hi NeonZ -- it sounds like you did really well on your birthday; good for you! I envy that "walked a few miles," as I am struggling to heal inflammation in *both* Achilles tendons right now -- urgghhhh!
I'm in rhet/comp and also write creative nonfiction. Is your diss a collection of poetry? I'd love to see some of your work.
I've lost about 25 pounds and can feel it in my clothes, but it's such a looooong process that sometimes you (I!) begin to think "why am I doing this again??!"
Hang in there, west coast girl. You can do it. : ) (And, academic life will be healthier in the long run if you establish those good habits now --- you'll be spending a lot of time at a desk!!!)