Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving (and) dinner

This is a tough time of year for weight loss. The weather is cold and damp, and the kitchen is warm and inviting. It becomes more of a hearth than merely a place to store and prepare food. More than ever, a cozy, fragrant kitchen is the best place to find solace.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays- and no, not because the focal point of the whole thing is a huge dinner, lol - though that does add to the appeal. I remember cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey ever and playing hostess to the feast. One thing I was grateful for that year was the example my mother, grandmother, and aunts had set for me over so many years of Thanksgivings in the kitchen. I saw very clearly what a labor of love is it to put on a spread like that, and how effortless they had made it look, trotting around the kitchen talking, stirring, chopping, and laughing - always laughing and smiling.

But more, I love Thanksgiving because it simply asks everyone to reflect and give thanks. That's it. You don't buy gifts; you don't give out candy or throw an endless series of parties. The year is coming to an end. The harvest is in, and winter's on its way, along with Thanksgiving's brash, boisterous, big sister, Christmas. Thanksgiving brings a moment to pause and think (after the cooking is all done, I mean ....), to sit with family and simply "be" together. This holiday can be celebrated by anyone living in America, no matter their countries of origin, religious practices, or lack thereof. It's also a patriotic holiday in its way, but one that doesn't conjure up images of cannons, muskets, bombs, or bloody battlefields. And while I am well aware of the actual relationship between settlers and Native Americans, I believe it's still possible to embrace the notion that our country and everyone in it can take a day to gather at its collective table, together in peace, with gratitude in its heart. It's a beautiful thing.

I recall thinking that Thanksgiving was boring when I was a little girl. I was too young to help cook, and it always took FOREVER for the darn turkey to get done, so I remember lots of waiting around and listening to the men holler at the football games they were watching. We didn't get presents, either. Then as I got older, I'd take more of an active part in the preparations, not to mention the visiting and frivolity. And even as a young kid, I was always aware of how wonderful everything smelled. There's this Thanksgiving aroma - it's a mixture of cooking turkey, wood smoke from the fireplace, cinnamon, rosemary, and .... men's aftershave. I conjure up that fragrance in my memory and tears come to my eyes.

I am grateful to have had Thanksgivings like those back then. I still love the holiday and the sentiment (and the aromas), though the actual event has changed in recent years. I am divorced, my mother died years ago, my father and sisters live too far away for us all to celebrate together, and the other "orphan friends" I used to host on Thanksgivings have either moved away or hooked up with new families to celebrate with. Last year I celebrated with my two teens and my boyfriend, which was lovely. Still, it's not quite the same as having a house filled with people in their casual best and smelling all nice.

And this year? Well, frankly, I'm not in the mood. I had hoped to be considerably thinner by now, which I am not, and that makes me mad. My family is far away, and that makes me sad. Add that to being in the above-described kitchen atmosphere, and it only makes me want to eat everything in sight. (And holiday fixin's are so hard to resist!) I could take my kids and go out to dinner, but my son looks forward to those day-after turkey sandwiches all year. Yeah, I guess I'll cook a dinky little turkey. Maybe even our meager little gathering will stand out in their memories as a happy, meaningful time for them. Maybe one day, years from now when/if they have their own families, I'll be dottering around their kitchens, slipping their children pieces of pumpkin bread and searching for the potato masher, and they will wistfully remember the non-chaotic, aromatic Thanksgivings of their teen years. That would be nice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things Fall Apart

It's November now, and my saga begins again, reluctantly rising like the fed up and flabby phoenix that it is. Where have I been for the last six or seven weeks, you may wonder. Why haven't I been here, enthusiastically chronicling my smashing success in taking control of my weight, and more importantly, my life? How shall I say it? Things fell apart.

Have you ever bolstered your courage, polished your self-esteem, convinced yourself you could soar on wings of your own faith, if only you would take that leap? So you do - and just when you think you feel the updraft, you find yourself in a free-fall? And then you make yourself believe that the Forces That Be are quickly mobilizing to stretch out that safety tarp below as you hurtle faster and faster to the ground, but instead, you smash into the punishing concrete. Have you ever endured a phase when you questioned every step you've ever taken? Every choice you've ever made? Every accomplishment you've achieved, or worse, thought you had achieved? Have you ever awoken to the understanding that you will never create the life you had intended to, no matter how hard you try? That you will always be "too-this" and "not-enough-that" to be who you really want?

Okay, probably. I imagine most of us suffer a crisis of confidence at some time or other, particularly around mid-life. This post sounds more morose than I really feel at the current moment. Sorry about the melodrama. But sometimes I just get tired. It's true that all I can control is my own behavior and my own response to the things that happen in my life. Yes, I understand that. But it just never stops - the frustrations, disappointments, the things you can't change but still intrude and muddy your efforts. Life barrels on - the exigences, the responsibilities, the curve balls. You scramble to take care of one thing, while another suffers from neglect. You'll have to deal with the fall-out later. Things keep falling apart. Some people seem to deal with it just fine, and others don't.

So ... my rant for today is over. I am done being angry with life and disgusted with myself. But I have come to a reluctant conclusion: I'm sick of trying to believe we can "manifest" anything we want badly enough. Attitude and belief only go so far. Sometimes, things are the way they are, period. Pigs can't fly. Love doesn't conquer all. The best intentions promise nothing. Life isn't fair.

And tomorrow? It will be the first day of the rest of my life. Thank goodness.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Where was I.....?

It's funny how time evaporates as we get busier. My intention was to blog every day, but now eight days have passed since my last installment. Sigh. And truthfully, my mind hasn't been on weight loss, either. Upon returning home from Hawaii, I had to finish up preparations for my Fall quarter classes, something I'm still working on, and also help my son get ready to leave for college. I haven't been exercising much, nor have I done much hypnosis. So while I haven't gained anything back, I know I haven't lost anything either.

