Thursday, February 27, 2014

I'm a baller (soccer baller, that is)

Honestly, the first title that came to me was "What can I say? I'm good with balls (soccer balls, that is)," but I figured it might be a bit much. I mean, I don't want anyone getting ideas about me. So tonight was supposed to be my first soccer game in like 10 years, but it got canceled. Yup, I got all geared up, burned a few calories walking around the wrong field trying to find my team, and then finally got there only to have a transformer blow and start a small fire, necessitating turning off all the field lights. Oh well, gives me more time to practice. So this post was supposed to include all about my first game, but unless you want to hear a more blow-by-blow account of the transformer incident, that's going to have to wait another week. But I did have some thoughts I wanted to share about soccer and me anyway.

I've played soccer almost as long as I can remember. My parents started me out like most little kids do in a few different activities to see which I liked best. Dance (ballet, tap, and clogging) was a dismal failure. To this day, the kindest thing my mom can say about my dance days was that I looked really cute in the costume. I think all I need to say about gymnastics was that my "cartwheel" involved me putting my hands on the floor and rotating around in a circle. T-ball was okay, but not really my thing. I was scared of that hard little ball, a fear that has never really gone away. In middle school we had 3 days in gym class where we didn't have to participate if we didn't want to, and I always took those days during the softball part of class. But when I started playing soccer, I found my thing. I started playing soccer when I was 5 and I kept with it all through the end of high school. I can't really say that my soccer-playing prowess was evident from the start. Like all little kids, I just moved as part of the pack up and down the field following the ball. But around 8 or 9, it started becoming more obvious that I had some talent. Those muscular thighs that I usually hated were awesome at kicking balls long distances. I once scored from mid-field while playing defense (even cooler since it was on my birthday). And the weird thing was that although I was a pretty timid kid in general, I was anything but on the soccer field. I'm not really sure why, but I was usually one of the more aggressive kids on the field. When I was having an "on" game, I felt like nothing could stop me.

It would take several more haircuts before I finally realized that hair that short does not work on a round face or curly hair. Maybe cute on a 7-year-old, not so cute on a 16-year-old (even minus the bangs).

This picture is known in my family as the "bulldog picture." I was growing my bangs out and consequently bore a strong resemblance to a bulldog (at least to my siblings and me). Of course, this is the picture that every known relative would also display for years.

In this way, I guess I don't really have the typical chubby kid's story about hating gym class and sports in general. Soccer made me feel confident as an athlete, especially later on when I started to play on traveling teams and school teams that you had to try out for. I even took extra elective gym classes in school to try new sports like tennis and volleyball. But if you've read my blog at all, you know that I can be ruthlessly harsh on myself. I drove myself hard to try to be the best soccer player I could be. I think part of it (besides the natural tendency I have) was because I was bigger than many of the girls on my team. I felt like I had more to prove. I had to prove that my weight didn't affect what kind of player I was.

I guess the role of genetics in weight is somewhat evident in my childhood. I think people tend to blame genetics for too much of their weight struggles (which is kind of a pet peeve of mine), but there is no doubt that genetics do play a role in weight.  I was a very active kid with a set of parents who have both struggled with weight to different degrees. Especially in the later years, I had soccer practice almost every day. While I didn't have an especially great diet, it wasn't really any worse than most kids and probably better than a lot. I even liked vegetables. And yet, I was always chubby anyway. What I think is really sad looking back though is that I didn't think that I was just chubby. I thought I was FAT. I thought I was huge. I looked in the mirror and saw somebody gigantic. But in 7th grade at 5'1", I remember weighing around 145 lbs. In the chubby range, but in no way fat. Sometimes I wonder if it was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I had felt fat for so long, and finally I eventually WAS fat. I finally actually looked like that gigantic person I had seen in the mirror for years.

The one time the wind actually cooperated with my hair.

So I played through high school and a few casual intramural games in college, and then I let soccer fade from my life. Looking back, it seems weird to think that something that played such a huge part in my life all of a sudden had no part in it all, but life got in the way. I was busy. I think I got it in my mind that soccer was a kid's game and I wasn't a kid anymore. But I never stopped loving soccer. In fact, when I was going through a rough time a few years ago, one of the first things I randomly thought of was that I wanted to play soccer with my dad. So we went out to the field together one weekend. By that time, I was nearing my heaviest weight and it was hard for me just to walk out to the field, much less really play. But we kicked around the ball some anyway. It made me sad that even though my feet remembered what to do, my body could no longer physically do it. Then a year later when I decided to make a change and lose weight, I remember thinking that I wanted to be able to really play again. I saw where there were adult team sign-ups this spring a few weeks ago. Like always, part of me doubted myself. I thought I would make a fool of myself. I would look stupid. I wasn't in good enough shape. After all, I wasn't 18 anymore. Like always, I basically just thought I wasn't good enough. But I signed up anyway. I signed up because I really do love soccer and I love how it makes me feel. And kind of because I'm really tired of always doubting myself and being scared of failing. For most people, signing up to play adult soccer is probably not really a big deal. But it is a big deal to me because I know what I have gone through to get to the point where I can do this, and I know just how many fears and doubts I have pushed aside in order to sign up and just. do. it. (should I call this my Nike moment?) I'm never going to take for granted being able to play because I will always have the knowledge in the back of my mind that there was a time not too long ago when it was a complete impossibility for me. Here's a picture of me in my uniform tonight after the aborted game. On a somewhat related note, those uniform shirts were freakishly tiny, like to the point where we were kind of wondering if they were children's sizes. It gave me flashbacks about not fitting in things. I spent several productive minutes with my elbows out in the shirt stretching it out though, and I think it will work now.

