Changing and growing

It has been quite a while since I have discussed WLS, or how things are going on that front. Part of it is that once you have the surgery and get through the first part of the recovery period, things settle into a pattern and become kind of boring. However, it is time for an update on that. I also notice that I have slowly been changing some other things in my life, so…more about that, too.

My surgery was October 24, so it has been just over 5 months. I’ve lost around 55 pounds since then, and it is becoming obvious to people around me now. My typical week has me at CrossFit twice or three times, and in the last month I have not been swimming at all (but I intend to get back to that.) It has been an extremely busy time in both my paid and volunteer work.

I don’t really know how much more weight I have to lose at this point. Arguably, I could still lose anywhere from 25 to 45 pounds, depending on what I would call my goal weight. If I go by BMI, the magic number is 36 pounds. The thing is, I have no idea what that will really look like. One of my good friends, who is a personal trainer and a wall of muscle is a size 4-6 and weighs about 160 pounds, which is more than my goal weight. So it just depends. For now, 36 pounds it is. I may adjust that later. My surgeon’s goal for me, strangely, is about 10-15 pounds higher than my goal weight, but according to their measurements I am already a successful WLS patient; I’ve lost over 60% of my excess weight at this point.

The odd thing about this stage of the game is that the NSVs (non-scale victories) are more frequent than weight loss victories (scale victories.) My scale has been stopped at the same number for almost 2 weeks. But two more important things are happening: my clothing sizes are smaller, all of a sudden. And I am more successful at the gym, and able to get through harder workouts with less stress. I believe this means that the scale will eventually go down again, but the mind game in all of this is that I get to a point like this (as I was, 5 pounds above it) and then begin to believe that it will never go any lower than it is right now. And in the meantime, I am hearing positive feedback from people I don’t know so well…and then I don’t know exactly how to respond. I’m hovering between a size 12 and 14 right now, in most of my clothing. That is smaller than I have been able to wear in many years, including the last time I was at this weight. I was a 10-12 in high school and college, and a solid 14-16 during my “thin” periods since. I am having trouble picturing being in a single digit clothing size but it might happen.

I also, perhaps counterintuitively, increased my calorie intake about a month ago. It’s not crazy; I aim to hit 1200 calories a day. This is partially because I’m one of those people who still gets hungry, and 800 calories a day was not working for me. This kicked off a 2-3 week period of steady weight loss. Now that I’ve been stalled but working out more, I need to let things settle and maybe go back down a bit. I haven’t decided. My daily eating is pretty normal, all things considered. I focus on protein now, but I’m not quite as rigid with carbohydrates as some WLS patients. My “macro” goals are to get around 40% of my calories from protein, 40% from fat, and 20% from carbohydrates. In general I try to stay below 100 grams of carbs per day, and to get at least 100 grams of protein. One blessing and curse is that I can pretty much eat anything; I didn’t get too much restriction nor has my body begun to reject different kinds of food. Every once in a while I will eat something that doesn’t settle well but that is the exception rather than the rule. The big difference is in amounts. When I am eating out, it is sometimes quite obvious that my stomach just isn’t as big as it used to be. The most I can eat of my meal is about 1/2 of a restaurant serving. My husband calls our fridge “the place where styrofoam goes to die.” But he admits that I am very good about eating my leftovers.

Again, maybe counterintuitively, I don’t believe that I should be in full blown restriction mode. I have a glass of wine a few nights a week, or a few bites of dessert. I have good friends who are much more stringent than I am. But I know myself, and I worry that if I go full metal jacket now it will bounce back into something ugly. I am trying to redefine what I do, in such a way that I can live with it long-term. This doesn’t work for everyone; I have good friends who have had amazing success on 800 calories for extended amounts of time; never making bad choices, etc. But that is not me.

I have also had periods of time when I’ve been very blue and not quite understanding why. It is hard for me to keep perspective. One year ago, on the surface my life was the same. I had the same work, the same volunteer obligations. My family situation was stable (same people, same house, same pets.) It doesn’t always feel like i’ve undergone a huge change.

