Category Archives: Weight Loss

The Elephant in the Room

Note: This post may offend.

I went to college in 2000 a bit overweight and with a history of some depression and anxiety.  Early into my freshman year, I got into a relationship that would last four pizza-filled years.  My “freshman fifteen” was closer to fifty and by sophomore year, I was nearly two-hundred pounds for the first time.

#tbt

#tbt

During my sophomore year, my depression became untenable.  I was crying constantly.  I did not want to continue.  My poor boyfriend had no idea what to do.  He was very loving and complimentary but also had issues.  As we bonded and “coped” with food, I gained more weight which fueled my unhappiness.

My situation eventually got so desperate that I sought help.  I went to a small music conservatory that was serviced by the health center at Northeastern University.  The doctor I saw listened to me describe my debilitating sadness and anxiety.  Somehow in the conversation, I disclosed what I understood of my mother’s mental health issues, including the medication she took.  The doctor said that I likely had similar brain chemistry and after a ten minute conversation, prescribed me the same SSRI.  She did not ask me if I was on any other medications that might be affecting my brain chemistry (aka oral contraceptives.)  We did not know each other.  The doctor did not know how complicated my relationship was with my mother and how difficult it was for me at that time to be told that I had the same issues as her.  One of the sources of my anxiety and depression was the feeling that, like my mom, I would never be happy.  This prescription compounded those feelings and set me on a course of inconsistent self-medicating and new fears.

In the same year, I had instability in my right knee to the point where it felt like it would buckle with every step I took.  I went to the same health center and the doctor had me stand up and take a few steps.  He said: “You have probably ground off all the cartilage in your knee cap by standing hyperextended.  There’s nothing that can be done.”

Nailed that diagnosis, Doc.  F*cking lazy idiot.

Nailed that diagnosis, Doc. F*cking lazy idiot.

At no point in either of these appointments did either doctor address the elephant in the room: my obesity.  The simplest explanation is usually the right one.  How could these medical professionals look at my body and not ask me what I was eating and if I was ever moving around?

Near the end of college, I lost about 30 pounds with Atkins and felt much, much happier.  My knee didn’t bother me and my depression was much less intense.  The underlying issues were still there but by taking control of my eating and having success, I felt in control of my life for the first time in a long time.

The next year (around the time the top photo was taken), I had gained the weight back and more.  I was in graduate school in New Hampshire and my depression was more intense than ever.  The last thing I wanted was to talk to another person who would confirm that I was on the same lifelong miserable trajectory as my mom.  I did not want to keep going.  Self-preservation thankfully won out and I went to the University health center.  This doctor listened and patiently deciphered the occasional word between sobs.  He asked me if I was on any kind of medication.  I had recently switched birth control but I assured him that it wasn’t the birth control that was the problem, it was me.  He wasn’t condescending but he urged me to discontinue the birth control and see if I felt better.  If I didn’t, we would move forward with treatment.

Within a day, I was fine.  Well, as fine as I had been in five years.  It was miraculous.  And I was furious.  What if all those years ago, I had simply discontinued my birth control?  Why didn’t that doctor address my situation similarly and save me so much grief?  Relief revealed the strength I needed to pick up and move back to California.

Six more years of yo-yo dieting, depression, anxiety, self-discovery and gradual progress got me to the start of this blog and the start of a completely different life.

I tell this story for context.  What I’m actually interested in discussing is the culture in which medical professionals do not address the most obvious cause of health problems: obesity.

Did I have irreparable cartilage damage?  NO!  I WAS TOO HEAVY FOR MY JOINTS.  Did I have a mental illness that required medication?  NOOOOO.  I was short-circuiting my brain several times a day with massive amounts of refined sugar and as I gained more weight I was destroying my self-esteem by living my mother’s life instead of my own.

Both of these “diagnoses” were wildly inaccurate but they came from doctors so I believed them and folded them into my identity.  They impacted my self-esteem and choices for nearly a decade.  Perhaps the first doctor felt that discussing my body would be too damaging for me to bear at that time.  Well, you’re a doctor.  Figure out how to talk about nutrition to a depressed young woman so you can help her.  That’s your job.

