Forty

And just like that, I turned 40.  Just like that, as gentle as the moment a leaf decides to drop from the tree that’s been holding onto it since the bud break of spring, I advanced another year in my life, to a new cycle around the sun, and to a new decade of my time on this planet.

The moments leading up to this fat number, one with a trailing zero, have been fraught with worry and concern about meeting goals I had set for myself.  Let me rephrase that – arbitrary goals that I’d set for myself based on external expectations I’d gotten for what “being 40” really meant.  Turns out, most of those benchmarks, those tic boxes, were horse shit.  It also turns out that, in fact, I hadn’t really considered all that turning forty might even mean.

Ray also has had a recent birthday, on September 24th, which I have to keep writing down in order to emblazon it into my memory.  It’s a strange block of thought that I can’t keep that number set in my mind, but I think, maybe, I’ve finally nailed it.  Maybe.  No promises.  In any regard, I took him on an adventure a couple of weekends ago that celebrated our birthdays at once.  It was a massive five-day excursion into the east, where we ended up at the Gorge Amphitheater to see Above & Beyond, a DJ group that we both thoroughly enjoy.  It also included a couple of overnights in spots along the way, including a wonderful AirBnB rental at a ranch on a mountain in Ellensburg, Washington – a town we’ve both grown fond of for it’s location and geography.  On the road east, we also stopped to enjoy a bit of wine tasting, and took plenty of photos along the way.  The jeep was definitely up to the task, thankfully, as I’ve had the clutch replaced along with a fresh oil change and differential service done on it.  We were able to enjoy taking the top down for most of the journey, and Ray really got to relax in the passenger seat – something he desperately needed after weeks of being on the run between his new job at the vineyard and the wine bar job and home.  The poor guy was way overdue for some time off, and it was my utter pleasure to bring that to him.

It was there, at that show, after a few glasses of wine, and taking in yet another gorgeous sunset among the other show-goers, that I had a bit of an epiphany.  It’s a bit crude, but truly apt:  Fuck it.

I mean it.  Fuck it.

I have spent most of my life worried about the thoughts and concerns of others, either as the sift out their own lives, or make judgements about the way I live mine.  I have let these pressures from the outside effect how I feel about myself on the inside.  I have allowed myself to push my body to extremes in order to fit in with the “it” people.  I’ve used self-loathing to direct my decisions and posture and presence among any and everyone I come into contact with.  I’ve kept my life compartmentalized in such a way as to limit exposure and vulnerability.  I have also always kept the concerns and worries and judgments of others in the foreground as I struggle to draft the story of my life, as though my single and solitary thoughts on any experience shared with any of them was something invalid or less-than.

There are so many moments where my own fear of rejection, especially when my acceptance has been built upon a fragile definition of self –  one that has invoked chameleon-like powers in order to hide and blend – has gotten in the way of me being authentic, and thus unable to make a deeper connection to another.  I regret these moments.  I regret the ease of shape-shifting for others.  I regret how easy it is to cast off these connections now, as they were never built on anything lasting.  Add in the frivolity of social media and the loose definition of “Friendship” these days, and, well, I’m left with a few key connections but only just.  I know hundreds of people, but I can still count on one hand those who I would consider close.  I regret that.

 

Now, though, as I have sauntered over the threshold of a new decade, I have embraced a new mantra.  Rather than change and become something else, instead, I find myself looking in the mirror and saying, “Fuck it.”

Fuck it.  Fuck what they think.  Fuck what they said.  Fuck what those horrible voices in my head keep chiding me for.  Fuck them for dismissing me, for not bothering, for disrespecting me. Fuck it.  I have better things, brighter things, more enriching paths to wander and explore.  I have given my heart to a man who, continuously, exposes me to the true nature of love and vulnerability and emotional connection.  I have my vehicle, something obnoxious and totally unnecessary, but which carries me out and away from the urbanity that strives to stifle and choke me.  Now, I also have a dog.

Fuck it.  I own a dog.

