Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bless me, readers, I have sinned . . .

199 pounds
According to food guru Michael Pollan, the obesity problem in our country would be solved if we all ate every meal at home from here on out.

I agree with Pollan, but I'd back away from his extreme solution by one step and say that we should all only allow ourselves one meal out a week.

I mean, come on, Michael.

You don't want us to EVER eat out again?

You can't expect a nation raised on Happy Meals and pan pizza to go cold turkey like that. And once a week is a pretty good goal. There's no way that wouldn't make a dent in our nation's collective girth.

And I don't mind sticking to once a week if I have to.

In fact, that's what Dave and I try to do. To be honest, we've become pretty darn routine about it. Saturday nights, we see a movie and go out to eat. It's downright scary how much we've become like my parents who took us out to eat every Saturday night after mass when I was growing up. I guess you could argue that Catholic mass is its own form of theatre, huh?

Despite the similarity of my own life to that of my parents', I'd be happy to stick to the eating-out-once-a-week routine if I could. The problem is that things keep getting in the way.

For instance, I had to go the doctor today—does this just happen more often as you get older?—and after numerous tests and x-rays and surgical gown changes, I decided that I deserved lunch out on the town.

(In case you're wondering, Dave and I went to Taquiera Azteca on Old Morgantown Road, which has some mean tacos de carne asada if you're ever in Bowling Green, Kentucky.)

I don't know why I always want to go out to eat after I go to the doctor. It just feels right—I figure if I have to suffer a little, I should live a little too. Know what I mean?

The problem is that it violates my only-eat-out-once-a-week rule.

And going to the doctor isn't the only thing that causes me to break this rule. Going shopping or to a movie also makes me want to eat out. As does running errands. Or going to campus when school's not in session. It's almost as if I think that if I leave the house at all, I deserve some kind of culinary reward.

And let's face it—that is seriously f***ed up.

Maybe Pollan's right. Maybe I should go cold turkey. But it's hard to imagine doing that if I can't even cut back to once a week.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kettle, this is Pot . . .

199 pounds
I've mentioned before that every once in a while (though less than you would expect) my blog causes people to say some mildly offensive things to me.

I had another incident like that last week.

A friend of ours named Derek was telling us about his doctor agreeing that Derek was "old and out of shape." It was an uncomfortable moment—the kind I used to cause before I realized how wrong it is to talk trash about myself, the kind of moment when the other people in the conversation don't really know what to say or how to respond.

Was Derek old? No chance.

Was he out of shape? I'm not sure. Maybe.

It's not really possible for me to answer that question because I don't know how often he exercises, what his blood pressure is, etc. But I do know that I immediately wanted to say something to alleviate the tension of the moment.

So I told him about one of my recent trips to the doctor—a trip during which I complained to my doctor about my recent weight gain, and he told me not to worry about it because all of the my tests say that I'm healthy.

I told this story to make Derek feel like he wasn't alone, to reinforce the notion that we all struggle with our weight. But that wasn't the message he got because his response was somewhat combative.

He said, "Why don't you just get over it?"

Derek didn't explain what he meant by "it," but I knew exactly what he was talking about. He meant my weight.

Why don't I just get over my weight.

I could not have been more offended.

"I am over it," I said defensively. "That's what the whole blog is about—accepting ourselves the way we are."

I know Derek doesn't read my blog, but I would have thought that he would at least have known what it was about. To be honest, I think he does know. And his comment about me needing to get over it was more about him than it was about me, as is often the case when people lash out at others.

Still, his words stung, and they stayed with me for a day or two, begging the question, Am I over it?

I really believe I am over my issues with my weight, but it's easy to backslide when the number on the scale is up rather than down. Just as importantly, his implied accusation reminds me how easily we can be misunderstood and how important it is to make sure that I don't send out mixed messages about how I want others to perceive me.

