Category: Weight

Skin Deep: Living in America

Earlier this sumer I introduced a series of posts touching on my weight issues and body image over the years. I have wanted to return to it for some time now. If you missed any of the previous posts they can be found below.

Skin Deep: Adolescence

Skin Deep: College Years

Skin Deep: Mozambique

I left off on the verge of leaving my life in Mozambique to return to the United States. I was newlywed and had been out of the country for nearly four years. Unfortunately student loan payments began calling and neither my husband or I could find stable employment in Mozambique. So back to the U.S. it was.

I looked and felt great the day I stepped off the plane. In the back of my head I was worried about the temptations that awaited me. I returned home first. Orlando arrived two months later. I lived with my mother while I began setting up our new life in the states. I got busy applying for jobs and while I waited for work I began substitute teaching in my hometown. However, I often found myself alone on days I didn’t work. It didn’t take long for my old habits to rear their ugly heads. I began to eat my old favorite processed foods I hadn’t eaten for the years I lived abroad. I didn’t just eat a little. I ate a lot and I ate most of it in private. As you can imagine it didn’t take me long to start gaining weight.

By the time I was reunited with my husband I had gained at least 10 pounds. With the weight came the old feelings, insecurity, self-consciousness and lack of confidence. I knew I was on a slippery slope and it didn’t end there. Despite being here with my husband I felt very lonely. Friendships had changed while I was away. My family was adjusting to my marriage particularly my mother who strongly disagreed with my decision. As my weight increased so did my defensive attitude. I became angry, frustrated and looking back I can now identify that I was also depressed.

A year earlier a very good college friend had asked me to be in her wedding. The wedding was 5 months after my return. I had been fitted for the bridesmaid dress a year earlier on a visit to the U.S. at a time when I was comfortable with my weight. The dress fit beautifully and looked quite nice. Cut to a year later as the wedding neared. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my body. The dress was beyond snug. It actually looked horrible.  I didn’t want to be in the wedding. Needless to say I was not the model of a supportive bridesmaid. I was resentful because of how I felt inside. I attended the wedding alone and though I did my best to be happy for my friend I clearly wasn’t happy to be there. After the wedding our communication waned. I haven’t seen my friend since. I did call her months later to apologize for my behavior but the damage had been done. This memory is cemented in my mind and thinking about it makes me feel terrible.

My husband began working within days of arriving for a swimming pool company. I was not so lucky. It turned out to be almost as difficult to find employment here in the U.S. It took me 4 months to get a full time job with health insurance. I finally took a position running a program for pregnant and parenting teens. The program was run through the state supported Department of Transitional Assistance as an alternative to traditional schooling. Since the girls were all receiving welfare they were required to attend school or obtain a GED. This program prepared the girls to take the GED. I also ran health workshops, parenting classes and life skills classes. I enjoyed the job and the day structure.

After a few months on the job I began to lose some weight and felt a bit better about myself. I began walking a lot for exercise. As I lost weight my mood improved, but I would get down 5-10 pounds and then gain again. It became a vicious cycle. My eating habits were terrible. I relied on frozen foods and convenience food for meals. My pantry was full of packages labeled fat free, low fat and light. I tricked myself into believing that I was eating healthy by eating less fat.

I also picked up some new damaging habits. This is difficult for me to write about because I haven’t readily admitted it before. I began eating in secret. I would buy a forbidden treat at the grocery store with the intent of finishing it in the car on the way home, quite a feat considering I lived about 3 minutes away. I would hide a bag of chips in the pantry and basically binge eat it when my husband was at work or asleep. Again rather risky given the fact that we lived in a small apartment. I didn’t do it all the time, but when I did I was left feeling confused, remorseful and regretful. I would instantly vow to embark on a drastic diet the following day. You can probably guess where that kind of thinking led me.

Between 2002 and 2004 my weight bounced up and down finally settling somewhere in the high 170s, a place I had been many times before. I squeezed into my familiar size 14s, did my best at hiding my body with baggie sweaters and used my go to defense mechanism of sarcasm to deal with the hurt and shame I felt. I was miserable inside.

