Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Walking in a winter wonderland isn't all it's cracked up to be

I figured after last week's heavy post, it would be good to have something a bit lighter. So, cupcakes and rainbows for everyone! Or maybe no cupcakes considering the nature of this blog. Anyway, so I've been doing pretty well since last week. January doesn't seem to have me down so much this year, thank goodness. One thing that I am proud of myself for doing is getting in my morning walk everyday. As some of you may know, I've really been battling my asthma in this cold weather, especially when trying to run. I've really gotten to where I enjoy running (outside, not on the treadmill!) and I was determined not to let my asthma get the better of me. But then I came to the realization that I was just being stupid. I've tried every timing of inhaler use I could think of, and it was still wheezing city and my lungs would end up feeling crappy all day. I mean, the way I was feeling on some of those runs, I was afraid the result would be someone finding me on the ground, curled up in a wheezing, half-dead ball. I can't say that would exactly count as a win. It's not a competition between me and my asthma. It's just a medical condition that I have to live with and make some accommodations for, not something I have to desperately try to prove doesn't have any effect on me. And one of those accommodations apparently needs to be no running outside in the winter. There was really no reason I absolutely had to run in order to get the benefits of being outside. Why not walk? The old me would have dismissed that idea because walking doesn't burn as many calories in the same amount of time that running does. It doesn't work up the same kind of sweat. So what's the use? But the new me realizes that although I may not burn as many calories, walking is very therapeutic for me, especially this time of year. I get to be outside, not wheezing, and I seem to do some of my best thinking while walking (although maybe I should start bringing a pen and notepad because I tend to forget some of those "brilliant" ideas by the time I get home). So I make sure to get my walk in every single day. I don't worry about how many calories I burn then because I go to the gym later. Today was especially interesting walk because of the temperature. So for your enjoyment, here's a recap. And yes, I realize those of you from the north will probably laugh, but this southern girl isn't used to such frigid weather!

0600: Alarm goes off. I cautiously bring a hand out from under my cozy lair of blankets. So easy to just stay in my nest. But the better part of my mind makes me get up. The wind chill this morning is 10 degrees. That's about 60 degrees colder than my ideal. I silently urge spring to hurry up and get here.

0610: I finally have a use for my sweat shirts that are too big! They're ideal for layering. The shirt that fits now goes on first, then over that goes the one that's one size too big, then the one that's two sizes too big. I added two pairs of pants to that ensemble, the effect of which made me vaguely resemble the Hulk (minus the green skin tone). I wrapped a scarf around my face so that only my eyes showed, but then had leftover scarf that I kind of just tucked up higher on my head. I didn't realize how absolutely ridiculous that looked until I took this picture.

I decided I didn't care. I added some gloves and stepped outside.

0620: I almost step back inside after feeling how cold it is. I had heard it might have snowed the night before so I was a little excited thinking I may see a frosty, glittering winter wonderland, if not snowy than at least prettily frosted. I step out, and instead of this beautiful tableau, I step out into...dead grass. And barren trees. More like a frozen tundra than a winter wonderland. Oh well.

0621: Discover that it is difficult to manipulate my iPod in gloves. I'm not taking them off more than once in this weather, so this means that I will (gasp!) have to let songs play all the way through without skipping past any. It's almost more than I can bear.

0630: Toes are starting to feel a little cold and progressively numb. It might have been a good idea to also double layer my socks, but I already told you that I'm not used to such weather! Also the mesh in my shoes that is so good at airing out my sweaty feet in the summer just makes things a bit chillier in the winter.

0645: It's a bit claustrophobic having my scarf covering my nose and mouth, but better than what I have done on previous cold days, which is put my face down into my shirt just to breathe in some warm air and warm up my cold nose.

0700: Unlike other days, there is absolutely NOBODY out here running or walking in my neighborhood. And the few people that are already up going to work or school at this hour kind of look at me like I'm crazy for being out in this voluntarily. Well, either that or they think my scarf placement looks weird (because it does).

0710: Almost get hit by a car. For real. With three hoods on my head and earbuds in my ears, my peripheral vision and hearing are severely compromised. This results in me walking out in front of a car that I neither saw nor heard. Hopefully, the driver didn't think I was a drunk, Hulk-like hoodlum. Because in reality I'm just a layered, (and consequently) Hulk-like girl who is only wearing sketchy hoodlum-esque hoods because it's so cold and who only wanders in front of moving vehicles because I was totally oblivious to them due to my apparel.

0715: Sunrise! Kind of cloudy, but still pretty. Makes my 2 near death experiences so far today (freezing to death and almost being hit by a car) seem almost  worth it.

0720: Wind up my walk listening to "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line, which never fails to make me think of summer. And the beach. And 85 degree days.  Now that's my kind of weather.

0725: Back home in my heated abode. I take inventory. Numb nose and toes? Check. Slightly less numb fingers? Check. Good mood despite the cold weather? Double check.

