The Final Fifty

The last few weeks have been full of ups and downs and dancing and running and injury, so I’m taking some time right now to let my brain catch up.

The readers digest version of the non-diet/exercise related stuff is that I am now single, but that this is mostly a good thing, because it happened in that sweet moment where both people know it’s not working but it hasn’t gotten to the point where they start to actively dislike one another. In some ways it’s harder when you get along well enough to be legit friends and not just awkward-used-to-date friends, but I’ve always found that road a worthwhile one to traverse.

I took a break from running for a week and a half because of a bad chest cold. From what I read online, running with chest congestion, especially if you are asthmatic, is a bad idea. When I started up running again, my first run was great, and the ankle/calf paid I’d been having did not return. The second time, however, it came back with a vengeance. Purely by accident, I found out that my symptoms match something called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (or posteromedial shin splints, though they’re not really in the shins.) Obviously I’m not a doctor, so I can’t properly diagnose myself, but I’ve made an appointment at a sports medicine place across the street from my work for Wednesday, so hopefully that will give me some answers.

I also ordered a pair of the Vibram 5-finger shoes that came from REI outlet, so they were only $23, and I figured it was worth it to give them a shot. Some research seems to indicate that the more supportive running shoes increase the rate of injury, whereas shoes with minimal support decrease the rate of injury. I think the idea is that shoes with a lot of support don’t force you to build good form when you run, and maybe your feet get dependent on the support, so bad habits form and result in injury. I know I’ll have to wear them very minimally at first, starting with walking and working my way up to running and longer durations of wear, but depending on what I find out this week, it might be a worthwhile thing to try.

In the last few weeks I’ve performed twice with my belly dance troupe, which has been a lot of fun. Once my teacher gets her much-closer studio opened, I should be able to attend her classes more regularly. There’s also another class in a different style starting up at the other studio I go to, so I might be taking as many as 3 classes per week, which I’ve done before and really enjoyed, so that might happen. It might be difficult to work in with the running, though, so I’m not sure what will budge in there. I might cut running back to 2 days a week after I finish the 5k training, which might work better both for scheduling and for the injury issues.

Diet-wise, I’ve mostly been doing ok. I had a week where I gained a pound, and then recovered, but I really wasn’t eating huge amounts or food, I just went over a little each day and the cumulative result was gaining weight. I’ve mainly kept it under control since then, though this week I lost 4lbs, and I’m not really sure why. I didn’t eat under my calories any more than usual (I try to stay within 50 calories of my target), and I didn’t work out more than I generally do, so it’s kind of anomolous. I’m going to be careful to eat enough this week and really pay more attention, and hopefully I’ll get back to a more reasonable rate. If I don’t, then I’ll increase my caloric intake accordingly and get back to a place where I’m losing at the right rate. As much as part of my brain likes the number on the scale better, I don’t want to slip into unhealthy habits.

I went shopping this weekend and finally bought some new jeans (the priciest pair was $15, so I figured I’m not losing much even if I shrink out of them.) Two pair are from the junior’s section and a size 11, and the third is from the more adult section and a size 8. It’s so weird to be buying things that small. Especially when I’m finding that medium tshirts are now sometimes too big on me, and I’m wearing size small underpants. What do I do when those get too big? I’m not tiny by any measure, but it would be so surreal to get to a point where I have to worry about finding clothes small enough for me.

There are just so many things I didn’t think about before I started all this. I always thought of myself as a small person in a fat body, and now I recognize how much being fat shaped my identity, and I haven’t adjusted yet to being smaller. When you’re plus sized, it’s so easy to think “if I were thin, I could wear anything I wanted”, or “I’d never walk into a store and not find something that fits me right”, but being smaller doesn’t mean those things at all. You still have bits you don’t like and want to conceal, you still have to hope the size that fits isn’t the size that’s sold out in that store, or that the size that fits fits in all of your places, not just a few of them.