Despite the weight I didn’t shy away from new opportunities or challenges in other aspects of my life. I had thought about becoming a nurse during my years in Mozambique because of the need for health care workers there. Also the demand for nurses here promised a decent paying career.  My job with the Young Parents Program was tenuous and budget cuts in the state forced the program to close temporarily in the beginning of 2003. When it reopened the program I ran did not so I was only offered a part-time position in another town. I declined because I had the foresight to register for a prerequisite nursing class at a local community college. At that point I decided to throw myself into preparing for nursing school full time so I signed up for more classes and began working at a pizza shop where my aunt worked for extra money.

My self-esteem was at a low. My weight was all over the place. In October of 2003 we had our U.S. wedding for my friends and family. It was a nice day, but I am disappointed looking back on it. I wanted to glow and feel my best, but instead I settled for mediocre. I didn’t feel like the beautiful bride. I was jealous of how thin my wedding party was and how great they looked in their dresses. Imagine the bride envious of her wedding party. The way I felt about myself definitely cast a shadow on my mood that day. I managed to put on a good face, but deep down I was mad at myself for once again allowing my weight to dictate my mood.

I’m aware that I may get comments about these photos. Remember that how one feels about their body is subjective. This is my story and these are my feelings. I have struggled with weight issues most of my life. While my weight in these photos may not be considered by some to be a problem, to me it was a problem.

Here comes the bride
Here comes the bride: My Dad and I walking down the aisle
I do...again!
I do…again!

After the wedding I threw myself into my studies, I joined a gym and I began waitressing full time. I was busy. My weight fluctuated and even dropped for a time, but not too low. I didn’t own a scale and didn’t weigh myself at the gym so I’m not quite sure what I weighed. My mood was often directly correlated to the current state of my weight and how I felt in my clothing.

This has been a very difficult and emotional post to write. This was a rather dark time in my life. It’s also important for me to write about this time period because it plays an important role in who I’ve become today. Disordered eating was accompanied by disordered thinking and both needed to be addressed before any real change could take place.

I realize this post is somewhat disjointed and unorganized. That reflects how I felt during this period of my life. To tie up some loose ends I will end with a list to make my thoughts more organized.

  • My marriage withstood my moods and frustrations with my weight primarily because I have a wonderful husband who has always loved me as I am.
  • My relationship with friends and family deteriorated because I was not a joy to be around most of the time.
  • I avoided family gatherings if possible.
  • Emotional eating was in full swing.
  • Nursing school allowed me an excuse to hide in some ways. It also provided me with added stress which led me to eat more.
  • I was unhappy and it showed most of the time.
  • I wanted to change but I wanted someone to help me. Essentially I wanted someone to do it for me.

Skin Deep: Mozambique

Thank you so much for the kind comments about my previous Skin Deep posts (Adolescence and the College Years). I feel as though I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of my weight issues and part of getting to the root of my struggle is identifying how my emotions affect my eating.

I could write volumes on my life in Mozambique. It was one of those life altering experiences that no one else quite understands except maybe my site mate. I beam when I talk about it even today. Sure I had my ups and downs living in a third world country, but overall it was wonderful.

Someday I would love to chronicle my Peace Corps experience here, but for now I’ll just give a brief overview. I joined the Peace Corps when I was 25 years old and received an invitation to serve in the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers ever in Mozambique. Mozambique is located in southern Africa on the Indian Ocean coast.

In October 1998 I left the United States for a 2 year 3 month assignment as an English teacher. The 3 months is pre-service training which includes language, culture and teacher training. From there I was assigned to teach English at the secondary school in a town called Chokwe.

About 6 months before I left for Peace Corps I was at my heaviest weight, 208 pounds. Despite my ups and downs during college and the progress I made with improving my self-esteem I let all that go and of course gained a lot of weight. I joined Weight Watchers at that time and I think I managed to lose about 20 pounds. Before leaving the U.S. my Peace Corps (PC) group met in Denver, Colorado for a 4 day staging event. I remember arriving to the hotel and meeting the group for the first time. I distinctly recall feeling very self-conscious about my appearance. I instantly hated all of my clothing and felt frumpy and fat.

My group was mostly women. Once in Mozambique we found ourselves living in dormitory-like conditions with the women separated from the men. I was angry about my weight, frustrated about my ugly clothing and depressed about my appearance overall. Our shower stalls had no doors on them which only added to the anxiety I felt about my body. I seemed to quickly retreat into myself causing unpredictable mood swings. Needless to say I probably wasn’t very well liked by my colleagues. I did make friends but I don’t think my attitude was often appreciated. I was aware of my negativity, but I couldn’t seem to control it.

