factor. We are an active family (with a very active child) with a busy schedule. It takes a lot of juggling to fit in Brownies, piano lessons, cheerleading and acrobatics with homework, practicing, family dinner time and bath time, and that's just my daughter's to-do list! When people start showing up it throws a wrench in our routine, and sometimes things like baths and practicing piano gets lost in the confusion.

While I have lots of things I need to get done, too, more important to me is a loss of privacy. I really need down time after a hectic day. If there's no time to decompress and recharge, it definitely affects me. And the more stress I keep pent up, the more I tend to eat in a poor attempt to release it. This situation isn't bad just for me, but it also affects my relationship with my husband. About two weeks ago I talked to him about my need to have more one-on-one time with him, because I feel like so much of our time is taken up by our work, families and day-to-day chores.

While the talk two weeks ago was nice and provided us with a nice date night last Friday, it didn't get to the issue of our frequent and unannounced guests. So last night's talk was more pointed about addressing the issue with the parents, and hopefully it will lead to some results.

This post was more family/relationship based than on weight loss, but it all ties in to it, doesn't it? If my life is in chaos or if I'm not comfortable in my environment, then it's hard for me to focus on eating healthy and working on losing weight. And today I feel so positive and empowered because I had the guts to express my feelings and concerns with my husband and he really listened to me. It makes me feel so much better when I'm not holding my emotions and problems inside, and I'm less likely to look for comfort in the leftover donuts sitting on my kitchen counter.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Battle

I was reading Jane on skinnydaily and she had a really good post on the "battle" of losing weight. She asked why it has to be a battle; why can't it be an act of self-love instead?

I have taken both positions. While the battle mode works at first -- it gets you fired up and propels that initial motivation -- after a while one grows battle weary. When you realize in order to maintain any weight loss you're going to have to mindfully eat and keep pushing yourself physically for the rest of your life, it's hard to maintain the "eye of the tiger." It's then that you have to think about doing this for your health, for your own sanity and happiness. I visualize a future me needing hip and knee replacements from all the excess weight and it can often help me keep going another day.

Recently I've noticed that I'm beginning to think of people I know who've lost weight as my companions, fellow soldiers in this battle. Whether they've done it through surgery, diet, exercise etc., they've still gone through their own battles, too. I say recently because in the past my thoughts tended to veer more towards competition. "Have they lost more weight than me? Do I look smaller than her? How can I keep up?"

This past weekend in my travels I ran into two of these veterans that in the past I've compared myself to when it comes to my body and weight loss. The first person is in my circle of friends, although one I don't see often. Back when I first started this journey I started going to the gym she attended. At the time she was preparing for her sister's wedding and had really knocked off a lot of weight with a combination of Atkins and plenty of exercise. She looked great, and more importantly, her self-confidence really grew, and it was no surprise that she wound up meeting a nice guy and starting a serious relationship. Watching her really inspired me and made me feel this impossible task I'd given myself just might happen. Over the past three years, since the wedding has come and gone, this friend has gained a lot if not all of the weight back. It was a gradual process, and when we'd run into each other she'd make little comments like she couldn't seem to find the time to exercise. This weekend we chatted for several minutes and caught up on each other's lives, but we never brought up the topic of weight.

The other person I saw last night at the restaurant where we ate dinner. She's more of an acquaintance than a friend, but someone I see regularly in social situations. While I've never asked her directly, our small town gossip informed me she had some kind of weight loss surgery, which seemed to hold true with the speed and severity of her weight loss. Anyone who knows me I'm not crazy about WLS, especially gastric bypass, and this is after lots of reading and watching different shows about it. Now I don't criticize people for having it; it's an extremely personal decision and for some people it seems like the only way to come to grips with their issues about eating. My main concern is the hazards of the surgery and the side effects afterwards. Everything from thinning hair, loss of bone density, malnutrition, and even in some cases cancer. The most frustrating thing for me is to see people who've had the surgery, thinking it's the magical cure-all, and within a few years they're gaining weight back (just look at Carnie Wilson, who I just loved to watch on VH-1's Celebrity Fit Club). And in the case of this woman, I could tell she had definitely gained some back. Not a lot, but enough for people at my table to comment.

