30-Day Check-In

Okay, so yesterday was my 30th day on this campaign to get back to a healthy weight. As of this morning, I lost 13.4 pounds during those first 30 days. And, yes, I’m all kinds of pumped about that! I have to remind myself, though, not to get wrapped around the axle of the numbers on the scale. While they are a way to quantify my progress, they are by no means the only way.

My goal is, of course, to lose fat; but, that doesn’t always mean losing weight. As I exercise more and weight train more, I will gain muscle. If I lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle, the scales aren’t going to reflect any difference, but my waistband certainly will! And that’s the real goal – getting back to a healthy size. I want to be strong and fit. I want to be able to ride a bike. I really want to be able to go for a run. (We’ll see if The Foot allows it.) I want to be able to swim a mile again. And, vainly, I want to feel good about how I look again.

I had gotten so big that a 13.4 pound weight loss isn’t really all that noticeable. I’ll probably have to lose another 10 before anyone but me can tell. Still, 13.4 is a great start and I’m really pleased with it.

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(dis)Courage

You don’t hear from me in forever, I write three weeks, then I disappear again. I know. But, really, it’s just like me. Last time we talked, I was super excited that I had gone on a couple of walks with Ellie and that my foot felt fine. Progress!

Except that it wasn’t.

After the third walk, I began to experience significant pain again. Thankfully, no swelling, but I could not walk without limping, not even to just do normal things like walk around the house and maybe do something really crazy like go to the grocery store. I cannot walk a mile and a half without pain and that makes me want to just sit down in the middle of the floor and cry.

If you’ve known me long, you know that I have always said – with clear self-awareness – that I am no Caroline Ingalls. I would have been a horrible frontiersman. The Oregon Trail started in Missouri and ran about 2000 miles to either California or Oregon, depending on your paradise of choice. The average trip lasted four and a half to five months. Ummmmmm. I’m really more of a Boeing-type girl than a covered wagon one. I’d have probably been turning around at the Kansas state line. I just don’t have the patience for that. Zen? Not so much.

I’m more frustrated that I can even say at my injury. I have place to go, things to do, and people to see. I don’t have time for all of this nonsense. Yet, I cannot wish it better. Staying off of it completely didn’t heal it. Using it only sparingly hasn’t healed it. And my weight loss is going much slower than I’d like; so, I don’t have the confidence that even getting all the extra weight off is going to heal it.

Temptation is strong and I hear the sirens’ call from the frozen cashew milk. The Girl Scouts at the grocery store entrance are singing me straight into the rocks with their prepubescent calls of “Thin Mints! Tagalongs (kryptonite)!” I have been really having a hard time. Finally, yesterday, I bought myself a treat – a bouquet of flowers.

purple-bouquetKroger had bouquets containing lisianthus, one of my favorites. These blooms were deep purple and were paired with ornamental cabbage for a really striking arrangement – one that I find myself staring at, enjoying it tremendously, and not adding one calorie to my diet. I think I just added another weapon to my craving-fighting arsenal.

Now if I could just figure out something for this frustration…..

 

A Joint Vacation

Joining forces and funds with someone you like is a great way to enjoy a vacation. Unless they’re paying for the whole thing and it’s an amazing, private jet kind of vacation, I don’t suggest joining someone you don’t like. That’s a quick way to jail….not that I know personally, you understand. But I hear things.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, my aunt let me tag along with her when she was headed to New Orleans for a few days. We had such a great time! We stopped in Starkville, MS, to watch a Mississippi State Football game. game-girlsWe also visited with family in Jackson, before heading further south to the Crescent City to catch up with our friends and to catch up on our beignets. I’m so glad she asked me to go along! It was my last vacation and one that I could not have afforded to take on my own. We enjoyed a lovely joint vacation.

Since then, friends have invited me to come visit them in Orlando, Kansas City, Denver and Seattle; but, I have not had the money to go. I look with envy on photos that friends post from beach and European vacations. Those kinds of trips are just not in my budget.

Or, I didn’t think they were.

According to The State of Obesity: “Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and healthcare costs in the United States. Currently, estimates for these costs range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year. In addition, obesity is associated with job absenteeism, costing approximately $4.3 billion annually and with lower productivity while at work, costing employers $506 per obese worker per year.”  Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health says, “By one estimate, the U.S. spent $190 billion on obesity-related health care expenses in 2005-double previous estimates.” And the CDC reports: “The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are high. In 2008 dollars, these costs were estimated to be $147 billion.The annual nationwide productive costs of obesity obesity-related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion ($79 per obese individual) and $6.38 billion ($132 per obese individual)”

Any way you slice that, obesity related issues are costing our country and our economy a WHOLE bunch of money. Those numbers are all really too big for me to get a good fix on in my mind. I can, however, fix in my mind the amount that my obesity related injury has cost me (so far): $2217.21 to my doctor and another $3444.26 or so in lost gross wages since the injury first surfaced in July. That’s $5661.47. SO FAR! I think that we can agree that I could have taken a mighty fine vacation on that.

