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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

4 Times 5 Equals 20

Today I am trying something different and am expressing myself with a math equation:  4 x 5=20.  No, it is not how much weight I've lost in five weeks (although I must mention that I am down 16.2 pounds after five weeks!).  The number twenty represents the number of years I've been married to my spouse and friend, David.  If you were to count the actual number of anniversaries we have had it would more accurately be five due to the fact that we got hitched on Leap Day, February 29, 1992.

So what, who cares, right?  Well, normally I don't get all crazy and sappy with these occasions but I would like to take this opportunity to explain why it is significant and to share a little of our 'love' story.

David and I met in early 1990.  We were both unemployed at the time.  We met at a bar, Sam's in Port Chester, New York.  Not the ideal place to meet your future mate but I am sure I am not the first one to fall into this trap.  He was a nomadic blue collar roofer; running from his past and toward an ambiguous future.  I was in the midst of a family in chaos; my parents were in the stages of divorce.  And with us all living at home I was searching for any excuse not to be caught in the drama.

I think what attracted me most to David was his energetic smile that exuded a wide grin, manly giggle, and expressively crinkled eyes simultaneously.  His presence drew me in.  It didn't matter what he looked like, in fact, he wore a red bandanna, dirty work clothes, and heavy work boots when I first saw him.  The thing that was irresistible about David was his energy and the attention he gave me.  The eye contact was sincere and powerful.  It didn't matter to him that I was a 170-pound, size-14 woman.  (Which is funny now because I would die to be that size again!).  We just had a connection.

There was so much stacked against us from the very beginning.  We had nothing.  He lived in a room in a boarding house in Port Chester, NY with no means of transportation.  I was unemployed and living at home in a very tense situation.  No jobs.  But, we found each other.  After getting to know David in a very short period I believed he was such a special person and someone who could give me the support I needed to get my life back on track.  It was emotional support; something you just can't put a price on.  On the same level I was excited to help him get on track with his life.  I knew he had such great interpersonal skills and saw him doing much more than laying a tar roof.  He was under-utilizing what 'God' gave him.

Our situations improved.  I found employment and he got a different opportunity.  We pursued our relationship for months even when it became a long-distance affair.  I drove every Friday from Stamford, CT over the Tappan Zee Bridge to Monroe, NY.  At the end of the weekend I would drive directly to work on Monday morning.  We did this for a good six months.  David moved to Stamford, CT and eventually we moved in together on Warren Street.  Not a great neighborhood but affordable at the time.  In the mean time I was moving up the corporate ladder in the insurance industry.  And with a little encouragement and self-esteem building David secured a bank-teller position and then became office manager at a liquor importer.  Our love was the foundation that helped elevate each of us in our working lives.

Eventually, I envisioned having a family with David.  I was NEVER the type of girl to dream about the day that her father would give her away at a huge wedding while walking down the aisle in a flowing, white wedding dress.  That was never important to me.  But, being in love with David changed that.  He made me want to have a family.

Things were going great for both of us when I unexpectedly became pregnant.  I remember the day I found out.  The doctor called me at work and right after sharing the news the nurse said, "Do you want to keep it?!".  There was no doubt in my mind, I would keep the baby.  It was difficult telling my family especially since they had doubts about our relationship from the beginning.  I would not call them prejudice, per se, but they did not envision me being with a man of color.  Which is funny to me because I've always been interested in people who are different than me and have had friends from many different backgrounds, cultures, and religions.  Needless to say, the odds were stacked against us.  At least in the eyes of my family.

You see, I must reiterate that I never saw my husband as a 'black man'.  He was and is a kind person who cares about me.  I am a bit oblivious to the world around us.  I just know that we are good people and if society does not care for us based on our skin color and the fact that we are in a mixed marriage then that is societies' problem.  But, realistically, this was another factor whose odds were against us.

The one thing that I was adamant about was the fact that I would require marriage.  There was no way I would give birth to a bastard, illegitimate child.  I won't say that I made David marry me but he really didn't have a choice.  I chose to get married on Leap Day because it was a unique occasion and it only happened once every four years.  So, the pressure was off David to have to acknowledge it every year (although he does).