Rather, we own a dog.  His name is Steinbeck, though he doesn’t really know it yet.  He’s a massive Labrador-mix (we think possibly Dane or Mastiff), with an exceptionally patient soul.  He is a bit stubborn, excitable around small furry critters (including our cat, of course), but generally tries to do a good job.  He takes to his crate with little fuss, and only whines a little when we leave him alone.  He’s really thin, coming in at 70 pounds but with ribs and hips popping out all over the place.  He’s got a bit of a cough we are watching, as well, but that I think he’ll pull through without much concern.  He’s goofy and constantly giving me that “don’t leave me” look as a shelter dog learns to do.  As a second-chance rescue from Oklahoma, he’s been in shelters for a while, and then in a plane, and then under the knife for a vasectomy, and now adopted and re-homed all over the last month.  The fact he’s not more neurotic by all of this is a testament to his angelic nature.  I’m gushing over my dog, and while I want to care, I don’t.  He’s my first dog since I was a kid, and right now, he’s totally stolen my heart. So, I’ll gush a bit more.

Raymond, though all of this transition with me, has proven even more just how wonderful of a man he is.  He is overwhelmed by the dog, to be honest, because, well, he’s overwhelmed by a lot right now.  He’s not sure he can sufficiently take care of another beast, even though he’s not alone in the care of the critters.  We left the house last night, off to visit with a former coworker of his, and all day long, he was fretting about Steinbeck and his crate and would he whine and worry while we were gone.  Would he just howl and bark and be obnoxious to our neighbors?  Would he hurt himself?  Well, we did a little test, kind of unexpectedly.  Ray was in the bedroom laying down with the cat, and I decided to take off and get more dog food and stuff for Steinbeck to have while we were out of the house at work.  It wasn’t a big deal, the dog was resting in his crate peacefully, door closed.  Well, apparently, as soon as I left, he barked.

“Tell me when he settles down and don’t go check on him,” I texted to Ray.  We needed to see how he’d behave.  It was a good test run.

“Ok,” Ray replied, though I knew it was killing him to hear this huge dog whining away just one room away.

Five minutes later, I get the text I was hoping for: “He’s quieted down already.”

The dog, a total stranger in a total stranger’s home, in a crate he’s never been in before, wasn’t carrying on like you’d expect a dog to do.  He’d bonded with me only because I’d fed and walked him a few times – and hugged him for probably his first time in a long time.  His worry about my departure was expected.  His recovery time from my departure was not.  Just that fact, that he was able to calm himself down and settle in while we were “not home” gave us both a huge sigh of relief.  Still, it’s a damned miracle.

___

I have a lot more bridges to cross over during this next decade of my life.  I am still on a fitness streak, but it’s not for anyone but myself.  I’m still dealing with some addictions I need to shake off.  I still have my debts to pay and money to worry about.  I’m still hoping to make progress in my job so that I can provide and even more stable living situation for Ray and our little menagerie of animals.  I’m still hoping to keep learning and growing and settling down more roots here in Oregon.  I’m still working on my commitment to Raymond and helping him achieve the goals he’s set for himself as well.  There’s a lot to accomplish.

Fuck it, though.  I ain’t scared.  I’m excited to see where it all goes!

Step 2

I’m on Step 2 of the Nicoderm CQ nicotine replacement patch plan.  I stepped down just a few days ago.  So far, this is what’s it’s like:

  1.  I’m an emotional wreck for half of the day.  I’m irritated, agitated, twitchy, and just downright snarky to be around.  One of Ray’s coworkers likened it to “being on your period” for women.  Since I don’t have a frame of reference for that, I’ll just agree with her.  It seems about right, minus the blood.
  2. I am still coughing up crap from my lungs.  It seems like a constant stream of ill-flavored mucus is making it’s way into my mouth from the depths of wherever inside me.  I know this is a sign of health and healing, but man-o-man, it’s disgusting.  I keep drinking water to wash away the flavor.
  3. I cannot wait to be done with this silly nicotine addiction.  I’m ready to move beyond this constant, nagging, annoying craving.  I have a month left.  I can do this. I have to.
  4. I never, ever, ever want to smoke again.  No, it’s more than that.  I don’t want to be addicted to anything like this again, especially something so mind-altering and unhealthy.  Were that I was addicted to running, or yoga, or gardening, or fresh air…

I’m doing okay, all around.  I can smell and taste unlike ever before.  I know that my clothes don’t stink, and I also know that the tar stains in my mustache and beard are finally gone.  My lips aren’t coated with a brown film of cancer-causing tar.  I know this is how it all should be, and I’m committed to keeping things like this.

