Thursday, July 31, 2014

Week 31 Weigh-In: Creating a New Vision Board

164 lbs.

I found a computer and a few minutes to string together, so I thought I'd write a brief update.  Vacation has been fantastic!  I hiked and exercised at high altitudes, including a beautiful hike partially down the Grand Canyon.  My concerns about how my body would respond to high altitude were pleasantly unfounded.  I can now scratch that worry off my list for good, and it feels wonderful.

I'm thrilled to report that I stayed fully on program the whole time.  I passed up huge family dinners, birthday cake and wine (the hardest!)  At first, some family members didn't understand why I couldn't eat a healthy salad, but I was steadfast in sharing that this is a temporary part of my treatment, and that healthy foods will be coming into my life very soon.  I think some people remain skeptical, and see my program as a "fad" diet.  Maybe they weren't thinking this, but I just seemed to pick up on a vibe of them thinking "she is probably going to gain it all back after this is done."

Perhaps I'm projecting my own concerns onto them.  Who knows?  

I don't care what anyone thinks at this point in time.  This program has changed my life completely, and I'm having more fun and dressing better than I've been able to do for YEARS (I'm doing a happy dance right now and smiling from ear to ear!)

At the beginning of my adventure I wrote about imagining myself having more fun, engaging in healthy activities, wearing a bathing suit in public.  Here I am, about 8 months later, actually doing those things.  I laughed like a little kid as I went down a community water slide about 25 times!  My kids and nieces and nephews gave me high fives and even convinced me to go on the scary tube slide (only once).

I wished that I could have hiked all the way down the Grand Canyon.  Even going back up was fine, though I stopped every few levels.  My body felt energized and healthy and I just smiled inside, aware of this new experience.  I can't wait to eat a bit more and then push myself physically to do more.  This will happen in a few weeks, but until then, I'm not suffering, and I'm managing to have a blast!

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This was the first time I had been on a water slide in 20 years!

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This is me about a half mile down the Grand Canyon.  
Eventually these photos will be added to the Vision Board Part 2, with ME doing all of the fun activities I'd always dreamed of doing.  I'm trying to keep this feeling close to the surface, and at the forefront of my mind.  When I finally start eating again, and bump up against cravings, I want to be able to come back to these pictures and tell myself "no thank you, I've had enough" when my cravings steer me in the direction of carbs, or a second glass of wine.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Week 30 Weigh In: Hitting the big 90, Taking Another Trip

167 lbs. - 90 pounds down!

I'm excited that my two boys and I will be heading out early in the morning on a road trip to Arizona.  Now that I have more flexibility in my work, I have had a wonderful time visiting family and friends this summer.  It has been years since I've been able to visit my siblings so frequently.  This time, we're headed to some beautiful spots in the state where I grew up, including a trip to the Grand Canyon.  They have't been there yet, and I can't wait for them to see it.  We'll drive from the Grand Canyon all the way down to Tucson, with lots of stops in between.

Again, there will be people who haven't seen me since I started my weight loss.  Even though they have seen some pictures on Facebook, I'm sure they will be surprised.  I've decided to fully embrace short sleeves or tanks (it is sweltering hot in Arizona), and not get hung up on my flappy, wrinkly skin on my arms and my neck.  I've earned that skin, and really, it's not too noticeable.  I'm not going to apply for a job as a super model, and frankly, I'm just thrilled to look like a somewhat normal sized person.

Instead of seeing my body in a dysmorphic way, though, I'm finding that I get more anxious about how I will feel, and how my body will perform under certain conditions.  For instance, we will be in a much higher elevation when we visit my brother, and I'm sure we'll be doing some hiking.  Many years I huffed and'puffed with the altitude, and tried hard to keep up with everyone without drawing attention to my lack of fitness.  I find myself tensing up just thinking about going there, even though I did well in the mountains of Utah just a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe it's a mild form of PTSD.  I spent so many years in both physical and emotional pain during my family visits, that I think it's a difficult reaction to shake off.  I'm not used to this new body, and I don't trust it yet.

I'm not sure I'll be able to blog until a week from Saturday.  I'll be missing another Optifast group, but tonight's group talked about stress and looked at healthy ways of analyzing a situation and modulating our perceptions of what we can and can't control.  I  think I wrote about it in one of my previous blog posts, but I might revisit it in the near future.  It was just a very helpful discussion.

