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.

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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

 

 

Limitations are not my favorite.

So yesterday was my weigh-in. I actually debated long and hard about doing a weekly or a monthly weigh-in, but weekly weigh-ins, though frustrating, keep me more on track than letting things go for a month. If a weigh-in looms, the Good Girl in me wants to make sure that the numbers go down instead of up, which helps me make better choices than I would if I could “put off” that scary marker of progress for another three weeks.

It keeps me accountable, and that’s what I need right now. I may need you all to talk me down from a ledge here and there when hormonal stuff and life in general don’t yield the results I want. As I already told you, if I’m aiming for two pounds, I really want it to be anything over that.

Some weeks that just won’t happen.

This week was one of those weeks.

I lost 1.4lbs so I’m down to 295. I’m actually surprised it was anything at all. My workout regimen at the moment is walking during my two 10-minute breaks at work, and then on one weekend day, I walk at one of my favorite spots in the world, Mile Square Park. It is my place of zen, where I can walk 4-5 miles in a stretch and barely feel the pain.

To me, this was slow. Apparently it wasn’t slow enough.

Lately I’ve been feeling the pain. I start nothing easily. We’ve all heard “no pain, no gain,” and that’s how my brain was wired. I want to see drastic results so I feel like I need to make drastic changes, which is always, always, always how I start out.

Unfortunately, though I did start doing this about a month or so ago, I wasn’t able to keep up with that kind of workout regimen. About three weeks ago I hurt my knee. Not sure how, but it was pretty debilitating for about a week. So I took some days off and went right back to it. Not so surprisingly, the pain returned, adding back pain to the mix for all the compensating I was doing to go easy on my knee.

As some of you might well know, back pain has become my nemesis these last eleven years and will sideline me quicker than anything – especially since the only real thing that ever worked to control it was medicinal marijuana and I’m a respectable working woman these days. I’m not going to go to work “high,” just like I never wrote high.

My son Tim cautioned that I take it easy and give myself a chance to heal. I’m not one to relax and take it easy, and going slow is not in my playbook. For anything. Not being able to walk every break like I was doing, or going to my favorite park for a big weekend tally of about 4-5 miles, was difficult. It’s a glacial pace that feels like I’m not moving at all.

But what was more difficult was losing sleep because of the pain I’ve been in. Limping around my office because everything just hurt so bad, and still pretending I was operating at 100%, doing everything I normally do and jumping in to do more cuz, that’s just me. But it’s left me feeling even older than my 47 years, which is depressing as hell.

Limitations are not my favorite. I don’t like being told no, or that I can’t do something. Unless it’s something I don’t want to do and then whatever, but most of the time I want to power through and impress the bejeezus out of everyone – including me.

I’m hard as fuck to impress, at least when it comes to me. But we already went over that. I also don’t forgive myself easily, so this chatterbox has had a field day whispering in my ear that I was going to embarrass myself with a public weigh-in that didn’t show a loss, or worse. Showed a gain. I had to make peace despite the chaos that this week hasn’t been so much about losing weight as it is compromising with what I was willing to do in order to meet my goal. So I couldn’t walk? What else could I do?

My main goal this week was ditching Diet Coke. Has not been easy, but has not been as hard as I thought either. I didn’t have the normal raging headache withdrawal, thanks to drinking more water. And it’s not that I don’t like water. I don’t put anything in it, I just ice it up and go and usually I’m good.

It just doesn’t do a whole lot to turn me on. It’s kinda boring, especially when you have to drink so freaking much of it a day. Fortunately at work they gave us a pretty cool insulated cup for Administrative Professional’s Day, and it keeps water pretty cold, which works out well for a sipper like me. Because of this I’m drinking more, which means I’m less tempted to reach for a Diet Coke.

Extremely good news for Goal #1.

It helps that the vending machine at my office has been possessed by the spirit of Hal Sparks, who regards Diet Coke as “the devil’s ass sweat.” (He’s not far wrong.) Even if I put in my 85 cents in that dumb machine in a moment of weakness, whether I get my fix or not is like a pull on a slot machine. And, just like a slot machine, I wind up putting in more than I take out.

