Tuesday, July 22, 2014
One fact about me: I'm extremely susceptible to stress. Actually, chronic stress is pretty much a way of life for me. And chronic stress? It doesn't make me gain weight. Because it is my state of being for 90% of the time, it's the place when I'm most stable, the place when I maintain my weight without trying, and when I can lose weight very slowly and with a lot of effort (more than losing normally takes - losing at about half the rate of my calorie deficit). It's my "neutral."
That other 10% of the time? Roughly split at 2% happiness, 8% severe depression. Let me clarify this.
(Don Knotts flashbacks, anyone?)
I have plenty of little happy moments and little sad moments during my neutral periods. This is not to say I'm only happy 2% of my life, and only sad 8% of my life. The 2% happy periods, however, have a distinct biological as well as psychological change. They show up rarely, and often last for about 4-8 months, though they are strongest for about 3 months, then start mixing with stress thereafter until the stress/neutral takes over completely. During that time, I am happy almost constantly, and nothing can damper that. In addition to being happy, it's like my body comes to life. I see more clearly, I sleep better, I have more energy, I laugh a lot, and I get stuff done without effort. (I'm always getting stuff done. It just takes effort during the neutral portions of my life.) And my body starts dropping weight pretty quickly, no matter how inactive I am, or how badly I'm eating. If I eat well and exercise well, I drop weight even faster, at a rate that is above my calorie deficit. My theory is that hormonally and chemically, my body is simply running very efficiently, and thus burning a lot more calories just in every day living, plus it's dropping all the calories it stores up during chronic stress periods. Note: I do not become happy because my weight drops, but the opposite - I become happy, and then the weight starts dropping effortlessly until the happy period is over.
In my adult life, this has happened to me three times: the summer/fall of 1999, the summer of 2006, and the spring/summer of 2011. Each instance is proceeded by some sort of "waking up," a moment when it's like my brain chemically transitions from its normal state to one that is happy and active. Two of those three periods, the waking up moment was so dramatic that it was literally like waking up from one mental state to another, while my body was already awake. Also, I can trace these happy periods and waking up moments all the way back to puberty, though they were more frequent and shorter during my adolescent years.
The transition to severe depression is not as dramatic, and it often creeps up on me unaware. The periods are a lot muddier, and can last a very, very long time. The best description I've ever heard for this sort of depression comes from a book called The Believers by Zoe Heller: "a toad that squatted wetly on your head until it finally gathered the energy to slither off." Yeah. And just like my happy periods, there are distinct biological changes when depression claims me. It's like my body shuts down. I become absolutely still. When I'm happy, my body seems to vibrate even when I'm lying down reading a book, like I just finished a workout and the blood is running through me. When I'm depressed, I can barely get my heartrate up when I work out, and it drops down to below normal immediately afterwards. It's like my body has pulled into itself, sluggish, and is conserving every ounce of energy possible. Of course, there is the corresponding physical result: no matter how well I eat or how often I force myself to exercise, I just keep gaining weight. It's not the stress - I can deal with stress - it's the absolutely shutting down of all unnecessary activity within my body. My personal theory is that my metabolism goes into overdrive when I'm happy, and virtually shuts down when I'm depressed, so that my base calories burned every day differs enormously.
These depression periods happen far more often than the happy ones, sadly, and often much longer. I've not yet found anything that can lift them. Medication hasn't helped in the past - it just sends me into a sort of manic energy that is miserable and painful while I'm still sad and exhausted - but it's possible that something might work someday. I won't stop trying to find a solution, of course. And, I do have to say, since my teeth were fixed in Sept 2009 and I got off the emotional roller coaster those symptoms gave me, I haven't once suffered from severe depression - until now.
(My new tattoo, upper left shoulder blade)
In late April and early May, depression claimed me, and continues to get worse every day. Unfortunately, this is a depression caused by outside factors, rather than anything internal. I still can't talk about it here, no matter how much I wish I could, because it involves other people and is very private for them. I will say, though, that it has nothing to do with moving across the country, and I would be thrilled and excited about the upcoming move if there wasn't this painful thing happening at the same time. I can only take so many blows, however, and April/May delivered enough of them that I bowed down, and that toad climbed back onto my head. Or my neck, is really what it feels like, because the weight is so heavy that I can't unbend my back.