I was six months pregnant when David and I exchanged vows in front of a justice of the peace.  My mom was there as the only witness.  I wore a teal and black maternity outfit.  We exchanged matching, gold wedding bands that we purchased at J.C. Penney for under $100 each.  It was a simple ceremony with a few Polaroid snapshots taken for posterity.  No white dress.  No church.  No guests.  No father of the bride.  No band.  No videographer.  No headache.  We exchanged our vows out of our simple love for each other.

We had a reception in April where we met, at Sam's in Port Chester, NY.  There were about 40 members of our friends and family who celebrated with us.  And, of course, my mom treated us to a beautiful wedding cake that fit the occasion perfectly.

My point in sharing my story is that even when every thing is against you, you can still come out on top.  Love does not require wealth and fanfare.  Sharing your life with someone is all encompassing and is enhanced with highs and lows.

Having a diamond ring isn't important to me.  After 20 years I still wear the gold band from J.C. Penney's as a symbol of commitment to my husband and friend, David.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reasons to Move

I didn't really have high expectations after the fourth week on my weight loss journey because, frankly, I thought I gained (menstrual) weight.  I tend to bloat big-time during the week of monthly hell when my friend pays a visit.  Yep, even at my increasing age Flo says 'hello'.  But,...

I'm down 12 pounds after four weeks of following the Diet Center program.  That averages to about three pounds a weeks which is still good especially considering my lack of exercise.  Yes, every week I vow to start moving my fat ass and every week I fail.  Now that the weather is warming up and spring is in the air I am running out of excuses but I am coming up with reasons to incorporate at least a daily walk into my routine:

  • Walking will help my weight loss.
  • I can enjoy the blooming buds on the trees and daffodils near the mail box.
  • The weather is warmer so the sweat will be sweeter.
  • I can enjoy the birds singing and the ducks quacking near the creek.
  • I have no excuse not to go outside.
  • Walking will get me in shape for all of the yard work I plan to do this spring.
  • Fresh air does a body good.
  • If I recruit a buddy I will have a partner to help motivate me.
As you can see, there really is no valid excuse not to at least walk in my neighborhood a couple of times a week even if I just start with ten minutes a day.  Oh, and another one I forgot to add to the list...it's FREE!  I thought about perhaps joining Curves (again) but since I don't have access to a car during the week joining is not cost-effective.

I am kind of bummed to find out that the center I go to will be closing at the end of March and the closest office to me is in Cary which is easily 40 minutes away.  I'm not sure I am able to do this on my own quite yet because I enjoy the support from my counselor, my weekly weigh-in by a third party, and the access to their products (which are not required).  I still need a source to hold me accountable for my choices and to steer me in the right direction.  Well, at least I have a month or so to come up with a strategy.

I enjoy real food so Weight Watchers may work for me but the other (two) times I went I ended up pregnant; probably no connection but nonetheless ironic.  But, if I went to a weekly meeting and weigh-in I would get the accountability but no one-on-one counseling.  Nutri-System and Jenny Craig?  Too expensive and I really don't like the pre-packaged food.  Learning how to eat real food and to conduct yourself in real situations especially at restaurants is so important.  Besides, these pre-packaged foods must have chemicals and preservatives in them and I really want to avoid that.  Sensa, again a chemical, seems hokey.  Herbalife never worked for me and living on protein bars is not filling enough for me while I'm feeling deprived.  Doctor weight-loss clinics (like Medifast and Physician's Weight-Loss) seem too expensive.  And, finally, surgery?  Definitely NOT for me!  So, we'll see what I come up with.

"See less of you next week!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feeling Good So Soon

When I arrived home last night from my weigh-in I tried to play a little game with my husband.  And since it was Valentine's Day, we made it interesting.  The deal was, if he could guess my total weight loss to date to the exact tenth of a pound then...well, you can figure it out.