I also went back to ordering tea when I got lunch out. Since I broke my addiction to sweet tea in the 80s, it’s my go-to drink if I don’t want to drink water. A shout-out to all restaurants who provide a flavored tea that doesn’t include sugar. Y’all come through in a clutch, I’m just saying.

To ease myself off of sodas, I’ve been drinking Diet Ginger Ale instead. It’s a caffeine-free option that includes ginger, which they tell me is good for me, especially when it comes to controlling inflammation.

Either way I don’t care, give me some damn bubbles dammit.

For food, I’m doing the intermittent fasting – mostly. This means I typically eat between 1pm and 10pm, but life will occasionally throw a wrench in my plans. As long as I do it every other day, I feel like I’m getting some benefit out of it. (I do prefer to do it daily, though.) (Working on it.)

The next challenge will be watching my calories, which I’m kinda doing now, opting for foods that have a lower caloric value rather than the cheapest option. Anyone can tell you those are usually NOT one in the same.

One of the appeals of intermittent fasting is that I didn’t have to strictly police my  caloric intake to lose weight. I could eat bigger meals less frequently, but I was able to make it work for me a long time by eating whenever I was hungry and stopping whenever I was full, as long as it was in the time frame of the Eating Zone.

I need to read more about it to really get the most out of it, and now that I have finally finished the rewrite on my script yesterday (YAY) I should have some downtime at last to concentrate on all of these other goals.

I think that was part of my overall happy problem, I was hitting life full-throttle every day of every week for the past few months. Probably the five months, really. I haven’t had a whole lot of downtime to relax and recharge, and I kinda need that to avoid those deprivation triggers that whisper in my ear, “Go ahead. Do it. You deserve it.”

Creating more life/work balance is on the agenda for this reason. This has been very difficult to do balancing my writing career on top of a full-time job. Why? Because I don’t like limitations. If I have something I want to write, I don’t want to limit it to a few hours a week. I want to sit down and write till I’m done. So carving out an hour before work, then having to stop what I’m doing to do something else, will vex my muse like a MF, which will frustrate me to the point of uselessness.

Basically everything needs reevaluating. I’ve been weighing my needs against my desires and my (gack) current limitations, which hasn’t been fun-time for Ginger.

But the best news of the week is that I’ve been able to mostly keep the emotional eating under control, even with some not-so-nice stuff going on at the 9-5. Change is coming one way or the other and I’m kinda freaking out about it. I’m just so grateful every single day that I have such support from some incredible friends, who give me the courage to face scary changes head on. So even though there have been an occasional binge or two, and a happy hour where I probably indulged a little more than I needed to, I feel like I’m on the upswing of this particular cycle.

I’m not there yet. I’m climbing out of the fog, but new storms loom. I just have to figure out what I can do because even one step in the right direction is progress.

As someone once told me:

Chin up
Knockers out
Bitchface on
Fuck the Haters.

Even if that includes me.

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.

If You Don’t Have Your Health…

This year has been a crazy, unstoppable year that has brought me to places professionally I didn’t think I’d get. I’ve taken what I started last year and put more control in my own hands about my content, and this is an amazing thing for which I’m extremely grateful.

Sure I’ve let some goals take a backseat to the crazy busy schedule I’ve tried to maintain, which included writing a 100K word novel in the space of a month, but I felt that the writing was a priority because that was how I would make my income and ultimately use as building blocks once I moved to the L.A. area at the end of the year.

Plus there were plenty of excuses why I could let things like my health goals slide off the radar. My body revolted from the schedule, which kept me battling my long term health problems like my back. The more tired I was from how full I filled my day the easier it was to buy fast food so I didn’t have to spend a whole lot of prep time making the healthier (and let’s face it, cheaper) stuff.

When we weren’t eating out we were getting unhealthy cheap food that was as simple as sticking in the oven or microwave for a fast, easy meal.

There was time to get it all right.

Sure I watched enviously while my younger son Jeremiah worked hard to meet his health goals. He’s lost 60 pounds since January by making the commitment to be under 200 pounds by his 19th birthday. I wish I had that determination when I was 18 and had the cooperation of a younger body to meet those goals… but I decided fat was okay.