Periodically, I get a little burst of energy. I am nothing if not determined, persistent, and aggressive about trying to control my body and mind. I can't sustain the energy, though, and go back to being very, very still. And I'm scared. I've now gained 15-20 lbs since the depression took over. Anything I lose, I gain back when I no longer have the energy to keep pushing. And right now, there's nothing I can do about it. I can't change the circumstances around me that have led me here. I can't just will myself out of a chemical problem in my brain that is exacerbated by problems outside my control. I have no doctor to go to, and I don't have time to find one in town, so I will have to find one after we move up north, and then hope that I can at least get on a medication that *might* bring my BODY back to neutral, if not my MIND. The mental part won't improve until the external situation is resolved. :(
I have worked so hard. I've discovered things about my body, about how the right foods and the right amount of exercise really helps keep depression at bay - when there aren't outside factors that are pretty much forcing me into it. It's been five years since I last fell into this kind of dark chasm, and eleven years since I fell this badly. I have no idea what to do or when this will get any better, and I can't tell if that frustrates me into a sort of anger-induced burst of short-term energy, or makes me want to give up completely.
Thanks for listening, those of you who are. I'll see y'all again when I've made it to Boston in a couple weeks.
Friday, June 13, 2014
"I need a new head. I need new teeth. I need new eyes. I need a new me. New head, new teeth, new eyes, new me, new face, no trace. Where did I go?"
--from "I, New" by my favorite band, Stiffs Incorporated
I am tired of the old me. The old me has spent far too long wallowing in depression, angst, and paralyzed fear. She has stopped moving forward - or even holding still - and has started falling backward backward backward. She hates her body and has no motivation, drive, or willpower. The only thing she has in plenty is excuses.
I do not want to be that girl anymore. I am not okay with the fact that I've gained back 10 lbs and am overweight again. I am not okay with my clothes feeling too tight and my body feeling uncomfortably sluggish. I am not okay with self-loathing and body-shame.
It's difficult. The personal Bad Stuff I've been going through for the last year (and worse in the last few months) has left me drained. Spent. My energy is completely sapped. Just getting through each day is tough. But the only way to get out of this hole is to claw my way out. I need to eat better, exercise more, interact with my friends more often. Force myself up inch by inch each day.
So I am taking steps. I've changed up my Sparkpage. I've created new goals, focuses, and motivators. I've joined new teams. I've made new plans. I know that there's a strong possibility that I will stumble and fall repeatedly along this new path, especially in these early days, but I will do my best to keep getting up. I also know that the first 10 of the 25 lbs I need to lose will hold no victory for me, because they are pounds I've already lost once, but I will keep working toward 100% brand new numbers on the scale.
- Exercise 5x/wk, 30-60 mins, including heavy ST 3x/wk.
- Active recovery - I need to not be sedentary outside of exercise!
- Take lots of slow, easy walks in addition to exercise.
- Stretch and foam-roll 3x/wk.
- Cut out all flour/sugar 85% of the time (6 days/wk).
- Eat 5-10 freggies per day.
- Check in daily on Spark and with my accountability buddy, Stephanie (INEEDACAT9).
As of this morning, I weigh 159.2 lbs. Ugh. My arm is 11.5 inches, bust is 37.5, waist (not sucked in) is 32, hips are 40, and upper thigh is 23. ALL of these measurements are up 0.5-2.5 inches from where they were two months ago. Sadface. And, the final nail in the coffin, new "before" photos for the new journey, which really show the regain:
(Note: First side pic is sucked in, the second is not sucked in.)
I've changed my ticker to reflect my new starting weight and my goal of 135 lbs. Also, I took an extensive fitness test this morning - the same one I took on January 1st and also last May - to see where my current, post-surgery fitness levels are. My abdominal surgery was exactly five months ago today, and my core strength disappeared completely on that day (as you'd expect, given they moved my ab muscles in five inches!). Not much has returned, especially as I wasn't cleared to do any core work beyond basic balance stuff until very recently. Between the extremely weak core and my total lack of fitness over the last two months, the results of today's test aren't good:
1. Resting heart rate: 64 bpm
- Jan 2014: not tested
- May 2013: 64 bpm
2. Pull-ups: 0.75
- Jan 2014: 4
- May 2013: 1.25
3. Vertical leap: 11 inches
- Jan 2014: 13.5
- May 2013: 13.25
4. Push-ups: 17
- Jan 2014: 31
- May 2013: 15
5. Toe touch: 3 inches past my toes
- Jan 2014: 3.5 inches past my toes
- May 2013: 4 inches past my toes
6. In & outs (V-crunches, hands on floor): 21
- Jan 2014: 21
- May 2013: 21
7. Seated wall squat: 1:23
- Jan 2014: 1:05
- May 2013: 0:42
8. Arm curls to failure: 46 w/10 lb weights in each hand
- Jan 2014: 20 w/10 lb weights in each hand
- May 2013: 14 w/10 lb weights in each hand
9. Heart rate maximizer:
--179 bpm after 2 mins jumping jacks (Jan: 178, May: 177)
--155 bpm after 1-min rest (Jan: 146, May: 150)
--138 bpm after 2-min rest (Jan: 125, May: 139)
--128 bpm after 3-min rest (Jan: 119, May: 129)
--127 bpm after 4-min rest (Jan: 121, May: 120)
The pull-up one makes me particularly mad. Grr. Ah well. It's a place to start, at least. That's where I am. Starting over, at the beginning of a new journey. Not as BIG a journey as the last time I began losing weight - only 25 lbs instead of 120 lbs to lose - but still a journey. I need a new me. Time to go find one.