Now I'm not sitting here today writing about these people because I feel better than them, or sorry for them. I'm writing because I have been there. Last year at this time I was trying to lose the 50 pounds I had regained. I know the feelings I had, which were frustration, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and it was hard not to feel like failure. I can't project any of these feelings onto these other women, because I don't know all the circumstances behind their current situation. Maybe they've been able to find some contentment and happiness with the way they are right now. Perhaps they've decided they don't want to be in the battle anymore, which I can understand.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to find that level of satisfaction in myself. There's a part of me that's never content with the job I've done, that can always find something I could have done better. What if I could actually get to the weight the charts say I should weigh? Something tells me I'll still have a list of things I don't like about myself. What if I could find some peace of mind that enables me to look at my work, or my body, and think "job well done?" Now there's a battle worth fighting.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Super Bowl Sunday

As in bowl of ice cream! Yes, it was the big birthday celebration for my daughter, who turns 8 on Tuesday. We had a gaggle of giggling girls running around the house, shrieking and laughing and having a great time. I found it interesting that when it came time to serve the cake and ice cream, they all had their quirky requests: cake only, ice cream only, and one girl who wouldn't eat either! One only ate the icing, while the other one ate the cake and left the icing behind. And half of them took two bites off their plate and went rushing back to play with each other.

I managed to get away with a small piece of cake and small scoop of ice cream, but we still have a lot of cake left, and it's calling my name as we speak. We'll see if I can resist.

Shortly we are leaving for Mabel's (I'm tired of saying "my daughter" all the time, so I'm giving her a pseudonym) birthday dinner with the family. It was originally going to be on Tuesday night, but her cousin is in a junior high football game that afternoon which would have made it hard for the grandparents to juggle. But the real reason I rearranged it was so I could have all the celebratory eating done in one day, rather than stretched out over three. That way, I can have my cake and eat at the Chinese buffet, too!

I might sound like I'm rationalizing here, and I probably am. But for me, the reality is that these food-related events are always going to happen, and they're so hard to resist. If I can manage to keep the damage down to one day instead of two or three (or 20 or 30), that's progress, right?

Yesterday I did go to the health club where my daughter takes Acrobatics and signed up for their punch card deal. You get 10 visits for $35, instead of the $25 monthly fee. I only get to this health club once a week for Mabel's practice, so the monthly membership wasn't worth it for me. But this was great. While she did her back handsprings and cartwheels, I did 45 minutes on the treadmill and the upper body weight machines I did at physical therapy.

I must take a moment here to thank everyone who has posted comments on this blog. I was really pleased some of my Angry Fat Girlz companions have dropped in to say hello, and it was an honor to have Jonathan and the Shrinking Knitter reply to my earlier post. I read their blogs every day and get a lot of inspiration and ideas from them, as well as the occasional chuckle. It amazes me that anyone would be interested in the ruminations of my overactive mind!

Almost time to go for dinner. I can't really mark this day as a huge success as far as losing weight, but I can say it's been planned for. That's what "normal" people do, right? They have the occasional day where they indulge, but it doesn't propel them into a month of eating a tub of ice cream a day. They make up for it the next few days and go on with their regular habits. At least that's what I've heard about this elusive tribe called "normal." Enjoy your Sunday nights, everyone.

P.S. The last three days or so I haven't been able to upload any photos onto my blog, either at my home computer or the one at work. Anyone else having this trouble, or am I just doing something wrong?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Food in the Family

I mentioned before about the importance of food in my family. I think all families to some degree have this characteristic: we all have traditional meals, some of ethnic importance, some associated with holidays we celebrate, and there are those foods that, if they weren't on the table, would cause an uproar.