That’s the dirty little secret we whiny fat people don’t want you to know. Sure we bitch and moan about how much we’d LIKE to be thinner, or how much we HATE the way we are, but the fact is Dr. Phil was right. We get something out of being fat (even if it’s just the right to bitch and have people feel sorry for us – which, btw, they don’t) or else we’d do the work to change it.

Like Jeremiah did.

Well my body has officially decided to take matters into its own hands.

When you’re morbidly obese you are told at every turn how you are at higher risk for certain health problems. This includes the idea you could drop dead of a heart attack because your body simply ceases being able to function because of the enormous stresses it’s under.

So in the early 2000s when I started having chest pain and pressure, I started to panic that I was at risk for a heart attack – that I had waited too long and done too much damage. I was at the ER once a month for about a four month stretch, and every time I went in and they did an EKG I felt like a hopeless hypochondriac that I always was released with a clean bill of health. My heart was strong, my blood pressure was normal and even my blood sugar was great.

I think they thought I was a hypochondriac too, especially the way the doctor’s would look at you like you’d just wasted their precious time when they could have been helping a legitimately sick person.

By month five of this craziness the triage nurse finally asked me if anyone checked my gallbladder and I said no. She asked me where the pain was and I showed her and she just smiled and nodded – as if she smugly knew that doctors were so concerned with one thing they didn’t even bother to look at anything else. It took a nurse to figure out the mystery.

And she was exactly right. Once the doctors pinpointed the gallbladder everything fell into place. They said I had two options: I could have surgery to have the gallbladder removed or I could drastically change my diet.

Back in the early 2000s I was still a true-blue Texan who would eat deep-fried anything. A basket of fried *insert meat of your choice* and fries? More please. And super-size.

With gravy.

BUT… I was also someone who had recently undergone an appendectomy where I was warned that because of my size there was an increased risk with the surgery, specifically the anesthesia. Because of my weight they had to give me more to perform the surgery, and with that variable it meant I could actually be more at risk from the anesthesia than the surgery itself.

But the situation was an emergency so I had to go through with it.

I remember VIVIDLY the nurse trying to wake me when it was over and I was struggling to come out from under the anesthesia, and how scared I felt – like I was slipping under water.

It reminded me of my near-drowning experience when I was a teenager and I pretty much decided then and there I would avoid surgery if at all possible.

The doctor who took out my appendix said he thought about taking the gallbladder too because he worried I’d have trouble with it eventually. So I was annoyed then that he hadn’t, and I might have to face another scary surgery to deal with the problem eventually.

Instead I ditched the fried foods. It’s amazing how much you’re willing to part with those things you love when you fear mortality.

And of course the diet change fixed the problem.

Fast forward to about four days ago when I started to have the same sort of chest pain/back pain/indigestion. Immediately I started to police again what I ate and immediately I saw a difference.

So even though *I* might have believed I could put my diet/health on the back burner, my body had other ideas. It’s tired of waiting around and has slipped into self-preservation mode, and it’s not afraid to make me hurt (or fear death) to get its point across.

It’s about time I start listening to it. It’s going to be very hard to accomplish this growing list of epic goals if I’m dead.

The good news is in the past week or so I’ve lost five pounds already. So I’ve decided to take a page from my wonderful son’s book and just take it small changes at a time and get there whenever I get there.

It’s not about being thin anymore. It’s about being healthy. And being alive.

Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

We’ve heard that old adage off and on throughout our lives but speaking only for myself I chalked it up to old wives tales. About half-way through this past hellish week I decided to trust the old wives and just stop counting calories and just feed my body.

Lemme s’plain.

Sunday I woke up with no voice and a cough that was tossing my already injured back into spasms. Monday would not be much better. By Tuesday I was constantly draining to the point I couldn’t go five minutes without reaching for tissue. My eyes were watering, my nose was running and I was in fact miserable. God forbid I would cough or sneeze; I felt at many times throughout the week I might possibly explode. In addition to a constant sinus pressure headache I had intermittent bouts with fever and the muscle aches that followed – not to mention a couple of stomach issues that just compounded on the initial misery.

For the time I was awake I was coughing and curled up in a painful ball either on the couch or in bed. I never lay down on the couch unless I don’t feel well and this past week found me prone wherever I happened to land. I would sleep for a few hours and then awake to horrible coughing jags, which would start the whole process all over again.