Do you believe that bastard guessed it right on the mark?!  I couldn't freakin' believe it.  I insisted he cheated; looked it up somewhere or even called my counselor.  Which, he did not.  But, he was that good, right down to the last ounce.  Total weight loss after three weeks on Diet Center,...11.2 pounds!  And, that is without exercise.  Just imagine what will happen (hopefully) when I actually begin to move my fat ass!

Upon arrival to the DC office and before facing the scale I experienced a sense of dread and trepidation.  I felt that I had succumbed to some old habits last week.  Like, some pita chips with hummus.  Cooking a pot roast with mashed potatoes for Sunday dinner.  Going out to eat at least three times last week can also leave you susceptible to sodium overload.  There were a lot of unknowns.  The thing that helped me keep everything balanced was writing down everything I consumed in my journal, even if it wasn't 'on program'.  I was psychologically preparing myself for a weight gain but, surprise, I lost.

This brings me to something huge that I am beginning to master on this journey to a (hmm) bikini body (hmm, again).  Living your life without deprivation is the only way to live.  Life does not have to stop when you begin to eat healthy.  In fact, it seems that life becomes a rebirth when you are reteaching yourself about what your body needs and wants in order to live and thrive.

For years I became one of the many followers of the belief that 'faster and cheaper is better'.  In fact, faster and cheaper can kill you faster (not sure about cheaper, though).  I now realize that when you look hard enough and contemplate the quality of food that you put in your body sometimes it is worth the cost.  But, it is always more fun trying to find the best and highest quality for the cheapest price.

Aldi is the answer for me.  First, I am very familiar with the layout of the store and I can get a weeks worth of groceries for under $50 in less than 30 minutes.  It has the least expensive fresh fruits and veggies bar none.  There isn't as much variety as say, Lowes Foods where I happen to buy my kale and brussel sprouts, but Aldi can't be beat for broccoli or peppers.  I also like their lean chopped meat and chicken tenders.  One of my favorite quick meals is using the frozen wild-caught salmon at less than $5.00 for a pack of four three-ounce steaks.

So, all this good, healthy food makes me realize that this is how we should treat our bodies every single minute of every single day.  We are all worth the extra effort and the extra dime.  Being selective about what we choose to put in our bodies should be taught from the very beginning.  It takes at least 30 days to break a habit and 30 days to adopt a new habit.  It's a shame that a lot of the obese Americans will never get the chance to learn the lessons I am at this very moment...

Part of living without deprivation is treating ourselves to something special.  I did that at least three times last week.  On Tuesday we went to Shucker's, a fine seafood restaurant, for lunch.  Besides it being a little cheaper at lunch, the portions are still generous.  I started from the moment we sat down and explained to the waitress we (my mom and I) are on a special diet and we immediately declined the hush puppies.  We ordered unsweetened iced tea with lemon.  Two green salads, no croutons, with balsamic vinegar.  Mom had the broiled scallops while I had the grilled shrimp.  We doubled up on the veggies (her with broccoli, me with mixed veggies) and we eliminated the starch.  We were so full and satisfied at the end of our meal that we took enough home for another meal.

My second treat was our typical Friday night out.  Yes, every Friday after a long, hard week we go out and celebrate the upcoming weekend.  The entourage includes myself, my mother, and my son(s).  Prior to the commencement of my journey we would typically hit our favorite local Italian restaurant, La Foresta, where we would indulge in their appetizer sampler and their white pizza.  Lately, we've been trying other restaurants and this night included Chili's.  Before we went out I Googled "Eat This, Not That" to see what would be the best of the worst items on the menu.  I went with the fajitas (no tortilla wraps) while my mom doubled up on the shrimp skewers and broccoli.  It was very enjoyable but I do worry about the salt content of food prepared by others especially in that type of restaurant.

On Saturday, before we went to see The Artist (an excellent movie), we took a chance at a place called the Lynnwood Grill.  This is your typical sports bar and family restaurant that serves everything from wings to pizza.  After taking a serious gander at the menu I was delighted to see a variety of salads in which you could add your choice of protein.  I had a Greek salad with grilled chicken.  Hold the croutons.  Balsamic vinaigrette on the side.  I was excited to see quality lettuce being used like spinach and arugula.  Unsweetened tea with lemon and we were all set.  Yes, you can choose something healthy even in a sports bar.

