The Start of the Story…

Although I feel that the name of my new blog is pretty self-explanatory, it would be rude not to post an introduction that explains who I am, what I’m doing here and the “mission statement” for this project, or should I say, new life goals…..so, here goes…

As a really little girl, i.e., age 7 and under, I was, surprisingly, NOT heavy. I was active, enjoyed playing outside, ate food but do not have visceral memories of my connections with food at that time.  As I look back on that time, it was around second grade that I can really remember starting to enjoy eating. Right around the same time that I hit a major growth spurt and stood about 8 inches taller than everyone else in my class…..and the three grades above me.  And let’s face it, being 8 inches taller than everybody else in the school except the teachers kind of makes you stand out and kind of opens you up to lots of ridicule and name calling from the other kids.  Now, I’m not in any way, shape or form going to blame being mocked and made fun of by other kids as the reason I ate, but I can say that as an 8 year old, I didn’t understand why I was being targeted, the meaning of it all or how to handle the stress associated with it. So I did what made me feel good — I ate. I ate everything I could get my hands on, from sandwiches to cookies, cake, ice cream, and sometimes I would throw fruit in on top.  I would eat until I was stuffed, and then would start all over again at the next meal or with a snack in between.  I always remembered really enjoying my mom’s cooking, too, and loving the foods that she made.  One of my favorite foods to this day is mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese and meatloaf!

At the same time, I also discovered my love of reading, which is a pastime that is one of my favorites to this day. It is, however, a largely sedentary activity that does not lend itself to burning off the calories from the 6 cupcakes consumed while reading! As the years rolled by and junior high turned into high school, I continued to eat, making very poor food choices, and not realizing that I should eat foods for my health, for my energy levels or even just to enjoy them. I consumed my meals so fast that I could not possibly enjoy what they were and ate until bursting. A particular favorite fast-food meal of mine…..cheese dogs from Portillo’s and curly fries from Burger King (back when they still had them). And there was just enough time during my high school lunch hour to hit both drive-thru’s and have lunch before having to head back to school for my afternoon classes.  When you add these poor eating habits together with what was an absolute hatred (or so I thought at the time) of exercise (also known as torture, to me), my weight ballooned, my self-esteem tanked and I got good at not addressing what was really going on with me emotionally. Instead, I just ate more when I got upset.

During my college years (at Albion College in Albion, Michigan) I am pleased to announce that I found my self-esteem and realized that I could be pretty and smart and friendly, and have a boyfriend, even while heavy. I tried to make better food choices in the cafeteria, and was successful in losing some weight, but I never got to where I wanted to be with my weight. I’m thinking the late-night snack shop runs, drinking beer on a daily basis, and lack of movement may have contributed to this. All I knew was that at least I didn’t feel bad about myself all the time. And that was a first for me, after years of being self-conscious and embarrassed by the way that I looked.

Immediately after I graduated college, I moved back to Chicago and began attending graduate school.  I was also living on my own for the first time, but I was good about eating in…..at first.  The problem was that I continued to cook in the same ways that I had been taught by my mom, using my favorite of all things, butter! I also made the same recipes I had learned from my mom, which even though I thought they were decent on the nutrition side, really were not.  Noodle and beef casserole, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese, stuffed hot dogs (oh my God these are delectable), and lasagna!  I packed my lunch and took it with me to school, for the first month or so, and then I would just eat in the cafeteria or one of the many restaurants in the South Loop. Fried foods and meat have always been favorites of mine, so it was no surprise that I continued to eat those things on a daily basis for lunch, and then order food in for dinner while studying at home.

I also started to discover all the great restaurants in Chicago, from neighborhood dive joints to the steakhouses downtown where food is practically served on a platter.  For a girl like me who loved to eat, it was HEAVEN — appetizers, soups, salads with delicious dressings, pastas — you name it, I ate it. And with the eating it came the extra pounds.

At first I wasn’t too worried, since I could still fit into my clothes.  When I couldn’t fit into my favorite clothes, I had a moment of worry, but then just used it as an excuse to go out and buy new clothes! I discovered a great boutique here in Chicago, Vive la Femme, which is run by a woman who is now one of my best friends, Stephanie Sack. She specializes in cute, fun, sexy and professional clothes for the plus sized gal and I was hooked.  After discovering Steph’s store, weight gain didn’t bother me so much, since cute clothes were always in supply at “The Fat Cave.”

When I finished school and started working at my first real job, all pretense of eating in a nutritious and somewhat healthy way went out the window.  I was working long hours, leaving early in the morning and getting home late at night, and the last thing that I wanted to do was grocery shop, make my lunch the night before, and make dinner when I got home.  I became an absolute PRO at ordering food in, and buying lunch out.  No joke, I knew exactly when to place my order at various restaurants for food to be delivered based on where I was on the train ride home and meet the delivery guy at the door. And since I never used to eat breakfast, I didn’t have to worry too much about that meal.