By the end of the 3 month training I know I had lost weight. I remember getting weighed at some point during training and I was in the 170s. I certainly felt better and my mood lightened. Upon arriving to my permanent site where I would be teaching I lost more weight. I was walking everywhere. My site mate and I bought bikes and spent hours almost every day riding through the vast agricultural fields that surrounded the town. The heat made me eat less as did the fact that we didn’t have a refrigerator and everything had to be prepared from scratch. I went from being a non-vegetable eater with a diet of mostly white starchy carbs to  a diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables. Mozambique opened up a whole new world of flavor for me.

I gradually lost more weight and had to buy new clothing. I started wearing dresses and skirts. I added cute tank tops to my wardrobe. For the first time in a very very long time I wore a bathing suit at the beach. I actually went into the water sans large T-shirt. I don’t think I weighed any less than 160, but I felt fantastic. I would go out to the disco on the weekends in a cute dress something I don’t think I ever did before living in Mozambique.

About 2 months after arriving to Chokwe I met Orlando. Our friendship developed over the next few months into a more serious relationship. He didn’t seem concerned about my body. He obviously liked what he saw and would compliment me on my appearance. He never made a negative comment about my weight so I didn’t mention my issues with weight.

In June 1999 I went to a PC conference and on my way I caught my pinky finger on something while getting off the bus. It developed quickly into an infection and the medical officer told me to stop smoking. I didn’t bother to heed her warning and by the next morning my finger was extremely swollen and sore. I stopped smoking cold turkey and have never looked back. I had wanted to quit. Orlando didn’t smoke and didn’t seem to love the fact that I did, but I also had misgivings about what it might be doing to my health. I worried that I would gain weight, but miraculously I didn’t.

The Mozambicans had different reactions to my body and they let me know. A comment I heard quite often was how voluptuous I was in reference to my full hips and bottom. The women would outline the shape of my body in the air with their hands and then tell me what a good mother I will be obviously meaning to say that I clearly have the perfect body to deliver a baby.

A perfect example of how Mozambicans viewed weight is exhibited in these typical comments I received often. I might go out in the morning and hear “oh teacher you look so fat today!” I would instantly sulk. My day ruined completely until later in the day wearing a totally different outfit I would be greeted by friends with “are you ok? You look so thin today. Do you feel ok?” Suddenly I would grin from ear to ear, comments from earlier in the day forgotten. To the Mozambicans carrying extra weight was a sign of wealth, health and well-being. Appearing thin signified illness. So in my dysfunctional warped brain I preferred looking sickly. There is something very wrong with that kind of thinking.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the Mozambican mentality towards weight and body image, but in time I grew increasingly less self-conscious about what I looked like. By the time I left Mozambique in 2002 I weighed somewhere in the 160s. I had quit smoking. I overcame my picky eating habits and finally added vegetables to my diet. I discovered that I liked dressing in feminine clothing. I became more active. I was walking and bike riding regularly. Life in Mozambique happens outdoors and I learned to enjoy that aspect of life too. I smiled more and felt a sense of peace inside. Overall I felt better than I ever remembered feeling. I was also a newlywed. My life changed so positively in my almost 4 years overseas. I loved my life in Mozambique and I was very reluctant to leave.

Skin Deep: College Years

College was a bit of a bumpy ride in the beginning. I went away to college, then transferred to another out of state college before finally settling back into my childhood home just before the beginning of second semester my freshmen year. I attended community college for the rest of freshman and sophomore years before transferring to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I commuted throughout my junior year and then finally moved to Amherst the summer before my senior year.

Needless to say my first 3 years of college did not at all mirror the mental image I created before leaving high school. I struggled both physically and emotionally. My weight crept up higher than ever. By the time I moved to UMass I was not only obese, but I was indulging in some terrible habits. I was, at that time, a pack per day cigarette smoker. I drank coffee first thing in the morning and other times throughout the day which would be ok if it hadn’t been loaded with milk and sugar. I turned 21 the summer I moved to Amherst and subsequently enjoyed my share of Zima (anyone remember those!), wine coolers and Kamikaze shots that summer and well into the fall semester. It took me all of a few months to realize that drinking was not my thing. Instead I began drinking Diet Coke like it was going out of style.