For example, years ago I started making Watergate Salad for my maternal relatives' holiday meals. For those of you who don't know what Watergate is (created by the chef in that famous Washington, DC, hotel, by the way), I make it with one can crushed pineapple, one regular box pistachio pudding, one eight-ounce container of whipped topping, and a liberal helping of mini marshmallows. I first ate it as a kid at my best friend's house, and her mother gave me the recipe. I loved the taste of the pistachio and pineapple, and I thought it would make a nice addition to our family dinners. Well, the dessert really took off. My aunt and her two sons in particular make a beeline for the stuff. All of them are from the "small-boned" branch of the family, both cousins are avid athletes who regularly run, cycle, and are long-time golfers. They like my Watergate Salad, which they call "whippy stuff," because it's light and refreshing after a heavy holiday feast.

Since that time, when these members of the family show up for our meals (which I now host), they always ask if there's any whippy stuff. The funny thing is, the last few years I've noticed that at the end of the day there's always lots of the stuff left over. Yet if I don't have it available there's disappointment. Apparently all they need is a little taste of it and they're satisfied -- smart, huh? So now as they're preparing to leave I put the remainder of the salad in a plastic container for them to take home. They always are glad to take it, because they can enjoy it more once they don't have a big meal in their bellies.

Then there's my husband and his family. Food is practically their religion. He told me just last night he loves every single aspect of it: the planning, the shopping, the preparation, of course the eating, critiquing, and even the storage of it (he adores his vacuum packer). And this pretty much goes for his entire family. In fact, his father was a potato chip distributor for over 40 years. So even the roof over their heads was because of the revered fried potato slices. And food tradition is extremely important to this family. Every time I make a meal, even if he loves it, his response always includes the line "it's not what I'm used to" or "it's not how I/my mom/my grandmother made it."

This preoccupation with food is what helped lead me to regaining 50 pounds of the 100 I lost from 2003-04. Of course I didn't have a gun to my head, but imagine a recently recovering alcoholic living with a family full of heavy drinkers who happen to own a bar. It's a little hard to keep up the resistance when you're surrounded by food and thoughts of food all day long.

Add to that the stress of planning a large wedding and combining two households into one, and there was no way I could say no to all the deep fried, buttery goodness of their "traditions." Once we got married and settled into our house, however, I buckled down and lost the 50 pounds -- amazingly, in the worst time of the year -- September through December of last year. I still don't know how I managed to avoid all the holiday pitfalls and temptations, but like Ant says on Celebrity Fit Club, "the scales don't lie."

The problem is, since losing that 50 pounds, I've gone nowhere. Throughout 2006 I've varied a little -- losing some, gaining some back, losing it again-- but on average I've maintained that weight for the past 9 1/2 months. My husband, friends, therapist all tell me that's an accomplishment in itself. This is the first time in my life that I haven't quickly gained all the weight back plus some. Ten pounds? Eh, that's nothing to the old days

The main reason is because when I do revert back to old habits, it only lasts a few days, maybe a week or possibly two. Then I find myself actually wanting to return to my healthier ways. Mainly because I feel so much better. I'm just hoping that my good habits and my attempts to steer at least some of the family's interests away from food will eventually rub off on my daughter.

Geez, didn't realize the time. Day 5 went great. Food went spectacularly -- I ate a healthy dinner and didn't chow down on junk food at the movie. haven't exercised yet, but I'm heading off to my daughter's acrobatics lesson, and they have a family deal there to use the gym facilities. So I'm going to try it out. No temptations in store for me today that I know of, bu the day's early yet.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What's in a number? The week one weigh-in

Although technically it's only Day 5 since I've been on the blog, I have Friday as my regular weigh-in day, so this will be Week One.

Since starting this blog, and actually while I was even thinking about it, the big debate in my head was whether I should print my actual weight on the blog. Different bloggers definitely have different methods: I know the Shrinking Knitter lets everyone know how much she's lost, but not her actual weight, and I can understand keeping that bit of privacy. Jonathan only states that he's maintained a 50-pound weight loss and doesn't discuss the actual number on the scale; of course, his blog is more about maintenance than weight loss. Then there's DietGirl, who has every statistic right on the sidebar of her blog. I admire her bravery to lay it out for all to see.

