Category Archives: Body Changes

Meanwhile, Back in One-derland…..

Last year, I reported that for the first time in nearly 20 years, my sister tipped the scales at less than 200 pounds. I am so thrilled to report that she is still a resident of One-derland! In fact, she told me this week that she has moved even further into the neighborhood!

1102404_10151894276038197_945955560_oChele isn’t to her goal, yet; but, she continues to work that direction, which is HUGE for anyone trying to reduce their weight! Am I right? How many times have you lost that same five pounds? I know that I’d weigh about 26 pounds now if I hadn’t kept losing and regaining the same weight – and, truthfully, regaining more than I lost!

And, she is doing it her way. Like I did, she has had some success by increasing her vegetable intake. She is more careful about exactly what fruits and vegetables she eats and sticks more towards those that have been shown to decrease inflammation. She limits her nightshade vegetable (tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes, and peppers) intake since those have been shown to aggravate arthritis. And, as we’ve discussed, she has removed most wheat from her diet since that makes her joints hurt.

(On a side note, she recently visited me for a week and, for movie night, I made pizza using a gluten-free crust mix that I found at the grocery. It was like eating pizza toppings on a roof shingle. Tough, tough, tough! Not to be defeated, we tried a gluten-free pizza at the Mellow Mushroom in Memphis and it was almost like regular pizza. Very tasty and neither of us experienced the discomforts we have come to associate with wheat ingestion.)

Feeling better and feeling better about herself, she has bought some really nice and feminine clothes to supplement her standard jeans and t-shirt wardrobe. And, in a move that has left me flabbergasted, she’s even started buying cute shoes – although, sadly, we don’t wear the same size. I can’t go closet sniping. Rats.

It’s wonderful to see her healthier and feeling better! As she continues down this path, I celebrate with her. Share your story and let us all celebrate with you, as well!

 

Close Enough to Celebrate

Last night I wore a long-sleeved Mississippi State t-shirt that I’ve had for several years – since just after Katrina, in fact, when my friends Angie and Mike gave it to me. It’s a size Large and when they sent it, it was too small; but, I didn’t have the heart to tell them. I kept it but didn’t really expect to ever wear it.

Fast forward seven years. The t-shirt that was too tight now engulfs me.

I still have some pajamas and a few other t-shirts that I had before. When I put them on, it stuns me that these articles of clothing that are now WAY too big, were too small.  I knew I was overweight; but, the reality is, I had no clue how big I was.  I knew that I had to turn sideways to sit down in the seats at the hockey game, but that still didn’t illustrate it for me. Sitting in the bathtub, my hips touched both sides of the tub….thoroughly.  Now, I can plop into a seat at the arena and I can just right out of it when the need arises (which is often the case. Refs are just blind, dontcha know.) And, when I sit in the tub, neither hip touches the side of the tub.  Because I remember the feeling of before (even if I didn’t really have a visual idea of my size), those tactile experiences really emphasize the differences in my body.

And it’s pretty fantastic, I must say.

I’m sure that the time will come when I don’t notice things like that anymore. I’ll get used to this body eventually. However, right now, I’m still close enough to the memory of before to celebrate the reality of now.

It’s Sort of Like Alien Abduction

Yesterday, I experienced another weird side-effect of weight loss that I’d forgotten about – periodic, transient numbness.

I spent a lot of the day sitting at my desk with my legs crossed.  My right knee is not a fan of being crossed over the left; so, I spent most of the day with the left over the right.  Last night, the skin on outside of my left calf was numb. This happened throughout the Great Reduction; but, I’d forgotten about it. Funny how quickly I forget some things – like this numbness, how pregnancy wrecked my hair and how much I dislike parades. (I try to like them since it just seems so anti-social not to.  Just can’t do it.) Anyway, as I’ve said over and over: I am not a doctor; so, I can’t give you the scientific reason for this. However, my guess is that while my legs were crossed, I put pressure on the nerves on the outside of the calf and around the knee.  As a result, they are now numb for awhile.

cow abductionDuring the Great Reduction, I experienced this several times in my toes, my lower legs, the middle of my back and sometimes in my fingers.  The numbness never lasted very long, was never accompanied by any tingling and never seemed to do any lasting harm.  It was just disturbing at first and weird afterwards.

