Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reflecting (Aka The Post That's Too Depressing for a Snappy Title)

I used to feel that writing a blog was something I did for myself. That it didn't matter if anyone read it, so long as I wrote it down and held myself accountable. And that's probably how it should have been.

Unfortunately, it's not.

I find that it's so much more difficult to keep this up - and by extension, keep the motivation to lose weight - when I feel that I'm talking to myself. Which isn't a condemnation of anyone who might be reading this. Not in the least. I guess I just wanted accountability. To feel like I wasn't going at this entirely alone. Like I had a real reason to keep at it. And now, all the logical reasons in the world - health, vibrance, being able to walk in heels - don't mean as much. I can tell myself over and over again, and it's impossible to care. In short, I've discovered beyond the shadow of a doubt that I can't do this alone. Unfortunately, I'm at a place in my life that nearly by definition, I am living without a support system. Which led to my internet experiment.

In the morning, I make a new commitment. I try again. And by each evening, I have failed spectacularly. I'm not giving up, but I find that I want to. I know how important it is, but I can't do it without a reason that resonates, without people to help me. And I don't have... anyone. It's a hard truth, and I don't mean to sound depressing. But I can't even go to Weight Watchers meetings, because they're too far away from where I live, and I can't afford the gas to go every week. I'm out of ideas.

That's it. That's the heart of the matter. No man, no woman is an island. I can spout all the feel-good words in the world, but it won't matter in the end unless I can find a way to get the support that I need and take ownership of this once and for all. It's not that I'm depending on someone else to do it for me. It's just that community is important when you're making a life change.

Honestly, I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know how to get back on track. And I don't know how - or who - to ask for help.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eating an Elephant: a Paradoxical Metaphor for Weight-Loss

Small changes can alter our lives.

I know, I know. "Thank you, Captain Obvious." We all know that small things have large effects. Look at David and Goliath, the Lilliputians versus Gulliver, the damage a little deposit of hard water can do to our showerheads. But how often do we apply this notion practically?

Weight-loss is one of those challenges that is a perfect place to begin looking at this idea. It's so multi-faceted that we can't just tackle the whole thing at once. It will defeat us. Sure, we try. And it's simple enough to break down weight-loss into two easy columns: "nutrition" and "exercise."

So the obvious answer is "eat less, exercise more," right?

Well, no. Not exactly. It's not wrong, but the whole concept is more complicated than that.

We have hundreds of little habits every day that contribute to our overall lifestyles. That Kit Kat bar you have at midnight every night. Never trying new foods. Munching while you cook. Driving everywhere (which, admittedly, is somewhat of a necessity when civilization is massively spread out.) And my personal favorite? Soda.

So I took a minute to sketch out some of my habits, and it overwhelmed me in the course of about ten seconds. There was a lot more than I thought. How was I ever going to change all that?

By using the same method you would to eat an elephant, of course.

That's how the "Little Changes" list was born. I outlined at least twenty small changes I could make, or even experiments I could try, to change my lifestyle. Here are a few examples:

1) Drink 8 (8 oz) glasses of water per day. Do not have soda or juice until this requirement is met.

2) Put together a scrapbook of light recipes so that it's all in one place.

3) Plan your meals for the week and shop accordingly.

4) Experiment: go meatless once per week.

5) Take one processed food out of your cart every time you shop and replace it with a fruit or vegetable.

6) Drink water while you cook instead of grazing.

Things like that. And I decided, since I am organizationally challenged anyway, that I don't have to do it all at once, or even go in order. I pick one or two, work on changing those things, and when they've become habits, I check them off the list. Likewise, with experiments, I try them, see how they work. Then they either become a change, or something I don't feel strongly about maintaining. Check it off the list. Move on to something else.

This method, my friends, is the only reason that, during my plateau, I didn't gain all my lost weight back. It's because of the small changes I made to my diet and lifestyle that stuck even after I fell into my rut. True story.

I didn't know elephant was such a health food.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Planning: Kicking Procrastinators in the Head, One at a Time

I procrastinate.

It's a fact of life.