My walks may not contribute as much to my weight loss as a hard, sweaty workout at the gym or a run, but they do my mental well-being a world of good. And that's just as important!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

They say time heals all wounds, but sometimes 3 years ago feels like yesterday

I hate January. I have never really liked it. I mean, really who would? Right after Christmas, cold, and grey? Probably not most people's favorite month (and if it is, WHY?) So yeah, the January blahs are perfectly normal. But the reason I really can't stand January is because it brings back painful memories from another time in my life.

This time three years ago, my life pretty much imploded. I know I exaggerate sometimes in this blog to make my point, but this is no exaggeration. One day my life was going one way, and then the next, all that was gone. It was somewhat traumatic to say the least. This was the result of some very poor decisions on my part, and I spent a lot of the next months hating myself, asking myself how, after a lifetime of trying so hard to be perfect, could I have let myself screw up in such a colossal way? It was, without a doubt, the darkest period of my life. It is no wonder I do not like to relive those memories now. If you've read my blog before, you know what I used to do in times of stress. I ate. A lot. And so I ate my way through 2011 and half of 2012. I ate my way through all that pain and self-loathing and grief for all that I had lost. And in the end, when I saw the 80 pounds I had gained as a result, I initially hated myself even more. I looked in the mirror and all I saw was someone who was very, very broken and who didn't deserve anything better.

But then, I got some help. And we all know how very hard it is for me to ask for help. But I guess a little part of me knew even then, even at my lowest, that I did deserve better. I had spent my life up until then trying so hard to be perfect. I allowed that quest for perfection and need to do everything without help to define me. It very nearly destroyed me. And so I decided I needed to try something different. It was hard to open up and let other people see the imperfections that I had worked so hard to hide. And doing so without the comfort of food? Doubly hard. But that was what I needed to do in order to rebuild my life.

It's been said that weight loss is about more than just the weight. That was never more true than in my case. I had a bucketload of emotional weight weighing me down too. And I truly believe that if I had failed to address those issues, the physical weight could never have stayed off. When I got help for my emotional issues, little by little I stopped despising myself quite so much. I started to see that yes, I had made mistakes, but those mistakes shouldn't define me any more than my quest for perfection should. I didn't have to punish myself with regret the rest of my life. I started to believe that I was worthy of something better. With those realizations also came massive weight loss. Seriously, it was like a literal weight had been lifted off my shoulders (or maybe belly in this case).

So while this story does have a happy ending, that doesn't mean that I like January any better. The dark memories become very vivid for me then since that's when things kind of came to a head. I have all different emotions warring in my head. Part of me would like nothing better than to stay in bed with 10 million bags of chips till the month is over. Part of me wants to overcompensate for that other part of me and go through the month insisting to myself and everyone else that I am just fine, that I am not that person from 3 years ago anymore. And then the healthy part of me, the part that has gotten me through it all, knows that I should not wallow in my bed, nor should I try to be crazily perky all month. That while it is true that I am drastically different in a good way from 3 years ago, that doesn't mean that I can't feel some of those feelings I felt then. And that's okay. I let people know I may need extra support right now. I make sure I am taking care of myself physically and emotionally. I give myself permission to feel how I feel, good or bad.

Part of the reason this blog has been so good for me is because I don't try to be perfect on here. I let everyone see just how imperfect  I am. That's something that would have been unthinkable for me before. But now I see that my imperfections and mistakes are some of the very things that make my story something that people are inspired by, or least I hope that is the case. I want people to know that no matter how broken and lonely and unworthy you may feel, no matter how badly you may have screwed up, you deserve better. And not only that, you have the power to make that something better happen. You have the power to fight your way to the life you deserve. I know that because that's exactly what I am doing. And if I can help other people realize that about themselves, that would be amazing. In the middle of my struggle, I came across a quote by Albert Camus that I really love. It goes, "In the midst of winter, I found there was within me an invincible summer." So very true.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ghosts of Christmases past...or maybe the ghost of an OCD photo filer

I've been back in the saddle (so to speak, since I have actually ridden a horse exactly once) for a week now. And let me tell you, it's been a week that has made all the difference. Stomach problems? Gone. Motivation problems? Gone. Low energy? Gone. When you eat healthy on a regular basis, I think it becomes easy to forget some of the benefits of eating that way because you just get used to it. But after a week of eating not so healthy stuff, and then switching back to my healthy diet, the benefits of eating well have never been so clear to me. They amount to so much more than just losing weight. I just genuinely feel better, mentally and physically, eating this way. It makes it seem crazy that I ever accepted living any other way. I was kind of proud when I hopped on the scale this morning, because for once, the number didn't seem to matter so much. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was definitely happy to see my hard work had paid off numbers-wise, but I know that that has been the least  important thing about my week.