I'll be taking my shakes and soups, and drinking lots of water with flavoring.  I'm starting to get used to traveling with all of my food.  Cheers everyone!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Working the Zoom Button

I'm at a point in my Optifast program, where I need to focus on each moment, keep my eyes looking forward, and keep walking through the headwinds of staying on program, facing temptation and reaching my weight goal.  At the same time, I'm also also looking at each moment as it fits into the bigger picture of the healthy life I'm building that will extend well beyond this initial weight loss period and form the life that will allow me to maintain a healthy weight.  Right now, the experience can be dizzying.
My mind is really working that "Zoom" button.  On one hand, I have to manage my life choices and eating on a minute by minute basis.  I'm faced with moments of temptation, smells, people around me eating, getting caught feeling hungry, and emotional stress that pulls me in the direction of my old sources of comfort.  Then I zoom out and think about how I will manage all of this to sustain my healthy life with a healthy body, after the fast and when I'm choosing and eating food.  What will I grab when I'm hungry for a snack?  What will I take with me when I leave the house to run errands or go to meetings?  What will be good to keep around the house that will be both healthy, and also palatable to my kids and friends when I have company over or when neighbors drop in?  What intervention has been effective when I want to turn to food for comfort?  I'm constantly zooming in and out during these experiences.

My task to stay on program, drink my shakes, exercise and make it to the first goal is extremely important to me.  It is just a milestone on this healthy life adventure that I decided to begin.  Right now it is also taking much more effort than it did before, even though I am currently experiencing the positive results of my past dedication - cute clothes, less pain, more energy and feelings of vitality.

These struggles could be the result of seasonal/environmental conditions (my kids are home from school, I'm traveling more and visiting friends and family, I'm working from home and am cooking and around food most of the day.)  The challenges are also part of the normal struggles associated with any big behavioral change. On an hourly basis I am reminded that by choosing to take the "healthy highway," the sites, experiences and scenery are new to me.  The culture is new to me, and I'll need to patiently learn new ways of living.  The hazards and seasons will always be there, but I will be handling them differently in this "new place."

Am I travelling the road perfectly?  No.  I've had some bites and had to get back on track.  When I first chose to take a bite, I was filled with disappointment and self-doubt.  That was a reaction rooted in the moment, however when I zoom out and look at the bigger picture, these small transgressions have taught me how to live life as an imperfect person.  I won't lie to you - it has been scary for me - certainly not because I have ever been able to attain perfection, but because I am now trying to be comfortable with and not give too much power to, my diet pitfalls.

Every time I overcome a cheat or better yet, say "no" to myself, I am building a little more confidence that I'll be able to handle the flat tires and obstacles that are a normal part of any trip.

These will be the challenges of a lifetime, and I feel like I'm just at the beginning of learning how to handle them in a healthy way.  I'm thankful for the "Zoom" right now.  It's a helpful little tool.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Week 29 Weigh-In: No Longer Obese

169 lbs.

I hit a very nice milestone tonight - I am no longer in the Obese BMI range.  That one feels very, very good.  Those labels of "obese" and "morbidly obese" have been dogging me for many years, and worrying me, too.  As I traverse the BMI table, I feel a tremendous sense of relief.  When I look at the Overweight and Normal ranges, I think those levels are pretty interchangeable sometimes.  At my current weight, I feel like if I kept exercising and adopted a healthy diet, I'd be a very healthy person for the rest of my life, even if the table tells me I'm overweight.  I intend to have a weight range that I keep to, and that will call me into action when necessary, but we will see where it falls on the official table.

For now, I'm determined to reach my goal weight, which happens to be the topmost weight for the Normal BMI range for my height.  For me, reaching that number is more about actually accomplishing a weight loss goal.  I have only done this one other time in my life, when I was in my teens.  This is more competitive than contemplative, and I feel a little shallow even admitting it.  But that's my plan for now.

Changing the subject for a bit, my class tonight was one of the best I've gone to.  Our leader led us on a discussion of how feelings were treated in our families, and led us through remembering both a negative and a positive emotional experience in our lives.

Some of us come from families where it was considered "weak" to show emotion, especially negative emotions.  Some people couldn't summon up those times or put them into words.  It's a safe place for all of us, no matter what we were able to do and talk about.  The takeaway was to stop and think about what we are feeling, especially when we are turning to food for something other than nourishment. This is what we were to remember:

  • Identify the feeling we are having and name it
  • Look at what is causing the feeling
  • Validate the normalcy of our emotional response to whatever is happening.  Allow ourselves some time to feel the feeling without regrets or guilt.
  • Look for the origin of how we are feeling under those circumstances (was it a childhood experience?  Did we have a past trauma that is being conjured up in this particular instance?)