What's on my mind right now is the urge to de-clutter my life and home. My garage is full of crap; my yard is overrun with weeds; my desk is overflowing with papers, files, and half-completed Do Lists. The rosters and gradesheets of my classes need updating. The clean laundry I folded last week is still sitting on my bed, though the piles are smaller because I'm just taking clothes from them to wear every day. How I would love to just stop the world for a week so I could catch up, clean up, and start fresh. It's hard to stay focused on healthy living when so many other plates must be kept spinning. C-Man and I have noticed how other obligations have taken priority over our workouts now that the Hawaii trip has passed. But really, life never gets less complicated (does it?). Other people seem to do it. Why can't I?

But the urge to get rid of stuff is a healthy one. In fact, too much clutter can create stress - can literally weigh people down. (That goes for emotional clutter, too.) It's not uncommon to hear self-improvement gurus of all sorts advising people to simplify, scale back, and free themselves of the trappings of modern life. If you're feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, trapped, or what have you, start by purging the baggage - the leftovers. That means, if you haven't touched something for over a year, get rid of it. Lighten the load, as it were. That idea is very appealing right about now.

One thing I did get rid of recently is my bathing suit. I'd had the same suit for the past five years, and while in Hawaii, I noticed that it was becoming threadbare in the back. There was this little spot that I at first thought was wet sand, but on closer inspection, I saw the the nylon fibers had worn out and only a transparent mesh was left. As the week went on, these bare spots spread down the back seam, and then I saw the same thing happening in the front. My suit was dying.

That suit deserved to be worn out. I trained for a triathlon in it; I swam in many bodies of water in it; I braved beaches and pools in it, even though I still cringed to be out in public revealing my big fat body. But this suit helped me out a lot. It was called a "Slimshaper," or some such thing, and it was made of comfortingly sturdy fabric that trimmed, supported, and disguised a multitude of sins. It had racing stripes down the sides which enhanced the waistline, and had a little zipper in the front that could be flirtatiously lowered if the mood allowed. I actually felt pretty good in it. That suit had a big job to do, all right .... and it did so admirably.

I'm telling myself that that will be the last "fat swim suit" I'll ever have. When I took it off for last time in Hawaii, I said a little thank you to it. . . the poor thing. It seemed appropriate to leave it there in beautiful Kauai. Good-bye, old friend. Now if only everything else could be disposed of so easily and peacefully.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Aloha, Hawaii ....

... and we're home. I look at this photo, taken from our hike up the Na Pali Coast, and almost fall into a dream. The trip was everything we hoped it would be. Better, even. We had just the right balance of kick-back pool/beach time and ambitious treks and wanderings.

So the question is.... how was this beach vacation before having reached my goal weight? In a word, wonderful. While I didn't exactly feel like a bathing beauty, I was comfortable and happy. My boyfriend made it even easier for me by not ogling all the hot young things in their bikinis, or at least not very obviously. It was nice to realize that no one looks at me as harshly as I do myself. I simply relaxed and enjoyed myself.

Another notable realization was how much we had both benefitted from all our G-Ball workouts over the past month. Not only did we both look trimmer, we had a much easier time while kayaking and hiking as we would have otherwise. Specifically, we took what I consider a very vigorous hike straight up and straight back down the NaPali coast to a secluded little beach and back. C-Man is part-mountain goat and he was unphased, but I've never been real good at trails that gain a lot of elevation quickly, or have long stretches where you have to look for your next stepping place. And even though I was tired, cranky, sweaty, heat- exhausted, blistered, and hobbling on my bad ankle by the end of it, I had at least done it. I don't honestly know if I would have been able to before improving my fitness this much. (In truth, I was seriously considering ordering a helicopter to relieve me of the trek back!)

The point is that I was able to have this memorable experience and sense of accomplishment that I wouldn't have had before. Too many times, I have let my weight and self-image keep me from experiencing life in it's full flush. Not anymore. I am 48 years old and only have so many good years left. I intend to make the very most of them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

... And One!

Tomorrow is the big day! Clothes are scattered all over my bed awaiting the final packing decisions. I'm one of those people who always seems to bring too much or not enough. I have also tended to bring the wrong stuff - too dressy, too sloppy, too warm, not warm enough. Not this time. I am determined to bring exactly the right clothes, for both weather and occasions. (It helps that most of our time will be spent in the water!) And while neither of us has achieved the fitness goals we'd envisioned when this whole idea got started, we are feeling good about our progress and the commitment we have made to changing our habits.

C-Man and I have done our GMF workout several times this week, noting how we've improved in strength and endurance. Mind you, we are both still dripping like Robert Hayes in Airplane! by the end, and some of the exercises are really HARD!, but there's no doubt that we're getting better at it. Yesterday he told me that I'm looking smaller, specifically referring to my butt. (Really? Cool!) I don't see it yet, but I'll trust him. However, I can see that his arms are looking downright cut. I suppose our main areas of concern, our mid-sections, will be the last to show real results.

I do regret not taking this effort more seriously before last month. As C-Man said, it seemed so far away. Also, I had convinced myself that the small steps I'd been taking were sufficient to make the weight come off. It's so easy to delude oneself about the actual efforts being made. It's so easy to get distracted, to get stressed, to get discouraged, to get angry, resentful, or even bored. What this current process has reminded me is that changing one's body and living habits is a major undertaking. It requires more than just patience, as I've already discussed. Instead of being a straight clear path, this life course is fraught with pitfalls of many kinds. Success can only be achieved with a commitment to keep going, and not look back. Just get back up and keep on going.

I must constantly tell myself that I can and will do it this time. I can change my body and my attitude. I figure that it will take the better part of a year to reach my goal weight, and perhaps another year after that to stablize my emotional responses to weight loss and body image. That's a long time, and a lot of blogging to come! But that's ok. To be successful, people must be willing to do what is necessary, right? I am willing. I wish it could be easier, but I am willing.

For now, I have a trip to prepare for. I doubt there will be any new posts until after we return on Sept. 19th. Our plan is to eat lots of fish, fresh fruit, and be active every day. Beyond that, we'll be taking a break - a vacation! I leave town grateful to C-Man for providing this trip and being my fitness partner, and for all the encouragement I've been receiving from everyone. I'm also grateful that we are going to Hawaii after the peak tourist season, and for
secluded places like Secret Beach. Until later, Aloha!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three Days ...