And no, I am not aware of how my team got the name "Rusty Buckets." Kind of different, I know. More to come when I actually (fingers crossed) get to play next week!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When chocolate cake counts as a victory

Long time, no write. It's because I've been puking my guts out, and later in the week been busy eating chocolate cake. Wait, that sounds bad. Nevertheless, it is true. I caught a miserable stomach bug last week and consequently spent a large amount of time becoming well acquainted with my toilet (TMI, haha). The next day I was curious about the effects of dehydration and getting rid of everything in my stomach that I have ever  put there, so I weighed in. It showed I had lost 4 lbs in two days. I am sad to report that that this loss did not last, and went away pretty much as soon as I started eating and drinking again. Further proof that starvation diets do not work, but it would have been nice to have a little good come out of all that misery. Oh well.

I'm pretty much back to normal now, other than the odd stomach rumble or two. Hence, the chocolate cake. I was with my mom the other day, and she was telling me about this chocolate cake she made from scratch years ago. I have made exactly one cake from scratch in my entire life, and it was a pound cake. My cakes come exclusively from a box otherwise. So I decided I wanted to try to make this cake, under my mom's tutelage of course since I had no clue what I was doing. Now I don't know if you all have ever made a cake from scratch, but it is pretty labor intensive. As in, it took hours to make this cake. I tell you, I don't  know how people did this all the time back before the days of Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker. Anyway, it was finally finished and I had a slice. One slice. And at the moment that I was shoving the chocolatey goodness in my mouth, I felt like I had really mastered the space in between all or nothing. Because there was a time not too long ago when I would have polished off the vast majority of that cake all by myself. I would have reasoned that I deserved it after all that work. And there was also a time when I would have either said I couldn't eat any of that cake at all or I would have eaten a tiny bit and felt extremely guilty about it afterwards, like I had committed an unspeakable crime. So eating a slice of cake, even though it may sound weird for a blog about weight loss, seemed like a victory to me. It wasn't a reward, it wasn't a sin, it wasn't anything but a truly delicious slice of cake (if I do say so myself) that I was proud of making. The only regret I have about it is that there was not a way to just bake a few slices of cake instead of an entire cake, because now I am left with quite a bit of extra cake to disperse. I'm sure I can think of willing recipients other than myself for it though.

Okay, I seriously am not sure what is going on with my facial expression in this last picture. I wasn't even trying to make a weird face. It just happened. It frightens me that I make faces like that without even realizing it. Also, on another note, I would like to apologize if this post creates a longing for chocolate cake in anyone. That was not my intention, because as Cookie Monster likes to say about cookies on Sesame Street, "Cake is a sometimes food!"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Biggest Loser could learn a lesson or two from the title of my blog

Yes, I am going to talk about the whole Biggest Loser Rachel thing. I know a ton of other bloggers have discussed it, but I think it warrants a whole lot of discussion. I've watched Biggest Loser since the very beginning. And there have always been parts of it that I disagreed with, and actually the past couple of years there have been several times that I almost quit watching altogether. But I kept watching because, for the most part, I enjoyed seeing these people transform their lives. I tried to ignore the aspects of the show that I did not agree with.

Throughout the years, there have been several times during the finale when I personally thought the winner had taken it a bit too far losing weight. They looked a bit too thin, but not anything that really looked dangerous. That is, until this past week's finale. When Rachel walked onto that stage, it completely shocked me almost to the point of tears. I really like Rachel. She and I seem to share a lot of issues with eating, and I enjoyed seeing her come into her own all season. I thought she looked beautiful and strong when she left the ranch and went home. I did not see any trace of that girl on the finale stage. The girl on that stage seemed frail and on the point of collapse. In case any of you haven't seen the picture, here it is:

It's disturbing to say the least. A lot of people have come to the conclusion that she must have an eating disorder. I personally think it is irresponsible to throw about labels like that when you don't even know the person. Did Rachel look too thin in my opinion? Yes, she did. But I don't know what all went on, so I'm not going to speculate on that. Some people say that losing that much weight is okay because she did it for the money, and she'll be healthy afterwards. I disagree with that logic. It's not so easy to just to turn off such an extreme attitude and be healthy afterwards. I know this to be true because I have personally lived it, although to a lesser extent. It's why think this whole thing has affected me so strongly; it's because I know how this story goes.

