Month One Progress. Back on track. (Sorta.)

Well today marks about one month into my new commitment to get under 200lbs by March of next year. The good news is I’ve lost weight. The bad news is it wasn’t at goal.

But progress in the right direction is still progress, or so they tell me. And my nutrition/goal tracker didn’t yell at me when I recalculated my calorie needs to get to 199 by March 26, so it still thinks it can be done.

So there’s that.

My focus this week was reversing some negative habits that were definitely hindering my progress. I used calorie restriction for the first time since i started intermittent fasting. Using SparkPeople, I started to track my food through the first part of the week. Fell off towards the last, simply because I found out something startling: I wasn’t eating as much as I thought I was eating. It was an important thing to learn. When you have an ED, your relationship with food can become horribly skewed. To see it in black and white that I wasn’t pigging out like I thought gives me new data with which to go forward in a much healthier way. When I put my foods into the calculator, even when I ate something “forbidden” like fast food or chocolate, I realized I was getting about 1500 calories per day.  Some days, I even had to work to get it up over 1000 by the end of the fasting period. It turns out that my failure to show results wasn’t necessarily because of the amount, it was the type of food I was eating. I think I’ve pinpointed the culprits down to bread and dairy, which I feel were working against me. If I bought yogurt or cheese to help get me through the week, I didn’t see the progress I wanted.

I’ve been told that dairy is inflammatory, and this would certainly suggest there’s something to that.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t binging before, generally towards the end of the fasting period, probably because my body was still physically hungry. My routine is 16/8, so I don’t eat for sixteen hours a day (from 9pm to 1pm the following day,) allowing me an eight-hour window to get my calorie needs.

Thanks to my body burning more fuel, this obviously increased my regular food intake, and right before bed which current wisdom tells us is no good. Knowing I had to log my food, that curbed a lot of desire to just keep going, like we talked about in the last blog, so some days I just didn’t, stopping at 1100 or 1300 calories. (Hence the drastic weight loss for the week, I’m sure.)

But as for my normal intake without the binges, I’m doing okay even though I’m “indulging” in the foods I like rather than going on any strict “diet.” It showed me that I have more room to play with food intake than I thought I did, particularly at the start of my day. I had been keeping it low to moderate during the day because I have a Southern cook preparing the evening meals, which are always ginormous – or so I thought.

Turns out they were running about 700 calories, even with a dessert thrown in.

This gives me a little more wiggle room, putting me back on track to what I was doing when I started intermittent fasting the first time around, where I saw so much effortless success *without* having to count calories.

Of course, I was also making much smarter decisions about food too, which I’m putting a much more concentrated effort in these days.

Back on track all the way around, I guess.

I also started walking again at work, usually putting it hand in hand with the food intake. When a coworker splurged on donuts on Friday, I allowed myself to have one – AFTER my walk. I’m trying to create real life balance that takes the emphasis off of “bad” or forbidden foods, so that I can participate in the world around me.

But I’ve been trying my best to reorganize my thinking, since physical activity is hand-in-hand with the food intake part of my process. I can’t change my body without the physical conditioning, and building strength is every bit as important as losing weight. I took it easy to start, to ease my knee and my back into things. By the end of the week I was even able to tackle the file room, so score one for building a little stamina.

Due to the lack of exercise throughout the month, I haven’t really seen any body changes. The measurements have more or less stayed the same. I think that’s my goal for the coming week, especially since I have Monday off. Sounds like an excellent opportunity to go for a walk at the park, which does more to transform my body than anything else I do. I can walk almost five miles at a stretch and it feels like nothing. It is my favorite form of exercise hands down, and, happily, the most effective.

It also renews my spirit every single time I go there, and some days I need that more than others. I think as the days get longer, I’ll be doing this after work as well. I meant to do it over the weekend, but real life intervened as it often does and I simply didn’t make it more of a priority, which I realize is a self-defeating decision at best.

Recalculating…

At any rate, I’ve met some minor goals and for that, I’ll give myself a well-deserved attagirl. I don’t hand those out as easily as I should, which is probably directly due to the perception problem I have in relation to body image, food intake and self-esteem.

Sounds like a blog for another day…

In the meantime, here’s where we stand at the end of Month One:

Weigh-In: 293.6 (-4lbs)

Measurements: 49-45-58 (+1″, same size.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Fat Town.

It should go without saying that I love to travel. An open freeway beckons to me like a lonely lover. I have literally traveled – by car – from one coast to the other, and loved each and every minute of it. This is my idea of paradise:

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And I plan to do it again and again and again, until the wanderlust is exhausted at last.

I don’t anticipate this happening anytime too soon, especially since my Muse loves to travel every bit as much as I do. You put me on the open road with some good music on the playlist, and my creativity just unlocks. It’s unchained. Unstoppable. Other people see mountains and cactus and oceans and forests from their windows. I see stories. I see the history of the Native American going west, and the backdrop for the civil war going east. I see monsters and aliens and heroes and survivors as I pass through place to place, summoning the spirits of those long gone, as legend, history and imagination blend into one.

I’ve even been known to meander through cemeteries, the older the better. I love reading names and dates and wondering exactly what their lives were like. I long to know what comprised the dash between their birth date and the day they died.

If there’s a story there, I want to know what it is. The more forgotten, the better.

I guess you could say I’m a seeker.

My mother must have been too because we never stayed in one place for very long. By the time I was eighteen I had moved over twenty times, across two states and a smattering of towns. I learned at a young age that if you get stuck where you are unhappy, you simply move.

Dan was the same way, so I became even more of a nomad once I met him.

During my many travels, I’ve gone through tiny little slips of towns that barely have anyone living there, yet live there they do. They seem satisfied with that tiny little parcel of land, and breathe life into what might otherwise be a ghost town without them. I often wonder if maybe the people who settled that town were heading somewhere else, and just decided that particular speck of land was good enough, and no one that followed ever thought to question. Kind of like the scene in Pleasantville, where wild child Jennifer, as played Reese Witherspoon, asked her class what was beyond the borders of Pleasantville, and everyone seemed so puzzled by the question.

Why would anyone go beyond Pleasantville? It’s just so darned… pleasant.

Clearly these small town folk across our nation feel the same way. A small number of people stay there in those little one-streetlight towns, where the only jobs seem to be at the fast food restaurants or gas stations where people passing through need to stop to refuel before they head on out again.

Seemingly, they never feel stuck enough to move, as if they are perfectly comfortable there. I can’t fathom such things, personally. Not when there’s so much to see and do and experience.

Why stay in one place?

And yet… here I am, for the fourth decade straight, living right square in the middle of the same place I’ve always lived: Fat Town.

I first rolled into Fat Town way back in the 70s and figured, hey. It’s comfortable here. I know who I am here. Nobody bothers me much. The expectations are low for all the residents here. People outside our borders look us up and down, decide what we can give, and what they want to take, and more often than not pass us by.

It is that “passing us by” thing that is a big, big appeal for Fat Town, especially for someone like me.

Though it seems illogical to everyone else who damns fat as the quick pathway to an early demise, Fat Town is safe.

That hidden speck of town is off the beaten path by design. Fat works many times like a fortress, to keep people at arm’s length when it might prove too dangerous to let them any closer. So we burrow a little deeper away from folks, setting up our environment to keep us as comfy (and padded) as possible. We have all our favorite luxuries and all our chosen enablers, who help us keep what is often a hard life more comfortable.

You might be asking how Fat Town could be comfortable, given the residents are often reviled and hated, heaped with public shame and abuse as though they deserve it, simply because they weigh more than folks think they should.

Doesn’t this make us a target for negative attention?

Not as much as Thin Town might think, especially if you’re a woman. Everyone outside of Fat Town is perfectly content ignoring those of us who live in it, which is quite comforting for some of us who learned a long time ago if you’re targeted for how appealing you look, really bad things can happen.

Lately I’ve been thinking how my life would change if the barrier I put in between me and everyone else was gone. I’ve tried to use some visualizing techniques, since I’ve never been able to imagine myself “thin”. My brain simply won’t go there, and I think I’ve pinpointed the problem: stark terror. When I think about hugging someone I care about, someone who could hurt me because of how much I care, without that extra padding between us to absorb the blow, I feel like I could hyperventilate. Likewise, I start to feel uncomfortably vulnerable when I think about being in a crowd of strangers without my Fat Suit on to keep me oddly invisible to those who might cause me harm.

It just seems easier, and safer, to keep everyone, good or bad, at the border of Fat Town.

That terror is important to understand. I moved here initially because I was terrified of men, and men generally don’t favor girls who live in Fat Town. I probably didn’t do it consciously to start, but it has been a more or less conscious choice for about three decades now.

I was a pretty child, or so they tell me.

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Even when I was a baby, men would line up outside the church nursery just to hold me. It was one of my mother’s favorite stories.

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I was the star of my life up until I was four, when I was snatched from my front yard by a stranger who would forever alter how I looked at men. By no real surprise, I guess, this made damned sure I’d alter how men would look at me thereafter.

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Then…

2.2.2017

Now.

Suffice it to say, I found Food Town before I eventually moved to Fat Town. I was a four-year-old harboring a dark and dirty secret I felt I couldn’t share. I needed comfort for that. The only person who knew about that need and subsequently could meet it was me, at the time a four-year-old child. I decided to self-comfort with the only thing a child knows how to do. An extra cookie. Another piece of candy. A bowl of ice cream – anything to make the boo boo sting just a little less. Even today, if I’m feeling bad I reach for more. More of what? More of anything. Whatever you have that makes me feel good, load me up. Make it count. I wanna feel it. It’s instinctual. Primal. It all goes back to that four-year-old who had to self-comfort and had no clue how to do it. I had to use the limited tools I had at the time. And just like the baby doll I had way back then, I would feed this aching four-year-old when she cried.

Since she cried in private, because no one could know why she cried, likewise she ate in private, because no one could know why she ate – and she sure as shit wasn’t going to tell anyone.

I’ve written about this in a few of my books, taking a heroine who has been stained by sexual shame and how she self-comforts with binge eating as a result. Though I’ve written some very explicit intimate scenes, these were the ones that make me feel most exposed. At one point, I literally threw my laptop across the bed after I finished writing one. You know that dream of being naked in a crowd? That. Times, like, a gazillion.

The safest part of living in Fat Town is that most people will chalk it up to my laziness alone. I simply have no willpower. They don’t know the real reason, which for a lot of us would be the worst thing ever.