The truth is, this has been a HUGE physical and possibly an even larger psychological change. For the last several years I had never worked out; now I arrange my schedule around when I can get to the gym. I started singing in a choir again; AND taking voice lessons. And auditioning for things. I am wearing clothing that is 3-4 sizes smaller and trying to figure out what to do with the old stuff. I’m taking some new risks and trying things, and I am strangely vulnerable in a way I haven’t let myself be in years. And this can’t help but shake up the status quo a bit. At the same time, I am adjusting to the idea that I might be different. I don’t really see it, even though I know the things above are true.

I hear stories about how this kind of weight loss changes the relationships in one’s life. The biggest relationship change in my life has been my relationship with myself. But most of that is internal, and boy is it ever a work in progress. Many of the changes I am making now are changes in my perspective. I have lived a certain reality for quite a while, and am beginning to see that there are other ways to think of myself and my approach to life. And it’s hard to recognize that aspects of my self-image were comfortable, but definitely held me back. As I’m sorting through all of this, I know that the sometimes intense discomfort I feel with that will probably lead to growth. I hate feeling like I am not in control, but I was not really in control before either. The fact that I’m allowing myself to feel that discomfort again can only help me.

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Being authentic

I work with a lot of earnest, highly educated people. People who sincerely believe that we exist to make a difference; who strive to live their lives in a way that resonates with their core beliefs. Academics, idealists, dreamers, artists…

I was at a rehearsal last night and our conductor made a speech that was entirely heartfelt and reminiscent of a good motivational speech from any educational movie in equal parts with the “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” speech in Animal House. We’re performing a ridiculously hard piece in a concert in March, and the group is a highly talented amateur group. The thesis of the speech was essentially, “We are TAKING this from the experts, the professionals…and returning this music to the people, where it belongs.” Think about that for a minute…so many implications. But to me it mostly brings to mind a quote 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.”

To me, this is what being authentic means. We need to speak our truth. We need to be who we we are. I am probably never going to solve a global crisis or be deeply involved with anything on an enormous scale. That’s okay. But we all need to shine who we are around us liberally.

Everybody’s got something.

I was driving the other day with my son and he was telling me that some of the kids in school are gossiping about him and saying that he is fat. (To be fair, he is quite overweight.) He continued, “I don’t care what they say, but I don’t get why they want to talk about me.”

I said, “Baby, everybody’s got something.”

“Huh?”

“I really do believe that everyone you come across is probably struggling with something you don’t know anything about. Maybe one of them fought with her mom on the way out the door, or the other is worried about a test. Or has big ears. Or is upset about something you just don’t know anything about.”

“No, I think it’s really easy for most people, and it’s not for me.”

We talked about this for a while, with me maintaining that yes, most of us sort of think that as a default. Everyone else somehow won the lottery while I am just trying to get through the day. Oh sure, maybe I am talented, or smart, or have a pretty face but that doesn’t make up for the fact that I am fat, or unsuccessful, or am struggling to pay my bills. Or, God forbid, dealing with something really difficult.

“Well, honey…I find that my life is much better when I try to approach the people around me with sympathy and understanding, even if they aren’t being nice to me. Just remember that everyone eventually goes through something hard and that others are deserving of the benefit of the doubt.”

“Mom, you really feel that way about everyone around you?”

“Yes. Everyone. Okay…not the people driving around me at any given time. They are almost always complete idiots. But otherwise, yes.”

“Mom. You are just not right.”

I think we all learned something.

Enlightenment is a bitch

There’s a Zen saying, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”

I have had many moments of “exhaustion” this week, both mental and physical. After coming home on Friday after the funeral, I was simply too beat to go out and exercise, and it had already been 3 days since I last stepped into the gym. Yesterday I did manage to swim for about an hour, and later in the day sang at a regular church service. As I was leaving, all I could think was, “Oh man, I have to figure out dinner.” Chop wood, carry water.

One of the great lies of being a grown-up is that you think you are going to have freedom. Most of us end up having responsibility. Oh, I won’t deny that having a car and the ability to drive is pretty awesome. But for me it means making endless 4 mile loops picking up and dropping off kids. I rarely jump into it on my way to the next adventure. I’d say that having my own stuff is fun too, except that I have a teenaged daughter who believes that everything from my anti-wrinkle makeup to my clothing and shoes are hers. The world is her gift shop, and my (more) expensive make up “goes on so much more smoothly” than hers. There are the endless meals, and grocery shopping, and laundry that never quite seems to get folded and back where it needs to go, and “where are my socks” and all of the wonderful things that go along with having a family, and pets, and a yard.