As I lose these last few pounds, I expect that I’ll experience this more frequently. Insulating fat is being lost, making nerves more accessible to pressure. There is less fat between the nerves and the hard surfaces of the bones and of, well, hard surfaces. The nerves will get pinched between bones and pressure from the outside.  If it happens like before, eventually, everything will settle down, find a new place without all of the insulation and the instances of numbness decrease and finally disappear.

In the meantime, if you’re experiencing this, try not to be alarmed. I went through it, too.  And, although I’d hardly classify the experience as normal just because I’ve had it, too, at least you know that you’re not alone.  Kind of like all those people who have been abducted.

Out, Damned Spot

The past couple of weeks have found me at the gym about ten days.  My typical workout consists of 15 to 20 minutes of hard cardio, 30 minutes of weightlifting, and 15 minutes on a treadmill. I alternate what I’m working on with weights. One day it’s arms, shoulders, chest and back. The next day it’s legs, hips and core. I’m already seeing some significant results; however, I’m also seeing some other things.

Namely flying squirrel arms.

The reality of having a lot of fat for a long time is that I had all the skin required to cover it.  Now that the fat’s not there, the skin doesn’t know it’s not needed anymore and doesn’t seem to be hitting the road.  So, I’ve got extra skin – particularly on my arms, abdomen and thighs.  And, I’m not going to lie, it bothers me. It bothers me that it’s there and it bothers me that cosmetic surgery is really the only way to totally get rid of it.

pointing fingerWe see articles all the time about losing belly fat or trimming our thighs or getting a smaller posterior.  The truth is (and you already know this) without liposuction. we cannot spot reduce the fat in our bodies.  The body calls up the contents of fat cells for usage in whatever order it decides.  Right now, I’m 13 pounds away from my goal and, if I got a vote, almost all of them would come from between my rib cage and my knees. I have not been issued a voter registration card, though, so I’m fairly certain I will not get any input on this.

So, I can’t determine where the fat comes from; however, I can make certain that I am diligent in exercising the muscles in those areas that I’d like to see decrease.  I can work to firm and condition the underlying muscles.  As those firm up, even with the extra skin, the appearance of the whole area is improved. I’m told that the extra skin will decrease over time, as well; but, that it takes several years.  Oh, well.  I was planning on living them, anyway.  Might as well see if that is true, right?

As I said, I’m 13 pounds away from my goal and I’m confident that (like last time) my bra size will reduce to Why Bother before my thighs are where I’d like for them to be. C’est la vie! I will keep working towards that goal, fitting back in my favorite skirts from last year and I won’t worry about the rest of it.

I don’t like the extra skin, but it’s not going to kill me the way the fat was.  And, I’d like to lose the rest in my hips and thighs, but if I don’t, that won’t kill me either.  What will kill me is living the way I was, eating whatever I wanted, allowing my head trash to get in the way, and never exercising. I might not be able to spot reduce fat; but, I can certainly spot reduce unhealthful habits.

To those, I can be my very own Lady McBeth and command: Out, damned spot!

How Did THAT Get There?!

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As I lost fat, my body topography changed. Duh, right? I mean, there were changes that I expected like my waist getting smaller, my wrists and arms getting thinner, losing some junk in my trunk. I expected all those things, but there were some changes that just never occurred to me.

One day, I looked down at my abdomen and there was a scar on my belly, just above my belly-button.  It was weird. I mean, you’d think I would remember an injury significant enough to leave a scar like that, wouldn’t you? But I was drawing a total blank!  Until, that is, I remembered having my gallbladder removed. The procedure was done laparoscopically and one of the incisions was on my abdomen.  The thing is, it was INSIDE my belly-button, not above it.  As I lost weight, my belly got flatter and the scar appeared to move, blowing my mind. But, that wasn’t the only thing that did.

My head, neck and feet shrunk, too.

I have a gigantic head.  No, seriously.  A great, big, old egg. My kangaroo felt Akubra hat is a size 60.  When I lived in Pennsylvania, it was my go-to hat for shoveling sidewalks and keeping my head warm going to work.  It took every single centimeter of the circumference to hold my noggin and hair.  It’s too big for me now.  Even with the same huge mane, the hat slips around on my head.  I was, in fact, a fat-head and, it turns out, a fat-neck.

