Interlude (When I’m not making delicious food.)

Uncle Bazel said to me, “Why you so fat?” I was eleven years old and at the yearly family reunion in the Appalachian foothills. He was of my grandparents’ generation, and this was the first time I really remember anyone in my family pointing out my size, or so pointedly, my failure. I was teased most of my childhood and adolescence by peers for being overweight. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin for any great length of time. I achieved my great weight loss after years on Weight Watchers, stoked by a personal tragedy, and literally running from my anxiety. I noticed that as I got smaller, the models in magazines got larger. It was bizarre, sitting in the bathtub, actively wondering if I was experiencing body dysmorphia, or if the fashion magazines had finally started hiring slightly larger models.

It’s still bizarre, because though I’m intellectually certain that the fashion industry hasn’t started using models above a size 2 in their magazines, I still remember that moment with a hint of doubt. Maybe they’re a size 6?

I want to print out a picture of one of the Domino Dollhouse models in lingerie for inspiration. I’ve been fighting, trying to lose weight for a year post-pregnancy, and letting myself feel pretty horrible. I realized that what I find beautiful and sexy in other women, regardless of size, is their chutzpah. It’s hard being a woman, regardless of size, but I truly want to high-five every large woman I see working and sweating in a gym, running down the street in athletic gear, or rocking leopard print leggings, short skirt, and sparkly bustier.

My smallest, stable weight of my life was 155 lbs. That was 2010, and I was running regularly, and by the end of the year, completed my first half marathon, running 13.1 miles in roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes. I wanted to lose another 10 lbs, at least. Twenty pounds would get me to the middle of the recommended BMI. You could see the sinews in my neck, my chin was sharp, my collarbones were defined and my ribs could be seen on occasion. I had loose skin from years of being much heavier, and I felt, still, like I was too big. The twist, though that while my internal dialog was still hateful, the outside world was more welcoming. Athletic people chatted with me more, people were more open with me, and attractive people treated me like a peer in a way I had never experienced before. Sometimes I wanted to tell them, “You know, I’ve really been fat most my life, are you sure you want to still talk to me?” I felt like an imposter.

Pregnancy made me have to lose the super-tight control I had over my eating, and daily pain towards the last part of my pregnancy kept me from even walking the usual distances I was accustomed.

I go to the gym three times a week. I don’t run much any more, and I miss it, but I just don’t have the time to do it during day light hours. I’m stronger, and I think I’m more physically stable than I was right after I gave birth, but I’m still 50 lbs from my “goal weight.” If I look at the fat % on my scale, I’m realistically 40 lbs away from what my weight should be at my current fitness level. It still puts me above my BMI (which is bullshit, I know, but some metrics are just burned into my head.

Lovey Tee in Purple - Domino Dollhouse
Lovey Tee in Purple – Domino Dollhouse
I went shopping this past weekend and finally bought some clothing that fit me, and looked good. Some of it was even a bit daring, in that “LOOK AT ME” kind of way. I’ve been waiting and working hard to become that magical person that can be sustained by smaller amounts of food and abstinence from all delicious fats and sugars, meanwhile punishing myself with an ill-fitting wardrobe, hoping I’d fit into my old clothes if I just worked hard enough. I’m hoping, now, that if I stop punishing myself, that maybe everything else will fall into place. I don’t know. I have come to the conclusion that maybe it’s not just me, but my Mirena BC that’s also impacting my weight loss. At any rate, instead of finding thinspiration in an anorexic model, instead I want to look at my beautiful, voluptuous kindred, some of which are larger than me, who have said (at least with their well-fashioned hips), “Today, this is me, this is my size, and I look fantastic.” I can’t wake up and be a size 8 for the day, but I can wake up and feel good about the size I am while trying to figure out how to get to the size I want to be. Right?

Eggs vs. Eggs

As my frittata breakfast settles in my stomach, I thought I’d write about my most recent experience at an IHOP in Texas. I don’t go to IHOPs, or any national chain restaurant, if I can help it, or am going through a particular bit of insanity. This is mostly because that in Seattle, you have unending choices of delicious food that is from local businesses (including local ingredients!) I’m still on a path of weight-loss, so Texas is a challenge no matter what. I thought that I could navigate breakfast rather simply, even when the family chose IHOP, but it turns out I was wrong.

The order was simple – 2 eggs over medium, 2 strips of bacon, whole-wheat toast.

What I received was all that, PLUS hash browns and an extra slice of toast, both drenched in butter.

I left one slice of toast and hash browns to the side. I planned only to eat one of the eggs, but ended up eating both. During the entire meal, I was stunned with the fact that the texture of eggs and bacon was there, but the flavor wasn’t. It wasn’t for lack of salt, as I sprinkled more than my usual on it. It wasn’t for lack of hot sauce, either, as I slathered my eggs in Tabasco and Cholula. My brain even raised the question, “Are these eggs sweet?” It seemed like I couldn’t escape a syrupiness, even on my eggs.

