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.

{May 20, 2013}   I’m Not Quite Dead

I swear I’m still alive, though only just.

Wednesday last week was, blessedly, a music-only rehearsal, so I got my much needed rest night. Thursday I ran, and Friday I got home and ended up taking an unscheduled 2-hour nap, which was desperately needed at that point. After the nap, I managed to do most of my upper body weight regimen, even though I haven’t been able to do it in forever. I’m keeping the brace on so that I don’t inadvertently re-injure the most delicate part of it, but other than that it went really well.

Saturday was my Day O’ Masochism. I got up early to hit up a yard sale with a friend, then went to belly dance class (the fitness one, where we do crazy reps of everything and you leave feeling all the muscles you normally forget exist.) After that, I was sore and tired, but I pushed myself to go out and run anyway. I was thoroughly used up after that, but I sort felt like a big fucking badass, so the payoff was worth it. After that, my friend came over to catch me up on tribal belly dance for a performance we’re doing end of next week. Thankfully that was the milder kind without the intensity, but I was still droopy through the whole thing. Rounded out the night at a party at a friends house.

Sunday was DBF’s graduation, so I just had to walk down to the theater. We went out to a hibatchi grill for lunch, which was freaking spectacular. I had a little bit of green tea ice cream, which was a treat though it tasted really really sweet to me. I don’t really regret it, but reflecting on it now I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would enjoy other things, so I think that might have been my parting wave to proper desert. Every once in a while I’ll let myself have a taste of something that I used to enjoy, but every single time it’s been way too sweet for me to actually enjoy. It might just take me a while to get that through my thick head, lol.

I might have to experiment with ice cream recipes, see about leaving out most of the sugar, or finally do the frozen banana and cocoa powder thing. Maybe I could do something with coconut milk even.

After the graduation and all assorted festivities were done, it was too late for me to go to rehearsal, so I went to my friends belly dance class to practice more for next week. It’s scary, because there’s no planned out ahead of time choreography, it’s all group impov, so it’s all a matter of learning the cues and keeping up with the leader. I figure even if it’s not perfect, it should be fun, and we’re dancing to Led Zeppelin! So excited.

On Saturday, I also made a huge batch of curry squash soup, so that’s at home waiting for me for dinner tonight! I think it’s pretty deadly, too, lol.

I’ve hit a sort of interesting point when it comes to my activities. It’s sort of been sneaking up on me for a bit, I guess, but it really became apparent this week, as running has really started to become a thing for me.

The first time I noticed it was when I first started to work dance in regularly. There were three kinds of dance I was mainly interested in (ballet, tap and belly dance), and, wanting to work each one in twice a week, I started dancing six days a week. It was a great thing for me, and I might’ve continued on that way for some time were it not for rehearsals and other commitments. But the noteworthy thing, for this post anyway, was that I was focused more on the activity itself than I was on the necessity of getting enough exercise. The dancing was more important than the calories burned.

What’s happening now is sort of the same thing. There are so many activities that I want to work into my schedule that it’s becoming less of a “must be active enough” thing and more of a “argh, when can I squeeze in _______” thing. This means that I might not have time for proper rest days, except when I have rehearsals with no choreography component and am therefor too booked up to squeeze anything else into.

I’m not quite sure what that is going to be like, though I’m starting to get a bit of a taste of it this week. Yesterday was the only day I could really do ballet, so I did that. I also wanted to test out the new bike seat, so I took it on a short spin before walking down to dinner with DBF. I didn’t have much down time, but I’m sort of not very tired anyway. Today I didn’t make it to my proper belly dance class, so I did belly dance at home. We have a baby shower to go to in a bit, and I’m hoping to get home early enough to get my run in later on. Tomorrow will be grocery shopping followed by a long dance rehearsal (which might actually kill me, based on last weeks dance rehearsal.)

Don’t get me wrong, I still have the lazy voice in my head saying “maybe I don’t need to do this today”, but then the other voice chimes in with “if you don’t do it now, when are you going to fit it in?” And that argument usually shakes out with me getting off my butt to go do whatever thing is on my agenda. I still have no clue when I’m going to work in weights when I can actually do weights again (which might be very soon.) I have this vaguely-doomish feeling that it’s going to end up being on my “rest days”, lol.

