Waiting for the Gopher: Staying on Track

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

With all due respect to TR, I think doing nothing has its place, especially in the weight loss world. It reminds me of a cat my grandmother had a long time ago.  My grandparents lived on a ranch and there were always gophers around. We’d have to watch our step on the lawn because of the gopher holes, and she had one cat who stalked those little diggers relentlessly.  One summer day, she was sitting patiently a couple feet from the newest hole, staring at it,  and she waited. And waited. And waited.  She didn’t move a muscle: no yawning, scratching, lying down.  She was a cat statue and some of us commented on it, because we knew she was waiting for the gopher, and sure ‘nough: the last thing that gopher did was pop his nose out of the hole, and all we saw was the blur of that cat pouncing, reaching into the hole and pulling the gopher out- there was a brief blurry fight and then the cat dashed off with her reward.  SUCCESS!! The entire process took several hours of no movement followed by a few seconds of furious activity before she finally got her just dessert, but the cat didn’t give up.

It would have been easy for the cat to lay down, stop being vigilant, take a bath, close her eyes: that gopher will surely pop up soon, but she knew she needed to be focused.  When he popped up, if he saw or smelled her, he’d be gone and the opportunity would be lost.  She surely wasn’t going to starve if she didn’t get the gopher, since my grandparents provided her with a home and food, but then she wouldn’t get what she wanted: the gopher (maybe they are the version of cat caviar- who knows?) We are a lot like the cat, much more so than we really want to admit.  We are waiting for the “gopher.”

It probably feels like we are standing still, keeping our eyes focused on the scale, waiting for the number to drop, and it feels like we have been standing there since the beginning of time. We keep following the diet, doing the exercise, saying no to all the forbidden foods we used to eat regularly, passing on the beer and drinks with our friends, and it’s. taking. for. f***ing. ever!! We just want it to be DONE already!! (Ahhh!!) I know.  I’m there with you!! I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half and I’m not even halfway to my goals!! I’m soo tired of no/ slow progress; dropping two pounds, up one and a half, down three, up two, down, up, down, up.  The good news is I’m slowly ratcheting downward, but it’s in small increments, and it’s sure as hell not a fast drop!!

And while I’m “being good” and following my weight loss program (mostly Paleo), everyone else is not running to the gym and is eating the chips and chocolate, and not paying any attention to their weight or their health and they look pretty happy and healthy. I’m denying (read: punishing) myself and not reaping any measurable benefit! I’m stuck in Weight Loss Limbo: the Land That Time Forgot (booming echo-voice). I’m the cat waiting for the gopher. BTW, how did that cat know that gopher was going to come up out that hole??

 

She didn’t.  How could she?  She’s a cat, but she followed her instincts. This is where our “big brains” do us wrong: we talk ourselves out of being patient.  Sooner or later, the gopher would pop up and the cat would be there waiting, but only if she were patient enough. If she opted to lay down, take a bath, go sleep in the shade, the gopher would show himself, and then go back down, and the cat would have missed her opportunity. Sooner or later, the number on the scale will drop, but only IF – bigger “if” here for us- we stay focused and patient with our eyes on our goals.The gopher will stick his head up, whether the cat is there or not, but if we stop following our weight loss program, there will be no “gopher” for us: the scale will most definitely move, but in the direction we don’t want it to go.  More than missing out on our reward, we will have really punished ourselves by going backwards.

This is the difference between “doing nothing” and “doing the wrong thing.” It feels like we are doing nothing and going nowhere, but really we are being patient and being focused. The cat was very still, but she was very focused, which is saying a lot because there were a lot of people walking and talking on the other part of the lawn.  She was ignoring us and staying focused on the gopher hole.  We need to ignore everyone else, eating the burgers and fries and drinking the beer and hanging out, while we focus on our goals.  We don’t have be “cat statues,” but we do need to be vigilant- because the number on the scale will go down, but only if we have been patient enough.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work~ Thomas Edison

This is our opportunity to stand strong and do the work.  Edison was right, because opportunity doesn’t knock on our door like the Prize Patrol with a big ol’ weight loss check for us.  We don’t send in the “I wanna lose weight” entry and then “win” out of the blue: “Yay- I lost 25 pounds!!” Uh….. no.  Losing weight is work.  Worse, it’s work that takes a long time.  It’s hard work, which is why everyone hates it and the weight loss/ fitness industry is making money hand over fist with plans, potions, and gizmos that are “guaranteed” (eye roll riiiight wink) to make you lose weight quickly, easily and painlessly. We’ve all seen the late commercials for a certain unnamed pill that will make you lose weight superfast no sweat!! If it were really that easy, everyone would be thin and/ or healthy.  You would buy the little box of pills and in a couple of months be thin as a rail and that would be the end of it.

We all know that’s not true. This is where people get into trouble trying to avoid the hard work that goes with losing weight and/ or getting healthy.  They opt for the short cut- the “magic pill”- that has short term effects which wear off and lead to weight gain, or even worse, have devastating health effects. They take the potions, have unnecessary and often irreversible surgery and more often than not, end up in the same situation they were before, if they don’t end up worse.  (Sadly, I’ve known people who opted for the short cut and died as a result. It’s one of the things that keeps me motivated to do it the old fashioned hard way!)

It takes a long time for you to change your habits and it takes a long time for your body to change. This is what makes weight loss so incredibly frustrating, because we live in a world where everything is almost instantaneous.  Weight loss and getting healthy are the complete opposite of “instant.” It’s a series of opportunities that lead one to another, building into a habit, which leads to sustained changes in your body.  It’s tough, because even though we know the opportunities aren’t just going to come knocking on our door, they come masked in situations that look like birthday parties, nights out with the gang, and the donuts at the Monday morning meetings.  These sound and look like work, because they are, dressed in temptation.  You can do the work and make the healthy choice that will move you farther down the path to your goal, or you can not do the work and miss the opportunity. You can say no to the donuts, the drinks, the birthday cake; say yes to the apple, the seltzer. This is where, like the cat, you have the choice to give up or stay focused. The cat could have given up on the gopher and gone rubbing up against us at the BBQ and gotten some hamburger for no trouble at all (I bet it tastes better than raw gopher!) but she didn’t.  She was focused.  She was motivated! Aren’t we tougher and smarter than a cat?? (If my kitty heard me say this, I’d be as dead as that gopher!) This is where we either give up or stand up:  “I’ve been following my diet for ten months and I’ve only lost ten measly pounds! Mmmm, pound cake… I wonder if I can get some at the bakery??” or “Dammit- I can do this! I didn’t come this far to back down now!!” This is where we either throw in the towel or pull on the overalls! This is where doing “nothing” really is doing the right thing!

