Beginning the Journey

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09-09-09. That is the day my new life began. There is nothing particularly special about this day. It was simply the day I finally decided to change my life.

At the time, I had been out of work for over a year and had zero prospects for a new job. My husband and I were unsuccessfully trying to have children for 3 ½ years with no luck, while all our friends had one baby after another. (No joke, at one point I knew 11 pregnant women at the same time.) Meanwhile, my very close-knit family was split by 1600 miles, as my parents moved to Texas. My brother followed them a year later, leaving me with no family within hundreds of miles.

Finally, I w8-08as tipping the scales at 250 pounds. For years, I refused to even step on a scale. I knew the number would be unbearable, so ignored the problem. But something had to give. My life was falling apart and there was only one thing I could control, that was my weight. So that’s what I did.

My primary goal when I began was to make changes I would be able to sustain the rest of my life. No easy, quick fixes for me. I was in this for the long haul for lasting changes.

I began my journey with small steps. Initially, all I did was track the food I ate. I didn’t change the types of food I was eating. I continued to eat the junk I was accustomed to. I just made sure my daily calorie count was under a certain number.

I was a typical American woman with a few, ok a lot, of extra pounds. I dieted on and off since my teenage years. It is the age-old story of weight loss. I would lose weight while on a diet, but because the diet wasn’t something I was willing or able to sustain forever, I would regain all the weight. I was tired of being on the yo-yo ride. I wanted to lose it for good, so I made small changes I was willing to live with. The weight loss was slow, very slow.

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Christmas 2010 ~ 50 Pounds Lost!

 

After a year and half, I lost over 50 pounds. I was in onederland and was feeling great about myself. I knew I was ready to take the next big step in my journey. I was terrified of this next step. I was never very athletically inclined. I was very clumsy. But I knew I had to begin exercising.

I discovered an online program I felt I could handle. I considered whether or not to actually jump in for a while before finally deciding to just do it. The first phase of this program called for a 30 minute walk every day, 4 kettlebell workouts a week and a cardio challenge on the weekend. It sounds daunting for someone who never worked out, and it was for me. On February 21, 2011, this morning-hating night owl woke up before work, stepped into the office and began her first workout. This began the second phase of my journey and my new love affair with being athletic. More coming soon!

Running like a graceful gazelle is overrated anyway

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Ah, exercise. It is still pretty insane to me that I have gone from my primary form of exercise being walking to the fridge to get more food to running so much around my apartment complex that I frequently have members of the maintenance staff make comments about it. I know that some people may prefer to just watch what they eat in order to lose weight. And actually, right at the present moment, that is what I am having to do since I have pneumonia and would probably pass out if I tried to run anywhere. But generally, I believe a combination of exercise and watching what you eat is best for losing weight.

I’ve heard from many people who get discouraged by how out of shape they are when they start. They feel like the little amount of exercise they are able to physically accomplish is not enough. Well, I’m here to say that anything you can do exercise-wise is going to help you lose weight. When I first started at well over 300 lbs, it was all I could manage to slowly do 15 minutes on the elliptical. And that felt like torture. I mean, when walking up stairs is a challenge, you can’t expect to be running marathons your first week. But I still lost large amounts of weight even doing just that little bit.

I’ve gone through several different stages (for lack of a better word) of exercise. Starting out, I went to the gym a lot on the elliptical. It was easy on my knees and burned a lot of calories. That lasted a long time. Then I decided to start doing some strength training. This sadly did not last very long, as I am apparently addicted to cardio. But it did make for some very disturbing facial expressions.

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Then I decided to give running a try. And here is where I found my long-lost exercise soul mate. If running were a person, we would be taking long walks on the beach together and eating spaghetti like in Lady and the Tramp. I  warn you, I’m going to sound like I drank the Kool-Aid or something here, but I just love running. This is somewhat ironic because I used to hate running with an equal passion. I dreaded the mile run at school. I dreaded running laps at soccer practice. I’m not going to lie. Running was pretty terrible when I first started out this time too. But one day as I frantically tried to gulp in enough oxygen and contemplated just falling over on the concrete, I finally experienced that runner’s high. Yes, it exists. I know, I had my doubts too. I thought maybe it was just a delusion of super athletes who had downed one too many protein shakes. But once I had that feeling myself, I was hooked.