I had a couple of necklaces that hung just to the bottom of that dip at the base of my neck (the jugular notch – for your cocktail party trivia of the day).  Now, those same necklaces hang a good inch lower than that.  Again, I never thought about my neck having a layer of fat that significant; but, clearly, it did.  Today, I can see my sternocleidomastoid muscle when I turn my head (that’s the muscle that runs from behind my ear to my clavicle.  And, yes, I had to look that up just now.)  There’s not much excess fat on my neck anymore – or on my feet.

Probably the biggest surprise was my feet. I’ve never really thought that my feet were fat – they certainly weren’t Fred Flintstone feet.  However, I lost one whole shoe size (or maybe they’ve changed how they size shoes, I’m not sure). Most of the shoes I wore before are just a little loose – like they’ve been stretched out.  My favorite white sandal wedges are a safety hazard now that my foot moves around so much in them.  Not that I was particularly graceful on them to begin with; but, now, I’m a $10,000 video waiting to happen in those things.

As we discussed last Friday when we talked about the excitement of excavating one’s own skeleton, losing weight is truly a voyage of discovery.  The body I thought I knew, I didn’t really know at all.  Things have moved, shrunk, tighten and, yes, sagged. Regardless, I’m thrilled with the introduction!

What You Need Is A Gas-Guzzler

Last week, we talked about how  the body processes calories differently depending on the source of the fuel. Just as calories are different, so is the rate at which they are burned by different types of tissue. The rate at which our bodies burn fuel is called the basal metabolic rate.

When a non-obese person under 50 is at rest, the heart and kidneys burn the most fuel.  Then comes the brain, the liver, skeletal muscle, the rest of the body’s functions and. finally, adipose tissue. (If you want to see the study and can understand the hieroglyphics, check it out here.) Did you know what was dead last on that list?  Yep, adipose tissue – our old nemesis, FAT.  According to this study, muscle tissue requires nearly three times the energy to function than fat does.  It burns three times the number of calories. It’s a gas guzzler.

Well, sign me up! Right?

We’ve all heard this before and it’s why people recommend weight-lifting and strength training as part of a weight loss program. When we lift weights, we are activating those muscle cells making them burn more energy.  In addition, every time we lift, we damage our muscles the tiniest bit.  Our bodies have to repair that damage, using even more energy, making the muscles stronger. Now, ladies, I know that most of us are not wanting to look in the mirror and see L.L. Cool J’s body (across the room, maybe, but not in the mirror.) Lifting weights isn’t going to turn us into muscle-bound men. We will not sprout chest hair or a full beard. Our sex drives may increase, but, I’m pretty sure our partners won’t be complaining about that; so, that one’s a win all the way around.

According to the Mayo Clinic, we increase our metabolic rates by regular aerobic exercise, strength training and lifestyle activities. That means we need to regularly engage in something that gets our heart rates up and makes us breathe hard (I know that you’re back with L.L. Cool J. Stop it.). We need to do some weight lifting and we need to change our lifestyles to move more.  Any additional movement is good for us. Park further from the door. Take the stairs. Take our shopping carts all the way back in the store. Although there are many factors that determine our basal metabolic rates, those little things add up.

SONY DSCI would not suggest that we all run out and buy a giant weight set and start pumping iron.  I’ve recommended this before and I’ll do it again: this is one place where a personal trainer is really what you need. These people can teach you lift effectively and properly so that you achieve the best results with the least amount of injury.  Remember – that’s what they do. That’s their area of expertise. If you cannot afford regular sessions with a trainer, then book just one, explain your situation and ask them to design a plan for you.  In about six weeks, your muscles will be yawning at that routine and you’ll need another.  Have another session with a trainer.

I’ll admit, time with a trainer isn’t cheap, but the money is probably there in the budget. Take it out of drive-thrus, cigarettes, alcohol, or doctor co-payments.  After all, when we eat right and exercise, we don’t darken the doctor’s office door nearly as frequently!

As we age, our bodies slow down, making weight loss and fitness an even greater challenge. We need every little edge we can get and this one is an easy one to get.

