Saturday, August 16, 2014

Still More Talking About Walking

"I have this theory that if you cut off all of her hair, she'd look like a British man."

In Mean Girls, the movie that's going to be the lead mention in Lindsay Lohan's obituary, there's a moment when Cady realizes that she can't stop talking about Regina George. She knows that people around her are bored, and that they really wish she'd have something else to talk about, but she explains that, "I was a woman possessed. I spent about 80 percent of my time talking about Regina, and the other 20 percent of the time I was praying for someone else to bring her up so I could talk about her more."

I'm starting to feel like this about my walking. No one has mentioned it, but I feel like lately I have nothing else to talk about. Part of that is because it's August, which is our busiest time of year (this is my third weekend in a row in the office), but the rest is that I am very intensely focused. I check my step count several times a day. When I'm at my desk, I'm checking the clock and my workload to figure out when I can fit in some walking again. And God forbid someone else should bring it up, because I love to talk about my steps. I want to tell you how many steps I have today, and how many I have for the week, and how far I walked yesterday, and if you don't bring it up I'll eventually work the conversation around to it.

I don't mean to.

I just don't have anything else to talk about at the moment.

I haven't gone anywhere interesting or out of the ordinary. I haven't cooked anything exciting, because whatever I cook on Sunday lasts for almost the entire week now, and sometimes longer if I freeze some of it, thanks to portion control. The only issue of "Lois Lane" that I want to write about is the one where she gets fat. The only time I read is on the treadmill, because I gave up my lunchtime reading hour to spend an hour walking the halls instead, and I don't read enough at night any more because I leave work late, then spend an hour walking on the Greenway, and then when I get home I still have to shower and then feed myself.

People keep commenting on my progress, and I'm glad to be making progress, but I also need to figure out a better sense of balance. Right now it's a struggle because the extra time at work is eating up the time that I could be doing something else besides walking, but I'm hoping that after this week I can start to get things back under control.

I might even take a day off.

Not sounding like a step-obsessed lunatic hasn't been my only struggle this week.

This has been the hardest week since I started this in July because this is the first time in over a decade that I have faced fall opening without being able to stress eat. No milkshakes. No candy hidden in my desk. No donut holes from the package by the copier. No candy from my friends' offices and candy dishes. No food from the Admissions Office when I go downstairs. No snacks from the food that keeps showing up at the office. Seriously, just today there were a couple dozen bagels, a coffee cake, a sandwich platter, two dozen lunch-sized bags of chips, and three bowls of cookies. And most of these things are things that I can't have any of, because I know I am incapable of just eating one donut hole. I'm not capable of picking one M&M out of the candy dish and walking away. I know my limits, and I know that I have stronger willpower in forcing myself not to eat any than I do in trying to keep myself from eating them all once I open the door to it.

If one donut hole goes into my mouth, more will follow. I know this, so no donut holes at all until I can control myself around them.

Instead I have to maintain focus.

And then if I decide it's ok to have a bagel at lunch, and a cookie, and some chips, and a piece of coffee cake, I have to tally them all up in my head and think about how they affect dinner, and whether or not I get a snack today. And I worry about these kinds of thoughts, too. It sounds weird to think that I worry about an eating disorder when I weigh 270 pounds, but right now I have to be very conscious of calories in balanced against calories burned. I have to lose weight, or I will die. Eventually, when I get down to a healthier weight, then I can be a little more flexible and indulgent, because I will be in maintenance mode rather than reducing mode, but we aren't at that place yet. We're still at the place where I let myself get so fat that sometimes I can't walk up a hill without stopping to rest, and that's not a place I can stay at, so I have to be focused. I know that I can be, because I am stubborn and have tremendous wells of willpower and determination (I didn't make it through life as a fat left-handed gay man in glasses without quite a bit of grit in my soul), but it also means that right now I have to be a little intense, and for some people that might be a little scary.

It also means that I have to change some habits. Over the past month and a half, I have come to three realizations:

1) I will have to exercise every day for the rest of my life. I want to eat candy again. I want to eat ├ęclairs again. I want to go to the Cheesecake Factory and order a dessert measured in thousands of calories. If I am ever to do these things again, then I have to stop pretending that these things magically disappear once they end up inside me. If there is give, there also has to be take.

