One Day at a Time, One Step at a Time, One Habit at a Time

For the past couple of weeks, the scale has not been cooperating in a way that reflects what I’ve been doing. At least I didn’t feel like it was. Then my husband caught me as I stepped off the scales with THAT look on my face and he said, “You do realize it’s about more than that.” He was right (and now I’ve put it in writing!)

This journey is about far more than just the numbers on the scale. It’s about creating healthy habits to replace unhealthy ones. It’s about taking responsibility for my actions, for being accountable to me first. It’s about the right food in the right portions at the right times for the right reasons. It’s about getting my butt off the couch and moving. And I’m doing the best I can at all of these.

Positive Changes

I have replaced my old pop-tart breakfast with yogurt, oatmeal, or boiled eggs.

I have reduced my intake of diet soda by about half of my old volume (2-3 cans a day instead of 6).

I have eliminated MOST junk food from my diet. I do indulge once every two weeks (a habit while driving long distances that I will be working on later).

I have increased my consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

I have cut WAY back on dining out.

I am continuing the C25K training program at my own pace.

Positive Results

This week I was able to get into a pair of pants that my mom gave me for my birthday back in June. At the time, I refused to return them for a larger size, knowing that I was auditioning for the Biggest Loser and if I wasn’t cast was going to get my weight down on my own.

The scales finally reacted in a more positive way! My total weight loss to date is 8 pounds. I’m 27 pounds away from my first short term goal.

I look forward to my walks/runs. I’ve found an app for my phone that works with my music selections to help me keep track of time and distance.

When I’m out on my walks/runs, I keep my head up and consciously take notice of my surroundings. I make eye contact with any people that cross my path and exchange a smile. I take in the beauty of the sky, the clouds, and the trees – whatever is there for me to see on any given day at my chosen location.

I’m continually seeking new places to take my walks/runs. I know I get bored easily, so I’ve been going to local beaches and parks to allow for changes of scenery at least once a week.

Is everything positive? Heck no! There are days that I struggle. I have that internal dialogue that tries to talk me out of my walks or talk me into another diet soda. But one day at a time, one step at a time, one habit at a time… I am on a journey to the me I was born to be.

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Beaten But Not Defeated

Last week was rough. I woke up with a head cold on Monday that, as the week progressed, moved into my chest as well. I couldn’t breathe through my nose. The slightest tickle in my throat set off a coughing fit. Needless to say, I didn’t feel like moving, let alone walking/running.

I managed to stay under my calorie cap for most of the week. I just didn’t feel good both from the cold and from the emotional sense that I was losing ground on training. I convinced myself that it was ok. I gave myself permission to not workout until I felt better. I could focus on something else instead of pushing the workout so hard. So I turned my attention to what I feel is one of my worst habits… the diet soda addiction.

I acknowledged recently just how much of an addiction this is for me. I was out of soda at the house and I didn’t think I had any cash on hand. I currently have no personal income, so it would fall on my husband to be my supplier. I found myself counting the change in my car and realizing that I had just enough to get my fix – enough to last for two or three days. Yes, my friends, I spent my last dime to feed my diet soda addiction. One thing at a time – one day at a time, right?

This weekend has been a turning point in a couple of ways. I am now only allowing myself 2 cans of diet soda a day. If I have more than 2, then I’ll end up running short at the end of the week. This way a 12-pack should last me 6 days. In the past, a 6-pack would make it 2 days. Baby steps.

Yesterday, my husband and I were heading over to a friend’s house for football. This always means lots of potluck food and adult beverages. I compensated for what I knew would be a heavy evening meal by eating less earlier in the day and by increasing my water intake. As it turned out, when all food and beverages were accounted for, I went over my daily calorie cap by just over 200 calories. I knew that meant I had to get back into walking first thing today.

I did return to the C25K program today, but I didn’t make myself stick to the podcast I’d been using. Instead, I created a Pandora station that had music that made me want to move. I knew the approximate locations for the speed up/slow down segments of the training. I also knew I needed something different. The music made all the difference for me today. Instead of the now predictable podcast track, I had music that made me want to move. In fact, in some cases, it was difficult to keep walking because I wanted a dance break! When I came in from 30 minutes of consistent walking speed, I caught myself with the headphones still in dancing around the studio and kitchen as I made me a glass of ice water with a splash of orange MiO liquid. That’s the most energy I’ve ever had when coming in from my walking/running time.