It’s crazy and ridiculous and unexpected to have to confront how much your body has influenced who you are as a person, who you feel like when you think about everything about you that isn’t your body. Especially when you’re single for the first time in two years, and for the first time since you were unobese ever, and you find that the things you did before to thin the herd now only encourage a larger herd. How do you identify the people who are only interested in you for your physical attributes when your physical attributes now fall in a bit closer with what society has deemed attractive? And the sexual commodification that feels enticing and complimentary in the very beginning, but then starts to feel really gross and invasive? Sometimes, when my brain goes to that fantasy land where diabetes and heart disease don’t exist or don’t run in my family, part of me wishes I could go back to how I was before.


So, yesterday. It was actually pretty awesome until this morning. I’ll get to that shortly.

I went for a walk down to the lake on my lunch break. It was approaching 70 out, the sun was shining gloriously in the sky, and I was treated to some entertainment in the form of a woman who had clearly lost contact with the mothership. I got a good 30 minute walk with some hills, I synthesized a little vitamin D, and it was pure, unadulterated awesome.

After work, I went home and did half an hour of belly dance (to ease back in, and also because I was short on time.) I ate a bit, but left some wiggle room because we were going to Wild Wings for trivia, and I knew I would want to graze on stuff there.

Have I mentioned the unholy craving I’ve been having for soft pretzels? Mostly I don’t crave bread products too much, but lately, I’ve missed the chewy, stretchy, doughy aspect, and soft pretzels are MADE of chewy and doughy.

So DBF, knowing this, picked stuff he knew I’d like to accommodate my cravings. I didn’t do bad, really, calorie wise. I went a little over my baseline, but not near over the calories the activities I’d done afforded me, so still within the sweet spot. And those pretzels and boneless wings were so tasty.

This morning, though, my intestines told me they were displeased. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, just some angry pangs and grumbling really, but it definitely didn’t agree with me. Which is probably a good thing. I suspect I’ll remember it next time we go to trivia and not have as much trouble resisting the stuff I know I shouldn’t eat anyway. Note: I did not have food poisoning. And the food was delicious. I’m not saying people should pass on wings and pretzels. Just that I apparently can’t enjoy them without consequences.

I’m glad to have started dancing again. I’ve undoubtedly lost some of my progress, but I’m ok with that, the musical was important and fun, and my body still responded to the diet, so I can regain my former skills dance wise. I might do some tap tonight, or ballet, not sure which I’ll settle on when I get home.

This week I have been awesome for taking a damned break, recovering from illness, and mostly not deviating from my diet rules. I’m easing back into dancing more again, and my extra weight plates are on the way so I can get back into my weight routine as well. I am working on getting my wrist back up to full function so I can proceed with both cello and weights without risking further injury. I am taking time to notice how different my body is than it was before.

I have also noticed a few new things. Even though I have deviated slightly in the last month, my normal default is now the diet. This is great because it means it’s sustainable and has become habit, which is absolutely critical to long term success. Working in a bit of flexibility, I think, is good because I don’t want to have seriously rigid rules forever. The whole point of this is to be healthy, mentally and physically, and I don’t feel like being forever obsessed with everything that passes my lips is a healthy or desirable way to live.

Here’s the other thing I’ve realized, now that I’ve had time to consider it: I don’t regret ever having been fat, and I wouldn’t go back and change it now if I could. Oh sure, I might have lost weight sooner just for the affect it’s had on my body, but if I had the choice to go back and make myself always be naturally thin, there’s no way I would. Being fat has forced me to really study what constitutes a healthy diet and a healthy body. It has made me work for it in a way that gives it more value. And, most importantly, being fat has taught me so much compassion for other people, their bodies, and the degrading messages we are all bombarded with all the time. It has taught me that the value of a person has absolutely nothing to do with what kind of body they have.

Didn’t get to leave the theater until 11:30 last night. So tired I’m contemplating training myself to sleep with my eyes open so I can nap at work. Still on track, dietarily speaking.

Yesterday I was awesome because I ate well, and I took the time to relax and cuddle with my cat for a little while in the afternoon between work and rehearsal. Costuming is having to take my skirts in. I bought a medium Oliver! tshirt, and it’s a little roomy on me. I am doing well at balancing the various needs of being healthy, which not only involves being more active and eating right, but taking the time to relax and breathe and rest when those things are in short supply.

