Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 5: Cleansing Rain

          Ooh, I love this sort of morning: wet, dreary sky, swooshing wind.  Whereas bright sunny days energize me and bring a smile to my face, a day like today makes me feel cozily relaxed.  I think the melancholy weather draws the melancholy and uneasiness from me and carries them along on gloomy clouds.  Days like today give me the inner peace I need to play with fabric, fearless of my novice inadequacies.  Days like today give me the quiet I need to be able to think and to plan.

          I'm also happy that yesterday, more specifically yesterday's stress binge eating episode, is over.  I'm glad that in the storm that was yesterday, I found strategies to help me cope with future episodes.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to turn off the draw to stress eating, but hopefully if I'm prepared I'll be able to minimize damage.


Friday, March 4, 2011

March 4: Stress

            I'm having a hard time right now.  I have been obsessively comparing my weight loss progress (or lack thereof) in Lighten Up to the success of the others.  This needs to stop.  It's hard to stop thinking about something, though.  It's like trying to not think about an itch: the harder you work to not think about it….

            At the doctor's today for an unrelated issue, I voiced my frustration about being stuck weight-wise.  The nurse looked at my chart and reported that I'm down 20 pounds since October.  (Little voice in my head: Yeah, but people in the contest lost 20+ pounds in a month!)  I'm going in the right direction, but it's not happening as quickly as I'd like.  How did everyone else in the contest blow off so much weight so fast?  What's wrong with me?

            I'm feeling the pressure, and I need a good cry. 

            On the positive side: I convinced myself once again to get out of bed early this morning and exercise.  At the doctor's office I got a shot in the arm (literally), so hopefully I'll start feeling better soon.  Less owie = less stress = back to my normal self.  And best of all, I get to go out with my husband tonight.

            Maybe this afternoon I'll let myself have that overdue cry.  Then I'll read some of the wonderfully consoling sixth chapter of Matthew.  Then as I try to restore order in my house and life, I'll let my excitement for tonight build.  I'll pull myself out of the doldrums, and I'll be okay. 

            I may end up wearing a size 4 and still weighing 241 pounds, but I'll be okay.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3: Punch Drunk

        There was no WOW class today, so I had the opportunity to work out with Charlene at Slim & Fit in Mayfield Heights.  And I hit her.  Don't blame me!  She made me do it – she gave me the gloves and she told me how to do it.  As one who left a self defense class in tears, I believe I have special authority to say how much fun this workout was.

        I was nervous before the workout.  I even ate and tracked a bowl of -- as Calvin & Hobbes would say -- chocolate frosted sugar bombs.  {Note: this morning I realized I'm a stress eater.}  I was afraid that she'd expect more from me than I was capable of.  We people pleasers don't like to let others down.  I was afraid that I'm not as strong as I seem to be in WOW.  Maybe all that lifting & sweating I do would earn no better than a C+?

        Thankfully Charlene, who was a successful contestant in last year's Lighten Up, turned out to be friendly, funny, and supportive.  We did some treadmill, then some upper body, some treadmill, then back, some treadmill (to keep my heart rate up) and some free weights, some treadmill, then Charlene asked me if I'd every boxed.  Erm, no.  Are you kidding?  I catch spiders and put them outside.  I brake for squirrels.  Punch?  Only with the Wii or a DVD – never with another person on the receiving end. 

        So what do I do when I'm working out and faced with an unfamiliar, apparently uncomfortable task?  I step up and try it, of course.  To say "I can't" would be way more humiliating than to try it and look like the spaz that I am.  So I put on some giant red gloves, and Charlene put on some hand pads with targets in the palms.  She told me where to punch, and I punched.  Since it was absolutely clear she was in no danger of a bruise or a sprain or even noticing that I was hitting her, I was okay with it and found that this was FUN!  It was new, it held my attention, and it got me sweating!  When I hopped back onto the treadmill after that bout, I think I may have felt a bead of sweat forming on my forehead!  No dripping yet, but it's a start.

        My advice to you who haven't worked out with a trainer before: give it a whirl.  Trainers are fantastic.  No matter how weak I actually am, they make me believe in myself.  They tell me I'm strong. Today Charlene shocked me with a new one: she told me I'm flexible!  I'm sure it's only because my leg was in a rubber band going one way while the rest of me was pulling in a different direction, but it was still nice to hear.  It's another piece of positive talk I can keep in mind when I'm working out.  Sure I know that I'm lumpy and awkward, but I've also been told that I'm strong and flexible.  How cool is that?


