“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.


February 18, 2011

I have (finally, perhaps) come to the realization that living a pain-free life in a flexible body is more important at this moment in time than losing weight.

I’m not losing weight, and my body is a jacked up mess of pain and stiffness. This is, just about entirely, due to my constant computer use. I can’t sit comfortably, stand comfortably, lie down comfortably, sleep comfortably, or BE comfortable. My workouts are suffering because I can’t be effective when I’m this stiff and in pain.

It’s time to take control, and take some action.

There were two times in my life when I felt like my body was flexible and pain-free – when I was getting regular massages, and when I was practicing yoga regularly. Fortunately, AcronymCo has a full-fledged wellness center – a doctor’s office, really – that has a full-time massage therapist on staff. We book appointments with her through our corporate calendar, and she charges $20 for each half-hour. Right here on campus. Work away, sneak off for a massage, come back and work some more. I’M ON IT.

The yoga studio I went to last year is still going strong and adding more classes all the time. There really ISN’T a reason why I haven’t continued to make use of them, other than that I just, well, haven’t.

My freelance stuff pretty much tossed my good intentions out the window to spend LESS time in front of the computer, so I’m going to have to modify and ENFORCE my off-line times. That’s going to be tough, but it HAS TO be done.

So (thinking out loud here), here’s how things are probably going to shake down:

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. yoga
Monday: Cardio/weights (possibly the gentle yoga class at 10:00 a.m.)
Tuesday: Massage session during the workday, followed by 5:00 p.m. yoga
Wednesday: off
Thursday: Cardio/weights
Friday: off
Saturday: Cardio/weights

THERE WILL BE NO COMPUTER USE AFTER WORK on Tuesday nights or Friday nights, and no computer use AT ALL all day Saturday. That’s right, you heard me. All day on a WEEKEND day. I’ll just have to fit in my freelance stuff on Sunday, Monday, lunchtime Tuesday through Friday, maybe some on Wednesday and Thursday evening depending on how much I have to do. I mean, damn, that’s GOT TO be do-able. Right?

Something’s gotta give, and if I keep going at this rate it’s gonna be my digestion from all the Advil I’ve been popping lately. I mean, damn.

I’m tired of hurting. Worst thing is, I did it to myself. Stupid girl.

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.

Taking note

November 15, 2010

Okay, so I’ve not been the most dedicated of people to my fitness regimen in the last … well okay – ever.

I have been keeping with some regular attempts in the last couple of weeks though, so go me.  I haven’t gone nuts, hasn’t been daily or even every other day.  I have, though, tried for a solid 80% of the time to pay better attention to the food and drink that I’ve been putting in my body, drinking more water, not eating as late (well, maybe I should say “as close to when I go to sleep”) – along those lines.

It also has to be noted though that I’ve also taken to sucking down nigh a bottle of wine per week for each of those weeks.  Granted, it’s some great wine, but still – a bit out of my norm for alcohol consumption since, uh, freshman year of college?

So imagine my giggle today to see that I’d dropped 8 pounds in the last 2 weeks between doctor’s visits?

Apparently I need more wine, more chair dancing, less stress, good food, and more FUN in my life.  Who knew?  :)  It’s a small victory, but today, it felt bloody fantastic.  Not only was a due a little victory, but it was an affirmation of just trying to be better to myself, to actually care for myself, and seeing that pay off.

Go me.  :)


Neglected Nikes

November 1, 2010

I’m actually nervous to check and see when my last post here was. So I’m skipping it. Yesterday I finally managed to post on my own blog, describing how the past month flew by without the benefit of my taking time to appreciate it and of course the diet/exercise combo was the first casualty of the time-suck.

Why is that? I’m not sure if it’s that way for everybody, but with me, if there is an interruption in my routine or God forbid more than one, something in my tiny brain breaks and all of a sudden weeks have gone by without an entry in the food journal and nary a sneaker has been laced up. With of course the irony being that when things get stressful there’s not much better you can do for yourself than exercise. File that under D is for Duh, you Doofus-assed Dummy. 

I spent the entire Summer walking the neighborhood, sweating my ass off and salivating for the days of cooler weather. I enjoyed the walks enough then to know that they’d become downright blissful in the crispy, golden October afternoons. Then October finally arrived, all hell broke loose and the number of walks I managed was…ONE. Yes, things were crazy. Yes, there were many days I honestly couldn’t fit one in. But truthfully would it have been that hard to take just even a half hour for myself and just do it? Come on. Because – full disclosure – you know I watched more than one TV show during the month.

I’m not looking over the fact that my weight has stayed the same and not crept back up – I’m very, very thankful for that, because it damn sure hasn’t been due to any effort on my part. But since today marks the beginning of a new month, I feel like it’s a good time to recommit and make a promise to myself : no matter what else is happening around me, it can all wait for a little while. I know full well it’ll be there when I get back from my soul-refreshing, brain-cleansing, life-affirming WALK.

