Milestone

I stepped on the scale, and registered the number there:  215.

For a couple of days now, I’ve sat with that, putting it on the back burner, and going about my life.  Things are rolling on here at the house. I’m caught up in the settling, the anxiety of a new place, still getting my bearings, and so I really didn’t let the number on the scale really take on any meaning.  That is, until today.

I just got back from a walk/run of about 10k.  While out there, feeling the endorphins and all that comes with elevated heart rate and such, it hit me.  By reaching that number, 215, which is thirty pounds less than the last time I stepped on the scale, I’ve, in fact, reached about half-way to where I want to be in my skin.  I feel my best at around 185 or so, which if you do the math, is about 60 pounds less than where I was at my heaviest this year.  The fact I’m drawing in close to that mark, that midpoint along this journey, means that, actually, I’m doing something right.  I can, for just a moment, be proud of myself, and this morning, while I was putting one foot confidently in front of the other, I felt that emotion: pride.

No, I’m never going to be a skinny little otter thing.  I see plenty of that walking around town here – tall, lanky, barely 150 pounds, able to whip off their shirts at any opportunity, confident in how their flesh sits on their frames.  Typically, this only works to make me grind my teeth and self-loathe even more because, let’s face it, we’re all a little jealous of the pretty people we see.  Today, though, for just a few minutes, I allowed myself the feeling of being among those confident, head-held-high men.  I inhabited my own body, my own flesh, and while there was still plenty of jiggling and such going on under my tee shirt and around my thighs, in a white heat of euphoric endorphins, none of that really mattered.  What mattered, and what continues to matter, is that I’m effecting positive changes in my physicality.

Giving up sugar in my coffee, cutting back on the alcohol, swapping cereal for a green smoothie or scrambled eggs, drinking more water, paying attention to my sleep, getting out for walks when feasible – these are the steps I’ve taken.  Small, incremental, and at the micro-level, barely registering as change-making.  Taking a step back, though, and reflecting on where I was when I began to regain control of my body about five months ago, I’ve come a long way, and today I am proud of that fact.  The journey continues, though.  It is my life on the line here, after all.

 

Eating Differently – An Update

It’s been nearly three weeks now since I started eating differently.  To be honest, this was just going to be a week of a trial-effort.  I never expected it to have lasted this long.  So far, though, I can see this sticking, so long as I make some tweaks sooner rather than later.

Firstly, I’ve lost way more weight than I thought I would by now.  I started off at 240 pounds.  Now, when I step on the scale, I’m down to 225.  That’s a fifteen-pound loss in three weeks, ten of which came off in the first week or so.  Now that my body is adjusting to the way I’m eating, weight loss has slowed up, but is still progressing towards the weight I should be at.  I will admit that it sure feels nicer to step on the scales and see the numbers getting smaller, rather than larger, as they had been for the past year and few months.  More importantly I’m able to fit back into the jeans that Ray bought me last summer, which means I’m about 1.5″ smaller around the waist than I was at the start of this.  Ray also commented that he was seeing weight loss in my face.

Secondly, my housemates and Ray have been super supportive about this dietary shift.  Bil made some off-hand comments to start, but after reporting the results so far to him, I think he’s come around to seeing this as a good thing.  Ray knows of some decent paleo-friendly restaurants around town which I’ve enjoyed trying.  Dick’s Kitchen, for example, will get more of my money.  Grass-fed beef over greens?  Yes please.

Ray has started taking my dietary needs into deeper consideration when we do go out to eat,  which has caused us some nonsensical friction.

