Thursday, December 19, 2013

My iPod caused me to lose any modicum of self-respect

First of all, let's all pause to admire my use of the word "modicum" in the title. Not only is my blog entertaining, it also helps increase your vocabulary! Well, sometimes. This past week, I had an extremely traumatic event in my life. Well, maybe "extremely traumatic" is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was quite upsetting. Brace yourselves: I almost lost my beloved iPod at the gym. Now if you don't know how much my iPod means to me, you may scoff (good word!) at my panic. Seriously, no exaggeration here, I cannot work out without music. Like it's so bad that if I go to the gym and discover I left my iPod at home, I drive all the way home and go get it. And if my battery is dead, I wait to work out until it's charged.

So anyway, I had done part 1 of my cardio and went to the locker room to drink some water before strength training. I meant to put my iPod in my locker (because for some reason I don't like music when strength training), and instead absent-mindedly left it sitting on the bench. I do my my strength training, and return to the locker room later and discover my iPod is not in my locker. I look again...still not there!!! At this point I am beginning to freak out. I never do well when I lose things because I get so worked up that I'm not very effective looking for whatever I lost and end up looking like a deranged idiot. Case in point, instead of first going up to the front desk and asking if someone turned in an iPod like a normal person, I begin frantically searching the locker room looking like afore-mentioned deranged idiot. I'm not proud of this, but I got it into my head that I may have accidentally thrown the iPod away so I dug around piece by piece in the trash can. Yes, I seriously, without even a second thought, dug around in a gross gym locker room trash can. You can see how deeply my dedication runs. At this point, after witnessing both my frantic search of the locker room and the trash can,  the other woman in the room with me is looking at me like I might be slightly crazy and/or dangerous. I have enough presence of mind to feel slightly ashamed of myself, embarrassed that my iPod compulsion has driven me to such behavior. After that disgusting experience, I finally got the bright idea to see if anyone turned in an iPod at the front desk. Miracle of miracles, someone was honest enough to turn it in! I tried to act like I was merely grateful to have found it, instead of practically delirious with my heart beating out of my chest. I mean, I do have some pride.

So in honor of finding my iPod (or maybe just because I feel like it), I would like to share a few of my favorite work-out songs for the past few months. Some of them I like because they have a good beat and others because of the lyrics. Be warned; there are some cheesy songs here. I really don't care, because when you run as many miles as I do, you do what it takes to keep going one more step. And if what keeps me going is "I Touch Myself," well, that's just the way it is. Just kidding, that song isn't on my playlist, although I did apparently download that song once for an unknown reason. So without further adieu:
  • What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger) by Kelly Clarkson: Duh. Kind of an obvious choice if you know me at all. Although sometimes I wonder if working out may actually kill me one day. 
  • Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys: Not the greatest beat for working out, but love the lyrics!
  • Never Say Never by Justin Bieber: Yes, I am embarrassed by this choice. Justin Bieber is truly a douchebag, but what can I say? Great beat, and I love the message of the song.
  • Chances  by Five for Fighting: Kind of slow to work out to, but good for warm-up or cool-down. Who hasn't needed a second chance at one time or another?
  • How You Like Me Now by The Heavy: Random choice after all the pop, but I heard this song and it made me feel bad-ass for some reason. 
  • Brand New Book by Train: This was the theme song on The Biggest Loser a couple years ago, and I really love the lyrics. The only problem is that it doesn't speed up till 51 seconds (yes, I do know exactly how long) into the song so I have to time my running accordingly. 
  • Scream by Usher: So this is my go-to ending song when I'm really trying to push hard. Unfortunately, I failed to really listen to the lyrics for months and realize what this song is actually about. Let's just say Usher and I had two very different types of screaming in mind. 
  • Roar by Katy Perry: Another obvious choice. Love the song, though the music video is somewhat confusing to me. Saying you've "got the eye of the tiger" does not mean you have to pretend you are in the vicinity of a real tiger and his eye. 
  • Applause  by Lady Gaga: I actually hated this song at first, and still do hate the message. Seriously, what kind of message is "I live for the applause?" Terrible! Sounds like a "Stars Gone Wrong" E! special waiting to happen. But I love the beat and the song grew on me after seeing the weird Kia hamster commercial 10 million times. 
My playlist actually has around 120 songs right now, but I didn't figure you would appreciate commentary on all of them. And yes, I do realize I am a Top 40 Hits cliche. I'm always in search of new songs though, so let me know if you have any I should check out!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Back to the basics: The power of a food scale, an elliptical, and a complete lack of ego

Lately, I've been trying to get back to the basics. It's been kind of humbling really. It's so easy to think that I know so much more than I did when I began, mainly because for the most part that would be a true statement. I do know so much more than I did then. But part of the problem is that it's easy to let things that I did religiously in the beginning slip by the wayside as time goes by.  But as I said a couple of weeks ago, I am trying to remedy that. My main mortal sin (should I say a Hail Mary?) has been not measuring out my food. I've never been great at estimating measurements, and I'm especially not great when it involves eating something delicious.

I've also gotten stuck in a rut with my exercise routine. Even though I know better, I have been queen of cardio lately and have been neglecting strength training. Part of that is because I hurt my arm surfing (3 months ago! I keep thinking it will heal on its own, but no luck, probably because I keep overusing it) and can't do arm stuff, but I shouldn't use that as an excuse. I could still be doing everything else. Well, I can't say that I did strength training today (shame, shame), but I did at least switch to some form of cardio other than running. I used the elliptical, which I haven't been on in months. The elliptical was something I used everyday in the beginning, but as I grew able to run, I gradually stopped using the elliptical altogether. I guess I got it in my head that running is a harder workout. I think a lot of people believe that, but that is not true. I did intervals on the elliptical today and I had sweat pouring off of me (as always, you're welcome for that mental image). Running isn't a better workout than the elliptical; it's just different. I even felt how it was using different muscles. Can you phone in a workout using the elliptical? Sure, but you can do the same thing running. No matter what kind of workout you do, you have to make a conscious effort to push hard the whole time.

The truth is, I am a creature of routine. I always have been. I think it's a control thing. And actually as far as food goes, that is a good thing for weight loss. Research has shown that eating the same thing all the time bores people and so they view food more as just a source of nutrition and not something associated with emotion, which makes people prone to overeating. But as far as exercise goes, routine is terrible. You need to constantly switch things up to keep your metabolism confused. So as much as I may crave the same workout every day, I have got to force myself to switch things up.

So far, so good during this month of temptation otherwise known as the holiday season. I'm getting all my workouts in, and not going crazy with the treats. My goal of losing half my original body weight by the end of the year is good motivation to keep myself going strong. I've only got 4 lbs to go!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sheryl Crow had it right; a change would do you good

Okay, maybe Sheryl Crow's song isn't exactly about the same kind of a change I am talking about here, but you get the point. Anyway, I get a lot of people that ask me if there was some "Aha!" moment that made me start losing weight. I can't say that there really was, although it would for sure be more dramatic if there was some crazy event like me having a heart attack or something. I'm really glad it didn't take something like that though! I think for me, it was a lot of little moments that added up until I had just had enough of it. I got to thinking of one of those moments this week when I was decorating for Christmas. I have a rule that the apartment has to be clean before I start decorating. This keeps me from procrastinating on cleaning because I want to decorate so much (I find it slightly scary how often I have to trick my own mind into doing things). So that's some work, and then I have to get out the boxes of decorations from storage, which always leads to me cleaning out the storage closet, and then consequently having 5 million bags of trash to take down to the dumpster. This year, it took me about a solid day's work to accomplish everything. When I finished, I even still had enough energy to go for a run. And that's when I started thinking how very different this scenario was from 2 years ago. It took me about a week to clean and decorate for Christmas because of how many times I had to stop for breaks. Even on stuff like cleaning the bathroom, which isn't exactly an endurance sport, I still had to rest. And as far as taking all those trash bags out to the dumpster and climbing up and down the stairs? I needed 10 minutes to recover from every trip. My physical decline had slowly crept up on me. I knew that I wasn't in good shape by any means, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten until then. I mean, it is somewhat alarming (and embarrassing) that a 27-year-old would be in that kind of physical condition.

 Christmas is also a time when people tend to take pictures of family. I've always been the unofficial photographer in my family (sometimes much to my siblings' dismay), but before that year I had usually made an effort to ensure I was in at least some of the pictures. In 2011, I was present in barely any pictures at all. I don't think it was even a conscious thing on my part. It was easy and natural enough to remove myself from pictures since I was usually the one taking them. But that Christmas we went to visit my grandmother and took a picture as a family. Here it is:

I was absolutely horrified when I saw that picture. I guess I actually thought holding that pillow in front of me could disguise some of my bulk. And this may sound stupid and narcissistic, but even now looking at this picture of my grandmother's last Christmas, one of my first thoughts is how terrible I looked. It's even worse at  my grandmother's birthday party in June 2012 in our last family picture with her because I had put on about 20 more pounds there.