I’ve also put on weight.  Over the past month, I’ve watched the scale creep upwards, which is why, starting today, I’ve re-committed to getting back on track with a healthier diet.  I’m back to cutting out the overindulgence in carbohydrates, no more processed anything, and most-assuredly no more convenience foods – like the kinds I’ve been getting at work, especially.  I don’t need all of those chemicals and preservatives and added weirdness getting into my system.  I need to eat clean, I need to treat my body better – especially as it heals from the damage I brought upon it from smoking.

My last round of going low/no-carb resulted in a massive weight loss over a short amount of time.  I felt great.  I was doing well.  Then, as I needed to move house and deal with the anxiety and stress of adjusting to a new home and new life, I found myself reaching for the sugar and alcohol and cigarettes.  The fact is, I can no longer do any of those things.  I’m at that age where acting like that is both adolescent of me, and not healthy in any manner.  I *know* better.

Ray is backing me on this as well.  He knows my weight and overall health is a source of anxiety for me.  He knows what I’m capable of looking and feeling like – I was so damn fit when we first met – and he would love to see that smile and ability back on my face and in my body.  I would too.

Besides, focusing on my diet will help take the pressure off this constant, nagging, ridiculous craving for nicotine that I’m going through these days.

28 Days Later

No, not the movie.

I’ve just recently crossed the 28-day mark with regards to my old smoking habit.  It’s a thing of my past.  Well, the actual putting of a cigarette to my lips is.  The nicotine, currently delivered to my body by means of a patch on my upper arm, remains a thing for me still, but I’m on the verge of stepping down from that as well.

This morning, after being awake for a few hours and messing around on my laptop, playing Civilization V actually, I found myself with a headache.  I started getting twitchy in my chair, restless for something.  I took myself out for a coffee, and it wasn’t until the walk back, where I stopped for a second and caught myself staring longingly at a discarded half-cigarette on the ground, that the reason for my headache became clear.  The patches I am using are good for 24 hours.  I hadn’t changed my patch in nearly 30 hours.  What I was experiencing was, in fact, a nicotine craving, but I didn’t actually identify it as such for quite some time.  It wasn’t that I was acting out, or that I felt myself going mad.  It was more like this nagging need for something…something was not quite right.  Once I got home and swapped out the patch, after a few minutes, my teeth unclenched, my headache lifted, and I was feeling right as rain again.

I still have that chemical dependency to break.  I’m also dealing with some pretty hefty chest congestion and heaviness in my thoracic region.  Shortness of breath is not something I’m used to – but from what I’ve read on line, it feels like asthma, or a nondescript weight sitting right on my chest.  This is a common side effect of quitting smoking, and may take quite some time for it to lift, but lift it will.  I need to keep up on my hydration, and when I can, exercise.  I am also thinking of getting a few hours in a steam room somewhere here in town, preferably with some eucalyptus or menthol in the air.  Whatever it takes, I’m game.

Ray, for his part, is super proud of me for doing this.  All along, he’s been irritated by the fact I was smoking.  It became a block between us and something he felt like he had to just deal with, rather than put his foot down about.  Now, though, he reaches over and holds my hand, tells me how happy my not smoking makes him, and a barrier that I wasn’t aware of between us has shifted, falling away.  I do blame him for inspiring this change in me, and I’m so thankful for it.

Twenty-eight days in, my life has improved a lot.  I’m not out of money all the time.  I don’t stink.  I don’t have to sneak off and miss out on some pieces of time spent with Ray or with any of my friends – most of whom don’t smoke either.  I’m not angry at work, craving that next break, that next moment off the bus.  I’m not as short with people (I’m still a curmudgeon, though, let it be known).  I’m feeling more balanced, more in tune with my body.  I now have a little checklist I go through when I’m feeling off – tired/thirsty/hungry?  To be honest, I can’t believe I took all of those vital things as a sign just to smoke.  How much did I deprive myself of sleep, or food, or even just water?  Why would anyone be that awful to themselves?  I think, perhaps, I’ve also turned a strong emotional growth corner in my life.  I don’t hate my body as much.  I don’t despise the skin I’m in as much.

