Monday, November 16, 2009
If you've been following my tale from the beginning, you know that when I first had a serious weight problem, I was obese at 160lbs on my 5'0" frame. This was brought on by bad eating habits mostly due to eating at restaurants and supersized fast food. When my boyfriend and I split, I was left with the baggage of 160lbs and a lot of debt.
I dropped to 130lbs through a lot of emotional and physical ups and downs. I changed my eating habits and adopted a better lifestyle. I lost the weight and paid off the debt. The key is, I wanted to live this way. I wanted to eat fresh vegetables and fruit. I wanted to be active and explore the world. I wanted to eat delicious meals and my favorite foods, just less of it. I wanted to do this forever. This wasn't a diet, this was changing my entire life.
The more active I became, the more I wanted to do. Living in the gorgeous northwest, there were so many things available for me to try from sea to land to sky.
I took kayaking lessons. I went on a wonderful kayaking day trip adventure where I explored wetlands and inlets in the Puget Sound. I saw a pair of bald eagles, the very first with my own eyes. I saw a pair of young bald eagles playing in the sky. I saw more varieties of birds than I could count. I saw a pair of seals playing in the water, watching us in our kayaks curiously. I felt more free and alive than I had ever been in my life.
I traveled to Maui on a kayaking/snorkeling trip. There is a picture in my profile. It's probably my favorite kayaking/snorkel trip to date. I went in January, and a humpback whale pod was in for the winter. A giant mother whale and her baby swam around our kayaks. I saw their tail flip up and splash in the water, just like you see in nature videos! They swam circles around us. I got the feeling they were 'human watching' as much as we were 'whale watching'! When we got out of our kayaks to snorkel, I dunked my head underwater, and I could hear their whale song. It was so LOUD. I wondered if they were talking about us. "What are those?! What are they doing, mom?"
I saw a giant manta ray with about a 6 foot wing span 'fly' right under me while we were snorkeling. So gorgeous and graceful. I felt like I was living a nature video. Would the old me have dared to try this?
While I was having a great time exploring and adventuring with my new found fitness, I was lonely. I wished I had someone to share the adventure with.
I didn't know how to meet the kind of guys I wanted to date. The bars were not doing it for me. I wanted something substantial, not superficial.
I got over another fear I had: online match making. I joined Match.com.
Just like the gym, it wasn't the horrid experience that I thought it was going to be. It doesn't have to be that way. I found I had a lot of control over who I wanted to meet, and how we did so. I only met a guy for a first meeting at a very neutral spot, and only for a short, casual encounter. A coffee shop on a Saturday morning, or for a happy hour beer. We could chat, and then setup another more private date for dinner if we clicked. If not, then we only spent an hour of our time and moved on, no pressure. I only met someone at a neutral, public location that I never frequent in case of weirdos. If we didn't click, then they would be unlikely to find me again.
I liked it better than 'traditional' dating, in some ways. I was able to screen out guys that didn't interest me right away. It was really important for me to find someone interested in kayaking, camping, traveling, hiking, biking, and more. These were things that had become important to me, and the key was I wanted to share this with someone. They didn't have to be a super athlete - I would find that too intimidating. Just an average guy looking for some outdoor fun. So, I weeded anyone out who sounded like a couch potato. I did not want to go back that way. I wanted someone who ate healthy, but not too much of a health nut that they can't have a beer and a burger every once in a while.
At 160lbs, I was invisible to men. At 140lbs, I was a nice girl, but not dating material. At 130lbs, I was getting my groove back. I started catching extra long stares in the corner of my eye, double takes, goofy grins, and responsiveness to flirting. I set up a lot of Match dates, and it was an amazing ego boost. A ton of the dates didn't work out, but the feeling of getting ready for a date and meeting people was wonderful. I tried a lot of new restaurants (dutch only, I'm a modern gal), and got to see more of Seattle.
Eventually, I found the guy that 'clicked'. He became the guy that I was spending more time writing to, and calling. We spent more and more time together. Soon, I didn't spend much time looking on Match for new contacts, or setting up new dates. I called him first to see if he was busy for the weekend.
