Diagnosis: Fat

Yesterday I went to the doctor for two things: my ongoing and increasing back pain and horrendous menstrual periods, which I wanted to ensure didn’t have anything to do with each other. The reason for this was because I had started to see some progress with my back, but another hellish cycle struck and I was sidelined again by the back pain – to the point I had to call out from work.

So I did a little research to see if the two things might be related, and in doing so I realized that the kinds of heavy, painful periods I have been having, which I chalked up to aging, aren’t necessarily perimenopausal like I had previously thought. Instead I was reading about fibroid cysts (which my mother had) and how the pressure of large cysts could cause back pain.

Seemed plausible, but I’d need a doctor to confirm so I made an appointment. I thought maybe if THAT was the cause of my current back pain, then perhaps that was a treatment I hadn’t considered, one that could make a dramatic improvement in my current health.

I wasn’t looking forward to it. The sketchy thing about back pain is that it’s one of those diagnose by process of elimination things. I’ve been through it all. MRIs, physical therapy, chiropractors, etc. I figured with the possibility of a cyst, I’d probably have to get another ultrasound.

I was about to climb yet another mountain, and I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but I had no choice. It’s everything I can do to get through an eight-hour shift. I’m not sleeping well, obviously, and by the time I go to work I’m already tired. I sit at a desk for eight hours, which, as expected, sends my sciatica through the roof. I try to walk it out, like I had in months past, trying to limber up and get moving at least twice a day with a ten minute jaunt around the complex where I work. If I can make just three of those laps, I easily make my 10K steps.

Recently, I’m lucky to make it once. By the time I drag myself home in the evening, I’m done. I’m doner than done. There is no cleaning, no errands being done – like grocery shopping, for instance, which has thrown my diet out of whack because we’re grabbing things out more often than not. This includes lunch and dinner, which spells disaster for what I’m trying to do to lose weight.

I thought if nothing else, I’ll get the standard prescription treatment for my back, the narcotic/anti-inflammatory/muscle relaxer, and I’d take this weekend just to medicate the hell out of myself and try to get past this acute episode.

This ain’t my first rodeo. This has been the protocol towards “fixing” my back since 2006. Only it never fixes anything, it just keeps me a faithful customer to Big Pharma.

When I wasn’t working, I could medicate with cannabis and saw much better results. But because of the stigma that goes along with the use of cannabis, not to mention the legal ramifications even now that it’s “technically” legal in the state of California, that’s not the go-to option anymore. When I applied for my job, I was given a drug test. Since I had worked with employee files up till then, I knew what the perimeters were to pass. I could have 1000mg of cocaine, but 25mg of THC would have given me a hard stop.

Cocaine – acceptable. A plant that has been used medicinally for ten thousand years (and never killed one person) – not.

It’s frustrating. Every bit as fucking frustrating as my weight being the sole focus of any and all doctor’s appointments.

I mean, I must be one of the easiest patients for doctors to see. Instead of probing and getting to the root cause, they can just look at me and make an instant diagnosis. Oh, your back hurts? Well, you’re fat. Case closed, moving on, next patient.

I spent maybe ten minutes talking to my doctor about the issues that brought me into the office. She dismissed immediately that cysts might be my problem, and shrugged off my hellish periods as just a woman thang, even when I told her that (TMI alert) I have horrendous flooding that will have me going through every protective barrier known to (wo)man within an hour. Seriously, I’ve almost passed out before from the blood loss. I have gone from the bathroom five steps to my bed and collapsed in a heap, hoping Steven didn’t come in the room before I could pull myself together in order to clean up the mess so he wouldn’t think someone had tried to murder me.

Those are the days I barely even want to leave the house because movement = flooding, which means I have to change three times a day. But she just smirked and said every woman feels that way.

chandlerreally

Basically none of what I told her registered to the doc, who expects me to trust her when she was absolutely not going to trust me when I was telling her what was wrong. That flooding thing is new within the last few years. It’s not “just a woman thing” or me being a baby about my period. I’ve had my period since I was nine, just like I’ve had this back pain since 2006. I KNOW when something is up. I DON’T just go bug her for nothing.

Instead she pushed around on my back for a whole thirty seconds, nearly sending me flying off of the exam table in the process. Within those thirty seconds, she decided it was completely muscular and declared I needed to lose weight “yesterday” to avoid the weight compressing my discs in such a way that I’m virtually crippled by the pain in a decade.

All she saw was the weight. That’s all any of them see. And they won’t take my complaints seriously as a result.

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She made the same snap judgment everyone else does: I’m fat so I’m clearly not doing anything about it. If I did, it would fix all my woes. I explained to her I was currently trying to lose weight for that very reason, because I’m tired of my life being so fucking limited, but without the ability to exercise I’m between a rock and a hard place. She told me that I could technically do it diet alone, but I told her I’ve been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for the last four months. The diet thing works for about a week and then if I don’t add exercise into it, it stalls.

I mean, I’m 47 years old and I’ve been fat since I was a child. I know my body pretty well by this point. I know what works and what doesn’t. I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years. I’ve tried almost everything, except maybe for surgery. When I was a kid, there was a diet aid literally called “Ayds” (this was before the 1980s.) They were these little pieces of chocolate that were supposed to curb my appetite.