For years, I've been the person who says things to make other people feel better—I'll sell out myself, my family, even my husband—just to make a stranger feel better about themselves during a vulnerable moment. In the future, I need to do a better job of remembering that, though it's important to reach out to others, I shouldn't do so at a cost to myself or to those I love.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today

199 pounds
In my last post, I talked about an amazing dress I just found at Old Navy, and one of the comments I got about that blog came from my dear friend Emily (pictured in the self-portrait above), who said this:

"After I surfaced from the ridiculous stress of the last six months, I realized that I've gained some weight. Rather than beating myself up over it and refusing to buy myself new clothes until I slim down, I went out and started buying dresses. I'm convinced that they're much more flattering than jeans. I feel better, and I know I look good, because people keep asking me where I'm shopping."

I'm repeating what Emily said here because embedded in her words is one of the most important things I could ever say on this blog: if you want to feel good about yourself, you MUST get yourself some new clothes.

Not tomorrow.

Not when you lose five pounds.


They don't have to be expensive clothes or even completely new clothes (raid a friend's closet if you have to), but they have to be new to you and they have to fit your body the way it looks TODAY.

It's a common misconception that if you've put on a few pounds, you should deny yourself the luxury of buying new clothes, punishing yourself with a too-tight wardrobe until you reach your goal weight. But this notion is completely misguided. Because as long as your clothes don't properly fit, you'll feel lousy. And as long as you feel lousy, you're more likely to take those emotions out on a super-sized Extra Value Meal.

No, when you are feeling bad about the reflection in the mirror, you shouldn't deny yourself flattering clothes. Instead, that's the exact time to engage in some serious retail therapy.

Another reason this is crucial is because until you feel good about yourself in the present, you will most likely never ever be able to feel good about yourself in the future . . . at least not for long or in any lasting more-than-superficial way. And, honestly, nothing makes you feel better about yourself than a slimming pair of jeans that actually fit and flatter your bottom half rather than turning your waist into a muffin top and stretching your thighs to thunderous proportions.

Trust me, I know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dress the part

199 pounds

I write about a lot of important things on this blog—body issues, childhood obesity, healthy living—so it’s nice when I get the chance to write about something completely superficial.

And that thing is shopping.

Those of you who know me know that I take my shopping pretty seriously. I am an unabashed clothes horse. Part of the reason I love clothes is because I figured out a few years ago—as discussed in my What Not to Wear post—that flattering clothes that fit your body can make you look and FEEL beautiful no matter what your size.

So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I ended up talking about how much I love clothes at a party we had about a week and a half ago. And since I was talking with the young daughters of some of my coworkers, it shouldn’t be totally shocking—at least I don’t think it's totally shocking—that I ended up in the extra bedroom that doubles as my closet counting my dresses with a gaggle of girls.

It turns out that as of that night I had twenty-four dresses.

Yes, I said twenty-four dresses.

And I don’t mean dresses that I don’t wear or old dresses leftover from my two trips to prom or my three experiences as a bridesmaid. I’m not even including my wedding dress in that number.

No, I’m just talking about the dresses I wear on a regular basis—either when I go to work or when I go out on the weekends. Of that group—of the dresses that I wear regularly—there were twenty-four.

Until Wednesday, that is.

Because on Wednesday, I found another dress I simply had to have at Old Navy. It was a gorgeous violet-colored dress with a ruffle along the top and an empire waist.

That made twenty-five.

But on Wednesday night I decided I should check the Old Navy website just to make sure they didn’t have that dress in a better size. I have no problem telling you that the dress I bought in my regular size was a wee bit too big. It was so beautiful that I bought it anyway, but I thought maybe, just maybe, they’d have it in a smaller size online.

It turns out that they didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t come across yet another dress I loved.

And that made twenty-six.

It’s this twenty-sixth I want to tell you all about because when I find a good deal, I can’t resist telling other people about it.

This dress (pictured above) is, simply put, perfect. Just perfect. It’s adorable and easy to wear. And unlike most dresses these days, it comes to the knee, so when you sit down, it doesn’t sneak up your thigh like a teenage boy in heat. It also has little ruffle sleeves rather than being sleeveless. If you’re like me, you have become disgusted with how difficult it is to find a dress with sleeves, so finding one like this is a rare coup. And almost most importantly, it’s insanely comfortable. It’s made of cotton and feels like you’re wearing a nightgown. I mean, really, who could ask for me?