All of this took its toll, and several years ago, after herneating 2 discs in my back and experiencing horrible pain and months of physical therapy just to be able to take a shit without pain, I became a Weight Watchers member and decided that I wanted to “get healthy.” Unfortunately, at the time that I joined WW, I honestly had not given much thought to what “getting healthy” meant to me, individually, or what my goals were, which is ultimately why I failed.  I was diligent in working the Points Plan, for about 8 months, and I did have some success with it (down about 60 pounds, of which 30 came back). But because I hadn’t done any thinking on what my goals were, and what I wanted to see happen, I simply was ill-prepared to work the program and had doomed myself to failure (nothing like a self-fulfilling prophecy, huh?). I have to admit, I was also not very good about working exercise into my life plan at this time. I had lots of excuses, from my long work hours, to not leaving my darling pug, Lola, home alone for too long. But at the end of the day, these were all just excuses that made me feel better about failing, yes, failing, at something that I had thought I wanted to do that would improve my health. Looking back, I see that I just was not ready to make these changes.

About two years ago, I met my boyfriend, Patrick (who is the bestest boyfriend in the entire world and accepts me no matter what my weight), and together I rediscovered my love of cooking and enjoying good food that I made at home.  In summer, we started hitting up the Green City Market (best produce around!) and would spend entire weekends thinking up good, creative menus for our dinners.  This began to open my eyes to what I was putting into my body, the pleasure that I got from cooking food, and how I was going about doing just that. We still ate out a lot, and I still enjoyed a lot of foods that I shouldn’t have been eating, but overall, I was starting to eat better and think more about what was going in my food hole.

This past winter (2009 into 2010), Patrick and I both started to talk about getting married and having kids, and what we wanted for our life together.  Surprisingly, both of us said that being heavy was not in the picture for the future we wanted.  We decided to join Weight Watchers (online program for both of us) and make a concerted effort to work the plan, integrate these healthy choices into our lives, and try and move more.  (Side note: we live in Chicago.  Its fucking freezing here from about November through early April — some of our goals, including exercising outdoors more, were lofty ideals when it was 15 degrees below zero…..so we cut ourselves some slack on implementation of all of our ideas in February).  We did pretty well on the plan, both dropped weight pretty quickly and were feeling good about ourselves.  Patrick took up running again, and I started walking with my bestest girlfriend Carolyne in our local park (sometimes sporadically, because let’s face it, life gets in the way of things sometimes).

During these most recent round of WW participation (from about January through our Vegas trip in late May), I was truly feeling good about myself, but at times I still continued to make food choices that did not coincide with my long-term physical and health goals. And yet I continued to make these bad choices! What. Was. I. Thinking? Well, the reality is that I am an emotional eater, and a stress eater, and I love to eat, and anytime anything happened, or I didn’t plan on what to eat or have snacks available, the first place I hit up was the drive-thru.  Or one of my favorite local restaurants that serves great (but calorie-laden foods). I was also not planning my meals, and snacks, the way that I needed to, or listening to my body and tracking when I was hungry and how eating certain things would satisfy my hunger.

In late May, we went to Vegas for a week with our good friends Zach and Anne, and, being food nerds in a good food town, lost all pretense of doing WW while there.  Now, to be clear, this is not to say that we immediately gorged ourselves at every buffet in town, stuffing pounds upon pounds of food down our throats, we just ate a lot of really good food. (Feel free to read more about our trip on Patrick’s blog.) When we got home from Vegas, I tried to get back onto the WW bandwagon, but wasn’t fully “there.” I was counting my points, and I was exercising more, but I was, quite honestly, still making some bad food choices and not planning my eating the way that I needed to.

After some introspection, and chatting with a good friend of mine, M, who goes to WW meetings, I realized that I was not being truly accountable to the one person that mattered the most — ME. I decided that I needed more than just the WW online program in order to stay on track. I needed to go to the meetings and talk to other people who had the same problems that I did, and who faced the same challenges.  People who understood how hard it was at 3:00 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon (with a WW weigh-in looming that evening, no less) to say “no” to the ice cream social at work and choose not to gorge on a huge sundae. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the ice cream, at the time, but later in the day I would have felt stuffed, crabby and most importantly, disappointed in myself for the choice that I made. I also knew that I needed to be consistent with myself, and consistent in my dedicating time to myself to do this and to do it right.

