Saturday, July 03, 2010
So you know when you play a video game and there are only certain areas that you are allowed to go until you've played the game for a while, collected enough points, found the hidden diadem, the secret key, etc. etc. and then you get to unlock that next level? That rush of excitement that you feel when you've finally done it - battled the giant, killed the goomba, and the door opens up to a world that you haven't ever seen or experienced yet?
I think I did that with Spark today.
Don't go running to look for hidden Easter Eggs on the site - there's nothing new in the Spark programming that you didn't know before. The new level that I unlocked today was actually one in ME.
I've been getting close for a while. I've been collecting my points, and sharing my stories, and giving my goodies to the friends I've met along the way. I have my badges of honour - my perfect attendance awards, weight loss trophies and consistency badges - even one popular blog post that I didn't think was possible so early in the game. I visit my awards page from time to time to polish my trinkets and marvel in the work that I have done to accomplish them. But the game in front of me is vast and there are more treasures in store, so I can't spend too long reflecting on what I've done before I have to go off to fight the next battle.
And today that battle was with my bike. On Thursday - July 1st - in one of my visits to my treasure room, I noticed that there was one badge missing - the 1000 Fitness Minutes monthly badge. I wanted it. Badly. So I vowed to start a thread in the Done Girls Team to challenge myself and others who wanted to go with me to get that badge for the month of July. Three days in to the challenge and my team members are kicking my butt in minutes. So I figured I had to get moving to catch up. I hopped on my trusty steed and took off into the wilderness of urban Chicago in the blazing summer heat and just rode. And rode, and rode for 6 miles. It was hot - but the breeze on my face kept me cool. I saw places that I have never seen in my 6 years in this city. I found a beautiful park and a lake and a welcome refuge of a water-park where children were laughing and screaming and playing away the long weekend. And it was then that I realized I had done it. I had unlocked the next level of the game.
Never before would I have imagined being able to conquer 6 miles alone on my bike in the city. I always used my fear of cars and other bike traffic to keep my pink beauty locked in the basement. I had dreams of riding her, but alas, I feared it would never be. But today - I met with the challenge and swallowed my fear, put caution to the wind (but safely with my helmet in check) and made Nike proud by JUST DOING IT!
I surprised myself today. And perhaps that is the best reward of all. I didn't think I had it in me. But I come to find that I most certainly do. I can do this. I really can. And if I can do THIS - what other glorious, wonderful, hidden journeys await me in the future? If I have unlocked THIS level, I can only imagine what the next few worlds might look like - only bigger, and brighter, and more colourful than the last. I can't wait!
As I climbed down from the saddle today and put away my bike, sweaty and a little sore - I literally smiled to myself. This is what accomplishment REALLY feels like. For all of the things that I have done in my life, I have never really, truly felt this. This is the feeling of doing something that doesn't come easy. From pushing yourself beyond what you thought yourself capable of doing. For hanging in there and talking positively to yourself whenever doubt creeps in. For saying, just 5 more minutes, just one more mile. You can do it, you can do it. Look at how far you've come.
Something tells me that just like a video game, the creators of Spark intended this too. This was the level I was meant to find. And there are certainly more out there to come across on my journey. That is the way this game works. This beautiful, real, life-altering game.
I'm living in the next level now - and man, does it feel good!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
These things are AMAZING!!!
I bought a couple boxes at Target to try them out after having loved the Del Monte Chillers fruit sorbet cups that I bought earlier. At $2.45 for a whole box of these (8 in a box), I 'bout died and gone to heaven. These are PURE fruit, only 55 calories a piece and pack a bunch of potassium and vitamin C in such a little pop! They're way more filling than a regular sugar-water popsicle, and I like knowing that my frozen treats are benefiting me rather than filling me with fake substitutes (even though I do love 40-calorie fudge bars, no matter how fake they are!)