But here’s the clincher . . . it only costs $10.

Yes, $10!!!

You simply can’t beat that price. (And you don't have to if you click here.)

And in case you are worried that it won’t be flattering, let me tell you a little story . . . I wore this dress for the first time to a graduation party this past Saturday night, and when Dave and I were walking from the car to the party, a group of young men slowed down and . . . wait for it . . . whistled at me.

Yes, I said they whistled at me.

If that’s not worth ten bucks, I don’t know what is.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fat camp champ: why adolescence never leaves us

199 pounds
If you feel like ANY of the things you have ever done to lose weight—or to feel better about your body—are at all messed up, then you have simply got to read Stephanie Klein's Moose. I just finished it a few weeks ago, and I'm not exaggerating when I say it it might be one of the best books I've ever read.

It's definitely one of the most important.

Moose is a memoir about Klein's experience growing up "fat" and being shipped off to fat camp by her somewhat unsympathetic parents.

I put the word "fat" in quotation marks because, as I mentioned in my "Fat is off the list" post, I don't think that word is productive, but also because Klein was never really fat.

Chubby, yes. But not fat.

If you don't believe me, here are some pictures to prove it:

The image on the left shows Klein as a plump teen around the time the book takes place, and the picture on the right is the one that appears on the back of her book: the author as a successful, gorgeous, and obviously thin adult woman.

Though the book doesn't exactly chronicle how Klein finally kicks the fat habit, it does beautifully narrate her horrific experiences trying to lose weight any way she could while growing up in a world that does not accept people who struggle with weight. Ironically, when Klein goes to fat camp, she is one of the thinnest people there, and as a result, becomes popular and sought-after. As it turns out, even at fat camp, skinny wins.

But what's so moving about this book is that Klein goes through what we all—fat or not—went through when we were young: feeling unattractive, struggling to fit in, and just wanting to be normal.

Sadly, Klein's parents offer little understanding of her situation. At one point, the whole family goes to a "pay what you weigh" dinner, and when Klein refuses to get on the scale, rather than empathize, they tell her that the whole world is prejudiced against fat people and that she'll be much happier if she loses weight.


It's to Klein's credit that she doesn't shy away from painting her mother and father as imperfect—if ultimately loving—parents.

As a result, it's hard not to be completely moved by how challenging it is for Klein to experience adolescence with an extra thirty pounds to lug around and parents who are pushing her to eat lighter fare while scooping out the scalloped potatoes for themselves. And this is why you can't help but walk away from the book with a better understanding of the fact that your own adolescence—no matter how awkward—wasn't that bad by comparison. This is because when young Stephanie suffers from the taunts of her peers or—worse yet—her parents and teachers (one of whom insists she admit she's "gorda"—or fat—in Spanish class), so do you, and the book is obviously better for it.

This is a must-read for any woman who has ever struggled with weight or body issues.

In other words, it's a must-read for all of us.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Real is the new sexy


197 pounds
A few months ago,
The Globe and Mail ran a story I've been wanting to talk about for a while called "We're having a fat moment: Go ahead and have another slice of pumpkin pie. Thin's not so in any more."

The article asserts that there is currently "a backlash against a culture that has long perpetuated futile strict diets and impossible exercise regimes. People are finally tired of the yo-yo meal plans that help them melt off pounds but also pack them back on. And the media are making more efforts to reflect a public with ever-expanding waistlines."

Though I'm not sure I agree that there really is a backlash as big as this article implies, I do think things are beginning to change.

In fact, just yesterday, my copy of Glamour magazine arrived with this cover:

The one on the left is a "plus-size" model: Crystal Renn, author of Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves. Though it's somewhat hard to tell in this image, Renn is actually a size twelve, and her body does look real. Meaning it does look like she eats from time to time.

Sure, Renn appeared next to two more traditional sized models here, but this is progress, people. A woman who wears a size twelve is on the cover of Glamour! This is huge.

An article called "Real is the New Sexy" appears in the same issue, and in that article another "plus-size" model—Jennie Runk, who is 5'10" and around 175 pounds—says, “I used to compare myself to others, until I realized it’s better if I don’t look like everyone else . . . my curves make me feel sexy . . . Every woman, of every body type, should be able to stand up and say she’s beautiful.”