By the mid-eighties I went on Nutrisystem and stayed on that as long as we could afford. Back in 1984, it was $90 a week for both my mom and me, not including all the fresh food you had to buy (not to mention all the other non-food grocery needs.) To put that in perspective, my weekly grocery budget in 2017 is $100-150 to feed a family of FIVE. As a single mother in 1984, working for barely over minimum wage, Mom simply couldn’t afford us to stay on it, and so I capped out at 36 pounds lost in six weeks. Yay! Magic! It works… as long as you’re chained to the program.

And yes, THAT I did without exercise, if you don’t count P.E., but it was the only time that worked.

After Scott was born and I had forty pounds of pregnancy fat to lose, I created my own system that alternated between fasting and limited calories, as well as walking at least thirty minutes a day. Today they call these things intermittent fasting and the 10,000-step plan to walk yourself thin. (I was so ahead of my time.) I lost enough weight to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was still fat. It didn’t go any lower.

Out of desperation I tried the Mayo Clinic* Diet (misleadingly named after the medical institute,) where I was supposed to drop 10 pounds in a week if I ate certain foods on certain days in certain combinations. It worked, I lost 10 pounds… of water weight. The next week it was back, even though I kept using the plan.

When I was homeless in LA I lost quite a bit of weight quite dramatically – but it wasn’t just from lack of food. Whether we were at the beach or at Griffith Park, we walked everywhere we could just to have something to do that didn’t cost any money.

Then I got pregnant and, well, I went back to old habits.

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of things. I’ve tried Slim-Fast, I’ve gone on the Richard Simmons plan (which helped me lose thirty pounds in time for my wedding to Steven, dropping me from a scary 350 to 320 and size 32.) I did the Cabbage Soup diet until I couldn’t even look a head of cabbage in the face. I lost 70lbs using SparkPeople, but, again, I had to have an exercise plan to go along with or else it would stagnate and frustrate the hell out of me. I’ve gone vegan, I’ve gone low carb, I’ve gone sugarless. In each and every experience, if I didn’t add physical activity onto it, my body stopped losing weight once it became accustomed to the new eating plan.

This is what has happened now with my intermittent fasting. I still only eat about eight hours a day (this week being the exception to that rule,) but without the physical activity I add to it, either using my stationary bike at home or walking whenever I can fit it in, it really doesn’t do much to help me move the scale.

Hence why I’ve been stuck between 290-297 for the last four months of weekly weigh-ins.

I know my body. The diet, though they say it’s 70% of the battle, only takes me so far. I need to add exercise. And yet every single time I add exercise, I end up throwing out my back and it undoes all the progress.

So I tell her this, and just like the whole period thing she dismisses it. “So you’re telling me there’s nothing you can do about your weight.”

No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I need help. She said that Kaiser Permanente offers food plans much like Weight Watchers. And like WW, I have pay by the week for a sixteen-week program AND I have to show up to weekly meetings.

If that was what I wanted, I’d have joined WW. (Actually, no I wouldn’t – because I abhor any kind of weight loss program that makes a profit off of desperate fat people. I won’t buy pills, I won’t buy pre-packaged foods. These companies don’t protect their bottom line by helping you succeed – and I don’t want to be stuck on a program the rest of my life. I’m not trading one set of shackles for another, thank you very much.)

She gave me the standard prescription protocol for my back, with an order for steroid injections – since that’s the only thing I haven’t tried to help me stay upright, rather than flat on my back, doped out of my mind for days at a time.

But I still woke up three times in the night with white hot pain radiating down my leg. I face another day of poor sleep and relentless pain.

Yay.

It dawned on me fairly quickly yesterday that despite reaching out for help, I’m alone in this. And I guess I always have been. People look at me and make their assumptions, which is nothing new. Back in Texas, I had a doc tell me in our first meeting together that I was diabetic. This was without any kind of symptoms, this was without any kind of blood work. This was her looking at me and deciding since I’m “morbidly obese” I must have diabetes. I told her no, I’m not diabetic. That’s the first thing any doc ever tests me for, even when I was pregnant. I’ve done the fasting blood tests, I’ve been checked consistently for years and *knock on wood* it’s the one thing I’ve managed to avoid. Yet she didn’t hear any of that. She insisted I was. It took the blood work coming back to convince her, because my word CLEARLY wasn’t enough.

(Which, by the way, I got my results back from my blood work yesterday. My A1C is 5.3. The normal range is 4.8 – 5.6. In 2012, the last time I had my blood drawn, it was 5.1. Please stop assuming I have diabetes because I’m fat, k?)

In fact, all my tests came back fine and in normal ranges. The only thing that was a bit high was my RDW blood test showed 15.1 when the normal range caps off at 14.5. I immediately researched to find out what this means.

This is what I found:

When your red cells have a lot of variation in their size then you will see higher RDW values in your test. If your rdw blood test is high then there could be a few reasons for the cause.

A common cause of high RDW values is Vitamin b12 deficiency or Folate deficiency. This can lead to macrocytic anemia (or large cell anemia). People with macrocytic anemia almost always suffer from elevated RDW levels.