I was as miserable as I have been in a very long time. I couldn’t do anything more than just sit in a groaning heap. I couldn’t moderate Hal’s chat, which I usually never miss. I couldn’t blog about Idol, though I did try. I got about a paragraph in and just gave up entirely. It was to the point I couldn’t even get on the computer – I figured my Twitter buddies must have figured that I died. Fortunately, that became my goal fairly on in this horrible week that I would manage to live through the day.

Not dying, we’ve come to find out, is a pretty good goal. Think about it – it’s a goal you’re going to meet all but one day of your life. That’s a pretty good run.

By about Tuesday I finally broke down and just ate for comfort. I had tried to stay on my calorie restrictive plan for the first couple of days but when I couldn’t even go into the kitchen and prepare anything for me to eat I broke down and had the hubby get me some chili from Wendys. I didn’t go completely off the wagon, but it was more calories than I was supposed to eat that day.

The next day I tried once more to follow my calorie restrictions but by that evening I was like, “What am I doing?” My body was working hard to battle this – what I lovingly called the plague – and here I was trying to worry about losing weight? I know how to eat “normally” in that I would eat about 2000-2200 calories rather than my limited 1200-1500, so why not just eat when I’m hungry, let the plague run its course and then when I’m better and stronger I go back to fighting the good fight?

I didn’t go off the wagon really until today when the hubby brought home some cookies, and after my hellish week I indulged in my drug of choice (sugar).

Surprisingly I don’t feel any better emotionally.

Physically I am finally coming out of the worst of it. I have a deep hacking cough still which pretty much paralyzes me whenever it hits. At this point I’m just fighting off my propensity to come down with bronchitis and pleurisy. (Although I think it’s too late for the pleurisy… given my entire torso – particularly in my upper back between my shoulder blades – feels like it’s caught in a fiery vice grip every time I cough.)

Either way I feel really positive about my decision to roll with the punches… to “float” as it were… and to allow myself to accommodate life rather than try to fight it. I doubt I’ll see a loss this next Monday but I kinda don’t need to. As long as I manage to get healthy so that I can resume my activities I’ll feel a significant win.

And truth is, I feel like that anyway. I feel nurtured in a way I normally don’t allow myself to be. I ate to nourish my body, rather than punish myself. And I didn’t punish myself for not being perfect when there was really no way I could have been and been healthy about it.

Instead of trading one obsession for another, I allowed myself to be “normal.”

It felt really right.

So as this plague begins to subside I know I’ll be stronger, both physically and emotionally, for it.

In a weird way, it made me glad to be sick.

Life’s lessons come every day… sometimes you just have to be still long enough to catch them.

It All Started With a Burger

Last night late night advertising got to me and I ravenously wanted a hamburger. Granted I’ve been dealing with a lot of pain and pretty immobilized and this was a quick-feel-good fix, but it stunned me nonetheless. I didn’t just want a burger, I felt like nothing else but a burger would do.

I’ve been there before; I’ve been in that spot where you get denied what you really want and you’ll eat everything under the sun and still want that thing that has you fixated.

This is no doubt part of the roots of my food addiction. It’s not *just* that I wanted a burger, it’s that I couldn’t stand *not* having the burger. The burger wasn’t just a burger anymore – it was going to make a crappy couple of days better.

That’s when the justification began. I had about 400 calories left to spend of my day before I reached the 1200 mark. I’d planned on an egg sandwich for my last meal of the deal but I could turn that up and anything else I would have eaten to make up the 200 or so calorie difference to eat a burger.

The trick was to find a fast food burger that wouldn’t sabotage my entire day.

And this, dear readers, is where the journey took an interesting turn.

Not only did I figure out how the obesity rate in this country is skyrocketing, I found out why I myself got so fat.

Fast food is the devil.

Now granted, some foods are better than others – but there are some definite diet bombs on each and every menu I looked at. Sure the price was right but the fat and calories were outrageous. The only reason that those restaurants stay in business is not because we don’t know how bad the food is, it’s that we don’t CARE to know. The information is out there, and thanks to a new provision in the health care law we’re going to know even more right before we eat it.

I don’t know how the rest of the country will take to it, but I do know that the information I found last night deterred my hamburger craving BUT good.

Let’s do a little look-see, shall we?