 

It’s Me or The Cookie: I Can’t v I Can

When you tell yourself you can’t lose weight, guess what: you’re right!

Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) devotes a lot of her podcasts to what she calls the “mindset side” of weight loss, and she’s not wrong to do so.  After all, what is will power?  Will power is not about physical strength: it’s all about the mind.  We “psych” ourselves up for big presentations at our jobs, before the “big game” at school, or before we step out onto the stage.  We do what’s called “self talk,” and how we talk to ourselves is important. Elizabeth often reminds her listeners that when we tell others (or ourselves) that we “always lose control at buffets” or we “just can’t eat one cookie and not eat the whole bag,” we are giving ourselves instructions: “this is how we behave.”  In a sense, we are giving ourselves the “out”: the permission to behave badly or go off script.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: “I knew I wouldn’t be able to control myself with the Girl Scout cookies, and I was right!” Yep- you sure were! You ate the whole box of peanut butter sandwich cookies! Aren’t you proud of yourself? (Shaming is a whole ‘nother topic! Ugh!)

This is why Elizabeth advocates daily (usually morning) affirmations.  Telling yourself “I can make good choices! I can do hard things!” psyches you up for your day and reinforces your inner strength- your will power. These are actually two of Elizabeth’s morning affirmations and they’re pretty dang good ones! Think of how much stronger those words are than “I can’t say no to tortilla chips!” or “I can’t resist ice cream!” Self talk- that little voice in your head- really is stronger than you think it is.  Spend a day really paying attention to that little voice and listen to what s/he says to you.  Remember the last time you spent money on something you really didn’t need but really really wanted? Who talked you into buying it? “These golf clubs are way too much, but they’re on sale for 30% off, and when will that happen again?  This is my only chance to buy them before they are totally beyond my reach!  They’re an investment, because I won’t have to buy more clubs for at least ten years!” In my case, it would be a Kate Spade handbag, because I’m a total Kate Spade addict! (eye roll) and there’s that little voice giving me permission to go crazy on the Kate Spade sale page because they’re more than 50% off and they’re discontinued so when will I ever…….Blah, blah blah, and there we go, talking ourselves into doing something we really don’t need but really really want.

It’s justification, rationalization, whatever you want to call it; the bottom line is we talk ourselves into (and out of) situations. We really want the golf clubs, Kate Spade bag, tortilla chips; we don’t want to go to the gym (it’s hard!), fix a healthy dinner (yuck, cooking), say “yes” to the salad and “no” to the French fries (my noes is starting to twitch like a rabbit’s!) . It’s a lot like the cartoons with the little angel on one shoulder telling us what we should do to stay on track with our goals, and the little devil on the other trying to lead us off track.  From my own experience, there is a grocery store I used to avoid because I used to get cake slices every time I shopped there. I didn’t want to go there because I was afraid I would buy cake and it was never just one slice of cake, it was always two (I don’t know why- it just was!) but I ended up there one day and sure enough, I found myself in the bakery looking at the cake and the voice in my head was yakking away about how just one piece would be okay, and one is an improvement over two and if I get white cake, I could share it with the pets, so it wouldn’t be the whole slice of cake, it’d just be half or a third and Remy (my cockapoo) could have a big part of the frosting, blah blah blah.  Then I remembered a line- an affirmation- from one of Elizabeth’s podcasts: “I am stronger than a cookie.” I left the store with no cake at all.  Truly, I heard that line in my head and I lost all desire for the cake, because I am stronger than the cake.  It sounds silly, doesn’t it?  “I am stronger than a cookie.”  But how many times have you seen the box of cookies on the table in the office and eaten one or two (or more)? How many times have you gone to the BBQ and helped yourself to the chips/ cookies/ beer, etc when you knew it wasn’t on track with your weight loss goals? How many times have you talked yourself into the things you really didn’t want to eat but did anyway because they’re “yummy?” You wanted to eat them even though they weren’t on track and so you gave yourself permission by talking yourself into it.  You reminded yourself that you have no control over whatever food/ situation it was and gave yourself permission to fail; even worse, you “reaffirmed” your lack of control over the food/ situation by this “failure!”

When you argue for your limitations, you get to keep them!

This is another Elizabeth Benton expression, and yes, she is right again! (If you haven’t given the Primal Potential podcast a try, you really should! And no, this is not a paid endorsement- I just think she’s really smart!) When you start giving ‘reasons’ for why you can’t resist the chocolate/ French fries/ beer, you are reinforcing your reasons to fail.  You get to keep your future failures, because you have just told yourself that you can’t beat them.  The cookie wins, not you. The little voice in your head (the little devil) beats your will power (the good angel) not because it’s stronger, but because you choose to listen to it!! You are the one giving it the power every time you listen to it.  Eventually, the good angel stops talking, because what’s the point? This is when you give up: “I just can’t stick to a diet! I can’t stick to an exercise routine! I’m just not strong enough!” Guess what? You’re right, because YOU MADE IT THAT WAY.

It’s a lot like the “me and the cookie” scenario: there were a lot of excuses to give in with the cake.  One piece of cake is not going to be the end of my weight loss program; and yes, if I had gotten it, I would have shared it with my cat and dog (they get part of almost everything I eat at home as a rule), so it probably would have only been a half or two-thirds of the slice.  All of those were true, but instead of telling myself I can’t say no to the cake, I told myself I can say no.  I can leave it behind (FYI: I also said no to ice cream that day although that was a whole lot easier!) It’s just a matter of changing your language, your self talk.  These are the affirmations that Elizabeth Benton advocates: telling yourself “I can” instead of “I can’t.”  Think of it this way: remember when you had to make a speech to your co-workers or your classmates? Did you tell yourself “I can’t speak in front of people- I always mess it up! I’m going to stand up there and make a complete fool of myself and totally blow it!!” That makes no sense at all! You’re setting yourself up for failure, but this is EXACTLY what we do when we show up at the BBQ or birthday party or night out with the gang.  We let the little voice set us up for failure!  Imagine that little devil giving you a smug I-told-you-so smile as you scarf down the potato salad.  It reinforces the feeling of failure, of worthlessness, of futility.  “I blew it again! Why can’t I stop doing this?”

