Saturday, December 29, 2007

215.2 (egad)

Hey, remember that one time when this weight loss blog was actually ABOUT weight loss, and not my attempt to transcribe the Very Important Life Lessons imparted by ABC After School Specials into weblog form? Those were good times, weren't they?

So, the holiday orgies are finally over aside from a dinner my great-aunt is having to commemorate what would've been her 66th wedding anniversary had my great-uncle not died during my honeymoon (not that he was actually ON my honeymoon with my husband and I, although I doubt his presence would've made any difference in supreme awkwardness of the week itself and in fact might've improved the situation, because every "romantic" getaway really needs a cantankerous, habitual pipe smoker to add some salt to the occasion) back in 2004. I had planned to hop right back on the wagon on the morning of the 26th, but as any dedicated weight-loser knows, it's nigh impossible to just shake off the excess and embrace the semi-asceticism it takes to start shedding pounds again. It's like having to go through heroin withdrawal, except you actually HAVE to eat food. And of course, I still have like fifteen boxes of Christmas candy from my students sitting around and before I could dispose of all of them in the trashcan, a couple of those big pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate made their way into my mouth, and then I found a sack of those cookies with the peanut butter in the middle and fudge on the outside and before I knew it I had the sugar shakes and was staring at the bottom of the trashcan wondering just how disgusting I really would be if I rinsed off the coffee grounds from the remaining candy and saved it for later. (I didn't, but I'm not saying I didn't think about it for a LONG TIME)

Yesterday, I finally got my ass to the grocery store so I wouldn't have a reason for eating yet another cake donut for breakfast, and I think I'm set for a pretty decent week in terms of food. One of my goals, at least until taxes are paid, is to also shape my food lists so they're very inexpensive, but still relatively nutritious and varied. An old housemate of mine used to eat on $15 a week by sticking to a steady diet of frozen burritos and Ramen, but I don't think my body could take the nitrate invasion, so I'm willing to bump up to about $60 a week to include fresh vegetables and more expensive stuff like meat substitutes. If you'd like the grocery list, I've posted it and a kind of loose 1500 calorie meal plan for the week below.

Meal Plan for Week of 12/28/07

Grocery List for Week of 12/28/07

In exercise news, I was completely stoked to receive the Turbo Jam set from my parents for Christmas, most especially because the copy I was using before may have been just a little bit illegal and only existed on my computer in a very small Windows Media format. I could work out to it okay, but only if I squinted or put the computer on the floor and tilted the monitor up at me. I was burning calories like crazy, but I think if I had kept it up my neck would've permanently cricked into that pose Michael Jackson does at the beginning of "Thriller". I have lots to say about the BeachBody family of videos because I've used them off and on for several years, and Turbo Jam is one of the few I can say I actually really really, love. They have the long informercial on pretty much every day on daytime TV, or you can watch the YouTube informercial here.

Anyway, as painful as it is to have backtracked during the holidays, it's nice to always remember this is a lifelong process and no one's going to care whether I arrived at whatever goal weight I have on time or a week late. I hope you're all enjoying the downtime before the new year. I'm off to go make some Boca Joes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Keeping Up Appearances

For about 45 minutes last night, I sat at my computer and toggled between two very different websites. On tab #1 I was looking at rows and rows of gorgeous leather handbags, all on sale and all still obscenely expensive. Tab #2 was my bank balance, and a calculator in the corner where I was running figures for the upcoming months before Tax Day.

I had decided, early on in the month, that I would spend any Christmas money I received on something luxurious for myself. Just one thing, but something fantastic, like some really great stilettos, or a new handbag to replace my very cheap one I had been outgrowing for the last two years. I kind of wanted a new armchair to replace the cheap garage sale one I had snagged when my husband took our good one in the separation. I needed a new kitchen table set, or a better looking comforter, or maybe just some new work pants that didn't simultaneously cling to my thighs and slip off my waist. I just wanted SOMETHING to celebrate the end of the year.

But as I sat there with all my options in front of me, I ended up coming to terms with my inevitable choice of not doing anything with the money at all. I decided to pay off the last of my college-era credit card debt early instead. And it's a choice that simultaneously makes me immensely proud and relieved, but that also makes a tiny part of me wistful for something fun.