What I need to be careful of here is that I’m still getting enough rest. I can’t do weights on the same muscle groups on consecutive days without both risking injury and stymying my own progress, and I’m going to have to be a big meany head with myself about getting to bed by 10 every night so that I can make sure I’m getting enough sleep. I think if I can manage those two things, along with continuing to eat right and get plenty of water, I’ll be ok. At any rate, I think the number one thing I need to do is listen to my body and be willing to let some things go if it tells me I need to relax more.

So far, that hasn’t been happening, and I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling less and less comfortable with just sitting on the couch. After a little while, I start to feel myself getting stiffer and stiffer, whereas moving around keeps me feeling more mobile and limber.

Last night we went out for seafood, and I got maple ginger salmon with roasted cauliflower. It was awesome, and because if the lack of a starchy side, and the relatively low calories in salmon, it’s been one of the few times I could sit down and eat an entire entree without blowing past my calorie limit. The salmon was very good and tender. It still has a slightly fishy taste, which I am still getting used to, but I liked it well enough anyway. Not everything is an instant favorite, but I find that I can learn to like most everything if I keep giving it a good shot and try preparing it in different ways.

Also, it took me almost the entire week to recover from last weeks weigh in, but I’m finally starting to feel better about my body and my improvements in diet and health again. Getting my caloric intake back under control was a big part of it, but the activities I’ve been doing are helping, too. It’s pretty hard to feel decidedly bad about yourself when you are steadily improving at things you never thought you would be physically capable of doing.

{May 7, 2013}   Meditations and Motivations

I’ve been talking to a friend of mine recently as she begins her own journey toward increased mobility and better health. It is so good to see her making efforts to be more active. One of the hard things when it comes to losing weight and getting stronger and more mobile is that a lot of people tend to come to you looking for advice or the little tidbit of information they are lacking to finally get them there, but the problem is that most people just aren’t satisfied with the answers I have for them. Because, the truth is, it takes a lot of dedication and effort. There’s no easy way to do it.

My friend was telling me that she just feels so lazy, and it’s hard to get herself up and going. I remember that feeling, especially in the beginning, and I remember thinking that if I could just crest the top of the hill, I would get to that promised land where I was an Active Person, and then I wouldn’t have to fight myself so hard just to get myself up and going.

I’ve been working at this for years, now, and I have to say that if there is a moment when that happens, I have not yet found it. I still battle the lazies every single day. Every day, the couch waves it’s tractor beam at me menacingly, and my success on any given day is anything but assured.

I haven’t conducted a poll or anything yet, but I suspect that the difference between active people and sedentary people is that active people have learned to draw a lot of satisfaction from always doing the things that are hard. It’s not a physical difference, you understand, but a mental and emotional one. Oh sure, there are endorphins once you’re finally up and doing it, but the payoff is really all in your brain. I am a reasonably accomplished person, so I recognize the mental feedback of feeling like you’ve faced a challenge and bested it. There’s an immense satisfaction of feeling like your best today is better than your best for last week.

I think that’s why I’ve come back to running so many times. Even before the great lazy came upon me and I became effectively sedentary for nearly a decade, I was never able to run. Or, rather, I was never able to run and breathe within the same time frame. It wasn’t even about effort at all, it was the fact that running was the shortest distance between me and an honest to goodness asthma attack.

I remember the terror of hearing gym teachers say we were going to run the mile. I would end up walking for most of it, with periodic attempts to run resulting in me being horribly out of breath. I remember my classmates all blowing past me, even the other ones who were not athletically gifted. Without fail, I would come in last, usually about 16-20 minutes after starting. There was one time near the end of eighth grade when I really did my best, just balls-out went for it like my life depended on it, and I finished the mile in 12 minutes. That moment was huge for me, even though it was nowhere near where the guidelines said I should be. To my knowledge, that is the fastest I have ever completed a mile in my life.