 Again, selfish and petty, but I hate that in this picture, the picture that everyone remembers because it was the last one, I look like a gigantic blob. What can I say? I'm very human.

I think seeing pictures like these is part of the reason I tried to avoid being in front of the camera. Pictures don't lie, although I really tried to hope that instead of the camera adding 10 lbs, it had added 200 lbs. You can't escape from the harsh truth after seeing a picture. You can't pretend anymore that maybe other people don't see you as big. That maybe you don't actually look like you weigh that much. I wish I could say that after seeing that Christmas picture, I had my big revelation. Oh, I made my New Year's resolution weight loss plans, the same as I did every year. I even joined a gym, which I did not set foot into until June. It would be easy to have regrets about not starting to lose weight sooner, but regrets serve no purpose. You can't change the past. The fact of the matter is, I wasn't ready to change at Christmas. I wasn't ready in January or February or March or April or May. But I was ready that June. Like I said, by then it was a lot of little things that had added up to make me ready for a change. Maybe it was that birthday picture that was the ultimate catalyst because 2 weeks later, I had started on this weight loss journey. In which case, I hope that in time I can start to look at that picture not with shame, but with a sense of pride that this picture was taken right before I took control and changed my life. That that girl, the one who weighed 328 lbs, was the one who had the strength and courage to try to be different. I know my grandmother would feel nothing but pride about that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The holiday season: Trying to avoid a food free-for-all while also not being the bitter one in the corner eating carrots

I feel so much better this week than last week! And it's not just because the scale didn't destroy my dreams today like it did last week. Although, for sure, that helped. I just feel much more balanced and not on the verge of doing something extreme, namely binging on Little Debbies out of frustration and/or running 20 miles to burn more calories like an exercise addict. It could have been very interesting though if I had eaten the Little Debbies and then gone running. Interesting and probably messy.

I've been extra careful this week about measuring all my food out and also not indulging in "harmless" little bites here and there. Those bites add up! I have always written down everything I eat, but I had kind of gotten away from measuring stuff out. I gave it the ole eyeball instead, which can be very deceiving. Just FYI, do any of you realize how small a quarter cup (a serving size) of shredded cheese is? Because I know I had definitely forgotten what a quarter cup looked like. So I think I had been overdoing on calories from mistakes like that without even realizing it. I've also cut out ice cream, at least the scoopable kind. Lately, I have been eating low calorie ice cream (I can't resist Edy's S'mores) since I love it and the calorie count is acceptable. Yup, the calories in that ice cream are fine as long as you eat the serving size. Which for ice cream is a half a cup, and who actually eats a half a cup of ice cream?!? Not me, that's for sure. So that's out, but since I still love ice cream, I got some low sugar ice cream sandwiches. That way I can still have ice cream as a treat, but I am guaranteed to have portion control. Ahh, moderation at its finest.

So everything is going great, and then this week we have (insert scary music here)...Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving, the downfall of many people's healthy eating intentions. Thanksgiving, which ushers in the holiday season, a season distinguished not only by good will towards all and temporary insanity while holiday shopping, but also by its rich foods and people's avoidance of the scale at all costs. I would say it's the trickiest time of the year. Like everything else, it's a balance. You don't want to be the bitter one in the corner at a party munching on carrots while glaring at everyone else eating cake, but you also don't want to be the one shoveling said cake in your mouth like it's going out of style and then seeing a very unpleasant surprise on the scale come January. I feel like I did a pretty good job last year during this time. I believe I lost about 10 lbs or so between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Granted, I was significantly heavier then, so it was much easier. For more on my battle for moderation last year at Thanksgiving, check out You say poTAYto, I say meet my mortal enemy poTAHto.

My plan worked out pretty well last year, so I'm sticking with it. I'm eating what I want on Thanksgiving and then, this is the key part here, no leftovers. Well, I can have the white meat turkey as leftovers, but not that delicious stuffing or mashed potatoes. Because here's the don't gain weight because of eating one high calorie meal. You gain weight because of the leftovers. If I do everything like normal the rest of the week, there is no reason I should not have a loss. And then by controlling myself at Thanksgiving, I avoid the dangerous mindset a lot of people get into this time of year. You know that one that goes, "Well, I blew Thanksgiving. I'll just get back to normal Monday. I don't feel like working out with all that food in my belly." And then, "Well, I've got that Christmas party this week. I'll get back to normal next week." And then of course, "December is pretty much blown. All that holiday food and I've had no time to work out. I'll be extra good after Christmas." And then inevitably, "New Year's is just a week away and then I will definitely start on my New Year's resolution to lose weight." All of which leads to that unpleasant trip to the scale come January and perhaps subsequent ripping apart of said scale. I think it's all about looking at the special eating occasions coming up as just that, special occasions, not a month-long excuse for a food free-for-all. We shall see how I manage this year. I'm still hoping to hit 50% of my original body weight by the year's end!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Forget the sugarplums, visions of pizza and 20 mile runs danced in my head

I feel like I am on the world's hugest plateau. For months now, I have been losing and gaining the same pound, always staying between 168-169 lbs. So on the bright side, I'm apparently pretty skilled at maintaining a weight. If that weight were 30 or 40 lbs less, that would be fantastic! It's just driving me crazy. It's so important to me to finish what I started here, mainly because I have never done that before.

When I stepped on the scale yesterday, I expected big things. It had been as close to a perfect week as I have had in a while. I was right at 1200 calories every day. I worked out multiple times a day, never running or walking anything less than 6 miles. I even got all my water in! I was proud of myself. Then I got on the scale and saw a loss of 0.2 pounds. Not even a freaking quarter of a pound. And yes, I know, a loss is a loss, but I would like to see someone who had worked as hard as I did not be upset about  a loss like that. And if I'm being honest, I let what that scale said ruin how I felt about last week. Because even though I know in my brain that the scale doesn't always cooperate no matter how hard you worked, I felt like a failure.

I have such mixed feelings about this plateau. I try so hard to be grateful for where I am at, and most of the time, I really am. I know that the 328 lb me would have been thrilled to be at this weight. But I also know that the heavier me, the one that could lose 40 lbs in 5 weeks, would have wondered how I could look at losing only 40 lbs as such a challenge. It seems small compared to all I have lost. It's crazy how losing these last 40 lbs can seem so close to the final weight loss goal for me, and yet simultaneously seem farther away then the 200 lbs I had to lose when I first started.

There was just a lot of emotions and thoughts going on with me yesterday, a lot of all or nothing feelings that I had to deal with. On the one side, we had crazy, manic Kristen who immediately started thinking things like, "I need to run 15 miles every day! I need to eat 500 calories a day! More, better, faster!" And then we have lazy Kristen who was also thinking about more, but in terms of "More pizza, more ice cream! Less exercise! I mean, what's the point of being disciplined if it doesn't change the amount of weight I lose?" The old me would have been horrified to be having these thoughts and positive that just having thoughts like these, even if not acted on, meant that I was about to fail. That is not the truth. Everybody has crazy thoughts sometimes. I mean sometimes I think about how I want to go live on a desert island somewhere or maybe how I want to go jump in a giant swimming pool of pudding. That doesn't mean I'm actually going to do that. Although if I had the opportunity for the pudding thing, I would definitely take it. It's okay to have those thoughts, and I think is important to acknowledge them and not just try to pretend they're not there.

I am proud of how I reacted last night. With images of crazy runs and pizza warring in my head, I chose to have a normal dinner. I chose to talk on the phone with a friend. I chose to watch a funny movie to cheer myself up. I chose to go to bed early and get a good night's sleep so I would be rested for my morning run. I chose not to run a crazy far distance late at night just because I was feeling insecure about my weight loss. I chose not to starve myself to lose weight. I chose not to binge eat out of despair. And when I get the crazy talk out of my head, I recognize that those behaviors really are more important than the number I see on the scale. Those are all the reasons that I will succeed.