Words to live by.

Even some fashion designers are using larger models on the runway. No, they're not overweight, but they're not underweight either. And I've never advocated that we idolize overweight women—just woman who have real bodies, which is exactly what's beginning to happen in some magazines, with some fashion designers, and on some television shows.

Case in point: on tonight's episode of Glee, Mercedes was pursued by one of the "popular" boys, Puck, and no mention was made of her body size except that Puck said he liked "curvy" girls. Unlike other actresses her size, Mercedes isn't being relegated to playing the BFF of the girl who got the guy.

There's no denying that things are changing. Changing for the better. The only question is how far will it go? And will it be far enough?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Explaining the unexplainable?

197 pounds
In my last post, I talked about the fact that I've recently gained five to six pounds even though I've been continuing to eat well and exercise, which usually causes my weight to go down rather than up.

Well, I have some moderately good news . . . I may have found a culprit: my partial hysterectomy last November.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many women gain weight after this operation. And it's not unheard of for these women to gain twenty to forty pounds in the months after surgery. Twenty to forty pounds? Sheesh. And I thought I had it bad.

What's even more interesting is that many of these women didn't have a problem with their waistline beforehand but report that they struggled with belly fat afterwards.

Uh, hello? That's me!

I have always been big on the bottom—I've got thighs, hips, and butt to rival JLo. But I've always, always had a relatively small waist—it's something that's been a point of pride for me. Until now. I'm not saying my waist is huge, but it's definitely less defined than it used to be.

Still, I've got to look at the bright side—I may have figured out WHY this is happening to me. And now that I know some women gain twenty to forty pounds, I feel like maybe, just maybe, all of my hard work has actually been paying off.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Why I will not give into temptation

196 pounds
I guess it's time I talked about my recent weight gain. I was hoping the pounds would have disappeared fast enough that I wouldn't have to admit they were real, but that seems out of the question now that they've been here for almost two months.

This isn't to say that I'm feeling defeated by these five or six pounds, but I am being more honest about it.

As I said back in late March, I thought that I had picked up four pounds over spring break because I had been traveling a lot during that time and having a harder time sticking to my routine. I even asked my doctor about it, and like everyone else, he told me it was probably water weight and that once I was home for a few weeks, my weight would go back to where it was before.

So I did what I always do—eat well and exercise as much as possible. School is still in session right now, so it's pretty hard to exercise twice a day, but I did fit in a two-a-day at least once a week after that. And, as always, I was exercising at least an hour a day when I couldn't do that.

But the scale wasn't budging.

And a couple of times it moved up a pound or two more, which really, really frightened me.

In fact, it has gotten to the point where if I indulge even once a week (which to me is the minimum), that indulgence shows up on the scale the next morning in the form of a pound or two. (A punishment I've noticed is never doled out to my husband for some strange reason.)

This isn't typical behavior for my body. Whenever I eat well and exercise, the number on the scale always moves down or basically stays the same. I've prided myself on this for years. I've always told myself that even if I am overweight, at least I'm moving in the right direction.

But all of a sudden things have changed. The numbers are moving in the wrong direction. And what's infuriating is that the only other time I have EVER gained weight is when I've almost completely stopped exercising—either because of an injury (after I tore my ACL in the winter of '96), a diet (in the fall of '98 after my only diet), or stress (during the 2007-2008 school year when I was worried about the future of our jobs). Otherwise, as long as I've exercised, I've been able to keep the numbers going down.

Obviously I've become pretty concerned over the past few weeks when I finally realized I was living the way I should be, but my body wasn't listening.

So what do I do know?

I'm not entirely sure. More two-a-days once school is out, for sure. Even a few three-a-days. Maybe more prayers. (I'm kidding, by the way.)

But definitely, no matter what happens, no dieting. I won't deny that the idea is incredibly tempting right now, but I keep telling myself what happens when you diet. The last time I went on a diet—the ONLY time I EVER went on a diet—I gained thirty pounds after the diet was over.

It just cannot be worth it.