2) I am a stress eater, and I have to stop doing that. When I get stressed out at work, I go to the vending machine for some peanut butter cups. I go across the street to the Pod Market in the Humanities Building for a bag of Gummi Savers. I post on Facebook that I will shower someone with affection and publically call them my favorite if they will bring me a shake from Cook Out. (Orange Push Up is the best flavor on the 40 shake menu. Right now I would push someone into traffic for one, but it is 750 calories and I'm not willing to sacrifice that much of my food for the day.) This cannot continue. I'm working on channeling that stress into other things, like going for a ten minute walk, but it's been a struggle all week, and has probably also made me snappish, moody, and less positive than I should be. I'm trying, and every day it gets a little better, but this week has really been the worst one so far.

3) I have to develop new eating habits. I have been working on this, too. I have to plan meals, and plan time to prepare those meals. I can't decide that I'm going to stop on the way home and just grab a family sized bag of chips and a pint of dip because I'm sad and I don't feel like cooking. Convenience food is often unhealthy food, and I have to stop settling for that. I can still have mac and cheese, but a portion of it, not a box, and not three nights a week. This has gotten easier as my stomach has gotten smaller, because I no longer feel hungry enough to eat the entire box. I'm working on this, and it's paying off. The other eating habit I've been working really hard to break is eating out of habit. I'm learning to recognize the difference between when I am physically hungry and when I am mentally hungry. Most of the time that I want to eat something in front of the TV it's mental hunger. I want to eat because I usually eat a snack in front of the TV, and a "snack" in that case is defined as half a bag of chips, or a whole bag of mini donuts, or half of a container of sorbet. That has to stop. I have to distract myself while watching TV, whether it's with a video game, a book, livetweeting whatever I'm watching, or in the case of tonight writing a long, rambling blog entry. And let's not even talk about the fact that right now both of my bathrooms are so spotlessly cleaned that you could probably perform surgery in the tub and not worry about sterile fields. Anything to keep me from mentally wanting a snack when I know that I physically don't actually need one.

So that's where I am right now. I wish I had something else to talk about, but right now I don't. I'll work on that, but in the meantime I'm working on this, and this week it's been really hard. I'm sharing that because I've committed to being honest about this process, and to publically posting my thoughts. I don't want to look at this next year, or the year after, or whenever else and only see a string of entries where I talk about how excited I am about the distance I've covered and how happy I am about the weight I've lost.

I want to remember the nights like tonight, when I'm not excited.

I have to, so that I don't do this to myself again in five or six years.


Jeannie said...

You are doing such a great job, Joel. Don't feel bad about talking about it. You are not annoying people, you are inspiring them. You should be proud, and that is most definitely something to talk about.

Keep it up!

Ahnie said...

I love talking about steps so any time you need that call my office and we will chat. And you are truly an inspiration for me right now. I think it's amazing how you are changing your life and working so hard to not end up like my father did.
Keep up the great work - we can see results and it's awesome.
And the struggle is real and nights like those are the worst but your blog will be good for those of us who also have those nights so we know we aren't alone. Mine are usually the weekend nights when I'm at home and just want to eat everything in sight.
Keep up the great work and I look forward to watching you pass me so I force myself to step it up a notch. :)

Marcheline said...

Joel - ditto the other folks, don't feel bad about talking about your walking! If you're walking the walk, you should be able to talk the talk... or talk the walk! All of the above.

Your listed items are all "spot on", as the Brits say. Great thing is, once you really get a handle on doing them, they'll become part of your regular life and won't seem like things on a list any more.

Exercising gently every day is part of your routine now, since you are on the front end of losing weight. As you lose weight and become more physically able to, you will be able to exercise less often but do more strenuous exercise.

You can, if you like, take up something like jogging or treadmilling or going to the gym three days a week for more intensive workouts, once you're at a weight that allows you to do that without causing injury. It's up to you.

There are lots of options for exercise. The fitter you get, the more options you have. So there is something to look forward to!

You're doing great.

Courtney said...

Joel- The thing that stood out the most to me about this post was in #3: "not settling for convenience food". I love that you're not settling for something. You're so amazing, and you deserve to be happy and healthy. It's hard, hard work to treat ourselves the way we deserve to be treated. You're doing that hard work and giving your body some serious love by making these life changes. You're worth it. I love following your process, and I appreciate your honesty about both the good and tough parts of it.

nan said...

This is a really great blog post and I agree with the others... obsess out loud all you need to because it will solidify thinking and habit, and your three conclusions are monster. (Is that a cool word? I am not hip.)

Justin Bower said...

Very honest post. I've deluded myself in the past that just eating better is all I need to do, when moving more is probably the better half of the equation. The mental hunger is a pretty spot-on point. I can go all day without eating and not feel it too horribly, which is horrenodus for the metabolism, but put me in the right situation (TV, etc), and I will be hungry even if I just ate. Keep at it, we're rooting for you.