I told you that one of the thoughts running through my head last night was, "What's the point?" I decided that I needed to answer myself. Because there really is so much more to "the point" of living a healthy lifestyle than just losing weight. So here they are:

1) To feel younger than my physical age, instead of feeling 40 years older

2) To be able to physically accomplish things I never thought possible, instead of barely being able to climb a flight of stairs

3) To be able to start looking at food as fuel, instead of an emotional crutch

4) To be able to look in the mirror and start to feel some pride, instead of feeling like crying

5) To be able to run early so I can see the sunrise and really feel alive, instead of sleeping half the day away

6) To be able to feel like I can inspire others, instead of feeling like everyone looks down on me

7) To be able to be truly proud and happy with the person I have become, instead of hoping everyday that I could somehow be different

Quite a point, don't you agree?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My excessive use of quotation marks in this post are merely a sign of my absolute incredulity

I've come across quite a few things in the past few days concerning society's unrealistic expectations about what people (mainly women) should look like. The first was an article that a man wrote called "I am a Plus-Sized Woman Who Has Never Ripped a Pair of Pants". The guy writing the article had lost 200 lbs and was a solid size medium in men's clothes. He decided to see what size he was in women's clothes and was shocked that instead of a size 10 like he had been expecting, he was a size 20! Here is what he had to say about that:

While I was in the car I thought about how unfair women's sizes are to men's sizes. I do not wear anything that is considered a large. No one makes comments about my size anymore. I have not ripped or gone through a pair of pants in years. Yet if I was a woman I would have to shop at "plus-size" stores. I would be too large to be a true "plus-size" model. I would be looked upon as the problem for obesity instead of the solution that some see me as.

Yes, I think all of us know that sizes can be crazy. I usually wear a size large in tops now. Yet somehow whenever I fit into a medium, I always think that it is just because it must be cut super-big. Then if I happen to need an extra-large, I think that, yup, that's what size I am. I wish I could just ignore sizes.

The author of the article above stated that if he was a woman, he would be too large to be a plus-size model. Which brings me to the next thing I saw that disturbed me: just what a "plus-size" model looks like in this country. Ellen DeGeneres had a "plus-size" model (sorry for all the quotation marks, but they are absolutely necessary considering what this model actually looks like) on her show a couple of weeks ago, and my jaw dropped. Here is what she looked like:

Seriously, are you kidding me? This is what "plus-sized" looks like to the modeling industry? This girl is absolutely gorgeous, and I would actually put her on the thin side of normal. But I guess in the modeling world, the fact that she actually has boobs and some hips instead of looking like a creepy skeleton like most "normal" models means that she will always be "plus-sized." It just seems so sick to me. Why can't models be closer to regular peoples' sizes? Obviously, this girl looks great in clothes and she isn't a size 2. Why can't that be normal? Why is it normal in this society for models to be proud about the fact that they have a bigger thigh gap than another model (don't even get me started on the thigh gap)? What message is this sending to girls, and women too, for that matter? I know it's not any kind of message that I would support.

So after seeing these disturbing things all week, it was very refreshing to listen to what Jennifer Lawrence had to say on the subject of body image. You know, because she gets called fat sometimes, which is as crazy as calling the model I showed above plus-sized. Seriously, you need to click on this link in order to restore your faith in humanity somewhat (okay, that was a tad more dramatic than necessary). She talks about how when she gets criticized for how she looks, it's supposed to be okay because that's just how things work in the "real world." She basically asks, why does the real world have to be that way? And I absolutely agree. Why does the real world have to be cold and cruel? If you ask most people that question, they will say that that's just the way things are and it's good for people to get used to it. Well, you know what? It is only that way for as long as people accept it, for as long as people do nothing to try to change anything. I want to try to change things. Yes, my blog by no means reaches as many people as Jennifer Lawrence does, but it still reaches someone. And that's enough for me.

In case you were wondering, I have no idea why this picture says 2012. I guess I could make up some deep, metaphysical reason, but I'm too lazy right now.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why I take pictures of empty concert seats

I have come to believe that there is a phenomenon among people that have lost a significant amount of weight that I would like to call the "Flashback Phenomenon." That makes it sound more impressive than it actually is, but sometimes I like to be fancy like that. It happens when you come across something that you know would have given you a problem at your heaviest. Depending on my mood and/or self-confidence on that day, I vacillate between being relieved that I don't have to worry about that anymore, and on some more crazy occasions, still somehow worried that whatever it is is still going to cause a problem for me now even though I've lost almost 160 lbs and am pretty average-sized now. So this phenomenon happens for me almost every time I sit in a movie theater seat or sit in a restaurant booth, but there have been some other more notable instances lately.

The first one was probably at this concert I went to near my birthday. The stadium had pretty narrow seats and I remember when I had been there before (not even anywhere near my heaviest!), it was still a pretty tight fit to squeeze in there. This time when I went, I had no trouble fitting at all! I then probably looked like a freak because I decided to take a picture of the seat so I could remember that occasion.

My best friend was there with me and asked me why I was taking a picture of a random seat (as any normal person would have every right to do). When I told her why, she said that she had never even thought about not fitting in the seat before. I think it has been somewhat enlightening for her to learn about things like that that normal-sized people tend to take for granted.

The next occasion would probably have to be surfing. Now on this day, my self-confidence was pretty low because I was fairly sure I was going to make a fool out of myself when I tried surfing for the very first time. So when I found out I had to wear a rashguard, I had a slight internal freak-out thinking that they wouldn't have my size and I was about to be humiliated. And then come to find out, I fit in a size small! Then when it came to actually surfing, I was determined to go out of my comfort zone and try it, but also was pretty convinced that people like me didn't surf and that I was going to fail at it. And guess who stood up on that surfboard (albeit with my hands raised for some reason, instead of out to the side like a normal surfer)? Hey, the picture speaks for itself.

Because trust me when I say I have nowhere near the skills needed to somehow Photoshop me onto a surfboard. And if I did do that, I would probably move my hands out to the side. Alas, as with many technological skills, Photoshopping eludes me.

Then a few weeks ago, I went with my family to this place called Wonderworks in Myrtle Beach. It's kind of an interactive museum place, and I was so excited (I think my family probably thought abnormally so) when I heard about the exhibits there. There was awesome stuff that adults and kids could do. As excited as that place made me now, I can say without a doubt it would have filled me with dread at my heaviest. That's because most of the coolest exhibits had a weight limit of 250 lbs. I know I would have been so embarrassed to have to sit those things out and to know that everyone would know why I had to do so. They were hard-core about the weight limit too; everyone had to stand on a scale before going on. There was a really cool roller coaster simulator, as well as this bike that you pedaled to try to get it to go in a circle and flip you upside down. That's what I am trying (and failing) to do in the picture below.

I failed to make my bike go in a complete circle because, though I have lost a large amount of weight, this sadly does not translate to my having grown taller. My legs were just too short to reach the pedals properly when I was upside down. Oh well, my sister had the same problem.

We also did an indoor ropes course with a weight limit that was awesome (although would probably be ill advised for those scared of heights). I can't say that the harness you put in to go on the course was exactly flattering, but it was really fun and great practice for your balancing skills (if you were inclined to practice that kind of thing). Like the harness, the picture angle was less than flattering since it was taken from below by my mom, but still a good memory!

I wonder if I will ever someday go do activities like the ones above and not  think about what problems I would have had with them at my heaviest. What's more, do I want  to forget? Like most everything else, I think moderation would be best here. I never want to completely forget how hard everyday living used to be for me when I was so heavy because I never want to become complacent and forget how hard I fought to be where I am today. But yes, I do think in time, it would be healthiest to not have my first thought when sliding in a restaurant booth be "This would have been a major problem at 328 lbs." That is not my reality anymore, and though I should never forget where I started out, I also should focus most on where I am at the present moment.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

It came to me in a dream...Jillian Michaels that is

I know, I know, long time, no see (well, I guess "no write" would be more appropriate). Things have been crazy busy this month. I haven't been able to have my normal routine a lot of days, and now that I finally am able to go back to normal, I'm finding it more difficult than usual. Vacation last week was like a free-for-all food-wise. It was whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. And let me tell you, my stomach did not seem to appreciate that one bit. Exercise has been a struggle too. I'm making it to the gym, but now that it's getting so cold outside, it seems to be much easier to stay snuggled in my warm bed than get up at the crack of dawn and go running out in the frozen tundra (okay, not really that cold, but cold enough for me!).

I keep asking myself, "What are you doing?!?" I tell myself to get it together, but I just can't seem to do it. And knowing I'm not doing what I should be doing has made me feel kind of down. However, maybe this morning was a turning point. This is going to sound really random and maybe you'll think I'm crazy for putting stock in a dream. But whatever, it was a really vivid and awesome dream. So in this dream, I was working out with Jillian Michaels (hence the awesome part) and some other random people that I have no idea who they are. But in the dream, like in life right now, I just wasn't feeling it (which sucks, because I always thought if I got to work out with Jillian, I would totally try to kill it). Jillian could tell something was wrong and took me aside. And then I spilled to her everything that was going on (which also is really going on in my life). She said I needed to remember why I was doing this. That it's about more than a number on the scale. She also said that just because I've had some set-backs does not mean that I am a failure. The important thing is that I get back up again. I think there was also some profanity sprinkled in there. Then we hugged, and because my dreams are apparently quite true to life (at least from what I've seen of Jillian), she told me to get my ass back to the gym. I'm sad that that is where the dream ended and I didn't get to find out if I did awesome after that talk.