Hum. Would you look at that. Anemia. Blood. Why did I go to the doctor again?

But…. FAT. FATTIE FAT FAT FAT. FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

My blood pressure was slightly elevated at 135/69, but I was also in a lot of pain. I’ll take it again with my own machine later to monitor. After last year’s scary episode, I don’t play around.

See, people will think to look at me I don’t care about my health, when in fact I’m rather obsessed about it. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m not doing something about it every single day.

It’s just taking a slow ass time, made even slower by the fact I. Can’t. MOVE.

Basically I paid $70 to find out things I already knew. I’m on my own in this, and I’m the one that is going to have to fix it because I’m the expert when it comes to my own body.

I’ve had to be. Everyone else just sees the fat, not anything that is going on underneath it.

So glad I’ve paid nearly $3000 so far this year for this kind of stellar health coverage.

princesideeye

So. What’s my plan?

Well, I’m going to have to do as the doc says. I’m going to concentrate on my diet, rather than the exercise, simply because I have no choice. I can’t walk right now and if I try, I’ll end up hobbled again and missing work, which I can’t afford to do. The only thing I can control is what I put into my face. I only have two rules for a “diet”: One, it can’t cost me money, i.e. Slim-Fast, WW, Nutrisystem, fat burning pills, etc. (See above.) Two, it has to be health-based. I want whole foods, real foods, not processed junk that is marketed to a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, whose profit margins have raised right along with the skyrocketing obesity rate. No Lean Cuisine. No Diet Coke. No low-fat, sugar-free, fad o’ the moment quick fix.

Unfortunately for me, this is still going to cost me. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and spend a little more on groceries to split apart from my family. Of the five people in my household, only two of us aren’t picky eaters. My husband is the pickiest, he hates most fruits and vegetables (it’s a texture thing,) and is a carb junkie despite being diabetic. (Did I mention he’s 100lbs lighter than me? He eats junk, I don’t. He has diabetes, I don’t. Fuck anyone who makes this trigger judgment of me as a result, especially if you’re a goddamned doctor.)

My future daughter-in-law comes in second-pickiest. She eats more foods than my oldest son Tim, BUT it’s HOW she eats them. She’s virtually Sally from When Harry Met Sally:

She’s not an experimental eater. She reluctantly tries new things. Here’s our biggest Food Tug-of-War at the moment: I want her to branch out and eat different kinds of salads. She’s a HUGE salad eater, but it has to come with specific ingredients that can work well with ranch dressing. If there’s no ranch dressing, there’s no salad. Period. Honestly, I think salads are basically her ranch delivery service, but that’s typical of a lot of people from Texas. I am trying, now, to get her to try salads that incorporate fruit and nuts but she’s thrown on the brakes because she can’t imagine that level of experimentation. She can’t have a salad without ranch dressing, and fruit with ranch dressing?

liarliarpuke

This, to me, was my favorite part of going vegan. I tried all kinds of new combinations AND new veggies. I love food, y’all. Let me play with it. I went to Pinterest last night to see what kind of foods I could eat instead of the standard family friendly fare we normally get, and I pinned dozens and dozens and dozens of new recipes. It amped me up. I got excited. I couldn’t wait to try new things.

Not her. She would rather go without than eat something she doesn’t want to eat, even if she’s hungry.

I don’t quite grasp this concept. Obviously.

She likes her deep fried stuff, her alfredo sauces, all the things I can’t eat because of a tricky gallbladder. And, like me, she’s been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for three whole years – the only difference is she’s seriously UNDER-weight. She can afford the junk. She can indulge the sweet tooth, which is a daily requirement for her and, as such, a daily temptation for me. And I don’t deny them, I just fit them in to everything else, making my compromises elsewhere.

But, for the next week or month at least, I have to split apart from this because our goals are diametrically opposed. I’m going no sugar again… and I apologize ahead of time for the massive bitch this is going to turn me into.

My older son is attempting a health regimen himself and, as his father’s son, he has some opinions about what I’m doing wrong. (Don’t they all?) But he’s on my side with the no soda, no processed sugar thing, so I have his support. He also told me I need to be more compassionate of myself whenever I succumb to temptation… like this week when I kept hopping on and off the wagon.

People love me and want to take care of me, which so often times includes food. This week a nurse left an egg roll for me, which was very sweet of her. It was also at 9am, way before I allow myself to eat. The next day there was red velvet cake, because life is just that cruel. The next day was a goodbye brunch, ALSO way before my eating time frame.

If I try to muster any will at all to say no, I always hear the same thing: “Just one bite won’t hurt you.”

Like I need a lot of convincing… especially when I’m in the kind of pain I’ve been in lately. I just want to feel good and we all know by now food is my vice of choice, especially at work where my other vices are limited.

I even succumbed to the rare Diet Coke (blame the cake.) Within minutes Hal posted a link on how Diet Coke contributes to weight gain.

It was like he KNEW. My one and only coke and he freaking knew.

Despite these setbacks, I kept mostly with the plan, and my 100+ ounce of water consumption. We still ate out a lot this week, mostly because no one felt up to cooking. The fam has been battling some stomach bug and my back has been breaking to the point I don’t do ANYTHING when I get home.