Let’s say you go to Burger King and you order the Whopper “value” meal. You know it’s not good for you so you decide to make it a “small” – which comes with a small drink and small fry. For your buck you get 1200 calories and 57 grams of fat, 14.5 grams of those are saturated.

The recommended daily allowance of calories is 2000 calories and no more than 65 grams of fat.

But let’s face it, most Americans don’t get the small… they either get the regular (medium size drink and fry) or they want it king-sized.

Medium:
1400 calories, 65 grams of fat (15.5 saturated)

Large:
1590 calories, 67 grams of fat (17 saturated)

This is calculated using a regular soda, if you order a diet it can shave a few hundred calories off, but the fat stays the same – and as you can see upsizing your Whopper meal takes you over the recommended daily allowance.

And for anyone who doubts that enough people like to upsize, consider that Burger King offers a TRIPLE Whopper – which more than earns its name with its upsize meal values of 2150 calories and 109 grams of fat (38 of those saturated.) That’s with a regular soft drink and cheese, because if you’re going to order a Triple Whopper you’re not exactly going to “skimp” on things.

Having done my time working for Burger King as a young adult, I had my fair share of Whoppers. If I went to Burger King for a burger, that’s what I would want. I might “settle” for a Whopper Jr., which is what I looked at last night, but that smaller burger is still 340 calories and 19 grams of fat, 5 saturated.

It fit into my meal plan yesterday, but suddenly the idea of eating that tiny burger wasn’t nearly as enticing as it was when I saw the slew of fast food commercials earlier in the evening.

I actually was discussing these new eye-opening discoveries with my best friend Jeff via AIM last night, and here’s this normal weight guy who doesn’t really have to worry about being overweight not because he avoids these foods but because when he does eat these foods he doesn’t eat all of them. He might order a Whopper meal but he’d be able to toss half of it away and recognize he was “full.” I’ve never been able to do that (which we will be discussing at length in another blog.)

He also doesn’t make this a regular meal.

I had my own bad habits staring me in the face when I dared to venture on over to the Taco Bueno website to dig around for their best and worst menu options.

I used to get a thing called MexiDips at least once a week when I decided I was on a kick. We used to live right down the street from Taco Bueno and during those days when I didn’t “feel” like cooking or wanted an instant boost in my mood, down to Taco Bueno Steven would go to get my favorite meal. Along with a little container of queso and a bag full of chips were two small tortilla bowls that contained refried beans and cheese in one bowl, and guacamole in the other.

This little nacho decadence runs 1089 calories and a whopping 62 grams of fat. And I would eat this as *one* meal during my day. Not ONLY that but I’d also get a little sweet treat of their cinnamon chips, which reminded me of the scraps my mother used to make from extra pie crust whenever she made a lattice top pie. Those little scraps of dough she’d bake with cinnamon and sugar on top, and these sweet chips reminded me of some of the sweet moments (literally speaking) of my childhood.

This treat cost another 676 calories and 31 grams of fat.

That was for ONE meal. And you know if I was that indiscriminate in one meal, the other meals were just as bad.

So yeah, I can be pretty arrogant that I knew that a Triple Whopper wasn’t a good idea, but my diet choices in the past weren’t any better.

Ever head through the Jack in the Box and order a 24oz Oreo Cookie shake with whipped cream? You just spent over 1100 calories and 61 grams fat.

ON A DRINK.

How bout Sonic? Ever guzzled Route 44 Orange, Grape or Green Apple Slush? No fat, but you just spent over 1200 calories.

ON A DRINK.

That’s before you eat anything.

Right now Sonic is running an add on their hot dogs. The Chicago dog looked pretty tasty (430 calories, 20 grams of fat.)

Dunkin Donuts, with the ironic slogan that “American Runs on Dunkin,” is advertising the Big and Toasty breakfast sandwich. (580 calories and 35 grams of fat.)

I went to Logan’s Roadhouse in the early part of the week with Steven. They have an economic meal deal where you can get two full meals for $13.99, and since I’m zig zagging my calories and use my Mondays to go closer to 1500 than my normal 1200 I figured what the heck?