At first, I told him not to worry about where we grab a bite – I’m a big boy who can find something to eat pretty much anywhere, and this is not a dietary restriction of his food.  When we went to a new sushi/Japanese place here in our neighborhood, though, I made the mistake of saying “I’m not sure what to order” while we were looking over the menus.  He got quiet, and replied “we can leave,” which is not at all what he wanted to do.  I immediately felt bad, and found two appetizers on the menu that had the least amount of blacklisted food, and proceeded to order them.  Soy sauce is off the menu, but the dishes I had contained some.  Same goes for sesame seeds (a grain).  Still, the bulk of what I did manage to order was fine, and while I did notice an up-tick in bloating and gas the next morning, it wasn’t completely uncomfortable.  Ray got whatever sushi/rice he wanted, and as the meal finished, I told him how sorry I was for making it awkward to go out to eat, apologizing for my diet, and that I never expected him to make any changes to suit my personal needs.  He looked at me, smiled, and explained that he wants me to be able to enjoy a meal with him, and that his only concern was that I wasn’t able to get enough to eat to be satisfied.  I told him that being satisfied with food isn’t why I go out to eat with him – it’s the shared time with him that I most enjoy.  He grinned and blushed, and I thanked him for his concerns about my new diet.  He can see that I’m pleased with the results so far, and he is being supportive in a way I would have never expected from a lacto-ovo-vegetarian who’s diet is based on bread, rice, beans, and milk.  Once again, my boyfriend is amazing.

The biggest hurdle I’m having, though, is what to eat when I finally do get hungry.  Because my cravings for food have changed, I can go hours in between meals unlike ever before.  That said, when I do finally realize it’s time to eat, I find myself searching for something quick to make.  I need to be better about planning and prepping my food for the day.  I’ve got breakfast down pat – eggs and spinach/greens, or a green smoothie.  Lunch is usually a piece of fruit and some nuts (breakfast seems to last a lot longer in my system these days, leaving me full and satisfied for much longer).  At dinnertime, though, is when I falter.  My housemates enjoy all food – “paleo” and not – and as it’s a shared food situation (and they outnumber me 2:1) there is one meal made that is shared.  Sometimes, it’s all things I can eat, like last night’s baked chicken and fresh steamed green beans.  Other times, it’s stuff I have to avoid, like Friday night’s pasta bake.  On those nights when the meal isn’t going to fit me, I need to have more options.  I need to take more initiative there.

I also need to incorporate more exercise into my week.  I typically get about 10,000 steps in a day, with more on my days off, but I need to up that.  Walking, or even running, is going to help me shed even more weight, plus it’s great for my cardiovascular system and fights off a number of bad effects from having a sit-down, sedentary job.

I’m going to nail this down, in time.  I’ve learned that paying attention to the signals my body is sending me is crucial, and now that I’ve cut out the sugar and junk, it feels like I’m hearing the signals a lot clearer.  I am happy with the way things are going, and I know I’m doing the right thing for the body that I’m inhabiting.  I feel like, perhaps, this is the first time I’ve felt like I’m treating my body with the dignity it deserves, and that makes me feel at peace.

Progress?

I weighed myself yesterday.

And yes, before you even start, I can see your eyes roll, and I can hear the words “SCALES ARE AWFUL YOU SAID SO YOURSELF I CAN’T EVEN UGH” coming out of your mouth.  Believe me.  I can hear you.

Over the past year, I’ve put on a hefty amount of weight.  I mean, I’m about twenty pounds less than my most pudgy ever.  Or, at least I was before I started this little walking routine.  It’s only been a week, and I’ve also been incorporating a decent amount of fiber into my diet (read: the volume of ‘waste’ I’m producing is up), but when all is said and done, I apparently lost five pounds.

Five.

In my first week.

Of course, I also know that, with any bump in exercise, or change in diet for the better, the first bit often reveals a lot of weight loss.  Water weight, or whatever, tends to dump quickly.  As the body adjusts, according to what I’ve read, I need to keep changing it up in order to maintain a state of flux (and weight loss/muscle gain) about every couple of weeks or so.  I know that five pounds is a lot to lose in just one week, but just for a minute, I’m going to revel in this.

Please, let me.  Don’t be a Debbie-downer.  Or, better yet, be one, but know I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and ignoring you.

I LOST FIVE GOD DAMNED POUNDS AND IT FEELS SO DAMN GOOD.