Just a quick note for tonight. Today I decided I needed some "new" clothes for the Hawaii trip. I have several things that I wore in Mexico last year that will be fine for this trip, and while they are a little baggier, they still fit. Rats. As I've mentioned to many people, I hate those commercials for weight loss products which show a woman squealing, "I lost 18 pounds and 3 dress sizes!!!" I lose 18 pounds and my watch gets loose. Anyway, I hesitated to buy anything at all, citing the typical objections of the overweight shopper: 1) I don't deserve to buy new clothes, 2) Nothing will look good anyway, and 3) why spend a lot of money on clothes that aren't supposed to fit in another few months? So what's the answer? Value Village!!!

I popped in there not expecting to find much, but I walked out with quite a few things - several tops, a beach cover, some great shorts for hiking and/or playing in the ocean, and even a colorful dress. The damage? $38.00! At that price, I don't care if never wear the stuff again. I can donate it, in fact, and have it end up right back where I found it, and where the next chagrined plus-sized shopper can give them yet another new life. Ah, the great circle of apparel.

More later, y'all. Time to color those stubborn greys and apply some sunless tanner.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Four Days to Go

It's been over a week now since I've blogged. (I still can't get used to that verb.) I had a friend from out-of-state come to visit last week, my daughter started back to school, and a few other distractions kept me from the computer, but I didn't stray too far from the plan here. However, as C-Man wrote in his blog yesterday, the workouts stopped dead. I did take a couple good walks with my houseguest, including the stairclimb from the Seattle waterfront to Pike Place Market. Oh, my aching knees... . I could have done my G-ball routines during the week, but I didn't. Still, except for sharing a piece of "Chocolate Orgasm Cake" at the comedy club Friday night, my friend and I both ate pretty reasonably during her visit. She understands and supports my efforts, having battled some weight issues of her own. It helps to have friends who have also lived through the weight-gain trifecta: marriage, children, and divorce.

And now there are four days left until the 11th. I am both excited and depressed. C-Man mentioned pre-vacation blues in his last blog, though I don't think we're depressed for the same reasons. What I am feeling now is a very familiar disappointment in not having lost more weight before an important event. The next four days will not find me in a smaller size or sporting less cellulite. Sure, I have lost a few pounds and made some real improvement in my overall fitness. But the beach, the swimsuit .... the same ugly story remains. I will not be the sleek, buff, trophy girlfriend I want to be; I will not be prancing around joyfully in my first bikini. Not this trip, anyway.

Nevertheless, I am choosing to be positive. Where normally I would let myself spiral down into a miasma of self-loathing, today I am taking the long view. This process is working. The longer I stay with it, the easier and more natural it will get, and the closer I will get to reaching my goal. There is no other option but to keep going. In the meantime, I can still enjoy this vacation for the special, romantic getaway that it is. It's not as though I'll be turned away at the boarding gate: "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but you're too fat to go to Hawaii. Please try again next year." Overweight or not, I am in a good place. Remember that woman who took six months to lose ten pounds? It will happen if I just stay focused on the goal. Iamnotafailure-Iamnotafailure-Iamnotafailure......

And meanwhile, I know how lucky I am. Yesterday afternoon, C-Man came by for a workout. He also surprised me with a very cool pair of hiking sandals. And they even fit! (I have duck feet - practically no shoe fits.) He enthused about the hikes we're going to take, and how we can play in the surf in these sandals without risking injury on sharp rocks and such. He looked happy and full of anticipation. Then after our workout, we sat down together and he asked about the events of this past week. As I told him what I'd been up to and how things had been going, he listened intently and smiled sweetly at me. I saw love in his face. I almost stopped talking so I could just stare back, returning his gaze. This was not a look of disappointment or disdain. He is not only fully prepared to be seen with me on the beach, he is counting the seconds until we get there, thighs and all! How lovely.

So, yeah! Dance like nobody's watching, right? Heck yes! Hawaii is waiting and life is good.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Patience and Rewards

Tonight I'm thinking about rewards. Basic psychology tells us that human behaviors result from the cumulative rewards and punishments experienced in life. Do a good thing, get a treat. Do a bad thing, suffer in some way. It's simple enough. Very early on, we all learn what brings us attention, happiness, pleasure, and what brings us pain or punishment. And as we mature, we learn to delay our gratification for something important enough. We learn to be patient. Weight loss works the same way. For some of us, however, patience is the most difficult factor in the equation. In the words of Tom Petty, "the waiting is the hardest part!"

Life just isn't fair. Why does it take only days to gain five pounds, but weeks, even months, to lose it? Such is the complaint of anyone who has ever tried to diet. The slow-mo pace of weight loss can be very disheartening. I remember a woman from Weight Watchers whose entire goal was to lose ten pounds. It took her six months. Six months!! My first reaction to her story was disbelief - not so much that it took six months to lose ten pounds, but that she'd signed up for Weight Watchers to lose a lousy ten pounds! I sat there with my 50-some pounds to go, thinking Geez, Lady - you needed that much help and that much time to lose ten pounds?

It wasn't long afterward that I realized what an arrogant hypocrite I'd been to think that. After all, if only ten pounds was so easy to lose, why hadn't I done it? I mean, okay, it took her six months. It's better than not at all, which is what I'd been doing for years up until then. What does it matter how much people try to lose, or how long it takes them? The fact is that she stuck it out for six months to rid herself of that "lousy ten pounds." She was losing less than a half-pound per month, but she kept at it. She had been patient. Just a couple days ago I was bemoaning the mere half-pound loss I'd had after a couple weeks of "being good." This attitude is the crux of my problem with weight loss. I'm impatient. Of course, most of us are, which is partly why most people give up. (BTW, I'm also working on changing the "good vs. bad" attitude, which I'll deal with in another chapter.)