I woke up then, and weirdly enough, it was 5 AM on the nose, the time I usually go running in the morning. I hadn't set my alarm or anything! So I looked at the clock and feel back asleep. Haha, just kidding! How could I do that after a dream like that? I got up and ventured out into the frozen tundra. Hey, motivation comes in all forms, even in the form of a personal trainer you have only seen in real life one time. And you know what? I already feel better and more like myself. I think I was feeling down because I felt like things were out of control. But things only felt out of control because I was allowing myself to let them be that way. I could choose to take control back at any time. It doesn't have to be a downward spiral back to where I started. So I choose to take control back today.

A key thing that Jillian asks her Biggest Loser contestants is what is their powerful "why"? What is their motivation for eating healthy and exercising? It can never just be "I want to lose 100 lbs" or "I want to wear a bikini". Those kinds of motivations are all well and good, but they are probably not going to get you out of the bed everyday to run on the frozen tundra (can you all tell I am not a fan of the weather lately?). And I think that lately I have gotten too focused on my motivation being that I wanted to lose my last 40 lbs. So when the weight wasn't coming off like it should, my motivation seemed to disappear. That's a prime example of why your primary motivation shouldn't be weight-centered.

It was so easy to be motivated in the beginning. I felt so bad physically and mentally then that I was willing to go through anything to get the weight off. I saw the physical and mental results of my efforts almost every week. So it was easy to keep going, easy to make the necessary sacrifices. But 160 lbs later, I don't see a change every week. The changes come much more slowly. When I look in the mirror now, I don't see a disgusting blob (sorry, but it's how I viewed myself before). And while that's great for my self-esteem to think I look okay now, it becomes much more easy to be complacent. The truth is that while I still need to lose some weight, I look and feel like a pretty normal person now. So I don't feel that desperate need to lose weight so I don't have to worry about stares from other people or getting winded after climbing one flight of stairs.

So what is my motivation now? The main one is that I eat healthy and exercise because it makes me happy and makes me feel like my best self (wow, that sounded like an Oprah thing to say). No, maybe sometimes in the moment (like at 5 AM), I may not be particularly happy to make the healthy choice. But overall, making those choices DOES make me happy. And while losing the actual pounds does contribute to my happiness, it is knowing that I am doing the right thing for my body and mind that really makes me happy. When I don't make the right choice, it definitely affects my mood. I also want to finish what I started. It is almost like a matter of character to me. I think the real measure of a man (or woman) lies in what they do when things get hard. Do they just give up or do they try harder than ever to accomplish their goals? In the past, I have given up. But that is not the person that I am now, that is not the person that I have striven to become. I set a goal for myself 16 months ago, and I refuse to let myself slack off anymore right before the finish line.

I feel like I am in a much better place (metaphorically, of course) this morning than I have been lately. So thanks to dream Jillian Michaels! And also, I guess thanks to my own subconscious! I'm not sure what it says about me that my subconscious apparently decided I needed a come-to-Jesus talk in the form of Jillian Michaels, but hey, whatever works!

Motto for today:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Just how much does a small adult male hippo weigh?

The other day I got to talking with somebody who I just recently met about weight loss. She didn't know how much weight I had lost, and when I told her, she said, "Wow, you would never know you used to be bigger!" That brought up several feelings for me. Probably the first feeling would be disbelief because I feel like I have a gigantic amount of skin (sorry for the mental images). I HATE THE SKIN!  Most of it I can hide except for my arms, but it still doesn't make it any easier when I catch a glimpse of myself before getting in the shower.

But then there was also the feeling of a statement like that just being kind of surreal. I feel like my weight has defined me, or more accurately I have allowed it to define me, for my entire life. Until recently, it has always been in a negative way. But even now, I'm still defined by my weight to some extent. Except now I'm the girl who's lost an entire small adult male human instead of the girl who weighs as much as much as a small male adult hippopotamus (full disclosure, I have no idea how much an a small adult male hippo weighs). It's just odd to think that if I chose not to share, a stranger looking at me today would apparently never know about this struggle that has played such a huge part of my life.  Is that good or bad? Maybe some of each. It's just weird to think about. I wonder if I will ever come to the point where my weight loss will be just a casual thing mentioned every now and then in conversation. I kind of doubt it, mainly because I am really passionate about trying to help other people lose the weight too. So I don't ever want to forget how it felt to be bigger and how much work it took to lose the weight. I never want it to be just a casual thing that I did a few years ago.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Part of my brain missed the memo that said life wasn't a Nicholas Sparks movie

Today was my weekly weigh in day for my Facebook weight loss support group and I had one friend weigh in and say that she had been having some setbacks lately. I responded that I was really proud of her for posting anyway because it is so tempting sometimes to only post during the good weeks. It takes real strength of character to post during the not-so-great weeks as well. So I decided I needed to share something on here that I have been struggling with so I would not feel like a hypocrite, even if the only one who would know I was being a hypocrite was me.

It's not relating to my weight loss, at least not directly. That, thank goodness, seems to be back on track. I've got everything well under control again and my motivation has returned. This is about my foray into Eharmony. And I feel like that area of my life very much does indirectly relate to my weight loss. For more background on me starting that little venture, see here. As you've heard before, I'm trying to get out of my comfort zone. This was definitely out of my comfort zone. And even though I knew better, I had a little fantasy all nicely lined out in my head before I started. It was like a movie, maybe one of those inspirational/corny Nicholas Sparks movies. Girl loses massive amount of weight, starts online dating, meets her soulmate who instantly falls in love with her (while gazing in her eyes preferably on a beach at sunset of course), gets married, has 2.2 (I'm not sure how the 0.2 happened) children together, and lives happily ever after. Okay, maybe I'm not quite  that much of a sap, but I couldn't help but have ideas in my head. I'm fairly certain most people probably do on those sites, whether they admit it or not.

So I went into this dating thing feeling pretty good. The confidence level was pretty high. But the truth is that it hasn't worked out quite like I had hoped. Sorry kids, it's not all roses and beaches at sunset up in here. Have I had some success? Yes, I have, but nothing has really seemed to work out so far. But it's the rejections that are leaving far more of an impression. Here's the thing: rationally, I knew that it is completely crazy to think that everyone that checks out your profile will like you. It doesn't mean anything is wrong with you. It just means it wasn't the right fit. Rationally, logically, I know that. Emotionally, it's a lot more complicated. Every time I see one of those rejections, it's like a personalized message that says You're still not good enough. It feels like one of my worst fears come true sometimes. You see, when I was at my heaviest, men were not attracted to me. It's just a fact. But I told myself that it wasn't me  they didn't like, it was just my weight. And my weight was something I could theoretically change, even though I was obviously having a hard time actually doing that. But the little fear in the back of my mind was what if I lost weight and still nobody wanted me? That would mean something was wrong with me, something that I couldn't change. So every time I get rejected, it feels like that fear is coming true. I mean, while I'm still not thin, I'm pretty average sized now so that shouldn't be an issue. So late at night when those crazy little thoughts creep in right before I go to sleep, I think that I will never be good enough and that nobody will ever want me. That I will always be alone. That who could ever love someone like me? And then I kind of hate myself for thinking things like that because thoughts like those are self-pitying and morose, and the person I have made myself into, the person I have worked my butt off (literally) to become, is not either of those things. It's just killing my confidence, and my confidence is this area was pretty much zero to start out with.

So what to do, what to do? I honestly do not know. I'm signed up for a year, so I've still got 10 months of membership left. All I know is that I do not want to give up. If this past year has taught me anything, it is that you have to face your fears and problems, not run away from them and pretend they don't exist. So I feel like I need to keep on truckin' (so to speak) with this, but find a way to deal with the rejections a bit better.

This post was very personal for me and hard to write, to be honest. It's hard to put something like this out there for the world (well, the blog world) to see and judge. But you know what? I don't think anything anyone else could say could be meaner than some of the things I say to myself, as you've seen above. It felt good to get this off my chest. Also, I think it's a good illustration of how losing weight is about far more than just the physical weight. As you can see, there is a lot of emotional weight that goes along with it too, and I am definitely still working on losing that too. It would be so nice if life worked out like a movie. If it did, I might be sitting on that beach I mentioned before with someone else. There would probably be a full orchestra in the background discreetly playing an appropriate theme song. But you know what? A perfect life like that wouldn't provide nearly as much material for this blog.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes (saying AYO, baby let's go)

We (by "we" I mean me, my dad, and my sister) finally got to go surfing this past weekend! I thought it wasn't going to happen again since it was pouring down rain that morning, but luckily it cleared up. I thought surfing would be a cool experience to have, but I had no idea how much I would really love it.