This last week I didn’t do the kind of wood chopping and water carrying I needed to stay on top of things. It’s Sunday, I have to work all day, and there’s no milk in the house. It’s still dark out but I am going to need to get out there to the grocery store before I can work. We had another 4 inches of snow yesterday. I shoveled in the morning, but the driveway is a mess again, and that needs attending to before I hit the store. No matter what I do, the work is never done. Doesn’t it sometimes seem like we get up each day and like Sisyphus push the boulder all the way up the hill, just to have it roll right down again? If I exercise today, that doesn’t mean I can take tomorrow off. Someone still has to do the dishes, fold the laundry, and buy the milk. 

My goal for the week is to try to take some pleasure, or at the minimum some satisfaction, from the things that I have to do to keep our lives running. There should be some small grace in completing the basic tasks for living. Shouldn’t there?

Frankly, I think there would be more grace in hiring all of these tasks out. But for whatever reason it looks like during this lifetime I will be responsible for my own wood chopping and water carrying. So I had better find some pleasure in it… 

Other kinds of loss

The other day I received the wholly unexpected news that a former colleague and mentor had suddenly passed away at the age of 63. She was fairly well known in our circles and our association did not end well. It has been over four years since we parted ways, and a large part of me is left with the James Taylor sentiment, “But I always thought that I’d see you again.”

Our work together was a pivotal point in my professional life. I learned a number of things: that I am not a visionary myself, but a great person to have around to help make visions work. I learned what truly perfectionist and obsessive people can do when their brains are turned in a productive way; and what they can mess with when they are a little bit over the edge. I have never had so many conversations with everyone around me that asked the question, “Is this NORMAL?” as I did when I worked with her. And even though I was repeatedly told, “No, that’s psychotic!” there was still something about working with her that was inspiring, invigorating, and an amazing education. It was the best of times *and* the worst of times, and showed me the best and worst of what I can be. I’d get a phone call at 8:00 am on a Sunday and be immediately filled with rage. The job was all-consuming. It was mostly rewarding too, but it wreaked havoc on my already very tenuous emotional state, as during that time I was in graduate school, my children were much younger, I had another full-time job, and was personally in a kind of dark place.

So, what did I learn? To ask for more than I believe I can get. To double and triple check my work. That collaboration can quite often make good work better. That it’s okay to argue with a genius. That I have a more generous spirit than many. That even though many of us reject this point, the perfect is often the enemy of the good. But at the same time, you never quite know when the little details you slave over will win the day.

I also learned that maybe I don’t have it in me to be the kind of control freak that I observed daily. That riding someone, and demanding their best sometimes pushes them to great heights and sometimes breaks them. That I don’t need to always be right. That there is more than one way to accomplish things. That when I react to a phone call with rage, I might need to examine what is really going on in my head emotionally. That just because someone says something about me, it doesn’t mean it is true or valid; it might just be that person’s world view colliding with me. And that when you believe yourself and your agenda to be the center of the universe, you might be lonely and disappointed a great deal of the time.

Do I sound conflicted? I am, because by the end of our time together, I both adored and in some ways despised this woman. She ended our association by throwing me under a bus. Maybe out of fear that I might change things in her carefully ordered world; maybe because my usefulness to her was over. That said, over the last few years I thought periodically about inviting her out for lunch or coffee, to talk and to clear the air. I think, when all was said and done, that we were important people in each others’ lives for several years, and it might have been nice to have closure.

Well, there is certainly closure now. I both regret, and don’t regret that I didn’t reach out. I really expected to have at least another 20 years to see to this; and in the end I do not know if it would have given me closure at all. But for what it is worth, I think I forgave her a while ago even if I wasn’t ready to be the one to reach out. In my head, I pictured a scenario where we would see each other at an event or on the street, exchange pleasantries, and maybe make plans to have coffee. As I am seeing all of the pictures of her engaging smile and the loving tributes that are going up all around me, I am also able to smile and think, “She sure was something else.” I’ve been invited by a mutual friend to sing in the choir at her memorial service and I will do so. And so maybe that is my gift and my closure, even as it is also my loss. Rest in peace, Debbie. May the angels lead you into Paradise.