And again, there's the issue of rewards. One way to sustain any long-term effort is to give little rewards along the way. What happens when people are used to rewarding themselves with food? Actually, it's not uncommon to hear someone say, "You've lost 35 pounds?? Let's go celebrate with a hot fudge sundae! You've earned it!!" (No one would ever say to an alcoholic, "Ten months sober?? Fantastic! Let's go get a drink!")

Food rewards are deeply ingrained into our culture, from getting treats as little children, to going out for fancy dinner celebrations as adults. Let's face it - food is fun, and it's comforting when we don't feel so celebratory. I mention this tonight because I'm constantly catching myself thinking that way. For my activity today, I did some very strenous housecleaning and furniture re-arranging in preparation for a visit from an old friend. (I also took the dog for a long walk earlier.) Anyway, there was a lot of lifting, shoving, bending, going up and down stairs, and I worked up as good a sweat as from any G-Ball workout. My son also got into the action, and it wore HIM out, too!

When it came time to think about dinner, my first thought was, Wow - we should have something really delicious. I also thought about some kind of dessert for my son as a thank you. Perhaps it was my hypnosis training, or simply this determination to reign over my eating issues, but I stopped. I know there are lots of other ways to reward myself, and others - so why does yummy food always come up first? Habit, I guess - and ease.

But it's no wonder that significant weight loss is so hard for so many people. It takes a long time .... often a very long time .... and along the way, it can be hard to see any real results. The payoff seems like an illusion. At this point, for instance, I have a hard time picturing having only ten pounds left to lose. Sure, my workouts are getting easier, and my clothes are a little looser..... but this weight can't come off fast enough. Part of me still doesn't believe I can really do it. Meanwhile, I need to find other ways to reward myself for changing my habits, for keeping up the fight. And when I get discouraged, or if anything else in my life is causing me stress or sadness, I will find solace in something else. Perhaps I should just think about how wonderful it will be to not have my thoughts dominated by weight issues.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Effort Continues

Good morning. It's Day 17 of the Hawaii countdown. That means I have two weeks to trim, smooth, and firm myself before braving the beach. Yikes! Well, as C-Man said yesterday, "Maybe we won't be 'buff' on the beach, but we'll be buf-fer." Absolutely. That's the spirit!

We did our 60-minute, nuclear meltdown G-Ball workout (with Coach Mitch and his droids). And both of us gained a new appreciation for having the other as a workout partner. We were both a little tired when he came by at three, and since my trip last week, we haven't been able to spend much quality time together, so it would have been very easy to just cuddle up on the couch and chit-chat. As it happens, we did take a few minutes stretched out on our mats, commiserating over the headaches of clogged shower drains, cat box odor, and other irksome household issues. As I said, it was very tempting to chuck the workout, snuggle up and talk for an hour, and then take the dog for a quick walk, calling it good.

But no - C-Man stood up, saying, "C'mon, let's do this!" All right - he was right. So we started the workout, "giving it our all," as Mitch always urges, and after the first circuit we were both drenched and breathing hard. Then as Mitch was calling for us to re-hydrate before starting the whole sequence over again, C-Man looked up from his mat and said, "That's enough. I'm done." Was he kidding? "No you're not," I responded. "Get up. We're doing the whole thing."

And so we did. This workout is designed to get more difficult as you improve, so even though some the exercises are easier than before, now we have to "take it to the next level ..... get out your comfort zone," as Mitch constantly admonishes. (God I hate those expressions!) "Give it all you've got! Lunge farther, jump higher, go for the gold!!" Oy - all right already!

Anyway, thanks to each other, C-Man and I managed to fulfill our promise to keep on working and getting into shape. We're set for Friday, too. In fact, he suggested that we do TWO workouts a day this weekend, like in NFL training. Sure - I'm game if he is. Two weeks is NOT very much time. Good thing we don't mind seeing each other all sweaty and cranky. As for today, I think I'll take the dog for a quick walk and call it good.

Oh, I did break down and weigh myself yesterday. I was hoping I might have lost a couple more pounds, which would give me some needed reinforcement and help build some momentum. I was also a little afraid that I could have gained a little weight, or perhaps stayed the same after my travels and somewhat liberal "party eating." And the result was ..... I've lost another 1/2 a pound. Yea. Oh well, at least I didn't gain anything. A loss is a loss, right? At this rate, I'll make my goal by my 100th birthday! I'll be the sexiest thing at the old folks' home! And boy, will I be ready to party.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Time to Get Motivated, Again

Today has been a good day. The food/exercise element went just fine, and I also got to enjoy an easy, stressless day. The weather was glorious - warm and clear - hospitable to all. The dog, cats, and fish are no worse for wear from our absence (thank you, Leah!), and life is officially back to normal. The C-Man and I did our strength training plus abs G-Ball workout today. Even though my quads were burning from the few days away from this DVD, I know I've made real progress in my fitness level. The core work is much easier now. Both of us pushed to the next level of difficulty in a few of the exercises. Man, a little effort goes a long way. I feel good, but I'm still looking the same. Sigh.

I also worked on cutting back on eating as much as I could today. I'm already on Day 14 of this countdown, which means there are less than three weeks to go until our trip. I'm wondering if I can lose another 10 pounds between now and the 11th. This is a hard part in the process. I know I'm working on long-term change, but I have this short-term goal which just can't be reached fast enough. I try not to be discouraged. Ah, impatience... . It has tripped me up many times before. Good thing I've got the hypnosis tapes to keep me grounded. I need to listen more consistently now that I'm home.