I can finally and completely smell the season around me – Autumn, my favorite time of year.  It hit me today, actually, as I was out on a walk, that I hadn’t really smelled the rot of leaves and the dampness in the air that always comes with fall, in a very,very long time.  I appreciate the smell of hot apple cider.  I can smell the rain again.  Today, on my walk, this realization made me well up with tears.  I missed this more than I realized.

 

Re:Beginning – The Gym

A couple of weeks ago, Ray woke up with gumption.  He and I got in the Mini and took off to his gym, a 24Hour Fitness that’s about two miles from the house.  His intent – to use the membership he is paying for, and in order to achieve this – add me to his plan.  He wanted to use me as a motivator to get him back into his workouts, back into the art of movement, and out of his headspace that was starting to consume him.

We’ve gone a few times now, and today, I’m going to be doing the third workout of a beginner’s 28-day plan that I found online.

What brought me to writing here, besides the fact that I haven’t shared a post here in a while, is that this feels legitimately better than any other gym experience I’ve ever had.  In the past, when I’ve been to the gym, it’s been with a sense of desperation and anxiety.  I went to workout, not only to just lose weight and feel better, but tucked in the recesses of those platitudes was the real reason I was there: control.  I have a long-standing tradition of taking out my control issues upon my own flesh.

Almost twenty years ago, I had fallen into a steep and ugly depression.  It was my sophomore year of college, and I hadn’t come out of the closet.  I had left my family behind me, a situation that was fresh off an ugly divorce of my parents, and taken off to college, where I was surrounded by energetic and enthusiastic people of all stripes, who all seemed to have this joy about them that was missing in my life.  I faked it, for the most part, but something was off with me.  I was heavy, and had used food as a means of coping with anxiety and stress about the things in my life, not least of all was my questionable sexual identity.  Somewhere along the line, though, I had the idea that if I just changed my physical appearance, then things would be better.  Changing like that meant taking control of an aspect of my life that I’d never really paid attention to, apart from when I was actually made fun of for being heavy.  I, in short, stopped eating.  When I did eat, I forced myself to expel most of the food I had put in my body using any means necessary.

At first, it felt weird, but after a week or so, and noticing some of my weight falling off, it became it’s own feedback loop.  The more I starved, the more I lost, the better I felt.  I started to mix in going to the gym as a means of speeding up the weight loss, and as I wasn’t fueling my body at all, apart from an occasional coffee and a few bites of oatmeal, and the weight just kept falling.  For the first few months of this control push, I found myself with new-found confidence.  I was carrying myself around with a head held high, all the while, keeping my eating and fasting and purging habits tucked deeply away so that no one would notice.  I knew what I was doing to myself was wrong, but the results spoke louder, and the starvation addiction grew stronger within me.

Eight months of this was hard on my body.  I lost nearly 100 pounds through starvation, expulsion, and exercise.  I was sick, and it was a lovely young lady in an English Lit class who finally called me out on it.  She suggested I get some help, and I did.  By that point, I was looking really rakish and pale.  I’d been getting the occasional, “How are you doing, Thom?” from people around me, but like always, I remained upbeat and said I was great.  I had become masterful at hiding what was really going on.

I got the help I needed.  I also came out of the closet, and was able to move through my darkness into something better.  Still, along the way, in moments of chaos and crisis, I found myself turning back on my own body as means of regaining control.  After each boyfriend I’ve had prior to Ray, I spent weeks either running or weight training.  It’s how I coped with the loss of my first boyfriend, Thomas.  It’s how I responded to the termination of my marriage with Nathaniel.  It’s how I reacted to the failure of my relationship with Caleb.  Time and time and time again, turning inward and inflicting stress upon my body in order to reshape and reform myself has always come when the world around me is in total chaos and I felt like, somehow, at least being in control of my physical form would re-establish some sort of order out of it all.