Let’s get lifting and turn our bodies into gas guzzlers!

Personal Archaeology

Right now, take your hand and put it on the outside of the back of your bent knee.  Do you feel that ligament?  For years, I completely forgot that was there.  Ankles, wrists, hips, knees, clavicles and ribs all get lost underneath the fat. As I lost weight, I could see it, others comment on it, and I felt it; but, there was something particularly exciting when I began to excavate my own skeleton.

dancing skeletonMy friend Cindy recently reminded me how exciting that was.  In just a couple of years, I’d forgotten. The last time I saw her, she was especially excited about being able to see her ankle bones and the beginnings of her knee joints.  And I am so excited for her!  She is quite literally rediscovering herself! And whether that is an internal or an external discovery, there is a lot of work involved.  She’s doing it and she’s reaping the rewards.

For me, I was ridiculously thrilled to discover wrist bones.  I have a medium bone structure and will never be thin and willowy; however, once the fat was gone from around my wrists, I felt just like Twiggy, honey!  For my friend Carl (who lost 100 pounds many years ago), he was most excited to find his hip bones. The specifics are different for each of us, but the basic idea is the same.  We are digging ourselves out of unhealthy habits and ruts.  It’s exciting!

Now, the flip side is that it can also be a little painful.

Without the padding to protect them, my elbows bruised quite a bit from me knocking them into things. Hard chairs are literally a pain in the butt.  My knees had to realign themselves once the layers of fat tissue weren’t there anymore pushing things into unnatural places. My center of gravity and buoyancy also changed. However, I found stretching and basic yoga very helpful in lining everything back up.  I also did (and am doing) a lot of work strengthening my core.

My abs are the muscles that hold me up. They determine my posture by keeping my swayback in check. That also keeps my hips properly in their sockets, my legs straight, reducing unnecessary torque on my knees.  Them Bones is right, the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bone’s connected to the shin bone. The shin bone’s connected to the foot bones.  When they are all lined up properly, they all perform more efficiently and less painfully. Lined up as they should be, they don’t wear on each other as unnecessarily and unnaturally, either.

The whole weight loss process for me was an exercise in personal archaeology on many levels.  I dug my mind out of the mire of poisonous recordings. I dug my eating habits out of the greasy rut they were in. I dug my lazy self off the couch (that one nearly took a steam shovel). And I dug my bones out of the fat prison they’d been in for years.

I have the hat for it and, by golly, I think I may have become my own Indiana Jones!

It’s Not MY Butt That’s Dragging!

I love hockey.  I love going to the games, sitting in the stands, yelling my head off.  When the Preds do something great, I jump up and cheer.

When I first started going to games, though, I couldn’t jump up.  The armrests blocked my hips.  I had to turn sideways a little before I got up.  The truth is, that’s embarrassing – realizing that you don’t fit into a seat at an arena.

Me in the hangar
Side shot illustrating how overweight I was.

The last time I flew before my lifestyle change, I realized that I didn’t fit completely in my own airline seat, either.  I didn’t have to ask for a seatbelt extension; but, that seatbelt wouldn’t have held much more.  I’m sure the person sitting beside me didn’t love sharing their row with me, either.  I wasn’t actually IN their seat, but all kinds of encroachment was going on.  That’s embarrassing – realizing that you don’t fit into a seat on an airliner.

Those situations were real, tangible demonstrations that I was bigger than I thought I was.  If you don’t fit into a seat in a room decorated with finger paintings, you’re in a kindergarten.  If you don’t fit into a seat in a lecture hall, you’re in a world of trouble.

Now, let’s fast forward 11 months from my new birthday (July 24).  On a gorgeous June Saturday, we went canoeing down the Harpeth River.  Winter and Spring had been on the dry side, leaving the river a little low.  On several occasions, our canoe dragged the gravel on the bottom of the river.  Embarrassed, I shifted my weight each time, trying to wriggle us off the gravel bars. At some point, I realized that my efforts had no effect.  Huh. Curious.  Then it occurred to me: it wasn’t MY butt that was dragging!

I wanted to sing!!!

Me at near my goal weight
Near my goal weight

I turned to the man I was seeing, a height/weight proportionate tall man, and announced that it wasn’t me!  It wasn’t my fault we were dragging!  I was thrilled. He thought I was nuts.

