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.


{May 28, 2013}   Still Not Dead, Just Busy

I got myself out to Fleet Feet last week to get myself some new shoes. They measured my feet, both standing and sitting, watched me walk barefoot, and watched me run in each pair of shoes I tried on. I learned a few things:

  1. My arches don’t fall nearly as much as I expected they did.
  2. I don’t really pronate much.
  3. I’m definitely a size 9, at least in the majority of brands.
  4. Saucony’s are definitely the right brand for me.
  5. I suck at running on a treadmill, lol.

So I got myself a new pair, in the correct size, with a little bit more arch support in them. I also grabbed a pair of running socks. They were not priced on the package, but I figured it’s only one pair of socks, how expensive can they be? Turns out they can be $11. I was hoping to not like them very much, but of course they’re effing spectacular, and now I wish I could afford to buy a bunch more of them. Stupid fancy expensive socks.

Anyway, I got home, and it was drizzly, but I went running anyway because I didn’t want to miss a day, and it turned out to be kind of nice. I was pretty soggy by the time I got home, but it helped keep me cool and meant I didn’t have to worry about dodging around kids or people out walking dogs or anything. It was just me and  a couple other runners. I ran my whole route, all nearly 50 minutes of it, and only felt very very minor stress in my ankle, which was a marked improvement from my old shoes, so I’d call that a success. I’ve run in them twice now, and I love them.

When I was at the shop, there were a bunch of real runners there, and I got to listen to them talk about the upcoming marathon (which was Sunday.) It reminded me of when I was a kid and my mom dated a guy who was into running, cycling, and rock climbing. He got me into running a bit, I ran a few 1k when he was running longer races. That was before I started to really put on weight, which started when I was diagnosed with Epilepsy and put on medications that drastically increased my appetite.

I think part of what attracts me about running is that runners, with a few exceptions, don’t sign up for a race to win it. They usually don’t compete against the other runners at all. Most people who set out to run a marathon are trying to be their own personal best, not someone else’s. It’s about always being a little better than you were the last time, which is a healthy kind of competition, and always an attainable goal. I’m never going to run faster than Usain Bolt, but I can push myself to run a little faster or a little farther than I did last time.

Not to mention those runners all showed up for the marathon on a rainy morning and ran that damned race anyway. That’s pretty bad ass. I’ve seen baseball games called for less than that.

I’ve been working on my knee strength and flexibility lately, mostly because the choreography in Hair involves a lot of getting down on the floor and then back up again, and very quickly. So I’ve been taking time to stretch, doing a lot of child’s pose, and practicing dropping my knees while keeping myself upright with a little balance help from a chair or the wall. I noticed the first real progress yesterday at rehearsal, so I have hope that it’ll be better by the time we get ready to perform.

Sunday’s weigh in was good, and I think drinking enough water definitely made a huge difference. I’m finally to the “halfway” point, which may not actually be the halfway point in the end, but it’s halfway through the eponymous 50 pounds I set out to lose this year, so I’ll celebrate it anyway. I am 15 lbs away from what the BMI defines as a “healthy weight.” I know the BMI is largely bullshit, but given that I am not a hardcore athlete and the range is pretty big, I think it probably applies in a general sense to my body.

I did a bit of cleaning this long weekend and found a tshirt I bought about a thousand years ago. They didn’t have it in my size, so I had to buy one that was too small for me because I wanted it so bad. Today, for the first time, I’m wearing it. 🙂

Tonight I have an appointment after work, followed by belly dance practice for a performance on Friday, and then I’m going home to run. It’s going to be a long day, but when it’s done I can slide into bed thoroughly exhausted and sleep like a rock.

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.

Today the sun is out and it’s glorious and I just want to go lay outside and soak it up. I got my cortisone shot, so aside from some brace time and being careful for a while, I am on the road to being free of this shit (knock on wood.)

I haven’t resumed working out again yet, but I might today. That’s if I don’t cave in and just go walk around in the sunshine for a while. Which, hey, still exercise, right? Exercise with a side order of vitamin D.