Switching gears here somewhat, I uploaded my Christmas pictures last week and that got me looking through pictures of Christmases past (because my OCD self has a Christmas file further sub-categorized by years...don't you?). My weight has rather dramatically fluctuated both ways through the years and it was interesting to see. So I thought I would post some Christmas (although a few aren't noticeably Christmas-themed) pictures here, starting in 2005 (only because that's when I started with a digital camera).

2005: Around 250-260 lbs I think, edging towards my highest weight then of 270 lbs. It was a lethal combination of the stress of nursing school combined with shopping for my own food for the first time. 

2006: My most successful weight loss until now. I had started going to the gym and eating a lot better. By the time I graduated college in May 2007, I was at my lowest adult weight of 170 lbs.

2007: And...good habits are so easily put aside. Got my first nursing job, didn't make time to work out or eat right, promptly gained a bunch of weight back. Depressing how quickly the weight came back on!

2008: Obviously, I had gained even more weight, but this was also the year of the steroids (for my asthma, not the other kind!). Can you say moon face?

2009: I lost some weight that year with Weight Watchers. 

2010: And then I gained the weight back (and more) just as easily. 

2011: Nearing my highest weight ever of 328 lbs. I was under a gigantic amount of stress that year, and to say I may have used food to dull my emotions somewhat would be an understatement.

2012: The year I took control for good! I was about 6 months into my weight loss journey then and was just starting to feel comfortable having my picture taken.

2013: The journey continues! I feel pretty good about how I look here.

I think looking back like this can be really helpful. It's easier to see the patterns that make you gain or lose weight. For example, now I know more than ever that I am a stress eater like nobody's business. That feeling hasn't gone away now; I've just learned to (usually...I'm not perfect!) channel what I'm feeling into an activity that is healthier than eating junk. I also noticed that that I had never before had 2 Christmases in a row where I was losing weight or even just maintaining. You can see that if I happened to lose weight one year, by the very next year I had already gained it all back and more. So that makes me feel pretty awesome that this year was my second consecutive Christmas losing weight. It makes me feel even more like this time it's for good. So what do I hope to look like next Christmas? I'm not going to lie, I really do hope to be 35-45 lbs lighter than I am right now. But even if I don't lose any more weight, even I look exactly the same next Christmas, that would still count as a victory for me. Because the way I am right now is okay too, and I am healthier than I have ever been. And then I hope to see pictures of Christmas after Christmas of me at the same weight, happy and healthy,  for a long, long time.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pretend I'm Usher and "This is My Confession"

They say the road to gaining weight is paved with good intentions. Or maybe that's the road to hell, but my saying works too. Because I had all the good intentions in the world about staying on track with my eating during the holidays, but it still ended with my gaining some weight. I had fully intended to limit my high-calorie eating to just a few meals, but it is just so easy to rationalize crappy eating during the holidays. You know the excuses, "Everybody else is doing it," "It isn't that  bad," and the ever popular "I'll get back on track after New Year's." Yes, I fell prey to these, and probably many more, rationalizations this holiday season.

I know that it's not the end of the world, and the truth is that I am back on track now. I guess if there was a good part to all this, it's that by the time New Year's Day rolled around, I was so thoroughly sick of eating junk, that I was really ready to go back to normal. So while I am not going to kick myself (which wouldn't be healthy and could be difficult physically anyway) over and over about falling off the wagon per say, I am disappointed in my behavior. There were numerous opportunities for me to turn things around, and I made a conscious decision not  to do so. I mean, there's a reason people eat this crap, despite it being so bad for you. It tastes good! And I found that the more I ate of it, the more I wanted. Despite the fact that my stomach was basically in revolt all week because it wasn't used to food like that, despite the fact that I physically and mentally felt different in a bad way due to what I was putting in my body, I ate it anyway. I sometimes even ate when I wasn't even hungry due to boredom or because my mind wanted it even if my body had had enough.

Despite all of these poor decisions nutritionally, I did do one thing very right that would never have happened previously. I made sure I worked out every single day. Even though I knew it most likely wouldn't be enough to counteract what I was eating, I still did it. So I am very proud of that because the old me, the all or nothing me, would have said "What's the point? You're eating badly, so why should you work out if you're going to gain weight anyway?" Throughout all the crazy eating, my work-outs were kind of like a mental anchor for me.

I admit, there's a small, insecure part of me that worries that the people who have been following my story will be disappointed by me right now. Of course, that's the part of me that feels like I should perfect all the time. But the bigger, healthier part of me knows that the truth is that I'm not  perfect and that that's really okay. I think people generally appreciate honesty more than perfection, because who hasn't  made a bad decision or two before? That's why I put it all out there, even it may paint me in a less than flattering light at times.

So to recap, Christmas eating=failure, yes, that's true. But that does not make me  a failure in any shape or form. My motto is "Fall down 7 times, get up 8." And that's exactly what I am doing.