“The Thought of My Thighs”

February 24, 2011

So the Borders in the town where I live is going out of business. This makes me incredibly sad, as I like Borders better than B&N, and this Borders has always employed really decent, friendly, bright people, unlike my local B&N.

BF and I went there last weekend to take advantage of 20% off the entire store, and I gave in and bought a hardback that I’ve been wanting to read for some time now (since I read this): Portia de Rossi’s memoir Unbearable Lightness. I don’t like hardbacks, for a slew of reasons, and I didn’t really want to buy this one, but I badly wanted to read it instead of waiting a year for it to come out in paperback. Now that I’m a third of the way through, I am so glad that I caved.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, this book is the story of Portia’s all-consuming eating disorder (interesting choice of words my brain gave me there) during the years she was on Ally McBeal. She had been coping with eating disorder behavior since she was about 12, but between 1998 and 2002, she shaved herself down to 82 pounds at her thinnest before the disorder was finished with her.

This is a fascinating book, thoroughly real, intelligently written, and as candid as you could possibly want a memoir to be. It’s given me a great deal to think about, in part because of my own long-ago struggle, in part because of what’s going on in my diet and life now, and in part because it’s just a doggone incredible piece of work.

What’s going on now is that my wedding is just over three months away, and I am not as skinny as I’d like to be. I feel loose everywhere, with a body that’s…undisciplined. Generally I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared for life in the last three months, and this means that my ability to make healthy meals at home has slipped, and I’ve been relying on frozen foods a lot. My psychological reserves are way down, and I can’t resist comfort foods, I can’t take the energy to count calories, I can’t make myself do much of anything that my mind is resisting.

I’ve been feeling angry at myself, lazy, undisiplined. But when I read about Portia’s ironclad discipline during these awful years, it makes me wonder what’s so great about being disciplined anyway, particularly about diet and exercise. At less than 100 pounds, at 300 calories per day, she still spent hours on the treadmill every morning. Her anxiety about her appearance led her to a kind of leveled-up self-discipline that I’m not sure I ever want to experience.

I joined Planet Fitness in January and I’ve been trying to make it there twice a week, to spend gradually increasing spells on the elliptical. I like the elliptical. It’s not as hollowing and jagged as running, and I still manage to work up a sweat. Ace of Base and Ke$ha keep me company, and I feel utterly satisfied when I get home.

I have been beating myself up that I haven’t set strict goals and met them, going there three or four times a week without fail and insisting on a certain amount of time on the machine at a certain level (or working my way up to running, which I don’t really like but burns more calories), but I just didn’t think that was the way to success for me. I thought if I aimed for twice a week and made it more about the memory of how good I feel when I’m done, I’d do better, dread it less, maybe even make it more often.

After reading about what Portia put herself through, I am much surer that this was the right way to go about it. If it weren’t for the wedding, I might abandon all of my concern about how my body looks and focus only on how it feels. I wish I had a more defined midsection and slimmer hips, arms and neck. But the more of this harrowing book I read, the more I think it might just not matter, maybe not at all, as long as I have a good brain, a good heart, and good health.

From the epilogue:

I’d still like thighs the size of my calves, but the difference is that I’m no longer willing to compromise my happiness to achieve it, or for the thought of my thighs to take up valuable space in my mind. It’s just not that important.


I’m Not Faking It

December 3, 2010

I like to shop the day-old bread display at my supermarket. You can usually get about half off whatever it is, whether it’s something sweet like pastries or something savory like an “asiago sun-dried tomato torpedo” (a long piece of bread shaped like…a torpedo). We never bought that kind of fresh-baked stuff at the supermarket when I was a kid, so buying it not-at-full-price as an adult is a nice middle ground between what’s normal to me and what seems like total decadence.

This past week I bought blueberry bread, which has been much more delicious than I expected. BF has taken to grabbing a piece before he goes to work. I usually eat some as a little afterword to my dinner, not quite dessert. But this morning it just looked so good that I took a piece to eat after I was done with my turkey sausage/egg croissant, managing to convince myself that it wasn’t sweet enough for anything averse – anything like what always happens – to happen.

