Friday, October 27, 2006

all keyed up

I have a lot of work to do but my mind is pinging away like a pinball machine on things that are not that productive. (For a sense of what this sounds like inside my obsessive little brain, read my AFG post on "Monkey Mind" from a few weeks back. I am beginning to apply for jobs while still working on my dissertation. I find myself compelled to check job postings, read job-search message boards, and daydream about living in various other locations instead of doing what I need to do -- transcribe interviews. I am trying to set a timer for 15 minutes and transcribe until it goes off, but even 15 minutes at a stretch is more than my brain can handle right now. Transcription is not only boring, it's distressing, because I have to listen to my own voice and hear myself make interviewing mistakes. As a result, about every 5 minutes I start feeling the urge to check my email, or look at a web page, or go get a snack.

I'm going to try 10 minutes. Maybe I can do that much at a time.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

on notice

The scale is officially On Notice. One more false move and it will be Dead to Me. Seriously, though, even though this week's weigh-in looks like a small loss (0.6), it doesn't make up for my gain last week.

Around mid-week, I got on the scale and saw a really good number, 164. If I had been able to keep doing the right stuff, I would have finally broken through the 165 barrier at WW. But instead, I managed to have one screwup after another this week, culminating in a really bad day the night before weigh in. Lots of it was salty food, including two packages of those Weight Watchers Cheddar Twists. And one of those WW Mint Cookie bars. I don't buy this stuff, I won them in the previous weeks' drawings. I think that junky WW food is even worse than regular junk food, because it somehow seems more virtuous. It's all garbage, sugar and flour and salt. From now on, I'll just stay out of the drawings and contests if that stuff is the prize. I was keeping it in my office as desperation food but somehow I started to like it, even though it seems to upset my stomach.

I have to start acting in my own best interest, no more excuses. I have to give up the idea that I can lose weight without working at it. I rejoined WW because I thought it would keep me accountable, but I have to keep myself accountable too.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

defending my right to order fruit for dessert

I let most of my friends and family know that I do Weight Watchers, not because I'm trying to make a big deal about it, but because it's easier to just tell them than to try to hide the stuff I do like journaling, making food decisions, and going to meetings. I figure there is no reason to be ashamed of it, though I try not to talk about it too much because, let's face it, diet talk is boring. No one needs to hear all the various decisions I go through each day to try to stay within my points.

Sometimes I am not so sure that my open-door policy is the best strategy. I was out with a friend a couple of days ago, one who knows that I do WW. She was telling me about her sister telling her about Weight Watchers, and acting "so superior" about it. "I said, 'Thanks, but I'd rather be fat.'"

I wasn't sure what I, as an openly Weight-Watching person, was supposed to take from that story. Maybe I was being too sensitive, because it might have just been a story she was telling. But it was hard not to take it as a judgement of me and my choice to do the program, especially because when I'm with this friend I always feel some pressure not to order the salad, to get the fries, to order dessert.

I know why food decisions matter. Eating is a social activity and if two friends are eating together, there's some pressure for the two dinners to "match." If I get the veggie wrap with a side salad and you get a cheesburger and an order of french fries, chances are, you're going to be annoyed and feel like maybe you should have ordered something healthier. I, on the other hand, will probably be secretly drooling over your fries. If you want to order dessert but I don't, I am either going to have to sit there while you eat dessert in front of me or you're going to have to skip it.

It is all made harder by the fact that I usually want the dessert. I haven't come to a point in my life where I think fresh fruit is more exciting than apple pie. If pie and fresh fruit had the same effect on my waistline, you can bet that I would be eating the pie. Every time. But I'm OK with having pie only once in a while, and most of the time I do prefer the veggie wrap to the cheeseburger. For me, though, the real decision is about what I want more, eating pie anytime I want it or to be able to someday fit into size 10 jeans. And most of the time, the jeans sound a lot better. Though sometimes I do want the pie.

It's hard, though, when I'm with people who make different choices about the pie and the jeans, to stand firm on mine. There is the ambivalence on my part, and there's also the feeling of not wanting to stand out from the crowd, to fit in. There's sort of a schizophrenia in our society -- we're supposed to be thin, but we're supposed to do it effortlessly, while still eating the same things our friends do.