Now, it should go without saying that nutrition and activity are not the only solution, nor are they easy to address.  There are all types of situations in which therapy, medication, and other interventions are necessary and helpful.  Also, changing your eating is hard work.  Facing your fears and becoming active is hard work, especially if you’ve never done it before.  Untangling a lifetime of experiences and issues to face yourself and eventually love yourself is possibly the hardest work of all.

If one of those doctors had told me to eat more healthily and become active, I probably would not have been ready to hear it.  I recognize that.  But I accepted what they did tell me so maybe I would have filed it away.  Maybe I would have come to a healthier lifestyle sooner if it had been suggested.  Especially if it had been suggested by every doctor I saw.

Everyone deserves love.  Everyone deserves self-love.  Everyone deserves a healthy, vibrant body to live their life in.  If someone isn’t healthy, if someone is obese, they absolutely deserve love and respect.  If they have health issues or low self-esteem and they’re obese, it is not unloving or unsafe to acknowledge that physical condition and address it.  It’s simple and vital.

Thoughts?

 

 

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#ThrowbackThurs

2005. 210.

Reset

Every once in awhile, even healthy eaters need to reset.

I am not the healthiest eater by any means but I’d say 85% of my eating is “clean” (eye-roll) and the other 15% is indulgent.  That ratio, combined with my workout schedule, has worked well.  I’ve stayed within the same 5 lbs (132-137) for about eight months!  In that time, my body has changed dramatically.  It has gone from mushy to solid.  Muscle tone has emerged everywhere.  While the number on the scale has stayed the same, the number on my labels has continued to go down.  Neat!

I could happily stay at this weight and continue to observe the tightening and toning of my body over time.  Butttttttt, I’m a little impatient and I know that by adjusting my food, I could drop some pounds and see if I like it.  In June, when I traveled to Colorado, I lost about 7lbs due to stress, salads, dehydration and limited exercise.  When I came back at 128 lbs, I looked skeletal and my beloved was alarmed by my prominent spine and ribs.  I’m much stronger than I was 5 months ago so I’d like to take another crack and the 120’s and see how I look.

Here are the rules for the next TWO WEEKS:

(Even I’m skeptical…)

* Lean protein, fish, eggs

* Veggies

* Fruit (limited)

* Nuts

* Olive oil

* Water

* Chia seeds – totally new to me and I’m excited to try these.  Normally I abhor anything that suggests “hippie” but I’m intrigued.

What is not on this list?  Among many other things, my precious life blood: DIET COKE.  I’ve had 6 today.  No joke.  This might be a challenge.

These are the foods that my body likes.  My body doesn’t like the carbs.  Doesn’t like the dairy.  My mouth does but the next two weeks are about making choices based on what will make my system feel good, not my short-term emotional needs.

I’m interested to see how this affects my energy level and workouts.  I will make an exception for pasta on Friday because I’m running not one but TWO races this weekend!  A 5-miler on Saturday and 5K on Sunday.  Spinach and grilled chicken could certainly fuel those short distances but I want to feel strong and carbpower is the way to go.  My belated 30th birthday meal may also happen during the next two weeks and you better believe I’m going to throw all the restrictions out the window and eat with abandon.

What does your body like?  Ever have to reset your system or your habits?

Back to Basics

Good morning, Internets!

I can’t believe it – I’m actually caught up with Olympic coverage!  I’ve had a jam-packed work week that required me to commute about 2 hours each way.  No time for teevee!  On Sunday, I had a marathon viewing (including, of course, the women’s marathon) where I managed to get through like 20 hours of DVR’d coverage in about 5 hours.  Let’s not open the can of worms that is NBC’s Olympics coverage.  As I said to a friend, “what is the opposite of NAILING IT?”  That’s what they’re doing.

Anyhoo.  So,  I’ve been carrying this weird weight for about a month (about 5-6lbs up from my lowest weight of 128).  Historically, carbs cause weight gain for me but I’ve struggled a lot with hunger and it seemed like I might need to add them in.  This has meant more sandwiches (on wheat), more fruit, and more sweet potato fries.  I’ve felt a bit better but the weight hasn’t budged.  I decided to go back to basics – protein and veggies for my evening meal.  At dinnertime, there are no more activities to fuel so maybe the strategy that has worked so well for me in the past seems logical.