Today, though, with this renewed attempt at fitness, and moving towards health, the backdrop for it all is markedly different.  I’m in a loving and stable relationship.  I live in a stable and supportive home.  I’m not having a crisis of identity.  I’m not feeling the pressure to change my form simply to fit in, or to give myself a false sense of power.  Today, with this re-beginning at the gym, it feels better.  It feels honest.  It feels more real?  I’m at a loss for words about it all still because it’s both old and new to me.  I know that I’m doing something good for myself.

Settling

The dust has started to settle with my move into Ray’s place.  We hit the grocery stores pretty hard yesterday, spending quite a bit of money to procure food for us both.  I’ve done a number of laundry loads so that, as of right now, we are all caught up (Ray is terrible with laundry upkeep).  My things have made their way out of the living room and into the bedroom, which was quite a feat, but there’s plenty of room to store my stuff, and room to still move around in the space, surprisingly.  I’ve paid my share of the rent, updated all of my addresses and such with all the various entities who need to know (thank you internet), and I’ve begun cooking my own food and adjusting to this new place.

It’s a lot quieter here, for some reason.  I think it’s because there are no pets.  I do miss Dougan and Punkass.  I miss my conversations with Bil throughout the day.

For some reason, I have a lot more time on my days off than before.  Maybe it’s the art of actually relaxing again, of not feeling like I’m in transition anymore, and not having to go-go-go in order to keep my nerves in check, that has suddenly opened up the feeling of more time in a day for me.

I’m feeling a lot more in control of my own life, and functioning at a level akin to where I was when I first moved here.  I did things and put energy into making a home and a space in Caleb’s house, and felt more invested, more connected.  My time with the fellas, after Caleb and I split, was really an interlude.  I felt comfortable there, and they were so instrumental in helping me find a center of gravity that was sorely missed after things with Caleb and I fell apart.  Having moved beyond that now, though, I do feel different.  It’s not better or worse, just different.  More engaged.  More aware.  More myself, perhaps?

I’m glad I took Ray up on his offer to live with him.  I’m having those quiet moments in my head when I realize I’m doing the things I have done before with other boyfriends that I’ve lived with, except this time around, he’s an active participant in them.  Cooking, cleaning, organizing, planning, scheming, conversing, loving – all of these rudiments of daily life I can now, once again, share with someone who matters to me.  I draw great fulfillment from this.

Shared Space Anxiety: An Understanding

Tomorrow, I begin the process of bringing stuff to my next address.  I will be officially moving in with Ray, and as of July 1, 2015, we will begin sharing a habitation together.  I have to say, though, the last month or so has been fraught with emotions, and I’ve not been able to pin down just why, until today.

I was out on a walk, a seven-mile journey around my side of town.  Over the last week, I’ve taken multiple multi-mile walks, and used the time both as a means to focus on myself and my body in motion, but also to avoid the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and nerves that this upcoming move has brought up in me.  It’s been nice to feel my muscles flex, to feel blood rushing through my veins and arteries, to focus on my breath, my pulse, my footfalls.  It’s been nice to take some of the mental machinations and let them flow through the rest of my body.  I’m built to deal with anxiety by taking out on the entirety of my body. It’s what I’ve always done. Still, I had no idea why I have been feeling so damned uptight. Moving in with my boyfriend has never been this hard.

As I shot a text to a friend, though, after I’d explained how I had a meltdown last night, and a little disagreement with Ray, and a few tears, it all came into focus. The reason I am so wound up about this new chapter in my life, and in my life with Ray, is because, for the first time ever, I’m able to do this kind of thing without compromising myself in the process.  What I mean is that, unlike every other time I’ve given up my independence and moved in under the same roof as the man who held my heart, this time I don’t have to give up a thing.  Ray has never, and will never, ask me to compromise myself for the sake of him or our relationship.  This was a foundational element when he and I started dating over a year ago, and in that time, it’s been underscored and underlined over and over again by him. He’s never required me to stop behaving in a certain way, or doing the things I like to do, or talking to the people I care for. He’s never required me to live in his shadows. Because of this, I get to walk into this new living arrangement with my eyes wide open. I get to experience this not just as an attachment and accessory to Ray’s life, but as moment in my own life, under my own steam, and in my own way. I get to feel and be and see thing through my own emotions and eyes unlike ever before.