So .... I guess that's it. I may have to break down on Wednesday and weigh myself so I won't feel so lost and stuck. Evidence of even a small loss could give me the boost I need. Time's runnin' out and I'm still in the same clothes!! The change needs to happen, and now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Ugh. Is it just me, or does everyone else feel sweaty and gross after a long day of airline travel? Please tell me I'm not the only one.... . It's good to be back, finally.
So the kids and I are home after a pleasant trip back to P-Town. As my last entry indicated, my self-esteem always takes a hit when I hang around my family for any length of time, and this trip was no different. I really tried to relax and be myself, as I "know" that I am loved and accepted. Still, when the whole family is gathered together, catching up, yacking, laughing .... I find myself hanging back, feeling almost invisible at times. When I get a word in edgewise, it's often not even heard, or perhaps not acknowledged. Why? I used to believe that everyone else shines so brightly that my light just can't be seen when I'm around them. They are larger than life; they use up all the oxygen in the room, etc. etc. .... . But I don't know - Do they really use it all up, or do I simply stop breathing? And I can't help but wonder: when (not "if") I am no longer overweight, will I still feel the same way around them? Probably - for reasons to be explained in a future chapter.
So how did I do with the exercise and eating these past five days? Pretty good, I think. I did a lot of swimming, sometimes twice a day. And I'd say the eating was moderate, all things considered. On Saturday evening we celebrated Dad's birthday with a feast of grilled meats and veggies - nothing terribly caloric at all. There was birthday cake though, and yes, I had a piece. Some extra wine flowed that night, too. Still, I had no big moments of regret over the whole stay.
On the other hand, I am not looking or feeling like I've made progress over the past week. My counsellor told me not to weigh myself, right?, so I don't know what's been happening in that regard. One of the hardest things about the trip was putting on my bathing suit. It's the same suit I've worn for the past several years, and it doesn't seem to be fitting me any more loosely. I am painfully aware how I look in it, and I am feeling that familiar disappointment that there won't be enough time between now and Sept. 11 to make any real difference in my appearance. It's times like these when I traditionally give up, telling myself that I just don't have the discipline to make a real change in my body. I'm not giving up. However, I admit feeling more pessimistic today .
Early on at Dad's, I mentioned my weight loss efforts after he asked if we'd want baked potatoes (or whatever) with our dinner. I didn't want to say, "No thanks, I'm on a diet -" because I'm not, right? Instead, I simply said that I am losing weight, and would not be wanting something like that. That piqued his interest.
"Oh, you are?" he asked. "What are you doing?"
I told him that I'd been in a hypnosis program for a couple months. He looked at me, doubtfully. "So, how is that working for you?," he asked with unveiled skepticism. I told him about the 15 pounds, and he looked openly surprised.
"Really? You have? Well. Good!"
Not that I blame him for not noticing my weight loss. In all seriousness, when one has this much to lose, and with me, we're talking somewhere around 85 pounds, 15 doesn't amount to much. Sand off a beach - seriously. So I didn't expect he'd think I looked different. Nobody else said anything to me about it either. My problem is that I'm too easily influenced by what others think, or what I think they think. I've just got to knock that off. Besides, in fairness to my family, they now understand how much I detest the whole subject of weight and dieting, and how resentful I am of the many years I endured their constant comments about the current state of my size. I think they've learned to not say anything about it at all to me. Now it's my turn. It's time to shut off my internal critic. It's also time to hit the sack. I'm on Illinois time, as my dad would say, which means it's 2:30 a.m. More to follow. 'Night, all -

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Family Matters

Greetings, all. This may be my last entry for a few days, as I am currently in Peoria - the little city on the mighty Illinois River - my home town (sort of). I took my two kids to go visit my father and stepmom (we call her "S'mom" - she loves it). My two sisters, from California and Tennessee, and their husbands are coming too, so we're all converging on P-Town for a grand reunion and an early birthday celebration for Dad. It should be great. Really.

Now let me say this - I have a fantastic, loving family. They are wonderful people and it truely does pain me that we're all so spread out. I miss them and wish we could get together more often, especially so my children could develop deeper ties with them all. That being said, I always feel anxious around the time of family visits. (I feel even more anxious writing this at my father's desk!) I've never felt I quite measure up to everyone else, plain and simple. These feelings are my own; I'm not blaming the family for my anxiety. My father ("Dr. MacPherson," let's call him .....) is a brilliant, somewhat celebrated cardiologist, my older sister is a successful school psychologist living in San Juan Capistrano, and my younger sister is also a doctor, doing her pediatric cardiology residency at Vanderbuilt in Nashville. They are all happily married, gorgeous, and ... not fat. Hmpf.

I don't write these things for sympathy or calls for encouragement. I'm older now, much better adjusted, and pretty darned happy with the person I've turned out to be (on most days). But there's this residual discomfort.... again, that Shadow of Fat, which encompasses not only weight but every other shortcoming I've seen in myself for my entire life. I'll be 50 years old in a couple years, but when put back in the old environment, I start seeing that moping, tormented adolescent in the mirror. So instead of getting all quiet and withdrawn, or looking around for some cookies (and believe me, there are tons of cookies in this house - arghh!!), I'll just give that young girl a hug and tell her she's just fine. You are you and they are they. It's all good.

After all, if I wasn't scared by the white-knuckle flight from Chicago to Peoria through a thunderstorm in tiny little prop jet, I can weather my own family, for God's sake. A big plus for me here is the beautiful pool in Dad's backyard. I adore swimming. It's no G-Ball workout, but it feels wonderful. I'll be jumping in immediately after finishing this. Even better, my sisters won't get here until tomorrow night, so I get the pool all to myself!! hahahahahaaaa!! :P

Which reminds me, while on the plane I read in the latest TIME magazine that exercise, while great for overall health, wasn't that helpful for weight loss. (I knew it!!) The article said that people who workout hard to lose weight tend to go overboard on compensatory eating: e.g. I deserve this T-Bone steak and baked potato! I wonder how much of that I've done over the years - probably more than I think. Overweight people are notorious for under-reporting what they eat, and without even meaning to. The article also said that people who hit the gym for a straining sweat-fest tend to be less active and lazier the rest of the day. Interestingly, findings showed that just being active throughout the day and "moving around more" helped people lose more weight than serious exercise. Something to think about. Bottom line, what matters most in weight loss is simply what goes into one's mouth. End of story. The buzzkills.

