A New Season in the Sad Pants

September 10th, 2013

New season? Yes: it’s fall. When I diet blog, it has typically been in the summer, but I was blogging elsewhere on non-diet-related issues this summer, so these pages were left untouched. And of all things, I went the whole summer without losing any weight at all. It bounced around a little, but wrapped up pretty much were it started. The reasons are predictable enough: it was summer, and I just did not care enough to work out or stop eating carbs. I had fun. I read things, I did things, I fixed things, I watched things  sometimes (not much compared to the average American, but a lot by my standards: watched the entire run of Orange is the New Black *and* the last few episodes of the Mad Men season, plus internet videos here and there). And I ate things. Things that were baked, with sugar in them. Not to excess, of course, but for me to have any at all is incompatible with weight loss. So, I kept an even keel.

Fall has come and I’m back to work. My pants aren’t fitting me right, so I’m back in the fat pants again. Actually, it’s more often skirts, since I have a number of skirts I can look presentable in when a little over, and the fat pants are too shabby to go to work in.  I’m exercising on a daily basis, and that seriously means six days a week. it’s the third week of that business, and it’s a habit again. But I’m still on the sugar, and I need to get off the sugar.  It’s a demanding semester, every day feels like a hamster wheel all day long and I’m just exhausted all the time. I was hoping the exercise would help with that, and it might yet if I do more of it and really get in the habit, but so far, I’m still exhausted all day long, even on weekends, even when I’ve had ten hours of sleep. I’m hoping that if I really wrestle myself back down to GTD habits and eliminate sugar, I’ll make some progress on the energy and productivity front. Those things, frankly, are much more important to me than a slight weight gain right now. But I always feel healthier when I’m low-carbing. I do get more done, and I feel better. And I lose weight.

So here I am, in a new season of the sad pants, tracking food, trying to wrangle myself into some form of discipline. The goal at this point is to get below 140 by October 3; I have an event to look forward to. The energy level is a hard thing to quantify, and it’s really what matters more at this point. If I had to quanitify success in that area, I’d say I was doing great if I could put Natalie to bed without falling asleep in the process, for several days straight. That’s when I tend to crash, and when I do, the evening is shot; forget about work, I’m not even going to read at that point, it’s all over until the next morning. So I’m going to work on getting to bed consistently by 11:00; exercising each morning; and eliminating sugar (whilst opting out of other starchy snacks when I can stand to).

I’ve sort of let myself go somewhat over the holidays … beginning with that holiday in October, the one with the candy. The weight is back up around 145, and I’ve really gotten lax with eating chocolate and having a drink in the evening. I’ve lost my discipline with snacking and sleeping, too, and also with social media. Oh also and spending, I’ve really spent way too much on clothes and books over the past few months. What else? OK, running off my mouth with the husband and kids, I’m a total nag. And work, OK, I really could have been more structured with my work time. Writing: meant to do that. Didn’t, really. And I haven’t been calling my mom, or donating to the church. Or helping out the union guys at work. Seriously. OK, is there any aspect of my life I haven’t been completely slovenly about in the past few months? Exercise? Haven’t been doing much of that. The house is in decent shape, but I haven’t been washing the floors and I really need to clean the bathrooms more often. You know what, though, I have been bathing regularly. So there’s that. But for the most part, I’ve really let things go.

So I have some catching up to do with the new year.

Good Christ, I look at all I just wrote and I think what I really need right now is to go to bed, immediately. Geez. I make it sound like I’m one pizza box shy of an episode of Hoarders over here. In all honesty, I’m not that much a wreck. I’m just a lot more lax than I need to be in most aspects of my life.

It would be nice, at this point, to have a life coach. I dream of having somebody make up a meticulously crafted schedule for me and berate me when I don’t keep it. But I have to get the reins in my own hands here. I feel like I just gave up over the past year. Once I didn’t get into grad school, and that has been a year ago now, I felt so adrift, and such a failure, that i just couldn’t seem to muster the energy on a daily basis to make any kind of progress towards getting some kind of direction in my life. And eventually instead of inching towards that kind of progress, I just started letting more and more things slide, a little at a time, not with a “life sucks and I don’t care” attitude so much as a “this makes absolutely no difference in the long run so I am going to eat that damn cookie because I want to” attitude. (Subtle difference.)