There’s that “can’t” again! It takes a little time, but replacing the negative self talk with the positive affirmations slowly bolsters your self confidence and will power, and every time you “win” over the negative voice, you reinforce another, better, positive self-fulfilling prophecy; “I can pass on the chips/ potato salad/ cupcakes, no sweat!”  Each time you walk away from the pitcher of beer, or the basket of tortilla chips, it’s one more in the win column and when you’re faced with a similar situation, it’s easier to follow the same positive path, because you’ve been down that way before.  Before long, it becomes the well-worn normal path of behavior- IT BECOMES YOUR REGULAR ROUTINE, and you find yourself routinely saying no to foods and behaviors that are not in line with your goals without really thinking about it!  It’s a series of choices that build upon each other, becoming stronger each time, and it starts with saying “I can” instead of “I can’t.” It starts with saying things like “I am stronger than a cookie.”

Missing the Boat: The Real Trouble with FOMO

We do love our acronyms, don’t we? Things like BOGO, GMO, rBST, etc.  It’s a simple method for shortening a name or expression.  I confess it took me forever to learn what FOMO stood for: Fear of Missing Out. In our highly socialized society, it’s a legitimate fear.  We are a true paradox in that we say we highly prize individuality, and then relentlessly mock those who don’t follow the herd.  (For what? Not being “individual” enough or for calling our attention to our own lack of individuality?? Hmmm thoughtful face here)

As someone who tends to stand out in a crowd (my weight and big mouth kinda give me away- googly face here), I’m used to people looking at me and asking me why I’m so “different” (a polite way of calling me a nonconformist or just plain weird).  Last March we had a retirement luncheon for one of our secretaries at the office and we had been told numerous times that “lunch would be provided” and that lunch turned out to be chips, fruit salad, cookies, sub sandwiches with soda and bottled water.  I don’t eat chips or bread normally.  I had some fruit salad, a sandwich, water and a couple of cookies.  If I had been at Subway, I’d have gotten the sandwich on flatbread, but since it wasn’t an option, rather than rip the guts out of the plain white bread (all the whole wheat and pumpernickel were gone), I just ate the sandwich like it was.  I suppose I could have just had the cold cuts, cheese and veggies, but we were all eating together and I decided not to draw attention to myself. It was Cathy’s luncheon and I was still kinda the “new hire” and didn’t want to make a big deal about how “I don’t eat this kind of food.” (haughty sniff)

That’s part of the double-edged sword of FOMO: people look at you for doing something different.  There are “acceptable” differences, in that they had vegetarian sandwiches available, but nothing Paleo-friendly, other than the fruit salad (which many hard-core Paleo followers won’t eat). By not following the herd, you draw attention to yourself for sticking out and sometimes that is viewed as a condemnation of the herd’s eating habits: “I’m too smart/ good/ healthy to eat the junk food you people eat.” Sometimes people just don’t want to be the center of attention, and it can be viewed as attention-seeking: “I’m somehow sickly or deserving of special treatment” as in those who have a legitimate allergy or condition, like celiac. (While the coordinator took the time to order vegetarian options, he made no effort to include any gluten free options, or for the lactose-intolerant, both of which I would have taken!)

So aside from not following the herd and having everyone stare at you for dumping the bread off your sandwich or gutting the roll, there’s also the whole idea of “missing out” on something special.  This is what most people think of when they think of FOMO:  “Everyone else is having some of that really delicious looking cake/ cookies/ donuts/ brownies/ insert yummy treat here and I’m NOT!! (teary face here) I have to say, that is usually not what I think of when I think of FOMO.  I think it’s mainly because I’m used to eating differently than others.  There are things I like and things I don’t and most of my life, I’ve just gone ahead and ‘ripped the guts out of my bread,’ so to speak, when I’m some place comfortable. I grew up in a large extended Hispanic family, so along with the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, our Thanksgiving table had beans, rice and enchiladas.  I have never been a big fan of beans and rice (my best friend loves them! lol) So, while I would mash the heck out of the refried beans, I’d leave them off my plate, along with the rice and a few other things that were on the table (not a fan of white meat or ham either). It was never a big deal at our family gatherings, because there were the ones who don’t like olives, or mushrooms, or onions, or were vegetarian.  Our differences were equally embraced in the family (half the family loves walnuts in their chocolate chip cookies and the other half hates them- I’d make a batch of each!) Food idiosyncrasies just weren’t a big deal because we weren’t there for the food- we were there for the family and friends.  To me, the big deal of FOMO was missing out on the family and friends.  The food was good (believe me, I love enchiladas like no one’s business!), but for me the point of being with family and friends for any kind of celebration was never the food.  In fact, I remember one party where we had WAY too much cake (and it wasn’t even good cake!) I got sent home (despite my protests! eye roll) with a 9×9 piece of cake. Ugh! I was thinking I’d just throw it out because it was too sweet to give to my dog (who helped herself to it off the counter as I was hanging up my sweater! scream face) So, problem solved, although I kept waiting for her upchuck the cake.

For most people FOMO is about missing out on tasting something really delicious! You’re out with friends and/ or family, maybe celebrating something, and there is a stack of really yummy looking donuts or cookies or whatever looks absolutely delicious, and you don’t want to say no and have people ask you “why not?” and even more, you don’t want to say no and have to listen to everyone else groan “ohhh, this is sooo fabulous!!!” as they scarf it down.  Really?? How delicious can it really be?? Is it something you’re going to think of years later and say, “damn, I wish I’d had that shrimp/ lobster/ paella/ whatever”??  I would absolutely say, “damn, I wish I’d gone to my cousin’s wedding/ my grandfather’s birthday party/ Christmas Eve 2012.” How long are you going to be thinking about the “scrumptious food” you missed out on?  And more importantly, when you say yes something that takes you away from your goals, what are you saying no to instead?  I got a pretty good idea of that!

For years, I said yes to takeout lunches at the office. Another coworker and I used to order out for lunch; things like pasta and deep fried foods and lots of cookies and sandwiches.  I remember we used to get a lot from Noodles & Company, which I absolutely loved! The food was “sooo delicious” (eye roll) and they have a Rice Krispy Treat the size of slice of cake (which is as good as it looks, FYI!), so I said yes to the “yummy food” while not realizing I was saying no to my future trip to Disneyland.  In 2012, I went with two of my friends and did NOT enjoy myself, because it hurt to walk anywhere.  I spent most of the trip huffing and puffing and barely making it anywhere, and once I got where we were going, I’d have to sit down for 20 minutes to get my breath back and let my feet/ legs/ back stop hurting.  Most of the time, I sat and “watched the bags” while my friends went off to see a show, ride a ride or go shopping.  I was so embarrassed and felt awful for ruining their trip.  It was HELL!  That is what FOMO means to me.  When people talk about FOMO when they go out with friends for food or drinks, that trip is what I think about.  I said yes to easy lunches and yummy stuff and no to Disneyland with my friends.  I’d rather say no to the chips and appetizers and drinks and just enjoy the company rather than say no to our next outing: “Can I pass on the sweet potato fries so when we got to the Greek Food Festival, I can hit all the booths with you and not be gasping like a landed carp?” Missing out on time yakking and shopping and hanging out with my friends and family is so not worth whatever is going to taste yummy for two minutes and be forgotten in less. That’s the real FOMO.