By the time I was ten, I was a secure resident in Fat Town. And of course there were kids who said what they were going to say, but I usually let it go in one ear and out the other. It probably helped to be bigger than the bullies, another silver lining of Fat Town. How do you frighten off a bear? Pretend to be bigger than the bear.

I simply chose not to pretend.

Being picked last for games didn’t matter much to me because I didn’t care to play those games anyway. That kind of physical activity didn’t allow for creativity, at least the kind I liked to indulge. I would play alongside my favorite TV shows quicker than I’d play kickball. I might have danced, the ultimate form of physical creative expression, but there were a lot of hang-ups there. In a strict religious upbringing, anything that even hints at sexual expression is forbidden, even more so if you’ve been chewed up like a  piece of gum and you can’t let the world know how tainted and corrupted you are and risked being loved or thought of any less.

Since being pretty was no longer my objective, I aspired to be the smartest person in class. I easily reigned over the playground with a ton of friends who would love the imaginative games we’d play.

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Then, like now, I was fun, I was just way more outgoing. I liked to have a good time. I attracted friends who loved to laugh, to play, to *live.* And why wouldn’t I believe I was awesome? I had all these great qualities and I knew with all certainty the only man I let close to me after 1974 would never, ever hurt me. My daddy gave me that confidence. He treated me like one in a billion, and that’s what I felt like.

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Then he hurt me in the most awful way possible. He left.

I was eleven when my dad died, and I felt like I had lost the only person in the world who treasured me for who I was. This was more than love. It was more than the value I got from others. I actually felt like a prize, like I, myself, was this precious gift to be exalted above all others.  Suddenly, like a splash of cold water in my face (more like a tsunami,) I realized that not everyone would love me as unconditionally, or treasure me as wholly.

In fact, I realized a little late (especially given my long residency at Fat Town) that not many people wanted to love me at all. Forget being treasured, I found myself fighting for basic human value. Being pudgy was cute when I was a kid, but the older I got, the more work I had to put into in order to earn that courtesy from other folks. I needed to change for most of them to even pay attention to me, much less value me or – God forbid – love me.

But the bad habits were already in place, second nature to me by that point.

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Through the 1980s I tried many times to leave Fat Town, if only to chase after everyone else in Pubertyville where all the boys I liked seemed to live, only to get hurt by someone’s unthinking actions. I’d poke my head out only to get bonked by some karmic anvil, then race right back to where I was comfortable (safe), bolting the doors and locking them tight so I couldn’t get hurt like that ever again.

I don’t know that it was conscious at this point either. I’d get hurt, I’d eat. I’d eat more. I’d eat a lot. I’d eat as much as it took to numb the pain, and as the pain grew more intense, that amount multiplied. It only exacerbated the problem and became this endless self-defeating cycle.

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What Fat Town looked like in 1982, when I was twelve…

 

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Fat Town circa 1985, when I was fifteen.

People who live outside of Fat Town see how illogical this is and tell us, time and again, that in order for things to change we must change some things. But change hurts and that’s how we deal with pain. Food is not only a comforter, it’s instant gratification. The further you get into Fat Town, the more appealing that is. I can eat that chocolate cake and get a boost of endorphins *right now*. I’m happier, *right now.* It’ll take weeks, months, even years to see the kind of change I need to truly escape Fat Town, to make me as “happy” as the world around me tells me I’ll be. You know, later. Eventually.

They want me to give up happiness now and pull the lever on a slot machine for a possible happier happy in the near future, in a future I really can’t even envision for myself. And for what? So I can live longer? So I can attract people who show me daily they don’t give a shit about me? Those aren’t necessarily the high stakes you think that they are.

By the time I was thirteen, I just kind of figured out my life was going to hurt. If things were going well, I could count on something big and bad happening to keep me from getting too full of myself, like God making sure I paid for such a healthy sense of esteem when I was little. I was raised to believe humility was a virtue, particularly for women, so there was a problem with someone feeling a little *too* special. The pounds packed on. Acne hit at thirteen like a machine gun. My teeth started to twist, and my mother certainly didn’t have money for orthodontics. It wasn’t like I was ever going to be some raving beauty.

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I couldn’t figure out why I, who had been denied so much in my young life, should give up the one thing that gave me true, unquestionable pleasure. Simply put: getting fatter didn’t matter. I had set up my place in Fat Town, where things were safely predictable, even if lonely.

I’d been behind the eight-ball for nearly ten years at that point, and nothing around me indicated it was going to get any better, at least for the long haul. Putting a diet on top of it often felt like insult to injury, considering the thin girls I knew weren’t any happier. They were every bit as scared, lonely and insecure as I was, they were just better at hiding it.

Only I carried around the physical manifestation of such things.

Despite my fluffier exterior, I still attracted people. I was still creative, smart and fun, plus I cared about people. A more devoted friend you couldn’t find. I knew if people loved me despite my permanent address in Fat Town, they deserved the best of me. And that’s what they always got. Still, to this day, that is what they get, maybe even more so.

And I got lucky with some great people. There was my bestie Jeff, who was the opposite of me in every physical way…

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Yet he loved me every bit as unconditionally as my Daddy did. Maybe even more so. He treasures me, and he has showed that to me every single day of our 37-year friendship. This is remarkable to me because he has seen it all, good, bad and ugly. Of anyone in my life, he knows me best. He knows all the dark secrets, all the bad choices, all the temptations I did and didn’t take. Even still, to this day, I confess my darkest desires, my most impossible dreams, and I know he won’t judge me or love me any less.

He was even the first person I told about what happened to me when I was four, when his unconditional love saved me from making the worst, most permanent “instant” fix of my life.

Other people got in too. I made all kinds of friends from all walks of life. Though some will sell you the sad sack fat girl meme, I still got hit on. I still GET hit on, and in fact got hit on this very week when I went to a club to see a friend play. No matter my zip code, I’m still me, so I still attract folks, even living squarely in the middle of Fat Town at my new address at the cross streets of Old Street and Obesity Boulevard.

They’re just fewer, and I’m kind of okay with that because along with good folks, there were also those who got a little too close who were not so good. Back-stabbing friends, people who would use me to get to other people, or girls who would use me to make themselves look better to guys by comparison. Not the least of which were a whole number of men who were not so noble. As I got older, and started filling out into a fuller figure, this mostly meant older men. In Pubertyville, everyone was every bit as insecure as I was, and they couldn’t risk having a girl like me on their arm for the whole world to see.

Older men didn’t care about that stuff, because usually I was never on their arm in public either. They made their visits to Fat Town in private, where they could savor womanly curves wrapped in youthful innocence and I was starving enough for attention that I’d let them.

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That’s the paradox of Fat Town. It can keep you safe from some, but if you’re used to hurting yourself, it makes it that much easier to accept when others hurt you as well. And I felt like I had control over it, because I didn’t get unwanted sexual attention like other poor girls did. I didn’t have to learn how to tell a guy to fuck off, that I wasn’t interested.

I simply took their interest away, and took my chances with those that remained.

I never wanted just anyone to want me, that shit was far too dangerous. But I still wanted to be the star to someone I loved, just like I used to be, without all the risk. Hence why I would always, always, always return to Fat Town, where the expectations are lower, fewer people gather, and no matter what happens I can self-medicate with my drug of choice (food) – to hell with the consequences. So what if fewer people loved me? Love hurt. So what if life was shortened? Life hurt.

Food comforted. It made the hurt hurt less.

Despite the alcohol I started drinking when I was fourteen, or the sex I started having around the same time, food became my vice of choice. Not only was it quick and easy and often cheap, it was socially acceptable across the board. The universal wisdom of the ages? Fix it with food. Have a bad day? Have some chocolate. Feeling a bit out of energy? Have a soda for a pick-me-up. It was socially ingrained into me that food was a fix-all, which was even validated by a doctor when I was eight years old. After I passed out at lunch one day in the third grade, the doctor diagnosed me with low blood sugar and recommended a candy bar and a soda if I got too lightheaded. My own mother wouldn’t let me have soda, but a doctor said it was okay?

Well, okay!

Food became my luxury of choice. We couldn’t afford skates, but I could get a dollar candy bar at the store and feel pretty darned good while I ate it, and after the sugar rush kicked in.

The greater the pain, the greater the fear, the greater the indulgence. If one is good, two must be better. When you feel like less, simply have more. This made sense to the four-year-old who was still comforting me.

All these years later, feeding a problem is still part of our cultural message, which makes changing these habits a battle I usually fight all alone.

And like any four-year-old, I’d rather have a Snickers bar than kale.

Growing up is hard.

Even more challenging, in and out of Fat Town are the feeders. It is our nature to comfort with food. It is our nature to celebrate with food. It is our nature to seek food. The poorest person on the planet will feel like a king as long as he has something to eat. It is our basic human luxury. So, when we care for others, food is where we start, from the time they put a newborn baby in our arms. Even those who criticize you for your Fat Town zip code will be the first to invite you to lunch, take you to dinner, buy you something delicious and tell you to indulge in a decadent dessert, just this once, because you deserve it.

The people we love deserve to be spoiled, right?

Spoiled. What an appropriate word.

Even my husband, whom I love and I know loves me, will pop off with, “It’s not like we do it every day.”

Confession: I do it every day. I think about, obsess over and rejoice in food every day. I indulge in one more bite every. single. day.

Unlike an alcoholic, who is encouraged to change their behavior by divorcing themselves from everything in their life that led to the problem, a food addict has to learn to manage their disorder when they are inundated with triggers every hour of every day. Whenever we eat, we have to make conscious choices about the food we place into our mouths. Back in 2003, when I first decided to get serious, it was like I was playing Russian Roulette every time I took a bite. Every. Single. Bite. Matters. And we have to question where that line is between healthy nourishment and unhealthy emotional eating.

That’s why everyone always jokes that they’ll start their diet on Monday. You can’t escape it. It’s all around you. Every day. Name me a major holiday that doesn’t revolve in some way around food. Name me a celebration that doesn’t have food at the heart of it. There’s always something looming in the future that makes “giving it up” inconvenient. Even at our offices, our coworkers show their love for us by buying donuts or the bosses spring for a pizza party.

At my office, there’s a constant supply of M&Ms because our CEO has decided to use the fun little candy as a way to teach our new business model.

Hell, even I keep a candy dish on my desk to give my coworkers who pass my desk a little something to perk up their day.

It’s cheap and it makes people feel good. What more could you ask?