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March 2: Good Deeds, Fear, and Trust

            There's a song on my workout playlist which gives me pause now and then: "No Good Deed" from Wicked.  The particular lyric that gets me is:

One question haunts and hurts too much, too much to mention

Was I really seeking good or just seeking attention?

When I hear that – usually panting away, several hundred calories along – I question my motivation for losing weight.  I'd like to say that I have noble reasons, but the first thoughts that pop into my mind don't seem very noble.  My motivations have to do with appearance, comfort, and activity.  Look more closely though, and you'll find a common thread: being comfortable in my own skin. 


            Ever more frequently, I push myself to try things.  Some of these things undoubtedly seem ridiculous to people with good self esteem.  For example, last week my youngest and I arrived at a preschool open house but didn't see other people coming or going.  I had to give myself a pep talk to just get out of the car and enter the building, fearing that I had the time wrong and would be an unwelcome interruption.


            Other things I've tried would give a lot of my friends pause.  In WOW, there's a contraption we occasionally use.  When I first saw it and realized that David intended for us to use it, I was completely incredulous.  There were no moving parts to this thing – nothing to lift or push.  Picture two vertical posts connected near the floor by a horizontal bar.  On one post is what looks like an overly padded, double-wide rectangular bicycle seat; on the other post is a crossbar wrapped in padding.  That's it.  It turns out that you lay with your pelvis on the rectangle, hold your legs and feet up behind you, parallel to the floor, under (not resting on) the padded crossbar.  Then you dip down at the waist and lift – you're doing back extensions a couple feet off the ground while simultaneously holding your legs up. 


            The first time I was faced with this exercise, I was afraid of failing and of doing so in front of people.  I was afraid of people seeing and laughing at my monstrous posterior in such a preposterous position.  But I did it anyway.  I did it to see if I could, and because it was interesting, and because I trust my trainer and classmates, and because I wanted to become stronger in so many ways.  One of my favorite lines is "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust."  So I struggled through and did as many extensions as I could, slipping and sliding backwards the whole time.  Today I can do countless repetitions of the same exercise while holding onto a 20-pound weight, and I don't even wonder if I look like a giant goober.  I know that I have good form and that I look strong.  I feel strong.


            The summer months at the pool are still are a little ways off.  It's my top motivation: it's what I think about on cardio equipment and what I need to think about in the face of unhungry food temptations. Between now and then, I need to build my self-confidence to a level where I give barely a thought to what people might think when they see my jiggly body in a swimsuit.  And I'd like to turn more of my fat into muscle.   I'm happy to announce (I told myself I wouldn't put this in my blog, but I trust you not to laught at me) that I've dropped enough inches that in addition to jeans shopping, I must go bra shopping!  With enough hard work, in a few more weeks or months, I'll shop for a new swimsuit, too.



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1: Focus

          The sun is shining, it's Tuesday, I've swum, I've cross-trained, and I've been to WOW class, so I should be over the moon with adrenaline.  But I'm not.  My mind is steadily focusing on things other than food and exercise: the peaceful church last night, my daughter's science open house, my son's science project, tomorrow's  Girl Scout meeting, next week's PTA meeting and activities, the surprise I bought for tomorrow's dinner, fixing tonight's dinner, the clothes I need to buy (my closet is depleted) for an evening out with my husband this weekend, the present to buy for a birthday party, wondering what the Slim & Fit workout will be like in place of WOW this Thursday, looking forward to seeing quilting friends this weekend, looking at the March calendar.

          Have you ever seen two different pictures of the same subject photographed in different focus?  One picture shows a clear foreground and fuzzy background; the other shows a fuzzy foreground and clear background.  That's where I am today: my weight loss efforts are on auto-pilot.  I'm eating right and tracking. 

    I wish I could offer any readers out there something more inspirational, but today's not that kind of day.  I guess the best I can offer is that there are days – or moments – which aren't struggles.  Sometimes there is no emotion-driven eating; sometimes pushing through workouts happens without a fight.  I'll try to not question this little reprieve, but rather continue to seek out and listen to the peace that my spirit has been increasingly asking for.