Well, I will mull all this around as I focus on light eating and daily swims/walks while I'm here. Most importantly, I'll keep listening to the hypnosis tapes, especially the one that targets the habit of comparing oneself to others. Perhaps I can keep it on a continuous loop. God bless my iPod. Thanks for reading - more on Sunday night, if not sooner.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday, Monday ...... good to me...... . Yes, it's Monday morning, and a beautiful sunny day at that. It's also Day 7 of the Hawaii countdown, and I'm holding strong. Friday and Saturday yielded no serious workouts - just a couple walks - but yesterday, my boyfriend (I call him "The C-Man") and I did the double-duty G-Ball sets, leaving us sweaty and worn out. Though we both felt rather tired going into the workout, we had to admit that all the exercises were easier than before. Just like Mitch said we would, we're making progress fast!! And this morning, I feel pretty good - not sore or stiff at all. Imagine that! Today C-Man is coming over to do the grueling one-hour set with me. We'll see how I feel after that.

So the exercise portion of this quest is moving along nicely. And the food part - how about that? Well, I have to say ... I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the reasonable, healthy eating. Remember: I am NOT on a diet, nor will I ever be, ever again. Diets are for breaking; diets are for atonement. Being on a diet is tantamount to serving a prison sentence: I've been bad, so now I have to serve some time ... have my freedoms taken away. No thank you. That is a prescription for failure - one I have taken too many times.

No, I am teaching myself to think and eat like a thin person. What does that entail? First, it means only eating when I'm hungry. They say that emotional eating (or other "mindless eating") is the biggest factor in weight gain. I know it's true for me. My regular diet has always been pretty healthy, as my glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels have always shown. I love fresh fruits and vegetable, "good fats" like olive oil, lean meats, whole grains ..... no problem there. It's the extra stuff, the comfort foods, that contribute to my downfall. I have a terrible sweet tooth, for instance, and on a particularly stressful day, I might find myself baking or buying some chocolate chip cookies. You know what I'm talking about. The same goes for ice cream, or perhaps something on the salty side, like cashews, or Brie with crackers or crusty bread. Mmmmm.... brie with crackers or crusty bread.....

Anyway, the experts say that if you handle emotional discomfort with food one out of twenty times, that's perfectly fine. If you do it twenty out of twenty times, you're an emotional eater and it's time to find new ways to deal with intense feelings. All right. Fair enough.

The other side of the food issue is the amount served. I grew up having enormous portions plopped on my plate. Even though my mother had her own issues with weight, and fat people in general, she loved food - planning meals, cooking meals, and serving them in very generous portions. So yes, over the years I have developed a tendency to serve and take too much. The trick is to not serve yourself anything larger than the size of your own fist, which happens to be the size of your stomach. The other trick is to alwayst eat at least a bite of protein with everything you eat. Protein slows down the absorption of glucose, preventing spikes and crashes, therefore keeping you feeling fuller and more energetic for longer periods. Again, easy enough -

This weekend I'd say I did pretty well food-wise. The PC tapes tell us we will eat far less, and sometimes not at all. When we do eat, we'll choose the healthy foods our bodies need. We'll also drink lots of water. (That part is easy for me.) I do find myself less tempted to graze as I go through my day, and when I do eat, I am eating less now. For instance, C-Man and I went to one of my favorite restaurants on Saturday. We split a crab Caesar salad, and we each had a bowl of chowder. (Yeah, cream-style chowder!) We had no dessert, and I only had one cocktail - another source of extra calories for me, historically - sigh.... .

While I'm not being "perfect" in my habits, I know I am slowly creating a new way of behaving. That is the only way I can "return to my natural, normal, and ideal weight," as the tapes say. I have to change the way I think. I have to change my mind. And I'm doing it. I know this because I am currently Jones'n for some CHOCOLATE!!! Yes, I can almost taste it!

So I must ask myself why. The PC counselor said these cravings for sweets and carbohydrates are often triggered by a need for nurturance, or help of some kind. Well, it could be the piles of research papers I have to have graded by tomorrow, along with calculating the course grades for my English 102 class this past quarter. I could also be nerves brought on by my impending family reunion in two more days. It could also be the fact that my house is filthy and I feel like a total loser as a housekeeper. It could also be the sad realization that I started this whole thing too late to be "bikini-ready" for Hawaii next month. And on and on ...... .

So ok - I'm feeling stressed, I've been fairly virtuous lately, and I'm wishing I could dive face-first into a vat of malted milk balls ..... There - I said it. Now I'm over it. That wasn't so hard. Let's take a breath, a sip of water, and dream of the Hawaiian surf.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Put Away the Scale," she said.

Ah, it's Saturday! Even though my Do-List is longer now than it was during the week, I'm feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy the weekend. Yesterday was Day 4 into my 31-day countdown to Hawaii. I went for my monthly personalized session at PC (Positive Changes Hypnosis). The therapist and I discussed my 15 lb. loss in the program so far, and how I'm feeling about the whole process. I explained that it's exciting to know that this is working, but how part of me doesn't believe it I can keep it up. After all, I have tried and failed many times before. She then "invited" me to focus on what I have accomplished in my life, instead of on all the things, not just weight loss, that I haven't done or completed to my satisfaction. Good advice, for anyone! I'm telling you, I'm loving this place! (No, not a paid endorsement... .)

Then I told her how unpleasant it is for me to get the scale, and how frustrated I get when losing only half a pound when I've worked out hard and eaten all the right things in the right amounts. I also have extremely negative emotional associations with weighing myself. I remember being forced to weigh myself as a kid - usually when one of my parents was upset with me for being overweight - and how humiliating it was. The scale was an implement of punishment, and still kind of feels that way. So as I've mentioned before, I avoided weighing myself as an adult as much as possible. Any losses were never enough; any gains were more proof that I couldn't succeed.

So this therapist told me to just put the scale away, and check my progress based on how I look, feel, and how my clothes fit. Besides, weight can go up and down on a weekly basis, especially when one is working out, so a weekly check can be misleading. Ok ... but ... what if I get off-track ... lose momentum ... start gaining weight back??? Ack!! We agreed that the best compromise is for me it to check in once a month. That means... I won't be weighing my until the day before I leave for Kauai. Gulp!