I was talking to a friend last night at rehearsal, about body issues, and about where I’m at mentally in terms of this transformation. My friend is absolutely beautiful, all the things I would love to be: tall, with lovely long, reddish-brown hair, a very pretty face, and a body that is what I consider perfect (you don’t feel the immediate need to feed her, but she is not heavy in any sense of the word.) And even she is self conscious about her body.

It struck me that people, and especially women, are trained to never think they are good enough. Part of it is the never-ending parade of stick thin supermodels that prioritizes thinness over everything else, beauty wise, but that’s not the end of it. It’s also the slew of advertisements aimed at making people look better, look and feel younger, be less wrinkled, have less cellulite, have the best hair color, or wear the right clothes. When people feel shitty about themselves, they’d give almost anything, including ridiculous sums of money, to feel better. To feel more worthwhile. To feel like they fit.

But you can’t fit; no one can. Even if you’re thin like a supermodel, you’re told that “real men love women with curves” and encouraged to wear things to make your curves more pronounced. I don’t think I’ve ever actually met a single person who didn’t feel like they needed some sort of improvement, who wasn’t trying to make themselves just a little different somehow. Hell, even celebrities, with their scores of sycophantic followers and their devoted fans, give into the pressure to change themselves, some crafting themselves into near-alien figures.

And I thought about Margaret Cho, who has always been one of my favorite people. In particular, I thought of this quote from one of her shows:

“If you are a woman, if you’re a person of colour, if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, if you are a person of size, if you are a person of intelligence, if you are a person of integrity, then you are considered a minority in this world.

…And it’s going to be really hard to find messages of self-love and support anywhere. Especially women’s and gay men’s culture. It’s all about how you have to look a certain way or else you’re worthless. You know when you look in the mirror and you think ‘oh, I’m so fat, I’m so old, I’m so ugly’, don’t you know, that’s not your authentic self? But that is billions upon billions of dollars of advertising, magazines, movies, billboards, all geared to make you feel shitty about yourself so that you will take your hard earned money and spend it at the mall on some turn-around creme that doesn’t turn around shit.

When you don’t have self-esteem you will hesitate before you do anything in your life. You will hesitate to go for the job you really wanna go for, you will hesitate to ask for a raise, you will hesitate to call yourself an American, you will hesitate to report a rape, you will hesitate to defend yourself when you are discriminated against because of your race, your sexuality, your size, your gender. You will hesitate to vote, you will hesitate to dream. For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue.”

I’d thought before about making a point to not only internalize the positive feedback I’m getting from people who matter to me, but to also post very specifically about the moments of pride I experience, whether they are related to good choices I’m making, or related to the internal and external changes I observe in myself. This brought on the fear: what if people think I’m stuck up or full of myself?

And there’s the training. We’re not allowed to be proud of ourselves, or even satisfied with ourselves, to the point where we treat people who are satisfied with themselves with contempt. Out loud, we say that they’re stuck up. Full of themselves. Cocky. Inside, I think we hate them for having something we don’t have: the ability to feel like they are just fine the way they are. The ability to love themselves unconditionally.

So I’m going to start doing something that feels like social suicide, quite frankly. I’m going to start adding short posts, little snippets of something I am proud of about myself. Short snippets, unqualified, about one little thing that I appreciate about myself. It will be hard, because I am so good at zooming in on my flaws and giving them all the attention, but I want to see if helps me develop a better relationship with myself.

I’m going to tag them with TIWAB (for Today I Was Awesome Because…) I would love it if people posted their own snippets of awesome, whether here or on their own blogs. Post the link if you decide to do it on your own blog.

This summer I am going to be in a production not too far away that will involve some subtle, low lit nudity. It’s optional, on a night by night basis, so I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to, but to be honest, I’m kind of excited about it.

There have been two occasions in my life involving large groups of nude people, and both times I walked away feeling two things: One, that the naked human body is so much more than just sex, and Two, that every natural human body has flaws, now matter how perfect they look when they’re full assembled. Those are powerful things to know. Anyone can look perfect with a team of photoshop wizards paid to make them look that way, but underneath it all, most people’s bodies look more like yours than you realize.