I had the lunch-sized portion of the grilled salmon along with the vegetable skewers and sweet potato fries and all that was fine. What did me in and took my meal to the unthinkable 1000 calorie mark for the meal were two deceptively small dinner rolls that ended up costing me 227 PER roll.

How nice to get a basket containing five of them for two people to hold them over till the meal comes.

I drank water, I didn’t eat dessert and I made the right menu choices… but I was done in by the bread basket.

It’s what you don’t know that hurts you.

So yeah. I’ll get my burger eventually. Only it’ll be one I make out of veggie patties with tons of veggies and no fattening sauces. With oven baked sweet potato fries and maybe even a low calorie float (I’ve learned how to make this little indulgence for 90 calories.)

It may cost a little more, it may even be a little more inconvenient.

But I think being able to enjoy it without the guilt makes it a priceless treat indeed.

Running Out of Steam.

It was bound to happen eventually, and it really took longer than I expected. I didn’t meet my weight loss goal, even though admittedly it wasn’t by a whole lot. Instead of the goal target weight loss of 2.5 pounds, I lost two, bringing the grand total to 284. It’s not a complaint, mind you. In three weeks time I have lost 11 pounds and I certainly can’t complain about that. I’m also 3.5 pounds ahead of schedule, so again – no cause for complaint.

It simply means my body has become used to my 1200-1300 calorie intake per day so I have to shake things up a bit if I want to keep up the momentum. This means exercise, even though I’m not exactly sure how much of it, if any, I can do as yet.

I’ve spent the last week pretty much prone in bed in pain. I’ve even dipped into my remaining stash of pain pills I’ve reserved for just such an occasion. I miser that stuff out like you wouldn’t believe. I won’t even reach for anything until the pain reaches a threshold of 7 or better because I know I can limp through a level 4, 5, or 6 without any medication.

It ain’t fun, but it’s tolerable. Much more so than those higher numbers that, if I wimp out and blow through my prescription early, I won’t have anything left to truly help deal with the “real” unbearable pain. Until we can do something about medical insurance, I can’t afford to go to the ER just because I’m out of medication.

(Ah the joys of living in America without health insurance. The GOP in Congress can kiss my ass. If they don’t want socialized medicine I’d be MORE than happy to take their own free health care off their hands. Fuckos.)

Despite this health setback I’ve managed to work through it to accomplish some major career goals in two – that’s right TWO published e-books:

Dirty Little Secrets

Love Plus One

That I’ve done this despite the pain is a major accomplishment, as I’ve been almost doggedly determined to Make It Happen. It’s been a lot of hard work because even though I have completed manuscripts, I’ve had to go through the process of editing, proofing and developing them to be ready to publish.

I’m horribly anal about it. My reputation is on the line when I put something out there for sale. Just like my articles through Demand, I want my finished product to be one that is above reproach as much as it is in my power to make it so. I want to be proud of my content.

And nothing could make me prouder than to say I’m now a published author who, by hopefully the end of this month, can even hold a physical copy of my book Dirty Little Secrets in my own tiny lil paws.

(The proof is being shipped to me as we speak – and when I get it know that I will cry.)

But thanks to the pain pills everything else has suffered. My sleeping schedule is way off AGAIN (which could also contribute to the lower number on the scale – it generally always does.) I’m back on vampire hours AGAIN, sleeping a good five hours at a stretch, if and when I do sleep…. which could be at any point of the day.

(I wish that I didn’t have so much trouble with the sleep issue. I think it’s probably reason number one that I can’t really seem to get a handle on everything else. But I know better than to rely on sleeping medication. Ambien = the devil.)

If it sounds as though I’m complaining, I’m really not. All of this is more an acknowledgment than anything else. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. These are my challenges, and by knowing what they are I can amend my behavior accordingly.

That’s the general theory anyway.

This is also how I keep myself from feeling too disappointed that I couldn’t pull off another significant loss this week. A loss is a loss and a step further toward my goal, but truthfully I mentally fight the idea that I haven’t *really* accomplished anything until I lose all the extra weight I’ve gained since last year. In other words, until that scale dips below 280 I have to fend off all that Chatterbox stuff that beats me up for last year’s backslide.

Of course when I dip below 280, the damn thing will just find something else to bitch about. It’s never happy, and seeks to ensure I’m not either.

(The fucko.)