About a month ago, I started going to a WW meeting, Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. I’ve gone for 4 weeks, in a row, and have been successful at the meetings.  Its a good group of people, we all chat and laugh and share what was hard that week (let’s face it, we all had to face something food-wise that was difficult), what good choices we made (Maggie passes out Bravo! stickers for good non-scale victories, and it feels great to get one), and what we’re going to do in the next week. WW has what could be called a curriculum for the week, with suggested topics and challenges for the week, and it is nice to hear other people’s ideas on how to do the challenge. (Example: week one the challenge was to have half of the plate at every meal be fruits and vegetables — this is a LOT harder than it sounds, especially for someone who always thought she hated veggies!).

Most importantly, for me though, I have learned in the last month that I have to make time for ME….not time to sit in front of the television, or time to sit in my chair reading my book, but actual time that I am going to dedicate to implementing these goals that I have.  The time that I spend at my weekly meeting is MY time, and I have to PLAN for it.  I once had a roommate who taught me that in order to be successful with time management, you have to be honest with yourself about how long it is going to take you to complete a task, and to allot the proper amount of time to finish the job.  So as I think about what I need to get done on Wednesdays now, I plan for it….. I know that in order to make it to the 5:30 p.m. meeting, I must leave work by 4:00 p.m. (damn you, Chicago traffic!). But if I plan for the day, I know what I need to do and I just get it done.

I’m also planning my meals, and snacks (great topic from last week’s meeting) and having a plan helps me. If I hit the grocery store with my meals for the week written down, and the ingredients that I need for them, I’ll have a stocked fridge that allows me to make healthy choices instead of looking in and seeing a bunch of diet coke and 6 different types of mustard. I also know that if I listen to my body, and I know that I get hungry at 3pm every day (which I do) I make sure I have something to nibble on while at work so I can take care of my hunger, but not resort to the piece of cake that is in the kitchen at work. (One great thing about my coworkers, is that they are all very generous with their food….but seriously, we do not need to have 2 cakes sitting in the lunchroom in one day.)

The other big, new thing that I have done is take a yoga class.  I’ve always wanted to get into yoga, but felt intimidated at the thought of going to a class where I didn’t know the moves and was overweight and wasn’t sure what I was doing. I mean, have you seen the way some of these people can move?!? I can barely face forward and tough my toes without falling over!  Well, I looked around in my area and found that a local yoga studio in my neighborhood, Bloom Yoga, got great reviews for their Yoga 101 workshop! I looked it up, and saw that its a great class for introducing people to yoga…..young, old, fat, thin, if you wanted to learn the poses, get instruction on how to do them right and do it in a positive, non-intimidating environment, then pony up the $50 and go. Which I immediately did.  Thank God for the internet! I’m 3 classes down at Bloom Yoga and am feeling good about it. I’ve made it to the classes, half the battle, at least, and have gotten a little bit better each week.  Let’s face it, I haven’t exercised consistently since I was about 7 years old, so it is going to take me some time to get my body to where it needs to be, and be able to do the plank pose without my arms shaking after 10 seconds. But each time I have left yoga, sweaty and sore, I have felt better about myself. I tried something new, that I had wanted to do for a while, I am learning a new activity, I’m actually calmer after I do it, and I am having fun.  And even more shocking is that after the workshop is over, I want to keep going….to the point that I actually printed out the class schedule and highlighted the times and teachers that I like.

Which really brings me to the point of this blog…..simply to write about what I am doing to improve my health, lose weight, get moving, and possibly even have some support from friends and family. Oh, and to give support to anybody who wants to try to make healthier choices in their life and is finding it difficult.  Because it IS difficult.  I figure if I write about what I’m doing, and assume people are reading it, I’m even more accountable. And I have a way to journal and look back on what I am doing that is successful and what is not. I’m not, in any way, shape or form saying that Weight Watchers is the only way to accomplish weight loss, but for right now, it seems to be the one that is working for me. I’m learning how to make the right food choices, and to eat well, for longevity and what my body needs.  And the sheer knowledge that there is a Points value assigned to a Quarter Pounder with Cheese makes me feel like it is not off-limits…..I just am going to have to eat veggies the entire rest of the day.   I’m also turning my OCD anal-retentive nature in on myself…..if I focus my OCD on planning for eating and food and exercise, this project will be even easier for me to complete.

Which brings me to my goals for the week, which I made on Wednesday, July 28, 2010, for my WW week through August 4:

1.  Add 1 more day of exercise (in addition to my yoga class).

2.  No fast food.

3.  Try 1 new veggie.

4.  Write down what I put in my mouth.

5.  Start the blog.

So far, it is Friday and I’m on track.  No fast food, I’ve been writing down what I eat, and I’ve started the blog.  And I still have 5 more days go to. And on that note, I bid everyone adieu, for now!

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One thought on “The Start of the Story…

  1. Awww, G. This is awesome. You’re one of the toughest and most focused chicks I know – you’re gonna do great.

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