My eating habits went from bad to worse. Once I moved from my Mom’s house to an off campus apartment in Amherst my diet consisted of things like bagels, calzones, pizza and burritos. I didn’t eat vegetables then and I was most definitely a meat eater. I also didn’t cook, so much of what I ate was from restaurants or a box, as in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

During my winter break junior year I did a 3 week intensive Spanish class in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I quickly became friends with the two other women from UMass. Within days of knowing each other they both encouraged me to stop wearing my big baggie T-shirts. They told me that I didn’t have to hide my body. One night before going out my new friend suggested I tuck in my shirt (gasp!). Not very fashion forward but in many ways better than the shirt dress I had been wearing. It took some getting used to but it was the impetus for thinking about what I was wearing rather than simply covering myself.

The second semester of my senior year I lived in Mexico again for a study abroad experience. I had the time of my life. This time I lived in Taxco, a beautiful silver mining town located south of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero. The town was carved into the mountainside which made for lots of hills. I walked everywhere and naturally slimmed down enough to feel somewhat comfortable with my body. I was still pleasantly plump and curvaceous, but it turns out the Mexican men find that attractive. For the first time in my life I was asked to dance at the discotecas. I received harmless cat calls and one funny marriage proposal on the way to school in the morning. It didn’t go to my head if that’s what you’re thinking. I found the attention a bit comical, but it was never crude or degrading. Honestly it made me smile. I met a lovely man towards the end of my semester abroad. We dated briefly. He was kind, thoughtful and made me feel beautiful. Our time together was short but it left a lasting impression on my self-confidence.

There was one other factor in Mexico that significantly improved how I felt about myself. I became friends and later roommates with two young women from England. They were the two most confident, brazen, hilarious women I had ever met. As if that wasn’t enough they also had those great British accents! Only a Brit can tell you to F off and make it sound like they are paying you a compliment. They put up with my self-loathing for all of a minute before one of them was fashioning together an outfit to wear dancing and the other was giving me a makeover. They simply wouldn’t stand for my negativity and therefore in order to hang out with them I had to start liking myself…at least a little.

At the end of the semester I spent an extra few weeks traveling all around southern Mexico by myself. This was a very empowering journey. It was a tremendous experience. I learned a great deal, met interesting people along the way and saw some amazing places like the pyramids of Chichen Itza, the quaint colonial town of San Cristobal in Chiapas, the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque, and the pristine beaches on the Oaxacan coast. I discovered that I was resourceful, capable and much more confident when exploring life on my own.

Family and friends couldn’t help but notice how much better I looked upon my return home. It wasn’t just that I had lost a little weight, it was that I had gained some self-confidence. I was refreshed and so enamored with my entire experience in Mexico.

I still fell prey to the vicious cycle of dieting throughout college. The negative self talk seemed to be most rampant when my friends were dating. I felt left out and lonely. These feelings were  inevitably linked to how I felt about my appearance. I set unrealistic goals on the weekend, vowing to make drastic changes just about every Monday and by Tuesday I would be back uptown chowing on a huge slice of pizza. I joined the gym, I quit the gym. I began vigorous walking and roller blading routines only to find other more important things to do with my time like hanging out at a pub with friends.

My college years were fun. I finally had friends and a social life. College life didn’t quite end upon graduation for me because I took a job on campus. My bad habits continued as did the yo-yo dieting. The little bit of self-confidence I developed remained, but I wasn’t truly happy. At a time when I should have been meeting the world head on with enthusiasm and ambition I shrunk back. I had dreams and plans, but they were buried under doubts and skepticism.

“If you really put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.”  ~Author Unknown

Sunny Saturday

It’s gorgeous out today. I am sitting on my back deck catching up with blogs, email, etc. The sun feels fantastic.

About a week ago I wrote about a few things that were on my mind. I was really pleased to receive such honest comments on the post. I thought I would revisit the topics as to where things stand today.