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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Lesson Learned

July 1, 2010

Between this blog and my other, I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere I suffer from hypothyroidism. If not, I’m officially saying it now. This was discovered during the course of all the testing I had done during the fertility process (pretty much the only useful thing to come out of that whole deal). I was put on the medication Synthroid and instructed to take it EVERY DAY. As in, and this is a direct quote, “If your house is on fire, run back in and grab the bottle.” Okay then. I was also told I’d most likely have to take this medication for the rest of my life. Not a pleasant thought, but whatever – we all know I’m not afraid to take a pill, ha-ha, ZING!

Brian however, is not totally accepting of this idea. It upsets him to think of me having to depend on something like this from now on. He thinks there has to be a natural alternative, some kind of vitamin, mineral, vegetable, animal – anything would be better than something synthetic. I got offended, which wasn’t his intention but sometimes happens anyway, and told him I trust my doctor and for the eight bucks it costs a month I’m okay with this.

Then, a little over a week ago, I ran out of the meds. I called the doctor for a refill and was told she would be out of the office for the next week. For some reason instead of requesting someone else to call in the prescription, I thought, Whatever – I can wait. Maybe Brian’s right; maybe I don’t need this stuff anymore. I’m on such a roll with the healthy living; this’ll be fine.

Meanwhile, I continued to do what I’ve been doing – diligently exercising, consuming vast amounts of water and keeping count of my daily calorie intake. For almost a month this combination had been very successful with slow-but-steady shrinkage. I was losing between 1.5 and 2 pounds a week, very reasonable and satisfying to me.

But then, dun-dun-DUN, something started happening. The scale stopped moving. I figured okay, fine – the first of the dreaded plateaus must upon me. I didn’t let it bother me (too much) and kept on keepin’ on. Healthy food, daily exercise, water, etc. Then something else happened. The scale started going back UP. Like, steadily. Even with the very slight weight training I was doing, I knew it wasn’t that. My non-bathroom using may have also been contributing, but still that couldn’t be all it either.

It finally occurred to me as I was taking a shower and frightening clumps of hair was falling out (another awesome side-effect of a jacked-up thyroid) I realized it had been nine days since I’d last had Synthroid. I felt like punching myself in the mouth. But instead of doing that, I called for the prescription refill and picked it up yesterday morning. I asked the pharmacist about it and he confirmed what I already knew: I need to take the medication every day. Missing one day wasn’t *too* big of a deal – he actually advised NOT going into a burning building to retrieve it – but missing a week is definitely ill-advised. In that short amount of time my metabolism was again messed up.

The good news is it’s quickly fixable and I’ve noticed even just after two days things seem to be back on track with the scale and my hair and things in general. The bad news is that I’ll most likely take the medication every day for the rest of my life.

I’m okay with it.

Something Shifted

June 15, 2010

Something has shifted with regards to how I feel about my personal image, how I address food and exercise, and my general outlook on wellness. I have been doing really, really well with the workouts, and up until last Friday had only missed five total workouts of my six workouts per week, in (counting… giving up) however many weeks it has been since April 4th.

Then last Saturday I threw my back out. Oh, my neck and shoulders have always been wonky and I try to have a care when exercising shoulder and back muscle groups, but somehow between sitting in one spot for quite some time on the couch Saturday morning, then Bill touching my bare back with a cold can of soda so that I flinched HARD, that was all she wrote. I could NOT move my head in any direction and had to keep it firmly facing forward. I could NOT lift my arms up anywhere near shoulder height without screaming pain. I was nauseous and every time I shifted positions I actually whimpered.

I loaded myself up on ibuprofen, alternated between an ice pack and a heating pad, and slept in what I like to call my “traction” setup: a conforming pillow supporting my neck, a rolled-up towel under my lower back, and a pillow underneath my knees. When on the couch I reclined the footstool and stuffed pillows behind my back and my head. I moved as seldom as is humanly possible.

By Sunday I was feeling a bit improved, but still stayed ass-planted on the couch. Sunday evening I sat in the hot tub for a good forty-five minutes. Monday saw still more improvement, which was ALMOST totally jacked by the necessity to go out and pick up a metric ton of dog shit in the backyard. More hot tubbing yesterday, and today I feel like I might be up for some light cardio. I can turn my head on my neck in all four directions now, though looking up is still the most painful. Arm movement has returned, and I’m doing some light stretching to help work out the kinks. I am doing NO upper body weight routines until I am pain-free, whenever the hell that’ll be.

The thing is, when I first started this self-imposed exercise challenge, I was in a guilty panic any time the hint of a possibility of missing a workout came about. I wrote about how, after the first month, I weighed and measured and didn’t see any change. I had one bad day there, then I decided to completely ignore any measurable indicators of success, and just go by how I FEEL.