Food for thought?

As I’m attempting to drift out of the bubble that this WLS has created around my life and my habits, I keep noticing how often we reference eating analogies every day.

Not a day goes by that I don’t use a phrase like “food for thought” or “let me digest that” or “I could just eat you up.” (Okay, that last one doesn’t get trotted out too often…)

We talk about it not being over until “the fat lady sings” and how large projects are best attacked in the same way we would “eat an elephant: one bite at a time.” Has anyone ever actually eaten an elephant? Seems like it would be tough and gamey.

If you’re “consumed” by a project or hobby, we sometimes say it eats you up, or eats up your time. Life is a box of chocolates. It’s a banquet, “and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.”

We don’t just visit with people most of the time; we have lunch, or coffee, or dinner. Would you have a party and not serve a lot of snacks? It’s really rare to get together with someone for the main purpose of going for a walk, or visiting a museum. Even if I go to a concert with my friends, we go to dinner first or out afterwards, for food. We are food-centric in ways of which we’re not even aware.

That’s it…just an observation. I’m sure I’m missing dozens of other examples. As I am continuing along and trying to make sense of what got me here, I am trying to be aware of my words. 

Patience

One of the benefits of my time in the pool is that I have an hour alone with my thoughts. (This can also be a drawback!) But in a week where everything and everybody has been annoying the crap out of me it was probably a good thing. 

We don’t always have a good sense of how others see us. My immediate family likes to tell me that I have no patience. I prefer to think that I have a low tolerance for helplessness. That’s a shame, because unfortunately I have become the Solver in my family. Whether the question is “What are we having for dinner?” or “Where are my socks?” or “What is the best way to get from Toledo to Portland?” generally speaking, I have the answer. Or I know where to look it up, and I CANNOT understand why others do not. I have spent most of my adult life getting to the point where I can pull together an answer for most easy stuff, and my work is all about coming up with logistical solutions, dodging real and imagined bullets, and problem solving. Please don’t ask me where your bath towel is, unless you want to hear, “Oh, come ON!”

I must be a really annoying person to live with.

This week I was hit with a triple whammy. The polar vortex hit our quaint little town with the promised negative temperatures on top of a couple of recent heavy snowfalls. This meant that my delightful children, who I had already seen plenty of thankyouverymuch, had school closings for two days tacked onto the end of their holiday break. Then my husband, who had been traveling out of town, got stuck on the East Coast and would not countenance staying put for a couple of days. We had a series of tough conversations as his flights were being canceled; neither of us behaved well. As this was happening, my daughter came down the stairs and landed on her foot the wrong way, breaking it. My Monday and Tuesday, days I was looking forward to as getting back into my usual routines, were shot right to hell. We were more or less housebound on Sunday and Monday because of weather conditions. There was a trip to the ER on Monday night, followed by a trip to the podiatrist for casting on Tuesday. Husband flew part of the way home and then rented a car to drive the last 730 miles home in pretty apocalyptic conditions in some areas, which only added to the general stress level. (I don’t think my son actually did anything upsetting, so that’s something.) 

I was not in the best place mentally by last night. It occurs to me that the stress of continually feeling that I have to solve everything is not good for me. I’ve enabled my husband to the point that I usually just handle the details of what he needs. I can’t really blame my daughter for having an accident or the weather for sucking. But man, I took on the stress of it like crazy. And I didn’t get to my class at all to exercise because of what was going on. AND it took me until today to go swim. I think that was a mistake. Being housebound was not a treat; I have come to count on the 4 hours away from home that I get each week and the physical release of exercising. And my patience when I don’t get it is stretched to its breaking point.

So I understand just a little bit this week why relationships come under such strain when you are in the midst of transforming yourself. There is a real temptation to call bullshit on every imagined wrong, or slight. To refuse flat out to “play the game.” There are deeply ingrained patterns and it hurts to shake them up. I have two “sleeve friends” who are thinking about divorce right now. (I’m not, by the way.) But it makes me think that the changes we have to make (putting our health first, trying not to get “sucked in” to old arguments, being gentle with our little failures and celebrating our little successes)…they can be so uncomfortable. It is easy to lash out at the people you love and see their weaknesses rather than their strengths.