After two days of carbless dinners, I lost 3lbs!

Can I get a resounding DUH?!

This has always worked for my body in the past but the last month has been so weird!  The long period delay really shook the confidence I had in my food choices.  With so many tummy problems, pain, and confusion, I thought my body’s needs had completely changed.  All the articles I’ve read about nutrition and pictures of bloggers eating pasta didn’t help either.  One thing that has changed is that if I let myself get hungry, I get terrible acidic feelings in my tummy.  Just always need to have food with me!

The weight loss is a tremendous relief.  I look THE SAME of course, and I know that.  I’m relieved to know that there’s nothing wrong with my body, metabolism, or training.  It’s a relief to know that my body will respond predictably to my choices.  Phew!

I was majorly rattled when my body was being unpredictable.  How do y’all deal with confusing physical changes?

Week 8

I am into week 8 of training for my first half marathon.

It trips me out to read that!

Orange is my power color.

I have nothing clever to say. This picture is of July

I’ve done 20 runs and taken 19 Dailey Method classes.  I’ve done yoga, walked, and RIDDEN A BIKE!

No injury to speak of.  I attribute that to Dailey Method (great stretching sequences and vigilant attention to alignment) and icing.  I will NOT be sidelined by misuse.  Will.  Not.

I’ve lost 9lbs bringing me to 128.  A weight I haven’t seen since I was 12 years old.  My entire body has muscle definition that (pardon me, please) is SO ROCKING AND HOT.  I loooooooooooove it.

The first week of “training” happened on a lark.  I woke up wondering if I could still run.  I found out that I could.  I wondered if the See Jane Run 5k was soon and if I was capable of finishing it.  It was that week and I found out that I was more capable than I expected.  I wondered if I had the drive, enthusiasm, and physical stamina to train for a half-marathon.  I won’t definitively know until October 7th but based on the last 7 weeks, I can say without hesitation that I do.

8 weeks ago, I didn’t know if I could run 3.1 miles without stopping to walk.  8 weeks from now, I will be  up to 12.5 miles.

And hopefully able to get into crow pose.  😀

Notes from CO

Here’s a recap of my 10 days in CO:

* NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) was incredible and inspiring and challenging and awesome.  Brain so full.  Professional to-do list SO LONG.

* Running at 5500 ft. affected my breathing in ways I didn’t expect.  I didn’t feel labored or gaspy unless I was running too fast but I did feel like I was taking very small amounts of breath twice as often.  The breaths were constant, shallow, and gentle.  Interesting.  To me.

* In the time I was there, I should have done 4 training runs of 3 miles each and one long run of 4.5 miles.  Kicked the 4.5 miler in the ass.  Felt like Wonder Woman.  Got 3 miles, 1.5 miles, and 2.81 miles and a DNS (which, yes, I did put in my calendar as such.)

* The 2.81 was both annoying (SO CLOSE?!?) and very important.  The previous night I had read this blog post in which Olivia from The Biggest Loser talked about not finishing a workout with extra energy and really pushing yourself to “empty the tank.”  I thought this was an excellent point.  I usually end my workouts feeling like I could have done much more.  Why?  What would happen if I really pushed and left it all out there?  Well, if I do it too early, I won’t finish and I will almost vomit on the train tracks outside the Ft. Collins Hilton.

Also in this run, I had to deal with pain for the first time.  Around the beginning of the last mile, I got a really intense abdominal cramp.  Determined not to walk, I slowed waaaaaaaay way down.  I was still in quite a bit of pain, to the point where I literally held my abdominal wall up as I shuffled.  It sucked but eventually the pain subsided.  I was very relieved to see that I could deal with this, in case it ever arises during a race.  It was an important step in my journey to get comfortable with discomfort.

* Due to walking 30-60 minutes a day in flip flops (yeah, yeah….), I had some foot pain after my Sunday long run.  I iced twice a day on Sunday and Monday.  When Tuesday rolled around, I had some discomfort in my running shoes.  I got as far as the Hilton parking lot before I decided there was no way I was getting stupidly injured this early in my training.  I turned back, deciding to shift my running to Wednesday, Friday, Sunday of this week.  Turns out it was totally the right call as Wednesday’s run went well (if not a bit brief, see above) and I had no foot pain whatsoever.  Brain over heart for the WIN!

