The Selfie Experiment: Learning to add myself back into my life.

Not too long ago I read this article on how women in particular shy away from photos, which virtually remove them from the history of their lives and their children’s lives. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. I know as I was growing up, being “vain” was frowned upon and widely discouraged if you were a girl. If you liked your image too much, there was something wrong with you.

In today’s Selfie-obsessed culture, many older folks carry the same kind of belief. Why do you need so many photos of yourself, they might ask. You just want attention, they might say. It’s unhealthy to need that kind of validation from others, they may assert.

Whether you post a photo for yourself or for others, you’re going to get nailed to the wall for it. You’re “narcissistic,” you’re “mental.”

The peanut gallery has plenty to say on the subject of you and what you think about your self-image, and has always, always, always felt the definitive authority on the subject of, well, you.

If you are a bigger girl, in particular, trolls Internet-wide often make posting selfies an exercise in stamina, to see how much body shaming you can withstand if you dare to share a little too much self-love.

There are those “brave” girls who dared to post a glam shot before prom, only to be kicked in the teeth by Internet strangers. There’s only one thing worse than a non-perfect girl posting a selfie, and that’s her audacity to be happy about it. For that they must shamed immediately and put right back in their place… the shadows.

In the end, when we look back over our lives, we see the decades of watching our children grow up with nary a hint that there was a non-perfect mother around to guide them. After we’re gone, it’ll be up to our children to piece together the limited info we leave behind, often already painstakingly edited by us, leaving gaps and holes that our children – who have often been much more merciful to us than we ever could have been – to fight for each memory we left behind to share with their children and grandchildren who follow.

Eventually we’ll be erased entirely, much to the delight of our critics. This is, after all, what we deserve.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently. Being somewhat in the public eye as an author, my image is often meticulously groomed to court a wide audience. There are those folks who won’t read a book by me because I’m *gasp* like the imperfect girls I write about. In fact, I’m worse. I’m heavier. I’m not as attractive. I’m older. There is nothing about my image currently that begs for the attention of a wide crowd. So to protect my image I have to be hidden, out of view, all my selfies policed by those who want me to sell as many books to as many people as possible.

Yeah. About that. I’m kind of over it.

When I started writing I wanted the career of Danielle Steel, who was the top-selling romance writer of the day. I wanted people far and wide to read my work and love it. I tried to write books that I thought might appeal to everyone. It never worked for me. Mainstream wasn’t my lane. They say write what you know, and here’s what I know: I’m not for everyone.

But I know who my audience is: my audience is that group of women who have been told subtly and outright all their lives that they don’t deserve a place in the spotlight. My audience is the group who edits themselves out of their lives because they don’t want to make the people that love them look bad. They’re embarrassed for their kids who show around their family photos, which dare to include a non-perfect mother. They don’t want their husbands to proudly display a photo on his desk at work, lest he be thought less than for having such a non-perfect wife. They’re the ones taking dozens of photos to post on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s always, always, always of their kids, their families, their friends, food or places they get to see, with nary a selfie in sight.

And the reason that is my audience is because that is who I have always been. I’m not a selfie person. For every one I dare to post, there have been a dozen taken and rejected because I didn’t like the way they looked. It’s like I’m that chick on Seinfeld who looked gorgeous in one light and hideous in the other, so I can *only* post the ones where I feel I look attractive enough to be seen, even though they’re all pictures of the same person.

Years back my bestie, who loves me regardless of which light I’m in, asked me to take a selfie at one of Hal’s shows I attended. When I told Hal of this directive, the Selfie King grabbed my phone and spun around so we could take a photo, no fucks given about the angle, the lighting or the Ginger he happened to snap at the time. It was one and done, because there really IS only one Ginger, and he’s always been as OK with that as my bestie has been.

halselfie

The people who truly love you feel that way, even if you don’t. That’s why they tag you on the photos they share on social media. It’s not to embarrass you or make you look bad. They are happy to include you as part of their world.

showselfie

The people who truly like you, respect you, admire you – they don’t care that you’re non-perfect because they figured something out the people who need you to be perfect haven’t: there’s only one kind of perfect any human can accomplish. You’re perfectly you, and that’s the only thing that matters. In the end, we’re all varying degrees of beautiful, part of this glorious, diverse mosaic of individuals that deserve to be recognized for the unique people that we are.