Weight is such a personal issue, yet it's the one thing about us that is most readily visible to those around us. In my self-help reading over the years I realize I definitely become the perfectionist in other parts of my life because my "failure" -- my fat -- is openly displayed to the public. It's a hard life to live and I've done my best to change those feelings.

While I know everyone realizes I've lost a lot of weight, I still find myself faltering when it comes to telling people how much I've lost or what my current weight is now. For example, when I admitted to someone that I had lost over 100 pounds, the person's first reaction was, "You've lost a whole person!" (That moment alone could provide an entire posting!) And when I last went to the doctor, who always requires I get on the scale (grrr), she frankly told me that by looking at me she expected me to weigh 40 pounds less than I actually am. Which led me to think, "Wow, if I look 40 pounds less, why in the world would I tell people my actual weight? Better to let them underestimate then tell them the ugly truth."

Ugly. Why use this word? I grapple with the overwhelming notion in our society that fat is ugly. I want to love myself and be happy with my body, but it's tough when fat-hating is the last fully-accepted prejudice in this country. For example, pay attention to how many fat jokes you hear in a single day, especially on television. If one substituted the word "black," "Jew," "gay," etc., into some of these jokes, you'd have a public outcry. And if you substituted "Muslim," you'd have worldwide protests. But fat people? They deserve it, right? Those lazy, weak, stupid fatties did this to themselves.

Anyway, this all leads me to the decision I have to make on this blog. Do I or don't I reveal the number on my scale? Do I only tell how much I've lost, or do I come out of the "weight closet?"

So here goes. Last Friday I weighed 233 pounds. Today, I weigh 228.5, which means a loss of 4.5 pounds. I'm pretty happy about that, since it means I'm 29 pounds away from being in the "onderfuls" (yes, 199.5 counts!)

As for yesterday's summary, the eating went fantastically well, and the knee felt pretty much back to normal. This morning I got back on the treadmill but cut my speed back and only did 30 minutes. I figured I better be smart and start slow and build myself back up again.

Now for the challenge: can I get through the weekend without overeating? Tonight's obstacle #1, date night with my hubby, which is looking like dinner and a movie. Saturday shouldn't be too bad -- I'm not going to the festival since I desperately need to clean my house. But then there's Sunday, my daughter's birthday party, and there will be the usual cake, ice cream and potato chips. I'll have to whip up a small veggie tray and nibble on that. Who knows, maybe my daughter or one of her friends may even try it.

This will be my first weekend as a blogger, so I'm not sure how well I'll do on posting, since I normally don't get around the computer much on the weekends. But I will do my best. Happy Weekend!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

We can rebuild her...

The reason (excuse) my weight loss efforts derailed this summer had a lot to do with the stress I had over my health.

In May I went to Kennywood Park with my husband and daughter. Hubby is a physics teacher and I went as a chaperone for his seniors as they participated in Physics Day at the amusement park. We got daughter out of school for "educational travel," although I don't know how much she actually learned.

Anyway, I was feeling pretty self-confident that day: feeling successful with my weight loss and comfortable in my body. This led me to do something I rarely do -- go on rollercoasters. Besides getting motion sickness very easily, I had this fear of squeezing my big bulk into one of those carts. Or worse, suffering the humiliation of being turned away by the operator (anyone who's read Frances Kuffel's "Passing for Thin" will remember her painful anecdote about this experience). I still won't set foot on the "tilt-a-hurls," because no matter what I weigh, I will get sick as a dog if I get on the spinning rides. But I decided to try the old-fashioned rollercoasters and didn't mind it.

Then I made my mistake. We got in line for Kennywood's new ride, The Exterminator, which is a dank, dark underground ride with rats and dummies in haz mat suits. Hubby, daughter and I got strapped into the cart, which then proceeded to whip us in every direction, including circular spins.