And that’s the reason I’m going to do it, and I am even excited about doing it. I am now smaller than the average sized woman in the United States, but not by much. I like the thought that some woman in the audience will see me standing there without shame, and maybe she’ll feel less invisible than when she walked in. Maybe she’ll even feel a little less worried about her body for it. I would really like to have that effect on even one person.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, we had rehearsal in the big theater for the second time. It’s a glorious place, but it is, unfortunately, the driest place ever to exist on Earth. I can’t be in there for more than an hour without getting a headache, at least the first few times before each show. I don’t know what changes, maybe it finally sinks in that I have to drink gallons of water BEFORE I get there, not just during, but hopefully it’ll get better this time like it did for Rent.

Yesterday, one of the other cast members brought a basket of candy-filled Easter eggs in for everyone, and I noticed that some of them contain my kryptonite, the Cadbury mini eggs. I didn’t take any, but I did feel a pang and start to think “well, one wouldn’t be a great tragedy.” And maybe I could eat only one of them, it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing ever. But maybe I wouldn’t stop at one, and I didn’t want to take the risk. Part of me wonders if they would even taste good to me now, but again, it’s a box I’m not ready to open just yet. If I can make it to a year sans sugar, it might be a different story, but at the beginning of 2 weeks of craziness, it’s just not a safe experiment to have.

It helped to see that most of the adults didn’t take any, and also that I had a banana with me. It tasted nice and sweet without the side order of guilt I probably would have felt afterward. Not guilt because of anything external at all, but guilt at letting myself down, because I’ve worked so hard to make myself healthier, and now is not a good time to test myself.

I’m pretty much at the “oh shit, my free time is GONE” moment, which is bad, because I haven’t stocked up enough food. I need to make curry soup this week some time so that I can have a bunch of meals frozen, and I also need to pack up some cottage cheese cups and grab some other things to take to the theater with me for when attacks of the munchies happen. I’m trying to shift my thinking so that I learn to view this as an opportunity to learn new snacking habits. I need to walk up to the co op at some point this week and look at the snack food there, because I know there are healthy things I can choose, things I haven’t tried before, and that will help.

Friday I got to try edamame, which I loved, so that would be a good option. My mom also said she tried something with freeze-dried corn that tasted like candy, so I can check and see if there’s something like that there. Plus they have stuff in the bulk section, like dried banana slices and other dehydrated fruit, plus nuts and other stuff. There are also kale chips, which I’ve been wanting to try anyway. Even just typing this stuff out is helping, so I know it’s just a mental game I have to keep playing with myself. The co op is 2 blocks from the theater, and they also have a prepared food section with cooked stuff, so I can even go there if I want something hot, and I know they’ll have stuff I’ve never tried before. I can totally do this.

I did something kind of silly this afternoon, and I ordered this skirt. In a size medium. I’m shrinking into a size 12 now (I might be there, but I haven’t had a chance to test the theory just yet.) The medium says it’s for size 8-10, so I know it probably won’t fit when it gets here. My thinking is that by the time it really gets to be summer, it will fit. At $10, itt’s not an expensive gamble or anything, but this hearkens back so many memories of times when my grandmother would buy me clothes that were too small because “they would fit me when I lost weight.” It was a near constant thing with her, and she was the most persistent and obnoxious of the people who always told me I wasn’t good enough because I was fat (no matter how nicely they said it.)

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I haven’t often bought “goal clothes” myself, and now that I reflect on it, it’s only been twice so far: the pair of jeans that is now languishing on the floor because they are too big and keep falling off, and the little black dress I got at a thrift store that now fits ok and which I’ve started wearing again. So this might not be the big doomed-to-failure purchase I’m making it out to be in my head, but as long as I’m airing my damage, I’ll include the irrational with the rational. And just to make sure I’m airing it all out and really exorcising it, I’m going to post about it when it gets here, and then post picture of me wearing it once it finally fits.

My veggie list is getting longer, and the ones I will actively seek out is getting more extensive as I learn to cook them in more appealing ways:


Really, asparagus should be starred, too, because I go back to that one a lot. I might try pan-frying it to see how it turns out. I’m sure I can find better things to do with carrots, too, they’re just a challenge because DBF doesn’t like them cooked, and I don’t like big carrots raw (though I’ll totally snarf down baby carrots when they’re offered.) I saw a documentary the other day that suggested people should just start adding healthy things in, and eventually the healthy things would crowd out the unhealthy things? That is totally happening for me, and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s kind of amazing how much easier it is to be satisfied with real food than with the stuff that was slowly killing me.