I am not a fast runner. I don’t have a natural runner’s build. I’m short and muscular, really more of a gymnast’s build (though sadly, I am actually terrible at gymnastics, as my “cartwheel” consisted of me bending down and kind of turning around in a circle). My legs are the furthest things from slim and delicate. While I like to picture myself looking like a graceful gazelle running through the wilds of Africa, I know I really look more like a rhino running wild-eyed away from a lion. But that’s okay. My running time is exactly that: my time. I don’t have to worry about how I look or anything else when I run. Which is a really good thing since I tend to keep wearing the same workout shirts, as in the ones I wore at 100+ lbs heavier, until they wear out or literally fall off my body. It’s not a good look unless you like the whole ’80’s off the shoulder thing.

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So I’ve been running now seriously for a little over a year. In the course of that year, I hit a huge plateau in my weight loss. I continually increased my mileage running, and saw little or no results on the scale or measurement-wise. Let me tell you, if you wake up at 4:30 in the morning to go outside and run 8 or more miles, you want to see some kind of results. I am not naturally a morning person, but I have become one out of necessity. So I decided to incorporate my old friend strength training into my work-outs. I knew from previous experience that I wasn’t going to sacrifice any of my cardio for strength training, so what I did was just add in a couple strength training circuits to my runs every morning. My apartment complex has a one mile fitness trail with different stations throughout. Unfortunately, the stations are all primarily stretching, so I had to invent my own. So now every morning, I start off doing sit-ups, leg raises, push-ups, modified pull-ups (because I’m too much a weenie to do the real ones yet), jumping jacks, this weird ab exercise I call the crab because that’s what it looks like, and burpees (the devil!). Then I run 6 miles, and do another mile circuit of the strength training. Eight miles in all. It sounds like a lot, especially when I’m dragging myself out of bed at that ungodly hour, but I’ve never once regretted it. What I do slightly regret  (although not much because it also makes me feel pretty badass) is the not-so-beautiful appearance of my feet now. Because I have some crazy calluses that I refuse to get rid of because I need them. Worth it though!

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You’re welcome for those gross images. So adding in that strength training has changed my body more than I thought possible at this late stage. I still haven’t lost a crazy amount of weight or anything, but the inches are flying off. I even had somebody at the gym who has only been there since May comment on how much weight I looked like I had lost just in those 4 months. This meant a lot to me because it’s been a pretty long time since I felt like people could really see any visible difference in how I looked. Even I am able to see how much my body has changed this summer, and I am always the last one to see any difference in how I look.  I know I’m late to the whole strength training party, but better late than never!

If milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard, do protein shakes bring buff men to the yard?

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Deep philosophical questions like the one in my title are what I aim to answer in this blog. And sadly, I am here to say that protein shakes do not appear to bring any kind of man at all to the yard. Anyway, as promised in my last post, I am going to talk a little about how I managed to take off (and keep off so far!) 170 lbs. I was going to make this one post with everything (nutrition AND exercise AND support systems), but it was just too much. I’ll just talk about nutrition today. There’s a lot of stuff I could tell you (and will tell you) about nutrition and so forth, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I owe my success to one key principle: moderation. I have never, ever been able to master this idea for weight loss, or really any other area of my life either. I would either be making a permanent butt indention in my couch with my hand crammed in a bag of Cheetos or I would be manically exercising and subsisting on lettuce. There was no in between. But this time when I decided to lose weight, I knew that there absolutely had to be an in between in order for me to be successful. It was so important to me that I when I decided to chronicle my journey in a blog, I named it The Space in Between All or Nothing. So yeah, I eat right and exercise around 90% of the time. But the other 10%? That’s reserved for whatever I want, and if what I want is cheesecake once in a blue moon, that’s totally okay.