So you make it work in Fat Town, which, even if you’re doing anything to ultimately move away from it, is your address for the next several months or years while you make these changes. And truth be told, it’s not so bad to live in Fat Town. Yeah, we have problems. We get shamed on the regular. We have to go to special stores to buy clothes. Sometimes we find ourselves suffering health consequences from our extra weight, and very little empathy riding shotgun since, after all, we’ve done this to ourselves. But I know who my friends are. I know that men who interact with me want no more than I’m willing to give. I have a built-in asshole detector the minute I meet someone new where I can tell whether or not they’re a decent human just by how they look at me. I’ve got decades of experience now reading people, and I know when they see the fat, and when they see me.

Sure, we don’t get promoted as often, overlooked as “lazy” because that’s the common stereotype. Sure, we don’t a dozen likes on our Instagram selfies by men, who reserve their kindnesses and their compliments for the women they want to bone.

I, personally, consider that a plus.

Sure, there are people who won’t read my romance novels because they think I’m talking right out of my ass, because what woman from Fat Town knows about real romance anyway?

I’ve been managing those things for years, and most of the time I come to the conclusion that my fat has actually *saved* me from the folks who couldn’t be bothered to care about me in the first place. I’ve made it more challenging to love me because I need people to get through the obstacle course to prove that they’re worthy, that they won’t hurt me, that they can be trusted with the treasure that is me.

I’ve locked it away in the ultimate safe. And only those really special people, who are brave enough to risk the stain of loving someone from Fat Town, have cracked the code and proven themselves worthy.

I guess I really AM Mjölnir.

So you see the confusion. You see my dilemma. Just like that small town girl who is intimated by the lights, noise and dangers of the big city that may call to her, I’m petrified to permanently say goodbye to Fat Town. Hence why this is where I’ve always returned.

It’s a battle, for sure. But one thing about me… true no matter where my address… I am a conqueror.

It’s time for me to hug that little four-year-old and tell her everything is going to be okay. She’s going to be all right. I’m going to keep her safe in ways I never knew how to do before, because I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. I’ve been through many battles, I wear many scars, but I’m still here. I’m still breathing. And that means I am stronger than what has happened to me. I don’t need to pretend I’m bigger than the bear. I AM the bear. So we can venture outside the fortress, we can live the life we are terrified to live, because no matter what, we’re going to be okay.

It’s time to move on now. It’s time to travel somewhere new. It’s time to get “unstuck.”

I’ve never said this before, and maybe the Universe needs to hear it: I can handle it now. No matter who I meet. No matter what I face. I’m ready.

Today I can only make a step, but I’m taking it. One step away from Fat Town and towards Gingerville.

Let’s go.

Recalculating…

It was 1989 when I first moved to Los Angeles. Coming from small-ish town Texas, it was quite the culture shock. I’d only been driving a little over a year, since I was a late bloomer and didn’t get my license until I was eighteen. Back then, you had to get driver’s ed in order to get your license at sixteen. Unfortunately, that was a class my mother had to pay for and, as a single mom working 70-hour weeks at a convenience store, she simply couldn’t spare the extra funds. Forget getting my own car at sixteen, it turned out even getting the license was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

In November of 1987, the minute I turned 18, I got my GED (because I had skipped the horror of high school) and my driver’s license. Within a month I had my first job. Basically I burst out of that gate like a race horse that had been stuck in the starting gate too long. (A running theme in my life, now that I think about it.) By February of 1989, when I was 19, I decided to make a break for the west coast because the man I loved was sick and tired of living in Amarillo, Texas, and had come into a small amount of money that he decided to use as his ticket to ride.

Since I was so blindly in love with him that I would have followed him to the ends of the world, I ditched everything I knew up till that point and went with him. It was on my To-Do list to live in California anyway, so I wasn’t going to miss my chance, especially since missing that chance would have meant losing Dan.

I decided in most hopelessly romantic heart of hearts that wasn’t going to happen.

Needless to say, Los Angeles was a far, far cry from Amarillo. It’s huge. It’s filled with a LOT of people. I went from a town of about 100,000 people to one in the millions. The freeways were these intimidating snarls of concrete tentacles I had zero idea how to maneuver. By the time we arrived in town, little old ladies were zipping past us, even with us doing the speed limit. This looked nightmarish for a new driver like me.

Getting around such a foreign place was daunting. Thankfully back then they had what they called Thomas Guides. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it was basically a book of maps, large grids of large cities you could flip through to find your way around.

 

Recently I was watching an old Moonlighting episode where David was fussing over one of these and I was all, “OMG! I know what that is!” The first time I watched the show, when I was about 15, I had no idea. Only time and experience gave me insight on what an invaluable tool it was, especially living in Los Angeles.

I think they probably had it for most major cities, but one absolutely needed it for L.A. Los Angeles frustrated me greatly. The street layout simply didn’t make sense. New York City, where I found myself navigating by car in 2009, a full twenty years later, was much, much easier to navigate. It’s a grid, which is much more straightforward than the meandering chaos of Los Angeles. What works in other towns simply doesn’t work here. Both Dan and I would find ourselves lost more often than not, which was even more frustrating for him. It caused a great deal of stress between us, since I was his navigator by default as the passenger. I was basically still a kid when I was tasked to figure out the confusing puzzle of L.A., and the Thomas Guide was my go-to guide to get us rerouted back on track.

Often I had to do this in high-stress situations, with an aggravated Dan, whose bipolar disorder had yet been diagnosed. Likewise my anxiety disorder had yet to be identified. So the madder he got, the more anxious I got. By necessity I ended up flipping through that book like a pro to put these crazy squares together in time to get us where we needed to go in order to avoid a scary fight.

Thankfully these days we don’t have to juggle a War and Peace book of maps to get around anymore. Most of us have smart phones, which will tell us in a soothing female robotic voice which turns to take, when, what direction to go and where we can find our destination. She never gets frazzled, like I used to so long ago. She’s confident she can get us to wherever it is we have decided to go, even if we get horribly off track.

I started using navigating systems to travel during my Comedy Groupie days, when I was traveling all over the country to see Hal Sparks perform comedy. It was one of those Two Birds, One Stone kind of things. I loved to laugh, and no one makes me laugh harder than Hal. Also, I was born with a touch of wanderlust, so whenever I would get bored in my ordinary workaday life, I’d set off for somewhere new to do something I loved to do, see people I loved to see, get to meet friends from all over the country I’d only just spoken to online before. Just a weekend here or there, to break up the monotony, to spice up a boring, average life that fit me like a suit cut a size or two too small.

Deep down I knew that an average life was never what I was supposed to be living, so I needed those weekends more than other folks, who could condense their wanderlust down to two weeks a year and call it a “vacation.”

I wanted a life that would leave me so fulfilled I wouldn’t need a vacation from it.

Back then, though, I needed these getaways like I needed oxygen. In my heart of hearts, I dreamed of one day getting the freedom of Janet Dailey, one of my favorite authors growing up, who set off to write her Americana series by living for a time in all fifty states to write a romance centered in each and every one.

Eventually I would use my cross-country experiences to write my own romances, so I guess I kinda sorta got what I wanted. I even sold a lot of books as a result. Still not done, though. The dream is still in progress. And the good news is I don’t have to break away from my current life near as much as I used to.

Progress. I’ll take it.

And wherever I go, there is nothing more reassuring than having that soothing female voice telling me, with confidence, the directions I need to get there. Sometimes she’s wrong, but not nearly as wrong as I used to be way back in the day trying to figure out which page to turn to in the Thomas Guide. Now I punch it into the navigator and I’m on my way, confident I’ll get where I need to go.

It even provides what time I can expect to arrive, what traffic I may run into, and offer alternatives if I need to amend my plans. Score one for technology!

Even more reassuring, if I take a wrong turn because let’s face it, sometimes I do, it will take a moment to recalculate and reroute me so that I’m never lost, merely delayed.

It hit me in the last week or two how much that applies to this first month of my new commitment to myself. Imagine my chagrin when the universe lobbed another brick my way with this advertising campaign from Jeep:

My whole life has been one recalculation after another. Nothing has gone according to plan, pretty much ever. The same is true for most hero’s journeys. If things went according to plan, it would be the most boring, unrealistic story ever told. The success stories we want to hear are the ones where our heroes and heroines revise, reroute and recalculate. This gives us inspiration how to do likewise because let’s face it: the path to success is rarely Point A to Point B.

path-to-success

So I had a bad couple of weeks. It happens. I could beat myself up about it. I could “throw the baby out with the bath water,” as the old saying goes. Or I could look around. Get my bearings, and recalculate.

I wanted to start walking every day at work, using my two, ten-minute breaks to get out of my office chair and away from my computer for physical activities. Then, my knee caved. My back gave. I ended up sitting more than standing.

Recalculating…

I wanted to tackle my emotional eating particularly in how I have been handling stress lately. I’ve been easily triggered for emotional sabotage since last year, giving in to my  binge eating more often than not. And knowingly so. I’ve become enlightened enough to know what I’m doing when I’m doing it, so it’s no longer an unconscious choice but a conscious one. One I can change as the urge hits me, if I so choose. That’s the good news. That it’s not second nature yet is the bad news. My so-called warning system is usually about ten minutes or so before I cave to temptation. I realize I want to eat to “feed” whatever it is that I don’t want to feel, and I debate about it all the way up until I do it. Yet I still find myself doing it, more often than not.

So naturally my fragile house of cards picks this month to come tumbling down, which has me in a tailspin how to handle all those old triggers that have been firing at me at once, usually in the middle of my “debate” time, which means I’m “reacting” more than acting consciously.

Recalculating…

I wanted to find some work-life balance, but thanks to everything crashing down at once I have to jump at any economic opportunity, which means overtime, which means no days off as I tap dance over hot coals for my writing career, which barely fits in the small window a week I get to set aside for it as is. Opportunities are stacking up, and I have to figure out a way to take care of everything that needs taking care of, with me and my health coming so often at the bottom of that list.

Recalculating…

None of this is ideal, of course, because life isn’t ideal. In fact these are the typical challenges I face. None of it, absolutely none of it was new or unpredictable. And I knew this when I started this. Things are chaotic right now, to add this on top is yet another stressor which I knew going into it could prove counterproductive. And, as expected, I haven’t excelled in this as much as I had hoped to. It sucks, but just like any wrong turn, I have to reroute myself to get to my destination, particularly since this goal has a deadline.

No matter what happens between right now and March 26 of next year, I have to climb over the boulders, skip over the rocks, dodge past the bullets and wade into the lava to make things happen. (Which is pretty much how I make anything happen.)

