Thursday, January 30, 2014

What the Hell Happened to Me?!

This past Sunday morning I woke up and the sun was streaming in through my window.  There were several inches of snow on the ground, and it appeared that the whipping winds of the previous day had died down.  This all boded very well for my skiing group.  Well, other than the fact that it was all of NINE degrees outside.  Yay, Polar Vortex!

One of the hardest parts of keeping my fitness regimen up in the winter is getting the motivation to actually GO OUT into the harsh weather.  It's so easy to sit around in one's flannel pajamas, cursing the weather while flanked by cats and pizzas and hot chocolates and remote controls, and so not easy to change into workout gear and walk out the door. But I decided to take up cross-country skiing in an attempt to overcome my rabid hatred of the season and to thwart my usual MO of hibernating and stuffing my face with warm, carbalicious, fatty, salty comfort foods and sugary hot beverages.  

I hate winter for so many reasons, one of which being the amount of clothing I'm forced to wear during it.  It just seems like endless layers of hats and scarves and sweaters and coats and gloves and eight pairs of socks stuffed inside chunky, clunky boots that get all caked with snow and ice and then drip everywhere when you get in the car. Everything is just such a goddamned production all the time.  Layer up, go outside, get to where you're going, peel it all off, change the shoes, set it aside, put it all back on, venture back outside, and pray that you don't fall over at any point, lest you end up like Randy from "A Christmas Story."

Anyway.  I thought if I took up a winter sport, something that required snow and cold to participate in,  something that got me outside and engaged me, that maybe I'd embrace winter a little more.  Maybe I could even...appreciate it?  Well, I wouldn't go quite THAT far, but I do know that learning how to cross-country ski HAS made me hate winter a little less, anyway.   

So this past Sunday I'm skiing around Delaware Park with three other people, and it's nine degrees, my face is numb, I can't speak, my nose is running -- and I'm having the time of my life.  One of the things I really, REALLY like about cross-country skiing versus downhill (aside from the positively terrifying prospect of falling off the side of a mountain, which ranks right up there with my paralyzing fear of parenting, circuses, and the GOP) is the fact that it can be done wearing little more than some running tights and a lightweight jacket over a thermal top.  Seriously.  No insane puffy jackets, no extra-thick pants, no stormtrooper boots, no goggles, no helmets. Just this:

Note the color of my face - that's called "Single Digit Crimson" - surprising I could even get it to move into any semblance of a smile - but everything else on me was pretty toasty thanks to the constant movement.

Not only is it fairly low-maintenance,  it's a GREAT workout, too!  It's kind of like being on an elliptical, except for the freezing face part.  And the occasional part where you unsuspectingly ski into a branch.  But after an hour, I definitely felt like I'd done some serious calorie burning damage (an hour burns close to 500 calories) and if it hadn't been SO cold, I might have kept going because the actual act of skiing is so much fun.  You're outside, you're breathing fresh air, you're meeting people along the way, and you're getting exercise.  All-around winning.

So this brings me to the question I've been asking myself a lot lately.  Who the hell AM I?  I mean, back in May I did the Gay 5K and wrote about the "new me" emerging.  But eight months later...who is this girl who gets up on a Sunday morning in the grip of a Polar Vortex and skis around the park for an hour?  Who is this girl who is on the elliptical as early as 6:30 some mornings?  Who is this girl who braves the snow and the cold to make it to the gym (albeit not without a fair amount of whining under those conditions), who arranges her schedule around yoga and spinning and just signed up for a 4-week Bollywood dance class? Who is this girl with seemingly boundless energy most days?  Is this really me?  

Sometimes I wonder.  

I always maintained that losing weight wouldn't change me fundamentally; I'd always be the same person I was all along.  I'd still be broke, still hate doing dishes, still despise tomatoes and love pet rats. And yet...there's something about me that's not the me I knew before.  This person actually LIKES to exercise.  This person actually CRAVES physical activity.  This person wants to engage in SPORTS.  Seriously. This person spent the better part of a recent date with an avid runner (five marathons...HOT) talking about fitness goals and future activities to do together.  Never in my LIFE have I sat across a table from a self-proclaimed jock and suggested bike rides and hikes as a way to spend time together.  Never have I nodded enthusiastically in agreement when a man has offered to give me weight-lifting pointers. Never in my life have I said to a man, "Yeah, a Tough Mudder is on my bucket list." And truly meant it. 