It’s going to be a(nother) disappointing weigh in. And I’m just going to have to forgive myself and move on with a plan that I’m going to have to follow solo. Steven has offered to throw himself on the grenade, learning how to eat more plant-based foods (which I truly believe is the key to better health – and one of the reasons I think that, despite the inability to exercise, I am in mostly good health except for the back thing.) But he’s so picky that I know I’ll be tempted to come up with stuff that will appeal to both of us, and – quite frankly – I can’t be held down by that limitation. I’m going to get what I like, what I’ll eat, what I know is good for me. I can eat nothing but salad for a week straight, limiting my sugar to fresh fruit. Steve? Not so much. And I can’t allow that to be yet another stumbling block. I have to be a little selfish here, a little rude, a little impolite.

I’ll make what I want, what I know is good and right for me. He has to decide if he will like it or not. Or else he can eat what the family eats.

Because that’s the way it’s just going to have to be. I’m done compromising, because I always end up on the losing end of that. Just like right now, Brit texted because she’s just now getting off of work and wants lunch while they’re out. That means fast food. That means more junk. She asked if I was hungry, which I am, but I said no, I’m good.

If I’m in this alone, I have to do what’s best for me. Same thing when I went vegan all those years ago. I have to look out for myself because no one in my family can or will join me. I’m in the fight for my life now, particularly in terms of my mobility. I may be like a stallion locked up in the starting gate, but let’s face it – I’m used to things being difficult.

It’s going to take some time, much longer than I want it to be, mostly because fat is the only thing people see when they look at me. The doc said I have to lose weight “yesterday” and she’s not wrong. In order to fit in with her and with everyone else, I have to have the “After” body, not the “Before” and certainly not the “During.” I’m fighting my way out from behind my body for the kind of value that other people take for granted. They can go to the doctor and be heard about their concerns. They can walk down the street without people assuming they’re lazy and don’t give a shit about themselves. Despite the fact I eat much healthier than she does, Brit turns heads when she walks down the street. Men want to get to know her. She’s a smoker, she eats crap, but she’s got the “After” body, even when she’s in the “During” process to get to a healthier weight.

But she can be seen and accepted and heard, just like everyone else who doesn’t commit the high crime of being fat. They can be seen for who they are instead of what they weigh, and I’m going to have to wait a helluva long time for that, made longer still by the limitation of my back pain.

I’m just going to have to make peace with that, which, frankly, is harder than losing the weight. It’s going to take time before people will hear me, or see me, or recognize anything that I’m doing that’s good. They’re going to make their assumptions. They’re doing to diagnosis me with terminal fatness.

But they don’t count. They can’t. In order to claim my value I must first find it in myself. Here’s what I know:

I’m not a bad person.

I’m not a failure.

I’m not careless about my health.

I’m not lazy.

I’m not weak.

I have a specific challenge to fight, but I’m strong enough to beat it. It may not happen in a year, but like any war it is won one battle at a time, one day at a time.

Time to make this a good day.

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Dear Damaged Girl: Letters, Chapter 1.

A lovely friend of mine posted a blog not too long ago that was basically a letter to her younger self. I thought wow, that’s a neat idea. What would you say to your younger self with all the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from getting through all those past experiences?

My bestie and I were talking earlier in the week about how stunned our thirteen-year-old selves would be if we were to sit down and chat with them now, in how far we’ve come personally and as a society. That the things we thought were so set in stone back then turned out to be swimming around in a gray area we were too young to entertain way back then. For instance, the thirteen-year-old me was rabidly anti-cannabis. I believed the “Just Say No” hype. It wasn’t till my back gave out on me in 2006 and I needed really strong pain pills to deal did I realize where the true threats are, and often dispensed by the men in white coats we have been taught to trust.

But, again, blog for another day.

If I were to tell that thirteen-year-old that I’d one day trade those scary pain pills for a natural plant that worked better and actually healed, she’d be floored. But that’s the magic of insight. It teaches you where you were misled or mistaken, and you can change your mind accordingly.

Sounds like a brilliant exercise, honestly. After yesterday’s blog, I’ve moved up the theme in rotation on the blog because I think it’s an important thing to do right now, considering I’m still working through some PTSD issues from this past week.

So maybe, just maybe, this exercise will reach way deep inside my psyche where these “damaged” girls still reside and help them heal from their mistakes and trauma, because the one who guides them now has benefit of all these years, all these experience.

And hindsight is 20/20, after all.

I predict this may become an ongoing series of blogs, though I plan to write more than one letter today. I know I can’t cover it all.

But I’ll try to fix at least one thing anyway.

Let’s get to it.

Dear four-year-old me:

fouryearoldgin

I know how scared you are about what’s happened to you. I know you’re confused. You don’t understand why this bad, horrible thing happened, and you think it may be your fault that you are now “damaged” in society’s view and in the view of your God. You knew it was a bad idea to go with a stranger without asking your mother. But I want you to know that what followed was NOT your fault. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t deserve it. God wasn’t punishing you. A very sick man simply took an opportunity to harm someone, and now you feel like you are paying the price.