June 13, 2014 -
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
You guys already know that things have been difficult for me over the last 1-2 months. I'm struggling with a lot of stress and some personal things, and that has resulted in gaining back about 10 lbs. I'm now about 5 lbs over that magic healthy-BMI line, and nearly tipping back into the 160s again - AND that's on my home scale, which is always about 6 lbs lower than a doctor's scale. This is not okay, but every time I try to rein in the damage, something happens: a night where I only sleep 3 hrs, a family crisis, another party someone throws before we move away from all our family and friends, a sudden house-showing which means we have to eat out again. Life is very chaotic right now, and there's very little I can do besides minimize the damage during the parts when I DO have control.
I am doing my best to cut out flour and sugar whenever possible and eat 7+ freggies a day, but honestly, this isn't enough. Most people say that losing weight is 80% diet 20% fitness. This has never been the truth for my body. For me, losing weight is 80% fitness 20% diet. And the fitness portion...isn't happening. We are into triple-digit heat here. The boys are home from school and I need to watch them. I have to keep my house in show-ready condition 100% of the time, which not only takes a lot of work/time, but also means I can't have super-sweaty exercise clothes (and believe me, they would be in this heat) stinking up my house. Sure, I can spend some time walking around my 80-degree living room to get in SOME movement. It's not enough, though. It's not real exercise for me, and frankly, if I can't sweat-up my clothes except the twice-a-week laundry days, I'm just not going to get in enough fitness. That's the sacrifice I make trying to sell a south Texas home in June.
Two years ago, when I wasn't allowed to exercise at all for 10 weeks due to a stress fracture, I managed to maintain my weight. I wasn't under the stress I'm under now, though, not to mention there weren't parties, outings, or restaurant dinners (because of house showings) every couple nights. It's easier to maintain when you have control of your diet 95% of the time, rather than only about 50% of the time, especially when the 50% of the time you DO have control is somewhat difficult due to stress, family crisis, and extremely little sleep. I'm doing the best I can, and it's NOT enough.
There is some good news in all this, though. We've had quite a few showings on the house, including some second-showings, so I'm hopeful that soon we will have an offer and can get it sold. That'll be one less thing to worry about. We've also secured housing in Boston as of August 1st, so we know exactly when we'll be moving, and where to, and how to budget for it. Last night, there were a few semi-positive steps made in the personal area (see previous post), and while I don't expect things to be better for many months now, I'm hopeful that they CAN be better one day, which is something I haven't had any hope for since April. This last bit is the most important, because the personal area is the one that is feeding my self-destructive behavior (as in forcing myself to eat as much junk as I can for multiple reasons - again, see previous post). If I can get that stressor out of my life, or at least alleviate it, I can start working back to a better mental and physical level again.
I really want to start working my way back to Spark again. Today is Wednesday, and I have the idea that I should start doing regular Wednesday Weigh-in kinds of posts, with a bit of chat about the past week and how things are going. Maybe a weekly post like that would help me. It seems a positive step forward, and I need as many little positive steps as possible right now. I can't guarantee that I'll follow through with this plan, but I'm going to try. That's about all I can do right now: keep trying. In the meantime, I'll try to start following along in my friend feed again, which I've barely glanced at over the last six weeks, and I'll keep writing on a more regular basis on my personal blog. If you're interested, the link is here:
I wish I had better news, overall. Things are very difficult right now, and will likely remain so for the next two months at very least. All I can do is keep stepping forward, and hope at some point I can heal from the injuries I've acquired over the last year.