This week, I’m paying more attention to the sugars and starches, and while I’m certainly not zero-carb at all, even just being aware and making dietary choices that limit the sugar I do intake seems to be helping.  I managed to get through yesterday without too many bumps in the road – though I did learn that the yoghurt that I like has about 45g of sugar per serving (one cup), so that’s a little shocking.  I also have limited myself with the sugar in my coffee, and I’m trying to navigate lunch in a way that doesn’t involve a sandwich.  Yesterday, I will admit, was tough.  Work was super-stressful, but now that I know my runs for this week, hopefully today will go better.  I can plan better.  I can pack a few pieces of fruit to get me through my six-hour shift of bringing people to a mall at Christmas.

This morning’s walk had me daydreaming about my mother’s visit in March.  I am looking forward to her arrival, and am curious as to what we are going to get up to.  I know she’s a cyclist, so we might rent bikes for the week and get out and about in Portland that way.  I also want to take her to the coast, possibly for a hike.  I really think she’s going to love it here, but I need to get physically fit enough to keep up with her.  She’s super-duper active.  I’ve got three months and a few miles of walking ahead of me, so I think I’ll be alright.  We shall see.  In all, the daydreaming while walking is great.  I can feel my thoughts bubbling up to the surface.  I can wrestle a thought while putting one foot in front of the other, and simply let my mind float.  This was something I loved to do while I was running last year, but those thoughts were often dark and angry.  I’m not dark or angry any more.

I’m loving the newness of all of this.  I love this different aspect of my life.  It is something both old and fresh at the same time.  I’m optimistic, as always, and can’t wait to see where I end up with all of this come this time next year.

Just Taking a Walk

I had a conversation this morning with my friend Amanda.  She and I, both of the same age and from the same hometown, are staring down the idea of being 40 years old in the not-too-distant future.  We both have body issues, and have both been caught up in the pursuit of acceptance and belonging based solely on how our bodies are formed; the more beautiful we are, the more people will want to get to know us.  Over the past year or so, though, we’ve both changed our minds.  Thankfully.

As I’ve shared before, I’ve put on some weight over the last year due to the conflagration of having a sit-down job and giving up a workout regime that had me lifting and running whenever possible.  Instead of spending my time chasing down what I think my body should look like, I’ve opted to spend more of my downtime getting to know Ray, and going on camping and hiking adventures with him that have brought me a true sense of peace and joy.  I’ve let go of the anxiety that drove me to the gym and out on the pavement to run in the first place, and in its place I have allowed myself to simply enjoy the present-tense of my life.  Of course, this has softened my body.  I’ve had fits and starts about getting back to my original goals, and pushing myself to stick to a plan that has me at the gym three times a week, with running added in there too.  I’ve had moments, especially when Ray was overseas, when I could feel myself falling back into that pattern as a means of dealing with my anxiety and worries, but each time I started, it was a mixed bag of emotions – good and bad.  Something had changed, and something wasn’t right about every time I’d started working out again, which is why I simply dropped the plan again and again.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been mulling over what I should do.  It’s clear, I need to keep exercise in my life, but it has to have a different reason for being part of my day-to-day existence.  I can’t exercise as a way to beat back anxiety demons, and then drop it once those demons are placated.  I need to do something sustainable, something that fits into my life, and is simple, and seemingly effortless.  One of the senior drivers I met the other week said something that hit home.  She looked me square in the face and said, “Get up out of that seat as much as you can.  Do not sit still for too long.”  I’ve taken that to heart.

One of the most basic movements that I am able to do is take a walk.  I’ve always been a walker, whether walking all the way to my grandmother’s house as a kid along a woody riverside path, to walking five miles to work simply because I was up before the buses were running.  I have always prided myself on being able to set my mind to right simply by putting one foot in front of the other and just walking.  It was in that spirit that this week, I set a project for myself.  My work schedule is such that I don’t go to work until 1p all week long, and I’m not out so late that can’t get up at a decent, reasonable time in the morning.  I took the opportunity to set a small goal for myself: go for a walk every morning this week, and just see how I feel come Saturday.