We started out getting all the necessary paperwork signed. You know, all the stuff that says I won't sue anyone if I die (well, I guess I really wouldn't be suing anyone then) or get mauled by a runaway surfboard or shark or something. Then we had to put on rashguards. Now, I'll admit I had a momentary wave of panic thinking that they would not have a shirt big enough to fit me. That ended up being an idiotic concern because I actually ended up wearing a small! That was enough to make my day right there of course. So we went down to the beach then and had a little practice session right there in the sand learning all the terminology and whatnot. Let me say, it looks pretty stupid paddling through sand.

Then we learned the position we would be staying in the majority of the lesson while waiting for waves, which is pictured below:

And then finally we went out to the water! Now we were lucky enough to have one-on-one instruction, so each of us had our own personal wave spotter. That was good because I had no clue how to tell if I should try for a wave or not. Paddling out beyond the breakers was a pretty good workout, and since I'm a dork, I couldn't help but wonder how many calories I was burning. We waited a little while until an appropriate wave came along, and the my instructor pushed me out into the wave and yelled, "Pop up!" when I was supposed to stand up. And just like magic, on that first wave I stood up with the grace of a professional surfer and rode the wave all the way into shore. Haha, yeah right! I pretty much managed to get into a halfway crouch on the first wave and then wiped out. That was to be expected though. You know how a lot of weight loss support groups like to say, "Fall down 7 times, get up 8!"? That was literally how it was for me surfing. I would say for a solid 45 minutes I managed to get into a crouch and then would promptly crash into the water, and then get back on the board and try again. I was having a great time though. It was cracking me up because my instructor would try to give me pointers after each try, things like, "You need to try to move your feet perpendicular to the board" or "Move your feet a couple inches forward." I would nod in agreement with him, but inside I was thinking," Dude, I''m just trying to stand up on this board! I have no idea where my feet are ending up!" Here's what I looked like in the first half of the lesson:

And then came the awesome moment when I actually did manage to stand up and catch a wave. It was such a rush, and I immediately wanted to do it again and again. I was hooked at that point. It didn't matter that I was so wobbly and bent over that I probably looked like a drunken old geezer surfing. It just mattered that I felt like I looked strong and amazing. And I was told after the fact that every single time I managed to stand up, I would throw my hands up in the air instead of out to the side for balance like a normal person. I had no awareness that I was even doing that. I was totally in the moment and loving it. I just like to think I was acting out that Taio Cruz song "Dynamite." I mean, hey, the lyrics are appropriate here:

 I throw my hands up in the air sometimes,
Saying AYO! Gotta let go!
I wanna celebrate and live my life,
Saying AYO! Baby, let’s go!

On a side note, what does "ayo" mean anyway? I was so happy my mom managed to get a picture of me upright! She did a great job taking pictures! It was pretty tough to get action shots because she had no idea when we were going to try to catch a wave.

My dad managed to catch a few waves by "knee boarding," which actually looked kind of cool.

 My sister did pretty well getting into a half crouch on waves, and I think if we had had a little more time she could have stood up on the board. I'm sad we didn't get a good action shot of her. But it is cool that my mom got a shot of all three of us on a wave!

So after I caught that first wave and got a feel for it, I did a pretty good job managing to stand up on the majority of the rest of the waves I tried. By the end, I could actually try to implement some of the corrections the instructor was giving me. I also unfortunately learned firsthand why it is so important to keep the surfboard to the side of you and not in front of you. That board will beat you up!

I felt kind of cool afterwards because my dad and his instructor were taking a break on the beach and saw me catch a really good wave. His instructor commented to my dad how determined I looked, that my face said that I was going to catch that wave no matter what. I think that meant my face finally looked how I imagined it looked when I was working out hard. You know, when I thought I looked determined and fierce but really just looked constipated.

At the end of the lesson, I still had tons of energy even after 2 hours. I felt like I could keep going forever. That's why I think I would really enjoy trying to surf some more as a hobby. I know for a fact that it was great workout because of how sore I was the next day, but it just felt like tons of fun!  That's a sign of a truly great workout. All in all, it was an amazing day. It was a fantastic way to start off year number 29!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Denial is not just a river in Egypt (insert groan here)

Sad news to start out with...according to the surfing instructor, the water was too rough for our lesson last Saturday. So it had to be rescheduled for this coming Sunday. Therefore, there are no humiliating pictures to show yet. It will just be something for you all to look forward to next week!

I thought about waiting until then for my next post, but there was something I needed to address before then. You guys know that I try to keep it real up in here (okay, I said that in my head and it worked better there than written out) and the truth is that I've been having a "blah" week. I mean, it's really no surprise. Last week was awesome, and this week is just back to normal. It's normal for it to be a bit of a letdown. It just feels like everything is a struggle for me. Part of it is the ongoing dilemma I have with "cheat" food. I ate what I wanted on my birthday. I had a pasta dish for dinner and an absolutely delicious made-from-scratch pound cake (Thanks Mom!) as my birthday cake. But here's my problem. Part of me thinks it is important to have days every now and then when I eat what I want so I do not feel deprived. I think it's an important part of moderation. But another part of me thinks I maybe shouldn't have these days because of what comes after. After cheat days, it's hard for me to eat healthy. It feels like a sacrifice, when normally it feels like a favor I am doing for my body. It's also hard for me to work out because my body isn't used to that kind of food. It just sits there in my stomach like a leaden food baby. So I don't know if cheat days are worth it for me. I haven't figured this one out yet.

I'm trying to tough out this period of low motivation. I'm in fake it till you make it mode. I'm trying to force myself to do everything like I normally do, and I know eventually that motivation will return. I'm also trying not to take my feelings out on my alarm clock. After all, it's not the alarm clock's fault that I feel like turning into the Hulk when it goes off at 5 am. I think what's important here is that I acknowledge the problems I am having with low motivation. It's okay for that to happen. It's nothing to be ashamed of, as I believed before. The only way low motivation can really harm me is if I decided to be in denial about it. It's only when you acknowledge a problem that you can focus on the solution. Hey, I didn't even steal that last nugget of wisdom from anyone. It was a Kristen original!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Like fine wine and cheese, I just keep getting better with age

Tomorrow is my 29th birthday. It's hard to believe that this will be my last year in my 20's, when it seems like just yesterday I was celebrating my 20th birthday. I've always had kind of mixed feelings towards my birthdays. I've always been mostly happy about them, but there was one tiny bit of disappointment every single year. It's not related to getting older either (although the steadily decreasing amount of times I've gotten carded lately is somewhat alarming sometimes). I've said that my weight has always affected every facet of my life, and my birthday was no exception. For some reason, my birthday was the date I got fixated on about losing weight. Every year, I would think, "This is the year I'm going to change. This is the year I'll lose the weight for good. I'm going to lose x lbs by my birthday next year." And every single year after, that tiny voice in the back of my head would remind that I had failed in this goal yet again. The problem was that I had no plan for achieving this goal. It was just something I wanted to happen like magic. It was the same old thing year after year.

Well, this  year everything was different. This time last year I was about 3 months into my journey. I had made significant progress, but I was still obese. My goal for the coming year was no different than before in that I still wanted to lose weight, but I had a plan to actually make it happen. It means more to me than I can possibly say to realize that I have finally succeeded in this goal. On my 29th birthday, I will be smaller than I have ever been as an adult. I've accomplished things I could only dream about last year. I have more confidence in myself than I can ever remember having.

So for my 29th year, of course I want to finish losing the rest of my weight (duh). But more than that, I want this year to be all about stepping out of my comfort zone. I've played it safe so much of my life because of my weight. I didn't want to risk looking stupid or drawing attention to myself when I already felt like I had a huge bulls-eye on my back due to how heavy I was. I don't want to be that girl anymore. I've changed so much for the better this past year in so many different ways. I want this next year to be full of even more positive changes. I want to get to my 30th birthday next year and have no regrets. I may have had some not so great years in my 20's, but I want to know that I finished that decade up with a bang. Because as we all know, it's not about how you start. It's about how you finish.

So with that in mind, I will be kicking off my year of stepping out of my comfort zone by going surfing for the very first time tomorrow. Will I look stupid? I can pretty much guarantee that. But I can honestly say that I don't care. I'm going to be out doing something totally awesome that I never thought I could even attempt before. I'm going to know that I finally am embodying the person that I always wanted to be. That feeling is worth looking stupid any day. Pictures to come next week, no matter how embarrassing they may be.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ya'll ready for this? (Cue "da da da" music here)

So when I was trying to think of a title, I kept thinking of that song from that 90's, the one that I had forgotten was from the movie Space Jam, that starts "Ya'll ready for this?" But then I realized, it's hard to convey music in a written title. Because after the first line, you know it goes "Da da da" but it just looks stupid written out. So for your convenience, I have provided a link to the song on Youtube here if you singing the song in your head isn't enough.