It didn't affect me right away. In fact, it took me months to figure out this was the critical moment. But in the weeks following Kennywood my regular shoulder and neck tenseness progressively got worse. By the beginning of June I was having trouble sleeping because my shoulder ached so much. Then I began to notice that the muscles in my upper arm ached like I had done way too many reps with weights.

But I ignored it. I was gearing up for my very first 5K walk and I was so excited to complete this race. My goal was to finish in less than an hour, and I was thrilled when my final time was about 45 minutes. Two days later, however, the pounding my body took was the final straw: I woke up with my left arm "dead" and my left hand in sharp pain. This scared the bejsus out of me -- while I didn't think I was having a heart attack or stroke, just the fact that I didn't have muscle control made me realize this was serious.

So I went to the doctor, who sent me for an MRI of my neck because she suspected a pinched nerve. The initial diagnosis -- a herniated disc. I was prescribed four weeks of physical therapy and referred to a neurologist. Since I live in the absolute boonies, the only doctor in the area couldn't see me until the end of July, two weeks after the PT ended. So I did the therapy, which brought the strength back in my left arm and reduced a lot of the pain. But I noticed that as those symptoms got better, a different one seemed to be increasing -- tingling and numbness, mostly in the left hand and arm, but sometimes on the right, too.

It wasn't until the neurologist appointment that I discovered the reason why. On top of the herniated disc, I also had bone spurs in the vertebra next to the herniated disc. And the spurs were pressing on my spinal column, which was causing the numbness and tingling. The doctor suggested surgery to remove the disc and vertebra and do a replacement/fusion procedure. He said that while the surgery wasn't absolutely necessary, since my reflexes were still great and I wasn't showing more severe spinal column problems, he would recommend it. In layman's terms, my neck was a ticking bomb -- all it would have taken was a fall or a car accident to have caused major spinal cord injuries.

So of course I opted for surgery. I couldn't stand the thought of walking around with my "doomsday neck." Even though I hate the whole doctor/hospital/surgery experience, this time my phobia was pushed aside by my fear of becoming a quadralpalegic. So on August 23 I had the surgery, called Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion: my disc and vertebra were removed, replaced by donor bone, then fused to my spine with a metal plate and two screws. It took 1 1/2 hours, and I stayed one night in the hospital. For two weeks I wore a neck brace and wasn't allowed to work or drive. After that I started another four weeks of PT, which ends today (hooray).

The funny thing was, at first I was okay with my eating, but that's probably because it was "just" a herniated disc. Once I found out I risked serious spinal cord problems, and add to that my anxieties about the surgery going badly, then I went off the deep end. All the tools I had picked up to quell my emotional needs for food went out the window. No amount of journal writing, meditating or walking was going to make me feel better. I resorted back to my childhood comforts, figuring if I died in the hospital I wanted to make sure I had eaten all my favorite foods before I went (irrational, I know).

What saved me from gaining a ton of weight back was the good habits I had ingrained into my brain the last few years. While I had plenty of slip-ups, the next morning I immediately fell back into my healthy routines. While the old behaviors still hide in the corners of my mind, the new behaviors have definitely taken hold and feel more "normal" to me now. Thank goodness.

Which brings me to yesterday, which went very well. I didn't really have any temptations, so sticking to my planned meals and snacks was easy. The knee continues to feel better (Lord knows I'm not eager for any more surgeries or PT), so this morning I did the 45 minute bike again. This time I used the program installed in the bike which changes the resistance automatically, so today I actually worked up a good sweat.