Last week, I felt beaten. I felt that this was not going to work for me. But I refused to quit. That’s how I’m NOT going to be defeated this time. My body rebelled and I was sick last week. So what? I lost a week. Big deal. I’m still here. I’m still eating healthier, watching my portions, increasing my water intake, and moving my ass. I was rewarded yesterday by fitting into a pair of pants my mom had given me for my birthday back in June. They are a size 22. I’ve been in a 24-26. I faced the fear of the pants not fitting yesterday and tried them on. When they fit, I was elated! While the number on the scale isn’t dropping the way I’d like, the body is rearranging and my clothes are fitting differently. That is not defeat. That is VICTORY!

Writing my Reality Checks (And Praying They Don’t Bounce)

I’ve now completed two weeks of the Couch-to-5K program. Wait, let me explain something. I have gotten off the couch and been outside moving along the sidewalk (or beach) three times a week, thirty minutes each time, for the past two weeks.

The Couch-to-5K program is a training program designed to take a person from non-runner to a 5K by gradually building endurance over the course of 12 weeks.

Reality Check #1: I believe this is intended for somewhat active, somewhat fit, somewhat “normal” people who happen to have never considered themselves runners. I have come to realize that this may be a bit ambitious for a chronic couch potato who has been essentially inactive for the better part of 15 years AND who is clinically obese. The first week of the training says to do a 5 minute warm-up, then alternate a 60 second run with a 90 second recovery for a total of 8 running intervals, followed by a 5 minute cool down. My reality is that after two weeks I can finally maintain a consistent walking pace for the full 30 minutes without feeling like I’m going to drop dead on the sidewalk at any moment.

On Wednesday this week, I went outside my comfort zone and left my neighborhood route. I took my iPod to a local beach and did my training for the day on the beach. The scenery, the weather… everything was perfect! Except sand is very different from sidewalk. By the time I made it back to my starting point after 30 minutes, I climbed into my car and sat there and cried. I wept for the girl that I used to be. I wept for the fat girl that I’ve allowed myself to become. And I let go of the notion that I had to be perfect.

I read somewhere that if I felt the need to repeat a week, it was fine. The point was to keep a regular practice of “running” to train my body to endure a 5K without dying. I can’t quote the source of that statement, but it doesn’t matter to me if I just made it up. My personal bottom line is that I am going to do this if I have to repeat every week of the 12 weeks to the point that this becomes a 24 week or 36 week or even a 52 week journey to a 5K.

I have also been tracking my food intake using www.livestrong.com/myplate as my tracking resource.

Reality Check #2: I need to take more into consideration than just maintaining a fixed calorie ceiling. After tracking my food intake religiously since August 27 and staying within my calorie cap nearly every day, my weight is not coming off the way I’d hoped. Some re-evaluation is necessary at this point to determine how to better manage my food intake.

The truth is I still have quite a few bad habits in need of breaking. I drink diet soda like some people drink coffee or pop pills. I’m an emotional eater and the quality of my calorie intake is often impacted by emotional choices rather than quality considerations. Here’s a real shocker, though. Sometimes I forget to eat.

What? How can someone that is remarkably obese FORGET to eat? I have learned over the last two weeks that if I don’t eat breakfast before I go out for my morning “run”, then I won’t eat breakfast. Thirty minutes of “wogging” seems to curb my appetite. Now I know I have to eat SOMETHING before I set foot out the door or it won’t happen. I have also been diagnosed with ADD, so it’s not difficult for me to lose myself in something and lose all track of time. I guess I’m going to have to set a timer or a series of alarms on my phone to remind me to stop what I’m doing and eat.

This seems contrary to what I’ve always been taught. I have heard from many sources, “Don’t eat if you’re not hungry.”

Reality Check #3: If you wait until you’re hungry to eat, then you’re far more likely to overeat. I am a recovering bulimic/binge eater. I battled with bulimia when I was a dance major in college. I finally gave up purging when I changed my major, but I didn’t give up binging. In fact, I still battle the urge to binge on a regular basis. Food has been my drug of choice for many years and I can’t just go to the nearest “rehab” facility and get clean. Oh, if only it were possible to do just that!

That was the reason I attempted to attract the attention of the casting agents of the Biggest Loser. That was going to be my “clinic”, my intervention.

Reality Check #4: I can manage my own intervention. I have a wonderful circle of friends and family that are supportive and encouraging. I have a therapist. I don’t need some warped sense of reality TV. I can make my own reality with support that makes more sense for me. 

On Not Being Chosen

The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. I’d resigned from my job as a public school math teacher, transferred primary custody of my two children to their father, and married my best friend. I’d been in therapy for several years and had begun to come to terms with the multitude of factors that have made me into the woman I am today… an obese former dancer who was ready to reclaim her body and her ability to express herself creatively.