I didn’t do this to fit into a dress, even though that will be one of the bonuses. I did this because if I didn’t, I’d be pissed I didn’t when I went shopping for said dress. I would have beat myself up endlessly that I had a year to make a change and I didn’t do it, like all the other 47 years that came before it, and yet another year has come and gone and I’m still in the same place I was.

THAT is my motivator.

That time is going to pass no matter how I spend it. I can either make small steps and see incremental change or I can blow it off and stay the same – the choice, really, is mine. And it’s never going to be ideal enough for me to get through it any other way. I understand this now.

Still, failure is a tough pill to swallow, especially publicly. But this, too, is part of the process. Nothing will force me to recalculate quicker than being accountable for getting lost, just like all those years ago when I was scrambling through endless pages of the Thomas Guide, paranoid that Dan would get pissed at me for getting us lost. AGAIN.

So now I get to woman up and admit I took some wrong turns and I didn’t end up where I planned. It happens. It sucks. But I can learn from it. And it won’t ever change until I do.

I’m up 2.6 pounds this weigh-in, which was actually down over a half a pound from last week. I weighed in at 298 last week, but I didn’t bother recording it because it was during “that time of the month,” which has gotten increasingly that-time-of-the-monthier as I get closer and closer to menopause. One week a month I’m basically useless as my body kicks into some demonic hormonal overdrive in ways that make me long for the baby factory to just shut down already. Some months are mildly annoying, some months feel like I’m auditioning for a scene in Carrie. I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice it to say, there’s no activity during those days. Some days I’m stunned I even make it to work.

And some days I don’t.

But in every cycle there’s *always* bloating, a lack of sleep, insatiable cravings and, ultimately, a weight gain.

Needless to say… I allowed for the recalculating.

This week I tried to make up for it. I was more conscious about the food I ate, paying a little more to eat a little healthier. Drinking water over sodas (mostly.) I even got to walk during my breaks at work, so there was progress in that area at least. This was good news, considering the bike ride I did on Mother’s Day leveled me for the first three days of my week. By Thursday, I jumped all over the chance to walk even though I didn’t feel completely healed. I took it slow, one walk that day, and by Friday I was able to walk twice.

Incremental progress, but progress nonetheless.

The emotional eating thing though, still my biggest nemesis. I let it beat me up several days this week. I own that completely.

I have a few ideas how to reroute myself out of those as well. I may be trying those this coming week. It’s going to require some deep introspection I probably won’t want to make public, yet that might be the very thing that helps me defeat this thing once and for all. Most of my binging is done in hiding. So maybe it’s time to stop hiding.

Whatever it takes, right?

Recalculating…

So… new week. New goals. Walking more during the workweek, that’s number one. Portion control and watching food intake, definitely number two. Dealing with triggers has to be number three.

And we’ll see where we end up from there. It’s almost been a month since I started. Let’s see where exactly I find myself. It may not be the destination of eight pounds lost that I wanted, but it’ll be a turn in the right direction. No matter what, I’m not lost. Merely delayed.

Recalculating….

Weigh-in: 297.6

 

 

A lil history, some goal planning, and sweaty-palmed, white-knuckled transparency.

Howdie, folks. Welcome to Day Two.

Except it isn’t Day Two, just like yesterday wasn’t really Day One.

Anyone who has nosed around this blog knows that the whole weight loss journey is one I have run up to and run away from enough times that even *I* roll my eyes when I pledge to start again. It just never feels like it’s going to happen, not for real, and not forever.

The only real success I’ve had transforming my health and my body was in 2003/2004, when my first husband’s sudden death from a massive heart attack scared me straight. I literally felt like I was playing Russian Roulette every single time I took a bite of food. It’s no secret that I was in much worse shape than he was, because I outweighed him probably by about a hundred pounds.

I usually outweigh everyone by about a hundred pounds.

I started that journey at over 330 pounds, which was around the size I was when I got married, which was twenty pounds less than when Steven and I met. By the time Dan died, I was a size-32. I felt enormous.

But, despite the obvious visual cues, I *wasn’t* as bad off as Dan was because his health problems weren’t quite so visible. And despite what people could “see,” those problems ended up killing him at the tender age of 43.

Still, I knew I was on a dangerous path. As the only surviving natural parent to two young boys (then 13 and 11,) I knew I had to get serious. So I did something drastic and terrifying. I decided to blog about it.

This was before the books and before the social media platforms that have cultivated my brand. This was back in the days of AOL, when they had jumped aboard the blogging train, and would feature interesting blogs on their front page to drive traffic to other areas of their site.

See, the thing you have to know about me is that I’m an overachieving teacher’s pet. I knew if I made this journey public, it would drive me to succeed because I would never risk such personal failure on such a public platform. I want to WOW people, remember? I don’t want pity. I want Atta Girls and pats on the back, just like everyone else. So when I committed to it, I committed to it 100%. I knew I had to be fully honest or it wouldn’t work. I had to display facts and figures, publicizing each weigh-in so I was forced to be “real” about half-assing anything.

This was important to me because I have an eating disorder where I binge if things get too intense. It was a coping mechanism I picked up as a child, after the incident when I was four years old. Like I said yesterday, I immediately hid everything so that I could be “normal,” but the trauma was still there. I became my own comforter at four, so the only thing I knew to make myself feel better was to “feed” the hurt. You can see the changes almost immediately. Here’s a photo from the house we lived in when I was abducted:

lubbockgin

Here’s a photo from kindergarten, a year later:

gingerKindergarden

First grade, a year later than that:

ginger1stgrade

And second grade, a year later than that…

ginger2ndgrade

As the years wore on, I had to eat more to feel more comforted. I’d eat at school, then come home and eat whatever my parents had left over from lunch. By the 1980s, when I became a latch-key kid, when I had to prepare my own dinners and feed myself when I was only eleven, I could kill a box of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. I’d stop eating because I ran out, not because I ever felt there was “enough.” To be completely honest with you, I don’t recall ever feeling “full.” When people tell me they’re “stuffed” and can’t eat another bite, I don’t get that. I’ve felt like I couldn’t eat another bite, but if there was still food left, I kept going. It was Clean Plate Syndrome to the Nth degree. Mentally I’ve never felt satiated, because what I was eating for was never physical hunger. It was to numb and emotional void. Food brings pleasure, so I needed that pleasure to make the Not Okay okay. (Later I would add sex and spending and gambling and a host of other vices.) Whatever felt good, I needed to have more. It was the only way to even things out against the staggering mountain of CRAP my life tended to be.

Imagine my delight when I realized in 1985 that I could eat Nutri-System, supplemented with nightly nachos that were off the plan (but helped me feel “fuller”), and still lose 36 pounds in three months. If that program hadn’t sent my mother and me into the poor house at $90 a week, I might have actually got down to a “normal” weight.

These have been the patterns of my life. The more chaotic the circumstances, the more I binge to deal with them. This is why diets never work for me long haul, especially since I already told you yesterday, most of my life has been spent in the Not Okay.

In 2003/2004, I *started* my weight loss journey in the Really Not Okay, right after we lost Dan. He died in September, and I finally got around to doing something about me in November of that year. Things were going along mostly well until February, when I got the emotional rug pulled out from under me again, when Steven was seriously tempted outside the marriage.

This was very tough for me to handle at that time because Steven was one of the few men on the planet I truly believed could love/desire me even as heavy as I was. This was the woman he fell in love with:

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That the woman who tempted him wasn’t overweight really threw a major wrench in my progress, making me feel everything before that was a lie. I was sent into an emotional tailspin. The only reason it didn’t derail me completely was mostly because I was doing a public blog, where I had 100% transparency. When he messed up, the whole world knew it – just like they knew it when I messed up.

I didn’t have four-year-old Ginger feeding me. I had dozens of strangers, sisters on the same path, who could hold me up and keep me focused.

But, all things being the Internet, it was not a journey for the faint-hearted. Doing anything publicly invites criticism. When AOL featured my blog on their main page in February of 2004, ironically just before the whole thing blew up with Steven, I got plenty of complaints and criticisms too, and so did AOL. “Why would you feature her weight-loss blog? She looks like she weighs 300 pounds!”

Again, I had to have an “after” photo to validate the “before” photo. I had to be “okay” or else no one would listen to me.

But I wasn’t okay. Hence why I needed the blog.

You don’t need a weight-loss blog if you’re thin, do you? This was a part of the journey, and ultimately it was successful. This was me at the beginning, in November 2003:

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And this was me in September of 2004, wearing the same shirt:

sept04hsept04i

This was me when I married Steven, at a size 34:

4

And this was me in 2004, ten sizes smaller:

june04g

What do I know about losing weight? About as much as I know about gaining it. And what I know for certain is that the only thing that has ever worked for me long-term was if I stopped hiding from it.

I write Rubenesque romance because I don’t agree with the narrative you have to be thin and beautiful and perfect to deserve love. I’ve never been “thin”, “beautiful” or “perfect,” and I have found love, been married, the whole nine.

Yet I still hide the numbers because there’s a deep shame that I’m not okay. Even within the books, I write “smaller” larger women because I’m easing people into the novel idea you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Sadly it’s necessary, because I’ve had my share of criticism about the heroines I write and the romances I write not being “realistic.” One recent critique was for a size-16 heroine who was top-heavy and the (female) critic pondered if I was even a woman because my heroine’s measurements were YUUUGGGEEE.

In reality, I’m larger than my heroine – so that was really nice to hear. Not. But that’s part of the cognitive dissonance that makes sizes and measurements and actual numbers on the scale scarier and more negative than what they are. It’s all relative, and each body is different.

At my size hiding the numbers is stupid really, because it’s not like I can hide the reality. You look at me, you know that I’m overweight. The medical diagnosis, morbid obesity, is pretty obvious to any layman who passes me on the street. And believe me, they’re not shy about diagnosing it.

Yet I am still ashamed of the number. I still hide it. I still yearn to be okay.

As we established yesterday, I’m not okay. And that’s going to have to be okay.

So in order to make this work, I gotta get real about it. There’s gotta be some transparency because without transparency there’s no accountability. If I want to meet my lofty, lofty goal, there has to be some accountability.

And let’s talk about goals for a second. Like I said before, I’m an overachiever. I always push myself. I’m incredibly ambitious and completely self-driven. Bosses normally love me because I go above and beyond. I need little supervision or really little guidance. At my current 9-5, I have no one who looks over my work at the end of the day to make sure goals are being met. But they’re being met, by God. In fact, the goals I set for myself are just a fingertip out of my reach most days, because of how hard I drive myself to succeed. I plan my day without a second to spare, working all the way up to the minute I clock out. I take the standard they give me and push it into overdrive.