I joined a hiking/camping/general outdoor club. They were going camping on Mt Rainer for a weekend. I was really excited about this, I'd never really been camping before! I invited my new guy to come with me. He accepted.
We went shopping at REI for camping gear. We both didn't have any. We bought the same, matching single person tents. No, we weren't going to share a tent - this isn't that kind of story!
We went to Mowich Lake on Mt Rainier. The first day, the group went hiking and we stopped at a gorgeous, idyllic lake for lunch. In the evening, we barbecued chicken, burgers, and Korean kalbi. We looked at the stars, and I taught my special friend a few constellations that I knew. I could feel myself growing quite fond of him, a little extra twitter in my heart. At some point in the night as I was alone, I saw a shooting star. I made a wish. I wished for a future with this guy and I. This was the summer of 2006.
I got my wish. We stopped dating others. We moved in together. We continued to go hiking and camping. We biked and kayaked. We went to Jamaica and I learned to scuba dive. I earned my open water certification in 2007. I learned to ski with him. I grew up in Colorado, but never had the nerve to ski until I moved to Washington! For you northwesterners, I learned to ski at Snoqualmie.
It was everything I wanted. Who's afraid of turning 30? My 30s have been the best years of my life! If I had known what I was capable of, I wonder what I would have done in my 20s. I'm reminded of the George Bernard Shaw quote: "Youth is wasted on the young."
Everything was going great.
To Be Continued, My Story, Part 7 History Threatens to Repeat Itself
Friday, November 13, 2009
I got rid of my size 14-12 clothes after buying new clothes because I was determined never to rebound back. If clothes were a little uncomfortable, I hoped that would be a trigger to remind me it was time to do something about it. I did not want return of the slow creep.
Getting rid of the junk food was supposed to deter me from mindless snacking. It worked, for the most part. I made it less convenient for me to do so. There were times immediately after throwing everything out that I had urges and cravings. I was almost desperate to have a sugary candy bar. It was no longer immediately accessible. I couldn't go to my pantry and have a chocolate bar, then decide it tasted so good I wanted more.
There were times when I absolutely had to have a candy bar. Had to. I was going to go crazy without one. Because it wasn't in the house, I had to leave my apartment and walk to the convenience store down the road to get one. At least I had to walk! I merrily ate my candy bar, satisfied. My nature to gravitate towards laziness worked in my favor in this instance. Sometimes, I got a desperate craving for a candy bar, and be too lazy to get up and walk to the convenience store. Each time I did this, my desperate craving to have a candy bar eventually faded. I went less and less.
I read an article about how to become an early riser. It said to set your clock to the time you want to get up, then get up at that time every day. Do it for 30 days straight, even weekends, and it will become habit. Your body becomes accustomed to it, and you just naturally wake up at that time, ready to start your day. I wondered if this would work with eating habits as well.
Eating junk food had become a habit, something I had learned. I was accustomed to it. I expected food to taste rich, sweet or fatty. I wasn't used to the taste of vegetables and fruit, which weren't sweet enough to my empty calorie palate.
I adopted a rule - no calories from drinks. This meant juice and soda. Only water, tea or plain coffee.
I hated plain coffee, but I wanted to drink my coffee plain to follow my no drink calorie rule. I bought premium coffee from the store and made it at home. Even then, it took getting used to. The first time I took a sip, I almost gagged. I wanted to add sugar and milk. I stuck with it. If I wanted coffee, I ordered it plain. After a while (30 days?), it worked. I was accustomed to the taste of unsweetened coffee. I tried a sweetened drink and almost gagged - it was *too* sweet.
Every once in a while I get an urge to get a high calorie latte. What stops me? I know how many calories are in it. I know how long it takes on the elliptical to burn it off. I know how long it took me to lose this weight. That's usually enough for me to keep ordering plain coffee.
This is why losing the weight gradually has kept it off. It was difficult with a rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs for me to get here, and I'm not finished yet. Blood, sweat, and an ocean full of tears. If it had been easy or quick, I wouldn't have learned anything. For me, it's not worth the calories. I just really want the caffeine from coffee anyway. Rarely, I do get a short (small) mocha.