"No one knows the battles we survive." --Umbrella Brigade
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
May has been a very bad month here. I think it was pretty obvious in my last blog that I was in a really bad place, mentally. I won't say much about it, but I'll say that Bad Stuff has been happening in my life for almost a year now (since July 2nd), and that Bad Stuff has stressed me out and worn me down for so long that I have almost no energy left. Recent extra stresses have made the situation worse. We're moving cross country in the next two months, prepping to sell our house, saying goodbye to friends and family, and suffering from major heat waves in San Antonio. I finished working on a major writing project at the end of April, and have yet to find direction on a new one, so I don't even have a focus to keep my head together while I juggle all the mental stresses. On top of that, I had a major internal realization about my personal struggle with these last 15-20 lbs, and that realization makes me very, very helplessly angry. All this adds up. Then, add it to the very frustrating time I've had in terms of weight loss (whether or not my own mental block is causing it), and it doesn't look good.
I counted every calorie I ate from January 1st to April 30th this year. I had enough of a deficit in that time to lose about 10 lbs, and yet I didn't lose an ounce (or an inch, except those surgically removed). I actually gained two pounds in March/April, so that I began May up at 151 lbs again. Sigh. So I changed things up. I tried Whole30 and lasted 9.5 days until I was so sick that I had to quit. I also gained 3 lbs in those 9.5 days on Whole30 (taking me to 154 lbs). In the 9.5 days since then, I said f--- everything, and exploded. It helped (or not) that I discovered that my gluten-intolerance was actually a medication issue. I've spent the last 9.5 days binging on everything I couldn't eat for the last 9 months.
Chocolate chip cookies. Onion bagels. My favorite frozen burritos. Pop-tarts. Sundried tomato wheat thins. Oatmeal Squares cereal. Crackin' Oat Bran. Fish and chips with malt vinegar. Lucky Charms. Sausage kolaches. Doughnuts. Whole wheat pasta. Bulgar. Hamburgers on normal hamburger buns. Dominos pizza. Twix bars. Graham crackers. Milano cookies. Cheese danishes. And so on.
I do not have a binge disorder, and I do not binge the way those with a disorder do so. When I "binge," it involves simple (rather than catastrophic) overeating, so that I eat more often and bigger portions at each meal and become uncomfortably full, but I sincerely doubt I ever eat more than about 3000 calories in a day. When I'm eating junk like I named above, other stuff (like real food - protein and fruits and veggies) simply disappears, plus I start skipping meals as well, so it moderates out the calories a bit. I still consider it a binge, though, because of the mentality behind the act. I binge when I am helplessly angry. In that rare moment when I am very, very angry, but have no direction to place that anger, I turn inwards, and I punish myself by forcing myself to eat. In other words, the last 9.5 days boiled down to three things:
1. I can eat gluten again, so I'm going to eat ALL THE THINGS.
2. Because of a personal, private reason that I won't talk about on Spark, I feel absolutely repulsive, so I'm going to eat and eat and eat and make myself LOOK as repulsive as I FEEL.
3. I am helplessly angry, and that anger has to go somewhere, so food becomes a weapon against myself, because it's easier to bear the pain of gluttony than the pain of anger.
I won't apologize for any of these feelings.** I very rarely come to a place where I fall so low and feel some combination of negativity that leads to a full-on food-attack. In the nearly five years I've been on this weight loss journey, it's literally happened three times. Each time, I scrape myself off from rock bottom after 7-14 days, and start again with grim renewed determination. I am nothing if not stubbornly persistent. As my friend TRUE-NESS has told me more than once, I am no rock star on this weight loss journey - I am a WARRIOR. And so, like a true warrior, I nursed an injury that might have been fatal to someone else, and now it's time to dust myself off and walk again, even while I still hurt pretty badly.
Yesterday, I woke up and decided it would be my last binge day. I decided to eat ALL THE REST OF THE THINGS, and then to start over fresh this morning. In my 9.5 days of binging, I gained an additional 5.4 lbs, bringing me to 159.4 lbs. I am currently higher than I have been since December 2012. I know probably 4-5 lbs of this will drop off quickly, because I'm carrying a lot of water weight and girl weight at present, but even after they drop off, I will be way too high for my own comfort.
I'm tired. This processed junk makes me feel terrible. This level of anger and self-loathing exhausts me. My clothes are tight and I've gained anywhere from half an inch to two inches in every place I measure. My body, which has straddled the line between healthy and overweight for over a year now, definitely looks overweight again. Actually, it looks like I've gained 20-25 lbs, not just 10. Beyond that, I'm craving freggies and real food. My sugar addiction has returned full force and I am ready to escape it again. I haven't exercised in weeks and my body is aching to MOVE.