Anyway, moving on. It may come as no surprise to you all that I like a lot of pages on Facebook that have to do with fitness, health, losing weight, and all that other good stuff that I have been slightly (haha) involved with over this past year. So I got to thinking, I should make a page myself. But then I also was worried that that would make me seem full of myself or something. If there is one thing I really can't stand, it's arrogance. Or as we in the South like to say, gettin' too big for your britches or above your raisin's (raisin's as in raisings, not like the dried grape raisin).  It is like my number one personality turn-off. I think sometimes that fear of being seen as arrogant can lead me too far in the other direction though. After all, I don't think the other people that created the pages I like on Facebook are arrogant. They're just trying to share something they are passionate about. So like so many other times, I told that irritating, doubting voice in the back of my head to shut the hell up. 

So without further adieu (I don't really know what adieu actually is), I am debuting my new Facebook page today. The name of it will no doubt come as a huge shock...The Space in Between All or Nothing. Hey, I figured why mess with a good thing? You can check it out here. Or if you're my Facebook friend, you have probably gotten an invite that hopefully you didn't just ignore like I do sometimes (hey, guilty as charged). The tone of the page will be pretty much like this blog (or what I hope the tone of this blog is). A little inspiration, some humor thrown in (duh), a cool quote here in there, a recipe that I may or may not have succeeded at actually making, exercise ideas. You know the drill. And I want you all to post on the page about all of that too! I just want to make a page where everyone, not just people interested in weight loss (although certainly that is probably a key demographic), can come and get some support and ideas from others about living a healthy and active life. If there's one thing I have learned over this past year (well, I hope I've learned more than one thing actually), it's that having support from other people is really vital to success. It doesn't matter if some of those people are virtual friends you have never met in real life. It just matters that they're there through all the inevitable ups and downs. So that is why I have created this beautiful Facebook utopia for people that want to live a healthy and active life. Haha, now that  sounds like I'm full of myself. Really, I just wanted to use the word utopia in a sentence. Seriously though, I hope you like my page and it would be really awesome and appreciated if you would also share my page on your Facebook page.

I've had more and more big dreams lately. Things I never believed I could accomplish before, but now I think "Why not me?" Some people have said I should make my weight loss journey into a book. Before, I kind of thought, "Who would actually read that?" but now I am starting to think maybe I should write a book. Others have said I should try to go on a talk show with my story. And again, that voice in the back of my head used to say, "Who would want to see that? Who would be inspired by me?" But you know what? I have a story to tell. Is it a perfect story? Not by any means. But I think that is what people relate to: the fact that things may not always go perfectly, but I get up and try again. I'm realistic here. I am quite aware that these things may never actually happen. The difference now is that I believe that they are possible though. There is a quote I found and wrote down years ago that I think is quite appropriate here:
Now that's a good quote.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fat-shaming as a weight loss tactic?!? Shame, shame, shame

I read an article recently that advocated fat-shaming as a way of helping obese people lose weight. I wish I could say this was a joke, but it's not. This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Obese people feel ashamed all the time anyway. Trust me, they don't need more. They feel shame every time they step on a scale at the doctor's office and see that number. They feel shame every time someone makes a rude comment about their weight. They feel shame every time they can't fit in a restaurant booth. I am here to say that shame never resulted in anyone losing weight. It only adds weight, both physically and emotionally.

I say this because I know from experience. Many overweight people, me included, are also emotional eaters. There is immense shame and guilt involved in that as well. It just galls me to no end to think that some researcher thinks that by adding more shame to the equation, it will make someone suddenly think that they need to start losing weight. It is way more likely to result in binge eating.

For me, all that shame ever did was to contribute to me eating my way into a dark hole so deep that I didn't think I could ever crawl my way out. It was only when I decided to stop feeling ashamed that I was able to start losing the weight. Did I bear responsibility for the weight I had gained? Yes, I did. I would never try to act like I had no idea how I had gained so much weight, that it must be a sudden massive hormonal imbalance or maybe a gigantic cyst (gross). I knew exactly how I had gained weight. But at the same time, I decided to be kind to myself and lose the shame. Healthy or not (definitely not), the extra weight and the food that put it there served a purpose for me. It was a coping mechanism during the hardest period of my life that I have ever faced. A dysfunctional coping mechanism to be sure, but a coping mechanism all the same. I decided that I was through judging myself and feeling ashamed for using food as a way to deal with all my emotions.

I don't care how many doctorates or other impressive titles you have after your name, you will never convince me that fat shaming helps people lose weight. You know what helps people lose weight? It's not just cutting calories and exercise, though those things are no doubt important. What helps people lose weight is realizing that they are worth something at any weight. Yes, that may sound trite, but it's true. When you don't value yourself as a person, you see no reason to treat yourself well. When you believe that you are garbage, you treat yourself like garbage. You eat garbage. So instead of putting people down for their weight, we should be building them up. Some may say that that will just make them believe they don't need to lose weight at all. I don't agree with that. When people start to gain some self-esteem finally, they also start to think that they deserve better. And so they go out and they work for it.

You know what? Those fat-shamer adovocates are right about one thing. Someone should be ashamed here. It just isn't the fat people. It's them.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Insert witty quote here

 So usually if I can't think of an appropriate (and by that, I mean witty or sarcastic) post title myself, I go to trusty Google and find one. But I am here to tell you that witty and/or sarcastic quotes about photography (the subject of this post) do not seem to exist. There is a lot of touchy-feely stuff about beauty and light and "finding the secret hidden within every person," but not really any material I could actually use. And I've already gone the "worth a thousand words" route in my earlier entry A picture: Worth a thousand words, or merely a reminder of bad hairstyles, teenage desperation, and more than a few body issues? And so, I ended up with "Insert witty quote here." Hey, every title can't be award-winning (well, actually none of mine have yet to win a award really).

As I said before, this post is all about pictures. My friends and family know that I love taking pictures. Some of them hate me for it, and so I have a whole collection of pictures (mainly of my brother and sister) that just consist of a hand in front of a face. I try to tell them that they'll be grateful that we have these pictures when we're old and gray and have nothing better to do than reminisce about the good old days, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. Anyway, I was looking through my digital picture files (that are of course categorized by event, and in some cases sub-categorized by year...yes, I am a freak), and I noticed that I have a lot of pretty similar pictures that are just taken in different years. You know, like family pictures at Christmas or birthdays. Or in the case of my best friend and me, pretty much every single event ever. It was pretty cool to look at the different years and see how I've lost weight. I thought I would share a few here. I think it is interesting to point out that most of the before pictures are actually from about a full year before I started losing weight. I wasn't even at my heaviest in these. The reason I used these pictures is because there are very few pictures of me at all from about a year before I started losing to about 3 months into my journey because the last thing I wanted was a visual reminder of how big I was becoming.

Smoothies May 2011
Smoothies May 2013 (yes, in EXACTLY the same place)

Family pic December 2011
Family pic June 2013

With my cat, Earl August 2011

With Earl August 2013

My best friend Randi's birthday May 2011

Randi's birthday May 2013

Fourth of July 2011 (why did I make the pom-poms look they are attached to my boobs?)

Fourth of July 2013 (where I look slightly manic)

As you can see, 2012 is pretty much missing (as far as pictures of me go) from my picture files. That is, until my birthday in September when I finally felt comfortable enough to get in front of the camera again after losing around 50 lbs. I guess I'll have to post a birthday before and after shot next month. However, it may show me looking forlorn, as this will be my very last birthday in my 20's. I'm not quite sure how that happened. But to be honest, although I do have a little trepidation about reaching my 30's soon, the bigger part of me is just ready to make my 29th year the best yet!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Recovering scale junkie masters the art of moderation? You heard it here first!

Today marked the end of my 2 week scale vacation. I had big plans during my scale vacation to work extra hard in order to prove to myself I could lose a lot of weight even without weighing in every day. That did not happen. I started off the 2 weeks by catching a cold and having the asthma problems that go hand in hand with a cold for me. I couldn't work out for 5 days. Things have been busy. I haven't been able to focus like I wanted. Like everyone else, life gets in the way for me sometimes. But for the most part, I kept up with healthy eating. I got in at least my morning run every day after I got well, and most days also made it to the gym. And you know what? I think I may be even prouder of that than if I had had laser focus on weight loss. Because, as you know, I am always struggling against my all or nothing side. I think these past couple weeks have shown that I have gotten a firm grip on the art of moderation. I got sick and couldn't work out, but I went right back to it after I got well. I didn't have time for 2 hour long workouts some days, but I still got in an hour. I didn't eat a completely perfect diet, but I ate a pretty good one. I call it a win!