My mother warned me, as she scooped me up out of Boston and brought me back to Maine after Nathaniel and I split, that, like her, I have a tendency to lose myself in the relationships I make. Whenever I’ve given over my heart to anyone, it came at a price – my identity. Suddenly, my needs and desires and thoughts took second place, or remained completely off-stage. I did this out of my own free will because it always meant that, as an exchange for my love and support, the person I was giving it up to would be in my life for as long as I could imagine. Or, so I thought. In every moment when this happened, when this dark and wordless exchange of self for something else occurred, I spent so much time and energy and effort justifying it. It was as if I knew what I was giving up, but had no words to express it.  Perhaps I found the entire idea of subjugating myself to the whims and needs of another so abhorrent that I flat-out refused to believe it was actually happening. In the end, with Thomas, Nathaniel, and Caleb, I always ended up on the losing end of things. Whenever I would step up and use my voice, or express a thing that would identify me as Thom and not just whoever’s boyfriend, I would be scolded, told to leave, and ended up hurt.  Every damned time.

Part of me is terrified of this happening again with regards to Ray, even though he has been adamant and forceful about me remaining the man he fell for, and not changing who I am to meet his needs.  Being who I am right now, and who I might change into in the future as a result of my own choices and activities, is exactly the man he wants me to be.  He’s never intoned or suggested otherwise.  When I feel frozen with fear about this next phase of my life, I need to remember this covenant between him and I that defines the kinds of boundaries we both require.  It is possible to remain true to who I am and still have infinite love for Ray – how he was when I met him, how he is today, and who he will become in the future.

I want to think that this anxiety, shared by both him and I, has come about because we are both present and accounted for while it’s occurring. It also, for me, gives a certain amount of gravity and weight to the entire process – something that never was there before. It’s intense, for certain, but perhaps that also comes from the fact that this is actually one of the most important choices we’ve made as a couple.  I have to respect that, all the while taking care of myself, and still remaining open to Ray’s needs and anxieties as well.  He’s never done this before, and I’ve always had a rotten experience when I’ve undertaken the act of sharing space. This time, though, is so much better, so much more energizing, so much more fulfilling.

While Out Walking

It’s been far too long since I posted an update on my fitness.  There’s a perfectly good reason for that.  I’m embarrassed by it.

I stepped on the scale last Sunday (about six days ago).  240 pounds spun up on the dial, and stared back at me as I leaned forward, looking over my belly to read the numbers and count the dash marks.  The red indicator dash aligned squarely at 240.

240.

This is precisely fifteen pounds less than I have weighed at my heaviest ever – a weight I carried during my first year of college.

I stand at about 5’9″ tall.  This, according to all scales and charts, puts me in a spot that is not one I ever wanted to be in again.  I am, official, obese.  I know, I know…charts and scales are not the end-all-be-all of a measurement of health.  I get that.  I also get, however, how I’ve been feeling over the past few months.

When I left Caleb’s house, just over a year ago, I was hovering around 170 pounds.  I was on a very, very restricted diet (because I couldn’t afford to buy food – I had no job), and spent my days sleeping or running to deal with the anxiety of the situation I was living in.  As soon as I had a job, though, I also signed up for the gym at work, and for a bit of time, it was exactly what I needed.  I hit the gym every other day during the week, and went running as often as I could.  I also moved into a new home, where nutrition and food to eat was readily available.  For the first month or so, I ate anything I could.  As long as I was going to the gym, I kept my weight at a manageable level, but more importantly, my clothes fit better than ever.

I met Ray shortly after moving and settling into this new life, and at first, he met me right as I was transitioning into this new life, new home, and new job.  He was attracted to my activity level.  Back then, he was also hitting the gym a couple of times a week, and had a decent yoga routine that he loved.  Neither of us were what you’d call athletic, but we were making the effort.

Sometime over the summer, and for reasons I still don’t know, we both focused more on eating well and camping and staying in with each other, rather than being as active as we had been.  For him, his workload increased a lot – working two restaurant jobs during the summer here in Portland means you’re always at work.  For my part, I simply sat behind the wheel and drove my bus, but continued to eat as though food was a precious commodity.  Then, I stopped going to the gym, as my schedule shifted from a structured Monday through Friday routine to one that was more all-over-the-map.  Instead of one garage, I began to work out of all of the garages in the metro area.  Some days I worked ten hours and had zero time/energy to get to the gym.  Other days, I just wanted to sleep.  On days off, Ray and I spent our time grabbing bites to eat, camping, and the occasional hike – but nothing too strenuous.