And maybe I’ll never beat that. But you know what? I’m 33 fucking years old and my average time per mile now, at the start of my training, is no worse than my average was at 12 years old (it’s just under 16 min last time I went out.) And I know I can do better at it, because I can already feel myself improving.

So what do I recommend when you’re having trouble getting moving? You have to strong arm your thought process into a healthier one.

  • On days when you get out and push yourself, acknowledge the work you’ve done, and what you’ve accomplished. Like, luxuriate in it. Be self-indulgent about it. Give yourself permission to be impressed with what you’ve done.
  • Set goals for yourself. And make sure you set different kinds of goals (like “I will be active X days this week”, or “I will whittle my mile time down by one minute”, or “I will work up to the 10lb dumbbells for my squats.”) Having goals tied to effort and not just results means that there’s always a goal you can succeed at. Having goals tied to results mean you have a reason to really push yourself.
  • Reward yourself, but in healthy ways. Make yourself earn the rewards, and bonus points if the rewards are things that really reinforce the feelings of success (like taking a long bubble bath, or buying yourself a Zombies, Run! tshirt for making it through 8 weeks of 5k training, for example.)
  • On the days when the couch tractor beam sucks you in, note how you feel. For me, the result is that I feel stiff, and moving gets harder. I end up feeling more tired at the end of a lazy day than I do after being active. (Note: I don’t mean not to take any rest days. Everyone needs those, or you risk serious injury. I mean a day when you could easily exercise and you choose not to.)
  • Bargain with yourself. If you feel tired and a rest day really isn’t called for, then make yourself start with the understanding that you can always cut it short if you’re really not feeling it. I’ve done this with myself a hundred times or more, and I think there may have been ONE time when I didn’t do at least my normal workout. I often do more.
  • Try to work more incidental exercise into your routine. Walk everywhere you can get to on foot. Get a bike for those you can’t.
  • Try to think of your exercises, whatever they are, as scheduled and therefor inevitable. Not in the doom sense, just as a thing you know you are going to do. Don’t think of it as an “if” sort of question. Plan for it, and try not to let the laziness in to begin with.
  • Remember: ” If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.”

Anyone else out there have any good advice for staying motivated and active?

I did week 1, mission 2 in the Zombies, Run! 5k app last night. It went well, even though it was hot out, which usually angries up my asthma. I didn’t go past the mission duration like I did last time because I had plans later in the evening, so I ended up doing 2.2 miles in 36 minutes. I’m still surprised as hell that I’ve been able to do this much, but I’m excited and I can’t wait to continue pushing myself.

I made a deal with myself that, if I make it through all 8 weeks of the training sequence, I’ll buy myself a Runner 5 tshirt as a reward. So, there’s a goal.

I looked at bikes at the shop directly across the parking lot from my work. They have a used Trek mountain bike for $200, which wasn’t that comfortable to ride and made noises when I rode uphill, and they have a beautiful Giant xroad bike for $350 that is so comfortable to ride, but more than I am hoping to spend.

This weekend I am going to a bike swap with my friends, one of whom is working there, and he’s going to help me find bikes that will work for me, so hopefully I get myself something suitable.

It’s not so much that I absolutely can’t swing the $350, it’s that I don’t know yet how much I’ll actually get to ride it, especially since it’s cold and gross here 5-6 months out of the year. Also, though I’d like to think that I’ll use it to go to the grocery store and for other errands, riding in the road sort of scares the piss out of me because cars, so it all depends on how comfortable I can get riding and dealing with traffic. Fortunately, you can ride on the sidewalk in most of Vermont, but I still don’t know how worthwhile it will be. If I can find something cheaper to start out and get me through the next year or so, it’ll be a much more responsible purchase.

Last night was trivia night at Buffalo Wild Wings, and I got myself some soft pretzels again. It was more than made up for by the running yesterday, so I didn’t worry about it at all. One of my friends told me she’s glad I cheat once in a while, which sort of made me laugh a bit. I realized that I don’t think of it as cheating, I think of it as food that isn’t good for me, so I only eat it once in a while. I think that’s a good way to look at it, because there’s no guilt associated with an “occasional food” like there is with a food that constitutes “cheating” or “breaking your diet.”