And guess what? The picture simply wouldn’t be the same without you. So you’re fucking perfect as a result.

The truth is editing myself out of my life, including my career, has done nothing but *damage* my image. How can I write books that empower women to feel beautiful and worthy of love if I’m too scared to post a selfie because it means someone I don’t know won’t like me? My own characters would smack me silly for such foolishness. It’s not only okay that I’m non-perfect, it’s okay that I exist just as I am. I have value just as I am. This journey to health and wellness isn’t about finding that value, it’s about *owning* what was already there. If I’m unhealthy it’s because I’ve forgotten that, and won’t take care of myself as a result.

That’s something the shamers don’t get, nor do they even care. Your health is not the point, no matter how much they claim it is.

So I weighed the pros and the cons of becoming more Selfie-proficient as I’ve dipped my toes in the public image pool. Granted, not too many men are going to “like” my photos. The ones who do are generally older, married, friends, family or gay. I am okay with this. As a married woman, I don’t need a lot of guys paying me attention anyway, and I’ve always preferred the safety of guys who actually don’t want to have sex with me.

Women will like my photos more often than not, and since they’re my audience anyway – that’s ideal. Especially if they’re “non-perfect” like me. (Spoiler alert: EVERYone is non-perfect like me, we all just have different ways to hide or display it.)

So I won’t get any attention I don’t want from predatory men, and I’ll hit my target audience for women. Sounds like a couple for the pro column to me.

Some women will recoil every bit as much as a guy when they dare to see my audaciously posted non-perfect selfies, which means I might lose them as a reader. Honestly what I write would never appeal to them anyway, so really… what’s the loss? If you won’t read my book because you think I’m (insert pejorative here,) you really wouldn’t get much out of my books. I don’t swim in the shallows. I navigate deeper water, one that dares to wear the skin of the non-perfect. If you need your writers to be pretty or perfect, or the “fantasy” of living through the characters they write who are, then I’m simply not the writer for you.

I consider this a pro as well. It’s okay that you don’t want to read my books. There are plenty of writers out there who write those kinds of books, you’re going to be okay. There are plenty of readers out there who read my books, so I’ll be okay too. Hat tip and move on.

See, what many don’t seem to understand about me is that I don’t mind a smaller career as long as it is significant. I’m not out to become a millionaire from my books. I’m out to change the message, which is my only real barometer of success. The fact that I’ve sold even one is a miracle according to the industry, and I’ve sold many more than that, remaining solidly in the top 20% of all independently published writers for six years.

That means there’s room for the non-perfect. There’s room for the message. There’s room for me.

I was perfectly content selling enough to live on, and I did that *without* white-washing my image to some lesser non-perfect image a wider audience could find palpable. My first series hit big even though it broke a lot of rules and smacked conventional romance in the face. For those who couldn’t stand the idea of reading about such non-perfect characters, I basically said #byefelicia. This isn’t the book for you, I’ll tell you before you even buy it. I’ll discourage you from spending your money on something we both know you won’t like.  I’m not for everyone. I know this. You need to know this.

And you need to know that I’m perfectly okay with it.

That’s the kind of ovarian fortitude that built my career. When I caved on that, thanks to industry pressure, my burgeoning career flatlined. I don’t think this is a coincidence. You can’t build a career on bold honesty and then hide from the spotlight and expect things to get better.

That’s not how I roll. That’s never how I rolled. And since my instincts have proved the more successful, Ima go back to what I know works for me.

This is why I’ve dared to make this blog public, to explore all my deepest darkest demons on a public stage. THIS is how I built my image. The people who will buy my books, who will love my work, have always, always, always been the group who looked a little deeper, who cared a little more about what a non-perfect like me had to say. They seek me out. They find me… and they stay.

THAT is my audience.

And I’m done lying to them, watering myself down trying to pretend I’m something I’m not. I’m 100% proof. Some can handle it. Some can’t. That’s just the reality of my entire life.