I got to spend some time with my old high school friends this week, which was an absolute blast because we're all basically grownups, but we're also all still idiots, too. During dinner and drinks and several blasphemous rounds of Taboo, I realized that, comparatively, all of my friends are lightyears more glamorous than I am. My friend J drives the coolest sports car, and M and B have to die for wardrobes and accessories and nice cars and adorable houses, too. S and J spend weekends in Vegas, and even my little brother, who tagged along that night, has the means to spend thousands of dollars on clothes and concert tickets and trips to wherever, whenever.
I felt conspicuously, well, poor in the presence of all of these people, because nearly two years of paying off debt collectors and my ritual of gathering up all the change in my house to pay for frozen dinners the week before I get my monthly paycheck have made me a decidedly frugal person, and in comparison to my friends' expensive clothes and rock n' roll lifestyles, my Wal-Mart couture and hand me down, ginormous, '95 LeSabre looked pretty lame.

I brooded over this through most of Christmas, and spent way too much time tinkering with my monthly budget, trying to figure out some way I could accommodate my upcoming tax payment and bills and still have money left over to buy cool shit. No matter how I manipulated the numbers, I realized 2008, or the first few months of it at least, would have to be painfully devoid of unnecessary purchases. I semi-grudgingly made the call to my creditor, scheduled all my other bill payments, and pouted in my dad's armchair for a few hours while I scowled at the Style Network on TV.

The nice thing about my parents' house is that is possesses some sort of mystical quality that always gives me this nunlike sense of peace and perspective by the time my visit there is done. Even when my whole family's there, it's pretty quiet, and it's kind of dark and everything's overstuffed and comfortable and they have this nice deep tub in which my brother and I take naps and there are no cats to stare at me when I come out of the bathroom in a towel, and everything in the house is kept at almost this unreal level of cleanliness, and the combination of all these things usually means my mind relaxes and clears enough that I have these lovely epiphanies about my life. I'll wake up with gems like, "If you go to bed earlier, you'll be less tired in the morning!" or "Velveeta and Lil' Smokies belong in no federally recognized food group, so you probably should avoid them." Today, after curling up in one of the aforementioned overstuffed chairs and ruminating on what an ascetic I am, I realized something that I think I will pretty dramatically improve my outlook on 2008:

I realized that the major aspects of my life that bother me--my possessions, my appearance, my finances, my career--they're all suffering from the same killer perfectionism that causes me to backslide on my weight loss and getting healthy. I treat my house and my clothes and my car the same way I treat my body sometimes, in that because what I currently have isn't top of the line and expensive and fantastic, I don't take care of it and I let it fall apart while I sit around and dream about having better things. I get frustrated and don't exercise because I can't just go out and run a mini-marathon right now. I trash my car and I let my house get messy to the point that everything is chaos because I'm not driving a $20,000 SUV and living in the cover dwelling for Real Simple like some of my friends are. I don't try at my job, because my job isn't as prestigious or as well-paying as my classmates'. And while I sit and make lists of stuff I want and read success stories about people who've attained the things I want to, I let my own opportunities to just make the best of what I have go by, and that's really not acceptable at all.

One of the things that awed me about my grandmother was how every single thing she owned was as immaculate and as high-performing as the day she bought it. She obviously was part of the lauded Greatest Generation, and so took her Depression-era habits to some fairly ludicrous extremes in her attempt to be frugal and sustainable, but she also lived with such dignity and elegance even though she really didn't have that much money or stuff. It didn't matter that my grandmother wasn't wealthy, and it didn't matter that she was a 4'11" kind of dumpy German woman...the way my grandmother carried herself and worked and lived made her seem positively regal somehow. I want that for myself.

Unlike my grandmother, I'm not going to rewash Ziploc baggies or scrape the freezer burn off a two-year old bucket of sherbet when my grandkids come to visit, but I do want to start acting like my life, right now, is worth something on its own. I know I have things going for me right now...I bounced back from a pretty shitty financial situation, and I have no credit card debt, and my car is paid for, and I have a savings account and retirement funds, and I pay all my bills on time and I can eat and have Tivo and even get Starbucks more than once a week. And I have STUFF...some of it's even nice stuff, and actually taking care of it would probably make it even nicer. I'm not living a completely horrible life, and I really need to start acknowledging that, and working with the things I have--the body, the money, the house, the car, the clothes--instead of always dreaming about the stuff I don't have.

