Why Cheating Really Isn’t Worth It.

stuffed animals from childhood, nostalgia

Here are two of my favorite stuffed animals from my childhood.  People who know me really well know that I’ve never outgrown my deep affinity for stuffed toys, and my closest inner circle (and now all of you) knows that sometimes, I still make sure they’re sitting upright and don’t get buried under things lest they smother or feel like I don’t care about them anymore.

I read one of those “tug-at-your-heartstrings” stories this week, imagining Calvin and Hobbes as old men, and I haven’t been able to get over how sad it’s made me. People laugh or roll their eyes when I tell them that I refuse to see chick flicks, or sappy/sad movies, but the problem is that, for most people, they can watch the movie and have a good cathartic cry and then move on.  For me, I’ll be sad about it for weeks and will internalize it into getting sadder and sadder about something that’s going on in my own life. Naturally, I’m a little pissed at myself for reading the story, but the damage has been done, and now I’m struggling with the aftermath.

Here’s the other thing; when I took control of my health last May, I discovered through process of elimination that gluten affects my mental health in a negative way.  During my first foray with gluten-free eating, my depression/anxiety cleared up drastically within the first week, and I continued to feel fantastic until I started to slack off and allow myself some “cheats.”  I know that some people think that cheating on a food lifestyle here and there is okay, and for the most part, I’d agree.  However, here’s why it just doesn’t work for me:

  1. It’s never just “one” cheat.  If I was able to just have some gluten on the *very* rare occasion, then I’d probably be okay, but my problem is that ONE special occasion then brings out my all-or-nothing mentality (well, you’ve already cheated once today…might as well take the rest of the day/weekend/month off and pick back up again afterward).
  2. The payout is rarely worth it.  Now, I’m not talking about some once-in-a-lifetime trip or something like that.  I’m talking about the “plate-of-spaghetti because it’s Valentine’s Day” or the “big hunk of birthday cake because you’re are a party” type of cheats.  Is it really worth it to feel bad the next day over something that wasn’t really a dynamic experience?
  3. You’re only cheating on yourself.  I thought about this the other day when I was getting ready for bed and really didn’t want to floss my teeth (I know…lazy me).  I was going to let it go for the night, and then it hit me that the only one who’s going to suffer the consequences of that decision is me.  I’m the one who may end up with a cavity, and it would be a result of my decision.  Why is it that we mostly worry about how our decisions will impact others, but never seem to really consider how they will affect us?

My dad is a diabetic with heart problems; he can’t afford to “cheat” on his food lifestyle.  A “cheat” will result in atherosclerosis, kidney problems, diabetic neuropathy, and worse.  And he lives with that reality.  If I have too much gluten, I get anxious and sad and life becomes (even more) overwhelming and daunting.  That’s a reality I have to live with.  It’s not even about weight (although losing weight has been an excellent result of cutting the gluten/most grains); it’s about deciding whether a food is worth compromising my mental health.

The answer to that question, friends, is “usually not.”

I’m not trying to tell you to restrict your diet or engage in unhealthy food behavior; on the contrary: I’m suggesting that you think more deeply about the ramifications (both short and long-term) of your choices (food and otherwise).

February Photo-A-Day Roundup: Week Three

Well, we’ve only got one week left in our February Photo-a-Day Challenge, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the responses on Facebook and Instagram.  Here are a few faves from the week.

Tara’s cat is objectively adorable!

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Tina played in the snow and felt like a kid again!

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Shelley posted a beautiful picture of the sun glinting off the ice on the trees in her neighborhood.

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And Katie posted a breathtaking photo of the sun setting behind a tree.

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Shelley’s “Currently Eating” pic was some delicious-looking chili.

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My “Currently Eating” was some homemade Chicken Fried Rice (courtesy of Joey):image

And this wasn’t part of the photo-a-day, but I wanted to share Indy roaming the yard during our day of ice/sleet this past Tuesday.imageIt’s been a little quiet over here the last few days.  I’m in a pretty big funk and I’m trying to get out, but it’s proving to be easier said than done.

I Just Binge-Watched “My Big, Fat, Fabulous Life,” and I Have Some Thoughts About It.

Today is Presidents’ Day, and thus far I’ve spent most of my day doing yarn-related things. I de-cluttered part of my stash, rolling loose skeins into balls, ripping half-done projects that would never be finished, cutting and tossing what couldn’t be ripped or was knotted and wasn’t worth de-tangling.  I also worked on a hat:

knitting, knit hat, dpns, wip, wool

For the record, a toilet paper tube is great for winding yarn into a ball. I’m not ashamed.

Fat Fabulous Life

I heard about My Big Fat, Fabulous Life a few weeks ago and to be honest, it wouldn’t have piqued my interest at all had her angle not resonated with me. Whitney Thore has PCOS and says that it led her to gain over 100 pounds during her college years (and another hundred since then).  I can relate; I put on 80 pounds over the course of three years, which sounds like a long time when I see it in print, but seemed to have happened in the blink of an eye.  And, just as with Whitney, it’s been ridiculously difficult to consistently lose weight.

mel over the years

(Above, top row, left to right: 2001, 2008, 2006, bottom row, 2011, 2013, 2014)

I can relate to her feeling of relief to finally have that diagnosis.  Yep, it sucks to have PCOS, but it helped to know that there is a legitimate medical issue and my weight gain is not just because I’m a lazy pig (here’s a Mayo Clinic article about what PCOS is, because I don’t want to butcher the science).  I’d say that knowing is half the battle, but that’s a load of crap since I was diagnosed in 2011 and gained another 50 between then and when I finally managed to take control of my health last May.