For example, the job I do is in medical records. A primary function of that job is taking a paper record and converting it into a digital file so we can file it into our Electronic Medical Records, or EMR. When I took over that position in July of last year, the company standard was to have those files converted and into the system within a week of obtaining them.

I made sure they went up within 24-48 hours. I figured why wait? It takes about fifteen minutes for me to do a file, so why not get each one into the system as soon as we get it? And it doesn’t matter if we have one or twelve to do in a day, I make damned sure that the minute it gets to my desk, it is on the fast track to get into the EMR so everyone who needs the information has access to it, rather than hounding me to fax this or upload that. I’m on top of my job so that they can be on top of their job, which is both time-efficient for the employees and cost-efficient for the company.

As someone who has run her own business before, as well as helped others start-up businesses, that’s just how my brain is trained to look at processes and procedures. I work smarter, not harder, aiming for excellence rather than accepting the status quo.

So now THAT is the standard in my department. And I’m pretty freaking proud of that, really. I took something and made it better. I impressed people. I changed things.

Mama likes.

I like my goals lofty. It’s why I can write a book as fast as I can, or produce a quality screenplay in weeks rather than years. I don’t sit on ANYTHING. I figure out a way to get it done and I get it the fuck done, because I’m OCD to the NTH and I need shit checked off my list.

But being done isn’t the only objective: I push myself with a deeply rooted drive to be excellent.

The weight loss is really no different, even though my lofty goals have, more often than not, derailed my progress more than anything else.

They will tell you that losing 1-2 pounds a week is the best way to ensure that you have long-term sustainable weight-loss. So of course, me being me, I won’t be happy unless it’s 3-5. And those weeks I don’t make it, because I won’t, because no matter what you do sometimes the scale just does NOT move, for whatever reason, or there are gains even when you do everything right, because that’s the painful irony long-term weight loss, fucking bum me out hard-core. If you watch This is Us, you’ve seen this unfortunate dynamic work with one of the main characters, Kate. It’s almost too painful to watch sometimes. The episode where she does everything right and doesn’t lose, and finds out her binge-eating boyfriend loses more, devastated her. And me. Been there. That shit sucks.

And I know, intellectually, it isn’t a formula. Every body is different, and the road to physical excellence isn’t always X+Y=Z. Some weigh-ins come whenever you didn’t get a full night’s sleep, or you’re on your period, or it’s holiday season and no matter how many extra miles you walk on the treadmill, that chocolate and cookie and turkey and pie will derail your progress. There are dreaded plateaus and, unfortunately for me, emotional ups and downs which put me face to face with my ED.

A mathematical formula leaves no room for life, especially a not-okay life that will  punch you around a bit and knock you off your footing. I still have triggers and a real disorder that I battle, sometimes on the daily. There are days that I will fall short, no matter how high I am.

For that reason alone, I’m aiming higher. If I’m working for outstanding, maybe, just maybe, I’ll land in the exceptional anyway. I never want to idle at average. In anything. Ever.

And it’s become increasingly obvious to me that I need to be here, in front of you all, to get where I need to go, when I want to get there. And my reasons for it are not merely cosmetic anymore. Which raises the stakes even more.

Last July I had my first real weight-related health scare. I had just taken over a new position at my 9-5, and it came with certain growing pains that had me anxious and overwhelmed. When you have an anxiety disorder this can feel like hell, and it did for a long, long while. One morning I had a pretty intense anxiety attack at work. They’re not that uncommon for me, though when you’re having them it pretty much makes your brain go haywire. Instead of dismissing it as the same kinds of attacks I’ve had in the past, where everything is okay, it feels like The End. That wretched voice in my head whispers, “What if this IS a heart attack, and not just your anxiety?”

That particular morning I decided that, since I work in a medical environment and I’m around nurses and medical professionals, I’d just have it looked at. So I went into one of the nurse’s offices and explained my symptoms. She took my blood pressure and it was, for the first time ever, off the charts. I’ve only had minor increases in my blood pressure before, tapping out at maybe 130/80. This time it was 150/90.

Needless to say, it tripped me the fuck out. For once, that anxiety attack I was feeling was a legitimate medical alarm. I left early that day, buying a blood pressure monitoring machine before I even reached the house. From that moment on, I was determined to make some changes.

I got rid of Diet Coke, which is one of my bigger addictions, and, at the suggestion of a friend, started intermittent fasting (which we will talk about later.) I started exercising again. I ditched all processed foods and watched my sodium intake. My blood pressure evened out, usually maxing out around 125/80, but on the whole staying under 120/80, enough where I wasn’t monitoring it every day. Within months, I started shedding weight again. Everyone around me was telling me how great I looked.

I lost about twenty pounds over three months. I went from a size 28 to a size 24. I could buy new clothes in smaller sizes that would actually fit.

Then… November happened. We’ll talk about that later as well, because it really is another blog in and of itself. Suffice it to say, four-year-old Ginger started feeding a very emotionally traumatized forty-seven year old Ginger all the comfort foods that made things feel okay when they weren’t okay. Emotional eating/binging came back hard, undoing all of my progress to that point.

I’ve tried to restart it several times but hiding myself from the Not Okay has meant that I haven’t had one iota of accountability to conquer these particular demons.

Hence, the blog.

So THIS is my new starting point, even though technically speaking, it’s not.

I’m going to include all my social media in this new endeavor, although some to a lesser degree than others. I’ll post progress pics on Instagram. I’ll post workout progress on Snapchat. I’ll post all the nitty gritty about weigh-ins, measurements, food and workouts and the like on my Sparkpeople profile as I add them into the plan, which – again – we’ll talk about later.

And here is where I’ll do the emotional workouts for my journey where I’ll just be real about the numbers and how much it terrifies me to do so.

Gonna feel the fear and do it anyway – which is how I do anything successful in my life. And aim high… because even if I shoot for the moon and miss, I’ll land among the stars.

That being said, my goal is get under 200 lbs for my son’s wedding next March. The last time I was under 200 pounds was in 1989.

thingin

That’s nearly 100lbs in ten months, or 10 pounds a month, making eight pounds a month the baseline (2lbs per week). This  would still put me around 210, which is where I spent the majority of my teen years:

ginger1986cropped

Anything less than eight pounds a month will require reexamination and modification. This is a journey, not a formula. I may try a lot of different things just to keep my body from settling into any routines, which seems to be the death knell for my progress.

And that, really, is what I’m aiming for the most. I may not reach Excellence in ten months, but ten months from now I won’t still be linger in the Not Okay.

It’s time to make things okay.

Starting weight:

May 2017 – 296.8

Starting measurements:

49/45/57, Size 26/28 (depending on where you shop – again, a topic for another blog…)

So that’s it. No shame. No fear. No hiding. Just a starting point.

Let’s do this.

 

#OneYear explained.

If you’ve been following my social media, you might have noticed that I have been tagging things with the #oneyear hashtag. Mostly that tag is for me, but I thought I’d give a brief explanation on how I plan to spend 2015.

2014 was, truly, a year of muchness. Everything was thrown into the mix, including incredible highs and devastating lows. But I saw some of my biggest successes in 2014, which made me realize something about myself that I had forgotten.

My capability to be awesome is completely intact.

I don’t say that to be conceited, by the way. I’m just as surprised about it as anyone else. I’ve been downplaying my own personal power since I was a kid in church, warned repeatedly against the sin of pride and vanity. I grew up thinking humility meant denying all the special qualities that made me me, especially the parts that made me, dare I say, great or powerful.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Marianne Williamson.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

No matter how things are going, whether I’m dancing on top of a mountain or pressing my way through the flames, I have any number of amazing qualities to face every challenge and claim every triumph. I don’t think that I ever realized that before, even when I had significant success in my career, in my personal life or realizing my own tremendous, lofty goals.

Since 2013, I broke through the ranks and became one of the coveted 20% who could make a living as a self-published author. This is a big deal considering 80% of my colleagues make $1000 or less annually. For the last two years, I’ve been an established writer making a better living than I ever made in any other job. I have an small but mighty (dare I say Fierce?) fan base, who have done their part spreading their love for my work to more and more folks, which finally got me “discovered” by a powerhouse of a literary manager. I sold my first book to a publisher AND my manager and I are eying other venues to conquer, like TV and film.

With something as simple as a year or two with my nose to the grindstone, I’m on the very precipice of where I want to be.

Except

My health, though improved greatly by the use of medicinal marijuana, has become a concern. I had a couple of troubling incidences last year that reminded me that I’m not invincible. And maybe I could ignore a shortened lifespan from the safety of my thirties or forties, but the real problem, the practical problem, the one that affects me in the here and now, is that I’m not properly conditioned to keep running the longer, bigger marathons I have planned.

So I decided to approach my health the same way I approached my career. I’m devoting 2015 as the Year of Transformation. Though I’ve repeatedly “failed” to conquer this particular mountain in the past, I sort of had an epiphany a few months ago that I have everything within me to make my physical body as much of a success as the surreal reality of living my dream job.

In one year – November 2014 to November 2015 – I’m going to focus on all the things I can do to make myself stronger and healthier. I’m going to condition myself for a life bigger than what I’m currently living, to prepare myself for things I had only dreamed about in the past. I’m not really worried about losing weight, though I will. This is so much more than fitting into a certain size or seeing some phantom number on a scale. Those things I can’t really control. My body is going to be what it’s going to be, and it is entirely possible I’ll never fit into a size 6, or wear a two-piece to the beach even if I wanted to.

This isn’t about that. I finally realized that it can’t be. Because of my issues from what happened to me when I was four, “losing” my shell around me has terrified me for years. Becoming smaller or more attractive to more people makes me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, and that is the one thing that has blocked every attempt to become what I thought I wanted to be. I’ve been too locked up in my own neurosis to let that happen.

It also outsources all of my power to things I can’t control. This isn’t my first rodeo. I can do all the right things and still not lose the weight the way I planned. There is really no practical way I could give myself a goal of X amount of pounds or X amount of inches lost by a certain date. A significant body transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. I can’t be swayed by a weekly weigh-in that somehow justifies my existence because I’m running as far away from the fat girl as I can.

That fat girl is still me. And she’s still the amazing person who has raised two kickass men, who has turned her dream into a career and who has made a difference in ways large and small. I’ve been waiting for more than 40 years for someone to notice that. It finally dawned on me that person has to be me. I need to love her and take care of her… because it’s onwards and upwards from here.