I really do need to go to bed; the kids are back to school tomorrow and i’ve got a long tedious day of work to look forward to. I’ll get back to this, really, seriously, I mean it this time, no slacking, really. TOtally.

Plugging away

June 28th, 2012

Just checking in to say that I’m still working at it and slowly, slowly losing weight. The scale has been bouncing around 142 for the past two days, which makes it ten pounds that I’ve lost since this time last year. Clothes are a little looser, and I’m getting more accustomed to that hungry feeling as a normal feeling. Although I have eaten sugared things from time to time, I don’t crave them like I used to. Mainly when I screw up, it’s because I’m either upset or tired. It is surprising what a difference a good night’s sleep can make. I can get by on significantly fewer carbs when I’m decently rested. Off to bed, then.

Give that girl an apple!

June 21st, 2012

I have some wonderful, practical insight to share from my experiences of the last couple of weeks. Here it is. You know what really shakes off those stubborn pounds? Getting sick! I finally got to enjoy that longed-for sight of seeing the scale report a four and a half pound loss, and all it took was two days of not being able to keep anything down. Oh, it was a beautiful morning, the morning that I could get out of bed and change into nice clean clothes again. My stomach looked so flat! The world was born anew.

OK, yes, I know, it was really all water weight. The pounds are just hanging around, probably behind those bookcases over there, waiting for me to eat a really good meal again so they can hop back on board. So I’m not even updating my weight ticker for another week until things stabilize. It is an illusion. A lovely, cheerful illusion. I was seriously wondering if time had condemned me to a weight that was as unmovable as a mountain. But  seeing the numbers on that scale finally roll down is giving me the hope that maybe, just maybe, the weight is more like a cranky old mule.

Back in high school, we used to talk about “shrinking the stomach,” getting physically used to less food in the belief that the effects would last. Fasting was particularly good for this, we believed, but anytime you could get by on as little food as possible for some time, you could be sure to have shrunk your stomach for a while as an additional boost for the diet. It’s true that my appetite has not yet returned to normal, but I credit that more to not being quite well yet than to a smaller stomach. But in keeping with the old way of talking, I’m gonna claim that! Consider my stomach shrunk. Let’s see if we can get a little more momentum into the weight loss this way.

At the very least, seeing the magic 140 on the scale is a morale booster. Maybe just the apple that the old mule needed to get moving.

Two weeks in

June 6th, 2012

I’ve been continuing to work on the snacking habit, using the method described in the previous post (from Duhigg’s book). It’s been two weeks, and I’ve been doing all right, in that I’m snacking a lot less and paying more attention to what I eat. I’m completely off of Diet Coke and chocolate, and I haven’t had any alcohol except on weekends. Most days I don’t eat any baked things with sugar. There were a number of days when I ate baked treats in the first week, mainly when I baked them for one occasion  or another. I can’t just stop making stuff for potlucks, bake sales, and the kids, just because I don’t want to let myself eat the stuff; unfortunately, what I bake I have a hard time not eating. These were the main transgressions in my “yes” column, and there were several. So, about the results? I haven’t lost any weight. My scale is unreliable, but it’s bouncing around the same weights it was bouncing around two weeks ago, so I have no reason to believe I’ve made any progress there.

That’s not going to do.

Now, part of Duhigg’s deal is that he puts a lot of emphasis on consistency during the month of establishing the habit. So I’m not quitting the checklist and substitution strategy. I’m just going to be a little more strict with the rules I’m notating. I’ll continue to check the “no” column every time I’m able to resist temptation and keep my mouth shut instead of eating something, and I’ll still keep finger-food vegetables on hand to snack on instead as a substitute. But I’m going to make notes in the “yes” column each time I eat *standing up.* I think I’ve getting out of the habit of just stuffing my face at will, but I still have way too much of a tendency to take a bite or several when I’m cooking or cleaning up. And when I bake, it’s really not hard for me to say “no” when the baked thing is finished, cleaned up and put into containers; but I cannot seem to resist when I’m actually baking or when it’s fresh out of the oven. Those are bad habits, and they put real food into that stomach! So, while I’m not making changes to actual meals right now, I’m going to work on extending the ability to say “no”, and try to eat only when I am sitting down with food on a plate. Let’s see how I do with that.

I’m going to work on cutting back on the late snack, too; if I could get a little more control of the late evening practices and get to bed earlier, I’d be eating less at the late snack, and eventually could maybe eliminate it entirely.  More importantly, it would be easier to get up to exercise on time regularly, which is a practice that needs some work too.