Also - since they're a shelf product that you can take home and freeze later, you don't have to worry about them melting in the car on the way home :)
Right now they come in 2 flavours - Grape Berry Blizzard and Strawberry Snow Storm.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
I hate laundry.
I hate laundry so much that I have not made a concerted effort to really do all of it since January. Want to know how I know that? I JUST finished a load that contained the black top I wore on New Year's Eve. You know - this one:
So after 2 days and 9 FULL loads worth - I'm finally done! Hallelujah! Who on this earth owns that many clothes??? I own over 12 bras, 30 pairs of underwear (yes, I can go a full month without having to wash a darn thing), and about half of the local Lane Bryant's spring, summer, fall & winter lines for the past 4 years in a variety of colours. It's ridiculous.
You see, weight hasn't been my only issue in life. I also used to be addicted to shopping.
It's another unhealthy habit that was a symptom of my obesity. I used spending money as a way to make myself feel better about life. I like pretty things and have expensive taste, so I used shopping the same way I used food to feed the pain of loneliness or boredom or frustration. If I had a bad week, then a nice new shirt or necklace or pair of shoes would be just the thing I needed to make me feel better. I got a high from wearing my new threads. The smell of new clothes, breaking the tags off, the crisp way they feel on the body. I would buy things just to buy. As long as they fit (sort of) then that was good enough for me. I'd have good shopping days and bad shopping days. On the bad, I'd leave with nothing, fueling my depression because "nothing ever seemed to fit" and "I'm so fat and ugly". But on the good days I would walk out of the store, laden with bags, bursting at the seams to get home and re-try on my purchases. The problem was, the bigger I got, the bigger the clothes got, and the more expensive. A shopping trip to a plus store would easily rack up bills of $200 or more per trip, and I kept needing more and more to make me happy. My credit card bills were out of control and I was sinking fast - which was only making the depression worse.
A couple of years ago I had sunk to a new low. I swallowed every last ounce of pride I had and called my parents to help me co-sign on a bank loan to consolidate my credit card debt. At first, they denied my request. Since I live so far away and they would like nothing better than to see me move closer to home, they used the fact that I needed their assistance as an ultimatum - move home and they would help me. I was devastated. I couldn't move home - my life was now in Chicago. My job, my friends and my therapy were all in this city. There was no way that I knew how to start all over again after everything that I had been through to build a life here. So I stood my ground and told them that wasn't an option and feared the worst when they told me I'd just have to figure it out some other way.
I waited a week and then asked again. This time they agreed. They didn't like the terms, but they had talked it over and understood the importance and gravity of the situation. And with that, I was relieved of all my credit cards and handed a $10,000 bank loan with a 3 year repayment term. All I could think was "Oh God - what have I done?"
That was exactly 2 years ago in August - and I am incredibly proud to say that as of this August, I will have repaid that entire loan - one year ahead of schedule! I currently do not own ANY credit cards. I pay for everything up front - and if I don't have the money for it, it stays in the store.
Getting real with myself and my budget and spending habits was one of the hardest things I have had to do so far in my adult life. But I have to say now that it was doing that that lead me to believe that I could do this too. I am taking control of my out-of-control habits and lifestyle and turning them into something manageable and maintainable one day at a time. Counting calories is like spending money. Sometimes you have to borrow a little from tomorrow to pay today, but at the end of the week everything needs to line up to be that much closer to your goal. I am paying off big amounts in money and in pounds. And I couldn't be more proud of myself and how far I've come. Financial freedom is within my reach and so is a new and fit body!
Doing those 9 loads of laundry all weekend was an exercise in reflection for me. As I folded every top, every sweater, every pair of jeans, I thought about when I bought them, what I felt like then, how much money I spent to buy them. Most of the things I'm wearing now are from at least 2 years ago and from my one big shopping trip last year before I took my vacation to Paris. As I folded some of the sweaters I got just 6 months ago for Christmas and my birthday it was a little bitter-sweet knowing that they received so little wear this year and that I won't ever get to wear them again because already they're too big for me. I am officially DONE being that size forever. I've paid off that part of my "loan" and I will never have to do it again. For what I have lost I have gained 10-fold in knowledge and security and happiness.
