Tag Archives: results

10 Years Aboard the Treadmill of Sisyphus Later…

My weight loss collage, showing my body from 2003 to 2013, lumps and all.

My weight loss collage, showing my body from 2003 to 2013, lumps and all.

I recently posted this image on my social media pages. It showcases my history over the last two years, as well as gives me a clear-eyed view of how my body has looked in the past and how far I have come since I completely changed my diet. Here is the text I put with it:

For most of my life, I’ve struggled with my weight. I’ve been winning the war these last two years, and it’s still a bit strange to see my wish outside of myself at long last. Most of my friends here in Kentucky only know me as the more svelte, healthy-eating person they see today instead of the person I was during my college years in Memphis and my decade of grown-up life in Dallas. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I’m grateful to have had the right circumstances to make my commitment easier, the ability to afford to eat the way I do, the push from my doctor in the right direction, and the unwavering support of my boyfriend to help me get here. There is a part of me that will always be that insecure, overweight person who was always worried about the numbers on the scale and how well jackets worked at disguising abdominal fat. I have a history that informs who I am today, just like everyone else does, and this is my tale, told in photos taken over the last decade.

I took pains to not try to fat-shame myself in the past or anyone who looks like me. I am glad that I shed weight, as I much better like my health, my appearance, and the way the world treats me since I got thinner, but I don’t want to disparage who I was in the past, paint my life as perfect now (your problems don’t magically get better as you weigh less), or put down anyone who is still going through their own body struggle. Not everyone is me, the same methods won’t work for everyone, not everybody is the same. And I didn’t lose weight *at* anybody. I lost it for me, for the sake of my health and to help my boyfriend’s insomnia.

It was work giving up foods that I love that weren’t always healthy, and it is work now trying to pass up sugary sweets and justify to myself eating food that’s not on my diet. I’m not perfect, and I’ve definitely hit my roadblocks along the way, be they motivational, related to family tragedy, or health-related.

But I’m still going strong. I’m still happy as a participant and moderator of a Reddit community based around fitness, health, and life goal achievement. I’m happy making nutritious soups from scratch that fit closely within my dietary parameters. I’m very happy putting on my shoes and running as often as my body and the weather allow me to run.

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Mothers and Daughters: Legacy of Body Image

I love xoJane and the thought-provoking articles that its writers tend to put out into the world. This post was inspired by a comment I wrote on this article. The comments are a trove of first-hand testimonials from other people on the same subject.

When I was a preschooler, the story goes, my mom told me I could only have one cookie because I was putting on weight. I was so sad that my slightly older brother took an extra cookie to give to me in secret. We weren’t that subtle, so of course my mom knew about it and cherished the memory as one of sweetness between siblings.

As I got older, my mom never said anything to me about my weight. I was a chubby kid, presenting as a purple-and-silver-sequined cylinder in my ballet recital pictures, and an overweight teenager, hiding my body as best as I could with oversized shirts and weird fashion. She said she loved me no matter what and never criticized my body, supporting me in my academics, my art, and my writing. But she talked negatively about her own body all the time and still does today.

I know that like a lot of privileged first world women, I have spent a lot of my adulthood thinking about my weight. These days, I look back on the experience of growing up and living my adult life overweight and mourn all the time and mental energy spent by people like us fretting about our weight. Do I wish I had lost weight sooner so I could get on with my life? Perhaps, but I know that I wouldn’t appreciate my body as much if I didn’t feel pride in losing body fat, improving my health by stopping snoring almost completely and taking weight off injured/stressed muscles and joints, and increased self-esteem by conforming more to social norms. But what if I had been able to focus my gifts on something other than myself and self-improvement over the last 10 years? Would I have done something more “meaningful” with my life?

I realize this perspective and this question are both from a place of privilege – I largely feel like my struggle with being overweight is over, and I’m on autopilot as far as my food intake goes. I can afford to buy nutritious food, and I’m getting into running (despite approaching the nitty gritty of winter and me with no indoor gym access). Other people are less able-bodied, less able to access the kinds of food I can buy and dietary information my doctor gave me, still working on themselves, not in the same mental frame of mind, and have legitimate concerns and health problems that I have no right to dismiss and do not presume to.