  • Easter was full of candy as I expected. My mother actually fit entire Cadbury eggs into those little plastic eggs she used for the Easter egg hunt! There were also Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and M&Ms. Seriously! I wanted to scream. Why can’t she at least put junk I dislike in the plastic eggs like Starburst and Skittles. I managed to unload the Cadbury eggs on another guest. The rest came home with us and went directly into the candy bowl high atop the pantry shelves so Carlos couldn’t get into it. It should have been put in a locked safe that only my husband could open.
  • Sugar – my food demons and I met head on this week. The demons won! I caved amidst a big bowl of acquired Easter candy, bake sale cookies I just had to sample before sending them off and PMS to boot. Yikes a recipe for disaster. I felt so weak and powerless. It was as if one bite led to more intense cravings and so on. I felt guilty and guiltier with each bite, yet I didn’t stop when I should have. It’s officially over now though. I haven’t quite hashed out all my feelings about the episode, but I know for a fact in years past I would have thrown in the towel completely. All bets would have been off and before I knew it I’d be praying that I didn’t get rid of my jeans in the next size up. Not this time. My pants still fit fine actually. In exchange for the sugar I’ve turned to fresh fruit and vegetables while my body recovers. I hope between now and the next time I will have found better coping mechanisms when confronted with an excess of the sweet stuff.
  • Grad School – my meeting with the Assistant Director of Graduate Studies went extremely well. I let her know up front of my intention to start the program next year and she was very supportive of my decision. She outlined the program for me. We discussed my goals and future plans. She also mentioned the possibility of incorporating one of our vacations to Mozambique into a potential practicum experience for me. There is the potential for tuition reimbursement if I decide to run clinical groups for their undergraduate nursing program. I left feeling rejuvenated and enthusiastic about continuing my education and much more sure of my decision to postpone my plans for a year.

In other news I had the most incredible run yesterday even though it wasn’t quite as long as I planned. I will discuss it more in my training post.

On Monday I am heading to Boston to watch the Boston Marathon will my best college friend. We haven’t seen each other in ages. I’m so excited about spending some time with her while cheering on all of the amazing runners. Carlos will be going to the Red Sox game with my sister while I’m at the marathon. Lucky duck!! I’m a teensy bit jealous that my 5  year old with experience Fenway before I do. I will finally see the famed Green Monster in person when my husband and I go to Fenway for a game on his birthday later in the summer. I have seen the Red Sox play only once before and it was at Yankee Stadium. I do not recommend this if you are a Red Sox fan. It was brutal.

On Thursday we went hiking at a new location not far from home. The Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the Mass Audobon Society. It was so tranquil and beautiful. The park offers 5 miles of hiking trails, mostly flat and along the Connecticut River. They were running a special deal on Mass Audubon Memberships so I joined. I’m looking forward to exploring the area more and also visiting other Mass Audubon locations across the state. They even have these really cool “Nature Quests” you can print out from the website and follow along to find a hidden treasure. Carlos is going to love that! (OK who am I kidding I’m super psyched about the Nature Quests too. I’m also dying to go Geocaching!! When did I become such an outdoorsy girl?!)

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Weigh in day: Week 2

My first weigh in was Thursday, October 13. I weighed 160.4. I planned to weigh in the following week on Saturday because of my work schedule. I really hate to weigh myself right after work. My schedule alternates every other week. However, I decided to weigh myself earlier than planned on the following Thursday morning after work instead to try to keep it consistent and I was up about 1.2 pounds. I fretted about it all day. I didn’t want to blog about it. I was frustrated and angry with myself partly because of the weight gain and partly because of my relationship with the scale.

See, the scale and I broke up about a year and a half ago. I had really had it with the scale by May 2010. No matter what I did the numbers didn’t go down. Sometimes they seemed stuck at the same weight and other times it seemed as if the numbers only went in one direction – UP! Around the time I began training for my first half marathon I put the scale away and didn’t take it out again until a couple of months ago.

My body has changed considerably over the past 18 months, but oddly my weight is only about eight pounds less. People I haven’t seen in a while compliment me on my weight loss. I dropped a clothing size and on a good day I could easily fit into a size lower than the one I’m in now. Most importantly I feel a lot better about my body.

The scale and I play games, ok ok I play games with the scale. When I used to go to Weight Watchers I would weigh myself every other day to monitor my weight. I often got lax about my diet in the first few days after weigh in and then would practically starve before the next weigh in. Really? I know better than this. It’s no wonder I never reached my goal weight.