Through all of last year, the weight crept on.  Slowly, but over time, my waist expanded.  My work uniform grew tight.  I needed larger shorts.  My strength was waning.  Headaches.  Neck and muscle soreness and stiffness.  When I did try to go running, five miles seemed like a monster goal, when only a few months prior I  was doing seven to ten miles per run regularly.  I simply didn’t have the energy or drive.  In fits and spurts, I’ve tried and tried to restart the engine of me and keep striving to my Fit By 40 goal.  Instead, I reached for a slice of pizza, another peanut butter sandwich, a nap, a glass of whiskey – anything I could to feed this weird craving of always being hungry.  For his part, Ray never said anything to me about it.  He saw me getting pudgier, but as he was also growing softer – I coined the term “love pudge” to explain what was going on – we both agreed many times that something needed to change.

That all came to a head last Sunday, and it’s when I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

I’ve gone paleolithic – mostly.

I have done diet research for quite some time now.  I even bought the book “It Starts With Food.”  I have read countless articles about this kind of change in my approach to food, and while it all sounded great on paper, when the rubber met the road, I still found myself using cream in my coffee, along with lumps and lumps of sugar.

I still found myself reaching for bread and peanut butter when I needed a snack.

I still snacked constantly when I wasn’t sleeping.

I was still raiding the fridge upon coming home every damn time, no matter what time of day it was.

I still felt hungry.  I still felt run down.  I still felt more weight going on my bones.

So, I hit a reset button. I’ve started by doing the basics:  no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no processed anything.  So far, as of tonight (Saturday), it’s been nearly one week on this diet change.  So far, so good.  In fact, I weighed myself yesterday, and much to my glee, I found I’d lost five pounds during my first week of this new approach to food.  After some further research, I learned that 5-10 pounds lost during the first week or two is not unheard of because, it turns out, eating a lot of carbohydrates also means retaining quite a bit of water.

After just one week, I already have noticed that my hunger cravings have changed.  I only feel hungry after going far too long between actual meals.  I’m not feeling a crazed buzz after a meal, followed by a hard crash in a few hours.  I feel more balanced.  I feel like my moods are leveling off too.  Not putting sugar and milk in my coffee means I’m actually sipping my go-juice slowly, and thus not spiking my caffeine levels as high/low as before.

As far as actual meals go, my housemate (who does all of the food purchasing in our living situation), has done a really great job of keeping veggies and fruits stocked.  There’s plenty of the protein I need to eat available, and he’s always open to suggestions for food purchases.  I’ve had to turn down a delicious pasta dish, and instead opted for a massive salad with tuna on it.  Tonight, I said ‘no, thank you’ to pizza – something I truly loved – and had baked chicken and a garden salad.  Getting food that’s on the meal plan at convenience stores is next to impossible, so I am learning to pack better when I do head out the door.  I am, however, fortunate to be in Portland, Oregon, where the food options are plentiful, and every kind of dietary need can be easily filled, as long as I know where to look.

I know Ray is already annoyed with all of my chatter about how I’m feeling, but he’s being super supportive just the same.  Today, our conversation turned to actually going to the gym together and getting back on that fitness horse together, something I’m very happy to do.

I had a glass of wine with dinner on Friday night, which is not on the food list.  Truth be told, it was a decent red Malbec, and while I am used to having more than just one glass, it was all I needed.  Today, I countered that indulgence with a decent walk with Ray in the morning, and a lot of healthy foods all day long.  I’m not ever going to be militant about this – that kind of exactness is not in my nature – but I am going to make a real effort at this.  I need it.  I need the balance, the feeling of health, and to take advantage of my ability to move and be active for as long as possible.

This is a change, but I think, in time, it can just be what I eat, and not some sort of freakish experiment.  Perhaps this, in a way, is an extension of learning the power of the word ‘no’ and taking control over my life again.  Perhaps this, in a way, is me being even more of an adult.