I mourn my own potential – what things could I be writing about instead of concentrating on gaining 7 pounds in a month? – and the potential that my mother had and still has. When I was in high school, she was pursuing her masters in education with a focus on special needs education while working delivering pizza and raising 3 kids. She also wrote works of fiction on lined notebook paper she kept in binders under her bed, with several unpublished drafts of novels to her credit. And she, like all of us, was constantly bogged down by the everyday worries of life, including her body. I constantly heard her saying how upset she was that she could no longer fit into the clothes she wore when she was younger; she is short and used to be quite thin during high school. She dropped the “fat” word to describe herself on an at-least weekly basis. “If only I wasn’t so fat.”

Being thinner is a privilege in this society, and she may have been more kindly treated by the world at large. But I wonder how fully her gifts might have come out if her self-esteem hadn’t been hampered by her self-criticism, which always seemed so unforgiving.

My having the same body type that she did probably had some influence on how I viewed myself. It was a while before I came to a truce with myself over my looks, worrying about everything from my acne-prone skin to my large nose to my weight. I was ashamed of my body after the start of puberty, uncomfortable with male attention that I received in 7th grade, and down on myself for my many failed attempts at losing weight, even as an adult. I dieted for months, then fell off the wagon. I exercised hard for several months, then took half a year off. I came to be more accepting of what I looked like, but my health began to suffer as I aged. I was smart; why wasn’t I smart enough to figure out how to change my body and stick to a weight loss plan?

Losing weight was not the answer to all my problems. I’m still thinking about my body – still moderating a self-improvement community, still occasionally blogging about my pursuit of fitness, food, and health – but the rest of my life’s problems persist. It’s easy for us to fixate on having a great body and see it as the answer. “If only I wasn’t so fat.” If I wasn’t so fat, then what? I would get everything I wanted out of life automatically? I wouldn’t have to pay my car insurance? I would finish cleaning out the shed? It never stops unless we reframe the way we think about what’s important, whether losing weight or shaping our body into a more pleasing shape is a self-serving, endless goal, or if it’s a stepping stone to happiness, a facet of our existence.

Sometimes, chasing the ideal body or an improved version of ourselves seems so futile in the long term. I think back on my amazing, beautiful, business-smart, no-nonsense, hilarious stepmom; she was in my life from preschool until last year, and when I was younger, I remember that she was always trying low fat diets, Weight Watchers, the grapefruit diet… right up until her diagnosis of colon cancer, a disease she fought for 9 years.

I helped sort out her enormous closet of clothing after she passed away; she had clothes (some with tags still on them) in US size ranges 6-18 from where her body size fluctuated so much during years of chemo, surgery, remission, and relapse. There’s a despair in that part of the legacy of mainstream, straight, adult ciswomanhood in the U.S. What good does it do to fret so much over what size we wear and how many carbs we eat and whether our butt looks arbitrarily too big and that we can’t fit into that exact pair of pants anymore?

It’s easy to get lost in the moment and the present-day, easy to obsess over weight or unflattering photos, but now and then, life smacks you in the face again with the fact that it’s precious and short; your health, your ability to function as an independent person, and the degree to which you are able-bodied are things you can take for granted. The gift of perspective is precious, if hard to take. My stepmom spent most of her last decade working at the business she and my dad built together, baking cookies and sweets with her grandchildren, going on vacations with my dad, and enjoying herself as much as her health would allow her to do.

Sometimes when I’m out running, out in the middle of the country where nobody can see me, I imagine I’m passing my stepmom on the sidelines of a cancer charity race or some other event, and I give the air a high-five. I’d like to think she’d be proud of me for taking up a new sport. I hope she’d say she’s never seen me so happy in my own skin

Tape Measure Results

For two years now, I’ve been a participant in Reddit’s 90daysgoal community, where we challenge ourselves in three-month increments to better our fitness, health, food, and anything else. We’re nearing the final check-in for the latest round. On Monday morning, I got out the tape measure and tracked my latest progress. I weigh myself most Mondays, and I measure my neck, waist, and hips about once a month or so. It’s rewarding because I am still making measurable progress in my measurements, despite the scale being kind of stuck for the last two months.

While I was doing physical therapy and just joining the 90daysgoal community, I took a lot of “before” photos and collected tape measure data points from all over my body. Yesterday, I measured again. The changes my body has undergone between November 2011 and October 2013 are amazing, and I’m proud to share the results now.