The bottom line is treat yourself the way YOU DESERVE to be treated.  We are only on this earth once (as far as I know) and in order to live a long and healthy life we must pay attention to how we fuel our bodies.  Making yourself BELIEVE that you are worth the extra money for the fresh vegetable or exotic fruit or organic chicken (if you so desire) is half the battle.  Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a MINDSET.  It is not easy and it takes a lot of training to keep you focused on the benefits of making good choices.

It is something I have to do each day for the rest of my life!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Revelations

First, let me begin with the 'good' stuff.  I am eight pounds less than I was two weeks ago!

Second, the things I did 'right' this week are:  vitamins with hot lemon juice, writing down everything in my food diary that I consume during the day, and eating an apple a day.

Third, what I need to work on for next week is:  incorporate at least 10 minutes of exercise or walking each day, listen to my body when it tells me it's full and don't finish what's on my plate just because it's there, and use less butter and salt in cooking.

Finally, this past week has brought a number of revelations to the forefront.  Very important realizations that have most likely assisted in the state of my current physical situation.  Also known as the reasons why I am morbidly obese.

1.  I am the way I am because I eat too much.  It is my fault.  I take ownership of my situation.  There is no one to blame but myself.  Food is how I chose to deal with my pain.  I am no different than an alcoholic who seeks solace in the bottle or a sex addict who frequents adult websites or prostitutes.  Food is my addiction.

2.  I cannot be fully 'healed' until I come to grips with the pain of my past.  I watched Dr. Oz this week which is not my ordinary habit at 3:00 p.m..  But, I am glad I did turn on the television at this time.  One day Dr. Oz was interviewing Rosie O'Donnell.  Now, I have been a fan of Rosie O'Donnell on and off from the time when was a v-jay comic on VH-1.  I don't currently watch her show on the Oprah channel because I don't have fancy cable.  During the interview she appeared to finally have her shit together.  She's not as manic as she was five or so years ago.  She attributes her turn-around to bio-identical hormone replacement therapy promoted by Suzanne Somers.  She is also in a new relationship and has incorporated some healthy eating habits.  What struck me most about her interview was her honesty with Dr. Oz.  She said she was avoiding talking to him because of her weight.  She also revealed that people who have been abused use food to comfort themselves and cover themselves.  Acting as a mask, belly fat that hangs over your waist is hiding your genitals.  It is disguising the source of your pain so you don't have to look at it and be reminded of your sexual abuse.  Wow, very forthcoming and interesting.  I love the psychology behind that;  Freud might put his stamp of approval on that one.   Definitely food for thought (pun intended).

3.   I don't realize just how big I am because I see myself as me:  intelligent, creative, and kind.  I did not realize that other people first assess me as the obese lady or fat woman.  In a way it doesn't make sense that I would not know that this is how people see me.  It is not how I see myself so how could I know that others see me in a different way?  What's even funnier (or worse) is that I have assessed people the same way, just by their appearance.  I have put labels on people without knowing them personally.  It is shameful.  It is part of this body dysmorphic disorder.  I don't feel like I'm morbidly obese or over 300 pounds on the inside but in reality there is no hiding my physical appearance.  I guess I have to start seeing me the way others do to help me realize I am not healthy.

4.  90% of my life I have been:  chubby, fatso, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.  In a way my entire life's journey has been stifled by my physical handicap.  My life decisions have revolved around my physical size.  I have altered my dreams and aspirations to accommodate my physical shortcomings.  I came to realize this while reading a friend's blog about her recent vacation to Asia.  The account of her travels and observations about people in different countries and cultures gave me a taste of what my life could be if I were free to explore the world without reservation or inhibition.  I dream about a gondola ride in Venice or a stroll over the famous bridge in Prague but then I'm reminded of the impossibility of transporting my body from this place to there.  Never mind the fact that I'm afraid to fly...but then I wonder, am I afraid to fly because of my size?

