Friday, July 22, 2005

And so it begins

To be truthful, it started beginning a few weeks ago. Taco and I were out on the town one night, and we ran into a friend we haven’t seen for awhile. We chatted about this and that and then she turned to me and said the words I’ve dreaded my entire life:

You look fantastic! Have you lost weight?

This pair of sentences in the past would have unleashed an unholy bout of scowling, foot shuffling and denial. All of which, I can only imagine, would have sent a message loud and clear that my body? Is not something I wish to discuss. Yes, even if you meant to compliment me.

Good lord, the energy I poured into living in my head and denying the existence of my body. Sometimes, it is hard to be smart. Harder still? Being the stupidest smart person I’ve ever met or even heard about.

These days, though? BRING IT.

Rose asked, and I answered, loud and proud: as a matter of fact, I have! Well, you look great, she said. Thanks! I replied. I feel great, too.

And it keeps happening. The neighbour stopped me on the street, I tell Taco, to say how great she thinks I look.

Oh, lots of people tell me that, Taco replies breezily.

Like who? I demand to know who has been talking about me, and more importantly, what exactly they’ve said. Not so I can scowl at them in my head, but so that I can feel proud, Me, proud that people are noticing and talking about my body. Lots of people! Not only have I become a person who thinks and speaks in exclamation points, I also seem to be not only welcoming attention paid to my body, but actually relishing it. Reveling in it, as a mattter of fact. (May I just, as a word nerd, point out here to anyone who’s ever wondered that grammatically speaking, you relish things, rather than relishing in them? If you want to get right into enjoying something, you may certainly revel in it. But please, please Internet, please stop relishing in experiences. Thank you, lecture over,)

I love that this is happening. I love that I am able to accept praise for what has been occasionally quite hard work at the worst of times, and nothing short of challenging at the best of times. I love that I am out of the closet now, as a fat person.

Ok, and this is a weird phenomenon. It’s the thing where you think that because no one mentions it, you must not be very fat. I mean, come on, when I was a size 20, people would ask me where I got a particular piece of clothing. Small people would ask me this question. I never knew what to say. It would be embarrassing to both of us, I reckoned, if I said I got it at the fat store. Usually, I’d just say I got it at the Bay. After all, you can get most everything there, including, sometimes, cute clothes in a range of sizes. But seriously, when people asked me that it made me think they must not know how fat I was because if they did, they would realise that even if I told them where that cute skirt came from, there was no way they’d find one in their size because hello, fat store. Sheesh.

It was a lot of work, before, to pretend that what I wouldn’t acknowledge and you wouldn’t mention simply didn’t exist. Now? Yes, I am fat. But that’s a temporary thing. If you want to point out that my body looks different—that is to say, it looks good—I am fully supportive of that.

If you want to hang out the window of a moving car, and say, as some stranger once did, “another burger couldn’t hurt,” I will continue my policy of coming up with a really scathing retort approximately three point five hours later.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Perfection and Punishment

Firstly, all y’all who called me an inspiration? You people are nice.

Since last we spoke, there have been some high calorie days. And I mean high. Taco has taken it in mind to perfect the perfect lamb burger. He’s pretty good at it. Problem is, those suckers are not low-cal. They just aren’t. He puts cashews in there and chevre and a bit of olive oil, and anything else made of fat. They taste fantastic. And two of them, in pitas, with a bit of plain yogurt, clock in around 1200 calories.

Not an everyday food, that’s for sure. But once in a very great while. Yeah. Oh yeah. We had them twice in one week though. Which means we won’t be eating them again till maybe winter ’06.

The Lambony Snicket festival was followed by a strange weekend in the Valley. Strange in that it was entirely relaxing and entirely stressful, all at the same time. (Long story short: Kravitz and I went to visit her sis-in-law and niece, and, by extension, her sis-in-law’s mom, at the home of some friends of said sil’s mom. Friends who run a corporate retreat—which is an extremely beautiful place, hence the extreme relaxation—and who are self-styled self-help experts—hence the extreme stress. There’s something so…aggravating about the sanctimony of the self-righteous self-helper. An assumption that everyone but them is broken, and also stumbling around looking for the answer, the answer only the self-helper has. But let’s not get into it, because then I will get VERY ANGRY and it’s too hot for that kind of emotion.) There was eating, though not an excess of it. But, you know, some apple pie, some ice cream, some crackers (crackers are the anti-christ. So greasy and delicious), some steak, some lobster (which, as a matter of fact, besides being delicious, is also very low in fat. Until you dip it in drawn butter, that is. Which I managed not to do), a bagel. You get the idea. A lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally have around.