Today, Wednesday, is day three of this little project.  Each morning, I’ve walked about two miles through my neighborhood, at a steady pace.  There’s a little cafe along my route which provides a little motivation in a cup, and in my ears, I have the chance to catch up on podcasts and the news.  All in all, by the time I’m done, there’s a little glow of perspiration on my body, and I feel like I’ve started my day off on the right foot.  So far, this is a very doable, very manageable, very achievable goal of mine.  So far, it feels good.

I told this to Amanda this morning, and she said something that struck a chord.  She said her approach to exercise has changed too.  She’s decided that exercise is more about health rather than seeking to achieve model status.  This, for her, has added back the fun-factor when she goes to the gym, and when she can’t make it, she says she doesn’t go crazy with guilt and remorse.  I heartily agree with her.

I’m done feeling bad for not hitting the gym.  I’m done with beating myself up every time I take off my shirt.  I’m done with comparing myself to the hundreds of beautiful men I see daily, both online and in real life.  In the end, just taking a walk seems to be just what I need to do.  Working out is not an act of desperation any longer.  It’s me, being human, doing something at human-scale.  It’s not CrossFit or trying to prove to the world around me that I’m worthy of it’s approval.  It’s not military-grade intense.  Laying this foundation – by shifting my approach, along with setting small, fully-attainable goals, I think I’ve hit a button that suits me.  Finally.

Something Real

Yesterday, I decided to let myself go.  Around noon, on a gloomy Sunday, I opted to pour myself a stiff brunch cocktail – a simple screwdriver made with a bit more vodka than I probably should have – and I sat at my laptop and played a little more of a video game I bought about a month ago.  As time passed, my video gaming turned into sending out messages to fellas that I’ve been meaning to contact for some time, but for whatever reason, had not.  Eventually, I fixed myself another drink, and started to text Ray about the remainder of our day.  I was tipsy, but as it had been a really, really long time since I’d allowed myself a bit of indulgence, it felt good.  I meandered my way down to Ray’s, where I promptly took a little nap while he finished up his ballot for voting.

The plan was to hit up our favorite little bar here that has one of the best happy hours (and most affordable) that we’ve ever seen.  $2 cocktails and $2 snacks meant a couple of drinks and a couple of pretzels between us.  We then moved on to a cute little tea house just up the street a bit, which was absolutely adorable, and some place I definitely want to return to.  After tea and some light snacks, we made our way downtown to a drag show, something we both have enjoyed in the past, but hadn’t had the opportunity to see in a long time.  It was a pleasant experience all the way through, really.

What stuck, however, was the conversation that he and I had over the course of our afternoon.

It’s no secret that since meeting him, and starting my bus driving job, I’ve fallen off the wagon of health and fitness that I’d been on for some time.  I found myself diving into exercise and strength training as a way to cope with anxiety and all of the troubles I had in my personal life.  It was an escape.  It was a means to an end in that I could possibly garner more attention from the fellas I was seeking to date if my body was in better shape.  Nothing’s more basic than initial attraction, but that connection factor is solely based upon looks (like it or not), and I knew that I needed to at least look good.  I needed to at least appear like I had my life together, when nothing could be farther from the truth.  When I was living in that dark, cold house with the ex, without a job, and without a whole lot of hope and optimism, I struggled really, really hard to at least keep up appearances.  It was my Yankee training coming through in spades.  I learned really early in my life that even if you have nothing and your whole personal world is in chaos, you never, ever let on that this is the case.  You put on a veneer and smile and fake your way through the day.  You never want to be an emotional burden on anyone, and you certainly don’t want people talking about you or pitying you.  Pride is huge, and pride, for me, was always and forever based on outward appearances.  Looking good = everything is fine, even when it’s not.

The conversation Ray and I had yesterday surrounded the health and wellness of our lives.  He knows that he needs more activity, more exercise, in his life.  He’s mentioned his yoga that’s fallen to the wayside.  He has also voiced a concern about my health too.