 

Getting over the Alps (or Plateaus)

What would Elizabeth say?

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight is familiar with the dreaded plateau.  It’d be a four-letter word except for the obvious. We hate when they catch us and we fight to get over them.  If you were to ask weight loss professionals, this question would probably be in their top three: “how do you get over a plateau??” usually followed by a string of expletives (at least in my case! Grr!)

It’s happened to me yet again: I keep gaining and losing the same three pounds. I am. So. Over. It!! So, driving to work this morning, I found myself asking myself the age-old ugly question: why is this happening and what am I doing wrong?  I found myself talking to Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) in my head.  If I were to ask her, what would she say?  Elizabeth gets a lot of emails saying things like: “I’m doing the work, but I’m not seeing results.” What would Elizabeth say?

The Elizabeth voice in my head asked the obvious: “what does your tracking document look like?”  For those of you that don’t track- tsk! tsk! You really should! This is where writing down everything I eat every day comes in handy.  I was going over it in my head and “hmmm, (Homer Simpson voice here) every time I eat carbs for breakfast, I gain those dumb 3 pounds back, but when I have no carbs for breakfast, I lose weight.  I wonder if that means anything???” DOHHH!! (head slap).  Yeah. (eye roll) I found my answer in my tracking document! Carbs for breakfast may be convenient, until I get on the scale Friday morning and see those same disgustingly cheerful 3 pounds back to annoy me. “Hi there! Miss us??” NO.F***ING. WAY.

Obviously, getting over the plateau is not always this easy.  (I still don’t know if it is going to be so easy for me! eye roll) But this is where looking at where you’ve been can show you how to get where you’re going. It really is like mapping things out.  We are exploring new territory here, venturing into the unknown world of Healthy Living for Us.  What makes it unknown is that we are all different, so even something works for everyone else around you, it still may not work for you.  *sigh*  It’s a lot like trying to find the cure to some mystery illness (actually, that’s exactly what it is, except we know the illness is being overweight!!) Like the age-old scientists before every research facility had super computers, it’s trial and error.  Experiment #1: eating carbs for breakfast. Result: no weight loss.  Experiment #2: eating protein only for breakfast. Result: small weight loss.  If only it were that easy, because there are a lot of variables in there that have NOT been taken into consideration, namely lunch, dinner, snacks and activity.  Because I can eat the protein breakfast, and have nuts all day at the office, or pick up lattes on the way home or have sweet potatoes for dinner, or I can exercise three times a week one week and NOT exercise, or exercise less, the next week.  It’s a lot of balls in the air and you have to keep your eye on all of them if you’re going to stay successful, or at lease figure out which one you keep dropping!!

That’s where that tracking document comes in handy (in my case a DietMinder journal- love that thing- really!!) I write down what I eat, when I eat it, and what activities I do during the day, so at the end of the day, I can see how many carbs, protein and other stuff I had and if I didn’t lose weight, maybe it was all those apples (or chicken or yogurt) that I ate during the week.  Or it could be water weight because I overdosed on salty stuff for three days right before the weigh in.  (DOHHH!!) This is what keeps you on track finding out what works for you.  It really is a road map to weight loss, only instead of looking at the map to figure out if Highway 13 goes all the way through to Berkeley (it does, FYI), you are making the map along the way.  The downside of that is that you have to drive down Highway 13 to see where it takes you.  If you end up in Hayward, it means you have to go all the way back to the last place you knew you were on the right path  and try to find another route to get where you want to go, but if you don’t write that down (Highway 13 no good), then you might forget you tried it once before and six or eight months down the road, be thinking “how about Highway 13?” and when you end up in Hayward again: DOHHHH!! (head slap).  This is how those age old scientists figured out it was penicillin that kills bacteria and ibuprophen works on inflammation.  They wrote down their observations and the results of their experiments.  You are experimenting on yourself with your nutrition and weight loss plan.  Only you know if it works, but what kind of scientist doesn’t take notes??  What kind of cartographer doesn’t draw the map? (Oh, I’ll remember that big tree there and hope no one cuts it down in the next few years.)

This is one of the reasons weight loss is so often abandoned. It’s work and those who haven’t tried it (or those for whom it is easy- curse you, lucky devils!! Grrr!!) think we’re doing it wrong, or cheating on our diet and workouts.  “I lost ten pounds no sweat- I just stopped drinking soda!” (flipping them off here)  For those of us who have a loooong way to go, we really are in uncharted terrain, because our bodies change and what worked last year or for the first hundred pounds, may not always work for us.  For me personally, I lost about a hundred pounds pretty quickly just by giving up processed carbs: cereals, breads, pastas, chips, etc.  I stopped eating those and the weight came off almost without effort, mainly because I was so overweight and by not eating high calorie, high carb foods, I kept my calories limited. Buuuut (oh, we all knew it was coming!!) the last fifty pounds I’ve had to practically chisel off my butt and everywhere else the dreaded fat is stuck to me!! (crushed face here)  “Hard” doesn’t begin to cover it! Now it is actually work for me (dammit!!). The good news is I’m well on my way to reaching my goal weight; the bad news is I’ve reached the point where it’s tough.

“We will either find a way or make one”

This is where most people already feel like they are climbing a mountain, and then they reach the plateau.  Let’s just add insult to injury; salt in the wound- pick your metaphor! Anyway you look at it, it’s stinking hard enough without dumping the insurmountable plateau on top of it!! (angry face here)  It’s no wonder most people just throw up their arms and declare themselves done: “I can’t lose anymore weight! This must be what I’m supposed to weigh! Nothing works anymore!”