  It's difficult for me walk through negative feelings without a detour to the refrigerator.  This fast has removed my food crutch, so I've been reading some Buddhist writings on negative feelings, and have found it helpful to view them as teachers and as avenues toward developing greater humility.  I'm fond of the writings of Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun.  Here are some of her thoughts:

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” 
― Pema ChödrönWhen Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

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“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, "May I have permission to go into battle with you?" Fear said, "Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission." Then the young warrior said, "How can I defeat you?" Fear replied, "My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power." In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ” 
― Pema ChödrönWhen Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” 
― Pema Chödrön

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that's all that's happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness--life's painful aspect--softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody's eyes because you feel you haven't got anything to lose--you're just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We'd be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn't have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” 
― Pema ChödrönStart Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

I realize that these are a lot of quotes from one wise woman, but I have found her writing to be very thought-provoking, and I'm trying to learn some of these skills.  I think what my leader was talking about today is exactly what Pema was suggesting.  When we fear an emotion, and our instinct is to soften it with food, or run away from it.  Sitting and staring at it, making sense of it, takes away some of the power that it holds.

I'm hoping that with practice I'm able to do this, more and more.  I think I have experienced a little bit of improvement in trying this.

I hope all of you are doing well on your programs, and feeling healthier and more confident as a result.  I wish you all the very best and I'm sending you good wishes right now.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Week 28 Weigh-In: Enjoying the Non-Scale Victories and New Self Confidence

172 lbs.

I am happy to report that 85 fewer pounds makes a huge difference in my life, and especially in my ability to enjoy outdoor activities.  The last time I visited Salt Lake City, UT to see my sister, I was really feeling the altitude, and I broke out in a sweat (even in the dead of winter) just walking around outside.  I don't have a typical sedentary family.  In fact, one of my sisters is very outdoorsy and athletic, and is always walking and moving around.  When I was overweight, it was uncomfortable or painful for me to exert myself to the level of everyone else, and as I reached my heaviest, I would flat-out have to pass on certain activities.  That was a painful memory and source of shame for me.

When I embarked on my weight loss program, part of my vision board contained the activity of hiking, because I have longed to hike with my family in the beautiful forest or in the desert.  This past weekend, my dream came true.  I didn't have any problems breathing in the altitude, and I had no trouble walking for miles (most days reaching my 10K steps before 9am!) without getting winded.  I was shocked and elated at how normal it all felt.  I just took it all in, as if I were in a dream.  The smell of the pine trees, the deliberate but confident steps down a slippery slope, and small steps going up a long hill.  The wildflowers were in full bloom, and the clouds in the sky were reflected in the beautiful lakes that we hiked to or around.

Below are some pictures of my adventures with my beautiful sisters (I'm on the far right):

Not the most flattering picture, but here I am carefully trying not to slip down the hill:

One of the biggest thrills was seeing this moose in the water!!

And here is the breathtaking mountain scenery!

So this is the post to remind me of how far I've come and how life-changing this experience has been.  All of the times I've said "no" to food have been worth it.

The scale didn't go down as much as I would have anticipated given the sharp increase in activity.  In fact, it was just an average weight-loss..  I did eat an extra shake on the days that we hiked or walked to an extreme.  I also had a soup with my family every night.  I knew I would need them!  When I got home, I was very motivated to keep moving and walking, since I had proven to myself that I could do it.  I am loving this new energy and physical fitness.  I treated myself to a new fitness toy and downloaded FitRadio.  I've been listening to the DJ mixes that keep me stepping to the beat and increasing my speed.  I'm channeling my inner 25 year old.

I hope you all are doing well on your programs, and taking some time to reflect on the small and large reminders of your progress.  It's nice to take a moment to enjoy the good things in life.

Edit:  Please give yourself a gift and take a second to read this beautiful post.  It's short, but will make your day and maybe help you on your way:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Week 27 Early Weigh In: Vacation Bound

174 lbs

I won't be able to attend my regular Optifast weigh-in so I decided to record last night's weight from my home scale, which is very close to the clinic weight.  I'm headed out of town to visit my sisters for a long holiday weekend.  One sister hasn't seen me for quite a while, so I'm excited to see her reaction to the smaller me.  Some non-scale victories will be to be able to hike and swim during this wonderful getaway.  I haven't been able to do that for years and I am feeling so incredibly happy about being able to join in the fun and not have to hang out on the sidelines, feeling self-conscious.  Yes, this is what it's all about!!!

I hope all of you have a safe and fun rest of the week and weekend.  If you are in the United States, enjoy your 4th of July fun!