5.  After an in-depth, heated discussion/argument with my spouse in which we attack eachothers sore spots and sources of sensitivity I came to realize that while I am responsible for my obesity I do have loved ones who are enablers.  While they may love me and do things for me out of the premise of loving me unconditionally, some of what they do or who they are has 'allowed' me to be the way I am...morbidly obese.  My mother, my husband, my sons have all expressed concern over my health but rather than piss me off because they know how I'll react they continue to love me and (probably) pray that I will make changes on my own volition.  Until then they decide to continue loving me no matter what.  While this may help overall, it also hinders.  I'm not blaming them, I am just recognizing the pain I've caused them over the years.  To love someone so much and worry about their health and how long they'll live is stressful.

As I continue with my weight-loss journey I am eagerly awaiting more revelations.  While I anticipate facing my pain I also know that this is a critical step in becoming a more healthy person.

My motto for the coming week:  One Day at a Time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Biting Off a Little At a Time

It's been one week since I began my new journey toward bikini land (or somewhere in the vicinity).

Great news!  There is 6.8 pounds less of me today than there was last week.  Yay for me!

It was not easy.  I happened to start this adventure just when Aunt Flo came to town and, as usual, I was not a happy camper.  Add to that the mere fact that I was going from 2400 calories a day to 1400 calories a day.  I was a miserable bitch at times.

Getting into the routine of it took a day or two.  I begin each day with my vitamins taken with hot lemon juice and a cup of herbal or chai tea.  Then I have a fruit and or protein.  I seem to be eating about every three hours or so.  This keeps my blood sugar at an even keel and I don't necessarily feel like I'm depriving myself or that I am on a strict diet.  I just have it in my head that I am eating healthy and making better choices.  I'll either have a large salad with protein at lunch or dinner depending on the day.  I've eliminated cooking with salt and have restricted my butter to less than a teaspoon a day.  My salad dressing choices are oil and vinegar or a vinaigrette.  I bake my naked chicken breast (no skin nor bone) with salt-free spices and lemon juice.  I use non-stick cooking spray when I saute or make an omelet.  I have at least one apple a day and if I get famished at night I save at least one starch allowance for my 94% fat free popcorn.  Obviously, I drink at least 64 ounces of water or more.  Needless to say, the bathroom and I are close buddies.

My family has been very supportive.  My son has been eating (and enjoying) the 'new' way I cook dinner.  He likes to try new things anyway and this makes it very easy for me.  My husband is encouraging me by basically staying out of my way and tolerating my bossy ways.  My mother went for a consultation this week and will try a similar program for five weeks.  Having the people closest to you cheer you on is super important when you are trying to make a life change.  I am so lucky that I am loved.

I keep the ideal image of me in my mind when I contemplate how difficult temptations can sabotage good intentions.  So far, I'm proud of the decisions I made.  For instance, last night when we went out to dinner (yes, we continue to live and enjoy life) I took the time to speak with the waitress and really think about the best choices for me.  I was upfront from the start and said I was on a strict diet and had to avoid salt and butter.  I ended up getting a garden salad and steamed shrimp.  It was excellent and I felt proud of myself that I took the time to 'be good'.  The only temptation was skipping the blue cheese but eventually I'll get over it. 

My immediate goal is to take one day at a time and not to beat myself up.  So far, I am scar-free.  But, I'm not going to kid myself.  My journey is long and will have many twists and turns I'm sure.  Adopting these new habits like writing everything down and filling in boxes will help me realize the quantity I consume.

My mission to cut my size in half, thus, my caloric intake must match that as well.  Let me clarify my goal.  Overall, yes, it's true, I hope to be half my size at least 18 months from now.  But, in order to keep my sanity and motivation I must chip off that number in bits of 25 pounds.  So, I am allowing myself 13 weeks to be down by 25 pounds.  And as time goes by and weight is harder to lose, I hope to lose about 10 pounds a month.  But, I will continue to take it one day at a time and I reserve the right to restructure my goals as my journey continues.

Goal for the next week:  Incorporate 30 minutes of exercise.