What a friggin’ concept. Eat right and exercise with only the goal to FEEL BETTER.

I know I’m stronger. I can see some muscles, feel a change in how I move, see a slight change in my shape here and there. My stamina is greater during my cardio workouts, and I’m steadily increasing weight and reps in my weights routines. My clothes don’t fit all that much different, but I’m not afraid to wear sleeveless shirts. I need a freaking tan like you read about, but I’m not ashamed to wear shorts. I doubt I’ve lost much weight, but I no longer care about that. I want to feel healthy and happy, which will (and does, I think) reflect better on the outside than losing dress sizes. If I happen to lose weight along the way, while I’m living this better, healthier lifestyle, that’s a great side effect.

I’m not counting calories. I’m paying attention to what I eat, how I eat it, and even when I eat it. It suddenly became vitally important, about a month ago, that I “fuel my workouts”. That’s something that’s never happened to me before. I just started pooping out about halfway through my cardio, and when I realized it was because I hadn’t eaten for several hours before my workout, I started grabbing a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit or a tub of yogurt about a half-hour beforehand. That I needed to start doing that tells me that my body is using its energy more efficiently. At some point, in the hopefully near future, I will have gained enough muscle mass to kick over to fat burning more quickly and easily.

So. Yeah. Bill would say that there doesn’t seem to be much different about me, physically. He actually kind of annoyed me the other day because he inferred that I haven’t been trying hard enough (“If you want to actually see results, you should start doing two-a-days and only eat eight hundred calories.”) When one works out six days a week for at least an hour, that’s a tough pill to swallow. But! I haven’t lost my optimism or my encouragement or my pride in myself, because I know the biggest and best change is internal, not external.

And that change has already occurred.

Not Just the Absence of Illness

November 29, 2009

Today’s message from DailyOm, a woo-woo website that sends me daily wisdom, is marvelous, and I’ll just quote it in full here.

Redefining Health: Throw Away Your Scale

Health is not a numerical concept and cannot be defined using statistics. Human beings, however, tend to want to quantify well-being into easily understandable figures. We feel compelled to ascribe numbers to every aspect of wellness, from the qualities of our food to our fitness levels to the physical space we occupy. As a consequence of social pressures, we turn our attention away from health and focus instead on the most contentious of these figures—weight—checking our scales to see how we measure up to our peers and role models. Yet each of us is equipped to gauge our relative healthfulness without any equipment whatsoever. When we have achieved a state of wellness, we feel buoyant and energetic. Some of us are naturally slim, while others will always be curvy. No matter what our weight, we can use the cues we receive from our physical and mental selves to judge how healthy we really are.

When you throw away your scale, you commit to a lifestyle that honors the innate wisdom that comes from within your body and within your mind. It is logical to examine how you feel while considering your health—a strong, fit, and well-nourished individual will seldom feel heavy, bloated, or fatigued. If you have concerns regarding your weight, remind yourself that at its proper weight, your body will feel buoyant and agile. Movement becomes a source of joy. Sitting, standing, walking, and bending are all easy to do because your joints and organs are functioning as they were meant to. When you are physically healthy, your mind will also typically occupy a place of well-being. Mental clarity and an ability to focus are two natural traits of whole-self health. Surprisingly, promoting this type of easy-to-discern wellness within yourself takes no special effort outside of satisfying your hunger with nourishing, wholesome foods and moving your body.

The numbers you see on the scale, while nominally informative, can prevent you from reaching your healthful eating goals by giving you a false indicator of health. You will know when you have achieved true health because every fiber of your being will send you signals of wellness. When you choose to listen to these signals instead of relying on the scale, your definition of well-being will be uniquely adapted to the needs of your body and of your mind.

Why Substitution Doesn’t Work

November 15, 2009

consciouscookOne of the gifts I got for my birthday was a cookbook called The Conscious Cook, by Tal Ronnen. Ronnen is apparently a highly respected vegan chef who is trying to bring meatless cuisine to the forefront. There’s much discussion in the book about why removing animal products entirely from one’s diet is the best way to eat. Although the self-righteousness is definitely present, the attitude is more…cultish: well, don’t you see that it’s just simpler, and just right, to think the way that we do?

For over a year now I’ve been trying to keep meat out of my diet as best as I can. It started because I had to lower my cholesterol, but then I found that the less meat I ate, the better I felt. There are fewer calories in non-meat protein alternatives, so it’s easier to lose or maintain weight with them, and they are much less expensive.

The issues I have with vegetarianism and veganism are another post for another time (I’ve written and deleted hundreds of words here because they’re off-track), and I’m really just trying to get at something weird in this cookbook that I’ve noticed elsewhere in the vegetarian world. That thing is the matter of substitutes.

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