I have been known to write papers the night before they were due (or even a few hours before.) Stayed up late because I didn't feel like going to bed. I consistently wait until my laundry basket is overflowing and I have no jeans to do laundry. I even sometimes pack a few boxes and then wait until the day I'm supposed to move to finish the majority -- and then sit down to write a blog about planning instead of doing it.

Don't look at me like that, I don't own very much. But still. Irony lives, right?

So given this premise, planning how I eat seems like a life-altering blow to the head. And who knows, it might well give me a self-inflicted concussion - not unlike how when moving during college, I dropped a box on a handtruck while bending over, thus allowing the heavy metal bar to smack me right in the temple. (Yes, I did have a mild concussion from this.) On the other hand, it might be a positive change.

So I'm officially putting myself on a month-long challenge to plan what I eat each week.

The breakdown:

On the weekend, I will take an hour of my time to put together a list for that week.

1) Determine, given your plans for the week, how many meals you will need and categorize them by breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack.

2) Looking at your schedule, see what kinds of meals you will need. Are you going to be needing a sack lunch at work? A nice dinner at home?

3) Examining your recipes, determine what meals you want to have on what days of the week. If you want, even include a meal that you will cook once and then break it down into smaller portions for several meals (note: be sure to break it up right from the get-go, or if you're like me, you will fail.)

4) Make a grocery list based on what you planned and go shopping.

Then, if you like, you can always switch a meal with another meal if you just don't feel like having baked tilapia on Wednesday night. And on the plus side, it means that most of the food worth eating in your house will be based on a plan that you made beforehand, meaning that you'll (possibly) be less prone to buying excessive amounts of junk food and grazing on it all week.

Sure, it probably won't work out perfectly. Life inevitably happens. Friends come over last-minute and your dinner plans won't work anymore. You go out to an impromptu lunch with a co-worker. You get stuck behind a cattle drive on a twisted narrow road going up a hill for three miles and by the time you get home from work, you're tired and annoyed and the traction on your tires is filled with cow crap and damnit, you just don't feel like cooking.

But adapting to that is just being flexible. It doesn't mean that we can't stick to a plan, especially when that plan means that we might start eating smarter. And I'll gladly take any opportunity to change my habits around.

So I'm challenging myself, and you're welcome to do it. Several smaller changes add up to large results.

...but I'll start later. Because right now, I have to finish packing.

Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Not Over 'Til It's Over

I am one of the most stubborn people I know. So stubborn, in fact, that some of you who know me will laugh. And it's okay. Because it's true. When I put my mind to something, there has never been a force of nature that has been able to stop me from making it happen. If at first I don't succeed... I dig at it until it works.

So why. Why on earth am I letting this beat me? It's been nearly a year since I started this mess, and while I've kept the weight off that I lost, I haven't made any progress. I'm back to terrible portion control and not caring what's on my plate. And it's not like I haven't educated myself. I know how to get started. I just need the kick in the ass to do it.

My mother once told me that you can never really achieve something until you own it. And now, at twenty-four, I agree. Unless I find a reason that overcomes all of my insecurities and doubts and wanting to take the easy way out - this just isn't going to happen.

So on that note, today I'm looking for a reason. A reason to stay in the fight and not give in. A reason to keep being stubborn. This is my life.

...wonderful. Now I have Bon Jovi stuck in my head.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Miss Indpendent: A Rehab Program

Continuing with my theme of musical titles, this one combines Kelly Clarkson with Amy Winehouse. I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with that, but here it goes anyway.


I'm a bit of a junkie when it comes to individuality and independence. I want to live on my own, function on my own, have my own accomplishments and my own failures. I don't ask for help on my term papers, no matter how badly I need it (my apologies to my advisor for my Master's thesis. I must have driven him crazy.) I even gave up on doubles tennis in high school for singles, just so I wouldn't have anyone else to blame if I lost.

I'm told that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Of course, it's not that independence is an inherently bad thing. America's very culture dictates that we learn a measure of independence in order to fit into our societal norms (and isn't that a contradiction.) Our parents hate it, our employers love it, and our peers secretly judge us if we don't have as much of it as they think is proper. We are required to think and function on our own to some degree or another in order to be acceptable to the social standard. Furthermore, a healthy level of independence can empower you to step away from that very group in favor of doing what is best for you.