Therefore my focus is about longevity and strength and overall health. The 2016 Me is waiting for me at the finish line, and she’s depending on me to make her as strong and powerful as she can be. Truth is I don’t know what she looks like yet, but it hardly matters if I did. She’s going to be even greater than the 2014 me, who is still pretty damned cool. And I know I have everything within me to walk each and every step to get to her.

This year is about living life to my fullest potential, which I can’t really do if I don’t make my health a top priority. I have too much to do to check out early, or call for a Time Out because I can’t physically handle the increasing challenges at hand.

At age 45, those are more powerful motivators that something as arbitrary as a number on a scale.

So yes. I’m going to be one of those annoying people who updates on exercise and posts pictures of (healthier) foods. It’s a matter of accountability and it’s part of the year-long process which I may or may not turn into a book/memoir someday. Most of these journal entries are personal/private right now, but I reserve the right to publish one from time to time.

This is the “DURING” part of the Before and After journey. It’s the ugly part, the frustrating part, the hard-working part, complete with all the amazing triumphs and crushing failures that come with doing anything really significant. (Kind of like the last two years were for my career.)

I’m locked in, ready to see where this roller coaster takes me, marking the calendar for one year just to see what I can do with it.

I’m excited for what it will bring.

Fat-Shaming: Shame on me? Shame on YOU.

Recently in Wisconsin, a viewer took it upon himself to address the “weighty matters” of news anchor Jennifer Livingston’s “irresponsibility” to her community by carrying extra weight. She laid an eloquent and classy smack-down to said viewer, addressing instead his need to bully someone he did not know, had never met and even admitted in his letter he did not watch.

Funny that despite this disconnection, he still felt compelled to write her a critical letter with one main objective: to shame her into losing weight.

Because Jennifer didn’t “fit” into this narrow paper-doll mold the rest of media anchorwomen find themselves in, she needed to be “reminded” of her community responsibility to teach young girls everywhere that fat is bad, fat makes you a lesser person despite all the other qualities you may have. He framed it with the BS “health” argument, saying that she had a responsibility to show young kids, “particularly girls,” that the obese lifestyle is bad for you. In order to do this effectively, in this guy’s mind, one must ONLY see thin newswomen.

Here’s a newsflash for ya. Most newswomen are thin and, by most standards, “attractive.” So are our actresses. Our models now weigh 23% less than the average American woman – this is what the media serves up to “young girls” everywhere. And you know what’s happened? Obesity has skyrocketed. This is good news for the diet industry, which has profit margins that climb steadily along with America’s collective waistline.

Not so good news for those “young, impressionable” girls – who end up fighting off eating disorders like anorexia and binge-eating in a cruel, pointless endeavor to be as perfect as those photo-shopped beauties they see on magazines.

This reinforces to girls and women everywhere that they are only as valuable as their appearance, and that is the most irresponsible message we could ever send them. A more effective and productive message would be that a girl/woman has value based on her individual qualities and merit, rather than her dress size.

But people who would shame a fat person see themselves as superior to fat people, and well within their rights to judge someone harshly based on one simple but obvious aspect of their lives. As if any of us are ever judged solely on one trait anyway.

But to guys like this one, it doesn’t matter that Jennifer is articulate or intelligent or in any other way qualified to do the job of news anchor, because of her *appearance* she has failed not only herself but the community she serves.

This is fat-shaming at its worst, this idea that if fat people are “made aware” of their condition by the criticism of others they’ll do what they need to do to lose the weight.

Um, thanks? I had no idea I was morbidly obese until this very moment. I just woke up one day and BOOM… I was fat. Whew, I’m so relieved I had a conscientious stranger to point it out! I’ll be sure to tell my doctor, because I’m sure she missed it too since she OBVIOUSLY never addressed it with me. Husband, kids, family, friends… yet NO one has bothered to tell me in all this time how irresponsible and unhealthy I am. Clearly because I carry all this extra weight, I must eat at McDonald’s every day and Pizza Hut every night, right? I must have skyrocketing blood pressure and diabetes because I wake each day to a dozen donuts and wash it all down with a Big Gulp. I was just one hot mess waiting for that ONE stranger to whip my butt into gear by shaming me into making better choices.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, something that our media seems blissfully unaware. Fat-shaming doesn’t work, and actually makes the problem worse. I’ll give you two examples:

When I started my sophomore year, I entered – for the first time – a co-ed P.E. class overseen by a former football coach. The standard uniform for our class was a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. At the time I was what you would now consider a size 16/18, so the largest shorts I could find in 1985 still fit me like a cigar band around an overstuffed sausage. Walking out into the gym and up the bleachers around other 15-year-olds, particularly the males who relished tormenting me, was like entering one of the nine circles of high school hell.

Little did I know it was about to get much worse.

Though I carried 40-50 extra pounds my other classmates didn’t, the coach made it an imperative to judge all of us based on my ability (or inability) to do the exercises he directed. He sent us all out to run a mile. I’ve never run a mile in my life and as such I fizzled out about halfway through. (Maybe a quarter, I’ve blocked much of this memory.)

My coach decided he’d make an example of “my laziness” by essentially throwing me to the wolves. The entire class ended up penalized by my inability to perform a task that I was physically unprepared to master. It was one thing to be the outcast because I didn’t fit in and it was a jolly good time to make fun of me. For this coach, this wasn’t good enough. He wanted me emotionally ostracized; hated because I was “different.”

I tried to appeal to his sense of decency but, as it turned out, he didn’t have one. He berated me further. “Don’t you WANT to lose weight?” In his mind the fact the other kids hated me had everything to do with me and my choices, instead of his using it against me to shame me. He had no empathy, and, in fact, set the example for his entire class to bully someone based on their limitations. Yes, I wanted to lose weight. Yes, I wanted to run a mile without stopping. Yes, I wanted other kids to stop teasing me. But what I wanted most, what I needed most, was GUIDANCE… not shame… to get me there.

I was an adolescent girl with a shit-ton of problems, not a willing volunteer for boot camp.

The whole ugly affair actually led to my dropping out of high school. I couldn’t see it getting any better. I didn’t have the support of the administrators, who could have changed my classes and found a better fit for me to meet the P.E. criteria. Looking back, though, I don’t know if it would have helped. At the time I was so effectively shamed I’d never fit in the high school scene I no longer cared to try. I dropped out and waited until my 18th birthday, when I could take my G.E.D. and get a diploma without losing my soul to the hell that was high school.

Here’s a visual aid to put things in perspective. This was me in 1986:

What I wouldn’t give to be “that fat” again.

Fast forward a year or so and I’d meet the man I would eventually marry. Dan was the son of a marine, who understood well the macho “motivational” tool of shame. He wasn’t crazy about my extra weight and made sure that he’d say whatever it took to get my ass in gear to lose those 40-50 extra pounds. But here’s the dirty little secret about shame as a weight loss motivator: the more you are shamed, the more you hate your body. The more you hate your body, the less likely you are to do what needs to be done on the long journey towards fitness.

Those 40 pounds became 60, then 70, then 100… until finally I was 185lbs over the “ideal” of 165.

Before:

After:

Fat-shaming does not work. The target audience either won’t care because they are perfectly happy being fat OR they will further bury themselves with food as their self-destruction of choice. So it will ping off their happiness shields OR it’ll penetrate like a sword – but not with the results you intended. If someone is fat because of self-loathing, then your shame will only compound the problem and MAKE THEM FATTER.

Many times an overweight person isn’t just fat because they eat too much, generally they are using food as a coping mechanism for something that is wrong somewhere. Making them feel shame only exacerbates the problem.

When I married my second husband, he signed on the dotted line knowing I came “as is.” And a funny thing happened over the last 13 years. He gave me acceptance and support and that 185lbs excess went down to 170, then 150, then 120. The trend of accepting the world’s shame and punishing myself for it has reversed. Instead I find value in myself and as such, I make better choices and am healthier for it, both physically and emotionally.

Before:

After:

I’m not losing the weight overnight but that’s not how it works anyway. I’m in for the long haul, much more so than some idiot that passes me on the street and makes their condescending remarks. You have the luxury of holding off giving me value till I reach a goal weight, but I don’t. I have to value myself every step of the way or else I’ll never make it where I want to go. Weight loss is a process… a long, grueling, back-breaking process. The more “obese” someone is, the longer the journey, and quite simply it cannot be cannot be diagnosed and treated by outer appearance alone, especially by laymen who have never walked in our shoes. Therefore, shame (i.e. unsolicited criticism) is a unnecessary and ineffective roadblock that ultimately serves your needs and not mine.

So see, you can’t claim some sort of moral superiority when you shame us. It’s a bullying tactic, not a motivational tool. You’re positioning yourself as the superior, judging someone based on one key element while dismissing everything else that makes that person the beautiful, flawed, unique individual he or she might be.

There is more to the story than some before/after photos. You can’t possibly know the struggles of another person upon first sight. I have had guys shout to me, “Go on a diet!” while I rode a bike. It didn’t matter that I was TRYING to lose weight, just that I wasn’t there yet. Why be so results-focused on someone who may be making the incremental changes they need to in order to be healthy, especially if you’re going to use “health” as your platform to shame someone?

I’ll tell you why. You don’t care about our health. We are an EASY TARGET and you’re a LAZY BULLY. Whenever you see a fat person, you don’t have to work as hard to figure them out. They come with some handy-dandy labels and built-in comedic value that helps you dismiss their value as a human being. Best of all our society supports you entirely as you do so. But here’s the thing…assessing a fat person as lazy or stupid or unhealthy or inferior is just as bigoted (i.e. wrong) as saying all black people are X, all white people are Y, all women are Z.

It’s condescending, and, frankly, rude.

The only difference between a fat person and a thin person is they wear their perceived “flaw” on the outside. Imagine one of your flaws, and we all know you have some, being the unmistakable body suit you have to wear every day. Imagine it as a label you had to proclaim no matter where you went, that would make you an object of scorn, that you couldn’t hide. Would *you* willingly give up your value over that one trait and accept the shame of strangers? Would you suddenly shift focus and change so people you didn’t know would be more comfortable with your existence?

A fat person is merely fat; it doesn’t make them inherently bad or lesser than anyone else. Their choices are their own responsibility, and you can’t possibly know what those choices are just by the fat they carry. Frankly you don’t care to know dick about why they do what they do. You just sneer down your nose at them, hoist all your condemnation on their already-burdened shoulders and then toodle on your merry way with zero accountability you may be part of the problem.