          My spirit and my body are always in the same picture, each able to be quietly strong while the focus is on the other.  Lately, my spirit is coming forward.


Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28: Taste & Flavor

        When I was treated for salivary gland cancer in 2000, I had the unique experience of losing the ability to taste.  The radiation treatment burned my cheek, mouth, and throat so badly that I wore a pain patch on my left upper arm and could tolerate nothing other than unflavored ice shavings – even water hurt.  I lost 40 pounds in under a month and only forced myself to eat when threatened with drastic measures.  I learned what it means to "eat to live."    I was eating only for physical nourishment, not for emotional relief or for the pleasure of taste.

        Over time as I healed from the radiation burns, I began to regain my sense of taste, but found it altered.  The first thing I could taste was salt, and I remember how good salted tortilla chips tasted – they were all I wanted to eat.  In the terror that was cancer, along with all emotions and uncertainty that go into learning to be a mom, there was security in the simple ability to taste something – anything - again. 

        Funny thing though: I couldn't taste artificial flavors.  I was heartbroken to find I couldn't enjoy my once favorite Reese's peanut butter cups or Doritos.  They were just greasy, flavorless textures.

        In the going-on-eleven-years since radiation treatment, I've regained my ability to taste most things.  In learning to prepare nutritious food, I've taken to using diabetic cookbooks (even though no one in my family is diabetic), watching cooking shows on PBS (America's Test Kitchen calms me like nothing else can), and exploring the world of flavors through Penzey's Spices.  The world that is my taste buds has very little artificial flavor.  It's got some salt and sugar, but it's increasingly rich in cinnamons (did you know that different varieties have beautifully different flavors?) and basils, cumin and honey.  My spice drawer runneth over!

        I have to confess: When my first order from Penzey's arrived, I was confused by this thing in the box with my order.  Eventually I figured out that it was a nutmeg! Who knew that nutmeg came in a form other than powder in a jar?  Similarly, on a recent trip to the West Side Market, my kids were surprised to sample and learn about sugarcane.  It opens the way to discussions about ecology, the global village, and our role in the world.

        As I continue to develop my physical and emotional well-being, I'm having loads of fun learning how to cook with flavors.  Thanks to temporarily losing my sense of taste, I learned about herbs & spices.  That, my friends, is called a silver lining.  And as always, I'm grateful.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27: Lighten Up, as in Relax!

Yesterday while reading article after article about how to break through a weight loss plateau, I found some common themes.  Among them: exercise tactics to prevent your body from getting used to routine; keeping an accurate food diary; being patient (I can already hear my dear Friend chortling at the idea of me being patient with a task).

There was nothing new there: I track my food religiously and follow good health guidelines.  I exercise six days most weeks and do a different type of exercise each day.  I've been within a pound of the 50-pound marker for three weeks now; I'm not long on patience.

And then I came across an idea that caught my attention.  It started with an article about mixing up the amount of calories that you consume, so your body doesn't get too comfy with routine or go into a sort of protection mode from too few calories.  For the longest time, I haven't cut myself any slack.  I've stuck to my minimum points allowance and not allowed myself to use any of the activity points I've earned or the weekly points allowance to which I'm entitled. 

I decided to start Month 2 of Lighten Up with a new mindset: I'm easing up on myself.  I'm still going to exercise hard because I love it, and I'm still going to eat healthy foods and track 'em.  The change will be in loosening up the reins a little.  I had a long string of losses at WW when I planned to have a small food treat each day and when I took time for things which make me calm & happy. 

To kick-off Month 2, I decided (a.) to plan two desserts for my family this week; (b.) to have a lunch at McDonald's; (c.) to swear off our household scale; and (d.) to not obsess about the contest & contestants.  When I did my weekly meal planning, I found two desserts from a diabetic cookbook; I tracked my burger and shake, then ate well for the rest of the day.  As for (c.) and (d.), I've gone 24 hours without stepping on the scale; and this morning I was happy for the success of the other Lighten Up-pers, but had to fight the sick feeling in my stomach when I instantly saw how poorly my weight loss compares with theirs. 

So there we are.  It's the start of a new month and I've got a new plan in place, along with a handful of accomplishments; I've also got a few familiar demons to fight.  We'll see.