Another year

May 31st, 2012

Summer is here again. It’s that time of year when you rotate into the clothes that suddenly dispel any ambiguity about what kind of shape you’re in. At the same time, you’re stuck at home with the kids, hour upon hour, day after unemployed day, just a quick grab away from endless quantities of tempting carbohydrates. Such a magical time. Well, why not make the diet blog a regular summer activity?

I see that it has been almost a year since I posted here, and that my weight when I stopped was pretty close to where my scale says I am right now. This particular scale, for what it’s worth, is not reliable; yesterday it said 142.5, and today, 147. Repeatedly, in both cases. So, damn the scale. But the clothes don’t lie: I know I’m in a little better shape than I was at the end of last summer, but only a little. I’ve been in and out of regular exercise over the past year. My standard is around twenty minutes of yoga and pilates first thing in the morning; sometimes treadmill instead of the yoga. I haven’t put in more than twenty minutes at a time on on the treadmill for several months, mainly because last summer, when I was on the treadmill four nights a week for four miles at a time, I never saw any results. Even after three weeks of daily work with a personal trainer. My endurance went up, over time, but I didn’t lose weight.

The failure to lose weight last summer, I think, comes down to a few things. One is that I never really gave up sugar and alcohol; I cut back, but I didn’t eliminate them entirely. The other is that I was going off of Prozac at the time. I really did bust my bumpus at the gym and at home, and I really did cut back on food quite a bit, so I think that if I hadn’t done those things, going off the drug would have resulted in some weight gain. Yet, I’m still looking pretty much like how I looked last year. I look at pictures of myself from last summer, and I think about how hard I was working at it, and it’s very discouraging. I doubt I look much better now. My muscle tone and posture are better (and my hair is longer) but I’m wearing the same clothes, so I don’t think I’m looking much better in reality. I keep one of last year’s vacation snapshots on the fridge to remind me that I need to step it up if I’m going to see results this year.

What’s on the slate this summer: I’m one week into a month-long effort to eliminate snacking. That seems like a small thing, but it’s such an ingrained habit that I am putting some effort and strategy into stopping it. I’m using techniques I picked up from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: each day I write up a little table and I make a mark every time I put something in my mouth outside of meals and scheduled snacks. I make a mark in a different column every time I am tempted to eat something but do not. In a third column, I make a mark when I put something in my mouth that is a vegetable. (This is inspired by somebody’s standup routine (or was it the Onion?) that suggested Americans could benefit from eating a goddamned vegetable every now and then: when you want to eat something, instead of stuffing your face with cookies, you stick a goddamn carrot in your piehole. This struck me as sound advice.) That column doesn’t have as many checks in it, for what it’s worth. But in any case, I’m making progress; I’m breaking the habit. Duhigg argues that it takes a solid month of consistent work to really change a habit, and that it’s self-defeating to try to change more than one at a time. So, this month I’m working on not snacking.  I’ll check in on how that goes.

Middle Age

June 25th, 2011

Face It

It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that the universe wants me to accept something: that I am Middle Aged.

This week has been busy as hell, and I’m completely worn out. My three year old even let me sleep in until 9 this morning (and I literally can not remember the last time I slept in that long, literally) and I still feel like a weak, tired old lady. This week I started working with a personal trainer, doing a mix of cardio and strength training. She’s very good, I feel like I got a good balance in and I’m pressing my limits. But four solid workouts later, I feel pretty bad. Not better. Not more energetic. This, after five weeks of diligent work on the treadmill. Not better, and I sure as h-e-double-toothpicks have not lost any weight. In fact, I had to change my “ticker” to raise my weight by a few pounds. That part is because I finally shelled out for a more accurate scale, but still, I don’t seem to have lost more than a pound or two since this whole thing started.

Is this middle age? Is that what’s going on here? Maybe it has more to do with going off the drugs; maybe my body seriously wants to pack on the pounds, like a lot of people do when they transition off of antidepressants. Maybe this struggle has been a struggle to stay normal, all along, and I didn’t know it because I actually wanted to get better. I don’t know. In short, this is all getting kind of frustrating.