I don't buy clothes anymore to make me happy. I buy clothes now because I need to (I'm shrinking!) and that's a whole different kind of happy than the one I was achieving before. I am actually looking forward to shedding my closet almost as much as I'm looking forward to shedding the weight. Since the clothing I own now ranges in sizes from 12-26, I am awaiting the day when it will all be one uniform size and I can reach in and pull out anything I want and have it fit and look beautiful on me. No more waiting to wear something until I'm that size. No more hanging on to certain pieces because I'm not sure if I'll need them again. No way. I'm not going back this time. And unless I can find someone here who is one step behind me and wants my hand-me-downs, I know I'm about to make a local homeless shelter very, very happy this year. I'll pay it forward any way I can.
And just for the record - here's that New Year's Eve number now...25 (almost) pounds lighter!
My first side-by-side!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I'm worth it.
Repeat after me - I'M WORTH IT!!!
Now by a show of hands, how many of you actually, really, truly believe what you just said? I'll tell you honestly, I've struggled my whole life with my own self worth. Only recently am I starting to come out of the dark cloud of not feeling good enough that has followed me around since I started gaining weight as a 4 year old child.
I'm behind on my watching of this latest season of Biggest Loser. I already know who wins - but I haven't yet seen all the episodes leading up to the Finale. So I was watching Episode 13 last night - just after Vicki (Blue Team) finally gets her chance on the ranch after the other contestants have already been battling it out for 12 weeks. As Jillian notes, she's obviously behind everyone else, both physically and mentally. While the other contestants have had the opportunity to break through tough moments, Vicki is still wondering WHY she got so big and is struggling with the "menial" task (according to Jillian) of running sprints. Don't we all at some point? Finally she breaks down into tears and offers up that she can't do the exercise and is doubting her progress and achievements because she has never felt good enough. That her parents should have had a more beautiful daughter. That she wasn't smart enough, skinny enough, popular enough. It is for these moments that I watch this show. I think this will be my last season of watching though. Because on my own personal road to healing and recovery, I have chosen a very different path than much of what that show lauds and stands for and there have been so many times this past season that I am physically revolted by what those people are made to do and believe in order to lose weight. How different from just a year ago when I couldn't get enough of it and spent my days dreaming about how I was going to be on the next Biggest Loser season. Now I wouldn't wish it upon my best friend. But alas, I digress. I was talking about the emotional moments. The true and honest reflections of ourselves in these contestants that we can all relate to at one point or another. That's good television. There's a reason that the producers show us these poignant and touching moments - complete with melodramatic score in the background. Because they are so real. And because all we "fatties" can relate. I related wholeheartedly to Vicki's plight. I too have felt "not good enough".
Welcome to the paradox of being fat. I am fat because I don't feel like I'm good enough, and I don't feel like I'm good enough because I'm fat. So how the heck does one begin to talk themselves out of that conundrum? It's a cyclical, never-ending (to some), downward spiral that is so familiar to most of us, it makes you want to spit just reading it and saying it. I for one was angry with it. I wanted to throw stuff at that paradox and call IT names! And then I wanted to cry about it and throw my hands in the air, call it impossible, and eat a bag of Cheetos to make it go away because it's too hard to beat so I let it beat me. And it beat me over and over and over again until I was worn down, binging and too fat to care.
But when I was done being angry at a situation that looked like it couldn't fixed - after I had let the dust settle a little on my last infuriating binge, I agreed to open it up and look at it again, to slowly break it apart and separate the pieces of it so that there was just enough room to insert my Spark dynamite and blow it up!!!