That said, there are cases when you can go too far. Independence then becomes stubborn obstinacy: a.k.a. "the pigheaded refusal to accept help when it is offered or needed." I hereby present myself as Exhibit A.

Weight loss is something I have been trying to do on my own, thus far. Unsurprisingly, this has been less than successful. Yes, the concept of a life remix is very much a personal journey. It is something no one else can do for you. But that doesn't mean that they can't do it with you. To refuse assistance from the people and resources around you is to live in denial: "they can't see my problem. And anyway, they wouldn't understand. I'm alone." Kids, I'm here to say that they can see the problem. It's written on our faces. And our thighs, and our hips, and our stomachs, and our waistlines. But contrary to what we might think, the people that really matter don't care that it's a problem. They just love us enough to want to be a positive part of the experience.

This is why I'm confessing this particular sin. I've been shutting people out in an effort to adhere to my normal "do-it-yourself" mode of operation. No more. I'm never going to do this if I'm not honest with not only myself, but with everyone in my life, as well.

Which of course, brings me to the "how-to" part of this entry. Goodness knows I don't have all the answers, but here are a few ideas that I intend on following.

Get an exercise buddy. It's harder than it sounds (because not everyone is going to be at the same level as you, particularly if you're as overweight as I am.) However, it's a great way to stave off boredom and to keep yourself accountable. If you don't do it, you're letting someone else down. A measured dose of well-placed guilt can be your friend.

Call your family. Or, if you don't like your family, phone a friend instead. Let them know how you're doing. They want to know, and it will help you to get it off your chest and help you keep momentum. If they're proud, you'll want to keep going. They'll support you, they'll cheer you on. And if they don't, hang up on them. Seriously. This part is important.

Subscribe to a Fitness/Nutrition Magazine. Yeah, I can't do this one either. I'm too poor. But if you pick one up off a rack at the grocery store every now and again, it can give you a boost. Cooking Light, Weight Watchers, and Fitness are good examples. I did this yesterday, and reading through the articles honestly helped fill my brain with fresh ideas. As an added bonus, you can use any latent insecurity to your advantage! Let's face it, some of us worry about people looking in our carts at the grocery store. Myself included. And if you have an issue of Cooking Light sharing cart space with a heap of junk food, you will be judged. (After all, everyone thinks they're a nutrition expert.) Okay, so this isn't the best means. But think of it this way: when you get home, your house will be filled with healthy food. I can't really argue with that.

Become well-read about health. Staying connected isn't just about people. It's about using the world around you to boost your ability to keep going. Those annoying health blogs (heh) and stupid self-help books can become your friend. Find one that doesn't irritate the living daylights out of you and stick with it. (This is me speaking from personal experience, since most health books make me feel somewhat like a Care Bear.)

Learn to love technology. If you live in the middle of nowhere (like me), supportive people don't exactly abound. That means no Weight Watchers meetings, no T'ai chi classes, and your neighbors only complain to the postmaster behind your back about the amount of garbage in your yard when they've never met you (it was left over from the bathroom remodel before we moved in and we cleaned it up as soon as we got there, thank you very much.) But the beauty of it is, even I have internet. And a cell phone (with questionable reception.) I can find my support group all over the world, if necessary.

Join a program! As I think I've mentioned several times, I am a health and nutrition moron. Not only does a fitness or nutrition program help you become educated, it helps you become connected, whether that's through physical meetings or through online forums (both of which, admittedly, can get a bit whiny.) I know, monetary commitments once again. But they're not all expensive, and it's really worth it to not try and go cold turkey. Trying to lose weight without any sort of help or education on the topic is rather like trying to land a 747 as a passenger. Unless you're really lucky, you'll probably crash. All that said, please do your research before getting involved with something. Not all paths to weight loss are healthy ones.

One thing I intend on keeping up is this blog. I still firmly believe that it's been good for me, and if people keep reading and having talks with me, it will continue to be good for me. Thank you so much for reading and helping me to not be my own personal island.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cry Freedom: Rebelling Against Misery, Social Norms and Stupid Plush Toys

Ah, February. The month that doesn't feel like winter and doesn't feel like Spring. The bastard 28-day page on the calendar, the keeper of the dreaded Singles' Awareness Day and the month where you can't walk into Target without being nauseated by the sight of cheesy plush toys as far as the eye can see. Even the warmer weather -- and therefore the inevitable sleeveless shirt and short ensemble -- is right around the corner. It's a great month for getting in shape.