But the next challenge is coming up: my friend asked me if we're going to a local fall festival on Saturday. This includes the following temptations: warm from the oven homemade bread with butter, fried corn meal mush with maple syrup, hot sausage sandwiches. Then there's the little Mennonite store aross the road from the festival grounds that makes one of my most loved/dreaded treats -- orange iced cinnamon rolls. I will eat and eat at the pan of rolls until I'm sick to my stomach but I can't stop. I have three options: not going at all, going and eating everything in sight, or going and limiting myself to one special treat. Option three sounds great, but option one sounds easier. Still debating on this one...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Emotional Eating

I readily admit that I have a LOT of issues when it comes to food and weight. Yesterday I started reading "Body Intelligence" (I copied this pic from Amazon.com -- go there to read more about it), and it's made me realize just how much I'm driven by food and eating.

The book (look it up at http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0071442065/ref=sib_dp_pt/104-6802255-6864731#reader-link) goes over the external and emotional cues people have that lead them to eat when they're not really hungry. It was hard for me to find cues I didn't have! I'm affected by the sight and smells of food, by the ads on TV, by the time on the clock. I eat when I'm sad, anxious, lonely, depressed, and especially when I'm happy!

The one emotion I don't eat through is anger. Now in the past (pre-therapy) when I repressed a lot of my angry feelings, I did wind up eating because that anger got twisted into the sad, lonely and depressed feelings mentioned above. But somewhere in the late 1990s I started discovering that if I let myself feel my anger and express it, the last thing I wanted to do was eat. I might want to clean my house from top to bottom or rant and rave on the phone to a confidant, but I learned to own my anger and not blot it out with sugar and fat.

So should it come as any surprise that I do my healthiest eating when I've got a little anger to stoke the fire? I felt it yesterday for sure when I went with my family to watch my nephew play at a junior high football game. While everyone else bought hamburgers and fries, washed down with sugary soda, I took out my apple and seltzer water I brought with me. When I'm in a negative frame of mind I get resentful about a situation like this, with thoughts of self-pity and "why me" attitude. But when I'm in the right mindset, I actually get a stubborn, slightly peeved attitude of "I'm going to eat healthy despite these temptations!" After the game we went out to dinner (there will definitely be a future post on my food-centric family), and again, while everyone else ordered fatty foods, I hit the healthy food section of the menu and ordered what turned out to be a very satisfying meal.

What puzzles me is why some days I can achieve this attitude, and then some days I cave in to whatever temptation or cue comes my way. It's more than willpower, because it's so tied into my emotional state. Because I can say no to buying the box of chocolate cupcakes and feel really good about it that I'm taking care of my body, or I can feel really deprived and sorry for myself.
If I can ever figure out how to eliminate or greatly reduce those negative moments, then I think I'll be able to reach my "onederful" goal and maintain it without tortuous work.

Okay, so here's the Day 2 tally: I ate very, very well (3 meals and 2 snacks, all very balanced and healthy food), didn't get too hungry and didn't feel deprived. The knee was fairly bothersome during the day, but after some ibuprofen, some heat and then some Biofreeze (my husband's cure-all for sore muscles and joints), it feels a lot better this morning, even after a 45-minute bike ride. I really want to get back to the treadmill because I can work up a sweat much better. But I know I need to make sure my knee is back to full capacity until I do.

Today shouldn't provide too many challenges, but that's typical for me. I do great during the week, but then the weekends come and I'm stuck in the mire of parties, festivals, etc., that lead me astray. But I need to focus on today and deal with those issues when I get to them.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Before and after -- and after that

I figured since I'm bearing my soul on this blog, I guess I'd take an even bigger risk and bear my body -- before and after.

This photo on the left was me around my heaviest -- I wasn't weighing myself a lot at that time because I just didn't want to know. But I was wearing somewhere between a size 26-28 or 30-32, depending on the store, etc. I did my best to have a nice appearance, but you can almost see the defeat in my eyes. My child, by the way, is not faceless, but I felt I'd give her a little anonymity.

I found this photo about six months ago while going through a box of pictures, and I put it in my wallet to remind me how far I've come when the negative thoughts hit me.