So why am I still working at losing weight, despite the plateau, despite having to chisel off the pounds one by one? Honestly?? I’m too damn stupid and stubborn to give up.  Really, I would like to say I’m just determined, or I’m super motivated or inspired, but the plain simple truth is that once decided on a course of action, it’s harder for me to switch tracks than to stay on the one I’m on, obstacles and all. Going back to being fat would be easier as far as eating whatever I wanted and not caring what the scale says, but truly, actually being fat and living fat is sooo much harder than doing the work to keep losing weight.  Yeah, I can eat whatever I want and the calories can take a flying f***, but walking and sitting will hurt; getting dressed and standing up will hurt; my clothes won’t fit or be comfortable; I’ll have blood sugar issues; my sleep and my breathing will be difficult and labored; I’ll be tired all the time. Let me refer you to the last line of paragraph three above: “NO.F***ING. WAY.” However hard losing weight is (and may continue to be) living fat is harder! Elizabeth Benton is big proponent of daily affirmations: essentially daily positive reinforcement of your goals and capabilities.  I do my affirmations a different way: I have quotes from people I admire and go over them in my head when things get tough or I’m feeling too weary to go on.  One of my favorites is from Hannibal: “We will either find a way or make one.”  He is the Carthaginian who led his army of elephants over the Alps to attack Rome.  No one really recalls that Carthage ultimately lost the Punic Wars with Rome; everyone remembers his army of elephants crossing the Alps.  I think of the incredible determination it took to get those massive animals from Africa to Italy through one of the highest mountain ranges in the world (not to mention occupy most of Italy for nearly 15 years!) If he could do that, I can do this.  I will either find a way, or make one!

Back at You! Loving the Reflection of Yourself

One of the things you hear most often, especially from women, is how much they hate how they look.  It’s kind of a thing, like loving shoes, getting your hair or nails done, or buying clothes: society has come to think of it as a “woman thing,” usually associated with comments like “I’m so fat!” even if they aren’t.

Not liking the reflection in the mirror is commonplace and to be expected.  In fact, if a woman (or anyone) looks at her/ himself at remarks, “Damn, I’m hot!,” people think he/ she must be vain or kidding or “how weird!”  When did liking yourself, particularly how you look, become unusual??

This is one of the things that Whitney Thore (My Big Fat Fabulous Life) is fighting against.  You don’t have to be thin to like yourself.  You don’t have to be beautiful, or talented, or  extraordinary (although liking yourself these days seems to be extraordinary enough!!)  You just have to be you.  This is where so many people end up hurting themselves, either by accident or intention, in their epic quest for the mythical Perfect Body Image (shiny light of heaven here). Personally, I think the Perfect Body Image is hanging out with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster! Because NONE OF THEM EXIST!!

I may joke about this a little, but this is truly heartbreaking.  People live their whole lives thinking “if only…”: if only my ears weren’t so big; if only my nose wasn’t crooked, or have that hump in the middle; if only I were thinner; if only my smile wasn’t so off center.  Whole lives lost to unhappiness due to a minor (yes, MINOR) imperfection! When we compare ourselves to unrealistic ideals, we fall far short, because we are human beings, not ideals.  “If only I could look like Chris Hemsworth.””If only I looked more like Scarlett Johannsen.”  If only….

We have a phrase for celebrities: the “beautiful people.” Somehow we get the idea that looking “beautiful” means life is perfect and everyone loves them.  They have no troubles or issues, but we all know that’s not true.  We have entire tabloids, tv shows and websites devoted to showing everyone the troubles of the rich and beautiful. Gwen Stefani is certainly pretty and talented and her just as lovely and talented husband cheated on her with the nanny.  Russell Crowe is also talented and handsome and his wife had an affairs.  Whitney Houston, also beautiful and talented, died of a drug addiction.  The same with Prince.  (RIP to both of them.)

Loving yourself shouldn’t have to require therapy, but often it does, because it means looking at your flaws and imperfections and saying, “I’m okay with me.”  We love others knowing they aren’t perfect, and often we come to love their little foibles, but when we see our own, we see only what is wrong.  I have a quote from Dr. Seuss on my wall: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  Truer words were never spoken.  Those who truly love you love ALL OF YOU and those who don’t, DON’T MATTER!!

I am also reminded of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130: (My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun) in which he tells it like it is about his lover.  The last couplet says it: “And yet I think my love as rare/ As any she belied with false compare.”  She’s not a goddess or an angel or have rosy lips or a snowy bosom; she’s human and he thinks she’s beautiful anyway.  He loves her for BEING HUMAN.  (Even in 1600, we were having this problem!! We’ve come a long way, baby! eye roll- yeah, right!)

I came face to face with some of my flaws the other day, when I stopped at the gym long enough to get a look at myself in the full length mirror. (Usually I’m running late for class!) I knew my legs had a lot of saggy skin, but now I really got a look at them, and I took a picture.  I was able to acknowledge that they looked worse than I thought they did, and I considered posting the pic on MFP, because it’s me.  I hesitated because they look a little scary, in that I don’t want people to see that saggy skin and give up their weight loss because they don’t want to look like me.  Fifteen years ago, I had surgery on my wrist and after the staples (real staples!) were removed (with an honest to God run of the mill staple remover!!!), it looked like Frankenstein had been at me.  It scared little kids and family members were kinda grossed out, so I wore a bandage on it long after I needed it to keep from scaring people.

I’m not sure if I’m going to post my pic or not.  I probably will.  I don’t like the way my legs look, but oh, well!  This is me and frankly, I like me.  I’m smart (and a smart ass), and I think I’m kinda pretty.  There are guys who are interested and guys who aren’t. Truly, if I’m going to start wishing for things I could change about me and my life, I’d probably start with blue eyes, and no glasses and maybe fix my ears a little, and then maybe I’d think about getting to my legs.  Heck, if I’m going to start wishing for impossible things, can I put Russell Crowe on my list?? Does the Loch Ness Monster take online orders or do I need to call Scotland directly??

 

Are You Contagious? More than Bad Habits Rub Off!

I was recently accused of  spreading fitness among my friends.  About this time last year, I was checking out Fitbits online and in stores, and I ended up buying one (a Zip) when my friend J and I were out running some errands.  She wasn’t the least bit interested in my little gadget, as she called it.

I took my little Zip home, set it up and began tracking steps all over the place (at least I thought I was- googly face!).  By September, I was wishing I had spent the money to get the One, so I upgraded and switched off using the trackers. While the One was charging, I was using the Zip and while I was waiting for batteries from Amazon (whole other story there! Grr!), I was wearing the One.  Come Christmas, my sister gifted me with a Fitbit Charge HR, so my Zip was pretty much superfluous, which wasn’t a bad thing as it turns out.

My friend J had taken a short trip that fall to visit an old friend, who had also just gotten a Charge HR for his wife, which ended up cluing her doctor in on one of those health issues that rarely get diagnosed until things get ugly.  Since the “HR” stands for “heart rate,” she noticed that there were times when her heart rate was extremely low which coincided with her feeling awful.  She’d talked to her doctor about the issue, but he couldn’t find anything wrong (typical!), so she brought her Fitbit to the doctor (Homer Simpson head slap here!). Yeah- there’s something wrong all right!!