But getting older is frustrating. When you’re thinking about weight and dieting, you’re building on all this experience that says that if you work hard, discipline yourself, do the right things … you will get better. Be healthier. Be prettier. Wear nicer clothes, be more confident, and have people treat you better. But aging doesn’t work that way. Aging is not reversible. You can mitigate some of the effects, for a while, but you will get old, you will get ugly, it will not go away.

Sprouts: The Hidden Menace!

June 17th, 2011

I’ve been growing and eating sprouts pretty regularly for the past year, and I’ve really developed a taste for them (especially in a low-carb tortilla with tofu, sweet pickles, and miso dressing). Now I’m seeing news stories everywhere about how bloody dangerous they are and how I have to request servers in restaurants to not let them get anywhere near my food. I don’t know. I might stop growing mung bean sprouts, mainly because I don’t really like those as much, but I will probably keep growing alfalfa sprouts. (For one thing, I have enough alfalfa seeds to last for at least a year!)  I’ll just be a little more meticulous with the peroxide and washing practices.

Franktuary Much

June 14th, 2011

I didn’t get in a workout today, but did walk in the city about a mile with some hills. I went with a dear friend to try a legendary Pittsburgh hot dog joint called Franktuary, so named because it is in an actual church. The atmosphere is total Church Basement, but the dogs are served in a variety of styles that make it worth the trip: did you know that a Pittsburgh way to make a hot dog apparently involves sauerkraut and “smooshed pierogies”? I didn’t try that one. The Chicago style veggie dog was great, except for the fact it was a veggie dog and tasted like one. For twice the cost I could have had a beef dog that was locally sourced, grass fed, antibiotic free, I think they show you a picture of its mom or something if you ask, I don’t know, it just seemed  a little steep at the moment and I wanted to see how good a veggie dog could be. The answer is that it just doesn’t transcend itself.

My skin has been going crazy today — eczema on the eyelids, the hands are a torn up mess, and now I seem to have breakouts on my elbows, which is weird for me. I’m hoping this isn’t all a systematic rejection of Protopic, which I’ve been using for ten days now. The treatment is definitely still in the “getting worse before it gets better” phase, and I don’t recall how long this phase lasts exactly but if memory serves at all, I have another few weeks to go before I start feeling better. But if it works a second time, I’ll have no eczema at all in three months, and the last round of treatment left my skin completely normal for over three years. I only mention all of this here because my skin is so food-reactive (it’s why I can’t have dairy fats or nuts). Thinking back, I did eat two of the fabulous oatmeal cookies I made for the kids, and boy did they have butter in them. So, I suppose I was asking for it.

Now to try to bolt myself to the chair and get some actual late night online course work done.

It’s summer, 2011. The kids are just getting out of school, Solstice is another week away, but my summer is already half over. Two months ago, I was wrapping up a stressful semester, and two months from now, I’ll be starting up another semester (likely to be equally stressful). I had goals for the summer. Challenges I set for myself, things I wanted to achieve. So let’s have us a little check-in.

A month ago, I started using a  treadmill. Bought it from a guy on Craigslist for a hundred bucks, it’s a little rickety, and it’s in the basement. But it tells me time and distance (although the speed feature doesn’t work), so I get the information I need, and I’ve been keeping records. I’ve been gradually upping my pace — really gradually — and now a normal round is an hour in which I cover just a little over 4 miles. Yes, I’m mostly walking, but I jog some of the time. I break a sweat, I get the heart rate up a little, and I always need to stretch plenty afterwards. Looking at the log, it seems I’ve been doing something more or less like this four nights a week (five, some weeks) for the past month.

I’ve gained a pound.

I feel like a tank. Like an old, slow, flabby, saggy, out of shape tank. Weightwise, I’m ten pounds over my “pretty good” weight, fifteen over my “pretty hot” weight. How can fifteen pounds make this much of a difference? I’m telling you, I look awful, and I feel bad too — slow, creaky, weak, generally pretty gross.