Knowing this, there is really no risk then in throwing myself into the selfie pool, so I’ve not only been posting more selfies on Instagram but I’ve started posting on Snapchat. I get to utilize these social media accounts for my public image every bit as much as every other account I have. It is limited thus far, but I notice the more I post of my image, the more forgiving I am of it. This is just me, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Each selfie I post is a bold declaration that I deserve to be a part of my history, my family and my career.

These are my first steps on the crowded dance floor of life. Yes, I hear you snickering. Yes, I know for some of you this makes me the butt of your joke. For some, it makes me easier to reject because you find me so repellent.

But, since I was never trying to attract you anyway, I can’t care.

My characters, my audience, my family and my friends… and all of those who dare to swim past the shallows…  deserve more of me, not these limited scattered pieces I’ve been encouraged to leave behind by the people who don’t give a shit about me in the first place, who would rather I be erased entirely.

But I ain’t goin’ anywhere.

I’m putting myself back into my life because I deserve to be there.

Screenshot 2017-06-11 13.22.55

Sunday weigh-in: 292 (1.6lbs lost) 58lb muscle (+3lb gain.)

Non-scale victories: Three of four instances where I was going to excuse a binge, I avoided the binge entirely, and maintained walking 20 mins per workday all week despite back pain.

 

 

Walking and water = Good. Lemonade Pie = Bad.

Well, this was a week. I jumped right into the thick of things when I returned to work on Tuesdays, not ONLY did I walk on my two breaks, my walking buddies at work and I shot for three ten-minute walks, to make sure we got in our 30 minutes of exercise one way or the other. Tuesday through Friday, I got in over 8000 steps daily.

By Friday I was paying the price and pretty much collapsed when I got home. My back was tweaking hard core. I couldn’t even cough or take a deep breath without seizing pain. God forbid if I had to sneeze.

But after a day of rest yesterday, I’m feeling sore but in much better shape, enough to do all the errands that pile up for the weekend, like housekeeping, laundry and grocery shopping. I’m going to save the park for next weekend, so I can work on conditioning myself a little more.

No sense throwing my back out going full-throttle, when I’m making progress I can see and feel.

I ate more than normal this week, because that’s how it works with exercise. I’m just hungrier. So I focused instead on making my walking goal. As expected, my weight loss wasn’t as drastic as last week. I only dropped a couple of ounces, even though I stuck pretty much according to plan.

Where I fell off the wagon hard was the call of Lemonade Pie, which is my weakness. I was only going to make one pie for Memorial Day, but I ended up making two at my future daughter-in-law’s request.

It was a bad idea. Those pies lasted till Thursday, which meant I was eating more of it than I should have just because it was there. It was only 227 calories per slice, but it was pure sugar, which my body processes like cocaine. One hit is never enough.

Suffice it to say, Sugar is and will always be my nemesis.

But I’ll still chalk this week up as a win, considering it was a lesson learned (ONLY MAKE ONE G’DAMN PIE) and I was able to meet my physical goals all week – which was huge given the current state of my back.

It’s a non-scale victory I will happily take. And I got my first, “Are you losing weight?” comment, so … SOMETHING is paying off.

I also curbed soda for the most part and drank at least 4 16-oz containers of water daily, thanks in part to the exercise. This is a huge win.

This week I’m going to focus on meal-planning, sticking to rice, veggies and fish for my lunches. I’m also going to make sure I have fruit on hand all week to handle the sugar cravings. I may plan out my week ahead of time for lunches, just so I know what I’m eating and I won’t have to worry about juggling the calorie content.

This seems the most effective process. But in order for it to work, I have to work it.

This is my challenge to myself this week. I’d really like to break 290, and exercise alone isn’t going to do it.

Wish me luck! And pray for my back. It totally needs it.

Weigh-in: 293.4

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

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

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

So there’s that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back on track all the way around, I guess.

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

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

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

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

Recalculating…

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

Sounds like a blog for another day…

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

Weigh-In: 293.6 (-4lbs)

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

 

 

 

 

 

Recalculating…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Progress. I’ll take it.