I know it's not quite my time to treat myself extravagantly, but at the very least I'll hopefully have enough focus and perspective in the coming year to treat myself with dignity. And right now, that's enough for me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

T'was the day before the night before Christmas

I haven't been here in awhile!

These particular holidays, far more so than the other 26 I've had have been completely brutal. Between the finger, and then a knee tear when a little kid did a kamikaze run/hug at my lower half and my knees went one way and the rest of me went the other, and then a nasty cold when I haven't been sick all year, and the millions and millions (well, hundreds) of dollars spent on stupid crap like contributions to the week-long junk food orgy at work and semi-mandated Christmas shirts and thank you notes for the presents I get from the kids and the teachers, and little token gifts I give to all my students at Second Job, and the no sleeping because you're up glitter painting the branches of a styrofoam tree for the winterNOTCHRISTMAS program and at 3 am you felt like it was a good idea to download every version of "O Holy Night" you could find on the Internet and compare and contrast Clay Aiken to Reba McEntire to Andrea Bocelli while you are polishing off a bag of mint truffles because you realized you hadn't eaten anything other than Deb's Delightful Divinity Dip and a handful of graham crackers at lunch that day because you were in charge of fitting 96 second graders for reindeer antlers in the afternoon and you wonder if this Godforsaken season of joy is ever going to come to a merciful end, and, and, and...

And honestly, in the midst of all that, about a month ago now, I forgot one day to take my meds, and then the next day I forgot that I had forgotten, and my schedule got so massively out of whack that my brain chemicals have spent the last three weeks doing the Chicken Dance instead of regulating my crazy. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal at first, and that maybe I could just stop them entirely, but reading Dooce's wonderful entry last week right as I was starting to feel my composure and my ability to deal with stuff start to crack reminded me I should probably be taking them, especially during times like these.

So I'm going to spend the next few days getting back into some semblance of a routine, and I'm going to flush out the chocolate and the salt and the bathtub of soda as soon as Christmas dinners are up (because at my family, our new Christmas dinner since my grandmother got sick consists of Ro-Tel and Ro-Tel related appetizers...fresh food is thereby banished for at least a couple of days) and I'm going to heal my knee and take my medicine and hopefully stop feeling like I am about to explode out of my body and take out a small village with the power of my preservative-fueled rage and depression.

How was that for a Christmas card for all of you? At least I didn't dress up the cats and photograph them in front of the fireplace.

Happy holidays to you all, have safe travel, and a wonderful Christmas. Love you guys.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I went to get my stitches checked yesterday by the nice doctor who sewed me up and told me to wash my hair with my hand in a baggie. She said everything was looking fine, and the baseball sized lump on my shoulder from an allergic reaction to my tetanus shot wasn't a big deal, and that I was cleared to do pretty much everything at work that I wanted to except lift heavy boxes and, you know, rub my other fingers against sharp metal trashcans.

As I was walking out I mentioned briefly that I teach music, and so I spend a lot of time playing piano and guitar and drums and various other forms of instruments where my fingers come into repeated contact with other surfaces. The doctor stopped, frowned, and then revised her "cleared for work" list to say I could do everything except play piano, guitar, drums, type a lot, or allow others to squeeze or press my left hand or finger, which basically translates into IS FULLY CLEARED FOR WORK EXCEPT FOR THE PART OF WORK WHERE SHE ACTUALLY DOES HER JOB. So, drinking coffee and picking the dead leaves off my desk plant? Check and check. Now where's my paycheck?

She also added that I can't do any physical activity that involves putting weight or pressure on my finger, which also rules out the kickboxing/weights/yoga exercising I've been doing, so my week is amounting to a whole lot of nothing in terms of activity. Still, I wanted to write, so I decided to focus on a non-scale victory type thing that I'm still currently kind of feeling out right now.