* It is possible to work very hard in more than one area of my life at a time.  Historically when I get focused on one thing, like career development, another will fall by the wayside.  The program I participated in was very intense but I still looked forward to my training, read running blogs and moved forward in that area.

* Between salads, walking, an obscene amount of water, and anxiety, I lost about 8lbs.  As of this morning, I am 128lbs.  I have never seen a number in the 120’s on a scale because I was too young to care about weighing myself.  I’m looking a bit skeletal so we’ll see how I feel once I’m back in my Dailey Method routine.  This may be a bit too thin for my frame.  Who knew I would ever type those words?

* There’s no place like home.

Irrelevant

In this post, I made a promise.  I promised that when I got on the scale (after about 20 days without weighing myself) I would honestly share my feelings about the results.

Since summer, I have been tracking my calories and generally avoiding foods that prevent me from losing weight.  Those foods include refined sugar, most carbs (even whole grains) and delicious fried things.  I mostly eat fruit, lean protein, and veggies.  I fairly regularly enjoy more indulgent meals and less frequently have amazing meals with no restrictions.  I absolutely love food and I’ve finally found a way to eat healthy without it feeling like a punishment.  With the exception of a few brief plateaus, I consistently lost weight until I reached about 135lbs.  My 9th grade weight.

In this time, I did not exercise.  My priority was getting “skinny” (well, skinnier because I never truly believed I could be a bonafide thin person). While muscles do gobble more calories, caloric restriction and choosing the right foods for your body is the key to losing weight.  It just is.  I’m the type of person who becomes very protective of their success.  When something is working, I avoid anything that will disrupt the positive outcome or change the course. When I plateaued around 135, about 10 lbs heavier than my fantasy weight of 125, I decided it was time to get moving.

While I knew I would benefit from increasing my strength, I had consciously made the decision to get closer to my goal weight before returning to Dailey Method.  Recognizing that I was afraid to return, I justified waiting by telling myself that it would be easier if I were smaller – less leg to hoist “up an inch, down an inch”.  It may have been an excuse born out of fear of failure but I was completely right.  The loss of the additional 20lbs I had on my legs, hips and thighs a year ago made the classes infinitely easier.  My first class with my lighter body was better than my best class after three months of regular attendance last year.

Oh and running?  Well, I’ve made no secret of the fact that when I did the Couch-to-5k in 2011, I was running between a 12 and 13 minute mile.  I celebrated that then and I’m still proud of it because any running was a huge accomplishment since I had never done it before.  Now, in Week 6, I am running consistently under a 10 minute mile, even as the length of running increases.  I’m in a different head space, yes, but there’s no denying that it’s easier to move a smaller body.

Did losing weight give me the confidence to push myself to a higher level of physical ability?  Yes.

But there’s so much more to it.

When I stepped on the scale a couple days ago, I didn’t know what to expect.  From my body or my reaction.  My body has changed very dramatically.  My jiggly legs are pretty solid these days.  My arms are verging on FirstLadyesque.  There is clearly a lot of new, dense muscle on my body.  I love the way it looks and was very curious to see what it weighed.  Was I going to see 140?  Was I going to see the 120’s I was aching for when I was in skinny-mode?

My weight before the challenge:  134

My current weight:  135

When I saw that, I smiled.  It was almost poetic that there was virtually no change when in truth, there has been a tremendous change.  Smiling at 20 days of very hard work and no weight loss is more of a change than I ever could have anticipated.  Sure, I would have loved to see a lower weight but I wasn’t bothered at all!  There’s no way I would trade my current body for a jiggly one that’s 10lbs lighter.   Not a chance.  Oh, and I’ve dropped a pant size.  Oh, and much more importantly, I.  Feel.  Proud.

As a measure of success, the scale is currently (and maybe permanently?) irrelevant.

For years, I knew intellectually that “muscle is more dense than fat, yadda yadda, the scale doesn’t matter.”  I didn’t believe it until about two days ago.  How do y’all feel about it?

Weight

In fifth grade, my class was learning about the skeletal system.  My teacher, Mrs. Attles, told us that without our skeleton, “we’d just be a big blob of stuff.”  A girl in the class responded:

“Like Shauna.”