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

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

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

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

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

path-to-success

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

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

Recalculating…

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

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

Recalculating…

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

Recalculating…

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

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

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

THAT is my motivator.

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

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

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

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

And some days I don’t.

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

Needless to say… I allowed for the recalculating.

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

Incremental progress, but progress nonetheless.

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

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

Whatever it takes, right?

Recalculating…

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

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

Recalculating….

Weigh-in: 297.6

 

 

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

Howdie, folks. Welcome to Day Two.

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

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

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

I usually outweigh everyone by about a hundred pounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

lubbockgin

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

gingerKindergarden

First grade, a year later than that:

ginger1stgrade

And second grade, a year later than that…

ginger2ndgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4

And this was me in 2004, ten sizes smaller:

june04g

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama likes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hence, the blog.

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

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

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

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

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

thingin

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

ginger1986cropped

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

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

It’s time to make things okay.

Starting weight:

May 2017 – 296.8

Starting measurements:

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

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

Let’s do this.

 

Learning to Float

I think I’ve finally realized what my greatest fear of the water actually is. It’s not drowning, although that is really high up on the list, it’s giving up my control to anything stronger than me.

My water phobia strikes harshest when I feel my body, which usually isn’t moved by much, become buoyant. As my feet lift or I feel like I’m losing control of myself in the larger body of water I start to panic. Like – big-time panic. If I can’t control my body then I can’t control not drowning, which, like I said earlier, is pretty far up on the list of my biggest water fears.

It started when I was 14. I had a group of friends at the apartment building where I lived that loved to congregate at the pool. One particular day I, who had never learned to swim, allowed another “friend” to take me into the water and “teach” me to swim. This consisted of her walking me around the perimeter of the pool and finally pull me out into the deep end and proceeded to LEAVE ME THERE. BY MYSELF.

I panicked and started to thrash and try to scream but I kept going underwater. I was desperately calling out for people around me in the pool – but they simply looked at me like I was nuts. As I realized no one was going to come to my rescue I panicked even more and nearly went under for good, but finally my “friend” came back out to me and pulled me to safety. Her excuse for waiting so long? She thought I was “kidding” about not being able to swim.

I wasn’t phobic about water before that day, but have been every day since. I’ve gotten into pools but I have a panic attack should I feel myself start to give way to the water around me… and God forbid I actually dunk my head underwater. It took years for me to forget the feeling of water filling my lungs and the hopelessness and helplessness of no one there to help… if I ever really have.

Talk about feeding into the abandonment issues… what could be worse than feeling you are dying but no one is around who cares enough to notice?

This might be why I stay mostly at the shallow end (usually by the railing) and walk at least four feet around any pool so I’m not close enough to fall – or worse, be pushed – in.

I don’t trust anybody. Not after that.

Later on that same year a bunch of guys thought it’d be funny to toss me into the pool, but I latched onto the chain link fence that surrounded it and would not let go. Three grown men couldn’t pry me loose, and I was no where near the size I am now.

Finding someone to trust enough to learn how to swim has been the challenge. My first husband Dan learned how to swim by being tossed into a lake. Been there, done that – it didn’t work for me. Went to the YMCA and took a swim class, but quit about mid-way through. I just couldn’t ever see myself being “okay” with giving up all that control to something bigger than me.

I couldn’t make that concept fit in my head… that by giving up control I actually gained it in the only real way I could.

My friend Shelley and I have been discussing this at length. When life takes you out into the deep end and leaves you there you can fight it by thrashing and screaming or you can simply allow yourself to float – to yield control to the forces around you and learn to navigate your circumstances a different way.

This is where I am now. With my back going out again and now the onset of the flu, I’m getting hands-on education on how to let those things I can’t control go and simply focus on what is within my grasp to control.

I can’t go to the gym five days a week like I had hoped, but I can ease myself back into the walking routine that was working out rather nicely for me.

I can’t come up with the magical money it takes to do the things I thought I wanted to do, but that’s okay too – maybe I really didn’t want to do it as much as I thought.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that these are patches on the gaping holes in my life. Some of my obsessions, like my food, were there to fill a void that gave me all-too-brief giddiness to cover the fact that I’m not where I wanted to be. And much better to face those things later when I’m much more in control of my own fate and my own destiny.

