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.

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(I’m Not Doing) Emotional Eating…

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I’ve had some life circumstances over the last two days that have left me with an intense desire to eat away my unsettled feelings. It’s funny how that urge becomes second nature over time…I can only remember a handful of times when I was too stressed to be hungry, and they were huge life events…like, breaking up with the guy I was positive I was going to marry for the guy I barely knew (that one worked out!) or like, dad’s in the cardiac ICU and we don’t know if he’s coming back out (that one worked out okay too…both times). Like clockwork, when the emotion surfaced yesterday, my first instinct was to want Chinese takeout.

I did something different this time, though. I said to Joey, “I feel like emotional eating.” And, to his credit (and with much bravery), he reminded me that I’d come too far too do that. It took a lot of courage on his part to say that…he’s got eleven years of my ripping his face off over food-related discussions as a frame of reference. I’m glad he said it, though…I had an apple and some peanut butter and went on to have an excellent evening with friends.

I need to learn to compartmentalize some things, namely work. I’m definitely not bitching about my job….I like my company and my manager, but I’m really bad about identifying myself too much by what I do for a living and not being able to roll with the punches. Because of that, I tend to internalize anything that happens whether or not it’s something that’s within my control. At least this time I didn’t fling myself face-first into a plate of General Tso’s chicken 😉

I found this on Pinterest; it has grammar issues, but the info is sound.

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Grillin’ Out and Walking This Way…

I was thinking of the Aerosmith song and not Monty Python. I was also thinking that we have a really long hike to the bathroom in our new office digs. I used my pedometer yesterday and it’s a 0.07 mile round trip, so I could get an entire mile in if I make fourteen bathroom trips in a day. Unfortunately, that would both impair my efficiency and make people think I have a serious problem, so I think I’ll have to take the loss on that one.

I’ve gotten a couple of requests from friends who are interested in my weight loss/general health success to know what I’m eating, so I’m going to document tomorrow and post everything Thursday. I would today, but we’re low on groceries, so today isn’t very pretty. I’m working on a larger post about the gluten free thing, but I will go ahead and tell you that I’ve lost TWENTY POUNDS. I’ve experienced a host of other improvements, but I want to devote an entire post to that topic, so suffice it to say that gluten free is definitely for me!

We’ve been cooking outside a good bit lately…our air conditioner is on its last legs, so we’re trying to avoid heating the house any more than necessary. Plus, we can keep Indy outside and wear her out some so she’s not quite such a terrorist in the house. Last week, we did some pretty righteous burgers and grilled corn…

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We used the Udi’s gluten free buns…they were extremely dense. It was nice to have something that resembled a traditional cheeseburger, but I’m not sure it was worth it, so I don’t know that we’ll bother with buns when it’s just us eating at home.

Yesterday, we made sausage with cabbage and onions (German food!)…no specific recipe. We bought some turkey sausage links at Aldi, so we sauteed those with onions in butter and then added a bag of shredded cabbage and cooked it all down until the cabbage was tender. We used a half cup or so of chicken stock to deglaze the pan and enjoyed it al fresco while watching the puppy get stuck in the bushes and pee in the yard.

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It ain’t pretty, but it was good. The after-effects? Not quite as good.

Also, yesterday was Shelli’s seventh adoptiversary. I can’t believe it’s been seven years. I still love her so much that it hurts. She’ll always be my first child. Joey got her a pressed catnip cigar, and she totally cracked out on it for half an hour or so until she decided that Indy’s toys were more interesting.

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I’ve started getting the itch to knit again…I’m lusting over yarn and project photos on my favorite knitting blogs. It’s time to pull something out to work on. I have a scarf that I started in March…I think I’ll finish that up and (finally) learn how to block. I’m also slowly working myself up to being brave enough to try socks.

I know. I’m a rebel.

Twenty Fourteen, the Year of Discipline

About halfway through 2012, I dubbed the year my year of “healing.” I was able to escape my soul-sucking job with a company that didn’t care about me and moved over to a place with much better pay and a better environment. I thought that would be the turning point…the magical moment when I started to care about myself and everything that was wrong with me would get better. It didn’t quite work that way.