He knows and recognizes that we both have put on weight and are not as active as we should be.  He is concerned about my cigarette smoking, which I’m loathe to admit is still a thing in my life.  The way he delivered these concerns about my health, though, resonated in a way that has never happened in my life before.

My previous boyfriend had been really callous about my body shape and his judgement towards how I looked.  He blatantly called me fat, saying that he thought I’d be further along with my fitness goals than I had been upon my arrival here in Portland, Oregon.  I took that insult, that deeply-cutting punch to my self image and self esteem, and turned it into the thirty pounds I lost in the time I was stuck at his house.  I used to run miles and miles and miles out of rage, out of resentment, just to prove him wrong, especially after he ended things with us.  I hit the gym hard, with a routine that was exhausting, but was definitely giving me the physical results I had wanted.  I wasn’t doing it for myself, though, even though I’d tried to convince myself that I was (and kept touting my progress across the social networks, and even here on this blog).  It wasn’t the first time I’d been called fat, or unattractive.  It wasn’t the first time that my body shape had come in between me and a person with whom I’d fallen in love.  My reaction has been practiced over and over again, too.  I’m well versed in exercise out of spite, rage, revenge, and to prove the other person wrong.  I did the same with Thomas.  I did the same with Nathaniel.

With Ray, though, something is very different.  With his concerns, they’re not coming from a place of judgement or resentment.  They’re not shared out of spite or bitterness.  When he told me that he’s concerned about my weight, and that he really wants me to give up the cigarettes, it wasn’t out of judgment or anger.  Honestly, and for the first time in my life, he told me these things because he actually cares.  It’s real.  This whole thing.  He wants me to be a healthy and vibrant part of his life because he actually loves me, and actually wants me to be the strongest, happiest, healthiest person I can be.  This is a very, very far cry from everything I’ve ever experienced with regards to judgment of my body and state of being in the past.

Going forward, there may not be many days where I “let go” and allow myself to indulge in alcohol like I did yesterday.  Going forward, I am resolved to make smoking a thing of my past – again.  Going forward, I’m not going to go running because I’m angry, or I’m going to ‘prove him wrong,’ or because I’m feeling worthless.  Going forward, any actions I take to improve my overall health will be because I want to improve my life as well as the life I’m now sharing with a person who really, honestly, and truthfully cares about my wellbeing.  It’s all different now; it’s a new reality.

I feel like I’m re-learning how to live my life and I embrace this kind of change.  I’ve needed it for quite some time.

(Re)Starting Over

I went out for a run today.  This is something I’ve not done since Ray got back from Europe over a month ago, and again, I’m back to square one with my body.  Honestly, and I have to always be honest here, I’m back to square one in a lot of ways.  The weight I lost while living under extreme conditions at my ex-boyfriend’s house is back.  All of it, plus some.  I’ve lost a lot of muscle tone that I once had under my flesh.  I’m not able to breathe as well as I once was.  Two miles of running today was a bit of a huge slap in the face.

What I’ve realized, though, is this: I run out of anxiety.  When my life is a nervous wreck, I run.  When I feel trapped, lost, angry, upset, worried, frantic, or all of the above, I run.  This is a habit I developed way back when, going on nearly twenty years ago, when I felt my life crashing down around me as an undergrad at college.  My grades sucked. I was depressed (and closeted).  I was broke.  I had no friends.  What I did have, though, was time, and a body I could seriously abuse.  I couldn’t control the things around me, but I could control how I looked.  The added bonus that came with running was the endorphins that I needed to forget all of my worries.  With running, I could channel all of that nervous energy into one more step, one more hill, one more mile.

While Ray was gone to Europe, I was super nervous about what he was up to, and how much of an effect the trip was going to have on our relationship.  Instead of just waiting and seeing what happened, I took to the pavement.  It’s really no surprise that I ran my fastest 10k ever while he was gone.  I was that upset and worried.  When I was living under Cal’s roof (my ex-boyfriend), the stress of not having a job, no income, and after he broke it off with me, no support system, it’s not a shock that I used to run upwards of 10 to 11 miles a few times a month (and was down thirty or so pounds from where I was when I arrived in Portland).