The aftermath is messy. But the good thing about blowing up a paradox is that you can see all the little, individual pieces for what they are instead of just being part of the larger problem. You can start to clean up the mess - to re-assemble the whole person from the pieces. You can keep what is shiny and good, and throw out what is dingy and bad. This is the stage I am currently in and I love it. I'm finally beginning to organize my life. I've dumped everything out of the big container and I've bought new, pretty containers to put everything back in.
Unfortunately, I can't break down 5 years of therapy in one blog. But hopefully I can offer a little insight to my journey and what I have discovered about my own personal self worth and the conundrum that so many of us find ourselves in when we arrive here.
I've talked a bit in previous blogs about the role food was playing in my life - substituting for relationships, filling the void, making me feel full in more ways than just physical - but I know now that it was a fake full. And we've all heard people say that they lose weight when they find out how to really "meet their needs" without the use of food. But that is a long and painful process that you can't just come up with overnight. Hold a chocolate bar next to your face and ask yourself what you really need and you're going to think you need the chocolate bar - it's that simple. And food is always there. Food is dependable. Food doesn't break up with you. Food doesn't call you fat...it just makes you fat. It's sneaky like that. Personally, if I found out my best friend was sneaking around behind my back to sabotage me, I wouldn't be very happy about it. But this is exactly what happened with my relationship with food.
The problem with letting it go though is that I needed it. I needed it desperately. Not just for the whole "you need food to live" thing, but because I needed it to stay fat.
WHAT? But aren't you trying to lose weight?
Sure - I was trying to lose weight. Diet after diet, I would give it my "all", my "best shot" and then fail. And I would use that failure, and the subsequent re-gaining of the weight to prove to myself just how unworthy I was in life. Unworthy of healthiness, unworthy of happiness, unworthy of love. It fit the mold I had made. I grew to expect this of myself - and thus grew my reluctance to try anything new. Why would I try? I'm just going to fail again. I set myself up to be unworthy because my unworthiness allowed me to eat. Allowed me to go on gaining weight and ignoring my problems. It was my perfect excuse for every failure in life. I can't because I'm fat...I'm fat because I can't. I needed to be fat because that is how I validated myself. The act of eating itself - the contribution to my ever increasing weight-gain - was a validation and it made me feel full and loved and like I was giving myself something positive. Even though it was really negative, it was a positive validation. Being fat gave me a reason to live - but in a very, very negative way.
Meanwhile - in every other area of my life I was growing and achieving and proving my intelligence and worth every single day. I graduated at the top of my class in a double major honours program. I landed a job in my field fresh out of school. I moved up the ranks quickly, proving to myself and everyone else every step of the way that I could do WHATEVER I put my mind to. Everything except my one deep, dark, dirty little secret. I wasn't good enough to lose weight. A glaring blemish on my otherwise fabulous resume of life. She's really great at all of these things - but have you seen the size of her ass?
At one point in my teenage years, my mother actually told me that my father believed that fat people were stupid, because if they were truly smart, they could figure out how to lose the weight. She somehow thought that this would give me the motivation I needed to get skinny. It did just the opposite. After her little confession, I packed on about 50 pounds. Now, I don't believe that that's what my father actually said or believes since he has been an avid supporter of mine for my whole life - but the reason I'm sharing this horrific tale is because it only worked to solidify my own idea that I was "less than" - if my father thought that I was stupid because I was fat, then how could I possibly think any better of myself? And as twisted as it sounds, this was also a validation for me. Even though it was as negative a response to what I put out to the world as the name calling of school kids or trying on a pair of jeans and realizing you need the next size up yet again - it was, nevertheless, a validation that as long as I was fat, I was allowed to fail, because it was expected of me.