Yesterday I went to the mall to look for some things I needed. I actually ended up finding them at Charlotte Russe, which is one of those skinny teenager stores I never, ever thought I would be able to shop in. I don’t particularly like most of their stuff, but they had great prices on leggings, camisoles and underpants, so woot woot. It was a little strange, though. I still kind of felt like I did in middle school, like someone was going to jump out and go “You! Out! You’re too fat to shop in here!” No one even looked at me funny.

Today I’m wearing one of my new skirts with the new leggings and a Doctor Who t-shirt. I guess my style is best summed up as bohemianerd. I can live with that.

Today I am awesome because I legit feel pretty good about myself. I am optimistic about the summer and the stuff I have coming up. Hair starts soon, and has old friends and hopefully new friends in it.

Today was my first weight in in two weeks, since I missed it last week. Amazingly, though I haven’t done much in the way of actual working out, it’s all good news. I’ve lost four more pounds in that time, and shrunk a little bit in virtually every part of my body (including my wrist and forearm… I guess inevitable, but still strange.)

I still haven’t had the energy to properly dance or do weights, but I’ve been trying to get out of the house and moving at least. Yesterday I went out and walked on Church Street for a while, then met my eye doctor at his office because I apparently have bacterial conjunctivitis. He went into his office on a Saturday just to see me and get me sorted with a prescription. I walked back up to the pharmacy to get my eye drops. All told, I probably walked for at least an hour.

Today I went and caught the bus down to the mall, putzed around Kohl’s for a bit browsing, then went to the grocery store to stock up on some things. I probably got  at least thirty minutes of walking in, all together, and I got some practical things accomplished. I’m finally figuring out how to get around effectively on the bus.

Trying on clothes only confirmed that the various brands cannot fucking agree on anything. There were 12s that fit me, there were 8s that fit me. I think I’m sort of around a 10 maybe? Who the hell knows anymore. I know I’ve got a ways to go still, that’s the only take home message I could draw from the whole thing.

Today I was awesome because I didn’t stay at home just because I don’t have a car. I figured out how to get more places, and I got some walking in at the same time. I was brave about trying on smaller sizes of things than I thought I could possibly wear. I bought more fruit and more tea to support healthy habits.

Also, an update: The goal skirt arrives and fits already, though I’m going to wait to wear it until I shrink some more so I don’t stretch it as much. I got one wrap skirt already and have two more coming, and I love them already. I also went to a thrift store and got another skirt (size 8) that will fit pretty soon, so I’m excited about that one two. The dress I ordered doesn’t fit yet, and I might save it longer than necessary for the same reason: the top is stretchy and I don’t want it to stretch to it’s max so that I can wear it longer. I need to get a slip or something for that one, it’s sheer in places.

{April 13, 2013}   36 Hours to Go

So after yesterdays break, I headed down to dinner with my coworkers at a pub called Ri Ra, which is one of my favorite places to eat around here. I love their pan roasted chicken, which comes with little bitty potatoes and green beans. It was delicious. I ate until I was fit to burst, which still gave me a little bit of room, calorie wise. I have leftovers at the theater for later.

Last night was the night that everyone was at the show: DBF, all my coworkers, and assorted local friends. They all really liked the show, even though I felt like it wasn’t quite as good as last night (even the music director thought we did great, though, so maybe it was just something we felt under the lights.)

After the show, we went to this little pizzeria for snacking and drinking. I was a little peckish, and in general I don’t like to go in with a group to a restaurant and not order anything, so I ordered some appetizers to share with DBF and friends. We got the homemade mozzarella, baked goat cheese, and caramelized onions, all served with fresh baked focaccia. I ended up overeating my calorie limit by a couple hundred calories. I looked back through my tracking app, though, and I haven’t gone over in a long time, and I was out for a sort of special occasion, so I’m not worried about it. For this week, losing anything at all would be an accomplishment. Also, if I’m going to go over on calories, at least it was with something that was amazingly delicious.