And then, around 9:45, two hours (almost on the dot) after I’d eaten that blueberry bread, it happens. The shakes. The lack of concentration. The floaty feeling, the hot/cold/hot, the sweating. The instinct to stuff something, anything in my mouth, anything with substance. Hamburgers. Pasta with cream sauce. Something.

But years ago a doctor had told me that the way to cope with hypoglycemia is not to give in to that urge that tells you your body is completely empty, you have to fill it up, you have to fix this, put something in your pie-hole NOW, but just to infuse sugar into your bloodstream in the most efficient way possible. Apple juice is the best way I’ve found, but any other kind of fruit juice will do, or you can eat crackers or something else that converts easily to glucose in the body.

I look in my drawer: no apple juice box, where I usually keep one. I must’ve forgotten to replenish after the last time. There’s a box in my glove compartment, but that’s across the street and in the parking lot, which might as well be on Mars for how horrible I am starting to feel. My half-working brain feebly reminds me that I can go across to the hotel and buy some orange juice, probably, but I don’t want to go into the cold and I’m starting to feel like standing and walking a distance isn’t going to be very easy.

I go to the fridge. Somebody’s giant bottle of cranberry juice cocktail, half-empty, stands in the corner, surrounded by bottles of salad dressing that appear not to have been touched in months. The cranberry juice looks abandoned, as well. (I think it’s been there without a change in its liquid level since I started here in March.) I mentally apologize to whoever, get a glass, and drink some. And then some more.

Ah. There it goes. The shakes subside; my head clears; I feel capable of doing whatever’s necessary to get through the day, when minutes ago it all seemed insurmountable. The hunger fades, bit by bit. Last thing to go is the hot/cold/hot, but that disappears too, soon enough. I mentally thank the cranberry juice cocktail owner, whoever he or she may be. I doubt that this person would have begrudged me six ounces of juice in my moment of need, but I still feel a little bad taking what doesn’t belong to me without permission.

This is life with hypoglycemia. I always feel like an idiot telling people that I have limitations with it, like not eating sweet items in the morning (because this always happens, I always get sick a couple of hours later, no matter what), or like having to eat at certain times of day, or whatever. Hypoglycemia is obscure enough that it seems like a silly problem, and having to eat when I have to eat just makes me feel like a spoiled American. Plus, some of the time, if I don’t eat for a longer period of time, I’m fine; other times, I have to eat earlier or I’ll have an attack. It’s unpredictable, which makes it seem fake.

But unpredictable and minor as it may seem, it leads me to episodes like this morning, during which I felt totally horrible, and nothing could have kept me from drinking that cranberry juice once I’d discovered it. That’s an illness. It’s not my imagination, it’s not something I can only accommodate when it suits me. I just have to get better at standing up for myself, and for what the illness forces on me.

And at remembering to keep juice boxes in my desk.


Dairy Dues

October 13, 2010

So, recently I’ve been cutting back on dairy. I noticed a correlation between heightened IBS issues and a lot of dairy in my diet, so I decided to eliminate all dairy except yogurt for a week or two and see what happened. It improved my digestive health so much that I decided to just keep the dairy low for the foreseeable future.

This just adds to the balancing act that is required of me between my IBS, my hypoglycemia, and my low-meat diet due to my cholesterol issues and arrhythmia. I don’t presume to call myself a vegan, but my diet is starting to resemble a vegan diet about half the time. It means that I have to be yet more creative, and that “stir-fry” has to replace “casserole” as the simplest weeknight solution.

I’m not complaining; although it’s a serious pain in the rear, in the long run I like being forced to be more creative in the kitchen. Cutting dairy means cutting a class of food with more calories than nutrition, which is good. But it does drag up some questions for me about what exactly is wrong with my insides. I haven’t eaten cheesecake in many years, because I’ve known for that length of time that it’s a trigger food and will lead me to far more misery in the ladies’ room than the temporary happiness in my mouth is worth. I thought it was the richness of the food and not the dairy that was the problem, because there are plenty of high-dairy foods that do nothing to me. I ate a Greek dish with a 1 1/2 inch layer of fluffy bechamel sauce on top the other night with no ill effects, and I eat cheese and crackers with no problem. But the other night I made a casserole with Greek yogurt and Neufchatel cheese (like cream cheese with less fat), and the next day, oh, the suffering.