I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, but that would be a lie. The truth is you’ll get stronger, so much stronger, in fact, than what has happened to you. I know that’s hard to believe given how small and powerless you feel right now, and you’re going to spend the next many years trying to hide that, so everyone around you will see a good girl. A perfect girl. You will chase that perfection until your soul aches, going out of your way to make the best grades, be the best Christian, be the best daughter, until you realize that no matter what you do – you can’t erase what has been done to you.

But this landed in your lap for a reason. Not because you deserve to be hurt, or used, or violated. But because you’re strong enough to take this thing and turn it around to help others, and that is your purpose in this world. One day girls will come to you, to share their stories, because they will be inspired by your bravery. And you will champion them and make THEM feel stronger, better, less damaged as a result.

You will do for others what no one will do for you, because you know how important that is.

I know you don’t feel that brave right now, and that’s okay. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to be scared. What that man did to you was wrong. And confusing. And scary. But it’s all on him, honey. You are a sweet, innocent child who did what you did with all the best intentions of a child. He violated your trust because of his own sickness. And though it feels like it now, it had nothing to do with you. It could have been any girl on that street, maybe someone who wasn’t strong enough to handle it – who might have one day used this event to harm themselves in ways they can never take back.

But that’s not you. You’re strong. You’re special. You’re meant for much greater things. And though you feel it right now, you’re not alone.You feel like you can’t tell anyone because the people who love you most won’t love you anymore if they know. That, too, is another lie. They will still love you, and they would do their best to protect you. And one day you will trust enough in someone to tell your story, and he will change your entire life. He’ll save you because he thinks you’re worth saving.

Because you are.

You are not damaged, merely changed. Shame will try to convince you that no one will ever be able to love you the way you are now, but they will. Some will even love you more. One day you will have children who know your story, because you will have long since shed the shame of it and tell it to the world, and they will think you’re one of the strongest people they know.

Feel the pain, because that’s okay. What happened to you really sucked and should never happen to anyone. But you’re going to be okay. You will survive to tell the tale, and tell the tale you will. And you will heal others, because of your strength and the talent that God has given you to re-purpose this evil thing for the good.

That man tried to damage you, but the truth is he cannot damage you, no matter what the world says and no matter how you feel. You are as perfectly you as the day you were born, created by God for a purpose that only you can fulfill.

He tried to extinguish your light, but my darling, darling child – you will burn so much brighter as a result. Some people fear the fire, they run from it, hide from it, do whatever they need to do to protect themselves from it. You, however, were reborn into it. And just like a phoenix, you will rise… beautiful because of your scars – not in spite of them.

***

Dear fifteen-year-old me;

ginpose1985

A long time ago, something bad happened to you that rewired your brain to think you didn’t deserve to say no or draw boundaries, like your body wasn’t yours anymore and you didn’t even really want it to be. You were born a perfect child of God but ultimately damaged by an act of man. Now you see yourself as a half-thing, who will only be beautiful and lovable if someone else finds those things in you.

But the truth is that you will find love many, many times, by many, many good men, and you will still feel this nagging feeling that no one can fully love you because of what happened to you.

Worse, you’re going to think you deserve certain things that happen to you. That God himself smote you in some way and you no longer deserve the happy ending designed for those who are undamaged and perfect. All those books you read reinforce that idea, that you have to be a certain kind of woman to win the heart of a good man.

One day, though, you’re going to write your own books, about girls who look and act more like you, who are deeply flawed and can still find their way to their Happily Ever After, no matter what the world around them has to say about it.

You’ll write those stories because you’ll live those stories, and one day decide the book world is big enough for this radical concept. And you’ll gain a passionate following of women just like you, who were waiting for someone brave enough to tell these stories. Their stories.

Your story.

No one is telling you this right now. They tell you that you have to change who you are to be happy. One day, though, you’re going find that love more than once, and all you’ll ever have to be is you.

Because you are more than enough. The people who can’t see that right now simply aren’t your people. Your people are coming, and they’re going to love you as fiercely as you love them.

Right now, though, you accept a lot of stuff you shouldn’t from people who can tell how vulnerable you are and how lonely you feel. You give yourself away because you think the damage is already done. You accept this crazy idea that if you can’t be loved for real, then an hour of being held or kissed or “loved” will do.

Yet you hate yourself more and more with each indiscretion. You’ll see how little they love you beyond what they can get from you, and you’ll love yourself less as a result.

And with each passing moment you’ll feel more and more damaged, like you deserve the pain they inflict.

You have the right to say no. Though your consent was circumvented so long ago, robbing you of the decision who might earn their way into your body, you never give up this right. So when that man touched you today against your will, that wasn’t him taking something you’ve lost the voice to protect. That was him doing something very wrong because he felt like he could.

There are a lot of guys out there like that, then and now. They look at women as half-lings that are only as valuable as their desirability. And you’re going to figure that out on a subconscious level way before you figure it out as a conscious thought. You’re going to do everything you can to repel guys like that, to keep them away, because you know inside that the next man who touches you without your consent will pay the price for all of them. Inside you burn with this hopeless rage, ready to tear the heads off of these jerks. You’ll fantasize about it in your weakest moments.