I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself.

The trick is to get through the weekend without feeling pretty deprived.

I think I’ll be okay though. Some of these old obsessions have lost their luster as I move forward into finding my own identity. I no longer have to leech off of anyone I perceive as “stronger” than me because I’m digging out my inner strength for myself. (Turns out, I have quite a bit of it I wasn’t giving myself nearly enough credit for…imagine!) But I find I don’t *want* to go back to that familiar emotional push and pull that never felt like I had any real footing at all.

Basically I was just thrashing and screaming at the deep end, and the people around me simply looked on like I was crazy.

And maybe I was.

All I ever had to do to learn how to swim was to allow myself to finally float. Yielding that perceived control is where I gain the ability to truly navigate my circumstances instead of fighting against something that is often bigger and more unyielding than I am. It’s hard for someone as big and unyielding as me to face that sometimes – in fact, it’s damn terrifying.

But I’m never going to get anywhere until I learn how to float… so I guess I’m just going to have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Weight loss for the week: 2lbs

Freakouts, Setbacks and Other Anomolies

Today was my first weigh in over the course of six weeks that wasn’t successful. In fact, it was the opposite of successful, I actually saw a weight *gain.* Though I managed my food intake and avoid emotional overeating, my exercise was right out the window.

The surface excuse was that I didn’t feel well. In effort to ward off what felt like the onset of some kind of cold/flu, I decided not to go for my walks and put off my at-home exercise.

But if we dig a little deeper there was a bigger freakout going on just under the surface.

At the beginning of last week I was presented with the opportunity to do something I normally love to do. It gave me X amount of days to work on my income and work on my fitness regimen with a short term goal in sight. It was completely easy and doable at this time last week. But I promptly shut down to make it that much harder to do something that normally makes me happy.

Since I acknowledged this shameful secret to my best friend on Saturday, I’ve been trying to figure out why on earth I would do this to myself.

I still can’t tell you why – but I think I’m circling the runway.

It was so much safer to know that being a dramatic success was so far into the future, with manageable little steps in between. I’ve got a long way to go and I’ve settled into this comfortable routine that, in all honesty, doesn’t push me as hard as I probably could go.

I think deep down I still think I’m incapable of it – and I’ve created this environment where if it happens, it’ll be a happy surprise.

Taking a day at a time when you have months and months to go is a lot easier to swallow.

Knowing I wanted to really lose X amount of pounds by a much shorter time frame overwhelmed me, especially the idea that I just couldn’t pull it off like I truly wanted to.

Essentially if I see people I don’t normally see on a regular basis, I want to make sure the changes I’m making are not only noticeable but *noticed.* And I knew with all this extra weight, a 20 pound weight loss was nothing more than a sneeze into the wind.

I wasn’t ready to give myself credit for the progress I’ve made, I didn’t expect anyone else to do it either.

The general feeling of malaise was more from depression than anything else, and sparked almost immediately after this so-called good news. Immediately I spiraled into a backsliding pattern that hits every once and a while when I’m doing very well.

Give me the opportunity to succeed and I freak the f*ck out. Dunno why.

I self-destructed over this past week even if I didn’t set out to. That’s the bad news.

The good news is I didn’t punish myself with food. I kept to my calorie goals and even met my fitness goals of burning over 1200 calories last week. Not only that but I was able to recognize it fairly quickly before I could do more damage to my long term goals. With my one pound weight gain I have now put myself at my 2.5 pound a week goal over the course of these past 6 weeks. My projected weight loss and my actual weight loss has finally aligned at 15 pounds. Which means I’m still on track to meet my goal of hitting 1-derland (getting out of the 200s) by October, but I have no more wiggle room.

That’s the consequences of me giving over to the self-destructive side of me that feels I’m not worth reaching that goal, and not push myself as much as I know I need to be pushed. (“If I can’t lose X amount of weight by X time, then I’m just never going to lose anything ever ever ever ever,”… then I proceed to make sure I don’t lose X amount of weight. Why? I’m still figuring it out… at this point I think maybe I’m afraid of what it means if I don’t have the weight as a barrier between me and some of the people I know. Being the “fat girl” can be a safe thing sometimes.)