Of course, losing weight isn't going to change the fact that I'm still chasing this dude after months and months and will likely never see any development because I'm losing patience with him, nor will it change the fact that my other dating prospects are still pretty grim around here. But at least I have a whole new list of interests and activities to keep me active in the meantime.  And when the next prospect does come along...hell, if I keep going like this, by the time that happens he'll have to run a whole lot faster to keep up with me.

I'm still getting to know this girl, but I like her.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Clean Eating Saves the Day!

I'm currently "incubating" on a project, so I thought I'd pop over here and give y'all an update on what's going on at the moment.

Last week I posted my 9-month stats and photos and got tons of hits and feedback.  Thank you all for your kind words - you have no idea how much it means to have the support of such awesome people in my life.  Even those who were initially wary of my decision seem to have come around now that they've seen what a positive force it's been for me.

One thing that had been bugging me was that I seemed to be stuck.  I understand that plateaus happen, but I knew something wasn't right.  I knew I was eating not optimally (and by "not optimally" I mean "like shit"). By sheer luck, my Facebook friend Kim started a seven-day "Clean Eating Challenge."  She invited me to join, and I said, "what the hell."

Clean eating means consuming nothing processed, no dairy, no flour, no sugar.  It also means drinking way more water than I could possibly ever consume in a day, so I got a pass on that one.  I figured if I survived the Great Juice Fast of 2012 and the pre-op liquid diet last year, I could handle a week of clean eating.  The key, I found, is in careful planning.

Every night I would plan my menu for the following day.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two or three snacks.  It took a bit of effort to remember to get up early enough to eat breakfast at home and/or pack my food for the day, and occasionally I would forget to take the fish out of the freezer and end up having to run to the store to get something fresh instead, but I did it.  I did manage to bump up my water intake, too - by replacing my regular low-cal Gatorade with just straight water in my bottle, and by toting my bottle with me wherever I went.

The result?  With just one more day in the challenge to go, I have broken my plateau and lost five pounds this week.  Now I understand it's not five pounds of fat.  More than likely it's just five pounds of water weight and impurities being flushed out of my system.  But that's okay, because that means I have a more accurate measure of my weight now.  Without all that sugar, flour, processed crap, et cetera clogging up my system,  my innards are clean.  And let me tell you - nothing tastes as good as that feels.  I feel lighter, healthier, and no - I'm not starving!

I've also bumped my workouts up to four times a week.  I've started spinning in an effort to fulfill my resolution of getting back on my bike this year, and it's been brutal but not unbearable.  After the first time I stopped feeling like I'd been hit by a Peterbilt the next day.  Working out four times a week also takes careful planning - with my schedule I really have to work to find a time slot to squeeze it into, but with a little foresight and the mindset that it's NOT OPTIONAL, it's getting done.  It also helps that I bumped my Gympact up to $20 per missed workout.  So there's that.

I had a Weight Watchers counselor once who had this to say about exercise:

You wouldn't go days on end without showering, brushing your teeth, or changing your clothes.  Even if you were super busy.  Even if you were running late.  You would find a way to get those things into your routine, right?  Well, exercise is no different.  Incorporate it.  Make it part of your daily life.

And she, of course, was right on.  Of all the things I took away from my previous experiences with WW, that was probably the most valuable and the one that stuck with me. Even with working a gazillion jobs, even with all I have going on in my life, I have resolved to make exercise just another obligation in my schedule.  Work it in wherever I can.  I can't skip work.  I can't cut out hygiene. I can't blow off appointments.  I can't postpone commitments.  I can maybe not do the crossword one day.  I can maybe go to bed a little earlier and skip the trashy TLC shows on Netflix.  I can turn down social invitations from time to time.  But I can't blow off exercise.

I'm going to stop here because I have to get back to this job, but I just wanted to share with you my revelations and observations from this past week.  Clean eating is really where it's at, and even if I don't follow it 100% in the future, I feel armed with the knowledge that it's a powerful tool that I can ALWAYS pick up if I fall off track.  I owe Kim a world of thanks for giving me that kick in the ass that I needed to figure that out.