J recognized that I had a similar device and after listening to me talk about counting steps along with eating healthier and exercising regularly, she was actually interested in getting one.  Her doctor sent her to a health coach for a few sessions since she was starting a new medication and her doctor was hoping to nip some potential problems in the bud, so she asked if she could “borrow” my Zip. I showed her how to use it and set it up and she fell in love with the little guy! Just doing her regular routine, she puts my step count to shame, but it encourages her to do a little more (she’s already logging 12,000+ on most days!! Ack!) It turns out that another mutual friend D has also been paying attention to J’s little Zip and went out and bought one for herself! J laughed when she told me that I’d “sold another one!” and I realized that as hokey as it sounds to “set a good example,” our habits really are contagious.

I’d noticed after I started making more food changes, eating more vegetables instead of simple carbs like rice or pasta, my mom started “copying” me. We’d got out for Japanese and I’d ask for extra salad instead of the rice or we’d go to a steakhouse and I’d order the vegetables instead of the pilaf. I’ve noticed some other positive changes in some of my other friends, choosing to focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t, and I’ve noticed their influence on me, getting me to exercise on a regular basis (finally! eye roll) and be more active, make better choices.  Health is contagious, whether it’s good or bad, and it’s easier to do something we’ve seen other people do.  It’s how we learn to try new things, and I think by not trying to eagerly convert others to our new habits, we draw others in just by being a happier healthier version of ourselves.  We make a great commercial that way and we don’t run up against the instant wall of resistance to change.  I had no idea my friend was so interested in my little Zip until she asked to borrow it.  I’d just talked about it in passing along with everything else in my life, and little did I know that what I had was so contagious!

 

Sailing Through Life

Don’t forget the Captain goes down with the Ship!

Never forget: YOU are in charge of your health! I’m sure everyone out there is thinking “duh! so tell me something I don’t know!” Sadly, it’s one thing to say it; it’s another to do it, because it’s work and it’s not always easy and it can take some real time and effort.  It’s not just things like getting enough exercise and eating the right foods.  This topic is not exactly geared to weight loss, but it IS geared towards being a healthier, happier YOU.You are the one steering your vessel; you decide on the destination and how you are going to get there.  A smart captain doesn’t just point his ship to the west and hope to hit Japan (I’m in California-FYI); he studies the charts and decides on the best, safest, fastest course to guide him to Tokyo or Okinawa.  It’s not a crapshoot; it’s your life and your body.

I was blessed (for better or worse) with a mom who was a nurse for nearly 30 years.  She came home and complained about the supervisors, the underlings, admin and the doctors, just like everyone does, and as I got older, I realized it had a curious effect on me (besides me watching every doctor drama that came on tv- sigh! I really miss ER!!) I realized that when I went to the doctor, I wasn’t scared or nervous or intimidated.  I was immune to “White Coat Syndrome” after 30 years of listening to gossip about doctors being regular everyday people who do the same dumb things we do, like lock their keys in the car, forget the patient’s name, or spill their coffee, breakfast, whatever all over their clothes. I cannot recall a time when I thought of real life doctors as being super-smart or god-like or somehow, more than human.  They were the same people as everyone else. They were just as prone to making mistakes as I was- maybe more, because they had a lot of patients and a lot of data to keep track of.  If it’s not in the chart, it doesn’t exist and it didn’t happen.

So when I went to the doctor’s, I spoke up.  I asked questions, and I wasn’t afraid to insist on doctor-patient confidentiality.  When I was 18, my doctor was someone that my mom worked with and I chose him because he was good, but also very ethical.  So when I insisted that he NOT share my health information with my mom, he kept his word.  My mom was not happy, but I certainly was!

I’ve also not been afraid to insist that the doctor talk to me like I’m a person and answer my questions.  About 15 years ago, I managed to break my arm and my leg at the same time (If you’re going to do something, do it well!! Lol!!).  Sitting in the ER, I made the doctor slow down and explain his diagnosis and plan of treatment to me.  He looked at me like I was a crazy person because I actually told him “no” when he just rattled off his spiel and headed for the door.  Hello!! I am the one hurting here and I am the one you’re going to be sticking full of needles and what-all!! You can take 5 minutes and talk to me like I’m someone like- let’s see- Oh, yeah, your patient!!   Let’s face it: I can be a real b*tch and I’m not afraid to get in someone’s face if they irritate me enough or if I think it’s really important.  YOUR HEALTH IS IMPORTANT, PEOPLE!

It’s not just making the doctors talk to you in terms you can understand; it’s realizing that unless you ask questions, you don’t know what the doctors don’t know.  I used to have a problem with high blood pressure (it’s hereditary on top of my bad health choices- eye roll), and when the nurse took my pressure, I thought it was higher than it should be.  After the doctor came in and talked to me about another issue, she was finishing up without addressing my BP, so I asked her about it: “It’s high!!” She hadn’t seen it! So she made another adjustment, but she didn’t know about it -even though it was in the chart- until I called it to her attention.

This is how drug interactions occur and how people end up creating their own problems by not taking the initiative in their health maintenance.  People who ask a billion questions when buying a house or a car never think to ask a single question when they see their doctor or pharmacist or any kind of health professional, including trainers.  You are the client; even if you do have White Coat Syndrome, you can combat it by reminding yourself as you’re sitting in the doctor’s office, she/he is your paid professional and you are engaging her/ his services the same way you would engage a broker’s or a banker’s.  If you are not happy with their service, you are free to engage the services of another one. So if you don’t ask questions, you’re not getting your full value for what you are paying.  So, I ask questions about any medications she gives me; any conditions or symptoms I present with; what my options are and I make sure I understand what she is telling me (she’s really good about explaining in everyday terms anyway- I’m lucky). I also tell her all the OTC supplements and vitamins I take, and she asks me if I’ve changed anything. This helps prevent drug interactions.  Three of the most important things: 1) if you have more than one doctor, make sure each of them know about the other(s), the reasons you are seeing them and what they are prescribing you; 2) have one pharmacy that knows what medications you are taking and what OTC vitamins and supplements you are taking.  (Doctors know your body but pharmacists know medications and they are often more in touch with how the medications work than the doctors); and 3) when you buy a supplement, vitamin, medication- READ THE INFORMATIONAL PAMPHLET!! This seems so silly since most of us just rip it off, crumple it up and throw it away.  “Blah blah blah- what does it say on the bottle? How much and how often?” The little pamphlet (often printed in microfont- eye roll-not helping, guys!) contains all the potential side effects and possible interactions and when it is NOT a good idea to take it.  A friend of mine was telling me about taking vitamin D3.  Hers was low and her doctor had advised her to take a supplement. She said she had more bloodwork done, there was a very small improvement and she had scheduled another doctor’s appointment.  I asked her when she was taking the softgel and what she was eating when she took it.  She wasn’t eating: she took it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.  Since I also take this vitamin and had read the package (even though they were different brands), I told her vitamin D3 is fat soluble (why it was a softgel usually filled with olive or soybean oil) so she needs to take it with food, preferably something with fat.  She got the bottle and read the label for the first time.  Yep- “take with a meal.”