And one day you’ll write stories about it, to summon strength that lays dormant within you, so you just won’t feel so damned vulnerable anymore.

I know how much you hate it.

But sweetie, you are so much stronger than you know. You’re going to find your voice and establish your boundaries, and one day people will step out of your path to let you pass. Men will try to intimidate you and you’ll back them down simply with a look. You are formidable. In time, men will call you a force of nature.

And a few will love you enough to brave the storm.

Those are the keepers, and they don’t deserve to pay the price for what that man did to you today.

Where you will need to be brave isn’t to karate-chop some handsy jerk – but to allow those close to you who want to be there. You can’t fear intimacy, because there will be good men who will deserve your best and won’t get it because of fuckos like this one.

Today he grabbed you and you didn’t say anything, mostly because you think you lost that right. It was okay to be scared. It was okay to be shocked. It was okay that you didn’t know what to do. Despite how old you feel, you’re only fifteen.

One day, when you’re much older, you’ll know what to do and it’ll never happen again. And you’ll make a vow that no one will touch you that doesn’t deserve to, and that list will be exceedingly small. Because you matter. You matter big time. As you are no one will ever be again, and one day – way in the future – you’ll figure that out for yourself. Because I know you’ll have to do it your way and in your time, despite those mistakes you could have avoided along the way.

Everything that is happening is leading you somewhere pretty freaking special. And you are strong enough to endure, to get to that finish line… to win.

I know you think you have to be perfect or intact to do that, but let me tell you honey… you already are. You are perfectly Ginger, who is flawed, passionate, intense, vulnerable, strong, fiery, unlovable, lovable, domineering, a pushover, funny, melancholy, angry, stubborn, obsessive, purposeful, smart, stupid, courageous, a coward… every good and bad thing rolled into one… just like every other human on planet earth. You’re just turned up to 11, because you were meant for something greater.

Why?

In that ball of conflicting craziness, you’re kind; you fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, you have the fortitude to stand alone if it means doing the right thing. That’s what makes you special and so, so brave, no matter how weak you feel. Never, ever forget it. All those heroes you admire, who stood up, stood strong, made a difference? You’re one of them. Mostly because of things like this. You know what it means to feel powerless, ashamed, and outcast. And you will spend the rest of your life giving more love to those in need so they don’t feel that way.

You’re everything and nothing rolled into one – and that’s okay. Not everyone will like that. You’re going to scare a lot of folks off. You’re even going to hurt people, not because you want to or mean to, but because that’s the price we often pay to live through the kind of trauma we’ve faced. Hurt people hurt people, and you’re going to do that even with the best of intentions.

Some won’t even be able to forgive you… but you have GOT to learn to forgive yourself.

When you make a mistake, you will do what you need to fix it and move forward, even if the only thing you can ever do is say, “I’m sorry.” You truly mean it, and that’s what counts most. You’ll learn from it, and never repeat it again.

You will make your share of mistakes, but this event was not one of them. You feel forced into silence again because the fact of the matter was that you have been sexually active for a year now, and you feel that you can’t argue that what that man has done to you was bad because you allow older men to touch you all the time.

You’ve internalized all the arguments that they’ve said about victims of sexual assault deserving what they get because you buy this bullshit that you’re only worth what someone else thinks you’re worth.

This is the greatest lie of all. You matter. Your voice matters. Your consent matters. You are the Queen of your own life, and your body is your empire. People must earn their way into your favor. No one can just take it or steal it away, no matter what. No matter who you let touch you, no one else can circumvent your will and touch you without your green light. And you didn’t give it, so what that man did was wrong and you have every right to be upset about it. Your first impulse will be a shameful one, to bury it so no one else knows. It’s something that you’ve been doing for eleven years now, hiding the scars that others have inflicted, because you think they make you ugly and lesser than… that they leave you damaged and unworthy of any good thing.

They absolutely don’t.

One day you will see that you’ve suffered enough, that you didn’t deserve any of that, so punishing yourself beyond that is stupid.

When that day comes, you’ll use it as ammo to fight against a society that has created these shitty rules for girls and women. And, with all your fiery intensity and stubborn persistence, you WILL make a difference, even if it’s only with one girl who feels less alone, less scared, less damaged as a result.

The world needs you, flaws and all, which is why you’re here. You won’t be able to change a lot of the bad stuff that has happened to you, but that was never your job in the first place.

It’s your job to embrace every flaw and every scar and show the world that you can be fucking perfect anyway.

***

Weigh in: 290.4 (-4.2lbs from last week)
Monthly measurements: 48/44/55, size22/24 (down from 49/45/58, size 26/28 from last month)

 

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.

 

 

It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.

The other night my son and I were chatting and my new journey to health and wellness came up, including the challenges that I face particularly with the physical activity thanks to my current limitations. Last week I went balls to the wall with the walking only to collapse over the weekend. My “bounce back” time has increased exponentially, and it’s frustrating the shit out of me.

It’s still such a chore to do the work necessary to meet my goals.I mentioned this to my son, who has done athletic training before in high school gymnastics and then kung fu classes as an adult. “I just can’t wait for it to get easier,” I lamented, since it’s still like trudging uphill through molasses.