While I was “on a break” with the scale I changed up my diet to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and less processed foods. I no longer eat meat and cut way back on dairy. I also made exercise a regular part of my life whether training for a race or not. I added 1-3 days of strength training. I wasn’t on a diet, but my body responded very positively to the changes I had made.

I don’t want to go back to fighting with the scale. I don’t want that kind of a relationship again. However, I know that I am ready to take off 11 pounds by the holidays to put me in the 140s. The only way to know if I’ve achieved my goal is to weigh myself periodically. So rather than weigh in every week. I’m going to weigh in faithfully every other Thursday. I promise I will not sneak a peek.

I have the tools to lose this weight. I know exactly how to lose weight. If the weight isn’t coming off it’s because I’m doing something wrong. No more excuses dammit. It’s time to stop talking and start doing.

Yesterday morning was weigh in day. Annnndddd the results are…

Weigh in #2 = 160.2

No pity party here. A loss is a loss. I’m going to own it. I lost .2 lbs yahooooo!!! This is the beginning of a new relationship with my scale. If I want to see those numbers move in the right direction then I need to do the work.

Goals for the next two weeks:

  • journal my food (I suck at this, not going to lie) – every article I read cites journaling as an important criteria for successful weight loss. It is one of the main tools in Weight Watchers. I know that it works. I just can’t seem to be consistent with it.
  • stay hydrated with water and decaf tea
  • monitor portion size, weigh portions if necessary to remind myself of a real portion size – I have been getting a little heavy handed lately
  • lay off the peanut butter! – if you think my relationship with the scale is dysfunctional you should see me around a jar of peanut butter. We have no business being in the same room together most days. I think we need to “take a break!”

Next weigh in will be Thursday, November 10.

Thankful

It’s been five days since I fell down the stairs. I am going back to work tonight and I’m feeling as ready as I can be for it. My mobility is much improved. However, I have to be very careful about how I move because turning or reaching the wrong way can send a painful spark through my body.

Initially, I resisted taking the pain medication prescribed by the ER Physician’s Assistant. I barely ever take a Tylenol and I just didn’t want to take anything too strong. The day after the accident I took only Ibruprofen, but by the following day I was so sore all over I could barely move. I couldn’t find a comfortable position sitting or standing. It was torture trying to get in and out of the car. That night I came home from a school event for Carlos in so much pain I was crying. I took the pain medicine, got settled into bed with a heating pad and set the alarm so that I could take the pain medicine as scheduled. I took it as often as it was ordered throughout the night along with the Ibruprofen and various homeopathic remedies. By morning I was feeling more comfortable and moving a little better.

I have continued to follow a rigid schedule with the medication. However, I am able to go much longer in between doses of the Ultram. I am resting as often as possible usually with a heating pad behind my back. I’ve done quite a bit of research on homeopathic remedies to help speed the recovery of a broken rib and while it’s not the course of treatment for everyone I am pleased with the results so far.

I’ve certainly run the gamut of emotions this week. Frustration probably tops the list. It is most frustrating that I can’t do even the simplest tasks like put my sneakers never mind tying them. Despite the overly negative emotions like sadness, anger and pain, I’ve been trying to stay positive. I am well aware that this could have been much worse had I injured my back or hit my head. This injury will heal in time. How I choose to spend that time is entirely up to me.

I am choosing to spend time reading to my son, working with him in his workbooks, and just chatting about all the things on his curious mind. I have returned to Spark People to record my food intake so that I might successfully lose weight throughout the healing process rather than gain weight which would make returning to marathon training a lot more challenging. I am also reading more, something I rarely take time for when I am active and on the go.

My husband and son are adjusting to the new me. It wasn’t easy in the first couple of days. My son reiterated the same sentiment over and over, “I’m bored.” Of course he was. He’s used to being busy with me, running around outside, riding his bike, going for hikes, trips to the museum, etc. I should be knocking on every wood surface when I make this next comment. My son has never seen me sick. He was 4 months old the last time I called out sick from work. My husband has seen me with things like a headache or cramps, but otherwise nothing has ever kept me from doing anything. I think that we all take my health for granted. This has been a huge learning experience for my family. It has taught us that we need to work together more as a team, and that while I’m usually capable of handling most aspects of day to day life I shouldn’t be expected to perform them all. We have also learned not to take our good health for granted.

This too shall pass, one day at a time. I am thankful for today.