So, today I’m going to say I am awesome for generally doing well with my calorie restriction, but also for not letting it get in the way of enjoying myself on occasion, and for not falling into a pit of guilt over it. If anything, I’m sort of glad that it happened, because even though it was small, it felt like an indulgence and makes me feel less restricted about things in general. I am also awesome because I got up this morning early enough to practice my cello for a bit. I was only able to get about a half hour of practice in, but that’s because my hands and wrist started to hurt. It’s going to take time to build up my strength and my callouses, and most especially my right wrist, as it’s been in a splint for six and a half weeks now.

Today is going to be a long day. We have a matinee and an evening show, so I’ll be at the theater from noon until after 10:30. Oooof.

{April 12, 2013}   Now That I Have Some Time…

Right now, I am thoroughly, physically exhausted. I took today off work knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get through to Sunday evening without a bit of a break, so that’s what today is for. I slept in until nearly 10am, and right now I am stretched out on the couch, drinking tea and watching The Hunger Games on Netflix.

Last night, opening night, was thoroughly amazing. The audience responded to everything with such enthusiasm, and everyone was dead on, so I would call it an unqualified success. I got to see some friends after the show, and some former cast mates from Rent. The director told one of them that his favorite game to play is “What Is Shadowmousey Doing Right Now?”, which was so encouraging to hear.  I don’t have any lines, or any solo moments, so to be appreciated for what I bring to the show is amazing.

The first thing I saw when I opened up my laptop this morning was an email from one of my coworkers, telling me that I am awesome because I’m not dead. She follows my blog (wave), and it was great to get the encouragement to press on.

And press on I am. If I have the energy, I might do a bit of yoga or dance later just to keep myself from getting stiff. That’s the big issue right now: I’m stiff and my feet and limbs hurt. If I don’t have the energy, I will just stretch for a good long while.

It occurred to me today how much less limited I am when it comes to standing for long periods of time. My feet hurt today, but they didn’t bother me at all last night, at least until I laid down in bed. Standing for as long as I did used to be really difficult and painful for me, so this is just one more physical benefit I’m getting out of this.

So, yesterday I was awesome because I made a point of telling a few of my friends how awesome I think they are, and how beautiful they are. I stayed away from the sugary stuff at the after party, and only had a few piece of kielbasa and popcorn chicken. I went over my calories, but not by a lot, and I feel good about it because I felt hungry and responded to that hunger instead of only paying attention to the numbers.

Today I was awesome already, because I took out my cello, tuned it up, and practiced for an hour. It wasn’t anything impressive, just some open strings with the bow, and some pizzicato work with the left hand to start relearning where the notes are and build up my callouses. I feel accomplished, though, and like I can maybe start calling myself a cellist. My cello now lives in my bedroom where I can get to it easily, every day. I hope to practice some tomorrow morning before the first matinee.

{April 11, 2013}   I’m Not Quite Dead Yet

I’m still dragging my ass through the week. At this point, I’m pretty sure I bought too much in the way of snacks, because I haven’t even touched most of it. I haven’t even really been hungry beyond what I usually eat. Ooops? Fortunately, I’m pretty sure DBF will help with it, except for the crunchy pea snacks. Oh well, I’ll pick at those over time.

The show is going really well, and we open with a real audience tonight. I just have to make it through the show and the opening night reception, and then tomorrow I can sleep in obnoxiously late and spend the whole day cuddling with my cat and (hopefully) taking a bus out to Winooski to get myself some more tea.

Yesterday, I was awesome because I caved in and took a nap that I very desperately needed. My costume skirts look like they have impossibly small waists, but they fit. I ate edamame, and it was delicious. I finally voiced my fear of taking my wrist brace off, and between the director and the amazing ladies in costumes, we have a plan for covering it so I don’t have to put myself at risk of further injury.

Four more days, and the show will be done. Then I can get back into my dancing and weight routine. Also, the orchestra cellists have convinced me that I should practice up a bit and join the local no-audition-required orchestra so that I can finally get that shit started. I have to figure out where to fit everything in, along with the voice lessons I hope to start taking soon. The theater company’s vocal coach has been prevailing upon me since Rent to train my voice, so if I can fit it into the budget, I’m going to try giving that a go.

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.

et cetera