She also addressed my resistance to weight loss, and the constant disbelief that I can ever live at my ideal weight. On some level, she said, being overweight has worked for me, and she asked what "gifts" the extra weight has given me over the years. Hmm - interesting question. I had to admit that being a fat kid can bring out the compassion in a person. I consider myself empathetic and non-judgmental, and that's probably a result of knowing how it feels to be rejected or judged, misunderstood or devalued. Okay, so now what my conscious mind needs to do, she said, is accept that fact that I have grown into a compassionate person - that I've benefitted from the lessons of being overweight - so I can let the weight go now. Hmm. Yes, I do know that for some dysfunctional reason(s), I've been holding onto this fat for dear life. Time to unclench, "Irene".....

All right - after our talk came the hypnosis session, which provides suggestions for me on releasing the extra weight, acknowledging my life's successes, and seeing my future body without the added weight. (I still can't see it yet, but on our long, uphill walk yesterday, my boyfriend said he is seeing it emerging - cool!) I'm also going to visualize beautiful Kauai. Keep my eyes on the prize, right? Twenty-five day to go until next weigh day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day Three: A Very Nice Day

Yes, it has been a nice day indeed. Today was the last day of summer quarter, so my students turned in their research papers, finished their remaining presentations, and said goodbye. The end of a quarter, especially a good one, is always a bittersweet experience. Some students simply wave and leave, while others come up for handshakes, hugs, or sometimes even give gifts. (No gifts this quarter .... oh well. lol ) I did get a nice note from a student I'd had some difficulty with earlier in the class. He is probably 19 or 20 - a little arrogant, and a tough customer - but a very good writer. Too bad he's an admittedly "lazy bum"; he could have had an easy A with just a little more effort on his part.

We had a confrontation about 2/3's way into the course over a test (really a "quiz") that I had the students grade together in class. Anyway, what's significant is that his complaining email to me was very bold and forceful (impertinent, if you ask me.... .) I'm not comfortable with confrontation so I thought long and hard about how to respond to him. Whatever I said back would need to address his complaints without sounding defensive or apologetic. I also wanted to point out to him in some subtle way that if he'd been doing the homework and coming to class regularly, he would not have been experiencing some of his frustrations. I wanted to say it in a way that was respectful but frank - even sound pleasant. I wanted to re-assert my status as "the instructor" with him, too. (He's one of those wise guys who sits in the back and smirks a lot.) So I stewed, fretted, and wrote the best response I could.

To my surprise and relief, he started showing up in class more regularly after that. He even participated more in class discussions. In his project evaluation letter, he commented that he'd also learned a lot about himself this quarter, and thanked me for the class. He left with a gentle smile, not a smirk.

So why am I mentioning this here? I suppose it's because this is another reflection of the change in my attitude about who I am. I want to be who I am on the inside - the one who refuses to be intimidated, judged, or diminished by anyone. That person doesn't require a protective layer of fat, nor does she feel the need to apologize that she's not thin yet. She'll get there soon enough. And I will. It feels great to feel good!!

After school I met with a good friend for lunch (easy on carbs, left something on the plate.... ). She commented that I look 20 pounds lighter. (Cool!) Then I came home, did my hypnosis again, and took care of some things. I did not do my pilates workout today because I am sore from yesterday's exertions afterall. My ankle injury from last month is smarting a bit too. But that's ok. My boyfriend is coming back tomorrow and we're hitting the G-Ball routine again. Plus, tomorrow morning I go back to the hypnosis center for my monthly personalized session. A hypnotist works with me individually for an hour, and then does a 1/2 hypno- process with me. I get to keep the recording to listen to over and over. Again, I don't know exactly how much I can lose before September 11, but regardless, I know I'm on the right path now. Everything feels better, from my job to my jeans. Cheers, all.

P.S. - My boyfriend is also blogging about all this at "" - He's a very funny guy. Check it out! :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good tidings of great joy!

Wonderful news! I approached the scale this morning with my usual trepidation, the same kind of anxiety you feel when you look in the rear-view mirror and see a cop. But, I took a deep breath, and stepped on. Wow! I've lost another five pounds, bringing the total to 15. Yippee!! It seems I didn't blow it yesterday with the classroom brownies, and I'm determined not to mess up now.

The hypnosis program says I should be losing between 1-3 pounds per week. I am currently in my 10th week, so I'm right on track. What a relief! I know that between all the exercise, the moderate eating, and the mental re-training, I can finally make this happen. So many times, one or more of those elements is weak, or missing. Usually, it's the mental part. Two years ago I trained for a triathlon. I spent seven months walking/running, biking, swimming, and working out at the gym - 5-6 days per week! I got in much better shape, but I only lost a few actual pounds. Why? I think I know why - fear.

I know what you must be wondering: why would anyone be afraid of losing weight? Isn't it a happy, thrilling experience? Well, yes.... mostly. For people like me, however (i.e. "lifers"), there's also a loss of "protection." Many of us wear a layer of fat like soldiers wear flak jackets. It also helps us keep people away - keeps us from pushing ourselves, thus risking failure; it provides boundaries that we have trouble creating in other ways. That's a big one for me. I've never been very assertive, though I am finally learning how to be more upfront about my feelings and needs. That is a major improvement!! And this point reminds me of a student I had in a class last Spring. She was telling us that she'd had gastric bypass surgery the year before, and had since lost about 110 pounds. The biggest difference it made for her, besides her size, was that she "became a bitch" (her words). Because she was not physically capable of stuffing down her feelings with food anymore, she found herself telling people exactly what she thought, and from the sound of things, she had a LOT to get off her chest. It was a huge adjustment for them all, no doubt.

Another element of fear involves gaining all the weight back (again!). I wish I had a dollar for every pound I've lost and re-gained over the years. My last major weight loss began in 2002, when my (then) husband and I went to Weight Watchers together. He lost 125 pounds, and I lost over 70. I felt great about it, though I still wasn't quite at my goal yet (ugh.... I shudder to think of it). I found myself panicking as I got closer to my goal - almost disbelieving I could get to the bottom. Well, for reasons I can spell out another time, I gained it all back, and then some. (No, I can't wag any fingers at Kirsty Alley.) So that's another fear. There's this voice that says "You'll never do it! You'll get to within 15 pounds of your goal, and it will all start creeping back. You don't know who you are if you aren't fat!!! " (Imagine a witchy, maniacal cackle... .)