Measurements, two years on.

Measurements, two years on.

It has its down sides: I gave a bunch of clothes to my sister, who is in the process of losing baby weight, and she looks so much cuter in my shirts and sweaters than I ever did. This is the story of my life. And when I bake delicious desserts, I usually don’t have any, avoiding sugars and starches like my doctor asked me.

Soon, I’ll slip beneath the 150-pound mark, and I’ll be ever closer to my goal weight of 140. I’ve got more work ahead of me before I’ll get into maintenance mode. The marathon of staying healthy once I’ve reached my own arbitrary destination is going to be a somewhat difficult course to stay. Maybe I’ll never be completely satisfied with my results. But I do know that I loved my body when I was working on fixing it, I love it now that I’ve lost fat and am putting on muscle from running, and I’ll love it no matter what changes are wrought by age, time, circumstance, and deliberate action. I’ll never be satisfied, but I’ll never stop trying to be better, and I know I’ll never stop enjoying the fight.

Weight Loss Problems

What a problem to have. I’m still trending downward with weight, and there is less fat to pad my muscles and joints. I spent quite a while lying down on the living room floor last night, hanging out with my sick dog in her kennel with a pillow propped up under my torso. This morning, my legs and rear end are achy and sore where I rested them on the floor for so long.

The new work pants I bought last fall are too loose and look as though they are falling off. I finally safety-pinned the waistband of one pair this morning, tired of showing the world my underwear.

I am beginning to run into variable sizes the next size down. Some pants fit, some don’t. Don’t vanity size it, and label it correctly, please.

I could not finish a restaurant omelet last weekend. Used to be I could eat the whole thing and the side dish, and still want more. I took the remainder home and ate it for dinner.

Even though I am smaller, my life is still not perfect. No one told me that losing weight would solve all my problems, but I inferred that anyway. Turns out I’m still the same person with mostly the same life issues, just with less snoring and more carrots.

My main goal in life is to get to a weight where I will allow myself to start eating pasta regularly again. I miss it! But I know it’s best eaten in moderation instead of for every meal.

First world problems

Me. Right, the year 2006. Left, early 2000s. Body fat: eternal?

Me. Right, the year 2006. Left, early 2000s. Body fat: eternal?

My abdomen has been large for most of my adult life. I am having technical difficulties today, so you get to see onscreen images captured with my phone of what my body looked like 10 years ago, and again 6 years ago. Even after I’d started the cycle of working out and trying to constraint caloric intake, I still had an abdomen of which I was ashamed. And since these were photos I kept, just imagine the unflattering photos I deleted instead of saving forever on my hard drive.

40 pounds down from my weight of around 203 in March 2011, I still have a protruding abdomen, but it looks better, and I am a lot healthier in every way because of my fat loss.

My clothing size has changed, which I’ve mentioned often in this blog. I have yet to replace everything that I’ve become too small to wear – including dresses. Take into consideration that most of my dress collection that I still have was bought to keep me comfortable after gallbladder surgery during the Texas summer, and pretend to feel bad for me when I complain that I have nothing to wear to a holiday party tonight.

I tried on this charcoal gray wrap dress that is slightly warmer than my sundresses and sleeveless party attire. My boyfriend and I agreed that even though I looked better in it now, it still skewed very “maternity” because of the ability of the Empire waist to enhance the stomach. Photo below is from 2010 or 2011.

Empire waist, you are so maternity on this tummy.

Empire waist, you are so maternity on this tummy.

Ugh, fine. What do I do? Go buy a new dress, right? What an awful problem to have, I know. I’m just glad that I have disposable income again that I can spend on clothes. Extreme budget clothes-buying is entirely doable, but it mostly puts you in single-color tees from big box retailers. That’s how I spent my summer, anyway.

Recent photo, modeling a t-shirt sent to me by a friend.

Recent photo, modeling a t-shirt sent to me by a friend.

Everyone should have such terrible problems. Clothes shopping is still kind of lame, especially as a woman with a large abdomen, but I can take heart that Empire waists are less in fashion, my continued fat loss will lead to more clothing choices (sometimes you buy the dress that’s there instead of the dress you want, especially at plus sizes), and I can afford to put money into the economy on an item I don’t truly need.