You want to talk about irresponsibility to your community, that’s it.

You can hate me because of my weight, you can even make your snide judgment calls on how I may adversely affect the world around me, but frankly your bullying shame tactics say more about your character defects than any of mine.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s not my baggage. You can keep it.

An Aha Moment

Though I usually frown upon any “reality” show that highlights massive/rapid weight loss, I got sucked into the Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition tonight despite my misgivings. I got immediately invested in the 20-year-old girl who weighed 323 pounds (been there) who was living with a family seemingly blind to and contributing to her deadly food addiction (been there too.)

The really interesting part of the show was not just watching her body transformation, but her spirit transformation. This wasn’t about the pounds, not really. This was about her fight to take charge of her own destiny and make healthy choices for herself despite what those closest to her thought about it. In some respects that meant she had to separate away from her dysfunctional family in order for it to become more functional for her.

I mean… hello? That she could figure this out at 20-21 and I’m still struggling with it at 42 is a sad statement indeed.

I was so upset by the whole scenario that it made ME want to eat. I finally relented with a 32-ounce cup of ice water and a half cup grapes and cherries, but honest-to-God I wanted to plow into the leftover pasta salad I had prepared earlier for dinner.

Though I didn’t walk today I felt super in control of my eating UNTIL I actually watched this show. (Ironic, no?)

It tapped into some very powerful emotions I have been fighting my way through these last few weeks. Oh hell… for the past year. It’s I’ve been a step or two in front of my depression on a good day, much less going through some of the (unnecessary) drama I’ve experienced in the last few months.

Though I named this year the Year of No Excuses, it seems God (fate, destiny, chance, what-have-you) had other ideas. Instead this has been a year of letting go. I’ve moved away from situations where I felt mired and imprisoned by my circumstances, sometimes by choice and sometimes not by choice.

In the end it’s become a year where I have discovered this power to put myself first, much the way this young woman had to. I’ve had to move away from the dysfunction of other people and circumstances to more fully step into my own power, even if that extraction is extremely painful as a result.

I’ve had to stand up for myself and stop just sitting back silently when I’ve been insulted or discarded. I’ve had to confront certain situations to ensure that I’m standing up for myself, even when I was shaking in my shoes to just say “no” when I knew what I was being asked to do wasn’t right or fair.

For a people-pleaser like me this has not been an easy task. In fact I’ve battled a LOT with the idea I cannot always meet the expectations of others, nor am I supposed to. I’ve felt selfish, disloyal and downright mean in some cases because I stand firm in the face of emotional manipulators doubling down on all my triggers. People who are not used to my not falling into place like a dutiful soldier don’t know what to make of the fact I’m doing what I want to do even if it doesn’t make them happy.

There are a few people I feel the unyielding need to make happy, but that is a VERY short list. If I’m not married to you or have given birth to you or maybe have known you for more than three decades, odds are you’re not on the list.

Sadly even those I’m related to by blood don’t even make the cut. Not anymore.
That’s not me being mean. That’s me setting boundaries for the first time ever. Because experience, especially very recent experience, has taught me you can do everything in your power to do what someone else wants you to do but ultimately if they don’t give a crap about your happiness it’s like pissing right into the wind.

That means for many I’ll be making you happy at the expense of my own happiness (or those around me) and it’d be the rare person worth that kind of gamble. More likely I’ll be miserable towing the line to make you happy and I’ll be eating my weight to make up for the void you leave, giving you further ammunition to deride me because of my excess weight (or worse, think I’m worthy of the mistreatment because of it.)

In the end I have to take care of me. I’m done trying to make life easier for people who make life choices I would not make (and even advised against,) and lie to and manipulate others around them to justify it. It’s a drain of my energy to enable them.

It’s time to prune the dead leaves so I can ultimately be healthier. I’m putting on my own mask rather than suffocating to death fighting you to wear your own. The only people I owe anything to are my husband and my kids and my proven friends. Everyone else will just have to manage on their own… and I refuse to feel guilty about it.

I’m especially tired of bending over backward for people only to learn that they’ll never see me in any other category than the limited, negative one they set for me, whether I know it or not. I always thought if I invested enough time and energy I could always win over those who would think the worst of me, but it finally dawned on me some people are going to see you the way they want no matter what you do. And worse yet, when you go to such extremes to prove yourself worthy you only prove to them you are every negative thing they already think you are.

I had that epiphany once in dealing with my sister. It finally occurred to me no matter what I did to prove to her I wasn’t what she had always thought me to be, she’d never see me as anyone other than someone to scorn. Her mind was set and every action would only fit into what she had already decided for me.

Life is way too short to prove myself to people who don’t care to know the real me, even if we’re related.

When you look at me there’s no way to know that every extra pound you see represents a battle I’ve had to deal with in my life. This isn’t fat, these are scars. That is the undeniable proof that I’ve suffered through something and used food to comfort and suppress, obviously to excess – which should give you some hint as to the nature of the battle.

If you’ve been around you know my history. It ain’t pretty. So neither, naturally, are the results of how I chose to deal with them.

The Aha moment came when Ashley, the gal losing weight, said that with every pound she lost she was letting all the stuff she’d been through go.

Of course.

Each pound represents something that happened to me, often things that made me hate myself or feel insecure or unworthy… or any number of negative things that keep me in a self-loathing spiral which literally fed on itself.

If I want to be healthy… if I want to be a survivor and not a victim… then I have to get rid of each bad experience I now wear on my body.

I’ve been strong enough to get through it, and strong enough to carry it often for decades, so I know I’m strong enough to surrender it. It’s time to let it go.

Each pound can be a victory, whether it’s one or one hundred. I’m no longer defined by what I’ve survived – I’m defined by what I have conquered.

The first lesson is to conquer the need to meet anyone’s expectations but my own. I know what I need to do for me and for my own peace of mind. You can agree or not, but it will carry no weight in my progress forward.

I’m done waiting for permission to feel what I feel and do what I do. If I’m the one who must deal with the consequences, I am the one who gets to make the choices.

The approval of anyone else is neither required nor desired.

So I’m letting it go. And hopefully in the process I can finally, once and for all, be cured of the lethal disease to please.

A Lifetime Love Affair

In the last six weeks I’ve begun a new fitness routine where I walk at least 4 – 5 days a week, 5 – 7 miles a stretch per day. I did this because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wanted to be stronger, to make my body bend to my will instead of the other way around. I’m tired of feeling browbeaten and scared of truly living life because of the limitations that come from being my size. The only way to beat this insecurity is to do the things that will build confidence. For me, this is tackling my body issues from the inside out.

Instead of starting with food, which is my normal routine, I began with the part of the healthy journey that intimidates me the most: physical activity. Obviously I’ve never been a big fan of exercise, but I need to get over that if I want a stronger back that doesn’t go out on me every time I turn around in bed or take a deep breath. (Which mine was.)

I had to start slow and do something that I knew wouldn’t hurt me. Walking is the best exercise for anyone because it requires no extra expense, no expert training and no equipment. You can walk anywhere, which rids you of any and all excuses. Though I never get bored, walking a treadmill is a chore I dread – so instead I find interesting places to walk. I go to the beach, or beautiful parks, or large malls. Inside or outside, good weather or not – I have places where I can get off my butt and go walk. I bought season passes to big amusement parks so we can make being upright and walking around part of our fun family time rather than sitting on the sofa watching TV, going out to eat or going to the movies.

We’re in California now. There’s too much to see and do to be confined in a house. And my family is thinner than I am so in order to keep up with them I gotta get in better shape. If I want to share the experience of hiking up hills with my boys like I did with their father, I gotta shed some of the extra weight and build my endurance.

My whole life is now revolving around this full time job of getting healthier inside and out. In the past six weeks of this new lifestyle I’ve seen dramatic changes which give me a new sense of pride in myself.

I like that. This is so much better for me than starting a journey because I demonized the fat. I’ve made it a matter of choice. I’ve turned it into a plan, a strategy even, to build something rather than just get to some standard goal weight.

If I truly want to live the life I moved to California to live, then I have to be physically strong. There’s no getting around that. In order to be physically strong, I have to exercise. I’m lucky in the sense that I do not have any real health problems except for a bad back, so I am able to do what needs to be done to make that healthier. It takes time and patience and endurance – but that’s not a chore if you’re doing those things for someone you truly love.

After 42 years of taking care of others I love, I finally decided to turn that love inward.

I’m not going to beat myself up anymore for being where I am now. That’s self-defeating. I made these choices that got me where I am. If I don’t like it, I have the power to change it by making different choices. Hating myself is how I ended up this way and why it’s never been able to change. So I have to fall in love with the one person who, beyond any other relationship, will be with me from birth until death.

Instead of looking at my body with disgust, I am filled with respect how strong it is to survive the damage that has been done to it. It craves the change, which is why I feel so spiritually and emotionally centered after a 7 mile walk. My feet complain, my calves try to bitch and moan, but inside I feel *right* – and it allows me to make all my emotional and spiritual decisions more positive and proactive.

I’m able to spread the happy. And there’s nothing I love more.

Where there is insecurity I am building boldness. I’m turning every ounce of frustration into determination. And where there is self-loathing I am putting forgiveness and love like I would give any random person off the street.

I’m not a bad person because I’m fat. I’m not ugly, lazy, stupid or weak. I’m not waiting on some magic number on a scale to consider myself lovable or worthwhile – I’m all those things RIGHT NOW.

What I am doing is refining myself. That’s a lifelong goal for anyone, to constantly improve. It’s the reason we exist at all, IMO. It doesn’t mean you’re horrible, just that you could be better – and that applies to EVERYONE. No one is done improving themselves until they cross over the finish line on their death bed. There is always one more lesson to learn, one more way to evolve.

So, like anything else in my life, I’m focused on progress. I’m fixing what can be fixed to make things a better version of me. I exercise not to get down to a size 0 (that ain’t gonna happen.) I exercise so that I can be physically stronger and do those things I never thought I could do, whether that’s a size 20 or size 10. (I will run a mile. That CAN and will happen.)

In doing so I am building confidence that says I don’t need the approval of anyone else to love me or honor who I am and what I can do. My body will change but that’s no longer the turning point. Emotionally it has to happen NOW so that I want to do those things that make me healthier and stronger. There’s no lofty goal size or weight. My body will figure out eventually where it wants to be. I’m perfectly content with getting down to a size 12 or 14 and leveling off there where I don’t have to be worried about the medical complications of obesity. But I’m not starving myself to look like everyone else so the world around me can finally give me their seal of approval.