“It’s like that quote,” he tells me. “‘It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.'”

I knew in that moment that was going to be my blog topic for the week.

Like his father before him, he has a passion for physical activity that bypassed me completely. It was just never a part of my childhood, never modeled to me by those closest to me. My parents weren’t physically active. My dad was much older and disabled, my mom worked full-time to support the family. Like so many Southerners, many of the celebrations we had centered around food. If we traveled, we didn’t go camping or hiking. We went to see relatives, other older, Southern folk who cooked good ol’ comfort food, enough for an army.

There were no physical games to play, and any of the games I played in school were stressful. When you are hard-wired for anxiety, a simple children’s game like Duck Duck  was an ongoing nightmare. These were obligatory, too, which deeply tests my Personal Choice Boundary. After you’ve had your consent taken away, doing things you don’t want to do because you have no choice leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. So the Presidential Fitness Tests that began when I was 10 at once became the bane of my existence. Run a mile? Are you crazy? The only running I ever did was to escape mean dogs.

Then, beat me if you can.

Though I grew up in 70s/80s, I didn’t have roller skates or a skateboard. I went to a roller rink exactly once, in 1981 or thereabouts. I enjoyed it because of the music, but I couldn’t get myself coordinated enough to maneuver the silly things. I knew that would come with practice, so I asked for some skates for Christmas.

I got a lamp. Such was my childhood.

There were only three physical activities I enjoyed. I liked jumping rope (before I got boobs anyway,) though I couldn’t Double-Dutch to save my life. I’m just not coordinated at all, which is one of the reasons I don’t dance. It’s like my body and I aren’t exactly friends. I tell it to do one thing, and it gives me something entirely different. I’ve become subconscious to it to the point of paralysis. The only way you’ll find me dancing is if I’m locked in a safe room where no one could ever possibly catch me attempting such foolishness.

I also enjoyed the game Four-Square, mostly because it was a game where my size didn’t compromise me. I could play it and I could win. This was important. After my dad’s encouragement silenced, I felt like I had ended up in Loserville. I had plenty of detractors to laugh at me when I stumbled. It almost felt as if they expected me to, like they were waiting for it so they could pounce all over it with sadistic glee. And it’s tough being a living, breathing punchline. Hence why so many fat people don’t (insert public activity here).

If you haven’t watched the new NBC hit series “This is Us,” it stars an overweight actress whose battle with her body and her self-image is a huge part of the show. Her twin brother is an actor known for his impressive physical appearance, and she, by default as his right-hand gal, ended up going to a major Hollywood party at his insistence, even though conventional wisdom suggests people like us would not fit in at such an event. He needed her there and, thanks to her boyfriend’s insistence that they go, she went. Said boyfriend, Toby, is also a big guy who gives zero fucks what anyone thinks of him, so he hit the dance floor with gusto, ready to get down amidst the most beautiful people in the industry.

Kate was much slower to follow. Why? Her entire perspective shrunk to the whispers, the murmurs, the barely concealed laughter and amusement. All she could see/hear were the detractors, those who couldn’t WAIT till she got on the dance floor so they could snicker over the fat chick “trying” to dance.

You’ve probably seen Hairspray. You know what I’m talking about. The detractors are everywhere.

So naturally Kate hesitated. Why put yourself on display like that? You might as well walk right in front of a firing squad. There’s no fun to be had when you’re the butt of the joke. It took her quite a few drinks to muster the nerve to join fun-loving Toby on the dance floor, because that’s the job of booze – to lower one’s inhibitions and raise one’s DGAF.

I totally get that. I’ve danced publicly exactly three times, and alcohol played a part in each and every one, including my wedding dance.

The third activity I enjoyed was leg wrestling, which we did around fifth or sixth grade. Jeff will have to chime in here since his memory isn’t quite as fractured as mine. It was in elementary school, though, and I remember enjoying it because I was killer at it. My leg strength, to this day, is phenomenal – thanks mostly to carrying all of me around day after day. I was flipping people left and right, like some kind of prize-fighter, which at long last restored the admiration and acceptance I had lost. I only got flipped once myself, by some skinny kid, and I remembered thinking, “What the hell just happened?”

I liked winning. Winning felt good. I was gaining respect in a way I hadn’t ever been able to in a P.E. class before that. When I was eight, I was the slowest runner and the easiest pick for Duck Duck Goose. By the time I was 11 or 12, I was a beast who could take you out.

I liked that. Apparently Ginger + Time = Badassery.

I’ve always had very high standards for myself. I don’t just want to do a good job. I want to dazzle you. And I can’t do that if I’m falling down on my ass because I can’t skate, or making you double over in laughter because I can’t dance.

Humiliation is a hard pass for me. Oddly enough, it was the one thing I passed it down to my two kids. Both can watch a zombie get his skull curb-stomped, but if someone gets embarrassed they have to leave the room.

Neither one of them dance, which – again – is all me. Their dad was known as Disco Dan back in the day.

Me? I’ll be nursing a drink at the bar nodding my head along with the beat, thank you very much.