I need to redefine my reasons for running.  Today, as I huffed and puffed my way through a mere two miles – a test to see just how far I’d fallen – I found myself seeking a better answer to why I run.  I need to remember that the work I put in now, the way I treat my body now, will carry me forward to forty and beyond.  I need to develop this habit in a healthy way, and not as a means to escape or not face issues in my life.  I also need to untie my connection of body shape/size with self-worth and self-respect.  The truth is, I have a loving man in my life who, on more than one occasion, has expressed his concerns for my health and that he wants me around in his life for a good long time.  I want to be in his life for as long as well, and I don’t want to be broken down and unable to do the things we enjoy doing – travel, hiking, camping, etc.

Today was a test.  A check-in with myself.  I can still run under a 10-minute mile, but I certainly need to expend far more effort in doing so because I’m heavier, and weaker.  I need to combat my sedentary sit-down job.  I need to also look at my diet and take that side of my life seriously too.  I’ve got bad eating habits that need to stop – I’m a total grazer, and will eat a lot of little bits between meals.  I need to reconfigure all of this if I mean to actually make the goals I set out for myself.  I have less than two years now, and it’s gotta happen.  I will be Fit by Forty.

60th and Glisan

There is an intersection not far from my house that I pass through nearly daily.  The bus I take to work goes there. It’s on the way to downtown when I want to go out.  Mostly, it’s a chaotic little intersection with too many lanes going in too many directions that was never designed for the amount of traffic that uses it today.  One corner has a pub.  One has a coffee shop.  One has a warehouse-type building.  One has a gas station.  Each entry point into the intersection itself has a travel lane and a turning lane for either left or right, but the roads themselves are no wider than your typical two-lane road.  Add on the sidewalks, trees, mailbox, signal poles, light poles, parking signs, sandwich boards, benches, picnic tables, and assorted shrubbery, and you can see it’s got a lot going on.

Today on my run, as has become my habitual route, I hit my goal at that corner.  6.2 miles (a 10 kilometer run), ends there, and from there, I walk the remainder of the way home – about twenty-six blocks, uphill.  It’s exactly one mile from my house, so it’s a good way to step down from the intensity of the run, but continue with my fitness.

It dawned on me, today, though that that corner, that specific geographical location, has held a few memories that flash through my head each time I pass by.  When I was living with my ex, still unemployed, still flailing around trying to find my footing here in Portland, OR, I would take off running.  One of my loops was a ten-mile one, and though it was decently challenging, it wasn’t until I got to that intersection, having turned off Cesar Chavez Boulevard and headed east on Glisan to 60th, where I’d turn and run down 60th towards Mt. Tabor and the top of Hawthorne Blvd, where I’d turn and head back into downtown and finish my run by crossing the Hawthorne bridge.  It wasn’t until I hit 60th and Glisan that my head would turn off, where my footfalls would fade, and where I felt that rush of endorphins that made the rest of me seem invincible.  That corner marked a real and literal turning point on my running journey.

It also, as it turns out, is a corner that is near and dear to both Ray and I.  He lives not far from it.  A few blocks north and east is the space he shares with his roommate.  We’ve come to frequent the businesses at that intersection, and I’m a common fixture there, usually waiting for my bus to work or to home.  I am good at picking up coffee surprises from the cafe, and the lady at the breakfast shop three doors east of the intersection knows our orders by heart.

It’s strange to me how I find these places of geography to latch onto and ground me.  I’ve been doing this sort of thing ever since I could remember, though.  These little map pinpoints are important.  The give me boundaries to my kingdom.  They define my world, a bit, and when I pass through them, or remain within them, I find myself developing a sense of home and of community.  I think, with all of the moving and relocating I’ve done over the course of my life, finding a way to define a home, a space for me to both relax and improve myself, is vitally important.

I also think it’s kind of cool that I’d meet this really great guy who’s transformed my life near a corner that transformed my physical fitness time and time again (and still does to this day).