My friend is most assuredly neither dumb or uneducated- she’s a normal person who asks the mechanic about the repairs to her car; why the item she bought from whatever retailer failed to perform as promised; and why the cable guy shows up four hours late and then doesn’t fix the cable.  But like so many of us, she doesn’t do that when it comes to her health.  You need to do the work; you know your body best.  If you going to be taking a vitamin, supplement or medication, find out what all the effects are and when to take or not take it.If you don’t understand what your doctor said, ask them to explain it so you do understand it.  In fact, the best thing to do is write down any questions beforehand, take the notebook with you and write down the answers plus any instructions they give you.  (It really helps.) Most doctors are also available through a secure email address now, so if you think of something afterward or you have new symptoms or a reaction to the medication, email or call your doctor.  They may tell you to STOP the medication and give you something different or have you come into the office.

Maybe being this way makes me a b*tch or a doctor’s worst nightmare patient. If it does, I don’t really care, because I’m the owner of my body and until I can trade her in for an upgrade (hoping!!!), I’m stuck with her, so I want to make sure she sails as smoothly as long as possible and takes me far :”all I ask is a tall ship and a star to her by” (Sea-Fever, John Masefield).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Different and The Eye of the Beholder

Recently I’ve been thinking of body image issues.  One of my regular podcasts covered the topic and I see it a lot when I watch My 600 lb Life (it’s my version of a 12-step program). For the patients, their first priority is getting the surgery, but once they start losing weight, their whole focus becomes getting skin surgery.  I’ve also seen this on the newer show Skin Tight (that’s pretty much what the show is about). Many of these patients, even before they have the bariatric surgery to lose weight, are obsessed with being “normal.”  More than a few of them refer to themselves as “monsters” or “grotesque.”

The patient who sticks in my head most clearly is Laura, a forty-something woman who was much more concerned about not-dying than her body image until after she lost a considerable amount of weight, and then, looking at her deflating body in the mirror, lamented that she still looked “ugly.”  She wanted people to see her as beautiful on the outside too.

Another patient on Skin Tight (whose name I don’t recall) stated she still felt like a “freak” and tearfully told about being laughed at in the gym because of her loose skin. She was devastated that she had lost hundreds of pounds to be “normal” and because of the loose skin, she was now a different kind of freak.

It’s heartbreaking in so many different ways, but mostly because their self worth seems to be so closely tied to what everyone else thinks of them.  They keep seeing flaws in themselves and in their bodies, and what concerns me the most is that even after losing all the weight, and getting all the skin removed, they are going to start seeing other flaws in themselves that need to be “fixed.” After the skin is removed, maybe their ears don’t look right; maybe their nose isn’t straight or their teeth, or their hair is too thin or too frizzy or too something. Once you go down that rabbit hole, it’s not easy to climb back out.

What is easy is to see how they ended up in that trap to start with.  Let’s face it: when you know you aren’t normal, it’s easy to put up defenses and accept being “the fat one.” You learn to accept it when family and friends make concessions for your size or mobility: they set up the picnic table outside and instead of setting up a chair for you, they bring you the bench; instead of being a bridesmaid with the rest of your cousins, you get to be the greeter at the guest book; when we do a “girls’ night out,” they choose a bar that has “real” tables and chairs instead of the high bar stools you’re too fat to climb onto. You accept it, but really, what you want is to just be “normal and do normal stuff” like your friends do and like the rest of the world does.

The problem is that “normal,” aside from being completely subjective, is as elusive as the electronic rabbit the greyhounds are always chasing. It’s always just out of reach, but that doesn’t stop people from going after it.  Part of that is the biological imperative that comes with being a social animal.  Human society is structured around groups: families, clans, tribes, cities, states, countries. This is how we interact, proliferate and grow as a culture, but on the most fundamental level, this how we individually survive.  A loner often does not survive as long and certainly not as easily as someone in a group.  As children, we see very early that the kid who is different is left out and mocked.  No one picks her for the kickball team; no one eats lunch with her; no one helps her with her homework and, perhaps most importantly, no one laughs and giggles with her. She is alone, because she is “different” and doesn’t somehow conform with the whole.

So the drive to conform, to be what society thinks of as normal, is an imperative survival instinct, but still watching these women grow tearful looking at themselves is beyond heartbreaking.  They do not see their accomplishments and continued success; they see deformity.  Yes, they do not look like everyone else’s idea of a normal person, but they completely throw out the strength it took to reach their goal.  It takes great courage and strength of mind and body to make the significant changes they’ve made.  Anyone who’s tried to change a habit (particularly a deeply ingrained habit) knows how hard it can be to consciously choose to do something differently instead of moving forward on autopilot and to make this new different choice over and over and over until it becomes the new autopilot setting.  Moreover, these many of these patients have been given up as hopeless by multiple doctors, told to go home and just enjoy what they can out of whatever is left of their lives, because no one can help them.

So not only have they overcome their own bad habits (poor nutrition, overeating, lack of activity) to make multiple healthier new habits, but they have overcome the popular point of view that they are “hopeless,” “not worth saving,” and are “destined to fail.” That takes tremendous strength to work in the face of physical and social adversity, but they have succeeded.  Instead of focusing on these achievements, sadly they focus on their flaws. They are so much closer to being normal than they have been in so many years (maybe all their lives) but they are still not there yet, and it’s obviously painful.

I am familiar with the sting of being different.  I have been the kid who only gets picked for kickball because the teacher says so; I was the kid that gets laughed at and eats lunch alone. Although as a child, it was not so much because of my weight though I was always chunky: it was social status. I was the “poor kid” among the children of doctors, judges, accountants and other well paid professionals. I was also one of three minorities (including my sister) in the entire school. Obviously, I was different in a lot of ways (some of the kids used to ask me if I ate beans every day- not trying to be mean so much as just curious about Mexicans).