I need to recommit to getting myself out of the house and to exercising regularly. I think that getting away from the people I feel so responsible for will help me find the patience I need to be nice to them, and to myself.

Aren’t the holidays over yet?

There has been a lot of togetherness the last two weeks…after our big trip in November we stayed home for the holidays this year. It has been mostly good, but I am so ready to get back into a routine! And frankly, to have everyone go back to their own routines as well…

This was the first big holiday at home as a sleever, and the first one without any official “restrictions” on food. Of course one of our holiday traditions is that I make a number of sour cream-cinnamon coffee cakes for the family and our friends. They are to die for, and have approximately one spillion calories per cake. Which is why I only make them once a year…  I thought about it, and decided to go ahead with the tradition. I entered the recipe into my food tracking program and (gasp!) I even enjoyed a few pieces. I won’t say what the actual serving size is, but as with many foods it is much smaller than one would think.

I had planned to dispense with food tracking on Christmas Day. However, it’s kind of a habit at this point and so in the end I did go back and log everything in. The interesting thing is that even eating what I wanted and trying not to worry about serving sizes, etc…for that one day I came in at 1500 calories. Way too much but a fraction of what a holiday would have been just a few months ago. I also had my first run-in with eating too much for the sleeve. (Shocking, right?) Suffice to say, I will continue to measure my intake for the time being. It’s just too easy to underestimate volume.

Overall, the weight loss remains steady. Nothing will ever be as dramatic as the first month, but I seem to have settled into a pattern of 8-10 pounds per month. That is to say, a dramatic drop of 3 or so pounds, followed immediately by an upswing of 2 additional pounds for several days, followed once again by a drop down to (or slightly below) the recent low point. The end result is that if I look at my weight from week to week, I’m inevitably 1-2 pounds lower than the week before but the chart for the week looks like a mountain range. Oh well. The path does not run smoothly; thank goodness I have taken the attitude that the number on the scale is only a snapshot. I would like to believe that going down slowly will be healthier. However, I’m sure that if I was dropping pounds like a madwoman I would be able to convince myself that was the way I wanted it to be. We do lose our minds, rather completely, in this process.

My goals between now and Valentine’s Day are rather simple. Exercise regularly 4 or 5 days a week, and lose 10 pounds. The first is more likely than the second…but goals are good, right? I have begun swimming laps again recently in addition to going to CrossFit. Even though it’s been 4 weeks back to CF, I’m still working up to my previous point. Last night was one of the first nights I’ve done the full WoD and felt more like I could handle it. I still can’t do a pushup correctly; I feel like my arms will NOT bend the way they should. But they weren’t consistent before either. Baby steps, baby steps.

I had an interesting observation while swimming laps. So much of success is about just starting, isn’t it? And so much of just starting is about preparation. I was commenting to my husband that I’d kind of like to swim but that I didn’t have a swimsuit made for lap swimming anymore. His response was, “So? Go get one.” It was like a lightbulb. When I was at the sporting goods store, I thought about it, and picked up a suit, swim cap, and goggles. My first time out, I was uncomfortable in that suit, realized that I needed some ear plugs, etc., and also realized that I can’t count laps to save my life. So I deconstructed this over the next day or so. I happened to see an ugly but serviceable suit at Costco with sizing that I could understand, and I picked it up. Talked about the lap counting problem with a friend that swims and came up with a solution. Picked up a couple of different types of ear plugs.

My point is, how often have I let discomfort, or just the lack of being prepared in exactly the right way, prevent me from doing something I ought to do? I am pretty sure that in the past, just feeling uncomfortable or not quite prepared might have prevented me from going back. And I will admit that being able or willing to throw just a few more resources into it (spend another $50, in this case) has made a big difference. In the past I might have said, “Oh hey, wait. I just spent $70 on this the other day. When will it stop?” But on the other hand, if I were giving advice to a friend I would say, “Oh my god, just FIX it.” The upshot is that in 2 weeks, I have been swimming three times. By the third time I was wearing the comfortable suit, with my lap counter on my finger and better (but not perfect) ear plugs in addition to all of the other stuff. It reminds me of something I used to hear back when I ran: there is no such thing as bad weather to run in, there is only a lack of the right running gear.