If someone constantly doesn't respect the decisions I make for myself, though, to me that becomes a problem. I really don't care what my friends look like, what they eat, whether they exercise, or what size their jeans are. I only start to have a problem when it becomes a challenge for me to act in my own best interests when they are around. I want to go out with friends but I also don't want to blow my diet week after week because I have to be a pal and order what they want to order. Most of the time, I'm always calculating. What can I get that isn't going to look like a diet entree? Are people going to want dessert? If I order dessert, can I get something light for dinner without too much comment? So instead of feeling superior when they order the cheeseburger, I'm really trying to figure out if I can "get away with" the veggie wrap. Or maybe I can splurge at this meal and do better later in the week.

I know what you're thinking as you read this. You're thinking I shouldn't let people influence me, that I should stand up for myself, that maybe I should ditch the friends that don't support my choices. Believe me, all those thoughts, plus a lot more, go through my head in these situations. Sooner or later I am going to have to become stronger or just give up the idea that I am going to ever lose weight. I already know I can't be "fat and happy." I have tried. I got the fat part down fine, but the happy part was harder. I'm not saying that it's impossible to be fat and happy, I'm saying it's impossible for me to be fat and happy. I wish I could just do my thing and let others do theirs. I don't care what they eat, why should they care what I eat?

Maybe there's another way, though. Maybe I should give up the idea that I need to defend my choices or make someone else happy about them. Maybe I need to just do what I need to do, matter-of-factly. It's really hard to be honest about what I want with people, and honest with myself too. Maybe I use someone else's feelings as an excuse to do things that I want to do even though I know I shouldn't. I do that all too often. I think it's time to take responsibilty for myself and let other people take responsibility for themselves.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

national love your body day

I am gradually letting my magazine subscriptions lapse. Whichever ones don't make me feel happy about myself and empowered are not going to be renewed. The first obvious casualties are Fitness and Self, whose models get skinnier each month to the point where they don't look like they'd have the energy to exercise. Luckily I never subscribed to People or Us or any of those other celebrity magazines, because as I read the "articles" in which they discuss Ashlee or Jessica's figure flaws, I feel my own self-respect gradually slipping away.

One that is still in the running to stay is Oprah's magazine, O, but even that magazine has its bad moments. Whenever they do a "fashions for all sizes" layout, the copy tells us that the "plus-sized" women are size 12, or sometimes 14. Rarely a 16 or above. And this month, there was a layout on how to dress that had mostly good advice, but this comment threw me: "If your knees aren't perfect, don't show them." Um, OK. Actually, I have always had great anxiety about my knees. Maybe I should take this advice. They're scarred from being a normal kid who liked to play outside and who fell down a lot. There is this part of them that I don't like at all, this chubby part on the inside, next to the kneecap. So I guess I'm a candidate for not perfect knees.

In fact, I have a lot of not-perfect parts. Why stop at the knees? The only parts of me that I would nominate for perfection are my ears (they're very cute), and the last two fingers on my left hand. I love my hair, or at least I do most days. The rest of my body has scratches and dents and parts that aren't as firm and beautiful as I'd like them to be.

But instead of ordering a specially-made burqa that covers everything but my ears and part of my left hand -- with a removable top for good hair days -- I think I'll celebrate the National Organization for Women's Love Your Body Day with a big old raspberry to the fashion editors and advertisers who want to turn my shame into their profits.

I am wearing a skirt and just-below-the-knee boots today, showing my not-perfect knees to anyone who would like to look. The rest of them can close their eyes unless there is a Keira Knightley look-alike around to watch. Or they can order their own custom-made burqa, one that covers their eyes and their mouths.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

no big surprises

I was expecting to be up a little with all my snack-food adventures. I have seven more weeks in my Weight Watchers session and this puts me at twelve pounds to lose. I think if I get serious I can still do this.

I have really not been taking Weight Watchers seriously the way I did the first time around. I have been doing a half-hearted job of tracking, planning, etc. So it's not surprising that my results haven't been stellar.

I have been fundamentally unexcited about the idea of cooking and eating at home lately. I bought a couple of new WW cookbooks -- there was a bundle of two for $14 with a portion going to the American Cancer Society. One is called "In No Time," which sounds perfect for my lifestyle right now.

Monday, October 16, 2006

food messiness

I have really been allowing my food to junk itself up in the last few days. Cooking has not interested me at all lately, and planning and shopping are of course, right out the window. We get veggies from our CSA and they rot (though, to be fair, they haven't been that appealing-looking). I made the mistake of buying some of those 100-calorie packs not long before I left and thankfully they're gone, but even though I only had one a day, I had one every day, and other snacks in the same vein were sneaking into my food plan all over the place. The adventure with McDonald's the other day at least reminded me how little I like that stuff, but the other snacky stuff is more insidious.