It's an even better month for getting fat.

Seriously, folks. The "new year smell" of January has worn off, leaving us with the same old stench of normality. Sweets and chocolate and those little candy hearts that everyone likes to eat but no one actually knows what they're made out of -- except maybe pure sugar. During Valentine's Day, many singles (such as myself) order pizza and ice cream with other girls and watch the Lethal Weapon movies out of sheer, stubborn rebellion.

Okay, so maybe I'm alone on the Lethal Weapon thing.

However, February is a month of social awareness. Whether you're hooking up, breaking up, or pointedly ignoring the whole romantic charade, it's there. And social awareness can often lead to a change in habits. For some, it's wanting to fit into that little sundress or the gown you're going to wear on your date. For others, it's saying "screw it, I'm done with you all. My only true friends are Ben and Jerry."

So in a month of potential extremes, why choose now to get myself back on track? Perhaps it's the weather. Maybe it's me wanting to look better in a bathing suit this year (see a previous post about the Swimsuit Blues.) Or maybe... maybe it's just a matter of sheer, stubborn rebellion. Now that I think on it, I'm nearly certain that it's this last. I've had enough. Enough of being certain every February that something is wrong with me because I haven't met someone. Enough of saying that the newness of January has passed me by, and so I've missed the proverbial bus of New Years' resolutions. And enough of being miserable because I don't meet my own astronomical standards. Who on earth needs something as arbitrary as a calendrical change to figure out that their lives could be different? I haven't missed the bus. I'm just walking to the beat of my own drum. I can't put it off anymore, it's only making me frustrated, miserable (and angsty) all over again. Screw it, I'm done waiting for someone or something else to pull me back up.

The future is no place to place your better days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

It's strange. I don't feel much like Oscar Wilde as I sit here, contemplating what to say. It's dark, and I should probably be in bed, considering I have to be up early to drive home for work tomorrow. But I just don't want to go.

I know that this blog was supposed to be about my journey through weight loss. Remixing my life. Honestly, I thought that in this new life, in the little community I've been serving in... I would be able to focus on this journey of mine. Pop back onto the scene a year later and 50+ pounds down, ready to keep the momentum going and thoroughly addicted to the rush that a healthy lifestyle brings. Instead, I found isolation and depression.

Neither of which is terribly condusive to aforementioned healthy lifestyle.

No, I'm not writing excuses. I've somehow managed to keep off the first ten pounds, by the grace of God alone. But I'm having the hardest time getting myself out of this slump. It's not even my weight. It's the isolation of living in a town of 120 people who only plaster on superficial smiles and then act rude and entitled when you show signs of having your own life and schedule, when you try to accomodate other people than just them -- or even if you simply don't serve them on a silver platter, no effort or responsibility required on their part. Where there are no people my age aside from my roommate and a select few souls that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole (i.e. the people that run the "medicinal marijuana farms" in town) and everyone holds me at a distance because I'm just going to leave. And the sad part is, I like it that way. Because with some of what I've seen over the last few months, I've realized I don't actually want any part in it. And the worst part is that there's just no escape within a two-hour drive. All I can do at the end of my four-day work week is attempt to make myself busy so I'm not saturated in whatever it is that's threatening to bog me down.

Somehow, in all of that... the remix falls silent as I struggle to keep my head above water.

Don't worry, I'm not exactly writing my Heilegenstadt Testament. (For those of you who are looking at me like I'm nuts, that's the suicide note Beethoven wrote before deciding mid-letter that he would live on for his art.) I just felt I owed it to those of you who might still be checking back every now and again to know what's going on. And honestly... to ask for a little help in return. Some of you who have talked to me about this blog have said that I've inspired you. I thank you for those wonderful sentiments, and I apologize sincerely for having stepped back. But truthfully, I could use all the inspiration I can get right now.

If anyone is still listening, I'm all ears.