I’m a fan of bacon and eggs. It’s something I eat on a semi-regular basis, usually being a piece of bacon and a single egg. This combo breakfast usually sustains me for 4-5 hours before I remember that it’s time to eat. This is much longer than my usual high-fiber breakfast cereal gets me. I have found that the key to being satisfied and not overeating is limiting my simple carbohydrate intake, or ensuring that I pair all simple carbs with protein or fat. I hoped that my order at IHOP would net me the same fortitude as my experience with bacon and eggs at home. I was horribly, horribly wrong.

One reason this happened could be that I ate toast (and a bite of pancake) along with my protein and fat rich breakfast. It was whole-wheat, and naked except for butter, so I don’t imagine it had much of a glycemic impact as naked toast alone. The other reason, and I don’t have a scientific basis to believe this, is that perhaps the IHOP eggs and bacon and our eggs and bacon at home (which come from the farmer’s market) are actually different, nutritionally. IHOPs sources are likely from CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), where our sources come from a short ways out into Washington, where allegedly, the animals lead happy lives up until their deaths. The feed itself, perhaps, makes a difference.

All I know is that in a short 2-3 hours, I was really, really hungry. Unreasonably hungry.

Maybe, instead of obscenely stacked burgers and plumped up milkshakes, THIS IS WHY WE’RE FAT. Food, in the greater parts of America, is so bland and tasteless it requires monumental amounts of salt and sugar to make it taste like anything, and when you’re done eating, you’re hungry in short order. Your tastebuds are constantly deprived, deprivation leads to overeating, almost as if you keep on eating, somehow taste will appear. Maybe this bite will be tasty?!

Corn syrup has taken a hit as the culprit of the obesity epidemic. Maybe corn syrup is just another symptom. Maybe the CAFO meats and dairy and fake-food (ie. artificial sweetners, flavors, and artificially low-fat foods) being devoid of flavor, REQUIRING more of ANYTHING to give it flavor are to blame for obesity.

After my excursion into the Heart of Darkness America, I can note that it will be very, very hard for me to ever leave the Pacific Northwest.

Losing Steam, and Fast

Uh-oh. I’ve reached the 2 workout per week zone. That’s not entirely true, but I only attempted jogging TWICE last week. I did, however, add weight training back into the routine AND did a 10.5 mile walk/hike between Ballard and Magnolia on Saturday (that took me up a cliff at Discovery Park). My calves are still a little tender from that one, though I made it through the entire hike rather remarkably.

I purchased some size 12 jeans at American Eagle Outfitters on Friday, and am waiting for them to be shipped (I had to have them shipped due to my short stature.) This makes these jeans the smallest size I’ve purchased as an adult. My weight is still hovering above the 160 mark, but I stand at over 100 pounds lost, and have decreased from a plus sized 24-26 to a misses 12. This still puts me at about a 14-16 when it comes to modern fashion sizing, but still, it’s a pretty far leap.

I was just reading the latest Marie Claire magazine about a woman who did a relay with her husband across New Zealand (heck if I can actually find the web version). She started at a size 12 and ended up a size 4 – and I don’t want to say that my hope in fitness is a smaller size, but there’s a novelty in it considering I’ve been large my whole life.

I have yet to go to a Team in Training practice – and it’s becoming something that I avoid because I keep avoiding it. I’m worried about overtraining, and wonder if crazy athletics is what I want to go towards.

One thing’s for sure, though. Hiking up that cliff at Disco Park was one of the most fun things I’ve done in a long time.

“no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease”

My husband has been telling me this for years. This is contrary to everything that has been shoved down our throats as Americans.

In March the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis—which combines data from several studies—that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease.

This has come up time and time again over the past few years. Dietary intake of fat does not equal fat/cholesterol in the blood and body. Instead, our consumption of carbohydrates seems to be the problem.

I’ve been trying to lose weight through one system or another for at least 20 years. This means that this goes back to middle school, if not grade school. I remember once my mother took me to a dietition. I had to be in middle school, and I remember it well. I sat in the office while this woman gave me an incomprehensible plan. She tried to tell me it was really easy, and what I remembered from her during that time (and what I remember now) was that she told me that it was the amount of FAT in the foods I was to watch out for.

I was ecstatic to realize that Entenmenns made a FAT FREE coffee cake. After all, zero plus zero plus zero equals zero, right? Never mind the fact that it might have 12 servings per cake, and each serving was probably about 200 calories. I could sit and eat the whole cake for ZERO fat.