I have now learned to detach the failure from the fat. And on the flip side - the success from the skinny. That's what happens when you blow up your ideas about how things work and rip apart that downward spiraling paradox. I know now that I am allowed to try, and to succeed and to fail. And that NONE of that has anything to do with my weight, or with my personal value to the rest of the world. People will not like me less because I have my own opinion. Just because I binge on occasion doesn't mean I'm a failure. I can't just give up because I have a bad day. THAT is not what is expected of me. Because I expect so much better from myself now. I am worth working for. I am worth trying out. I am worthy of health, and happiness and love. And when you convince yourself that you are worth something, doing things for yourself becomes easier. Yes, I will cook myself that healthy dinner I've been meaning to try - because I'm worth it. Yes, I will stay outside to watch the sunset a little longer - because I'm worth it. Yes, I will run that extra mile and push myself as far as I can go today - because I'm worth it. I am done feeding myself validation. I am done seeking positive validation from negative reactions and opinions. I am done accepting the excuse that I can't when I know that I can.
Now repeat after me again - I'M WORTH IT. And this time - believe it.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Alas, I promised a blog and a blog ye shall get. Unfortunately though, I'm not feeling particularly brilliant tonight, so I'm throwing together a hodge-podge of things that I'm thinking that may or may not have any relation to each other, but that I find interesting nonetheless.
I was hoping to be able to write a blog today entitled "Surviving the Conference 101" but quite honestly, I don't think I made any great finds that are particularly Spark friendly over the past weekend, and I did well just to make it out of there without any significant damage - consumption of a WHOLE Vosges chocolate bar (2.5 servings worth - yikes!) on Friday night aside. I had many good intentions - I left my house on Thursday morning with my water bottle in tow, a baggie of almonds, cherries, carrots and a couple of low-cal pumpkin muffins to keep me on track since I knew we weren't being given a lot of time for lunch and dinner was going to consist of hors d'oeuvres and beer. But when I went to eat my snacks I discovered my muffins were moldy - ick - and quite a few of the cherries had gone bad as well. So much for that plan. So I ventured out to Corner Bakery for lunch and chose what I thought would be a healthy option - a vegetarian panini - only to find out later that it was one of the highest calorie and fat options on the menu. Ugh - just because it's veggie, does NOT mean it's healthy. For the record, I could have gotten a chicken salad sandwich, mayonnaise and all, for fewer calories than this bad boy. Dinner was as I suspected - fried hors d'oeuvres and an open bar - and since they had really given us no break time during the day we were all starving. Down the hatch with mini sliders, egg rolls, dumplings, potstickers, and home made potato chips that were to die for. But I wrote everything down and tracked it all and at the end of the night only ended up going over by a couple hundred calories...I think. Eating out is always so hard to track! But I was enjoying the company, the fabulous views of the Chicago skyline from Navy Pier and the fantastic entertainment for the evening provided by some of my local theatre friends. All in all, not a bad day.
Friday, I vowed to be a little more successful at staying on track than I had been on Thursday, but this was going to be tough since all meals on Friday were provided by the conference which meant I didn't have much control over what was served. But I DID have control over what I chose. Fruit salad and a bagel with light cream cheese for breakfast. Not too bad, except that on a second pass of the table I grabbed a mini chocolate scone - it was calling my name...seriously. You should have heard it! Lunch was at a local Mexican restaurant at which I selected a salad topped with skirt steak. A great choice, with a nice honey mustard vinaigrette option to top. Too bad I also bowed to the power of the chip basket. Doh! And then there was dinner...it was supposed to be another night of food and wine on board a cruise boat on the lake, however, at about 4pm the skies opened up and the apocalypse happened in downtown Chicago so I decided that maybe the boat would be better saved for another time. I grabbed an apple and a power bar from the snack buffet and made my way to a show at my theatre. By the time the show was over, my stomach was growling again. I caught the bus home, thinking of what was in my fridge that I could throw together quickly for dinner. As I rounded the corner to my house I noticed that the neighbourhood looked strange - this eerie light cast over everything. And the bank parking lot lights beside my house were out - hmmm, must drop by the bank tomorrow to tell them that's unsafe. I opened the door to my place, flipped the light switch on - nothing. Flipped it up and down a number of times (like it was going to change the outcome) - nothing. Ugh. The storm had knocked out my power. I lit a candle and sat on the couch. Now what? Besides peanut butter and bread I didn't have anything that didn't require cooking. Foiled again. So I sat in the dark and ate the chocolate bar - a gift in our conference swag bags that also came with a huge bag of jelly beans and Frango Mints. After calling my boyfriend to have him log into Spark and spin the wheel for me (I couldn't break my streak!!!) I flopped into bed early and decided to call it a night. Who knows how much damage I did?