Their seal of approval doesn’t mean SQUAT. Just as easily as someone can accept me they can reject me, it has nothing to do with my value.

I’m not meant to be like everyone else. And that’s okay. As long as I’m healthy and can do the things I want to do for the next 42 years of my life (and beyond) that’s enough for me.

My goals are much too big for me to die off in another 15 years because my body buckled under the strain.

So I’m going to treat my on body like anyone else I truly love. I’m going to support it, encourage it and reward it for its steadfast devotion in taking care of me all these years.

It no longer has to wait and earn my validation simply because the world around me thinks I need to do so. I didn’t do that to my kids, my friends or the people I truly loved so I’m no longer going to do that to myself.

Body, you are beautiful NOW. We’re not going to strive for perfection, we’re going to strive for excellence.

Body, you are sexy NOW. Sexiness is an attitude and girl you got plenty of that.

Body, you are loved NOW. I’m shunning the idea that loving you is conceit or egotism. You deserve to be loved. YOU’RE AWESOME. Look at what all you’ve done and been through and you’re still standing. You’re more than a warrior, you’re a champion.

So that means it is now my job – my honor – to make you stronger so we’re together for a long, long time. You haven’t let me down and I refuse to let you down.

We’re in this together, baby. Now let’s go walk.

I Want to Live

At the recommendation of my lovely friend Dawn I streamed a documentary called Forks Over Knives through Netflix to learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet as opposed to the dangers of an animal-product driven diet. The facts I already mostly knew but were presented in such a way that it really opened my eyes to the fact the western diet that depends largely on meat and dairy contributes to us having such an alarming rate of overweight or obese citizens in our country. A 2007 Forbes report put us at #9 with a 74.1% rate of those over 15 coming in overweight. The #1 spot went to a Pacific island named Nauru, where a shocking 94.5% are overweight. Part of the problem? The island itself is not conducive to growing fresh produce.

It’s all connected. The stats don’t lie. We can blame portion control and more sedentary lifestyles, and that’s certainly part of it, but illnesses like heart disease are substantially lower in those countries where the diet consists mostly of plant-based foods (like Japan.)

So why does a country like America, that spends tens of BILLIONS (with a B) on diets and diet products, still tip the scales with almost 3/4th of the population overweight? We’re doing it wrong, folks. The proof is in the pudding – literally. We need to eat less animal products and cut out the processed crap full of hidden dangers like sugar and sodium.

The documentary talks a lot about the health aspect of whole, plant-based food and provides a lot of evidence to support their claims… including the testimonies of heart patients who lived decades past when their doctors told them they would primarily by changing their lifestyle. We as a culture take way too many shortcuts thanks to how cheap the bad, processed stuff is for us (and it goes into why that is, too) or buy into the marketing stuff that companies who want to sell you something use to their advantage, whether true or not.

When we start selling Apple Jacks as a “health food” – we’re in trouble.

They didn’t attack my self-esteem like “Skinny Bitch” (ugh) or scare me with shocking anti-animal cruelty campaigns… it pointed out the many benefits – even for the planet around me – that can be gained if I focus on a more plant-based diet. I don’t even have to cut the meat/dairy out completely… I just have to treat it as the random treat our ancestors did rather than a dietary staple.

It kept the focus on not just being healthy, but *thriving*.

I want to have the energy and the good health to not just live to an old age… but to enjoy it.

Let’s face it. You don’t see people my size in their 80s… or 70s… I know if I don’t make some changes I have maybe 10, 20 years left at the most.

And I’m not done yet. There’s too many things left to do, see, experience. I don’t give a shit anymore if I don’t “look” a certain way; I don’t want to have a heart attack or linger with cancer until I die, feeble and exhausted and ravaged by disease AND the extreme treatments that exist to fight it.

There were many reasons to ignore the truth until now. None of them were good, and few of them were valid. I didn’t want to give up cheese. Steven didn’t want to give up steak. It’s “too expensive” to eat healthy. It’s difficult to change the diet when you have extremely picky eaters who feel no real incentive to change.

But after my picky eater of a husband saw the documentary, I told him, “I showed you this because things need to change.” And he agreed. I told him that if we don’t make some changes, I’ll drop dead of a heart attack and he’ll die of complications of his diabetes (which, btw, CAN reverse with the proper diet.) I decided I wasn’t going to spend money to maintain two different diets anymore, especially when one is set up to kill the man I want next to me into our old age. I’m not going to spend the money to let my kids eat frozen pizza just because they don’t want to try the veggie dish I prepared for dinner. Jeremiah has already met his weight goal and ready to get even more healthy, and when Tim saw the tears in my eyes and the fear in my voice that I could die the same kind of premature death as his dad even HE decided to make some changes.

I offered my family a compromise. I explained we could still keep animal products in our diet but we would have to limit them to a couple of days a week. Everything else is vegetarian/vegan. Steven bravely agreed, and promised only that he would *try* the meals. His main “beef” is with texture, which turns him off of veggies and fruits that are mushy.

We have now entered into week 2 of this new eating plan and here’s the good news so far:

*I lost 3 pounds without counting a calorie one, and that’s with my monthly hormonal bloat working against me AND eating decadent “cheat” items like small servings of things like cheesecake
*Tim stopped eating fried foods at work and opts now for salads
*Steven decided even though he wasn’t up for my dinner tonight, he’d commit to Meatless Monday at HIS job
*Though a tiny more expensive per individual product, especially specialized stuff like seitan (a wheat meat replacement protein,) we’re all eating less because the food is MORE filling. That means we haven’t seen any real jump in cost despite us all being on this new plan.
*Steven has tried, and enjoyed, veggie options
*Now that I look at food as fuel rather than an indulgence, it has curbed my compulsive over-eating.

Best of all I’m excited about food again. I realized that with our old way of eating I prepared the same 10 dishes over and over again. By forcing myself to look at food differently, I find myself looking forward to going to the store (especially my organic Natural Grocers) and trying new things. It’s a challenge to keep the diet Steven-friendly, or even Tim-friendly, but that’s part of the fun! I’ve turned into a mad scientist in the kitchen who looks forward to buying neat little gadgets like juicers and steamers so I can keep it as natural as possible. Rather than buy those expensive Fusion veggie/fruit juices, I can make my own. I can also prepare veggies with more crunch so Steven will enjoy being more adventurous.

I’m happier because not only do I feel better it feels right. The other way I was playing Russian Roulette with my fork and I knew it. As heavy as I am I always had this idea that I was too far gone to ever find my way back. The damage was done.

But whatever damage was done can be undone – that’s the beauty of it. That’s what I took away from Forks Over Knives. The fate of my future is in my own hands. Knowing that is an empowering thing… and has begun the healing from the inside out.

Quiet, but Unstoppable.

Just a post to let you all know that despite the health problems I’ve had in recent months, particularly my ongoing, recurring and all-too-often acute back problem, progress is still being made. It may be incremental, but I’m perfectly okay with that. I see the effects of things for which I laid the foundation in nothing but pure faith, and that keeps me going.

As you may or may not know I’ve published a number of my books which are now available for your Kindle, Sony eBook reader, iPad, Nook, etc, as well as in print. Most notably you can find me on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and All Romance Ebooks/Omni Lit, although if you Google me you’ll find scads more links for my work. Things got off to a slow start, which was frustrating, but this month seems to have turned a major corner and for that I am both extremely excited and profoundly grateful.

But this has been a lot of work, and the load is increasing by the day with new ideas, new projects and new marketing ideas that keep me working on this part of my writing career a good portion of my week. I can hardly complain about that, nor would I.

The drawback is that my freelance career took a bit of a backseat and I wasn’t making as much immediate money while I set up everything for my books to take off. This threw our relocation plans to California into question a couple of times but about three months ago I just decided to do whatever need be done to make it happen. That’s how I’ve always lived my life, and how I will continue to do so (only this time with an eye on success.)

This means of my time the majority goes to the career. “Fun” writing has to take a number. This also means my social interaction on the web goes down a whole lot too, and if I have any friends out there feeling slighted I’m sorry I haven’t been able to be more interactive. But this comes first.

There were also immediate needs from a drama that arose at the beginning of the year, which took up a huge chunk of my time and couldn’t really be discussed for legal reasons (not my own.) So I’ve had to be quiet for a variety of reasons, or speak in code. Needless to say, that doesn’t bode well for a public blog.

The weight thing has also been put into a holding pattern. In March I think it was I went to a gym for the first time and it did not go well at all. In fact, it threw my back problems into overdrive and I’ve had frequent bouts of acute back spasms that have interfered greatly with my being active.

The traditional wisdom is that when your back is in that onset of acute symptoms (which in my case is paralyzing back spasms) you don’t overexert yourself. You rest for a day or two, employ heat or ice, and take anti-inflammatory medicine (and muscle relaxers if need be.) I still have to take care of a lot of stuff and can’t be *too* bedridden, since Steven is gone 12 hours a day and tasks need to be taken care of when he’s away. This makes these acute stages linger OR they come back more quickly than I’d like.

I’ve been trying to muscle through it all without complaining *too* much – but if someone asks me how I’m doing I am going to tell you the truth.

And the truth is, right now, I’m paying a huge price for getting some outside errands done yesterday. Just this past week the pain has been so intense that I’ve been waking up nauseated, which is never fun. Ultimately I will probably have to go to the doctor again, this time for more conclusive examinations like an MRI (BLECH) to see if the bone spurs are causing the problems.

I’m holding out because after this month I should have some insurance options open to me, and I don’t want to have to pay full price for an MRI. That would carve a huge chunk out of my moving budget.

So I’m muscling through and just gritting my teeth as I build the foundation for my new life in California.

The bad part is I’ve been resorting to food for comfort. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be for the move that is coming up at breakneck speed.

But like you get through anything in life you handle what you can in the immediate… and that’s what I’ve been doing. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So I bought tons of veggies to detox myself off of the Take Out Diet we’ve resorted to in the last couple of months thanks to my limited physical activity and Steven’s heavy workload. I think that will help me feel better, at least healthier, while I wait out the back thing.

The weight thing has to take a backseat to the money thing and the health thing. And all it really means is that when I get to LA I’m going to have to network whether I like the way I look or not.

Scary, scary stuff…. but perhaps really necessary to be *truly* unstoppable.

Until then I just take one step in front of the other.

As long as I’m still moving, whether it be a foot or an inch, I’m okay.