So food. Important stuff. Can’t live without it. Here’s the thing: I aim to eat a pretty clean diet, but I’m also somewhat lazy. I’m not going to go search out weird stuff. I want to be able to go to Food Lion and usually find what I need. My rule of thumb is pretty much that if I can’t pronounce some ingredient on a box, I shouldn’t be eating it. And speaking of boxes, I generally try to stay away from them (I mean food in a box; I don’t have some weird box phobia or anything). No crazy diet food either. I stick to the outer edge of the grocery store: meats, dairy, produce, whole grains. In the beginning of my weight loss journey, I got completely overwhelmed by all the food ideas that were being thrown at me. It looked something like this:

Haha, that was actually a picture I took for when I auditioned for The Biggest Loser. But I slowly figured out what worked for me. In my former life, I used my kitchen solely for the microwave to warm up fast food, but now I actually cook. I would love to share some recipes later, but right now I’ll just share some of my staples:

Meat: chicken breasts (yes, that diet stereotype is very true), tuna, extra lean ground beef, turkey sausage, turkey breast, Canadian bacon (for my breakfast sandwiches)

Dairy: Greek yogurt (all the time, every day, in everything…I’m completely obsessed), string cheese, Laughing Cow cheese wedges, low fat cottage cheese (another diet cliche, but seriously, it fills you up and the protein amount is insane), chocolate almond milk (great after a workout or in smoothies). And my favorite dairy product: eggs. I love them in omelets, and hard-boiled, or pretty much really any way at all. Low calorie and high protein…what’s not to like?

Grains: I am all about some carbs, ya’ll. I eat Nature’s Own Double Fiber Bread, light English muffins (for breakfast sandwiches), Flat Out wraps, oatmeal (steel-cut, in the crockpot so I can make enough for awhile), and quinoa. I’ll admit it, I haven’t sold my family on the quinoa yet, but I’m pretty into it.

This category is where my most distressing nutritional habit lies. Microwave popcorn. Here’s the thing: you can eat an entire bag for about 140 calories. But the chemicals and crap inside that bag that get on the popcorn are really distressing. I have tried cleaner versions of popcorn, because it really is a good snack. It’s not the same. I’m cutting back because I honestly don’t want all that stuff in my body, but it’s hard!

Vegetables: To be perfectly honest, it was way harder for me to incorporate more veggies in my diet than fruit. So like a mom tricking her picky eater kid, I sometimes sneak it in. I get a ton of spinach in every day by blending it in my fruit smoothies. I promise you, while it does make the smoothie a somewhat unappetizing green color, you really can’t taste it. I can’t say the same for kale though. I eat salads almost every night with dinner, and throw in as many peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms as I can. Sweet potatoes, avocados, squash, and zucchini are other favorites. But the thing that I am absolutely obsessed with, the thing that I could eat pretty much every single day, is mashed cauliflower. No, contrary to many claims, it does not taste like mashed potatoes. It just doesn’t. But it is delicious all on its own. I steam it, put in in the food processor, add a couple Laughing Cow cheese wedges and some salt and pepper, blend it up, and shove it in my piehole. So awesome.

You may notice the absence of tomatoes on this list. This is because I can’t stand tomatoes. I have tried to like them because I know all their many health benefits, but I just can’t. My hatred of tomatoes dates pretty much from birth. Oddly enough, I love everything to do with tomatoes (tomato sauce, ketchup, even cooked tomatoes), but I can’t stand a raw tomato. And yes, I do know a tomato is technically a fruit, but I chose to put it with the vegetables because that’s how I roll.

Fruit: Fruit can be deceptive. I mean, veggies, you can usually pretty much eat as much as you want and be fine calorie-wise, but fruit, you have to watch out. It can add up. Especially bananas! I try to stick to the lower calorie kinds, in particular strawberries (my favorite!), blueberries, plums, cantaloupe, apples, clementine oranges, and pineapple (higher in calories and sugar, but I love it).

Random crap: Stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else, like almonds. I know you have to be careful with nuts because they’re pretty high in calories, but they are very filling (high protein!) and portable. And though I know they have pretty much no nutritional value, I love low sugar Fudgecicles. Yes, they have ingredients I can’t pronounce. Yes, they do come in a box. But this is where the moderation comes in. They’re not the best things, but they’re not the worst either. You can have two for 80 calories and feel like you had a treat, so I say it’s worth it. Same goes for Edy’s Fruit Bars (although they’re a bit better since they actually do have fruit in them). And finally PB2. For those not familiar with it, it’s powdered peanut butter with a bunch of the fats and oils of regular peanut butter taken out, so it’s only 45 calories for a serving. Personally, I didn’t enjoy it as a substitute for just eating peanut butter like on celery or something, but it’s really great in smoothies.