I have been a fan of The Biggest Loser for years now. I would sit on my sofa in my oversized pajamas and binge on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream while watching the obese contestants compete and reclaim their thinner selves. I had considered auditioning for the show in the past, but always felt tied to my children and my job to the point that I couldn’t imagine giving away enough time to actually participate in the show. But this year was different. THIS was MY year.

Jen, a dear friend of mine from high school, had agreed to audition for the show with me. The past several seasons, the producers had cast teams of two and we just knew that we’d be the comic relief that they would want in front of the cameras. I took the initiative and registered on the casting website for updates. When they announced live casting dates, I was more convinced than ever that this was my destiny. The casting tour was coming to my home state of North Carolina. They would be in Raleigh on the same day that I happened to be driving through on my way back from a family vacation. How perfect!

As the casting date approached, Jen experienced an injury that she felt would prevent her from giving her all to the show, but she encouraged me to go on without her. My new husband agreed to support me and drove me to the audition site. When we got in line, I thought, “This really doesn’t look too bad.”  How wrong I was!

The line (as I was about to learn) wound through two aisles of the parking lot, around one side of the building, up three flights of stairs, then completely around the third floor of the building. Total time from arrival to being seen by a casting director? Eight hours. Yes, eight hours of waiting in line in the hot July sun surrounded by other obese people hoping to make a good impression before being seated around a table with 11 other hopefuls for a 10 minute session with a casting agent. That allowed us less than 1 minute each to make our case for being one of the chosen few.

After my brief meeting with the agent, we left the casting site and headed to a local hotel. I was really confident that I would be one of those that would be called back for a second interview. I just had a feeling that this was going to be my year to reclaim my life. I stayed awake until midnight, continually checking my phone, waiting for that critical phone call. I finally dozed off and awoke in the early morning to the realization that perhaps it wasn’t me – it wouldn’t be my year. Over breakfast that morning, my husband convinced me to make and submit a video audition for a second chance. The deadline was only a week away, but I agreed to give it a shot.

I went back to my normal life and tried to put the feelings of rejection behind me. I did what I always do. I compartmentalized the emotions – boxed them up and put them on a shelf to deal with at some later date. I poured my energy into making the video entry. Several days later, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number. Usually I let calls like that roll to voicemail, but something compelled me to answer this one.

Much to my surprise, there was a casting agent on the line wondering where I was. Apparently they had tried to call me the night of the audition, but my phone didn’t ring. They left me a voicemail that I never received. (Thanks Verizon!) He also told me they’d sent me an email that I’d somehow managed to overlook. He assured me that I needn’t worry about missing the callback interview though. He said to complete the long form of the application and send it in ASAP. He promised to be watching for it and said if he saw anything in the application that needed to be included in the video, he would call and let me know.

My hope was renewed and I spent the next two hours completing the application and getting it emailed in. The next three days were spent obsessing over the video. I experienced a moment of deep gratitude to one of my former colleagues for teaching me how to use MovieMaker as I edited the different clips together. I finished the video and had it uploaded as instructed by 11pm on the final day. Then the waiting began.

I tried not to think about it, but always kept my phone nearby and checked my email frequently, hoping beyond hope that I would be chosen. Then it happened. The casting team posted on their Facebook page that all finalists had been contacted and my heart sank. Rejected. Again. This was exactly what my therapist had feared.

We had discussed my desire to audition for the show and she was honest enough to tell me that she didn’t think it was such a great idea. Sure, if I made the show, it could very well be the best thing to ever happen to me. But what if I wasn’t chosen? How would I handle the rejection? I assured her that I had auditioned for many plays over the years and I was accustomed to accepting that I didn’t get the part I wanted. I told her that they were looking for something specific for each season and if they didn’t pick me, it wasn’t a reflection on me, but rather I didn’t have the particular trait they needed for this season. Her other concern was that I would wait until season 15 and audition again. This is where she was wrong.

I am NOT waiting until season 15. I was right. This is my year. This is the year that I reclaim my body, that I shed the weight that I’ve been hiding behind for so many years. I’ve come to understand the various issues that have impacted my weight over my lifetime and will be addressing some of those here in the coming months.

So why blog about something like this? Why put myself out there and subject myself to the potential criticism and judgment of others? Because I am tired of hiding. That’s why. I’ve been hiding behind this weight for far too long. I’ve suppressed the person I was born to be in exchange for a “safe” life. It’s time to pull back the curtain of shame, remove the emotional walls, and shed the fat that has kept me “safe”. It’s time to LIVE again.

I hope you’ll find something here to inspire you, motivate you, or (at the very least) make you laugh! Let the journey to ME begin!Labor Day 2011