Instead, my ankle demanded that I go to my orthopedist’s office – a totally different kind of joint vacation. Granted, he has three locations; so, I’ve gotten some variety there. Still, it’s not like I’m going from the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay to Versailles, now is it? I think we can agree that Paris would be a lot more fun.

This year, as you go on vacation, share your photos, please. I abandoned my own health and allowed myself to become unhealthy again; so, until I regain my health, I’ll be jealously viewing those photos from my home.

Dang it.

 

But That’s Cheating!

Years ago, like 15 or so, I had some weight reduction success following the Body for Life plan. That plan allows for one Cheat Day each week; but, it banks on the dieter moving further and further from really bad cheating because eating healthfully the other six days makes them feel so good they don’t want to lose that good feeling. Although I stuck to having a single Cheat Day for awhile, I never really reached that point of wanting to stay on the straight and narrow because I felt so great. Being nutritionally good for its own sake has never been my strong suit. My  diet flow chart looked like this:

Cheat Day → Cheat Weekend → Cheat Once a Day → What Diet?

This is clearly a sub-optimal result.

However, I realize that this is not everyone’s result or everyone’s experience. I said when I started this blog and I’ve said it several times since then: I’m not a dietitian. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a doctor. I am an expert only in terms of my own experiences. While I’m certainly presumptuous, I’m not presumptuous enough to say that I can speak to every dieter, every emotional eater, every overweight or obese person, or even every sugar addict. I can speak only to my own experience as someone in every. single. one. of those categories.

I tried to quit smoking several times before I was actually successful at it. Each time I failed, it was because I allowed myself to believe the lie that I could have just one. “I’ll just have this one while I drink this beer.” “I can just have one with a cup of coffee.” Just “one in the car on the way to work” became one on the way home, too. Then it became another one at lunch, then another at home after work. The non-smoking flow chart looked like this:

Cheat Drive → Cheat Commute → Cheat Relaxation → A Pack of Marlboro Lights, Please

Bam! I was a smoker again.

It was not until I was honest with myself about my condition as a nicotine addict that I was able to successfully quit. No, I cannot have just one. I won’t stop there. It’s the same with my sugar addiction and the sumptuous Oreo Blizzard, I won’t stop there.

As I mentioned yesterday, I know people who can binge smoke twice a year or smoke two cigarettes a week. I am not one of those people. Similarly, I’m sure that there are people who can successfully manage a single Cheat Day or Cheat Meal a week. Clearly, I am not one of those people, either. If I were, I would not have regained more than two-thirds of the weight I lost.

The trick that let me successfully quit smoking and lose weight before wasn’t giving in to the cravings, it was by-passing or short circuiting them. If I wanted a cigarette with a beer or a cup of coffee, I just didn’t drink beer and I had my coffee in different locations and situations than I had when I smoked. I stopped working crossword puzzles sitting on my back porch because that was a time when I smoked a lot. I changed my routine so that those situations when I might normally have a cigarette no longer occurred. It’s harder with food; but, I believe that it is still manageable.

no-food-memeI pay for my gasoline at the pump, avoiding going into the convenient store where I would normally buy a snack. I change the route that I drive to work, avoiding driving by Dairy Queen and Popeye’s Chicken. I stick to the outside aisles at the grocery store, avoiding the siren call of the frozen food section. I am finding different food choices to mitigate the effects of cravings. I keep lots of whole foods and meals made from them on hand, avoiding hunger panic and the poor food choices it brings.

It’s been only a week; so, these things are not habit yet. I’m still working on them and I’m still struggling; however, I know that changing my habits worked before. And I know that it will work now.

If you are using a Cheat Day but still struggling with your weight or your health, I would challenge you to map your own diet progression. Does your flow chart look like the one the diet book recommends? (Cheat Day → Six Healthy Choice Days → Cheat Day → Six Healthy Choice Days → Better Health) Or does it look like mine above? If it looks like mine, perhaps it’s time to rethink your approach. Because if it looks like mine, it’s not a Cheat Day. It’s just cheating.

 

The New Why

Way back on March 9, 2016, I shared with you that I had missed a night of work because of what I suspected was plantar fasciitis in my left foot. At that time, I had already been struggling with foot (but mostly heel) pain for months. Now, ten months later, I find myself at home on a second medical leave for that same foot; but, it’s more than just plantar fasciitis.