The Right Way

An absurd moment of relief hit me this summer as I sat in a small office in the ER as a nurse was taking my vitals, getting my medical history, and asking me questions. I was in pain with the mysterious malady that ruined my July, zeroed out my appetite, and put all my fitness aspirations on hold. But what really got my attention was the number on the hospital scale: 162.

“At least I’m still under my goal weight,” I remember thinking.

That is messed up thinking, folks.

It is several months after the ER visit, and I want to think my body’s on the mend. As I said before, my team of doctors thinks what happened was I tore something in my abdomen related to my gallbladder surgery, and it took about a month for the initial healing. It may take longer to completely heal, it turns out. To me, that meant no more attempted running, take it easy on the stairs, and don’t walk too far, too fast.

With these behavior caveats in mind, I’ve taken care of myself as best as I can with decent eating habits, taking care of myself when I’m sick, and walking the doggies around the hilly neighborhood (girl, my calves are going to be uh-mazing).

I got a new digital scale over the weekend. Its decimal places settle my need to know what fraction of a pound I lose by taking off my socks before stepping onto the arbiter of progress. It reads the same weight no matter what way I turn it on the hardwood floors of my new home, so I have faith in its accuracy. And with that accuracy comes a clean, reliable knowledge of the fact of my weight. There it is! There’s no doubt stemming from the vagaries of an older scale that has an adjustable wheel for calibration and imperfectly spins numbered black lines past a red line. There’s no squinting, then putting on my glasses, to read the tiny marks all the way at my feet. Like the hospital scale, this new sucker’s electrical. It’s digital, it’s clear, and to me, it’s like my achievements are being narrated by Morgan Freeman.

An image of actor Morgan Freeman from Evan Almighty with a number superimposed over his chest

The Morgan Freeman-Narrated Weight Scale. People would buy it. They would feel reassured about their weight. If the makers included a voiceover with eating and exercise guidelines, they could probably solve the majority of obesity problems in the Western world.

This morning, my digital scale told me as clear as a bell that my weight was 165. This is great news for me! And I’ll tell you why:

  • At 162 pounds in July, I was nauseated and not eating, dehydrated, and miserable. At 165 pounds this November morning, I am taking long walks with the dogs nearly every day, I ate 4 pieces of chicken for dinner last night, and physically, I feel pretty dang good (albeit a little lightheaded from a lingering ear infection).
  • Despite life being extremely tumultuous this year, I’ve kept within 8-10 pounds of my goal weight of 163.
  • I kept to my goal weight the right way. I haven’t starved myself. Not everything I’ve eaten or drank this week has been on my diet, but most of it has. Not every morning has found me working up a sweat or working up enough body heat to keep my nose from falling off, but most have.

I am really proud of myself for not only my accomplishment and the way I achieved it, but also for holding onto it through hard work and good habits. It gives me hope that I’ve got my weight problem licked.

Speaking of spending time outdoors, I picked up some more winter wear this week, and I’ve resolved to start wearing my ankle brace again, at least until I buy new sneakers.

An aging pair of sneakers with one shoe insert on the floor next to them

Sad shoes. They served me well for quite a long time, but I had to put new inserts into them a month or two ago, and even those are now wearing out.

I wore my ankle brace and knee brace once last week. That was an immediate relief for the soreness I was experiencing, and I didn’t feel the need to wear my ankle brace again until after my morning dog walk today. As long as I wear it as needed and get some better foot gear, that shouldn’t be a problem.

My post earlier this week discussed appropriate outdoor gear for cooler weather and the adjustment I had to make when I moved from Texas to Kentucky. Something I’ve picked up since then is my new favorite accessory (move over, Batman beanie): a fleece neck gaiter. I didn’t know what it was called and spent quite some time with image search, shopping search, and browsing outdoor gear websites to find out that it was different than a balaclava.

Woman wearing a black fleece neck gaiter in four poses

The many looks of a neck gaiter. Bottom right is my toddler niece’s favorite. Probably everyone else’s favorite, too. Because everyone I know is a jerk.

I found this one at Wal-Mart with a headband (which I gave to my sister because I have an assortment of awesome headgear and would never wear it) for around $7.00. I’ve already put it to good use and am in love. As you can see, you can wear it many ways, and it helps complete any look.