I'm frustrated with myself and at the same time, just thinking about getting up and planning meals for the week makes my scalp hurt. As I posted on AFG, I feel like the desire to change isn't always there. I feel discouraged and tired and angry with myself. I'm also angry at the way my body looks -- it seems to have gone all soft and pasty overnight.

As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm going to plan the week's meals and make a shopping list, then get ready for work. I'm going to journal every bite of food and start replacing the crap with real stuff. I think waiting to want to do it is a trap.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

made it here safe

Finally got in to Chicago at 11:30 p.m. local time (that's 12:30 a.m. my time). The bus was noisy and cold and it seemed to take forever. There was a weird half hour stop at a turnpike plaza in Indiana.

Because I had been upset all day I hadn't eaten much, so I decided to get something to eat. I figured I would be too tired to hunt for food in Chicago. The only choice was McDonald's. I thought about the various salads, but I finally decided that I really only wanted fries. I got a small french fry and a small iced tea. I always had a ritual with McDonald's fries and it's funny, I haven't been there in years, but I instinctively did the same thing: emptied the fries into the paper bag, emptied half a packet of salt into the bag, closed the top, shook. The first few were pretty good, but I really didn't love them the way I remembered. I ate them slowly and after they get cold, they're really hard and don't taste very good. So I ended up throwing away the last few.

Watching out the window as I came into the city, I felt humbled by all the lights. There are so many people here, and so many lives, and all my problems and hopes and dreams aren't even a slice of the world, not even a crumb. Maybe a speck that falls off a crumb. What I like about traveling alone is the anonymity and friendliness of it all. It does help me to realize how much I really like people when I'm completely on my own in a strange place. The little interactions that I have with people, like the funny late-night desk clerk who joked with me while trying to get the computer to work, make me happy, and the perspective of being one unimportant person in a sea of others is kind of comforting after all.

Friday, October 13, 2006

rough couple of days

So yesterday, I had a meeting with my advisor. She is good at, as I think the phrase goes, "killing me with faint praise." She's a nice enough person but she isn't someone who gives compliments, and I find myself talking more and more to try to say something that will win her approval, and ending up feeling like an even bigger idiot. It's rough. And something I said yesterday has come back to haunt me: "I have three interviews this weekend, hope nothing goes wrong."

It was a throwaway phrase but I really haven't felt great about this trip to Chicago, even though I was looking forward to a change of scenery. Sure enough, I hyper-planned the little stupid things, like what clothes to take, and failed to check the most basic and important ones, like where my bus stops and what time it left. So it left. Three minutes before I got to the right stop. I called the company but it was too late -- I was supposed to be there fifteen minutes early and ended up there ten minutes after it was scheduled to leave. So apparently they waited for me a few minutes.

I was lucky, in a sense. I got a ticket on the next bus, which leaves at 7 (I will be there at 6:30, maybe even 6:00) and the people I am interviewing were nice about allowing me to reschedule the interviews. I have two interviews tomorrow. The third will wait until I go back to interview other people in the same town. Still, the aftermath is tough -- I feel physically ill and very depressed. I'm sure it's a side effect of the adrenaline on overdrive.

I am sure a lot of these things could be lessons for weight loss, life, etc. But I don't have the mental energy to wrap this post up in a neat little bow. I'm mostly calmed down, though I feel pretty stupid (this is the theme of the week) about all of it. The thing that makes me feel worst is how I begged and cried and ranted at the poor guy unfortunate enough to take my customer service call. He was very nice and professional. Hopefully there is a karmic reward for him for being so understanding, better yet, maybe they get to record their phone calls and submit them for some kind of "crazy person of the week" prize. If so, he will win for sure. Heather (from the Biggest Loser), I apologize for calling you a crybaby. I have you beat.

This is my prayer for the day: That in the future I am more understanding of other people's mistakes, and even my own. That I will be kinder to people when they need someone to listen, and that I will be the kind of person who helps in a crisis and makes people feel good about themselves. That I will handle setbacks more gracefully and not make myself and other people suffer so much when things don't go the way they planned.

Thank God for Plan B.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

counting down to TBL

Last week's episode of "The Biggest Loser" was a bit of a disappointment to me. I didn't like the show in the first season because it seemed too cruel -- all the challenges were about food, and it seemed to be poking fun at the contestants. In the second season, I gave it another chance, because one of the women at my Weight Watchers meeting told me how inspirational it was for her.