You see, he’d never had a big weight problem and he’d never known me at my biggest.  He had no idea what it felt like to be truly and deeply embarrassed about his size.  But I do.  And, perhaps you do, too.

People who have quite literally always fit likely can’t appreciate the wonderful, liberating lightness that comes with not being the one weighing everyone down.  But I do.  And I know that you can, too.

Who Is That Fat Woman?

Me and my dad on Memorial Day 2011
Me and my dad on Memorial Day 2011

I’ve had a weight problem almost all of my life; however, when I saw photos from a family Memorial Day event in 2011, I was surprised to see how big I had gotten.  In my mind, I was around a size 14.  In the real world, I was a size 20 and still going up.  Surprised as I was, I was not motivated to make any kind of real change.

Oh, sure.  I told myself I was dieting and cut out my daily Snickers bar, but that was really it.  You see, that was kind of my life-long pattern.  The Big Diet Lie, as it were.  Don’t look at me like that.  You know you’ve done it, too.  “Oh, no more lasagne for me.  I’m on a diet.”  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you scarf an entire box of low-fat cookies.  Hey, but they’re low fat.  Stop it. You know you don’t even believe that.

I had lost significant amounts of weight using both The Diet Center program and Nutrisystem when I was in my twenties.  With the Diet Center program, I cooked my own food.  Nutrisystem was just like it is now – super, super easy. I just wasn’t commited enough to myself to keep the weight off with either program.

When I made the decision this time to actually lose weight, I remembered the food list from the Diet Center program. Unfortunately, their store fronts have long gone out of business and the books are no longer in print.  So, I went to abebooks.com (my most favoritest book site) to get a copy of the cookbook and of the program guide.  The books are written by Sybil Ferguson who devised the program for her own health.  I also bought a book called Your Body Knows Best about eating for your blood type, metabolism and heritage.  I combined those two programs and came up with a group of foods that work for me.

The short description of the list is this: lots of fresh fruits & vegetables, no canned foods or premade sauces (they hide all kinds of sugar, sodium and preservatives in canned and jarred food – read the labels, they”ll scare you to death), meat-free Mondays (or just some day of the week), fish one day a week, no more than one diet soft drink a day (down from 6 or 7 cans a day!), and absurd amounts of water.  A daily multi-vitamin ensured that my vitamins and minerals weren’t all flushed out by the copious amounts of water I drank.  I also took flax seed and fish oil supplements to help curb cravings.  My body craves red meat; so, I eat it.  My dad had a calf slaughtered before it got into the meat processing system.  The cuts are leaner from this grass-fed calf (which also hadn’t been treated with all those antibiotics necessary for cattle in stockyards); however, even with fattier cuts, I just counted the calories.  A good piece of roast beef from time to time isn’t going to kill me and if it keeps me from craving worse things, then, in the balance, it’s the best move for me.

I ate three meals and three snacks a day, keeping my mealtimes as routine as possible.  For me, this regular intake of calories kept my blood sugar steady which kept me alert and hunger pang free.   I’ve read that the body often signals the need for fluid by making you feel hungry; so, if I found myself feeling peckish outside of routine meal times, I drank a large glass of water or a cup of hot herbal tea.   If the water trick didn’t work, I brushed my teeth.  That minty feeling often cut off hunger at the pass.

I do not buy sugar free cookies or candies since they actually contain sugar alcohol which, I have discovered, makes me hungry.  For 110 calories, I can have two pieces of sugar free candy and be hungry enough to gnaw off my own fist in 30 minutes, or I can have a large banana and be satisfied for two hours.  For the same reason, I rarely ate pasta or white breads.  Any bread that I ate came from the store bakery, from the farmers’ market or from my own oven.  Since the stuff sold on the shelves takes so long to mold, it scares me.  I’d rather buy from a local baker, pay a little more, put some in the freezer to keep it fresh and know that I’m reducing the preservatives in my diet.

I would estimate that the first 40 to 50 pounds were lost basically to changing food choices and habits.  It was phenomenal!  But, did you notice how an awful lot of those habit descriptions involved the past tense?  Tomorrow, I’ll tell you why.