A Stranger’s Clothes

I went clothes shopping again, and I’m still not used to this newish size. My weight has stabilized at around 165 pounds, but clothes shopping for my current body is still something I’m learning how to do; a couple of months at being at this weight have yet to displace 10-plus years of knowing by sight what will fit a U.S. size 16-18 butt.

Oh, my sweaters. I’m 35ish pounds down, and most of the sweaters I bought when I weighed 200 pounds now look clownishly outsized. TJ Maxx yielded three long-sleeved shirts. I shopped in their size Large racks for the first time ever. I’ve never been down to a size Large since I was employed enough to have disposable income.

A red, black, and gray color-block sweater

A commanding sweater, suitable for warding off the frost of deep space. TJ Maxx, if this hadn’t been fifty American dollars, I would be wearing this right now. I don’t care if it’s still 90 degrees in Texas… it would be my number one.

I found some adorable, inexpensive t-shirts at Target while swimsuit shopping, so I bought a properly-fitting top that isn’t a solid color v-neck (this is progress). I was at Target to buy an end of season swimsuit, since the only suit I have is – surprise – condemned to the box with the rest of the charity clothes, guilty of the crime of looking like a deflated grape on my person.

A cartoon of an unhappy woman in a baggy one-piece swimsuit

My grape-colored swimsuit has seen better days and better fit. Let’s not talk about it any more than we have to.

My purchases got thrown into the washer and dryer with a small load of other stuff, and as I was folding some of the pants I hemmed a few weeks ago and adjusting a shirt on the drying rack, I found myself wondering, “Jeez. These go through the hot water wash by accident? Did these jeans shrink? What about this t-shirt? They don’t look big enough to fit me.” I brought the folded pile of clothing to my closet to put them away, then wound up trying a couple of items on just to check. Yeah, they’re fine. These aren’t a stranger’s clothes – this is just a stranger’s body I’m living in and shopping for.

I saw a photo progression linked from Reddit’s Loseit community: a woman’s photographic journey down 160 pounds. One of her quotes from the article struck me: “I remember the devastation of not recognizing the person reflected back to me in the mirror.” I see my unrecognizable reflection in the clothes I pick out to try on even now. I am still alarmed at how small they seem to my eyes, and I have yet to trust anything I’ve learned from my limited clothes shopping efforts since February.

Of the 5 items I brought into the dressing room at Target, I only held onto one of them – a pair of shorts that I could fit into, but that I wasn’t sure I’d still be able to wear next summer; a swimsuit top, which was a size 16 and underwired, but still too small for my boobs and in need of strap alteration before I can wear it in public; swimsuit bottoms that fit perfectly; and two t-shirts that I got in a size too large. I almost bought the tees, but they were just too big. I’ve got a policy of not buying clothes unless I love how they make me look, and they just didn’t cut it. I could only find the next size down in one of the t-shirt designs. I can order the other shirt online if I’m desperate.

I’m surprised at myself that I picked up the larger t-shirt sizes first, but when I saw them on display, looked at the cut of the smaller garments and compared them against the shirt I was wearing, I thought, “There’s no way in hell.” Especially after a week of ok eating except for the going-away-party cake and cupcakes I ate so much of during one of my last days at my old job.

A yellow and black Batman logo cake. Written on cake, "Good luck with your poisonints."

Holy baking pans, Batman! This misspelled cake could be a clue from the Riddler! Who cares, Robin, this thing is DELICIOUS.

But here I am, kind of rocking the new stripey t-shirt, ready to wear it to training for my new job. Added bonus: my old button-up shirts are no longer “wear over a tank top and don’t button” shirts, but “you can totally button* this!” shirts.

*still have to use a safety pin to avoid gapping, because that’s how life is.

Side by side photos of a woman modeling shirts

These are my super serious fashion blogger poses I whip out only for special occasions, like weeknights.

I’m not the perfect size, but I don’t think there is such a thing. I’m not my best me yet, but I’m working on it. I’ve got to get to know this new body’s sizing quickly, though, as I move toward a start date at my new job, where I’ll be required to dress like an adult in nice, well-fitting clothes. At least the selection will be larger and more flattering than the shapeless horrors of plus size business casual, but that’s a rant for another day.