Coming up next: Who the f*** AM I?  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Nine-Month Update: Minding my "P"s

Happy New Year, everyone!

Two days ago was my nine-month surgiversary.  For whatever reason, the surgiversaries in the last couple of months have slipped my mind until late in the day - and in this month's case I was simply too busy to do anything about it until today.

So here I am.

Nine months after this journey began, I am happier and healthier than ever. Life is FAR from perfect, as am I, but I've come to the conclusion that I have to be okay with this.  See, the other night I had a little introspective moment during which I remembered the "Three Ps" that I mentioned way back in June: patience, persistence, and presence. A lot of the challenges I've faced in recent months have been the direct result of my failure to remember these.  Whether I failed to remember because I've gotten cocky, or lazy, or just distracted, the fact remains that I've lost patience with myself, my persistence has wavered, and I've not been present in my own existence as much as I need to be.

I also figured out that I should add another "P" to the list, and this is a big one: PROCESS.

Life is a process.  This journey is a process.  And instead of getting all caught up that I don't look perfect, that the scale isn't moving downward as quickly as it was before, that the guy I like is dragging his feet, that the job I applied for hasn't returned my call, et cetera, I should just fucking RELAX and work through the process.  As a designer, I know all about process.  Process is, in my humble professional opinion, just as important as the product - if not more so.  You don't just sit down and whip out a design.  There's a process.  And at the end of that process you've created something effective - and if you've done it right, you've created something outstanding.  But it starts with idea sessions and sketches and scribbles and notes and a bunch of other shit that ends up in the trash before you get what you ultimately want.  This is no different.

They say that getting there is half the fun - and if I've made ANY resolutions for this year, it's to enjoy the journey, and just let it unfold.  Sure, I look weird without clothes on, but when I am wearing clothes, I'm wearing a 6 or 8.  Nine months ago I was a 20. Two nights ago I got myself into Ultrasana, or Camel Pose, at yoga.  Nine months ago I could barely kneel on a mat.  Last week I went cross-country skiing for the first time (well, technically the second; I'd gone once before, 25 years ago) and I didn't fall.  My instructor was impressed with how quickly I picked up the sport, and I do believe it's because of the strength and flexibility I've developed from nine months of working out. It's the little things that are adding up to big changes, and if I continue doing what I'm doing, continue being present, patient, and persistent with the process, I will continue to see yet another big "P" -- PROGRESS.

Yeah, I can do this now.  

Instead of looking in the mirror and being grossed out by my "Bingo Wings," I should be flexing my biceps and marveling at how developed they are.  I should be loving the definition in my shoulders.  I should be proud of my strength and I should pay attention to what I've gotten accomplished instead of obsessing about what I still need to fix.  Instead of staring with disgust at the cascade of loose skin on my belly and getting all worked up about my sagging boobs, I should put that energy into clean eating and furthering my fitness goals.  I am a work in progress.  Rome wasn't built in a day.  I spent 30 years fucking up my body.  It's going to take a lot longer than nine months to undo the damage.  I will undoubtedly require some plastic surgery at some point, but instead of rushing into that, I should just keep doing what I'm doing and see what I can get done on my own.  It might take awhile, but minding my "P"s will be crucial in getting it done.

I have a lot more to say about all of this, but if I try to get into everything right now it'll be The Blog Post That Never Ends.  I suppose if I actually posted more than once every couple of weeks lately I wouldn't be faced with the dilemma of trying to cram everything into one post, but again - it's a process.

For now I'll leave you with my nine-month stats and (drumroll, please) progression photos.

Starting weight on 3/31/13 (start of pre-op diet): 259.8
Surgery Day weight on 4/10/13: 244.2
Current weight 1/12/14: 152.0
Total weight lost: 107.8
Goal weight: 143
Pounds to goal: 9-ish 

Progression photos.  I actually had to buy a new gray tank top because the other one hung like an old sack on me!  It'll be time to retire those PJ bottoms soon, too.

 3/31/13             5/19/13              7/10/13            10/11/13           1/12/14

And yeah, I know....the photos aren't taken at EXACTLY the same distance, so I appear to be getting taller throughout the process, but whatever.  You get the idea.  :-)