I can relate to feeling like you’re being stared at when you’re eating at a restaurant and you have something other than say, a salad or some desperately sad piece of chicken and steamed broccoli.  Feeling like people are laughing at you when you’re out running (as if fat people shouldn’t be exercising).  Never wanting to wear a swimsuit or go to a pool or the beach ever again.  Feeling invisible when you hear people talk about women who are “beautiful.”  I remember how much I struggled at the Monkees Convention knowing that my one and only chance to meet my idols was going to be as this fat, monstrous version of myself, and that amazing moment in my life was going to be forever immortalized in film with me at the biggest size I’d ever been.  It was depressing.  So, while I’m nowhere near 380 pounds like her, I know the pain and self-loathing.

I can even get behind her message of embracing who you are at the moment and recognizing that you can’t put your life on hold and wait to have meaningful moments until you’re “thin” or “fit.” If I’d done that, I never would have met the Monkees.  I sing at church fairly often and our services are televised; I’d never do that if I waited until I was “pretty enough” to be on tv.  I fully believe that we need to make the most of each day, since we don’t know that we’ll have tomorrow.

There were a couple of things about her story that didn’t sit well with me, though, and so I DVRed all 10 episodes of the first season and have been watching them in chunks (usually whenever Joey is out or otherwise occupied since he finds her personality grating and the entire concept of the show annoying).  I’d just intended to watch two or three episodes to get a better grasp on my feelings about the show, but (as Joey feared), I found her story compelling enough that I watched the entire series.  I finished it up today with the season finale and, quite honestly, it disturbed me.

It all boils down to personal responsibility for me.  I think that, too often, Whitney gives herself a pass on her current condition because of her diagnosis.  PCOS definitely makes weight gain easy and weight loss difficult, but ultimately, much of our health condition depends on our own decisions.  I recognize that her case must be different (or more severe) than mine; I didn’t gain 100 pounds in a year, and I’m not 250 pounds overweight. However, I also recognize that my extra 80 pounds resulted from my own lack of discipline.  We can’t use our diagnoses to give ourselves a pass on making good decisions.  She casually mentions that she is partly responsible for her weight gain, but there’s no real visible recognition of that or focus on making better food decisions (on the contrary; she gets irritated at her father when he suggests that she have an egg sandwich on wheat bread rather than a banana and mayo sandwich on white bread).  While she does focus on dancing to get back in shape, which is laudable, physicians indicate that weight is lost in the kitchen, not the gym, and her few weigh-ins during the course of the season bear this out for her as she doesn’t appear to have much success.

At the end of the Season Finale, Whitney learns that she’s been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which should be surprising to no one.  What really gets to me, though, is the response she and her parents have.  Thus far in the episode, she’s house-shopping with her best friend/future roommate, but when she gets the letter with the lab results, her parents encourage her NOT to move out on her own so she can get her health in order. She’s 30 years old.  Thirty. Years. Old.  She doesn’t have diabetes; she’s got pre-diabetes, which means that her fasting glucose is over 100 and her a1c is outside the rate for a regular non-diabetic, but not high enough to officially diagnose her with diabetes (more about prediabetes here). Dietary changes can usually control and/or reverse the problem.  And a responsible adult would look at the situation, recognize that it sucks but that s/he is squarely responsible, and make plans to fix it/mitigate the damage.  But stay home with Mom and Dad just because you almost have diabetes??  That’s not a viable answer.  That’s not a mature decision.  How can you expect to succeed in taking control of your health if you believe that continuing to depend on your parents to take care of you is the proper response to being almost-diabetic?  Even if the whole situation was orchestrated for television (which certainly could be the case), it still promotes the behavior that leads to unnecessary dependence.

It irritates me on two levels; first, I’ve got a similar diagnosis.  I have impaired fasting glucose (which goes hand-in-hand with PCOS).  And, while I don’t always feel like a functional adult, I do know that I need to make good food choices (for me, avoiding carbs and gluten) to control the problem and keep it from becoming diabetes.  Somehow, I continue to manage working a full-time job, being actively involved in church, and being a wife while trying to get a handle on my health.  At thirty years old, she should be able to do the same.  Second, I think this is part of a larger societal problem of not taking responsibility for one’s own situation. Where on earth have we gone as a society that moving back in with one’s parents is the solution for a relatively minor (in the vast medical spectrum) diagnosis rather than making a plan and taking control of his/her health condition?  What happens in twenty years when Mom and Dad are in a home, or even worse, have passed away?  How are people going to cope when they haven’t learned the basic skills of self-sufficiency and the concept of personal responsibility?

Once I finally decided to take control of my health, I started seeing success.  I’ve lost 35 pounds by eating low-carb and gluten free, and I’m (mostly) successfully training for a 5K at the end of March.  I’m not going to “settle” for life as-it-is, and I consider every poor decision I make a victory for PCOS.  It’s a battle, and it’s fought and won by choices.

February Photo-a-Day Favorites: Round Two

It’s that time again; we’ve had an excellent week in this week’s February Photo-a-Day Challenge.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Shelley had a cute visitor in her bed for tv time!

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Shannon reminded us that we need to cherish each day, for we’re not promised tomorrow.

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Katie was careful not to disturb her baby:

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Tina made some delicious no-bake cookies for “Love Sucks” Day!

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Despite Angi’s best efforts, she got emotional over receiving her son Levi’s graduation regalia.

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And yesterday, for “Love” Day, I shared a photo of all of the people I love.

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Hope you’ve had a good week!