I readjusted my palate for salads. I wanted to eat salad with no salad dressing. Salad dressing was the enemy. This was a hard habit to break. I had to, and still do, need some sort of flavoring on salad. I found a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of olive oil, pepper, and fresh basil mixed in tasted delicious to me with no added calories. Balsamic vinegar also works well. This still took me some time to get used to, but it's a new habit now. Salad with heavy dressing tastes too rich.
Eating more fruits and veggies is easy in Washington. Outside of California, it has a widest variety of farmers markets and fresh locally grown fruits and veggies on the west coast. Every weekend in the summers I would go to the farmer's markets and get season fresh veggies and fruit. One thing I noticed about farm fresh produce: they taste sweeter and 'brighter' than supermarket produce. The zucchini was so fresh, it tasted good raw. It was easy for me to adjust to making steamed vegetables with no added butter. They tasted good without it. Same thing with fruits. I was shocked the first time I bit into a plum and so much sweet water ran out of it. I was used to eating supermarket plums that were dry and bitter because they were picked under ripe. Eating fruit that was just picked made it so much easier to incorporate into my diet. I left fruit bowls where my cookies used to be, and snacked on the fruit when I got hungry. It's a habit that I still keep today.
I learned to cook healthy, quick, delicious meals watching the Food Network on cable. I worked a full time job in the tech industry, which has funky hours and a lot of overtime. Typically, I said that I didn't "have time" to cook and make healthy meals. I decided that I was going to make time. I had time to play computer games and watch tv, surely I could make dinner. My favorite shows on the Food Network were "30 Minute Meals" by Rachael Ray, "Good Eats" by Alton Brown, "Emeril Live", and "Calorie Commando". "30 Minute Meals" is the one that absolutely changed my life, though. It was perfect. I learned how to prepare a quick meal from prep time to cook time by emulating Rachael.
All those farmer's markets veggies I would buy and prep on the weekend. I called Sunday my "Martha Stewart Sunday". I chopped up onions and bell peppers and put them in a container in the fridge. When I came home during the week, all I had to do is throw the onions and peppers in a pan to saute, then add whatever ingredients I wanted for a meal.
Using my food scale, I measured appropriate portions of steak and starch, and ate as many veggies as I wanted until I was full. I'm so used to seeing a 3-4 portion of steak now, that anything bigger looks too big. When I get a 12 oz steak, I can't believe I used to eat all of that on my own!
In the process of doing this, I saved a ton of money, which also helped me with my debt problem. Steak is expensive. I bought a 1 pound steak and cut it into 4 pieces. I had 4 nights of steak for essentially 1/4 the price.
I'm eating more northwest fresh salmon these days than steak.
I finally got the nerve to join the gym. You know what? It wasn't this crazy pseudo-athlete place I thought it was going to be. True, there are some 'pickup joint' gyms where people are there to show off their hot bodies - avoid those. I joined the YMCA. There were no pseudo-athletes or pseudo-supermodels; only regular people of all shapes, fitness levels, and ages there to get healthy. No one judging me or anyone else.
There were women aged 60-80 who were there every morning for a water aerobics class. They looked strong and healthy. Very inspirational.
Oh, and I found SparkPeople! I quit e-diets and joined Spark. It's free! The message boards are very lively and informative. The support from friends is uplifting and keeps my spirits high. The articles are extremely high quality. The food and fitness calories are very well developed and extensive. I'm still surprised when I search for food and dishes that I'm certain aren't going to be there, and there they are!
I dropped to about 130 pounds, and paid off my debt completely. Old boyfriend and bad lifestyle baggage officially gone! I donated the size 10 clothes and bought brand new size 8s. Woo!
To Be Continued, My Story, Part 6 Finding Love Again
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I became more active after moving to Seattle, and while I had lost about 15-20 pounds, I could not seem to get below 140.
We all have our reasons for wanting to lose weight. Some do it for their health. Some for their vanity. I wish I could be an angel and say that I did it for my health, but in truth, it was probably driven mostly by vanity. And desire to find love again.