Since I can't play the piano for a week and the rest of my permitted activity revolves around sitting and using up oxygen, I decided to spend all this downtime finishing up some composition projects I'd been working on over the last couple of years. The one I wanted was saved as an attachment in my old email archive, so I had to do some serious digging to finally locate it. While I was browsing the contents of this particular inbox, I ran a set of emailed conversations a friend and I had conducted around July of 2006. This is the one "friend" from that one angsty past entry which was my epilogue to the Year of Angst during which I regularly beat myself up for not being good enough for him or anyone else. Now that I'm older, and less angsty, and have a voluntary retirement account, the mention of which I believe can make even the most raving idiot seem like they're wise and perceptive, I can honestly say I'm not only past the bad parts of that experience, but I'm kind of grateful for it, because it forced me to change a few things about myself that were pretty weak and kind of pathetic.

It was funny, as I read through our exchanges, because I felt the same sense of twitterpation reading the compliments, and the teasing, and the "Gosh, I adore you so much...I just wish you looked as great below the neck" comments as I did a year and a half ago. What made the difference this time, though, was that I saw the comments for what they were: pleasant, endearing, but ultimately empty little nothings that all had the same qualifications attached to them. I cringed every time I read my own simpering, and how I justified his own abhorrent behavior for him by saying it was biological and I totally understood because I knew how ugly I felt, so I could only imagine how ugly I looked to him.

And obviously, if you used to be doormat and you're not so much of one anymore, there's going to be this huge WTF moment where your past behaviors are revealed in the glory of your own hindsight. It's not pretty, realizing I was kind of a spineless loser, and I wonder if I had managed to acquire that particular set of self-confidence and assertiveness sooner in my life, if I'd even be writing a blog about body image and weight loss now. I'm pretty stoked, actually, to be able to look at those past emails and roll my eyes, because knowing that I shouldn't have been treated that way means I've grown a pair, and that I'm not afraid to use them when I think I deserve better. I like that about myself.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It hurts when I go like this

Yesterday I took 75 fourth graders to a production of The Nutcracker. I had to promote it to them as "the show with the 40 ft. Christmas tree and giant rats with swords", or else I feared a mutiny from the posse of boys who I was forcing to trade in their Wranglers for dress pants and a sweater. The kids were pretty good sports about it for the most part, and as we settled into our section of the 3rd balcony I looked back at the attentive faces and was proud of them in that vaguely maternal way that teachers feel when they realize their 50 hours a week of tying shoes and lecturing and smelling like a combination of desperation, glue stick, and stale coffee actually means something. It was going to be a great day.

Apparently, the great day concluded at the intermission. During our 15-minute break, one of our teachers approached me with a sweating, trembling little boy who said vomiting was imminent. I ran to one of the security guards posted around the theatre and asked him if I could take the kid to a sick room or a first aid station to cool him off and get him some water. They said the EMT wasn't available at the moment because another kid from another elementary school had managed to burn his left thigh (?) on a hot water pipe in the ancient bathrooms of this auditorium, but that we could wait until he was available in the lobby. We went downstairs where more security guards proffered folding chairs and a glass of water for my potential puker (we'll call him PP from now on). While he was drinking the water down PP told me upchucking was an imminent possibility so I frantically ran to the nearest trashcan and aimed it near his head. False alarm, so I laid PP down across two chairs and started to put on my winter coat so I could go get him some Gatorade from the bus. A gaggle of elementary school aged ballerinas were walking out of the show with their moms, having already performed their roles in the first act, and one stopped next to me, and kind of half whispered/half shrieked, "Mom, that lady is bleeding ALL OVER THE PLACE." I looked down and realized that a puddle of blood had accumulated on the toe of my high-heeled boot, and there were streaks of red on the folding chairs and the trashcan I had grabbed for PP. I had ignored the dull pain in my hand, thinking I had just pinched a nerve on the handle of the trashcan, but when I flipped over my palm I realized I had somehow made a huge, deep cut across my middle finger, and blood just kept pouring out of the wound while I stared.