So I do most of my failure stuff in private, where no one can see. When I was nine, I wanted to learn how to ride a bike. My sister had moved out, leaving behind a purple sparkly bike I had long coveted. And I was tired of being a weirdo. I wanted to do what the other kids could do, the normal kind of stuff that we all share as a collective experience. And I simply couldn’t do that. I didn’t know how to swim, skate, ride a bike, I’d never gone camping, I didn’t have any friends who participated in any group games. I was even too big for the Big Wheel I begged my mom to get me when I was in third grade.

I decided I was going to ride that fucking bike. My mom couldn’t teach me because she didn’t know how. My dad couldn’t teach me, because like I said – he was disabled. My sister wouldn’t teach me because she had her own family at the time, and – frankly – hated me anyway. With no friends there to teach me, I decided I’d just teach my own damned self. I dragged that bike into the alley, which was a pretty secluded place with a flat surface, and I didn’t stop until I learned how to ride it.

And nobody knew about it until I was zipping around the neighborhood like a pro.

This has been my long-standing problem. And I know it’s not unique to me. I know there are plenty of us who just don’t want to suck at anything. But you kind of have to suck at something before you can excel at stuff. Natural talent is a good place to start, but skill gets you where you want to go. That takes training. That takes learning. That takes sucking.

At my son’s wedding, there will be dancing. Well, there will be dancing *available*. How much dancing is actually done will depend entirely on how the bride convinces my non-dancy son to participate, and the kinds of people we end up inviting to the shindig. I would like to look back on the event without thoughts of humiliation OR regret, so that means I have to drag that old bike back out into the alley to, simply put, get over myself.

I’ve been waiting 40-something years for this stuff to get easier, so I’ll enjoy it more, and, by extension, do it more. But it’s never going to get any easier. I’m just going to have to get stronger. The biggest obstacle in my way to do that is to learn how to get past the suckatude. There’s nothing stopping me anymore except me. I can buy my own damned skates now, which I just sorta kinda figured out just now. I got my kids skates when they were young so they could learn how, but I somehow never thought to do the same for me. Interesting epiphany that comes complete with its own action plan.

Guess it’s all on me now.

I have purchased dance videos or looked up instructional videos on YouTube to practice my little heart out until I master the moves, but so far I still embarrass my own damn self when I do it.

Virtually I’ve become that room full of hateful detractors, mocking and laughing at my own attempts to get it right.

And I may never master get it right. I may always look like a spider on a hot plate, to quote BBT’s Bernadette. But there’s a great line in the movie “Florence Foster Jenkins,” where Meryl plays a socialite who, though she loved to sing, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. At the end, she says of her critics, “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t.”

I fucking wept like a baby when she said that. One, she’s Meryl Fucking Streep. But man… that quote hit home.

Kind of like my son’s quote the other night. If it’s never going to get easier, which is what I’ve always kind of been waiting around for, then I’m just going to have to get stronger.

THAT I have complete control over. Just like the bike so long ago.

There is no expiration date on any of this. I took my first hike when I was nineteen years old. This was back when Dan and I were homeless in L.A., and we were looking for something fun to do that didn’t cost anything. Since Dan was a fitness junkie, who barely had a spare ounce of flesh on the man, he decided he wanted to explore Griffith Park. For those unacquainted, Griffith Park is a huge municipal park in L.A. that spans over four thousand acres of land and houses the Los Angeles Zoo, the Observatory and the Hollywood Sign. It has trails for humans and horses that wind through sloping hills for these amazing views of the city. Dan, who came from West Virginia “hillbilly” stock, could run those fucking hills in his sleep, and couldn’t wait to race up that hill when he saw it.

I was a lot, lot slower, with a more “Can we not and just say we did?” attitude.

I had never hiked before, particularly in hilly terrain. Considering I was carrying 210 pounds, it was not the stroll in the park I thought it might be. I paused maybe four times going up that moderate hill, testing Dan’s limited patience. It was on my fourth “break” that this little old man went *jogging* past us. He was gray-haired, easily 60 or better, but he was trucking like a champ up that incline that had stymied me. He was barely out of breath. Humbled and chagrined, I got up off my butt and I didn’t stop again till we got to the top. If he could do it, I had no excuses. I was nineteen, FFS. I was overweight and unconditioned, but I was still in my physical prime.

And man. What a view once we got there.

I’m no longer in my physical prime, but I’m also not as bad off as I have been. I’ve got some challenges, but I’ve made it a habit of overcoming challenges and doing what people didn’t think I could do.

I dazzle folks. That’s my M.O. That means my physical prime very well lies before me not behind me, provided I pull my head out of my ass, get my shit together and learn how to survive the sucking.

So I guess that means I have only one alternative left. It’s time to shut up and dance.

 

 

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

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:

sept04hsept04i

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

4

And this was me in 2004, ten sizes smaller:

june04g

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama likes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hence, the blog.

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

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

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

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

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

thingin

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

ginger1986cropped

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

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

It’s time to make things okay.

Starting weight:

May 2017 – 296.8

Starting measurements:

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

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

Let’s do this.

 

#OneYear explained.

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

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

My capability to be awesome is completely intact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m excited for what it will bring.

An Aha Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The approval of anyone else is neither required nor desired.

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

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.