But, to escape the craziness of our hosts, Kravitz and I went for long walks, so things mostly evened out. I didn’t lose this week, but I did hold steady, and that’s a good thing, what with my period and all. I feel ok about the way things are going. Still working out in some fashion every day, which balances the chocolate I have been eating to make the experience of having my period during the hottest days of the summer somewhat less hateful. Going off the Pill has meant less general crazy PMS feelings, but a less comfortable period. I’ll take the latter over the former any day, and I’m pretty sure Taco would rather rub my lower back for me a couple days a month than deal with my irrational hormonal rage on and off for ten days a month. Right, Taco? Right.

Ok, so finally, here’s what I really want to talk about. Perfection and punishment. It seems to me that so many of us feel the need to do this thing perfectly. That if we can’t be perfect, we just won’t do it, because what’s the point?

That’s a tough one, hey?

It’s possible that perfectionism is what brought me to this place—or to the place I was in before I woke up and starting treating myself a little better. I would have it in mind to eat healthfully, but come mealtime I would ALWAYS forget (an interesting response, to be sure, and one that probably bears some investigation, some other time), and eat a cheeseburger. And then I’d remember afterward that I wasn’t going to eat cheeseburgers any more, but that since I had, I might as well have a Mars bar. Logic has never been my strong suit.

The thing is, life is not perfect. It just isn’t. There is no perfect set of circumstances, no perfect time, no perfect behaviour. It’s an unreasonable expectation. I make all kinds of allowances for the people in my life: for co-workers, siblings, friends, Taco. But what kind of allowances am I prepared to make for myself? Not very many. I am great at cutting slack for other people. Great at figuring out why they might not behave like perfect paragons all the time, and forgiving them. But when it comes to my expectations for myself, I am unforgiving. I have a higher standard for myself, and I’m going to go ahead and say it: THAT’S FUCKED.

It is! It’s not healthy. It’s not compassionate. I would never treat one of my friends that way, ever, ever. In fact, I have shown more understanding to strangers than I show to myself sometimes.

And then there’s punishment. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m pretty good about not punishing myself for not eating perfectly or not working out (there may be a little chatter in my head about it, or some general fretting, but it’s never hateful). I know I make good choices most of the time food-wise, and I’m actually really into exercising (imagine!), and I’ve been able, so far, to take the long view about all this. But I think it’s easy to get into punishment mode. And I feel sad when I read a blog where someone is castigating herself for her “weakness” for eating ice cream or not going for a walk.

Because yes, individual decisions and actions matter, but what matters much more, I think, is the accumulation of decisions and actions. It wasn’t one ice cream bar or one missed walk that got us this way. It was the way we lived. And the way we live now has to leave room for sweet treats. It has to leave room for lazy Sundays. It has to leave room for compassion.

It has to, because we are our bodies, like it or not. Our bodies are not all we are, but they are part of us. And we should be as kind to them as we are to others.

So that’s it. I’m letting myself off the hook for perfection. I’m going to continue eschewing punishment as a response to my perceived lack of perfection. It’s all compassion up in here, all the time.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

My loss is my gain

It comes as no small surprise to me that each week, the scale shows me a weight that is exactly one pound less than it was the week before. This trend has been continuing for several weeks, and no one is more surprised than me. There are a number of issues that begin swirling in my head when I think about this.