So I stepped on the scale this morning and to be quite frank, had a momentary crazy spell. I decided my pants felt tighter. There was no way I hadn't gained weight. Probably 10 lbs if I was lucky! Hey, I warned you it was crazy time for Kristen. Then I gave myself a stern talking-to (which may have looked a bit odd). I told myself that I was going to step on that scale, and I was going to own the number, good or bad. I knew how to deal with it either way. So I stepped on it and saw...a 1.8 lb loss. Is that the greatest number ever? No, it's not, but I am still proud of it. Mainly because it shows that I don't need to be constantly stepping on the scale and second guessing myself based solely on a number. I trusted myself and it paid off. From now on, it's weigh-in time only once a week. And when I say once, I mean once. No stepping on the scale 3 times on Wednesday morning to see if the number changes. Not that I've done that or anything.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Strong is the new skinny?

One of my Facebook friends (you should also check out her blog about her own weight loss here...truly amazing!) posted an article last week that was really interesting to me. When I first saw the title, I didn't really agree with it all. But then when I actually read the article, I completely changed my mind. The article was entitled "The Problem with Strong is the New Skinny." A link to it is here.

If you're on Pinterest like I am or like to read fitness magazines, you've no doubt seen the phrase "Strong is the new skinny" numerous times. I have no problem with the actual phrase. In fact, I love it. For so many people, me included when I first started, losing weight is primarily about being skinny. But skinny is really just part of the equation. What about healthy? What about strong? Being skinny doesn't necessarily mean that you are healthy and strong. So I thought it was a great thing when I started seeing motivational pictures that promoted being strong and healthy over being just plain skinny.  The problem comes when you take a look at the girls in those motivational pictures. The ones like this one:

They look pretty much exactly the same as the girls in the motivational pictures promoting being thin. The only difference is that these girls are holding a dumbbell and wearing a sports bra. Until I read that article, I had not really observed this before, but it is true once you take a closer look. The picture kind of dilutes the intended message somewhat. It says "Strong is the new skinny, but only if you're this certain type of strong, only if you look like these girls." And that just made me angry.

It made me angry because I know that I am strong, and the fact is that I don't look like these girls. I don't have 6 pack abs, perfectly glistening skin, and not a single ounce of extra body fat. I may have my doubts about a lot of my personal traits, but I have never doubted that I am strong. Physically, my legs had to be strong to carry 328 lbs around day after day. And I think it's pretty much physically impossible to work out almost every single day for a solid year like I've done and not  become strong. As far as mental strength, I became more and more convinced of just how much of that I had every day that I overcame some obstacle or temptation this past year, every day that I said, "I will not quit." I don't need some picture of a 19 year old girl that superficially carries a positive message, but really says, "You're still not good enough if you don't look like this." The truth is that I don't need those pictures in order to know that I am strong even if I don't look like that. But what about that 14 year old girl reading the fitness magazine or looking at Pinterest? I don't know about you, but when I was 14, I put a lot of stock in what those magazines said I should look like. I think it is very damaging to young girls. Why can't we have pictures of normal women in those pictures, women who are strong and healthy, but may not weigh 110 lbs? Women who maybe have a muffintop or a little extra arm jiggle, but still work hard at the gym to keep the body they have. Women who may not be perfect physically, but are strong enough mentally to know that they are still more than good enough. I don't have a daughter (yet), but if and when I do, that's  the kind of role model I would want her to look up to. Day after day, I realize that perfection is boring, that our imperfections are what help make us who we are. Yet why do we as a society still strive to be perfect? I strive to be better  every day now, not perfect.

I hope that someday soon the pictures on those motivational posters truly match the message. Strong is the new skinny, but I don't discriminate about what strong looks like. It comes in all shapes and sizes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tales from the Scale: Confessions of a Weigh-in Addict

First of all, how could I not have thought of "Tales from the Scale" before as a title?!? It seems like a no-brainer.

I don't know about you all, but sometimes I will think of things I need to remember or do the next day right before I go to sleep. For that reason, I keep a pad of paper and pen by my bed. So last night, I was thinking about what I wanted to write in my blog today and kept coming up with ideas that I didn't want to forget. However, I decided not to turn the light on because I thought I could write legibly in the dark for some reason. That decision plus being half asleep resulted in my waking up this morning to see random illegible words written all over my pad of paper. Also, "CABLE BILL!!!" was written in huge letters for some reason I'm still trying to figure out since this bill is not due any time soon. Sometimes I frighten/confuse myself.

So since I do not remember any of my "brilliant" nighttime ideas, I'll just have to figure out some more this morning. Luckily, my scale provided me with inspiration. As I looked at the number on the scale this morning and the 0.4 lb loss that it represented, I decided that I was tired of having that stupid scale dictate how I feel. Prior to weighing, I felt great about how my week had gone. But just seeing that number was enough to take the feeling away from me. Or more accurately, I allowed that number to take my good feelings away. Sometimes I just can't help but feel like it is unfair how little results on the scale I see now as opposed to when I first started, because I work out so much harder now and eat so much better. Rationally, I know that it is normal to lose much more at the beginning because there is so much more to lose, but sometimes my brain is not rational. It's emotional. I wish I could go back to being 328 lbs for just one day so I could remember how it felt. Sometimes I see pictures of myself at that weight or read blog entries I wrote then, and it is difficult to remember being that person. I am so different now in every possible way that it gets hard to remember sometimes where I came from. I think it is important that I never forget where I started because it gives me perspective. Somehow not being able to get from a size 10 to a size 8 like I wanted to by the end of the summer doesn't seem quite so bad when I remember being a size 26. It doesn't seem quite so bad to have a little loose skin when I remember being so large that fitting in movie theater seats and restaurant booths was once a challenge. It's all about perspective.

Last year before my Biggest Loser audition, I remember looking at old pictures of myself at my thinnest from 5 years before, which is also about the weight I am now. I had just started my blog and I wrote the following:

I've been gathering up old pictures of me at my thinnest in preparation for my Biggest Loser audition tomorrow. Although when I say thinnest, it is really more like "merely overweight, not obese." Because the thinnest I have ever been in my adult life was 170 pounds 5 years ago. I would kill to be that size again, but then all I could think was how fat I still was.

"All I could think was how fat I still was." That phrase right there is a prime example of why I gained the weight back. I need to always remember to be happy where I am right now and not put myself down about how far I have left to go or how fast or slow I'm getting there. So with that thought in mind, I am taking back my power from the scale (that seems like an Oprah thing to say). It makes me angry that I allow a number to define my success to some extent. My journey has been so much more than a number, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in the number that I forget my own message. Namely, that this is about being healthy, not weighing a certain amount. Now, I am the type of person (Type A!) who likes numbers and who likes to have set ways of accomplishing tasks. For example, the other day my dad was teaching me how to grill steaks (yes, I am a late grill bloomer) and he was all, "You'll know when they're done." I was more like, "Tell me exactly how many minutes to leave them on the grill and at exactly what time to flip them!" x+y=z if you will. Or for me eating 1500 calories a day+exercise 2 or more hours a day=massive weight loss. Except sometimes the scale does cooperate with that equation. So I've decided that I need to take a couple of weeks without having the scale in the equation at all. This is somewhat frightening for me. I have weighed in every week without fail since I first started. This was one of my only inflexible rules, because I never wanted to to go back to what I had been doing, which was completely avoiding the scale for months at a time and being in denial about my weight. But I think right now there is more danger in me becoming too wrapped up in that number than being in denial about it. Lately, I've been weighing at least every other day, and it's just gotten crazy how too many of my activities and nutrition are decided by what the scale says and only what the scale says. That number can be affected by so many different inconsequential things from day to day, or even hour to hour, that it is ridiculous to allow it to have so much power over me. My scale is taking a 2 week vacation over at my parents' house. At first, I just told myself I would keep it under my sink, but then I got real. I would totally have caved in and weighed myself if the scale was as close as under my sink.

I need to trust myself. I need to trust in the fact that I know what I'm doing now. I know what is good for my body and I know what hurts it. I don't need a number on a scale to tell me how I'm doing.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Running: It magically morphs you into a supermodel at 5 am

I've really gotten back into running over the past month or so. I had kind of gotten away from it for a while, but I was getting way too bored with the elliptical and just walking on the treadmill. It was time to head back outside to run in the wilderness like my ancestors (okay, more like run outside in a well-lit subdivision). Also, in the interest of honesty, I don't actually know if my ancestors ran anywhere at all.