As you know, I work in an industrial environment for a company that sells EVERYTHING from A to Z. (Think about it for a minute and you’ll get it.) Anyway, on a typical shift, I walk from 15K to 17K steps (there are an average of about 2K steps in a mile). I know this because a friend gave me a Fitbit that counts them for me. In July, we have a ginormous sale marking the anniversary of the program we offer for our premier (or you might say prime, even) customers. That sale increases production activity dramatically for about three days. During those three days, my average number of steps jumped from between 15K and 17K up to between 20K and 23K. The grumblings from the labor force of my left heel spread to rest of the foot and ankle. And they got worse. You know that of course I ignored the grumblings until they became a work stoppage. My ankle and foot went on strike! After all, they were 49, far too old for this nonsense of walking those kinds of distances. On concrete. Carrying this fat body. The pain was absolutely excruciating! I couldn’t make it through an entire shift at work in spite of my boss’s efforts to make me as stationary as possible. On August 8, I went to see an orthopedist who diagnosed an inflamed subtalar joint (or, as my boyfriend says, a swollen ankle) and who put me in a walking boot with instructions to wear it all the time.

Yeah, because I follow instructions so well.

feet-comparison

I tried it for a week with poor results. By poor results, I mean that the pain was as gawd-awful as ever – see the photos above. By the unhealed abrasion on my lower left shin, you can see that the photos were taken in a short time frame. I bought some hiking boots and wore those instead. That was the tiniest bit better. The pain continued unrelieved by the meloxicam the doctor had prescribed; but, I continued my normal routine as best as possible. I worked at work; but, I did nothing at home. The pain while walking around was bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the pain of standing up after having been seated for awhile. There were times that I seriously considered just sleeping in the car to avoid having the make the walk into the house. When I did finally get inside, I went straight to bed where I stayed unless my bladder dictated otherwise. Clearly, the labor situation was not improving. My foot and ankle were still on strike. I was just existing. I had no life.

So, I returned to the doctor. An MRI showed stress fractures in the navicular and medial cuneiform bones, as well as a fibrous coalition between the talus and navicular bones. Some of my pain was still coming from that inflamed subtalar joint; but, some of it was coming from the stress fractures. He put me in a hard cast on September 26. (Luckily, the cast was pink and super-cute.) But it meant that I had to go on a medical leave of absence from work. After several days of being in that non-weight bearing cast, I was pain-free for the first time in months and having WAY too much fun zipping around on my borrow little knee scooter.

After a month, I was out of the cast, but the physical limitations set by my doctor kept me in a walking boot and off work until December 7. So, from October 24 to December 7, I walked no more than a normal person. Then, I went back to work. Because I could not walk the distances required in my normal job, I worked in a department that let me stand still more. Even so, between December 7 and 28, I was able to complete only one full work week. Granted, it was a 60-hour week because of the holiday season; but, I was still able to complete only one. I took a few days off while my son was visiting which gave the continually protesting joint some relief. On the 28th of December, I worked the eight-hour shift my doctor had limited me to; but, for those eight hours I got to do MY job. I was thrilled and I had an absolute blast! Then I came home and could not put any weight on my ankle for nearly 36 hours. I was back on crutches….and back on medical leave.

I can’t walk and it’s my own fault. My Why crystallized.

I have walked in excess of six miles a night probably 70% of the time over the four years I’ve been at this job; so, why has the trouble started only now? I’ve walked more at this job and been fine. I’ve been fatter than this and not had these kinds of issues. I’m older than I’ve ever been, sure, but, I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s a combination of the three things. I have never walked this much, weighed this much and been this old at the same time.

My age is my age. I can’t do anything about that. My job requires a great deal of physical activity (which, frankly, I enjoy). I can’t do anything about that. My weight. THAT, I can do something about.

Five years ago, my Why was getting healthy in order to take care of my son and to meet my potential grandchildren. In the intervening years I’ve had small Whys of a gorgeous red dress (hush, you don’t even know!), a pair of cute blue shorts, and an intriguing man with a massive chest and odd green eyes; but, I haven’t had an urgently compelling Why. Until now.

Five years ago my weight made me a potential candidate for heart attack, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Today, my weight makes me an actual partially disabled woman. I went from a Maybe to a Sure Thing.

It’s time to stop messing around and take my life back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whys Have It

Yesterday, I said that part of the reason I stopped caring about my health was that I lost sight of my Why. That’s not a terribly complicated statement or concept; but, lemme tell you, it was a tough one to figure out!