Re-wiring that sucker is the hardest thing to do. It’s harder than changing my diet, it’s harder than getting my pain-weary butt out of bed and trying to exercise. It’s singularly the most difficult – and likewise, the most critical – part of this reinvention of self I’m undergoing. As much as I’d like to blame the world, the past and those around me for the damn thing, it’s my responsibility alone to re-record it with positive, constructive messages.

Only I can. And therefore I must.

So… acknowledge that I’m not there yet, make a plan to get there and then just do it.

S’all I can do.

I will say that this week has been the hardest to fend off the sweet tooth. I don’t feel it’s depression causing me to really jones for chocolate, it might just simply be hormones. Could be the pain factor (pain hurts, eat chocolate, feel better.) But OMG if there was a chocolate cake in front of me I’d be in serious trouble.

This is another landmine that requires a bit of stategery, in that I don’t want to completely deprive myself (remember, I’m not making food good or bad,) I just have to be conscious of why I want it and why I’d eat it. I’m not sure just wanting it is reason enough to indulge.

Of course, using that logic is there really any reason that’s legitimate? I like chocolate. I want chocolate. Therefore, as long as I can make it fit in my plan, is there a good enough reason to NOT eat it?

(Aside from the fact that sugar reacts in my body like a drug… and I could fall off the wagon if I’m not extremely careful?)

It doesn’t help things AT ALL that we’re around the Valentine’s Day push. For Steven that usually means a steak dinner. For me it usually means ooey gooey chocolately goodness in any form necessary – but most ideally in the form of chocolate covered strawberries available at my local candy shop.

Chocolate covered strawberries that are so divine that my knees literally buckled the first time that I had one. We’re talking eyes-roll-back-in-the-head choco-gasmic. Fortunately they’re kinda pricey ($2.50 a berry) so I rarely ever indulge except for maybe once or twice a year. (Usually around Valentine’s Day.)

As you can see, I’m clearly in trouble.

I’m still crushing it, both career and health-wise (at least with the food,) but I’ve gotta find some new ways to rev up my momentum.

So this week’s goals:

Get on a better sleep schedule and sleep a normal 7-8 hour stretch per night.
Incorporate at least 10 minutes of some form of activity at least three days this week.
Meet my work goals, not just my career goals.

But I still want a nap.

And chocolate cake.

My food diary courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.

Weigh ins, Strategies and Other Observations.

Since it’s Monday it is time for me to report my weekly weigh in. Today’s official number: 286. This is a four pound loss for the week and a nine pound loss total for the two weeks I’ve been on this journey*.

(*It’s not a diet. This is not a temporary thing. It’s a new, focused way to live by using deliberate eating.)

I previously set myself a weekly weight loss goal of 2.5lbs, so this means I’m ahead of my goal of 290. This is good news and extremely important to keep in mind when those weeks come where I don’t meet my goals. Realistically there will be weeks when I won’t lose the 2.5lbs. As my body changes, and especially after I start exercising again, the scale won’t always accurately reflect the positive improvements my body is undergoing. Muscle weighs more than fat, for instance. You can gain muscle while losing the fat and the scale may show either a 0 pound weight loss or even a weight gain. This doesn’t mean my hard work is for nothing, especially when I see all the weeks where the weight *did* come off… even more than expected.

Like a sign I saw in a store recently:

“Don’t be sad for what you have not, but grateful instead for what you have. For what you have now are the things you only had hoped for yesterday.”

This is the key element in my strategy: Perspective.

You need this while you’re in the lion’s cage, learning how to tame the beast without getting your head ripped off in the process. And it’s going to be even more necessary as the weeks and months march on and my body decides it isn’t a mathematical formula. Eventually the scale will cease being my friend.

I know this, because I’ve been down this road many, many times.

1- I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I’m lost….I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
2- I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place.
It isn’t my fault. It still takes along time to get out.
3- I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in…..It’s a habit.
My eyes are open. I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.
4- I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
5- I walk down a different street.

In this scenario, I would like to think I’m at least at step #4 or 5. I said earlier that I’m not on a diet. I’m just eating deliberately. Food is not my enemy, but it’s not my friend either. It’s simply food, and by taking away all the stigma of what’s “bad,” “evil” or “forbidden,” I hope to at least make peace with the fact my obesity is not the fault of my food… but of how I have chosen to use it.