But despite all this I still have success to show for my journey – not only have I lost 15 pounds but I’ve lost 5 inches in the month of February. Those are the physical successes. That I can recognize almost immediately what kind of damage I’m doing so I can put on the brakes before I go completely off the rails is a much bigger and more important victory.

There’s no shame in stumbling, or even falling, as long as I can get back up.

So that’s what I’m doing by acknowledging the misstep and taking the steps necessary to get back on track.

This week I promised my Unstoppable Facebook Group that I would join a gym to amp up the calories burned per week. Right now I’m working toward my first fitness milestone of burning 3500 calories per week – which equals about one pound of weight. I’ll need a gym to do this, though I’m a little apprehensive about committing financially to any kind of program.

Not saying I can’t do this at home but I think a trainer is a good idea at this point, to teach me how to modify my workouts to my specific health problems and strive harder for my ultimate goals. This is the part that really scares me. I’d been holding back, afraid of health setbacks that would really sideline the goals – but Steven rightfully called BS on that. Sure I have to take my back into consideration, but that I was able to walk three miles yesterday within in hour shows me I’m ready to push myself a little harder than I have been. I’m thinking it’s a good time to get someone else to help pull that inner warrior out of me, who won’t pat me on the head or allow me to wallow in my own endless excuses.

Ironically, today I really do feel ill and I’m still going to have to soldier on and just make it all happen anyway.

The self-destructive side of me got one week. I’m not giving the bastard any more. It doesn’t matter if anyone else notices the metamorphosis I’m undergoing – *I* know I’m on the right path. And I’m the only one I’m doing this for anyway.

So I’m going to hold my head up. I may not have the success story I want right now, but I’m writing it word by word every single day.

My food journal courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.

Progress, Not Perfection.

Today is weigh-in Monday and I’m happy to report that even though I didn’t lose my projected 2.5 pounds I did lose enough to get me out of the 280s – which is the lowest I’ve been since about 2005. My next goal is to get under 270, which will put me at even lower than my original success story from 2004 when I lost 70lbs and 10 dress sizes.

So even though my back went out on me late last night, I’m focused on doing what needs to be done to get down to 265 – my first mini goal on my journey. That will be 10% of my body weight from the start of this year, and put me at a new low weight probably since I was pregnant and had Jeremiah.

(For those keeping track, that was 18 years ago.)

The idea though, is not necessarily about what is on the scale as much as the progress I’m making in other areas. Not eating for comfort this past week, HUGE deal. That I traded food for exercise, even HUGER. That I was able to burn over 1200 last week is progress in the right direction, even though it’s not where I want to be (3500 a week = 1 pound loss through exercise alone.)

And that I can be okay with these little goals is a huge step in the right direction, given I’m so prone to be a perfectionist (which is stupid) and beat myself up if I don’t meet some lofty, unattainable goal of said perfection (which is stupider.)

A lot of people who have issues with addiction and self-destructive behavior have this problem. Whether they’re raised with it or have taken it on themselves, far too many people use the lack of perfection as an excuse to abuse themselves. We punish ourselves for being what we can never be, and then want the world to excuse this backward behavior because of our lofty intentions.

Instead the world just looks at us like we’re stupid… because beating yourself up over things that are out of your control is inherently stupid. Which makes us feel worse, so then we justify this behavior that if we just did something perfectly we would be accepted and valued.

It’s yet another vicious cycle.

Change is incremental. We can’t go from doing all this stuff all the time as a habit that no doubt we’ve cultivated over a lifetime to being perfect overnight. We can be more self-aware, certainly, but stumbles are going to happen. We’re like newborn colts who are struggling to our feet for the first time. You can’t go from that to winning the Kentucky Derby, which I think so many of us want to do.

Mostly because we fail to give ourselves value as is. We harbor such self-loathing that we are certain without perfect behavior we just don’t count.