I have tried several times over the last two years to get my head back in the game and to get this weight back off. Each time I start out with guns blazing, taking no prisoners, and showing no mercy. Then I run into my boyfriends Ben and Jerry and all bets are off. (I know people whose weaknesses are wine or chocolate or pasta; but, mine really is ice cream. I’m six. I know. However, no one understands disappointment, boredom, depression, happiness, PMS or Wednesday quite like Ben and Jerry. For me, they are Lex Luthor and they make kryptonite by the pint.) I’m so easily distracted and my efforts so easily derailed. Why?

because-the-why-mattersBecause I lost my Why. Without a reason, a strong enough motivation, I wasn’t choosing the kinds of foods and activities I needed to choose.

My first Why revolved around my son. I went for my annual Big Girl check-up, not feeling like anything was amiss other than that I was tired. At the time, I was working some 90 hours a week trying to get an internet start-up off the ground. Who wouldn’t be tired, right? You know how when you go to the doctor, they weigh you then take your blood pressure (tasks I have always believe were performed in the reverse of optimal order – of course my BP is going to be higher after I see my weight!)? Well, my BP was significantly higher than normal for me and the nurse practitioner would not let me leave until it came down. Hello. You have my attention.

At that moment, I realized that I had started down the road of permanent damage. I knew that I was approaching the time when I would either get healthy or get on a bunch of prescription drugs. With all of the heart-attacks dotting the landscape of my family history, I really began to take seriously the fact that I was headed for heart disease, which 25% of the time initially announces its presence with a fatal heart attack. In addition to the trees of heart attacks in my family landscape, there are quite a few shrubs of diabetes and some boulders of high blood pressure. My high BP that day put me in that landscape for the first time that I was aware of. I realized that if I was going to take charge of my health, I had to do it then since menopause was looming somewhere in the next decade for me. I knew it was time to act and I did. I got serious. I got it done. I got healthy.

Then I got cocky.

My Why was to be alive to see my son become a man, then perhaps a father. My Why involved meeting my potential grandchildren, baking cookies with them, riding bikes, reading stories and playing in the mud. When my son moved across the country, it became more difficult for me to keep my eyes on my Whys. I lost my focus, then I lost my way. (Understand that I’m not blaming my failure on my son for moving away. That would be absurd. I’m just giving a timeline for how and when I got lost.) Having good health for my own sake wasn’t a big enough Why. Sure my clothes were all too small, but I wasn’t sick or anything.

Until I was.

And that gave me my new Why that we’ll discuss tomorrow.

Eye Beam

I say it regularly because I believe it so strongly: maturing is just the process of figuring out what a schmuck you’ve been up to this point. Yeah. So I’ve been doing some, um, maturing lately.

On August 19, 2013, I published a piece called What If You Were Dying?  Take a second to give it a read. I had some good things to say. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

There are several things you need to know about that piece. First, the woman I’m sitting with in the photograph was my precious Aunt Jo. She died of lung cancer after having smoked for some 60-something years. She killed herself with tobacco. Second, all of the statistics I quoted in there are true (as far as any data used to prove a point can be true). Third, it was my opinion at the time that if you are deliberately doing something that is harming your health (whether it’s tobacco or Twinkies), you’re an idiot. And fourth, I’m an idiot.

plankeyeOver the last two years, I have regained at least 60 of the 94 pounds I lost. I say “at least” because, frankly, I’m too embarrassed and disgusted to get on the scales this morning and tell you exactly how many. At my thinnest, I was healthy and generally pain-free. Now, I feel lethargic and have been struggling with a foot and ankle injury for the past six months. I feel like garbage and guess whose fault that is.

Mine.

The weight gain started after a medical procedure – a side-effect of which was weight gain. (Note, I did not ask my doctor about the side effects of the protocol. If I had known about the weight gain, I would not have continued with the procedure. Henceforth, I will ask about side effects and I strongly suggest that you do, too. How else will you make an informed decision about whether the benefits of the procedure outweigh its physical costs?) The fattening started there, but it certainly didn’t stop when the side-effects were no longer in play. By then, I’d fallen off the wagon hard and was making poor food choices, regardless of all the right marketing words on the labels – healthy, low-fat, sugar-free, organic. I was almost exclusively eating processed foods marketed as health foods. Then, I just reverted to eating processed foods of nearly every kind as long as they were vegetarian. Then I even threw that out the window and just started stuffing my face with anything I wanted until, ta-da! I reverted to a seriously overweight woman at risk for many obesity related diseases: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers and even arthritis.

I was in a great place physically and I let it go. No, I didn’t let it go. It’s more like I used my spoon still sticky with Phish Food to toss that good health and feelings of well-being and strength out the door. What an idiot! What a schmuck. Why would I do such a stupid thing? I think it’s because I lost track of my Why. Without my Why, I just didn’t care enough to get back to good health.

I reverted to one of the people I’d so smugly started to judge for making poor food choices. Now it’s time to mature, stop being such a schmuck, and get corn dog out of my mouth and the beam out of my eye.