So, this time of year where I live (a.k.a. Hot and Humid Central), running outside is pretty much limited to sunrise or sunset unless you think it's a barrel of laughs to get heatstroke or something. I picked sunrise because I figured it would get my day off to a good start and plus, despite no real evidence to back this up, it seems less likely that I would get mugged or something at dawn as opposed to twilight. Let me say, I look pretty awesome at 5 am. Here is a picture:

Yup, you know me, raring to go in my leopard bikini! Oh wait, are you trying to tell me that I still haven't morphed into a Brooklyn Decker clone? Bummer. Maybe I look more like this:

Yeah, I think that face pretty much speaks for itself. The vacant expression that says, "Why the hell did I think this was a good idea?!?" No matter how enthused I am the night before, I just can't seem to manage any enthusiasm at all that early in the morning. It takes too much energy. I try to avoid looking at the clock that early as much as possible because then I can at least pretend it isn't such an ungodly hour. In an effort to make sure I do actually get up, I've taken to sleeping in my workout clothes many nights so all I have to do in the morning is put in my contacts and put on my shoes. Hey, whatever works!

So yeah, I drag myself out of bed and head outside. And usually by then, I'm at least somewhat happy to be there. I am helped by the fact that I no longer sound like a dying animal after running approximately 30 seconds. Running wasn't so fun when that was true. I thought people who talked about runner's highs were crazy or maybe just actually high. Playing soccer as a kid, I was a good sprinter. Despite having short legs, I was somehow still able to go pretty fast. But distance running just never seemed like my thing. But now I'm starting to get into it. I can rack up some decent mileage. Don't get me wrong; it isn't pretty. While it's fun to think I look graceful and fierce when I'm running, I know the truth. It looks more like this:

But that's okay. My form may not be anywhere close to perfect, I may not be going fast, but the point is that I am doing it. I am doing something that I would have thought to be impossible this time last year. And what makes me feel even better about running is that I have a pretty good excuse for not running. My left foot is, for lack of a better phrase, jacked up. This foot has been 1) run over by a treadmill as a child, resulting in a gigantic keloid and my phobia of running on treadmills 2) had severe second degree burns after being splashed by boiling spaghetti sauce 3) had surgery to correct a clawtoe (umm, yes that is an actual condition that is about as sexy as it sounds), which means my big toe has a screw in it and can't bend and is also shortened, there is a lot of hardware in my foot, and my arch got shaved away 4) had surgery to repair a torn tendon and 5) had more second degree burns from being splashed by very hot queso dip (obviously I am really not good with hot items). It's been through a lot. Weirdly, my right foot has never had anything at all happen to it, so at least the scarring is limited to one foot. Please admire my extremely ugly foot:

Really the only problems I have with it are due to the surgery, but I just thought it was funny to list the crazy amount of unfortunate incidents that have befallen my poor foot. The whole anatomy of my foot has been changed. so running isn't the easiest thing. I basically now have one foot that is narrow with a high arch and one foot that is wide with no arch. This makes shoe shopping super fun! Not. So what happens is that every mile or so into my runs or even actually when I'm just walking on the treadmill too, the ball of my foot simultaneously starts hurting like it has a bad bruise and starts going numb. Sounds bizarre I know. This is only relieved by stopping to rub my foot for 30 seconds or so and then I'm good to go for another mile or so. Needless to say, this looks a little weird. I've tried all different kinds of orthotics, resting, icing, etc but to no avail. I've just come to accept it. But that's why I'm so proud that I run anyway. Between that and my asthma, it would be so easy to just say that I can't be a runner. But I know that is an excuse. I do what I need to do to be able to run, whether it's rubbing my foot when I need to or using my inhaler, and I don't let anything stop me. It's worth it to me, and every day as I feel myself getting more endurance, getting faster and stronger with every mile, I am more and more proud of myself for becoming the athlete that I always knew that I was capable of being.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Ah, this post. It has been permeating (SAT word!) in my mind for the past couple of weeks. Like some of the harder posts I've written before, it demanded to be written even if it was difficult to share. But as you probably know, my philosophy here has been to be completely honest about what is going on with me because I almost always feel better after sharing. I realize over sharing runs rampant these days with Twitter and the Facebook (haha, I sound like an old geezer), but I think I've been pretty reasonable about my sharing. I mean, I haven't shown you guys any crazy naked loose skin pics or anything! I apologize for that image.

Anyway, so today I wanted to discuss dating. Or to be more accurate, my lack of dating. This is kind of embarrassing for me to discuss. I have a mental image of people reading this and putting up a big L for loser on their forehead (do people still do that?). Because I kind of feel like a loser sometimes when I think about how little dating experience I have compared to other 28-year-olds (ahhhh, when I write it out it reminds how close to 30 I'm getting). But what I hope will happen is that some people will read this and realize they're not the only ones who have struggled with this. Some of you may be thinking, "Umm, I thought this was a weight loss blog. What the hell does dating have to with weight loss?" In my case, it has a lot to do with weight loss. I wish I could tell you that when I weighed 328 lbs, I was a confident woman who believed that men could see past my size to the real me. That is what the Lifetime movie version of me would be like. However, I was not that woman, and I am somewhat sad to say that we live in a world where physical appearance plays way too important a role. I'm not going to be so pessimistic as to say that guys who could see past my size don't exist. I'll just say that they are very tough to find. But in actuality, it wouldn't have mattered if a guy like that was right in front of my nose. My goal at that size was to be invisible. I didn't want anyone to see me, didn't want anyone taking too close of a look. I'm going to take this time to have a little Oprah moment: "You get a car, you get a car, you get a car!" Haha, not that kind of Oprah moment. I believe it is very true that you cannot start to love someone else until you love yourself. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy and cliche. However, that doesn't make it any less true. I think a lot of women think that if they can just find someone who loves them, if they can just find someone who thinks they are worthy, then they will start to believe that about themselves. It doesn't work that way. You have to love yourself and believe in your own worth before you can expect others to do the same. When I was bigger, I couldn't even stand to look at myself in the mirror. I couldn't see anything besides my size. I couldn't see past my own size to all the other things that are awesome about me (if I do say so myself). Whether I knew it or not, I gave off a vibe that said, "I'm not worth anything." I couldn't see who in their right minds could possibly want to be with someone like me. And that's just sad. So yeah, as I've lost weight, of course I've started to like the reflection I see in the mirror. But more than that, I've started to see that I have a lot of really admirable qualities. I also of of course have a few not-so-admirable qualities, but so does everyone. And now I finally feel like I am ready to share all of that with somebody else.

Which brings us dating (insert scary music here). I had to be forreal (fake word) with myself on this one. I can say to myself all I want that now that I'm smaller I'll just go start picking up men right and left at bars. Am I more confident? Yes, but the truth is that  I will never be the pick-up-guys-at-bars type of girl. I know online dating gets a lot of flack, but the idea of it appeals to me. I like the idea of dating someone based not just on the fact that we have mutual friends, but based on the fact that we have a lot of common values, likes, and dislikes. I'm not going to lie though. This totally scares the crap out of me. It is outside my comfort zone, but I'm trying to push through. Part of me keeps thinking I should wait until I hit my goal weight to start. But I recognize that that is the unhealthy perfectionist side of me, and that I am good enough right now, not 46 lbs from now. I can't just not live my life until I'm 128 lbs. It's not like that number is magic and when I hit it men will flock to me or something (although that would be awesome). So I am being brave and filling out a profile on Eharmony. Some of the questions are really weird though. A prime example would be the one where I'm supposed to rate how overweight I am. The scale goes from "Not at all" to "Very." I, of course, am completely stressed out about that one and am over-analyzing. I am by no means stick thin, but I'm also nowhere near what I used to be. I decided to go in the middle and put "somewhat," but then I was stressing that guys would see that and just dismiss me from that alone. I guess I probably wouldn't want guys like that anyway. Why can't they just look at my picture and decide?!? And then we get to the "What are you passionate about" question. I mean, am I supposed to put "world peace and long walks on the beach" or something along those lines? It's such a cheesy question that I can't seem to come up with a non-cheesy answer. Hey, if nothing else my adventures in online dating could provide new funny anecdotes.

I hope to finish filling out the profile tonight. I've kind of been procrastinating finishing because when I do that, it means that this is actually happening. I mean, I hope something happens. Of course, a tiny part of my brain (the same part that tells me I'm still not good enough) is saying, "What if no one wants you?" I just tell that part to shut the hell up while I get my date on though. So with that said, I'm jumping in. Watch out world (or more likely, the greater Wilmington area)!

P.S. Like I said, this is kind of freaking me out. Any words of encouragement, advice, or whatever would be greatly appreciated. Yeah, I'm not above needing confidence boosters lol.