So that’s the stuff I usually have in my pantry on a daily basis. For many months, I kept myself at around 1200 calories a day. Then I hit the mother of all plateaus. I just could not lose weight, no matter what I did. I suspected that I was actually eating too few calories for someone with my activity level, but me being me and unable to trust my instinct sometimes, I decided to consult a nutritionist. She confirmed my hunch. She said with the amount of running I was doing, at the very least I should be eating 1600 calories day. I understood the science behind it, about your metabolism slowing down if you don’t get enough calories, but convincing my stubborn mind of this fact was another matter entirely. She also taught me that the ratio of carbohydrates to fat to protein was important too. So now I track protein and fat and carbohydrates, as well as calories, and aim to eat 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. It sounds like a lot to track, but it’s pretty easy using an app on my phone. It even does handy pie graphs! Writing down everything I eat has been really key to helping me lose weight. I always write it down, good or bad. Like even that gigantic slice of ice cream cake on my birthday, even though I really didn’t want to know the calories on that one. Here’s some of my favorite meals lately:

Changing things up and increasing my calories completely broke my plateau, and I am so glad I got the help of a nutritionist (even more glad that it counts as preventive on my health insurance, so I pay nothing and can go as often as I want!). She also gave me some really great clean recipes that also have easy to find ingredients. Sometimes the little tweaks make a big difference. I truly use food as fuel now, instead of as a way to numb my feelings. Of course, I still have days where eating a couple cheeseburgers seems like a good way to cope with a problem, but I don’t beat myself up about having thoughts like that. I probably will always have thoughts like that every now and then, because I will always be a recovering emotional eater. And that’s really okay. It’s how I choose to react and deal with those thoughts that matters.

Taking a (Forced) Rest

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I’ve never been a person who likes to rest. Sitting still and being quiet? Definitely not my strong suits, unless I’m reading a great book. So when I caught a cold (it was bound to happen – I know about 12 people who are sick right now), my first reaction was frustration. I knew what was coming: the inevitable ‘need to take it easy, to…rest’. Ugh.

Sunday and Monday brought the worst of it, bad enough on Monday that I had to take a day off work. Being me, I’d tried to start the day at work, but two hours into staring at a computer screen with a pounding headache, I knew the time had come. I had to go home, and have a day of taking it easy.

At first I was going crazy. Tired, not hungry (ME? Not hungry? You know I must be sick, haha.), wanting to keep moving but feeling too exhausted to do so. I put a movie on and laid down. All I wanted to do was get my daily workout in, to make sure my pedometer would read 10,000 steps by the end of the day. But I couldn’t. And I fought that notion for a while.

Until something clicked in my brain. Missing one day of working out was not going to kill me. Having a nap was not the end of the world. Taking a day off work was something I’d been wanting for a while. I’d been going hard for a while now, refusing to rest in case I missed out on something. This cold was my body’s way of telling me to slow down.

While I wasn’t necessarily happy about it, I knew it to be true. I did need to slow down. Take stock of things.

See, our bodies know when we’ve been handling too much, and they’ll try to tell us in whatever way they can. We need to listen, the message is important. Whether it’s slowing down from an injury, a cold, or something else, sometimes a rest is going to do so much better for you than fitting in that extra work out.

Now I feel good enough that I’m heading to the pool tonight to do some water kickboxing. Had I continued to fight resting, I know I wouldn’t be feeling well enough. Don’t be afraid to listen to your body – everyone needs a rest at some point. Trust it.

Re-Gain? Is that why my pants don’t fit?

Regain

I remember standing at the go-cart track in the summer of 2007, weeping in my mother’s arms. I was 35 years old and telling her that I was going to have gastric bypass surgery. I weighed 350 pounds. I was realistic enough to know that I would not fit into any ride at the amusement park, but now, I could not even buckle a go-cart seatbelt around myself. With my husband’s help, I extracted myself from the go-cart and I felt my tears, filled with embarrassment, roll down my face. I told my mom how we were just waiting for insurance approval, and I would be scheduled for surgery. She was relieved. Nervous, because I was having surgery, but relieved because she was worried about the weight I had gained.