This probably has a dozen corollaries in the rest of my life: “I can’t make a healthy dinner because I don’t have the right ingredients.” “I can’t write that birthday card because I don’t have stamps.” It’s much easier to make good choices when you are prepared, or at least when you don’t have a dozen excuses as to why you can’t.

So, $120 spent on swimming gear later…the point is I have effectively eliminated all of the little nagging “I don’t want to do it because” reasons that pop up. Two swimsuits, a couple of sets of goggles, swim caps, ear plugs and a cute little lap counter are all packed up in my cute little gym bag and ready to go. Now I just need a foolproof way to get myself out the door. Ah well. If preparedness is half the battle, at least I’ve fought one half of the battle. We always knew the second half would be the tougher nut to crack, right?

Adversity and depression

This is probably not a weight loss post, when it comes down to it. This is a collection of thoughts based on the experiences of different friends of mine, who are going through some difficult situations.

One is recovering from a medical condition that is extremely trying, was possibly preventable had her doctors known more, and is categorized by the unsettling reality that she has no idea how she will be feeling from one day to the next. Even though she is doing everything by the book–eating clean, taking care of herself, following instructions–she still has good days and bad days. The good days are great, but cruel because they can be inexplicably followed by a horrible day when all of her symptoms return. 

Another friend is dealing with a terminal health issue of her husband’s. While not a fatal condition, it will nonetheless change pretty much everything about how they live their lives. She had already overcome a massive amount of adversity to get to a point where she is married, with two small children.

Two completely different situations. Neither of them are “fair.”

I went through a period of time like this about 5 years ago. A series of events outside of my control conspired and I was left to decide how to handle them. Some people would say (oh, and did they ever say!) that I did not make the right choices. It was a difficult situation and I did the best I could. Not surprisingly, I fell into a deep depression and had anxiety issues. At the time I remember thinking that it wasn’t fair…that I had already gone through some very difficult things, and it wasn’t my turn to be up again. I started working with a therapist and when she asked me what I wanted to get out of therapy, I said something like, “My overall goal is that I have no more growth through adversity.”

It is incredibly wearing to take the high road, to be strong, and to sacrifice your own comfort. It is likewise wearing to make good faith efforts to work on yourself, to be mindful of your health, and to go through the steps and motions faithfully and have nothing but the hope that someday, they may pay off. The hard thing about going through difficult times is that, depending on the situation, all of the above strategies need to be employed at different times. In both of my friends’ cases, the best thing they are doing for themselves is the most necessary. They have to put their health and welfare somehow first in front of all of the other demands on their time. But they also have to have the strength not to wallow in the unfairness of their situations, at least not all of the time.

I don’t know why I have been “put through” the fire a couple of times in my own life, but I suspect that almost everyone goes through it. Up through college, many things came easily to me. On the outside I believe my life still looks pretty charmed, and in many ways that count it is. But when things came easily to me, I was not as empathetic or sympathetic with others as I could have been. I needed to develop it; I believe it is part of what I was put here on earth to do. My trials by fire have probably made me a better person, but that is cold comfort to the person who is burning up. At that point, most of us just want the pain to stop.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to decide when the pain stops. All we can do is Churchill through it…his famous quote is “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” And this is mighty cold comfort when you don’t think you can take another step. I also call this kitchen floor depressed–that crazy moment when you’re on the floor in your kitchen sobbing uncontrollably. Hey, don’t judge. I happen to know several people who have had this very phenomenon occur, myself included. In a later post, maybe we can explore why the kitchen floor gets abused this way. But most of us can, somehow, get up off of the kitchen floor. Have some tea. Regroup. We can go to sleep and wake up the next day. Granted, we won’t know whether that day will be better or worse than the day before. But we only completely lose when we give up.

So, what did I learn from my kitchen floor moments? Strangely enough it is similar to what I learned in marathon training 20 years ago. We can do much harder things than we believe we can. Our bodies and minds can tolerate much more discomfort than we can conceive of, and they can do it for extended periods of time. When you’re training for a marathon, there are days that your feet feel like wings, and days that you feel like you’re moving through concrete. Huge leaps, and then crushing setbacks. In other words, it is life. I can now move on and draw the obvious parallels to the weight loss journey, or to overcoming adversity, but I won’t. 