Saddle

Did I really gain 10+ pounds since last week? Probably not, though I feel like it right now. It doesn’t help that it’s hot and humid out; or that a holiday weekend just passed and I definitely overindulged here and there; or that I’m in the midst of a PMS week; or could it be that I have been sidelined for the last four days with what seems to be a pulled muscle in my upper right back. It hurt so badly on Sunday that I could not take a deep breath. I rested most of Monday and took Ibuprofen. I felt much better on Tuesday and went to the gym for a light workout on the Arc Trainer. Today I am 100% better and looking forward to a run tomorrow.

As the old saying goes it’s time to get back in the saddle. Don’t google that saying though because it apparently has other connotations too which I didn’t know until I looked it up out of curiosity just now. Anyway you get the drift. I need to get my act together and make myself feel great again. Right now I feel like I’m standing in the middle of the see saw. If I take a step one way I will retreat to my old ways. If I step the other way I will continue down the path that I have paved over the last year of exercising daily and eating healthy and mindfully. With each passing day my foot seems to edge closer to the wrong side of the line. But I won’t let it cross, I promise. I just can’t go backwards.

And here is what a few wise men and women would advise right now:

“Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” Dr. Seuss 

“And you? When will you begin your long journey into yourself?” Rumi 

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson 

“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” J. B. Priestly

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” Nido Qubein 

OK OK!! Enough writing about it and talking about it. It’s time to begin. I get it!

Numbers

About a year ago I put my scale away and I haven’t weighed myself since. It was liberating to be free of the scale. I was no longer playing weird mind games with myself about the numbers on the scale. You know, if I don’t eat anything from now until morning, drink lots of water and then weigh myself completely naked after my first pee in the morning then maybe it will show a loss. It wasn’t working. I was stuck on a never ending plateau.

Around the same time that I ditched the scale I also registered for a half marathon and began training. My body seemed to change over the course of six months. I dropped from a size 14 to a size 12. Suddenly everything in my closet fit. I felt so much better in my body. Judging by my clothing I fluctuated a bit over the winter, but I knew when to reel it in and seemed to return back to where my clothing fit comfortably within a week or two.

I am nowhere near a happy weight, but I am much more confident and comfortable in my skin. I have been thinking a lot about getting back into weight loss mode now that I have adapted a regular fitness routine. I enjoy running so much and I love running races, but it often bothers me to know that I could be running faster and stronger if I were to lose a little more weight. I know that it would make me feel better and more confident.

A few weeks ago my husband and I had to have medical exams for new life insurance policies. The first time we took out life insurance I was denied any kind of preferred status because of my weight. Well that was shortly after giving birth to my now four year old son. I weighed nearly 200 pounds. When I last weighed myself a little over a year ago I was 168 pounds. I thought for sure I had lost at least 10 pounds if not more over the last year. Needless to say when the nurse weighed me for the insurance medical exam I was shocked and disappointed to learn that I had only lost 4 pounds. I weighed 164 pounds. Writing the numbers here is difficult for me. I never discuss my weight in numbers, but it’s important for me to acknowledge where I am at this point in my weight loss journey. I should also mention here that my height is 5’3″ (barely).

This has been on my mind for days. I instantly berated myself and decided that I should restrict certain foods from my diet until the scale showed a more significant loss. Within minutes I reminded myself how far I’ve come over the past year. My diet is made up of nearly all whole foods. I no longer rely on fat free and sugar free substitutes. I now bake my own treats with real ingredients and eat realistic portions. I make activity a part of every day. I have run a half marathon, signed up for a full, tried yoga, Zumba and body blast classes. I hike with my son. I take the stairs whenever possible. We rarely eat out anymore because we are all happier with my lighter, healthier creations. I wear a bathing suit when I go to the beach and I don’t even dread it (mind you it’s a tankini with the skirt bottom!). My weight is no longer the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I consider when I go to bed.

So instead of putting myself on some ridiculous crash diet I did nothing…nothing drastic. I knew that I needed to give myself time to decide how I wanted to approach this. My son was finishing up school which meant a huge change in my workout schedule. I had the half marathon to run. My husband’s work schedule had changed a bit possibly rendering my sleep time even less. My Dad came to visit over Memorial Day weekend. I worked a 7 night stretch at the same time he was visiting. Too many things were going on at once. From previous experience I knew that any changes to my diet would be fruitless with so much happening and so little time to plan.