This means I can have pretty much whatever I want, I just have to train myself to deal with emotional issues emotionally. As long as I can fit my plan within my daily goals, I will see ultimate progress and undo the damage I’ve done.

Per Sparkpeople.com, which – if you haven’t joined it you totally should because they. are. AWESOME. – my daily intake to meet that 2.5lb loss is:

Calories: 1200-1550
Carbohydrates: 163-236 grams
Fat: 32-56 grams
Protein: 60-127 grams

Other goals include 8 glasses of water a day, 5 servings of fruits and veggies and 25 grams of fiber. To do all this means I have to be very meticulous about which foods I choose to eat in order to successfully meet all these goals. So every morning before I start my day I plan out my menu. This keeps me from all the unconscious eating I was doing before, when I just grabbed something and ate it – THEN wrote it down. (You’d be surprised how much food you actually eat when you do this.)

This way, theoretically, I can take my mind off the food. I have a menu and all I have to do is just spread it out every several hours so I don’t let any blood sugar crashes lead to binge eating.

The problem is I’m still pretty focused on the food, which is why those with compulsive eating disorders fail so much when they diet. Whether good food or bad food, you’re going to think about food to the point of obsession, which can lead to overeating and ultimately diet setbacks.

Last night was particularly rough. I had already eaten everything on my food journal, but I was hit with the nearly overwhelming urge to eat… something… anything. I thought about caving and grabbing some cucumber slices but I ultimately decided against it. Even though I still would have been within my calorie/nutritional guidelines, the idea was to simply overcome the impulse.

It wasn’t easy. I bought some gum for just such an emergency in the future.

I’ll have to research the connection between chewing and eating disorders. Because there’s a definite psychological need for me to actually chew something when I have this impulse. (i.e. water doesn’t cut it.) It’s not just about taste, and it’s certainly not about hunger. It reminds me of those who smoke who just want to have the cigarette in their hand or mouth as part of a compulsive habit.

Might be an oral thing… I’ll have to see. I will report back on this later.

As happy as I should be that I’ve dropped 9 pounds, my mood is more optimistically pensive. I’m pleased, but I also need to be ever mindful that the numbers alone can never be my only measuring stick for success. The initial drastic weight loss I’m enjoying comes from being so heavy and employing a pretty significant calorie reduction. In other words, it doesn’t take much for an obese person to shed 10 pounds in the first month. It’s the grueling months afterward that have me a little nervous.

I realize that eventually the weight loss is going to level off once my body becomes accustomed to these new eating habits. Though I have up to 1550 calories to eat every day, I’m trying to keep it between 1200 and 1300 for optimum results. There’s no lower place to go from that and still be healthy, and I’m not trying to trade one eating disorder in for another. To stay healthy I am keenly aware exercise is going to have to be included in the routine, but I’m going to have to ease into that with the ongoing episodes with my back. This is a hard thing for me to wrap my head around. The more results I see the more results I want to see, so I want to go full throttle into a regimen that will accomplish this. I started on Saturday with a lap around the mall, which was slow going and extremely painful… which frustrated me to no end. Walking minutes a day to get my body prepared for the exercise that comes later is like having your car stalled in the mud.

So, like the eating, I just have to be deliberate. Next time I’m going to take my Ibuprofen *before* the exercise, rather than wait until I’m already in pain. The healthier I feel when I’m doing these things, the more in control of my own body and my own health.

This will be a good thing for my emotional well being, which in turn is a great thing for overcoming my emotional eating compulsion.

So I may give it one more week to stretch out my muscles and use DT back massage to limber me up, but if I’m feeling better I may start doing at least 10 minutes of exercise a day by the end of the week. This way I can aim for a resuming mile a day within a few weeks.

Fingers crossed. (But still optimistically pensive.)

I’m still in the lion’s cage and it’s not tamed no matter what the scale says. I can’t control how much weight I lose, not really. All I can do is build a healthier foundation that will bring my body back under my control, and I do that one day at a time.

For today, and for the past two weeks, I have accomplished much. More than the 9 pound weight loss, simply count me as 14 Days Healthy.

My food intake journal, courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.