At this point the quiet lobby turned into kind a scene from Keystone Kops. The security guards rifled through their bags for band-aids, while another escorted me to the nearest bathroom to clean the blood off me. I refused to stop moving because I didn't think the cut was that bad and I couldn't abide by the idea of some other person cleaning up my mess, so I kept trying to leave to go get paper towels to clean up the trail of red dots I had made across the marble floor of the lobby. When I finally made it into the bathroom to clean off my shoe, I guess the site of all the blood in the sink and all the extra blood that just kept pouring out was kind of too much, and I got a little woozy and had to be told to sit down on the bathroom floor by some society wives and a poor, traumatized little girl whose Nutcracker experience will always be tainted by "the day that woman's finger got cut off and she asked me to bring her paper towels".

Anyway, the rest of the afternoon involved the EMT and me getting PP to the first aid room to lie down, where he proceeded to lie on an ancient gurney-type thing and moan until I told him the ballet was nearly over and it was almost time for lunch, at which point he improved miraculously and decided he was cured. The EMT bandaged up my finger, which had still not stopped splooging out blood, and told me that I probably wouldn't need stitches, but just in case I did would I please sign this form that said the owners of the complex and the old, sharp, disease-ridden trashcan that slashed me open wouldn't have to pay for the stitches or receive any publicity or ever have to look at me and my poor maligned finger again? I took PP back to the ballet, where we had missed all of the second half except the last ten minutes, and I watched the pas de deux while catching the ever dripping blood in my good hand and wiping it on the ball of gauze the EMT had stuck in my purse.

When I got back to school, our nurse ripped off my Sponge Bob band-aid/gauze dressing on my finger and promptly sent me off to get stitches and a tetanus from the workers' compensation clinic in a nearby suburb. Everyone was super nice when I got there, and extremely worried about the ridiculous amount of blood I had lost and my very low blood pressure and thought I was going to flip out and faint when they injected me with the anesthetic in my finger, so four nurses stood at my feet and shoulders and kept encouraging me to breathe. I filed that away as a Scene From What it Might Be Like to Give Birth, except at the end of the procedure I was the proud mother of three stitches, a swollen tetanus shoulder, a giant, gauzy middle finger. and strict orders to take only baths for the next two weeks and to keep my left hand in a Ziploc bag if it's raining or I'm washing dishes.

So far I've found the finger issue very gratifying in terms of getting sympathy and also being able to flip people off to show them the dressing. The only annoying parts are the fact that I can't do all the job stuff I need to be doing a lot of right now...playing piano, playing guitar, typing's even hard to, like, put my hair in a ponytail or put on a pair of pants without restarting the bleeding and swearing like a dockworker from the little jolt of pain. The reason I mention this is because I wanted to address a comment Jarrett left on my last blog, and I had been struggling for a way to make people who wouldn't get it understand. My last post was about a feeling I get sometimes of not feeling "right" on the my body is more slow and sluggish than usual, and that things don't seem to be functioning like they ought to. I wrote how for me, it's such a specific feeling that I can even stand on the scale and tell you to the tenth of a pound, just how abnormal I feel at any given time.

Jarrett wrote this very thoughtful comment in response:

For me, being active is important. I'm a year away from earning my black belt in karate, and I want to work myself up to running a marathon in 2009. Those are my goals. Completing those things will require a lot from me. I don't have some weight goal. I have a fitness goal. I want to be able to do those things. Weight goals just seem so arbitrary and self-defeating.

Why do you want to lose weight? Do you plan on being a model, where your weight - just the raw number - is important? Are you going to lounge on the beach in a way-too-small bikini all summer long?

Do something! Make the weight loss a secondary effect of some bigger goal! Make your life a physical one. And? It's really hard to be depressed after spending an hour at the gym. How can you not feel good after that?

It worked for me. It worked for my wife. I'm not saying it's perfect. Just something to think about.

I read through that comment a couple of times trying to figure out how to respond, because there will always be the 3% of me who sees a question like "Are you only losing weight to wear a bikini?" with a "Yes, please!", even though I know the rest of me thinks that's shallow.

Maybe I didn't explain myself very well in the post before: my impatience and frustration and not feeling great every single day isn't a matter of numbers, or of seeing the scale dutifully knock off a couple of pounds every week. Some days I wish it would, because it's much easier blog-wise to come back every week and report a loss on the scale than to say, "Dear Blogosphere: today my left ankle looks less fat in my work shoes than it did last week. Progress!", but I totally get that the scale isn't a desirable, or even reliable, way of measuring true weight loss.