Firstly, it has come to my attention that I never thought I could do this. Not that I didn’t think I was good enough or strong enough. I quit biting my fingernails cold turkey when I was twelve. I quit a pack-a-day cigarette habit even colder turkey fifteen years later. So it’s not that I doubt my ability to do the difficult stuff. But when I think about body image and the body dysmorphia I have—well, I’ve never hesitated (at least, never in my adult life) to flaunt what I’ve got. I haven’t let my fatness stop me from having a great relationship, a great job, buying a house, being a person. I have looked at myself in the mirror and thought, yep, you look good, considering the circumstances.

Those circumstances though? Literally, it never occurred to me before last September that I could change those. In fact, I have spent my entire life thinking, well, this is the hand I have been dealt, this fatness. I will simply make the best of it. And to a large extent, I’ve done just that. I have always thought of myself (and been thought of by others) as super confident. My line is that I have, if anything, a little too much self esteem. And yet, and yet, I have walked through this life in a body that would seem to broadcast the exact opposite. And more than that, I have done nothing to prove that billboard wrong.

Until now, that is. More on this in a moment.

I guess what I’m wondering is, that body dysmorphia, that…well, we’ll call it an ability…to look in the mirror, see a woman who was somewhere in the neighbourhood of a hundred pounds overweight (and is now 70-some pounds over the line) and feel ok about the reflection: is that good or bad? Healthy or not? I don’t know. I think the lack of self-loathing is good. I think the lack of motivation to change was very, very bad indeed.

How did I get here? I guess I woke up from a long, long dream. Felt a pain in my knee, finally, finally realised it was from carrying around that extra hundred pounds and thought: right, this ends now.

Even then, I was a little unfocused, for months and months. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances (relentless work-related travel, my dad died, Taco and I were in a monumentally frightening car crash), but still, it took me from last September until the first week of May to figure out that half-assing it was not going to result in a smaller behind, so to speak.

And now? Now I feel unstoppable. On Sunday, I worked out THREE TIMES because it felt so good the first and second times, I didn’t want to stop. Weights with M&C at my house, a 60-minute walk outside, and a yoga DVD. On Saturday, I bought new cross trainers. Walked right into Aerobics First like I belong there (which of course I do, though that would NEVER have occurred to me a year ago) and dropped a hundred and fifteen bucks on some New Balance sneaks without blinking an eye. Because, as the ad says, I am worth it. Yes I am.

I am eating cherries and carrots and quinoa (not all together, that’s just weird) and loving it, but that’s no surprise. My problem was never not eating well. I mean, I am the only person I know who eats salad every day. I always have. Italian and all, you know. But I’ve figured out that if I don’t cram the food in, I don’t need as much of it. And if I forget, and I do cram the food in, I tend to realise that I’ve done so as I eat the last bite. And instead of going for more because I feel ripped off that I spaced out and didn’t enjoy eating it, I say, oh well, self. You’ve eaten your fuel, you forgot to enjoy it, maybe you’ll pay more attention next time. Or, I figure out some exercise to do so I can make room to eat more should I still desire it when the workout is done.

And this, I think, is how the thin world lives. Oh my god, I get it. I get that if you look at your food log (ok, the thin world doesn’t keep food logs, but in their head they do, for sure they do, that’s HOW THEY’RE THIN) and you see that calorically speaking, you’re right on track for the day, but percentage wise, wow, that’s a lot of fat you’ve eaten, well you can figure out something with complex carbs to eat to balance it.

I realise, additionally, that all my life I have felt, in general, that there was a piece of information that everyone except me seemed to have about how to be in the world and be happy. Do I think that I have now found it? Yes. Do I think it is related to food and exercise? Well, no. But somehow, that September day last year, a lock in my head tumbled, and out fell this new way to live, and here I am, and I no longer feel like I’m not in on the secret, and oh boy, oh mister, what a goddamn relief that is!

It’s not so much about the eating and exercising. But it’s not NOT about that, either. It is, I think, about living in the world right now. Not scheming and planning for the future (a future in which magically I am no longer fat, because I schemed and planned though never actually DID anything, because, see above: I didn’t know I could, or was entitled to, or some other equally absurd idea, and yet somehow, I got thin simply by wanting it. Oh, that’s a good one!), not analysing and regretting the past. I don’t hit the mark all the time, of course. But it seems I’m hitting it often enough. Staying mostly mindful when I eat (and most other times, too, come to think of it), or at least realising that I should have and working harder at it the next time. Realising that it makes me feel good to exercise. That I have never, ever regretted working out. That I am perfectly happy to exercise for 60 to 90 minutes a day, every day, especially if it means I can sometimes eat pineapple upside down cake, as I did last night.

