“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.


How the hell did that happen?

December 13, 2010

On Saturday I was at the local Y with Boy.  One of the decisions Dys and I (and mostly Dys) made recently was to pony up the dough for a family membership – because Boy loves to swim, and we don’t have regular access to a pool, and because all of us could afford to be more active.  Well, speaking personally, I’ve made a couple of trips with Boy in tow, and swimming laps is reminding me just how out of shape I have been recently.  Admittedly, though, the weight room and cardio room here beat the holy hell out of what the university offers.  Holy crap.

Anyhow, while on our way out of the combatives room where Boy let out a little stress by whacking some punching bags, we saw a digital scale.  Boy was interested.

Me, I’d weighed in at the doctor’s office earlier in the week.  I’d been reasonably pleased to weigh in at what I thought my weight would be – even though I was wearing a sweatshirt and a coat to boot.  (Have I mentioned that it’s been freekin’ cold?!?)  So I figured I was probably 5 pounds lighter than that, and that was reason to be excited.

But, what the hell.  I was dressed in workout clothes, which is how I usually weigh myself for exercise purposes.  So I stepped on the scale.

After a second or two, it stopped and displayed a number.

I got off the scale and got back on.  Same number.

I made Boy get on the scale and get off.  I got back on.  Same number.

I still maintain that the Y’s scale is a little light.  But the number that it displayed was one pound higher than the weight I always considered my ideal.  What I jokingly referred to in college  as my “fighting weight” – in the days when I’d have to gain weight to get there.

I guess a ton of stress is helpful in some ways, huh?  Heh.  Who cares.  I’ll take it!!

And use it as motivation to get back into the gym.  The numbers on the scale are still happier than the image in the mirror.  Time to move some of those pounds around!


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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Stuck Like Chuck

September 4, 2010

What? Oh, hi! *Steps off scale*

Don’t mind me; I’m just a little obsessed distracted lately, as I come up on the three-month mark of my little journey here.

The first two months were really cool – well, cool is a relative term, as I spent most of that time trying to burn off calories in the sweltering Carolina sun. But I’d call it a successful period of time, as I learned to love walking in my neighborhood, was consistent with keeping track of everything I ate and managed to lose about thirteen pounds. I cleaned out my closet and was giddy every time I fit into something I hadn’t been able to wear over the past three years. Things were going well.

And then…screeeeeach – everything came to a grinding halt.

For the past month, I’ve remained steady at some number between 147 and 149 pounds. I have a digital scale, so I’m able to obsess note every day in my weight journal what number I am that day, down to the eighth of a pound. Or tenth? I don’t know – math is not my strong suit. For the first two weeks I was alarmed, then moved onto being amused and now I’m just confused. I know logically there’s been some fat replaced by muscle action going on. Something is shifting around in there, obviously, or I wouldn’t have been able to wear a pair of size 6’s the other day (whoo, that was fun).

I’m frustrated, but I haven’t given up. No, actually quite the opposite. If anything, I’m more determined than ever to somehow find a way past this and keep moving toward my goal. I’m more confident now with food choices and exercising is so much a part of my routine I feel weird if I miss two days in a row. I know the number on the scale isn’t the total picture. But still it’s…a little upsetting to see the same numbers day after day.

I’m going to try to kick it up a notch as far as switching up my work-outs, but if anyone has any advice, any tips, any thoughts AT ALL on this plateau subject, I’d be really appreciative if you could share.

*Tiptoes down the hall in a wide circle to avoid stepping on the scale again*


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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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.


Clowning

June 2, 2010

One of my favorite bloggers, Linda of From the Back Nine, wrote a post recently about weight and dieting. She closed by saying that she was choosing to go back on the diet wagon again.

Nonetheless, I’m going to put on my flappy feet and strap on my honky horn and clown around once again. Here goes nothing.

This was pretty much exactly how I felt yesterday afternoon, when I jumped around to Kathy Smith for the first time in a couple of months. That time a couple of months ago was the first time probably in almost a year. I’d been keeping fit enough with yoga, but since my life accelerated back in the winter, I haven’t been doing as much or as vigorous yoga. Gradually my hips and waist and bust have expanded, and now what I see in the mirror depresses me. Flab. Here, there, and everywhere.

20 minutes of aerobics and 120 crunches later, I felt better about myself (even though I felt like toxic waste was coming out of my pores, and I thought I was going to throw up the dinner I’d eaten upon coming home from work), but I know that I have a ways to go before I look as slim as I want to look in my wedding dress. “A ways” meaning in this case that I have to eat out even less than I already do, do aerobics at least three or four times a week and possibly every day, and, seriously, get back to the yoga. When I look close to how I looked at the time I came back from teacher training – I don’t expect that I’ll be carved out of wood the way I was then, but I want my pants to be loose, y’all – I will let up, with the understanding that I must maintain that appearance until June 13, 2011.

Wish me luck. Honk honk.


Ego Writing Checks and So Forth

May 18, 2010

I blame MTAE for introducing me to Marie of Cheaper Than Therapy (or introducing her to me, whichever, I don’t remember).  Turns out she’s a funny lady who shares my taste in death metal, tweeting from work, and very sick humor.  But she also has this disgusting running habit.  Ugh.  (We won’t even talk about the beer.)

The thing is, I started having this weird-ass and completely alien-to-me thought – “maybe I could do that whole running thing?  Just once, to say I did it?”

So Marie gets the blame credit for inspiring yesterday’s idiocy.

See, in the morning I got an email saying that the U’s alumni association was having a 5k Fun Run on May 29th.  “5k, hmm?”  I did the math.  Ok, let me stop lying, I looked it up on the ‘net.  3.1 miles.