Evidenced by my Timeline, I have had a complicated relationship with my self.  My identity was formed around what I believed was the truth:  I was fat and thus, I was wrong.  I was not who I was supposed to be.  I was a disappointment.  I was unlovable.  I was not allowed or able to be happy.

Each time I lost weight, I was elated by the feeling that my life was changing.  That *I* was changing.  Each time I gained weight, it was confirmation that no,  nothing had changed.  Confirmation that there was something fundamentally wrong with me.

I lived between two extremes.  On one end of the pendulum was “perfect” behavior:  eating whatever I had currently decided was acceptable (and only that) and working out for the sole purpose of getting skinny.  When I swung in the other direction, it was to large quantities of unhealthy food.  My body would yearn for fruit and I would give it pizza.

Swinging back and forth was beyond demoralizing.  I hated seeing numbers on the scale and wearing outfits that I desperately wanted to leave in the past.  What I didn’t realize was that the momentum was slowing down.  Each time I swung from one side to the other, I didn’t go as far.  I may have moved away from working out but I brought whole grains with me.  During diligent times, it became easier to have an indulgent meal without fear, shame, or a spiral away from health.

* * *

The last time I weighed myself, I was 134lbs.  That is the lowest weight I have been as an adult.  I look and feel like a thin person.  I am one.  But see how I write about “a thin person” as though it’s someone else?  I’ve always believed that the “true” me was someone glamorous and thin.  How strange that in the past, when I came closer to that idealized version of myself, I felt like an imposter.  All of a sudden, I felt like an overweight person in a thinner body.

Now is different.

When I began the 30 Day Challenge, one of my fears was that I would gain muscle, gain pounds and feel like a failure.  I would no longer be on the road to “skinny” and I wasn’t sure how I would feel about that.  Was I still in the mentality that skinny is best? Have I finally grown to value strength and redefined “success?”  I promise to be honest about how I feel when I finally see how my increased strength influences that one number.  Even I’m curious to see my own reaction if this stronger, more solid body happens to be say, 140.  Seeing a loss on the scale feels great.  At this point, I can honestly say that shocking myself with an 8:14 minute mile and getting through a brutal thigh work set at TDM feels better.  I haven’t been on the scale but I am loving my body.  I feel so strong in every way.

It’s stunning.  It’s change.

 

 

 

Timeline

1997 (9th Grade): 135

I had no idea how hot I was…(and yes, I was 14).

2000: 155-160

Hello adult body and metabolism…

2001-2003: 160-210

College.  Low self-esteem.  Birth control.   Pizzeria Uno.

2004: 210 – 165

Atkins.

2005-2007: 165-200

New Hampshire (hell).   Depression.   Domino’s bacon pizza 5x a week.   Horrible relationship.   Moved back to CaliforniaDrank a lot.   Hated myself.

2007-2008: 200-145

Whole grains!  Elliptical!  Jamba Juice!  Transition to being a full-time musician!  Exclamation points!!!

2009: 145

Dating, feeling sexy, maintaining.  Elliptical and strength training.

2009-2011: 145 – 175

175-150

150-175

175-150

150-170

Figuring it out.  Full-time work + Master’s program.  Successful c25k program at 13-12mm.  Tracking calories.  Indulgent meals out, healthy food at home.   Except when I was having pizza and ice cream like a 10 year old boy.

2011-present: 170-135

Breaking through barriers.  The Dailey Method.  c25k at 10mm (in progress).  Tracking calories at LiveStrong.com.  Strength.  Chicken meatballs.

Balance, Treats, Rewards

After about a week without a functioning AC adapter for my laptop, I FINALLY have my lifeline back!  Despite the great iPad WordPress app, blogging without my computer is a pain in the basketballs.  Hence the brief, picture-less posts.

As the 30 Day Challenge progresses, I’m finding myself increasingly “focused” (read: OBSESSIVE.)  When I see positive results, I tend to begin to fear food.  It is very easy for me to workout every day.  It is hard to eat enough to fuel my activities.  It’s even harder to believe that this is actually happening.  For good.

Since I truly want to make permanent life changes,  there must be balance:

Balance.

 

There also must be treats:

 

And, of course, there are rewards:

Rewards.