I remember when I was fitter, and the look of a boy's adoring crush on me. At 160, I was invisible. At 140, I was a 'nice' girl and fun to hang out with, but not interested in 'that way'.
There was a guy that I met at the bar I liked. We were flirting, and sort of started dating. Then he started going cold on me. Finally he said, "Cathy, you're awesome. You're a great girl. You're smart, fun, and I have a great time with you. But I just don't find you physically attractive."
What a jerk. But, he finally said what I thought everyone was thinking. It hurt. Humiliated, I kicked him out of my apartment. I cried. I wanted to crawl into a shell and disappear. I wanted to fall back into my old comfortable place - I was trying so hard, I lost a lot of weight, I thought I looked great - why bother?
But then, something in me clicked.
I got angry. I *am* awesome.
I'll be darned if that guy, or anybody, said something that defeated me. I was reminded of something Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
I made some success with dieting. I decided that I needed more exercise than walking to the bookstores. I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to get a gym membership. Seattle is full of skinny-fit singles. I didn't want to be the fat girl on the treadmill in a room full of pseudo-athletes. I figured I would have to do something at home.
I didn't want to do exercise videos - my apartment was too small. What I ended up doing was playing the game Dance, Dance Revolution on my Playstation 2. I read an article on MSNBC about some kids who had lost weight playing the game. I liked playing games, why not? Kind of weird, kind of funky. I didn't think of it at all as being 'exercise' and having to do 'a workout'. I was playing a game and having fun. I would come home from work, prepare a meal using e-Diet's meal plan, then play DDR for an hour.
At first, playing DDR for an hour was impossible. I was dripping with sweat and embarrassed that I was so out of shape. I wanted to quit. Sometimes I would get home, and think it was never going to get any better, so why bother?
I thought, oh well, I'll just try and beat my high score. I listened to the music, 'danced' on the pad, and played the game. I didn't think about how many calories I was burning.
In time, (how long? weeks? forever? would have liked sooner!) my balance and coordination improved greatly. I was playing the game on advanced. My heart wasn't pounding out of my chest anymore. In fact, it was too EASY!
I still wasn't ready for the gym. I bought a bicycle. (You can read my bicycle "Mount Everest" story in my profile.)
My weight not changing much depressed me. Was I doing something wrong? However, while my scale weight didn't change a whole lot, my body shape sure was. My body reacted very positively to exercise, but I didn't see it on the scale right away. I found my size 14 shorts didn't fit at all, and my size 12 jeans were almost ready to drop off my hips too.
I went shopping. All new size 10s! I went home, gathered up all my size 14 and 12 clothes, and dropped them off at Goodwill. I went through my apartment and threw out every junk food item I could find. (Sorry Sally Struthers and starving kids in Africa. It's junk; you wouldn't want it anyway.) Cookies, chips, candy, ice cream, soda and crackers. I never wanted to see them again.
To Be Continued, My Story, Part 5 How I My Changed Habits
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
After moving to Seattle in debt and the heaviest I've ever been in my life, it was time to start over clean. I found Seattle to be a very friendly city for walking to the store for groceries instead of driving, and it was chock full of used bookstores! I thought I was in heaven.
Seattle also has a ton of locally owned restaurants that are inexpensive and actually pretty healthy. I wasn't eating at fast food places anymore. I was eating delicious bowls of vietnamese pho and bento boxes.
I didn't intend to, but I started losing weight. I first started noticing it when my size 14 pants were too loose. I moved down to size 12.
While I was picking up some good new habits, I was also picking up some bad ones. Being new to the city, I started spending a lot of time at a local bar. Not having many friends, I went there to socialize. While I was making new friends, I didn't seem to be meeting any new dating interests. The guys I was interested in weren't too interested in me.
This was something kind of new to me. Guys in high school and college found me pretty cute, and I was dating often. In Seattle, I had no dates. While I have always believed that a person should love you for who you are, there is still an attraction element. Seattle was full of fit, active men who wanted fit, active women. This was a bitter pill to swallow. I was not attractive to the men I wanted to date.