Last night, DBF made a delicious stir fry with chicken, snow peas, baby corn, water chestnuts, and sweet onions, with a small bit of a soy based sauce. It was absolutely delicious, and I especially loved the snow peas, so I’ll be adding them into the rotation much more frequently, along with the stir fry as a whole.

There’s been a recall on my cats food, which kind of startled me a bit, because it’s always been a good brand and she hasn’t had any trouble on it. I gave her only canned food until I had a chance to make it back to the pet store, and I’m thinking of transitioning her to a mostly raw diet.

But y’all, it is so hard to find decent, reliable information on cat nutrition that doesn’t come along with some other bullshit. I know that some people are into alternative medicine and stuff like that, but when I see a book talking about homeopathic medicine for a cat, there’s no way I can trust that book to give me good information. I don’t mean herbal medicine, because that’s different. I mean remedies that are so diluted that the statistical likelihood that they actually contain any “active ingredient” is so vanishingly small that there’s no logical way it could possibly work.

So I found a book the other day and ordered it, and it’s written by a woman with a solid background in biology and chemistry, along with years working as a veterinary technician. I was able to search the index and verified it doesn’t contain a single suggestion that I start by aligning my cat’s chi, so I have high hopes for it. I also ordered a book written by veterinarian all about cat health and recognizing warning signs and diagnosing symptoms. Basically, she’s getting older, and I want to know how to take better care of her so I can keep her alive for another 30 years, at least.

I noticed about a week ago that I’ve stopped having food cravings. Not just for the shitty food I used to eat, but for any foods at all. I’ve heard that food cravings are related to nutritional deficiencies, but I can’t find any research to confirm it, and instead found studies that showed there is no relation between them at all, so I’m not sure what to make of it. Instead, cravings tend to be socially driven, and have a lot to do with foods you have historically associated with comfort.

Part of me feels like I have learned to not seek comfort in food. I never really thought of it that way before, but as I reflect on it now, I can definitely see with total clarity that I used to use food to comfort myself. I would see something or crave something, and know consciously that it was too much food or not the kind of food I should be eating. And then I would make some sort of excuse why it was okay and eat it anyway, and it was nearly always just me caving and saying “it’s just once, what could it hurt” or “it’s not a big deal, I’ll enjoy myself and do better another day.” And it was always when I felt the need to boost my mood. It’s amazing how easy it is to see that now when I spent a lot of time thinking about it before and was still so blind to it.

I think part of it might be my excitement that I’m actually enjoying healthy food now. Don’t get me wrong, a huge burrito or a candy bar has it’s satisfaction, but mostly, when it’s finished and you don’t get the taste or the satisfaction of eating any more of it, it just left me feeling fat and like a failure, like I’d let myself down again. It was a guilt/payoff cycle, sometimes with a defiant “I refused to feel ashamed for liking food!” stage that, while trivially empowering, was kind of the ultimate extension of the “fuck you, I don’t care what you think” attitude. Because guess how little I care what you think? Little enough that I’m willing to poison myself just for the satisfaction of telling you (imaginary people who are echos of my middle school peers) to piss off.

And now, food is about me. Because when I eat healthy food, when I enjoy healthy food, I’m getting the satisfaction of eating, AND I’m getting the satisfaction of feeling successful for putting good things into my body. Those imaginary judgey-pantsed people are gone with the daily struggle to not eat crap. The guilt part is gone when you make healthy choices, and so I guess the rest of the emotional eating cycle slowly went away, too. Because, if I’m being honest, though they might wear the faces of my adolescent tormenters, if I’m being honest, those voices were me hating myself and then punishing myself for hating myself by hating myself more.

(This is why I started this blog. I honestly didn’t even realize any of this stuff until I just typed it all out.)

I’m terrified, because things are going so well, and I feel so strong now, and it just seems like it’s been a little too easy. On the other hand, things have been crazy stressful in large regions of my life lately, and I just see unhealthy things and just don’t want them. I think I will feel safe when I’ve made it a year. Maybe. I’ll let you know next March.

et cetera