Last year I dubbed my year of “peace.” While it wasn’t entirely peaceful, I did learn a lot about setting personal boundaries and standing up for myself. I didn’t make the health strides that I wanted to, but I did finally get myself to the place where I was ready to take the steps. The end of the year wasn’t peaceful at all, because of things both within and beyond my control, so I still have a lot to learn.

I’ve noticed that I suck at long lists of resolutions. I fail at one and give the rest up (and then go eat some General Tso’s Chicken). But this one-word-focus thing seems to be at least partially successful.

I noticed a recurring theme in several of my Bible studies at the beginning of the year…The idea that our spiritual (and physical) health lean heavily on personal responsibility and self-discipline. We can’t always do what we want, eat what we want, say what we want….sometimes we have to do things because they are good for us, and we cannot expect to be at our best if we ignore what we should do because it’s not what we want.

You can’t expect to lose weight while eating takeout every night and refusing to exercise. You can’t expect to have a neat, organized home if you’re not willing to clean regularly. You can’t expect to have meaningful relationships if you don’t invest time with people you care about. You can’t expect to be respected if you don’t stand up for yourself. And you can’t expect to have a successful spiritual life if you don’t talk to God and crack open the Good Book.

These are all things I struggle with, and these are all things that I want to improve this year. This is the year of Discipline.

Oh, Insomnia…How I Hate Thee…

I ended up taking a 2.5 hour nap yesterday and it has resulted in my waking up at 3:45.  I finally got up and left the bedroom because I have this bad habit of popping my joints when I can’t sleep, and I didn’t want to keep Joey up.  That, and he’s sawing logs pretty loudly, so I really didn’t want to stay in there.  At least local news starts at 4:30.

Today marks the day Joey and I set for ourselves to begin getting life back on track.  I’m nervous about it since we’ve spent the past year pretty much eating whatever we want and getting ourselves into the bad habit of getting takeout several times a week and wasting the groceries we buy by not eating them.

Some observations about the physical ramifications of the weight gain:

  • Standing for more than a few minutes hurts my lower back and into the backs of my legs.
  • Holding long notes while singing has become difficult.
  • Snoring.
  • Feeling crampy off and on nearly all month.
  • My meds aren’t as effective in controlling my anxiety

I’m still doing pretty well mentally, but I can definitely tell that I’m not enjoying the full effectiveness of my meds.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that down on “paper.”  I’m going to shoot to document this journey.  I’ve finally remedied the untenable stress of my day from 8-5, and It’s time for me to pick up the pieces of the rest of it and begin the healing process:)

Frustrated.

“The Dress” will be here soon.  I’m wracked with fear about it.  I am most assuredly not ready to go and be fitted for alterations, which I’m hoping won’t be a problem since the wedding still isn’t for eight months.  Weight loss has NEVER been this hard for me before, and it’s driving me slowly insane.  How on earth did I used to do this so easily before? How in the hell did I work for Weight Watchers for seven years and yet not have the sense instilled in me to do what I know to do? 

“Fat Girl Syndrome” sucks.  You know what I’m taking about…knowing what to do, but not wanting to do it, not putting forth the effort that you know will bring results.  It’s ridiculous.  And it starts this cycle of shame and eating because of the shame and being embarrassed because your skinny friends are silently judging you and then eating because you’re embarrassed and so on and so forth.  It’s this never-ending hamster wheel of hell.

I look at this

and wonder how it turned into this

I don’t want to be the fat bridesmaid.  But the flipside is that, no matter how much weight I lose, I’ll be the big bridesmaid, so I’m screwed either way.  I just want to feel like I’m not an embarrassment in this dress.

As much as self-help people try to convince us otherwise, our sense of self-worth is inextricably tied to how we look.  We can talk a big game about being accepted for who we are and feeling beautiful at any size, but the reality is that, more often than not, our sense of success and failure is dictated by our weight.  I am fat, therefore I am a failure.  When I am thin, I’ll be successful.  And, to a degree, that’s true…a local financial consultant who has a show on our talk radio station cited a statistics that connected salaries, promotions, and raises with physical fitness…the thinner the employee, the better his or her chances of advancement and increased salary.  So, even though these inspirational speakers tell you that your weight does not determine your worth, it actually *does*…at least, it does to your employer.