But that won't happen this time. My hypnosis program is training me to single out that voice when I hear it, and just say "Stop." And... it's working!

So today my boyfriend came over and we did the hour-long G-Ball workout. It is a very challenging routine - sheesh! My poor sweetie admitted to being close to passing out and/or vomiting a few times. I sweated off a few gallons of fluid, but I felt ok, actually. Tomorrow I do the Body Ring again and walk the dog after dinner. If I can keep this up, I can make a real difference in the way I'll look and feel at the beach in next. Man .... I hope I hope I hope.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day One: Dreaming of Kauai

And here we go. Today is August 11th, and on September 11th, my sweetie and I will be on a plane to Hawaii. We're going to a great little condo resort in Kauai - one of the most beautiful places in the world. I am excited, but a bit nervous. Here is the lovely pool.
I woke up this morning feeling surprisingly good after my vigorous G-Ball workout with my boyfriend. No soreness or stiffness anywhere! This workout was developed by Mitch Gaylord, an Olympic champion gymnast. The G-Ball is 2-lb, cantaloupe-sized basketball that is integrated into all the exercises, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, crunches, and a series of complicated pass-the-ball-through-your-legs-and-around-your-back arm-killers. Yesterday we did two of the three workouts: "Cardio Burn" and "Sizzlin' Abs." We both had fun groaning and wise-cracking our way through these workouts as Mitch and his two attractive droids made it look so easy. Tomorrow we're doing the hour-long "High Calorie Melt." I tried it once on my own last week. Ugh. It wasn't pretty.

But as I was getting dressed this morning, I looked down and saw that my upper abs looked flatter - almost as if a little "2 - pack" was trying to assert itself through the flesh. However, further down from that 2-pack sat a fallen sack of potatoes - mashed potatoes, at that. Ah well - baby steps. They say you lose weight from the top down and gain it from the bottom up. True enough.

After school this morning (Have I mentioned that I teach college English?) I came home and listened to my newest hypnosis recording: Removing the Negativity from Weight Loss. Boy, was that one made for me! You see, losing weight is a big, hairy, thorny, convoluted mess of a demon issue for me. I do not recall a time in my life when my weight was not a subject of interest - not necessarily to me - but to my family and everyone else, it seemed. Imagine one of those "Kick Me" signs taped to a kid's back. Mine said, "Judge My Weight!" I learned very early to despise any reference to weight, diets, calories, scales, clothing sizes .... but worse, I even grew to hate the praise that would come when I did lose a few pounds. I just wanted the whole weight thing to disappear and not be associated with me at all. Interestingly, when I look back at pictures from my childhood, I don't think I looked that fat. Sometimes I think I started getting fat after I became convinced that I had "a weight problem."

So, this hypnosis tape is a particularly helpful one. After all these years, I know that my problem is not with my body, or even so much with what I eat. The problem is in my mind. No, the problem IS my mind. But again, more on that will come. I finished the hypnosis session and then did my Pilates Body Ring Workout. It's a much gentler and less sweaty program, which was nice after yesterday. Still, this one also concentrates on the core muscles, which I really need. (Mashed potatoes, I tell you .... . ) Then after dinner, I even took my dog for nice long walk. Sounds virtuous, no? Well .... there is just one more thing to report about today. I have to confess: I ate brownies this morning. Stupid, I know! I brought them for my students because they are all doing presentations this week. If it's one thing I have a hard time resisting, it's brownies - even bad ones! But I hadn't had time for breakfast and they were calling out my name, singing their siren song!! Having to admit that here will keep me from slipping like that any time soon. So yeah - could have been worse, but still - no more sabotage. Tomorrow is weigh day. We'll see if I have to pay in poundage, or if I atoned enough with all that exercise and temperate eating for the rest of the day. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Down to the Wire

Greetings, Cyberland -

Please forgive the corny salutation. I am an inexperienced blogger. So why am I here? Simply, I'm on a mission, and I need witnesses. In exactly one month, I am going to Hawaii with my boyfriend. When we decided to go on this trip many months ago, the idea was that we (I, especially) would shed a multitude of pounds and buff up for the beach. This trip would be, in essence, a reward for our hard work. More importantly, however, I would be - for all and finally - at my ideal weight. My new life as a "not overweight person" would begin.

Right. Well, as with most of my weight loss efforts, this one got off to a wobbly start and then stalled. (My boyfriend has been pretty successful in dropping a pant size.) However, in the last 7 weeks or so, I have started a new hypnosis program, and I also invested in "Mitch Gaylord's G-Ball Melt-it-Off" program - As seen on TV!!!! I like it, but it's one tough bitch of a workout! Anyway, in the first few weeks of the hypnosis program, I lost ten pounds. Then I started working out and put two back on. Ok, it happens sometimes.

I haven't weighed myself for a couple weeks since then. Let me explain that weighing myself is about as pleasant as to me as chewing on tin foil. This aversion to the scale goes way back to early childhood, and more of that sad tale will be revealed as this blog goes along. For now, I am only focusing on what I can achieve in the next 30 days. Weigh-in day is Wednesday. I will find out if I actually am making progress or if I've just been deceiving myself, once again.

I'm hoping this blog will keep me honest about what I'm doing or not doing. Plus, I'm looking forward to purging a few demons. Isn't that partly what blogs are for? Should anyone pop in here and take a peek, please know that I do not need diet advice. I know what to do. What I need is accountability - to myself and my deadline. Encouragement would be welcome, though!

My short term goal is simply to shape up as much as I can before attempting to stuff myself into a bathing suit again. I know I can at least firm up a bit. After that, I will continue pursuing my goal of reaching and maintaining my ideal weight forever. Again, this will be a major achievement, for many reasons. There is much more of my story to come, but like anything else, it's best to start at the beginning. This is the beginning. Tomorrow will be Day One of my one month count-down to September 11. (Ominous, yes.) Stay tuned.