I think my impatience stems more from the fact that when I feel my body getting icky on the inside again like it did last week, I know that'll be that much more time before I CAN start planning for marathons or more tango classes or black belts. Because, at least for me at 5'1" and just a little under twice what I ought to weigh, my body's just not ready to go out and push for a fitness goal or train for something big and grand that would make the weight loss secondary. I already am exercising, but I don't talk about it because I don't want to jinx it, and I also don't think it's something really worth talking about. I exercise so I can get into a healthy enough state where the exercise is meaningful, and not just recuperative. I have done the training stuff when I was this size before and it ended up in big injuries and setbacks, so right now I know the responsible thing to do is to take it slow, even though it's driving me crazy. Based on previous experience with all this stuff, I know when my body is going to be ready to run again, or dance without being awkward and overtired too soon, but every single time I feel my body getting stubborn and refusing to metabolize like it ought to, or just feeling run down and toxic and lardy, then that's just another day where this has to be a weight loss thing, and not a healthy thing.

It's kind of like my giant ass is the big, gauzy middle finger that screws up the rest of my life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Feeling Dirty (and not in the good way)

Have you reached that point in your weight loss journey (I swear to God if I have to write the phrase "weight loss journey" like I'm some sort of dumbass Chicken Soup For The Dieter's Soulu author, I'm going to fuh-lip OUT. Please, please, please open your thesauruses (thesaurii?) and give me a new phrase. Good people, I beseech you) where you are so obsessed with your own weight you can actually feel how much you weigh?

And you know those amusement park people who stand by a scale and give you like a free inflatable whale or a coupon for kettle corn and three hot dogs if they can guess your weight within five pounds? If I were that person, and my doppleganger happened to be patronizing the Six Flags over Bumfuck Nowhere where I'd inevitably be working, I would wager I could guess my clone's weigh down to the ounce, because that's how freaking in tune with how fat or not fat my body feels at any given time.

I happened upon this article some mental health researchers in the UK published a couple years ago about the mental phenomenon of "feeling fat". The short version is that apparently an area of our brain controls whether or not we feel our bodies shrinking or expanding (adorably labeled the "Pinocchio Effect" and "Alice in Wonderland Effect") so, scientifically, being fat is a state of mind.

And of course I ran across this article as I'm spending another week feeling my body slowly expanding in all directions like a Macy's Parade float (if such float were 5'1" and blonde and tripped over cars and tall people as it made its way through Manhattan) It's so weird, this plateau for a couple days you can be at a new lowest weight and then one thing can screw it all up so you spend the next week fighting off those 3-4 lbs. you've already actually lost. It's kind of demoralizing, this up and down, and I'm starting to get frustrated with how quickly I plateau after a little loss. Not super angsty frustrated, but just kind of whatevery about the whole thing. I'm not going to give up, but I'm not sure exactly what I should be doing differently.

The weirdest thing about this whole "feeling fat" phase is how kind unclean I feel on the inside. Do you ever get that feeling? Where everything's kind of puffy feeling and your body is sluggish and maybe there's just this...not right feeling just under the surface of your skin? Yes? Maybe? Are you backing away slowly and not making eye contact? It's okay. I forgive you.

My friend Veggie B, who's moved to Asheville to become a professional hippy and WHO NEEDS TO UPDATE ONE OF HER BLOGS PICK ONE I DON'T CARE WHICH ONE BUT IT'S BEEN TWO MONTHS, WOMAN! would say that feeling that way means you're either filled up with physical toxins or emotional toxins and you need to clean them out somehow. I don't know how much I believe in toxins, but I do know this happens every single time I eat some less than wholesome food. Obviously, the weight gain isn't permanent, because it would've taken at least a couple weeks of making very unwise food choices to accumulate the calories to make that happen, but it's just weird how long the scale sticks up in the high numbers and then only falls a half pound or a pound each time. Wish there was a way to kind of get things moving along again.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Oh, hey look everybody...the scale finally decided to stop being a little bitch and quit pretending I was NINE POUNDS HEAVIER THAN I WAS LAST WEEK. Oh scale, you sadistic little trickster, you.