And zappy. Zappy? Zappy is a side effect of going off of Prozac, and it’s unpleasant. This brings me to challenge two of this summer. I wasn’t just going to get back to my “pretty good” weight by adopting an exercise routine and adjusting my diet to get the sugar and snacks out. No, more than that: I was going to go off Prozac. At the same time. This has turned out to be pretty difficult. I’m fairly certain that the Zac had a lot to do with my weight gain in the first place: I gained ten pounds in the past year. I’ve been on 20 mg/day for almost two years now, and in the first year, I could feel that it was helping. Most importantly, I wasn’t depressed any more, and overall I just felt more awake, more in tune with the social world. The icing on the cake was that my perpetual carb cravings evaporated within weeks of going on the drug, and as a result I lost weight. That’ll perk you up! It’s a good thing to like the way you look, to be able to check your rear view out in the mirror in a new outfit and say, damn, I’d tap that. OK, like I say, that was a fringe benefit, and after a year, it had dissipated. The cravings came back, I let more and more of the crackers and the desserts become a normal part of my life. And I’ll admit, a little bourbon or wine on a fairly regular basis make my life a little happier as well. I’ve never had a problem with drinking, and during the academic year I’m usually too busy to drink on weeknights at all, since even a glass of wine with dinner would put me to sleep earlier than I prefer, costing valuable late night work time. But on the weekends, and after evening classes, I do like a drink or two. Then when the term ended, every night was basically a weekend night. So as I was tapering off the medication, the carb cravings increased, concurrent with being at home most of the time (in a small house, you’re never really far from the kitchen) and having no pressing reason not to have wine with dinner or a late beverage with my reading time. Hence: No weight loss so far.

I am, however, pretty close to being off the drug. I’m down to 10 mg every third day, and not very zappy at all anymore (very mild, only in the hands, and usually only for a few minutes at a time). I had hoped the treadmill time would help curb the cravings, and maybe they have; God knows how bad it would have been without the exercise, right? And I’ve actually been feeling a little better in the last few days. Good enough to step it up a little.

This weekend, I moved a little further towards a solidly low-carb diet. I’m doing much better with avoiding the starchy snacks, and I’m replacing mealtime starches with low-carb tortillas and quality multigrain bread. The next step will have to be to cut the alcohol. I see it as a minor indulgence that adds to my quality of life, so I don’t want to give it up entirely. For the time being, I’ll say I’m going to keep it to the weekends, and we’ll see how that goes.  Let’s see if I can lose some weight this way.

I’m also stepping up the exercise. It’s kind of dishonest of me to think of what I’ve been doing on the treadmill as “cardio;” it hasn’t really been that much of a cardio challenge. I’m going to try to pick up the speed on the treadmill nights. In addition, I’m going to see how much strength and flexibility work I can get into the mix, in the form of calisthenics and yoga.

A year ago, I tried diet blogging, mostly to get the blather out that’s always circulating in my head when I’m trying to lose weight, in hopes I wouldn’t inflict it on other people if I could get it out in writing. I didn’t stick with it (although I did lose some weight). I’ve been wanting to get back to keeping a journal. Writing in general is a very important part of my life that I have been neglecting for quite some time. I have to write quite a bit for my job, but it’s not the kind of writing that you can just lift out of context and show someone else. Moreover, it’s been for a particular kind of audience: mainly, young folks with limited experience, who might not even want to be there, and who I need to get positive evaluations from at some point. When you have a certain audience in your head, haunting you because you’ve been writing for them for so long, it seems likely that the could severely alter your ability to write for anybody else, unless you really work at it. I haven’t been working at it. Writing is work. You have to keep yourself in shape. Diet blogging may not have much in common with serious writing, but it’s forming sentences, right? Constructing arguments? Refining a voice? It must be good for something, even if it’s mainly to write for someone besides the ghost freshmen in my head.

And I need to get writing again, I need to feel like writing is my friend again, like I can communicate somewhat fluently this way and not have to labor over my every little phrase. Because the most important challenge of the summer, the big one, is this: this is the year I’m doing something I have been working towards since 1997. I am applying to go back to graduate school. This is pretty terrifying - not the application part, since I test and interview pretty well. What’s terrifying is the idea of having to write, and write well, and follow through with difficult and complicated ideas in writing, as the very substance of my life for a while. I don’t know if I can do it. See, I’m already choking, these sentences are a mess.

So much is involved in this. I have to prep for the GRE, for one thing, and while I’ve taken it before, it’s different now: you have to write! On demand! On a timer! For a score! Ay yi yi. And of course, there’s the writing sample I’ll have to submit with my application in January. It will have to be an article, and it will have to be pretty good. Original. Not just well written, but pulling together some sources and building up some ideas. At this point, I don’t have anything remotely resembling an idea that I think I could turn into an article in a few months.  I’m going to have to come up with one. And to do that … is going to take more than diet blogging. But this is still a good thing to do.