Because I liked and respected my WW buddy, I gave the show another chance and started watching at the beginning of the second season. I noticed that they had changed the challenges to make them more empowering -- tough, but doable tasks that gave the contestants a sense of accomplishment. And I liked that, instead of all the scheming and back-biting that happened on most reality shows, the contestants seemed to all be close to each other to the point where they hated to send anyone home.

So far this third season has been a little disappointing. As I said, I'm not enthused about Kim, the new Red Team trainer. And last week's episode was incredibly upsetting. The challenge was a mean and frustrating one, and the Red Team's "alliance" games ended up in a really great contestant getting sent home before he seemed to be ready to lose on his own. I loved Nelson and would have liked to see him continue. I'm hoping the crazy girl from Utah is the next one voted off.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

another unofficial weigh-in

It looks like I maintained this week, which makes me happy because it could have been worse. I had a lot of junk food over the weekend, and I was afraid it might show up on the scale. I really need to get serious and stop letting dumb things derail me.

I am going to do everything I can to make a good showing at my real weigh-in next week.

calories, schmalories

Inspired by Miss Michele, I thought I'd post yesterday's food. I don't count calories, but it was a 30-point day, fairly typical or even a little better than average, and a good example of both my good and bad habits.

2 slices of wholegrain toast (2)
1 T. natural peanut butter (2)
1 c. Cheerios (2)
1/2 c. chocolate soy milk (1)

Toasted bagel (6)
1 T. whipped cream cheese (1)
carrot and celery sticks (0)
1 oz. blue corn tortilla chips (3)
can of seltzer (0)

1 oz. Kashi TLC crackers (2)
1 sl. American cheese (2)
1 oz. cashews (4)

Tossed salad with no dressing (0)
1/2 pita (1)
2 falafel patties (2)
tomatoes, parsley, and onion (0)
tahini sauce (2)
green tea (0)

I think I did well with the veggies and not as well with not eating a bunch of snacky starchy things. You will notice the complete lack of fruit yesterday -- that's something I need to work on, and shop accordingly. In the interest of science, I put this into FitDay to get the calorie counts. Supposedly, this was only 1613 calories (35% fat, 52% carb, 13% protein). I guess that fits with the idea that WW points average about 50 calories each, but it still seems low. I need to use my food scale to be sure of portion sizes but I tried to be accurate.

Activity-wise, it was an easy day. I did my usual walking, about half an hour, and a little bit of weight training. FitDay says I burned about 100 calories.

I don't know if I trust all of these numbers, but I did feel like I ate when I was hungry yesterday and didn't when I was not, which is a lot better than the previous two days had been. I don't have an official weigh-in today, but I plan to do an unofficial weigh-in here before lunch. I'll post the results later today or tomorrow.

I never did catch up my journals for the weekend like I said I would. I think at this point it's better to just move forward. I just caught up my journal for today, 11 points so far. The whole journaling thing is a drag but it does keep me in check -- without writing things down, I'd be too tempted to have a nibble here, a bite there. Those little bites and nibbles are a pain to record so it's easier to just say no.

Monday, October 09, 2006


I have a bad habit of not journaling my food on weekends, and not coincidentally, of overdoing it on weekends. This weekend was no exception, so I am committing here in print that I will update my journal as soon as I finish this post. There was a picnic on Saturday, which was an excuse to eat a hotdog, chips, rice krispie treat, and a bunch of other goodies. None of it tasted that great, but that didn't seem to slow me down. Sunday I had a mostly fried lunch (fish and chips) but at least kept my portions in line -- but all night I was snacky and ate more than I should. I think not journaling contributes to the "wandering munchies" because I don't have to worry about writing it all down. Now, though, I will have to reconstruct what I had, which is harder than doing it as I go along.

I have had a sort of half-hearted urge, in the back of my mind, to go to a convenience store and buy a bag of Smartfood -- this white cheddar-cheese popcorn I used to eat sometimes. I haven't had it in a couple of years, because I couldn't stop at a handful or two, I usually ate the entire bag. I figured it out and that was about 800 calories. I realized, when I thought about trying to find the single-serving bags of the stuff, that it's not the popcorn I'm really craving so much as the unconscious eating. So I'm going to pass, at least for today.

Anne posted yesterday on reasons for wanting to lose weight. Maybe keeping in mind why I want to do this will help me resist the temptations in my path. I can live for today without it. Maybe if I wait it out, the desire will go away. And, as God is my witness, if I do cave in and eat a whole bag of cheddar-cheese popcorn (5 servings in the regular-sized bag), I will put it in my journal and count the Points.

