Friday, October 3, 2014

Three Months

It's now been three months since I began discussing my severe weight problem and resolved to do something about it. As you may or may not recall, I started out morbidly obese at 295 pounds with no viable options other than to change my life, and I've been working on that as best I can.

It has not been an easy journey so far.

There was a day this month when I ran out of motivation, utterly and completely. It was a Wednesday, which is typically my longest day of the week because I have a full day in the office, then I teach my class, then I swing by the meeting for the student group that I advise. That particular Wednesday I was trying to complete several large projects at once and doing my best to put out the daily fires that pop up in our office (not literal ones, although at this point I won't be surprised if, someday, something does just burst into flames), so I didn't get to walk the halls as much as I do on a normal day, and I had to go to the grocery store on my way home as well. This left me stressed out, tired, hungry, frustrated with myself for being behind on steps, and standing in the potato chip aisle at Kroger, because that's also where the squirt bottles of water flavorings are. I was even more down after getting to Kroger, because even after two and a half months of parking as far as I could from every store, I somehow managed to forget and park only three spaces into the row in the parking lot on a day when I was already behind on steps.

The whole way into the store I mentally berated myself because after two and a half months I still hadn't managed to make parking far away a habit. After two and a half months, I still had to be consciously vigilant all the time against finding ways to backslide. After two and a half months, I had lost weight but I hadn't managed to actually change anything, and every day was still a constant struggle to remember that I needed to get steps in, and that I couldn't eat that candy, and that I was only going to get a small dinner when I got home because I had a big lunch to tide me over until I could leave campus at seven. After two and a half months I was somehow still failing at this even though I was succeeding, and then, more than anything, I suddenly wanted chips.

Not baked chips, or a small bag of chips, or a serving size of chips. I wanted a family-sized bag of rippled chips, and a pint-sized container of ranch dip, and I wanted to take that home and have it for dinner. And it wasn't just a want, either. I could taste those chips. I knew exactly how the container of dip would feel in my hand, and that if I sat on my fainting couch with it, all stretched out and comfortable, I could rest it on my stomach while I dipped and ate and dipped and ate until that entire pint of dip was gone and all that was left in the bag were crumbs. I could taste the salt and the ranch and feel the crunch in my mouth and I knew how good it would all feel because I've had that dinner more times than I can count.

I almost started crying in the potato chip aisle at Kroger.

And I don't mean that in the "that Upworthy video made me choke up a little" way. I mean that I actually had my head down, and my eyes were watering, and I had to take a minute to catch my breath and think about what I was doing. After two and a half months, I was going to burst into tears at the grocery store because I wanted chips and I knew I shouldn't have them. I wanted them, though. I wanted those chips really, really bad. I wondered what I was doing, and why I was doing this to myself, and what the point of all of this was if I was just going to spend the rest of my life wanting to eat things and not being able to. I know now, rationally, that I can have chips and dip in moderation, but at that moment I was so physically and mentally exhausted that all I could think about was wanting chips and not being able to have chips and still needing to make 4000 more steps once I got home, and I was done. That was it. There wasn't anything left inside of me.

I didn't buy the chips and dip.

When I got home, I changed, walked on the treadmill until the moment that my Fitbit buzzed 10,000 steps, and immediately got off the treadmill, showered, and went to bed.

The next day I hit 12,000 steps by the end of the day. I had a bad day and I got through it without giving up, and the next time that happens, I can get through it again. I know this now, but I had to get through that day to learn it. Some day, I will have (a reasonable portion of) a big bag of chips again. Some day I will also have a bad day again. I will survive both of these things.

And how is surviving going?

Well, I'm still overweight. I'm still considered morbidly obese, but I'm becoming less so. At the end of the first month I was down to 273, a loss of 22 pounds, and I had walked 324 miles. I'm getting a little doubtful of the Fitbit's mileage calculations, though, because I feel like 324 miles in one month means that I should have been over 600 miles the next, and I'm not. Instead, at the end of the second month my total distance was calculated at 522 miles. I'm not sure how the math of that works, especially since at the end of this month I am now allegedly at only 568 miles.

Fitbit thinks I only walked 42 miles this month, which is insane since I walk 5-7 miles a day.

I don't think I'm going to trust their mile count anymore.

I trust the step count, though, because it's working. At the end of the first month I was down 22 pounds, and at the end of the second month I was down 35 pounds to 260. Today, according to the scale, I weigh 248. I've lost 42 pounds in 3 months. I've walked a 5K, and trimmed my time walking a mile from over a half hour a mile to about sixteen minutes. I bought new pants finally, and while it has shown people how much weight I've lost now that I'm not swimming in billowing fabric pantaloons, I'm still not in wonderful shape.

muffin top

This is something else I am struggling with, physically and mentally.

Physically, I am in a weird in-between size with shirts. My 3XL buttondowns are big on me, but some of my 2XL buttondowns are still too tight to wear. At the same time, I'm down to an XL in t-shirt sizes, so I have no idea what's going on. I've always know that an XL at Express and an XL at Banana Republic and an XL at Old Navy are not the same sizes, but I seem to be in between several sizes depending on where I'm shopping and whether I'm standing or sitting. I also still have a muffin top (I made corn muffins just to have that picture), but it has a weirdly folding, deflated feeling. I definitely still have a lot of belly fat in the front, but on the sides I just have a weird skin fold. I'm not taking a photo of that for you, so you get the picture above, but you get the idea.

Mentally, I'm grappling with compliments, and not saying horrible things when I'm given one. People keep telling me how thin I am, but I'm not thin. I'm thinner. There's a difference. A total stranger looking at me on the street isn't going to think, "Look at that skinny guy." My friends only think that because they know I was even more enormous. When they say, "You've lost so much weight!" I agree, and I appreciate it, because I have lost so much weight. (Not quite enough. I was really hoping to hit 50 pounds, so now I feel like Regina George walking around all the time going, "I really really need to lose three pounds," but 42 is still good, too.) But anyway, when they say, "You're so thin now!" it's taking almost all of my willpower to say, "Not yet!"

But I'm working on it.

This month, I'm walking in the Race for the Cure, because it is a 5K and because my mom is a breast cancer survivor. If you'd like to support me, or would just like to fight cancer, my donation page is here. I'd like to thank everyone who has already donated, and would also like to thank my friends Leo, Sara, Erin, Jackie, and Larry (sorry, Mike; you'll always be Larry to me) for sending books to my Kindle this month to keep me fully engaged on the treadmill.

Every little bit helps, and I appreciate the support.

1 comment:

Marcheline said...

Joel, I can SO relate to your struggle - I've been there. Like, yesterday. I've just recently gone back on the "paleo diet". Thing is, my job is not near anything healthy to eat. So I absolutely have to plan ahead, and bring food with me that's on my diet. If I get rushed, late, or lazy, I end up standing in the parking lot on my lunch break wrestling my brain to not drive to McD's or BK.

The only thing that really helps me avoid that feeling (and that feeling usually happens, like you said, when you're really hungry) is to always have a bag of sunflower seeds or something healthy that you can take a little of. Sometimes just a handful of nuts or seeds makes the difference between feeling hungry (and therefore weak) and feeling okay, like you can totally make it until you get home to where your healthy stuff is.

Along with parking far away, try making it a goal to never let yourself get really hungry. That's where the defeatist thoughts hide - in the hunger.

And you've nearly lost 50 pounds, so you absolutely can't say "nothing has changed". You're just getting past the honeymoon phase of getting fit - where all the newness is wearing off, and you have to work through plateaus. Which you are doing, brilliantly! Keep it up.