Several years ago, I was selected to be a contestant in a local televised Biggest Loser contest. I had been going to the gym and eating healthy for a few months at the time already, and the contest seemed like a really cool opportunity to take things to the next level because it also included free personal training. Plus there was $500 cash and a $500 jewelry store gift certificate grand prize! It started out innocently enough, but then as it became harder and harder to lose weight, I became more and more extreme in what I was willing to do to win. 6 am workouts became 5 am, then 4 am. 5 miles became 10 miles became 15 miles a day. I sat in a sauna for hours at a time to sweat off weight. It got so that if I wasn't moving, if I wasn't burning calories, I felt anxious. My healthy eating deteriorated as my calorie intake took a nosedive. At the end of the contest, I was only eating lettuce and canned crab, barely 500 calories a day. And on weigh-in days, since I had to weigh in at night, I didn't eat or drink anything at all. And what's worse is, my trainer encouraged this behavior. The one time I showed a modicum of good sense and took a day off because I had pneumonia, he called me at 4:30 in the morning demanding to know where I was. So I went back to the gym the next day and ended up being carried out on a stretcher after having a severe asthma attack and passing out.

I won the contest by a wide margin. But it was such a joke because the point of this contest was all about losing weight the healthy way. I had won in a most unhealthy way. I told myself I would go back to normal now that I had won, just like some of those people claim that Rachel will do. But it was hard to give up those kind of results, and so, so easy to rationalize what I was doing. After all, at that point I was still 194 lbs and still needed to lose weight. I told myself that I was just doing what it takes to get results. That you have to make sacrifices sometimes. That I would go back to normal after I got to my goal weight. Well, let me tell you, you can only live how I was living for just so long. I was absolutely exhausted physically and mentally, and had the circles under my eyes to prove it. I got to 170 lbs before the weight began coming back on. A day off from the gym became a week, a week became a month, and before I knew it, it had been nearly 6 months since I set foot in a gym. Little food indulgences here and there (because I certainly deserved it after all I had been through!) became regular occurrences. And so less than a year after I had lost the weight, I had put more than 50 lbs of it back on. Here's me after the contest in February and then at Christmas that same year.

 Winning moment

And not so winning moment (although I did love seeing my Nana here!)

 That's how this story goes. And that's why I am so afraid for Rachel.

People tend to think that binging on food and severely restricting calories are completely opposite issues. On the surface, this seems true. But really, I've found that both of these issues stem from the same problem: not knowing how to live any way other than extreme. Rachel has said she had problems with emotional eating and binging before. I certainly know all about that. And I am here to say that it is very easy to make the leap from binging to eating too little and overexercising. It's something that I still have to battle with every single day. Some days are easier than others, but there is always that little voice in my head telling me how much more weight I could lose if I ate less than 1000 calories a day or spent even more time in the gym. That voice is also the same one that sometimes tells me to just screw it all and eat a dozen donuts. Moderation is something I have to consciously practice every day. I worry that Rachel does not know how to stay in the middle of these two extremes and exercise some moderation.

It's taken me a long time to start living in a truly healthy way, physically and mentally. The lessons I have learned have been hard-won. Here's what I would tell Rachel if I could: I don't count it as a victory if you become so thin that you have to starve yourself and obsessively exercise to get to and maintain that unhealthy weight. I don't count it as a victory if you look at food as the enemy instead of fuel for your body and something to be enjoyed. I don't count it as a victory if you look at exercise only as a means to burn calories instead of something to make you stronger every day. And I don't count it as victory if you honestly believe your emaciated body is somehow better than the strong and powerful body that won a triathlon, better just because it is 40 lbs thinner. I would tell Rachel that life is for living, not for powering through to reach an unhealthy goal.

I truly hope Rachel puts on a healthy amount of weight and does learn to have some moderation in her life. It makes me mad that the Biggest Loser head honchos doesn't encourage anything but an extreme method of losing weight in their contestants, but then it seems to come as a big surprise to them when some of the contestants learn this lesson a little too well. Personally, I think the show would do better if they completely eliminated the cash prizes and took away the eliminations so that all the contestants could stay on the ranch the whole time. I think this would put the focus more on living a healthy life and losing a healthy amount of weight, instead of on winning a game and money.  It's the people's stories and their journeys that most viewers really care about, not game play and who wins. If Rachel needs help dealing with issues, I hope she receives it. She obviously has extraordinary drive and determination, and she deserves to lead a healthy and happy life. I really hope that happens for her.