I thought about it.  For the last several weeks I’ve been doing cardio for 30 minutes at least 3-4 times a week.  On non-weightlifting days, I stretch and then hit it for another 30 minutes.  Admittedly, it wasn’t super strenuous cardio.  But hey.  I’m not a runner – I haven’t run more than mile at once in…hmm, I think ever – but I’m not exactly 100% in Couch-to-5k territory, either.

I walked over to the door of my office manager, who ran a couple of marathons before a knee injury ended all that.  “Hey, you said once that that loop around the park was right at 3 miles, didn’t you?”  “Yeah, 3 exactly.”  Google maps says it’s a little longer than that, but what the hell.

I figured, what’s the best way to see if I can survive a 5k?  How about attempting a 5k?

I’d just taken a bike ride with Boy to the park and then around this very loop on Saturday morning, so the layout was fresh in my mind.  My workout bag was in the car.  All I had to do was change destinations.  I deliberately didn’t think too much about it.  Instead of heading for the gym,  I drove to the park, parked on the far side near the horse stables (instead of the parking lot where most folks stop/end), did the whole changing-my-pants-in-the-car-and-hoping-nobody-drives-up thing, grabbed my cell phone (just in case of freak ankle sprains, etc.) and my iPod, and gave it a shot.

I’d glanced at the Couch to 5k plan.  I didn’t have any delusions about actually running the 5k – not this one, and not the on on the 29th, either.  WAY too short to go from no-running to that sort of endeavor.  I just planned to take it slow, intersperse jogging with walking, and see how it went.  I figured I could stop about halfway (more like 2/3 of the way, as it turned out) at the other parking lot where I knew there was a water fountain.  If things were going well, I could stretch out a bit, get some water, and finish it off.  If it was going badly, well, that was a good place to call Dys and ask for a pickup.  (There were also a few strategic places before that point just in case I was much more wussy than I’d thought.)

Conveniently it was 5:00 on the dot when I left the car.  I turned on the metal (Smash the World, Ma!), walked the first few hundred yards, passed a little old Asian lady in a big straw hat, then picked it up to a jog.

Predictably, the jogging thing didn’t last very long, but that was okay.  The weather was just about perfect for such an attempt – upper 60s and cloudy, not too humid – so I just used the light poles interspersed around the park not as progress meters but as goals.  “Okay, when I get to that pole, I’ll jog some more.  Okay, next pole I’ll walk – no, wait, I can make it one more.”

Not surprisingly, I got passed by a handful of 50-ish guys.  But at least I was smart enough not to take it personally.  My flat feet have never been all that friendly over distance – when I run I sound like a cavalry charge.  As they went by, I tried to watch their stride and see if there was something in their mechanics that I could learn.  I experimented with short, long, side-to-side, height, and all other kinds of motions and ended up just kind of settling into the one that felt best at the time.  I doubt my form was good at all, but it worked.

Also predictably, I got a stitch in my side around the end of the first mile, and my ankles and shins started bothering me a little before that.  Neither was particularly surprising.  My existing cardio routine was all elliptical and stationary bike – neither all that ankle-heavy, compared to heaving my 200-pound ass upward and forward once a second or so.  But it wasn’t anything horrid.  When I made it around to the parking lot, I took a drink of water, took a couple of minutes to stretch out my hamstrings, quads, and calves, took another drink, and kept on going.

Toward the end there I was definitely just moving toward a goal and not exactly having fun, but I wasn’t in anything like the discomfort for which I’d steeled myself.  When the last turn was ahead, I had enough left in the tank to break into an actual run for 100 yards or so before slowing back to a cool-down walk to the car.  Time:  0:53, just inside the hour goal I’d set for myself.  (When I got home, Dys said, “I don’t know what a good time for a 5k is.”  I said, “Probably under 20 minutes.”  But I’ll take it.)  No injury, no serious pain – and honestly, not nearly as much boredom as churning away in the cardio room at the damned gym.  That was a nice surprise.

Of course, I figured I’d pay for it in spades this morning.  But I was wrong.  Yeah, I’m a touch sore, but only my ankles and shins are any more so than after a good workout.  Nothing discouraging.  Rather the opposite, in fact.

So I guess I’m signing up for a 5k at the end of the month.  I’m not exactly going to be competing, but I’ll finish and earn my t-shirt.  It’ll be a nice little goal to work toward.  And after that, well, who knows?  I’ll see how my body treats me and evaluate from there.

Now for this afternoon, when I experiment with deadlifting post-5k.  Heheh.


Quantify

April 30, 2010

I called my scale a liar this morning. Then, I did the same thing to my tape measure.

I have kicked ass for the last four weeks, I haven’t missed a single workout, and I push myself a little further on a consistent basis. My eating, while not awesome, hasn’t been horrible either, and I’ve tracked it every day for a month and have made positive adjustments. Yet there has been no movement on the scale and no difference in inches. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

However, I have seen progress in other ways. When I look at myself in the mirror, I believe that my face seems thinner, my belly less poochy, my butt a little more perky, and there’s beginnings of definition in my calves and arms. My body feels stronger, more comfortable to me; it moves easier, I have more energy. I sleep more soundly at night.

Then there’s a WORLD of difference in something that’s harder to measure – my attitude, my discipline, and my self-image. I’m damned proud of myself for finally gaining the consistency that I’ve historically lacked in my exercise habits. Proud of myself for sticking to the plan without wavering. And VERY proud of myself for not allowing my disappointment in the lack of tangible, measurable progress derail my mood, my discipline, my outlook. I’m going to stick to the plan, keep on keepin’ on, and continue to strive for my goals.

So, to me, I’ve made a ton of progress.

How do you quantify progress, when the scale counters what, in your mind, your efforts should have achieved?


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