So I start over. Start fresh. Start moving forward again, step by grim, determined step.
**This is going to come off sounding really defensive, but I've experienced this too many times now here on Spark to not address it. Please, if you don't know me well or are seeing me for the first time on this blog, don't tell me about therapy and prayer (I'm not Christian) and things I should/shouldn't do or think or feel. Trust me, I know myself VERY well and I already know all those things. Those sorts of comments are the opposite of helpful/supportive when I'm trying to push myself toward a more positive mentality, and will therefore be deleted outright.
Monday, May 12, 2014
For the last 15 months or so, I've been in a strange position. I hit my original goal weight of 155 lbs on February 21, 2013. My goal had changed, by then, to 135 lbs, but no matter what I did over the last 15 months, I couldn't get any lower than about 149 lbs, and I usually stayed right around 152-153 lbs. There were times when I worked my butt off to try to lose more, and times when I gave up and just ate at maintenance level. Either way - eating more or less, exercising more or less - my body stayed exactly where it was. That's fantastic, in terms of maintenance. But in terms of wanting to lose the last 20 lbs? Frustrating beyond belief. The 15 months before I hit my original goal were frustratingly slow in terms of weight loss, but at least the scale slowly MOVED.
I tracked my calories every day for the first four months of 2014. I had enough of a deficit to lose 9-10 lbs, but I lost nothing. Other factors are definitely playing in here, I know. Surgery is hard on your body and it takes a long time to recover - I'm still not entirely recovered! I'm not sleeping well, and that really affects weight loss. Medication issues might have been playing into everything as well. Then there's all the stress and depression that this year has brought so far. Difficult to lose when you're so stressed out. There are also all the emotional conflicts about weight loss - the part of me that wants to just love my body for what it is now versus the part of me that wants to get back to where I am most comfortable, etc. Conflicting goals make it difficult to move forward.
Our bodies are incredible, complex things. Nothing is as simple as calories in vs calories out, no matter how many people try to claim it. And last night, I realized something important about mine: It's not going to do what I want it to do until my brain and heart are 100% behind that want. I have been self-sabotaging for the last year or so. Not with food, oh no - I am still doing everything "right." I have been self-sabotaging with my brain. There is a small part of me that refuses to let me go any further along this path, and it was only last night that I began to realize WHY.
I will not go into specifics. They are very personal and very private. In general, however, this has to do with fear.
It isn't a fear that I'll fail. Years ago, when my tooth infections were controlling every aspect of my health, and my weight bounced up and down without relation to my food/activity, I used to be afraid to fail. That no longer scares me, though. I know that I can accomplish this if I set out to do it. I can get to my goal. No, this fear has more to do with what will happen when I reach that goal. I am afraid of what will happen then (not of maintenance, which is easy for me, but of something private. I won't talk about it, but it is no different, for example, of someone afraid of the condition their body/skin will be in after losing so much weight). Right now, 15-20 lbs above my final goal, I can rest comfortably, with all number of excuses - even valid reasons - for why my body won't lose the rest, and I don't have to fear the end of this journey. Right now, I have no major compulsion to try hard that overrides that fear. Right now, my body is GOOD ENOUGH.
Good enough, however, is not GOOD. There is no doubt - I am not happy with myself, no matter how hard I try to be. Happier, yes, but not happy. I am on the very edge of being overweight, and still overweight on a doctor's scale. When I look at myself, all I see are flaws. Several of you commented that my "before" pictures when I tried the Whole30 already looked good, and all I could think was that you were all crazy (and I mean that in the most loving sense possible!). It doesn't matter how much I try to bolster my self-esteem. I am not going to be 100% happy with my body until it is back to a specific place. There is part of me - the part that is self-sabotaging and holding myself back - that worries that I won't be happy even then, because of a few factors beyond my control (again, private). It is easier to be unhappy because I'm "failing" than if I succeeded and my fears came true. At least I have an excuse for my unhappiness right now, and something to (halfheartedly) try for.
This is incredibly difficult. I am good at analysis and self-exploration. I know myself very well. But that doesn't mean I can break through the barriers I see in my brain. I don't know that I can stop holding myself back, and that makes me feel very hopeless and helpless.
It's a good thing, at least, to know and face the truth. First step to healing, right?
Thanks for listening, and I'll leave y'all with a lovely picture of my youngest son and me at the MOM Salon his class held for Mother's Day on Friday. And yes, I did paint his nails. He picked out the color. :D
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