I realise there’s a chance that someday, this easy pound-a-week pace will dry up and I’ll have hit a plateau. I will probably feel frustrated when that happens. But I hope I’ll also feel that what I’ve gained thus far is so much more important than what I’ve lost.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My ass? It's hers. And IT HURTS.

So on Sunday, M&C and I met up for a little one-on-one action. There was running…very slow, disorderly running. There were lunges, and squats, and there was a medicine ball, which we tossed at each other, and which I totally managed not to throw directly at M&C’s face…mainly because my abs are so weak I did not have the physical wherewithal to do so. I did, however, curse at her A LOT.

This went on—the slow running, the medicine ball tossing and especially the swearing—for just over an hour. At the end of it, I felt sweaty. And also happy. But mostly sweaty.

The hard truth of the matter is that I am not fit. Whooo BOY am I not fit. Not by a long shot, kickboxing and yoga and cardio strip classes notwithstanding. I have not much in the way of cardiovascular capacity and, as it happens, lo these long months of working out I have been CHEATING without even trying to cheat. That is to say, I don’t do the exercises properly. So, sure, I’ve been moving around and burning calories. But have I been becoming more fit? A little. I don’t huff and puff near as much as I used to. But I also get very panty, apparently, from running a measly little quarter of a kilometre. I know, I know, it will get better. But patience has never really been my strong suit, you dig?

Anyhow, we’re going to meet once a week to continue this torture-I-mean-training. Truly though? It is awesome. I am so lucky, and I’m not even saying that because I know M&C reads my site and I want her to go easy on me next time. Really, I’m fortunate. She’s a great instructor, she cares about what happens to me, and in no way does she intend to ever let me off the hook, ever. For anything. To wit, her latest email to me:

So you gave me a written summary of your goals. Meanwhile, my goals with you
are right on par - I must now just maintain...... I know I am on goal as
long as you continue to write IT HURTS in capitals when referring to your
ass. New goal.....I want bold, italics and capitals.
No problem.
Yo ass is mine.

I assured her that before long, she will reach her typographic goal. Like, probably next week.

In other fitness news, I am also taking a 90-minute Ashtanga yoga class three times a week at a yoga studio near my house. It is AWESOME. Unbelievably sweaty, ridiculously early in the day (7am, good thing it’s right around the corner), and totally, completely, utterly awesome.

I have to admit I love that I am becoming a person who looks forward to working out.

Except for last night when I had to force myself to at least go for a 60-minute walk. Every step was torture. I’ve never felt so reluctant all the way through a workout, especially such a mild one. And walking, I love walking. But last night, I felt as reluctant to do it by minute fifty as I had at minute five. I’ve been pretty sore this week, so it’s possible I need a break. I’m skipping cardio strip and kickbox tonight, mainly because I have to work late, and then I’m reading downtown again and so there’s no time. But if I wasn’t feeling so burned out, I probably would have tried harder to fit it in. Anyhow, I got my ninety minutes this morning, and the goal lately is 540 exercise minutes a week, which averages out to ninety minutes six days a week (possibly a too-ambitious goal, but we’ll see). All of which is to say, I am on track.

Eating has also been just fine, though last night I overate a tad…two No Pudge brownies and some bread and cheese when I wasn’t genuinely hungry, just felt like eating. But it all fell within my calorie budget for the day. So, not perfect, but far, far from a crisis. Most days I have trouble eating all my calories (another good reason to skip tonight’s workout…I already have 1400 calories to eat tonight. NOT going to happen! Adding more exercise would mean more calories I really should eat and I just can’t see doing it.)

But those calories will come in handy if I need a small glass of liquid courage before taking the stage tonight. I generally get just a little keyed up right before I go on. A little vodka and soda will go down nicely. Mmm, vodka and soda.