On the left is my most recent after photo, taken in May at my best friend's wedding (to my brother-in-law!). I'm guesstimating that between the two photos is a loss of at least 100 pounds, maybe 110. It was the first time I was ever asked to be a maid/matron of honor. And it was the first time in years that I bought a dress in the regular section of a clothing store -- granted, it was the largest size there, a 16, but what a joy to be in the teens again!

In the one month after this photo was taken I lost another 10 pounds, but then I had The Surgery (more on that later) and gained back 20.

Most people would be holding a parade for losing 100 pounds. People are astonished when they get it out of me how much I've lost. But the perfectionist in me doesn't think it's enough. I get caught up in the loose skin (my upper arms are a particular spot that makes me shudder), the fact that I'm still considered obese to every medical chart, that I still battle the food issues and negative feelings that I had 100 pounds ago.

Now that I've got the photo spread taken care of, I can discuss how yesterday went. The eating went well. The first day usually does -- it's day 3, 4, 5, etc., that causes a problem. My general eating plan is three meals and two to three small snacks. I basically try to eat every 3 to 4 hours, which keeps me from getting too hungry.

I also got back on the treadmill after being off for a week due to a nasty cold. I walked for 3 miles, which is rather far for me on the treadmill, even though over the summer I walked 5K (3.2 miles) five or six days a week outside. Unfortunately, the two weeks off from The Surgery and the cold seem to have knocked me out of shape a little, because I am really feeling sore this morning! Most troubling is my left knee, which is hurting a good bit. This knee has been my Achilles' Heel for years; due to the combination of my excess weight and the knock-knees I inherited from my grandmother, I've been dislocating this thing since I was 10. I can always tell when I'm not keeping the muscles around the knee properly toned, because it starts to feel week and achey. Like today.

So instead of doing the treadmill this morning I rode on my stationary bike for 45 minutes (10 miles). Hopefully some ibuprofen, a little rest and some strengthening exercises will bring it back to working order. I'm also going to break into the new running shoes. The ones I walked in Monday were 9-10 months old and I think the padding is wearing thin. It definitely makes a big difference for my knees and feet.

The forecast looks good for Day 2. I'll do my best to keep my thoughts positive and focus on all the accomplishments I've collected so far. On my to-do list today is housecleaning for my daughter's 8th birthday party this weekend, so hopefully the knee won't slow me down too much. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, October 02, 2006

They say every journey...

...begins with a full stomach. No, scratch that! Begins with a single step.

I've had a lot of first steps in the last three years, which have totally transformed my life. And this blog has become the next step in that process.

Three years ago I was pretty darn miserable. I was in a job that left me stressed and depressed; my romantic aspirations were nonexistant; and a lifetime of eating and body issues left me very morbidly obese. The one bright spot in my life was my daughter, who I adopted from Vietnam in 1999 (one of my "did I really do that?" courageous moments).

Since that time I quit the toxic job and found one that's infinitely more satisfying and flexible for my Mom duties. Then, a combination of events and mindset led me to lose weight; from my highest weight to my lowest weight, I lost a total of 125 pounds. In that process another miraculous series of events led me to find the man who has now been my husband for 14 months.
Details about these events will certainly unfold as the blog progresses.

Now, this weight loss thing hasn't been all smooth travelling. I've gained some (thank goodness nowhere near all of the) weight back, then lost it again, then tacked a few more on again. I've fallen and picked myself up countless times. And once again I'm trying to put the magic triad together -- eating, exercise and mindset -- that has proven to be my formula for success.

My goal is not unrealistic; in fact, according to the BMI charts it's nowhere near my ideal. I want to reach the "Onederfuls" -- that wonderful moment when the scale is no longer in the 2xxs, but can proudly bear a 1. If I could see 199 between my feet it would be the first time since my teens.

So, I'm hoping this blog will give me the accountability I need so badly to make this work. Even if no one else on the world wide web ever sees it, I will know it's out there. I'm outing myself, so to speak. I plan to post daily, to go over my daily goals, my thought processes, and hopefully my successes. Wish me luck.