Friday, October 06, 2006

my dissertation is making me fat

Doing the interviews and group discussions for my research is interesting and fun -- I enjoy talking to people and hearing what they have to say. A lot of the time no one has asked them what they think about some of these things before, so it can be an exctiting and fun discovery process for all of us.

Listening to the recordings while trying to take down what was said is not as much fun. I get frustrated because I have to keep going back to see if I really heard what I thought I heard to make sure that I'm getting everything down accurately. It takes so long, at least four or five times the length of the interaction, to transcribe it. I'm a pretty good typist and I have good software and a very good recorder, but it still just takes so much time. I can't do it if anyone else is home or the TV's on.

Even with my attempts to minimize distractions, though, I find it hard to focus. I'm sitting at a computer so the internet is always there, with all its various charms. I am going to have to stop logging into chat when I am planning to do transcription, because there is no such thing as a short chat. I can hop online and read a couple of sites and then get right back to work, or even post a quick blog entry, but chat involves other people, so I can't just disappear like a ninja when I realize I've spent too much time goofing off.

The biggest temptation, though, is the kitchen. Snacking is much more interesting than typing, and I really have found that I am eating a lot more on the days that I have transcription to do. Even somewhat boring food like cereal becomes alluring when transcribing is the alternative. If I could only figure out a way to run on the treadmill and type at the same time...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

just missed it

Another 0.6 and I'll be 10 pounds from goal. I probably would have hit it if it hadn't been for my one-woman Festival of Desserts this weekend. We don't have Weight Watchers next week because of a university holiday, so I will have two weeks to get to that less-than-ten mark. I'm already thinking, "Only 8.6 and I won't have to pay anymore." So my goal is to lose 8.6 (or more) before this WW @ Work session ends on December 5. If I can maintain that, I will never have to pay for Weight Watchers again.

I think I can, I think I can....

I have another crazy weekend coming up (in fact, they all look that way for a while), so it's important for me to keep my focus and keep that journal close by. I'm already seeing enough results to keep me going, the latest being that the pants I was so excited to get into a few weeks ago now fit perfectly, and even are getting a little loose.

Monday, October 02, 2006

crazy weekend

I went to Indiana this weekend to attend a conference related to my dissertation. It was a great experience and I met a lot of people who were both fun to talk to and good resources for me. Even though I spent about 3 hours driving around lost through eastern Indiana and western Ohio on the way home, it was well worth my time. The job fair part was the only thing that was a little disappointing. I printed 20 copies of my vita, but there were only 4 employers there. But I figure I can use them to apply for jobs I see online. My credentials look much more impressive when they're professionally printed on heavy paper.

Then yesterday I attended a family party with my mom. Her parents both immigrated from Italy when they were children and we have a great big family with cousins, second cousins, great aunts and uncles, all their children and grandchildren... I just kept looking around the room and smiling at it all. Having a family like this is such a gift and I don't see them that often. I was sort of jealous of some of my cousins because I don't look as Italian as they do. I got the thick, dark hair and eyebrows, but I have a very fair complexion. It's obvious that my genetics don't predispose me to thinness, looking around a room full of my relatives. A few of them are thin but mostly the family tends toward short and round. My dad's family tends toward tall and heavy. So I'm medium-height but I definitely have the tendency to gain easier than I lose.

It was a weird food weekend so I'm starting over fresh today. I do fine with my Weight Watchers journaling when I'm home and going to work and doing my normal routine, but I get thrown off track easily when things aren't routine.

I've also backed off a little on my exercise. I have a tendency to get fanatical about the idea that I have to work out intensely every day. But that just isn't fitting into my life right now. I'm walking a lot, doing yoga and strength training, and getting in a run workout 3 days a week. That doesn't sound (or feel) like enough, but when I'm on track with my food plan, it works. When I work out intensely, one side effect is that I get really hungry and actually have a harder time staying on plan, even with the extra points I earn. So maybe it's actually easier for me to lose weight this way, I'm not sure.

I had gotten a little worked up over the idea that I might have diabetes in the last couple of weeks. I saw my doctor for some symptoms: thirst, getting up a lot in the middle of the night, generally feeling tired. He had me do a fasting blood test and also had me use my father's glucometer to check myself 2 hours after a few meals. All the tests came out fine, so apparently I was just getting worked up for no reason. The symptoms aren't that bothersome as long as I know that I don't have The Big D. I have a family history and some people have had some serious complications, so I try to keep an eye on it. That's one reason I want to lose the rest of this extra weight.

So that's me and my life. I'm looking forward to a quieter week!
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07