We met with the insurance agent just a couple of days ago to finalize our policies. My husband, of course, qualified for the highest preferred category. This time I did qualify for regular preferred though I was denied the highest preferred rating due to my weight. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I have struggled with weight issues since I was a teen. Though, I can honestly say that I have not felt this good about myself ever. I don’t love my body the way I wish I did, but I am so proud of what my body has been able to do in these last four years starting with carrying another life and giving birth to my son. I have so much more respect for my body. I know for a fact that I will not return to the 170s, 180s, 190s or 200s again. I hated the way I felt when I was at those weights and I haven’t forgotten that uncomfortable, self-conscious feeling yet. However, it’s time to see this weight loss journey to the end so that I can take a right turn and travel down the road to maintaining my happy, comfortable weight.

I don’t have an exact plan yet. One change at a time seems to be what works best for me. The first thing I know I need to tackle is night time snacking at work. I have been eating my fair share of graham crackers, Saltines and peanut butter at work for a few months now. Going cold turkey and eating nothing is not the answer, but I can bring healthier foods to curb my hunger. Last night I had to go to bed when my husband got home so I packed my dinner to bring to work. I brought some fresh pineapple and this amazing Quinoa Mediterranean salad from Emily’s recipe at Daily Garnish. It was light, refreshing, healthy and delicious. I brought extra for my co-workers to try and they loved it too. My husband ate the huge container I left him for dinner and he thought it was fantastic too. It was certainly a much more nutritious option than graham crackers. And yes the grahams sometimes served as my dinner. Bad bad bad!

Other small things I have been doing:

  • measuring and weighing food to control portions
  • immediately chopping and storing produce when I come home from the store to make it readily accessible for salads and snacks
  • drinking homemade fruit flavored unsweetened iced tea
  • snacking on my basic Green Monster smoothie (ice, banana, spinach, carrot, 1/3 cup soy or almond milk, cinnamon, ground ginger and a teaspoon of Agave)
I don’t have an exact weight that I want to be. I just know that this is not it for me. I am realistic and really more interested in feeling, being and looking healthy.

Appearance

My 4 year old son and I love to listen to music. We love music that makes you move. In fact we have dance parties in the kitchen all the time. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of children’s music. I tried. We did the Music Together program for a few sessions. I bought various CDs and downloaded music on iTunes, but I just couldn’t fake it. So I started listening to the radio in the car and Carlos would bop in his car seat to anything upbeat. It didn’t take long before he had his own playlist on the iPod which included everything from Dave Matthews to Enrique Iglesias. I then discovered Kidz Bop which takes popular songs and makes the lyrics more appropriate for children.

The other day a song came on the radio and we both instantly loved it; Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Have you heard it? It’s fantastic. She has such an amazing voice. Last night while cooking dinner I found the video for the song on You Tube. Then I happened to read some of the comments below the video and I was so saddened that many of the comments had more to do with Adele’s appearance than with the music. Most agreed that it was a terrific song and that Adele has talent, but many also posted very mean spirited comments about the singer’s looks and weight.

This brought me right back to the hallways of my high school. I was always heavier than most of the girls. I was awkward with hair that didn’t know if it wanted to be curly or straight, unsightly acne, and a hideous wardrobe that definitely made me look heavier than I was. I was not picked on any more than other kids, but I internalized it and it made me miserable. Despite numerous diets I was never able to lose a substantial amount of weight. I had a horrible relationship with food and an even worse opinion of myself. I felt worthless, ugly and overall uncomfortable in my own skin.

Somehow I managed to find my way out of high school and into college where my mind was opened to new experiences, people and ideas. It was the beginning of my journey to self-acceptance and self-love. I wish I could say that I am now a confident woman. I am not 100% there yet, but I have come so far. Unfortunately society has not changed much. I think it is even worse today with so many social media outlets that provide people the opportunity to pick on others anonymously.

As I watch my son grow up amongst bullying policies at school, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, reality television, shows like Pregnant and Sixteen, etc., I can only pray that he grows up to be a nice, respectful, confident young man with the guidance that we provide to him.

Here is Adele’s video for “Rolling in the Deep.” When I watched it all I saw was a beautiful talented woman. What do you see?