But we do count. With every breath we take we count. Each step we make in the right direction should be honored and celebrated even if we’re not able to run yet. Yet because we live in this winner-takes-all society we feel like we have to be better than EVERYONE to be any good at all. That’s where the root of the drive for perfection comes from. We have no value as is, so we have to be perfect (which no one else is or can be) in order to count.

It’s an impossible goal. There’s always going to be someone better at what you do than you are – no matter who you are. There’s always going to be someone who is more talented, who has studied longer, trained harder or is simply more popular in the crowd – a crowd of people who get to decide who is better than whom based on their own subjective opinion. A better goal would be to worry about being a better you than you were the day before. That’s the only thing you have control over anyway, and it’s not up for subjective opinion of anyone else.

I hate mistakes. I mean *HATE* mistakes. If I make a mistake and it’s a public one, I’ll relieve that moment in time over and over for the rest of eternity, crushed by the weight of my own humiliation. It’s one of the reasons I don’t try to do anything new around anyone else. I don’t learn new games, I don’t learn how to do sports, I’ve only been on a dance floor three times in my life. I wouldn’t do karaoke and rarely play games if there is anyone but my immediate family around (the safe folks who already know I’m not perfect but are generous to love me anyway.)

The fear of not being perfect paralyzes me. I can’t bear the thought of looking like a fool. So I pass up a lot of opportunity to participate in group activities simply because I don’t know how to do stuff… or fear that the stuff I don’t know how to do I just am not good enough to do in front of an audience.

It’s all just really stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

N’ I’m over it.

Therefore in this unstoppable year I’m going to take on the challenges I wouldn’t have done before. I’m going to learn to get past that initial feeling of discomfort and brave the waters for once. If people laugh, then they’re the assholes. It doesn’t have to reflect at any way on me (or become the baggage that requires 100 extra pounds of weight to carry around.)

Progress, not perfection. It’s the only way to be unstoppable.

My food journal, courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.

A Valentine… for Ourselves.

A lot of folks, women particularly, find Valentine’s Day to be a depressing part of the year. We’re so inundated with the idea we have to be part of a couple come Feb. 14 that those who are normally happily single feel just a bit miffed at the societal pressure that single isn’t good enough.

Because unfortunately, in this society, it really kind of isn’t.

I think this hits women especially hard because we’re subliminally taught from a young age that we’re not “complete” until we find our Prince Charming. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. In order to really appreciate your perfect mate when he (or she) arrives you have to be pretty happy with who you are as a person without him (or her). Otherwise you’ll turn into this cloying, needy freak who will literally scare away every potential lover that crosses your path.

Trust me. I know.

Poetry, songs and fairy tales all want us to give away everything we have to another person in order for it to be love. The problem with that is if you’re not getting loved in return you just become an empty vessel – which isn’t good for anyone. Especially you.

Because here’s the reality – it’s very uncommon to find someone who will love you as much as you have to love yourself simply to survive. There may be those rare individuals you’d be willing to die for if the situation arose, but if that plane is going down you have to think of self-preservation first to do anyone else any good. Yet as women we’re taught we’re nothing unless we’re giving all of that away for someone else, that this is the idea of “love,” to be totally self sacrificing and martyrs for those we care about.

The idea is if we do this we’ll be worth love and honor in return.

The most miserable people you’ll ever meet are the ones who seek love and worth from the outside in. Self-esteem is the foundation for every other kind of love, and it has to be strong or every relationship you have in your life will suffer.

Most of the overweight women I know are the most generous women on the planet. They give their all to their families, their friends and their lovers. Yet they never take that time to give back to themselves, and it shows by what they do to their bodies in the form of self-destructive behavior.

Not so coincidentally, a lot of overweight women are then unhappy because as much as they give they don’t get the basic respect they should have earned, or have their well of love replenished from the outside in.

That’s because we teach people how to treat us. If we can’t show ourselves basic respect, it’s very hard for other people to learn how to fill the gap. There’s a reason that those who give all end up surrounded by those who take all and give little in return. You think they deserve your best and you don’t deserve to expect anything in return… and they simply agree.

So today, I want everyone to give a Valentine to yourself. Whether you’re single or partnered, fat or thin, happy or sad, stressed, overwhelmed and crazed or living the life of your dreams – pat yourself on the back today for being so awesomely YOU.