When it comes to what you eat, there are healthier choices and less healthy choices. Making unhealthy eating choices does not amount to a moral failing, or an indication that you are not worthwhile as a person. Loading yourself up with guilt over food is a fast track to an eating disorder, not to mention the whole point of eating better or losing weight is to feel better, both physically and mentally. Guilt is NOT going to help with that.

I wish I knew how to replicate the changes I’ve made mentally, because I feel like I could help a lot of people if I knew what the source of the change was and how to flip that switch, but the truth is, something in me was ready to cut the cord between negative emotions and crappy food. I feel like I’m developing a relationship with food now that is totally different than the one I had before. It’s more about taking care of my body, carefully guarding it from the things that made us so unhealthy to begin with.

In essence, I think you have to learn to be friends with your body, to think of it like your partner or team mate. If you give it what it needs and take care of it, it’ll start becoming what you want it to be. I don’t mean that in the new agey sense, I mean in the literal sense. Learn the signs it’s using to tell you when things are wrong, learn to tell the difference between hungry, thirsty, tired, and upset. Take it out for a spin to keep it mobile, and keep the engine in working order.

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.

{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.

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.

I’ve come to the decision that pan frying veggies is my favorite way to prepare most of them. I have tried it so far with broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and it is fast and easy, and they come out perfectly pretty much every time.


How to Pan Fry Veggies:

  1. Cut up the veggies however you like. The smaller the are, the better they will cook, but you don’t want them shredded. I usually cut broccoli in halves or thirds, same for Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
  2. Rinse the veggies well under cool water.
  3. Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the bottom of a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. My favorite to use is a cast iron skillet, but I figure a regular frying pan would work well enough.
  4. Once the oil is hot, toss the veggies in. For Brussels sprouts, I place them cut side down and leave them. For broccoli and cauliflower, I toss them in and then stir them around to coat in the olive oil, then toss gently to move them around while they fry.
  5. While the veggies cook for 2-3 minutes, dissolve salt in 3-5 tbsp of water. Add some pepper and any other seasonings you like. I usually throw in some red pepper flakes (qu’elle surprise?!?)
  6. Once the veggies have fried for 2-3 minutes, pour in the water and put a lid on the pan. Let the veggies steam like this for another 2 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and turn of heat. Let some of the steam escape. At this point, you can add more seasoning, or sprinkle a little bit of cheese over the veggies and let it melt. I often sprinkle in curry powder, or use parmesan cheese if I want a more mild, creamy addition.

That’s it! So tasty, though.

Miraculously, the director is so pleased with where we are in the show, he cancelled tonights rehearsal. I feel almost luxurious thinking about all the time I will have free tonight to do laundry and relax. Laundry is not relaxing, but not having to fit it in tomorrow will be really nice (unless I decide to bake tonight and do laundry tomorrow… which I just might.)

I’ve been struggling this week with my body image. I know that I am smaller, and still losing size. The numbers bear that out, and people keep commenting on how well I’m doing (they all know I’m working at it, so I’m not as annoyed by it as I might be otherwise.) But I can’t see the difference with my own eyes. I can see that things no longer fit, but when I look at my body in the mirror, or glance at my limbs, or look down at my lap, it all looks the same, and it’s such bullshit. It feels so cruel that everyone seems to see it except me.

I still haven’t had the urge to eat shitty food, at least, and I still feel healthier than I ever have, and I still feel accomplished every time I eat a bowl of vegetables smothered in more vegetables for dinner. But I can’t see the change as it translates in my physical form. It really bothers me to think that I might always feel that way. I hope that there will come a time when I am satisfied with my body.

I just wish that someone could promise me that I can get there, mentally. I am being totally stubborn about making sure that I eat enough food, so I’m not sliding into physically dangerous territory, but if I could just know that this journey would improve me mentally instead of just physically, I would feel a whole lot better about the whole thing. I’m not doing this to look better for other people. I’m doing this to be healthier, and to be better for myself.

et cetera