When I was going through my dark time, I came across a Buddha misquote: “Life is pain.” I used to mutter that to myself at dark moments and wallow in them. The actual translation may be closer to “Life is suffering.” The real translation of “suffering” is more complex. It does mean suffering the way we think of it in English (emotional or physical discomfort), but it also means impermanence. It also means that our situational experiences are dependent upon outside forces. In other words it is a complex idea, and it is also somewhat universal.

Here’s where I should be throwing out the nugget of hope, right? Well, the nugget is that there is not really a reason that anyone gets tossed a difficult problem, other than that MOST people get tossed difficult problems. And we all have different ideas of what agony is, what pain feels like, and what we may or may not deserve.

That said, the only real option that I see for my friends is that they keep going…knowing that they have support. Maybe I don’t know just how they feel right now, but I was also in a similar place once or twice, and may have to go back. While the suffering person feels completely isolated, they are not ever alone in this.

A thousand steps

Last week I said that this is all starting to become normal. And then later last week I slipped up.

 

Oh, it wasn’t really that bad, I guess. I got to feeling smug about my ability to navigate parties, and then I had a party to go to, in the old style, with just friends and no colleagues; no one who was particularly worried about or watching my health.

I’m a strange mix of introvert and social animal. I can be found most nights sitting (figuratively) in my underpants on my couch, reading a book. Occasionally I will get onto FB or text with a friend while watching and making fun of a reality show. A party animal I am not. And yet…when I am in a situation where it’s all buddies letting their hair down I will stay out until the end. I can easily forget that I have had a couple of cocktails, and have a couple more. You get the picture. So, my slip up wasn’t crazy, but if I’m honest I should have anticipated it. I was out with a group of friends I haven’t seen socially in a while. We opened several bottles of wine, a band was playing, and we moved around the room chatting with one another. And it happened. I filled my wine glass. Others filled my wine glass. I was talking and not paying attention. Lo and behold, I’d had several glasses of wine. (Possibly two, but probably three, over several hours.) Then someone ordered pizzas. Genius! I could go for some pizza…

 

You can see what happened here. I forgot who I was, and more importantly, who my stomach now is.

 

In the end, it was not a huge deal. I had two little slices of pizza, and started hiccuping. Hiccuping is one of the nicer ways my new stomach alerts me that all is not well in Sleeveland. And as it started, my figurative hand went to my figurative forehead and I had to say to myself, “Self, you are NOT that person anymore. What are you thinking?” I’d broken several rules. First: one glass of wine, tops. This is both for my safety, in case the alcohol metabolizes differently, and just because hey…wine is really just not on the food list. Very few redeeming qualities. Second: no drinking and eating at the same time. This is for two reasons. Again, very little room in the stomach. But also drinking and eating together pushes the food through too quickly and effectively negates the satiety aspect of the sleeve. Third, I’d pretty much eaten most of my calories for the day, allowing enough for one glass of wine. Whoops. Fourth, well…the first three are pretty much it. So, I went home and tracked everything. I found out that the damages were that instead of my goal of 800-900 calories per day I had consumed close to 1300. Over the weekend, there was no real movement on the scale (it’s currently doing one of those up and down series.) There’s no way to know if Friday night caused this, but it sure didn’t help.

 

Clearly I need a better game plan when going out. And now I know. I am fortunate that I didn’t get sick from this escapade, and yet it was pretty unlikely I would. To my chagrin I have had few digestive issues, if any. Too bad. A little negative reinforcement might work wonders with me. However, it was a good wakeup call. Look, having lost what I have lost, I don’t feel quite like the fat girl anymore. I still have a long, long way to go. But I look a lot more like I did 10 years ago, than I did 1 year ago. I am wearing smaller clothes; my mobility’s better; and I feel more like myself. 

 

All the more reason not to get back into the habits that got me to where I was just 2 months ago.

 

It’s a good reminder that this whole adventure is meant to happen over a lifetime, by making a lifetime of good choices. Or if not, immediately compensating for the bad ones. When we lose a significant amount of weight quickly, and see others lose 50-100 pounds in 6 months or a year, we forget that we probably took a thousand steps to get to this point and we may well be taking a thousand steps to get back out.