I came to accept being different.  It wasn’t exactly easy and, at times, it REALLY hurt, but I came to enjoy being different.  I liked the perspective it gave me.  Living among “normals” and being educated in their system (I make it sound like they’re aliens, don’t I? Lol!!), I learned to see things from their perspective and it enables me to see other solutions to problems they sometimes miss.  When people sometimes call me weird or imply it, rather than being offended, I confess I take a little pride in it.  Weird is good, I often say.  Different is good.  I have family and friends who just accept my differences, so I have a “tribe” that I can call home, but when I’m out and about and people give me that “WTF?” look, I shrug it off.  I embrace my differences and have learned it’s not going to kill me.  It’s only an embarrassment if I let it be.  Would I like to be thought of as beautiful?  You bet! Would I like to be a size 6? Definitely! Hopefully, I will get there, but in the interim, I’m happy with the way I look (I think I’m kinda pretty, to be honest). I’m happy with the progress I’ve made health-wise.  I’ve lost almost 150 lbs and still losing. I can do a lot more things than I used to and I’m looking forward to doing more. Does my baggy skin bother me? A little: I’m concerned that it may become a health problem or impediment to activities.  Is it ugly? It’s definitely not attractive, but it’s a fact of life like poor eyesight, gray hair and arthritis.  When I look in the mirror, I see me: someone who is secure enough with herself to embrace her life experiences and learns from them, rather than wishing I was part of the crowd, poor eyesight notwithstanding.

 

 

 

The Rock and the Hard Place: A Pyrrhic Victory?

Those of us who are old enough to remember who Gilda Radnor was might remember the title of her autobiography, written shortly before her death from ovarian cancer: It’s Always Something. She had finally found and married the love of her life (Gene Wilder) and after trying unsuccessfully to have children, the doctors discovered her ovarian cancer. How she managed to keep a sense of humor in the face of such devastating circumstances is truly beyond me.

My dilemma is nowhere near as tragic or devastating.  Nor is a bolt of thunder from on high.  This is something I did to myself.  As some of you know, I’ve lost a lot of weight this past year and a half, and now I’m dealing with the baggy skin on my body (sad face here). I knew it was going to happen, and it’s really ugly and starting to be irritating physically, but it’s a fact of my life now.

Years ago, when I was still much heavier, I used to tell myself that I DIDN’T want to lose weight because I didn’t want to have skin surgery.  I had surgery once and the scars are really REALLY ugly.  In fact, when I was recovering from the surgery, whenever I went out of the house, I used to wrap up my incision (on my left forearm).  The therapist told me I didn’t need to, since the staples (real staples!!) were out and wound was closed, but I told him the incision scared kids.  I remember seeing a little girl with huge eyes staring at my wound and clinging to her mom.  I felt like Frankenstein; I had a long cut going literally halfway up my forearm and 27 staple marks alongside (I looked just like the Boris Karloff character- ugh!!) Pain and inconvenience aside, I really didn’t feel like looking like something cobbled together by a mad scientist. So whenever anyone suggested losing weight, my stock answer was “I don’t want to have to get skin surgery.”

Now that I have lost weight, my mom suggests (on a regular basis- eye roll) that I call my doctor to see if I’m “ready” for surgery (heavy sigh).  No. F***ing. Way.  If I decide to get skin removal surgery, I want it done as few times as possible and so I might as well wait until I lose all the weight I want to lose. That’s what the doctors recommend, unless the skin becomes a health impediment.

When I watch My 600 lb Life updates on the patients, all they are focused on is getting their skin surgery: “I hope I lost enough to get my surgery;” “I’m so disappointed Dr. Now won’t give me my skin surgery.” My mom sounds just like them.  I’m with Dr. Now on this point.  If it’s truly an issue, then he removes the lymphedema or the skin, but as he tells them, “you need to have lost more weight otherwise, you’ll just have to have surgery again.” Most of the patients become very focused on body image. I remember one patient looking at herself in her underwear and practically crying because she’s still “ugly.”  She said she wants people to look at her and think she’s beautiful and not just in “my heart, but outside, too.” Now there’s a topic for another day!!

I don’t really spend a lot of time looking at myself in the mirror, but I see the skin: hanging on my legs and thighs, puddling around my knees and ankles; the loose pouch on my belly; the slowly deflating “apron” under the belly pouch; the batwings on my upper arms; the turkey wattle on my neck; my jowls getting jowlier; my butt getting droopier and droopier (yay…); my breasts getting smaller and flatter (double yay??…); even on my forearms, I’m getting a little loose “fringe.”  In the pool where I do my water aerobics, sometimes I can see the skin on my thighs floating, looking weirdly separated from the rest of me, like it’s a part of my swim shorts. When I lay down in bed, it slides down the sides of my body and my belly shifts to one side or the other, and my legs get wide and flat (along with my boobs-blehhh). I feel like I’m melting.

It became really apparent when I decided to take a selfie in front of the mirror before getting in the pool for water aerobics, and I saw how bad my skin is looking on my legs.  There are wrinkly, deflated spots on my thighs where it really hangs over my knees.  I know if feels really weird in the pool, but this was the first time I’d really gotten a good look at it in a long time, obviously I’ve lost more weight since then.  My mom (thank God!) has not seen it. One the one hand, I’m not really upset by it, since it means I’m making some good progress: I’m losing weight and hopefully gaining some muscle, so I’m changing my body shape.  My loose skin is a sign of my success.

On the other hand, I’ve traded one body image problem for another.  When I was hugely fat (and I was), I was unhealthy and unable to do a lot of things. Now, I’m thinner and fitter (though still morbidly obese- groaning face), but able to do so much more, and also developing another potential health problem.  The loose skin could become a source of infection and it could start interfering with my daily living, just by being in the way.  I’ve noticed that the skin on my shins hangs down over my ankles and sometimes gets irritated by my shoes and socks. I have a similar problem with the skin where my bra rubs under my arms.  I’m always having to adjust clothes to accommodate the skin that’s not where it used to be because my body is getting smaller.

I remember watching one of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients looking at himself and saying he was happier with how his body looked when he was bigger and everything was “nice and tight” rather than having a belly that he can “fold like a taco.” I’m not.

As melty and deflated as I look, I like being able to move without pain, to walk without getting short of breath, to walk fast, to buckle a seatbelt without having to hold my breath or having it cut off my airway.  I figure, eventually, I’ll have to face the possibility of getting cut up again (I can always schedule it for October so I won’t have to worry about a Halloween costume- look! I’m a zombie…brains….. brains…).  Humor notwithstanding, it’s not something I’m looking forward to.  I don’t relish the thought of dealing with the physical scars and the unavoidable paresthetic nerve damage that comes with them. I am blessed with a high tolerance for irritants.  Most things that make other people nuts I take in stride and so far, I’m tolerating the baggy skin fine.  One day, it may become enough of a problem that I have to deal with it, but not now and not in a while.  I’m okay in the “hard place” right now, because the rock that was all my extra weight was too damn heavy- even for me!