A month later (I think) was my first weigh in, and I gained a pound or two. She was flustered, if I remember correctly, and rather perturbed. I told her that I did just as she said, watched my fat intake. Apparently, I had missed something in her magical equation.

I’m not the only one. If you look around, there’s fat free and reduced fat products everywhere, and they’re also loaded with carbs. Another problem is that portion control is out the window. No one really knows what a portion looks like, or what satiation feels like – well, except for a few, perhaps. I would never advocate for a carb-free lifestyle, or even extreme carb restriction.

However, I did lose a majority of my weight thanks to making decisions to pass on the bread basket or tortilla chips at restaurants, and make a choice of what carbs I really want vs. other foods I really want. I ended up eating a lower carb diet by accident.

We don’t entirely understand how the body works. We have many researchers looking at this question, but there are many unanswered ones. What we eat doesn’t get instantly transferred into energy, fat, muscle. There’s a process. Some people’s bodies metabolize differently. Some medications throw this process for a loop. It’s not just scientists that have a problem with understanding how we metabolize things, it’s also people in the holistic healing industry (which I’m honestly a fan of, though with that industry the science is sometimes questionable.

I come back to the basics. Eat real food. If you eat meat and dairy, you’re eating the suffering of the animal. (I say this not to convince you to be a vegetarian, because I’m not – but that the stress hormones that build up in stressed animals make for untasty animal products, not to mention, unhealthy and requiring more antibiotics and that doesn’t sound like something I want to eat.) You eat the nutrition that the plants are grown in. Good soil makes a difference. Eat mostly plants and foods with very little processing. Try not to eat a single food that has more than 5 ingredients. (This is more a fun challenge.)

There is no magic pill, but that’s my next post.

Different Skin

I used to weigh 100+ pounds more than I do today. I look in the mirror, and on the scale, and know that I have more to lose. This is despite getting statements occasionally where some people I know believe that I’ve completed my weight loss journey. In truth, I have about 25-30 pounds to go, and I’ve been staying pretty level, without any big poundage losses, for over a year.

I won’t tell that same trite sob story about how “food is my drug” and how it was my crutch, etc, etc. Maybe it was, once upon a time. Meanwhile, I’ve always loved to move my body, even when I was at my heaviest. I’d get funny looks when I was 250+ pounds, and would tell people I’d regularly go to the gym. In fact, I was doing 60 minutes of cardio, and sometimes another 60 minutes of weights three times a week. I’ve always walked at least a mile a day, just without thinking. The food part? Food is tasty when it’s good, prepared food is almost always underwhelming and under-satisfying, and when I’m not satisfied, I want to be satisfied, so I eat more, as if my belly stretching tells me I’m satisfied. (It actually just tells me I’m stuffed.)

To say the least, I’m living in a different skin. I looked in the mirror one day, over two years ago, and said that I was done wearing that skin. I’ve used Weight Watchers the entire time on my journey, and though the meetings may be scary to some, I definitely lose more weight when I’m going to meetings than when I’m doing it with their eTools.

Long story short – what I’m getting at is that I’m having to come to grips that I’m a different person. I’m not the fat girl any more. I can shop almost anywhere for clothing (aside from haute couture). I’m active, and I run. I don’t get funny looks when I shop for athletic clothing. I get pleasant and even fun small talk from other fitness enthusiasts, who look at me as a peer. I still eat the things that are delicious, but I’ve managed to cut out a lot of the things that frankly, I don’t need, and aren’t that delicious (or functional.)

No, I need chocolate. I still have chocolate.

But I don’t eat an entire pint of ice cream, except on a very rare basis. Hamburgers and french fries, also, a rare occurrence. Pasta is regular, but the portions are smaller (Most restaurant portions are probably 2-4 cups of cooked pasta, a portion is 1 cup.) Meat? Well, there are many reasons to eat less meat. I try to cut my portions to no more than 3-4 ounces of meat for dinner (and seldom, meat for lunch). Consider it’s nearly impossible to find a burger, chicken breast, or steak at a restaurant that is less than 4 ounces these days.

I do enjoy what I eat, and since I count the calories of alcohol as well, this past year of grief and stress has me turning to pleasure as an escape – and this is why I go over my Weight Watchers points (and break even on the scale.) Alcohol, I’ve found, is seldom worth drinking more than the slightest edge of tipsy. (That’s one drink for me.) Chocolate? Ice cream? Cupcake? Ah. Once a week (or more, depending on the moon), I find myself indulging. It’s easy to do the rationalizing. Especially when it’s just a few Points over the line for the week. (Oops!)

If all goes well, I’ll be visiting Chicago at the end of the summer, at my goal weight, visiting friends who have never really known me for any period of time other than the large, loud girl.

I’m learning who I am, in this context. It’s a bit of a, how you say, mindfuck?