Man, all of this angst over a dress.  I must be cracking up.

New Year’s Resolutions: 2009 Update and 2010 List

So, let’s see how I did with my goals for last year:

1. To get close to my goal weight by July/August (which should be attainable)  I didn’t make it to my goal weight and ended up gaining ten pounds.
2. To run a 5K in April/May (which I’ve already started training for)  I realized that I hate running.
3. To buy only thrift-store clothing this year (which I’ve been doing since April of last year!!)  I was almost totally successful here.  I bought maybe three articles of clothing and they were on clearance from Kohls!
4. To finish knitting my sweater by March  *sigh*.  Nope.  I did get the front and back knitted up.  Just need to seam the neck and do the sleeves.
5. To learn to knit cables (I’ve already got the pattern and recipient in mind!!)  I did learn to knit cables!  But I didn’t do much with it.
6. To give 100% homemade Christmas gifts this year (and not buy anything, even the packaging!).  I was almost 100% successful on this, and the two gifts that I didn’t do homemade were donations to charities in memory of someone special, so I didn’t feel that it was a failure.
7. To sell a craft this year, whether it be on Etsy, or at a local craft festival, or whatever…  No dice.  School took up most of my knitting time this year.
8. To shop at a farmer’s market this year (local produce, here I come!!)  I did this a few times, and I want to make it a regular habit in the new year!
9. To keep the house more organized and get rid of things when we don’t need them anymore (Started this one on New Year’s day!!)  Big no here.  The house still looks like a totally awful wreck.
10. To go camping!  Twice!  Once in a tent in sleet!

 #1 was my most disappointing failure this year…since I tend to focus too much on the negative, it’s hard for me to look at the list and be pleased that I managed to do most of the things on there.  But, you know, I think it’s the first year that I did get so many things accomplished, so I’m trying to give myself a little slack.  There’s a whole new year to accomplish everything that I can!

So, without further adieu, here’s my 2010 list; the topics are in keeping with my major blog topics:

1.   Food/Fitness:  This year, I want to examine my dysfunctional relationship with food and heal it.  I want to get a better idea of the things that work best for me, not food blog “fads” or plans from magazines…I want to figure out what foods are bad for me personally and what ones make me feel best and focus on coming up with a way of eating that highlights the latter while minimizing the former.  I also want to become one of those people I envy when it comes to exercise; I want to become someone who likes exercise and who looks for ways to fit it into everyday life and makes it a priority.  I want to love it.

2.  Frugality:  We definitely need to renew our focus on frugality this year.  I think that, partway through last year, we became a little ambivalent toward being the people who forego things to save money and we slacked off.  This year, I want to have a renewed focus on saving money, on cutting out takeout food and making more things from home and on looking for ways to cut expenses and make a little more dough here and there.  I also want to grow some of our own produce this year, whether it’s just a few things in pots or something larger-scale.

3.  Knitting:  This year, I want to learn to do colorwork and incorporate it into my projects this year.  I also want to incorporate cables into my work this year.  I really enjoyed the handmade Christmas project, so I want to do that again this year, but have individual gifts for everyone in my family and to incorporate color in those.  I also want to finish this freaking sweater this year:).  All I need to do is seam the top together for the neck and pick up stitches and knit down the sleeves.  I should be able to finish that by the end of January.  I want to start my Christmas knitting earlier so I’m not scrambling too badly in December.

4.  Simple Living:  I want to move toward a much more minimalist lifestyle.  I know that I’ll never be one of those “100 possessions” kind of people, but I also know that there’s a lot in this house that isn’t necessary and that we can remove.  I want to get rid of stuff, examine what stuff really matters, and not feel so obligated to keep so much stuff for sentimental reasons.  I’ve been so happy since I quit the band in August, so I’m not going to take on any new responsibilities right now since Joey and I have so much going on.  I want to refocus on making things from scratch…I find that, when I try, making things from scratch really isn’t that much harder than getting the “convenient” version.

Those are my big things for the year…with #1 being my greatest focus.  I can’t afford to let that one go anymore.  I don’t feel healthy and I don’t like it.

Here’s to 2010, and I hope that it brings all the best!