That’s the one thing you have that no one else does. They never have. They never will. You are a perfect example of a unique individual who will never be as you are ever again. Take a moment and just think about how amazing that is. In this world of a billion people, there isn’t another you. In all of history there has never been another you. Toward infinity there will be another you. You’re a completely original masterpiece, and that deserves a proper amount of respect and awe.

Let that love start from the inside and pour outward, turning into your own eternal fountain that will never run dry.

Men have often stated that attitude is key when they find a woman sexy. That’s how all those chicks who don’t have perfect bodies end up with all the guys… they let the guys know that they offer something that is pretty darned awesome and the guys would be *lucky* to get a piece of it.

So stop waiting for the moment when you’ll be “perfect” and beat yourself up daily because of all the flaws you have to nitpick. Love your flaws! (That’s right… I said it.)

If my biggest flaw is my weight, here’s what being fat has taught me:

It’s taught me empathy for my fellow man.
It’s taught me how to look deeper when it comes to other people, rather than just depend totally on what I see on the surface.
It’s taught me how to appreciate a good man who can love me for who I am, rather than what I wear.
It’s taught me how to be more appreciative of health than a dress size.
It’s taught me how to see through the bullshit – from others and myself.

And all those things make up a pretty great gal. I may not be perfect, but I’m perfectly me. And for that, I deserve my own self-respect – a self respect that isn’t dependent upon any number on a scale or dress size OR public opinion. (ESPECIALLY public opinion.)

I get to be okay with being me, simply because *I* choose to be.

So today look in the mirror and show some love to yourself. Learn to love those things about you that you normally disdain. So what if you’re 30 pounds overweight? If your heart is beating and you can take a breath, your body is doing its job. Instead of beating the poor thing up and tearing it to shreds, in essence – abusing yourself, do something ABOUT those 30 extra pounds. Go for a long walk. If it’s pretty outside, take advantage of the sunshine. If it’s cold, find a mall and just take a couple of laps around while you look at all the pretty stuff you’ll be able to wear when you get to your goal weight.

If you’re single and feeling the pressure of being alone, find that activity you absolutely love that you normally couldn’t do if you were paired up with someone. Take a *you* day. Light candles, take a bubble bath, go get a massage or a manicure. Watch sappy romantic movies or *cough* read a great romantic novel *cough*. Write a hot and steamy erotic story starring you and your crush de jour (celebrities are always a fun choice)or simply be silly while there’s no one else around to judge you. Go swing on a swingset at a park – play hopscotch… bake cookies… turn up cheesy 80s or disco music no one else likes and dance all night in your pajamas. Pick yourself some flowers or prepare your favorite meal… or better yet find a group of your single pals and make a night of it. Dance till the wee hours with some hot single guy you’ll never see again and flirt all night like you’ve never dared to before.

(Or you could babysit some kids from your married friends who want to take a date night. Just TRY to be depressed as you’re being silly and playing like a kid. Glitter and crayons are mandatory.)

Pretend you are your very best friend who needs a little special pampering, then do the pampering. All that love you would bestow upon someone else, turn toward yourself by giving yourself the best possible treatment ever – including words of encouragement and empowerment that say it’s perfectly okay to be *just you* because you’re pretty freaking spectacular just the way you are.

Take whatever it is that makes you feel blue and do something about it to make you feel better. Only you have that power.

You could also make yourself feel better by making the day of someone else. Give the life-giving gift of blood, or make homemade Valentines and take it to a children’s ward at a hospital or a nursing home. Give the gift of love, just because – to people who need it just as much as you do.

And if you’re dealing with depression because you’ve experienced loss or illness or something dire that makes a celebratory mood impossible – give yourself the comfort and support you would any dear friend going through similar circumstances.

You are so much stronger than you know. Recognize that… honor that… because that’s part of what makes you who you are, which again is pretty damn spectacular.

So love yourself today. You deserve it.

And Happy Valentine’s Day, you lil lovemuffin.

My food journal, compliments of Sparkpeople.com.

Weigh-in: 281, a three pound loss for the week.