While doing all this walking and eating less fatty cheap eats, I had lost some weight. My scale was reading right around 145-140. While this was great news, I began to see myself as overweight and ugly. The first thoughts of really needing to lose weight started floating through my head. Everywhere I saw these young, pretty, thin girls in their 20s. I was 29 years old, facing the 'dreaded' three-o. I began to get desperate.
I tried going on 'diets' again. No results. I was trying to eat healthy and exercise, but I was doing it wrong (didn't know it). I still didn't know how to properly prepare a meal. I didn't know how to calculate calories in/calories out. In more dark and despairing nights alone, some thoughts starting going through my head about purging after a meal. Fortunately, I never went down that path. I had a friend in school who was bulimic, and I helped her through it. I could not be a hypocrite. Also my fear of vomiting kept me from ever actually trying it.
I tried calorie restrictions which were probably more on the side of starvation diets because, again, I still didn't know how to properly prepare a meal. It did not work. I would starve myself for a couple of days, then I would gobble up anything I could find.
I thought about joining Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Instead I found E-diets (which I was a member of until I found Spark.) I started learning about proper nutrition and exercise. I followed their meal plans to teach me how to make an appropriate dinner plate. I bought a food scale. The first time I weighed a 4oz piece of steak, I was appalled! That was not a STEAK. That was a BITE! But I tried it. After finishing it, I sat miserable thinking it wasn't enough food.
I started reading about enjoying things in moderation. While I tried and tried, I simply could not get myself to eat a handful of chips. If I ate one cookie, a few hours later, I would go back to the kitchen and have another, and another. One day I looked around my pantry and realized that if I wanted a change, I would have to get rid of the junk. I was loathe to throw anything away because "starving children in Africa" was ingrained in me. You don't waste food. I thought I would just finish what I had.
When I finished what I had, I just got more. Old habits die hard. I rationalized 'moderation'. I thought I was eating healthy and exercising, but the scale wasn't budging. Again, I blamed slow metabolism. Maybe I just can't lose weight. I could not break 140.
To Be Continued in My Story, Part 4 Busting the Plateau
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In part 1 I described how I came to be 160 pounds at 5'0". My BMI was approximately 31, which is obese. However, I went into denial about it. I thought that I just had a few extra pounds, and wasn't willing to do anything about it.
Sure my boyfriend and I tried a few crash diets. Slim fast, Lean Cuisines, the Zone diet (not a crash diet, but we did not follow it) and a few more. Atkins was a dream. All the steak you want? Oh yeah, I can eat me some steak. However, we weren't really committed to it. We lost weight, but we gained it all back. Who can drink Slim Fasts forever? Yuck.
I stepped on the scale at one point, and was still not ready to face the number. 160 pounds. My scale must have been calibrated wrong. I figured it was off by 10 pounds (like 150 was any better). Thinking about it now, I'm horrified with myself. How could I ignore and rationalize the blatant evidence?
By this time I figure I was addicted to food like an alcoholic is to liquor. I couldn't stop eating that much. It felt wrong if I didn't eat that much. If I tried to restrict my calories, I was 'starving' and couldn't help myself. It was a habit. My perception of what a 'meal' should be was overinflated and distorted.
I lived like this for about 3 years. I figure it could have been worse. I got off easy at 160 pounds with the lifestyle I was living.
Things came crashing down in about January 2002. My boyfriend and I both got laid off from our jobs during the tech crash. I took a job at Circuit City just to get some money in. He took a job in another city which lead to a three hour commute every day. Our relationship strained and deteriorated, then finally broke. We split in May of 2003.
In the process of ending our lives together, I made a couple of startling revelations.
1) I was broke.
2) I was fat.
All of those days eating out at restaurants contributed to an enormous debt and an enormous waist. I was left overweight with all the bills and no job.
I had a friend who lived in Seattle. Starting from the bottom, I had nothing left to lose. It was time to make a change. I moved to Seattle July 2nd, 2003.
To Be Continued in My Story, Part 3 Reborn in the Rain
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