Saturday was the final day of the conference - I knew we were getting breakfast and lunch on them so again I braced myself for a day of making tough decisions. The continental breakfast buffet had an assortment of fruit - yes! but nothing else besides calorie laden muffins (not a whole grain or bran in sight) and those dreaded croissants (why are you the bane of my existence, you sweet, buttery, flaky goodness). Thankfully they were all mini, so I grabbed the healthiest looking mini-muffin, ONE mini-croissant and a banana and made my way to the first talk of the day. Lunch was a choice of assorted pre-prepped bagged lunches, so I opted for the Pesto Chicken wrap. To my dismay, even the veggie salad option was served with chips and a cookie and no fruit. I ate what was put in front of me, cookie and all, because breakfast had left me a good hour and a half ago and I was starving. Where were my cherries and almonds when I needed them? At least I still had my trusty water bottle and made good use of the new one they gave all of us in our swag-bag. I was definitely thankful for something!
By the end of the conference I was craving hot dogs because of all the junk I had consumed over the 3 days, but I pushed aside the craving and ate the last helping of chicken ceasar salad that I had in my fridge. It tasted good. And healthy - even with the dressing.
So there's my Conference Survival Kit in a nutshell. You know you're going to be put in positions where you have to decide. You also know you're going to be thrown off your normal eating schedule and will likely be hungry by the time you eat. You could say the same thing for vacations, or trips home, or any other day of the week that doesn't look "normal". I made the best decisions I could for what I was given and I feel a sense of accomplishment for that. All in all, I didn't end up going over on Friday or Saturday, even WITH the chocolate bar. But I was definitely happy to get groceries on Sunday and prep my lunches for this week. "Back on track" as they say, although I don't think I was ever really "off-track" - just removed slightly from the path I wanted to take. Still moving forward though. And realizing that every decision I make, in whatever situation I end up in, is still me moving forward with this journey. So maybe I take what I said earlier back - maybe I DID make some great Spark-friendly finds this weekend. I found my ability to stick to this through the paninis, and croissants and tortilla chips. And after all - isn't that what we're all really here to do?
And here are a few things I've noticed that will serve as a commemoration of where I am right now, today:
- I have a problem in that my pants are falling down and I don't own a belt. It's a GREAT problem to have.
- I walked home today even though it was threatening rain and 83 degree heat with a humidity rating of high 90s.
- Two months ago I couldn't do this:
or even this:
because my stomach was too big and my legs and arms were too short and fat to reach - but I can do all of them now with ease!
- I am marveling at my interactions now with people I don't know and really starting to see a difference in how much more confident I am when I talk to them, when before I would look at the ground and mumble.
- My energy is higher, my mood is better, and my brain is clearer to accomplish the things I need to get done in a day.
Even though I have taken a bit of a break this week from the vigorous exercise of the past two weekends, I can't feel bad about that. I'm settling into my 20 pound (so far) weight loss for a little while. I think mentally I need some time to catch up. I'm not expecting the scale to move much this week - and maybe it shouldn't. I'm half way already to the most weight I have ever lost on a "diet" and I will admit that that freaks me out a little bit. I need to be in the right place mentally once I get there to shatter that record and keep on keeping on. Because once you really start changing in this incredibly positive way, you really can never go back to the way it was before. And this weekend, I proved that to myself!
I guess I made more sense out of this that I thought I was going to :)
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