I don’t think I’m lactose intolerant. If I am, it’s a highly selective intolerance. But I might pick up some of those lactose pills, buy some cheesecake for the first time in a million years, and see what happens.


I Feel Bad About My Body

September 6, 2010

I’ll bet that’s not a title that inspires confidence about this being a cheerful, upbeat post. Well, it ain’t.

I guess, more accurately, that I feel dubious about my body. The thing is, if I hadn’t gotten into such good shape last fall, I wouldn’t be so upset about the way things are now. When I got back from teacher training in October, I was shaved of most fat, and I’d picked up a huge amount of muscle tone in my legs, my arms, my butt, and my abs. (Climbing up a steep trail on the edge of a canyon twice a day, along with hours of yoga every morning and afternoon, will do that to you.) All my clothes were loose. I felt light and quick and strong, and I was over the moon with how I looked and felt.

But of course I couldn’t maintain that. I had other things to do than keeping up my body and doing yoga. I had to work, I had to commute, I had to cook, I had to deal with life. Quickly I got soggy, and even as I fought back feebly with halfhearted aerobics and tough yoga that I really didn’t want to do, I found myself caving more and more to the siren songs of California Tortilla and Chili’s instead of the good food I’d gotten in the habit of making for myself at home. I started buying chips at the grocery store again.

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Scheduling Woe

July 21, 2010

Ideal Schedule
6.30: wake up
7.20: leave for work
5.10: arrive home
5.15-6.00: exercise
6.05-7.00: make dinner
7.00-7.30: eat dinner
7.30-9.45: chores, life enjoyment, whatever
9.45/10.00: bedtime

How often this happens: never.

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My Body and Me

June 30, 2010

Cross-posted at Mars is Heaven.

Let us just skip right over the yoga class I went to on Monday night (I write this on Tuesday morning). I bitched to BF for three or four minutes without taking a breath about why it made me so unhappy, but it’s just not worth complaining about here. The good news I garnered out of that trip to the studio is that I’ll be teaching at Lululemon for three of the four Saturdays in July. Woo! I love teaching there, and it almost definitely means three feedback forms. I’m also taking over the fourth Saturday of the month at the studio at 10:15, which is a class for which the nominal instructor has been a no-show twice now with no explanation. It’s a prime slot, and I’m glad I’m finally afforded one.

Teaching three or four times a week has given me a whole new relationship to my body. Yoga teaching is a vocation (or an avocation) that requires a strong and healthy body. It’s a vocation where the body is constantly used – for demonstration and for adjustment. The body is depended upon, not just to get us from here to there, or to lift and carry, or to be in one physical space for the duration of a workday. It must bend and twist and stretch and work for 60-75 minutes, and do these things well enough to keep the students safe in their imitation of your poses. It must do the difficult things you ask of it, or you will not be doing your job. I wouldn’t say that my job is as hard on my body as an athlete’s or a dancer’s job, but it’s the same idea: the body is your profession, and when the body breaks down, your ability to do your job is compromised.

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Not today.

June 14, 2010

I’m not going to do aerobics today.

1) I’m tired from a weekend out of town.
2) I have a screaming headache, and jumping up and down sounds very unappealing.
3) Working my body as I did over the weekend meant working the leg that’s injured, and although it feels fine today, I don’t want to push it, because it felt downright shitty last night.

These all sound like whiny excuses to me, so rather than give in when I really didn’t want to do aerobics, I decided that to compensate, this would be my dinner:

Almonds, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and lettuce. And yes, I may have some leftover pasta later to supplement. (Carbs don’t do to me what they seem to do to everyone else.) Unfortunately, I added dressing afterward that was so salty I thought my tongue was going to shrivel up and fall out. The sodium must have calcified at the bottom; think I’ll throw that bottle out.

Anyway, I managed to justify not doing aerobics when, because of all the fast food and all the general quantity of food that I ate this weekend, I probably should have. But I wanted a rest, after driving 18 hours in a three-day span, and worrying about my leg, and not sleeping, and so on and so forth. Was this a good tradeoff or did I cheat?


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