A few days later, I received my denial letter in the mail. I did not have any co-morbidities related to being super-obese (their medical term, not mine) No high blood pressure, no diabetes, no real joint pain. I was just super-obese. I was so angry. If I had high blood pressure, diabetes, or joint paint they would cover any and all medical interventions necessary, but they were unwilling to cover the surgery that could prevent this all.

So I moved onto plan B– I had to sign up for insurance where I work, in November, and go through their bariatric program. I was temporarily sidelined in 2008 by a retinal detachment and nasal polyp removal, but finally in September 2008, at 365 pounds, I had my surgery…

The weight slid off of me, literally, with no effort, other than just kind of sticking to what I was supposed to be doing, it slid off of me. And I do mean, kind of, sticking to the plan. By September 2009, just one year later I had lost almost 150lbs.

I had no medical complications except for a small ulcer, which had long since healed. I was pretty much eating what I wanted and not exercising at all. I had a pretty active job, but no purposeful exercise. But my clothes still fit, and I was enjoying life. Well, except for my mom was sick…

My mom had been sick off and on since I was 20 but she was hospitalized, for what would be her last time, in September 2010. Even though she came home, I knew that her story was not going to have a happy ending. She was seriously ill, with an auto-immune disease that had taken over her body.

On August 2, 2011, I received the phone call I had been dreading. My dad was calling me to tell me that my mom, my ever-present source of love, had passed in her sleep. She was 57 years old.

I did not deal with her death well. On the outside, I acted ok. On the inside, I was broken into one hundred pieces. The grief was like a white, hot burn through my heart.  I spent the next three months burying myself in a long, complicated software conversion at work. This resulted in messed up sleep and eating. I worked six 55-hour weeks in a row and on Friday and Saturday nights I drank to not think about my emotions. I did not want to deal with the pain of her passing.

RegainIn March of 2012, my husband and I decided that we probably could use a bit of a vacation, so we planned a trip to the Mall of America. Armed with spending cash, I hit the clothing stores. In my head, I knew I was a size 22/24, but that size didn’t fit. And a size 26 was feeling snug. I was completely freaking out. When we got home from our trip, I immediately weighed myself.  I was stunned, I weighed 253 pounds. I had gone from 217 pounds to 253 pounds. My only thought was, “Crap, I am going to eat myself out of this surgery.”

That trip, while giving me a much needed break from all the stress, also gave me a kick in the seat. Trying on those clothes was the wake-up call I needed. I no longer could just rely on my gastric bypass surgery to keep the weight off. Within two weeks of being home from vacation, I had a gym membership. That first step into that gym transformed my relationship with food, it transformed my thoughts on exercise, and it, quite literally, transformed my life.

Follow my posts to see how I took off the re-gain, how I continue to lose the weight, and how I pushed myself beyond all my preconceptions about myself and exercise.

Embrace the Suck

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While I would consider Urban Dictionary.com the foremost authority on all slang terminology, I would kindly disagree on their definition of “Embrace the Suck.” At least, I disagree on how to approach it.

Embracing the suck is the donut hole. It’s the vacuum of effort. It’s being only 4 hours into your 12 hour workday. It’s being on mile 5 of 13.1. It’s being tired after 20 reps of pulls ups when you’re doing Murph (an intensive Crossfit workout), which requires 100 pulls ups.

The middle. It drains us all. Another day of eat/work/sleep repeat. Nothing real special happens, it’s just a day. A tough workout that you didn’t do with great enthusiasm. A crap issue at work. Drama with your kids’ teacher. The significant other left all the dishes in the sink. There are 300 channels on your tv, and somehow they are all playing crap you’ve already seen.

Here’s a secret that is not a secret. The middle is what makes you great. It is a great equalizer because we ALL must suffer the middle. How you approach the middle determines how you live your life. It sets you apart. It is how you are able to succeed in your endeavors.

The greatest athletes get mentally tired in the middle. What makes them a great athlete is the drive they have to “embrace the suck.” The climb out of the donut hole. To get out of the black and into the blue.

And here is the secret that IS a secret. Every single one of us can be great not based on the numbers on your white board, the numbers on the scale, the numbers on the tag in your pants. But purely on the drive in your gut, the perseverance in your heart and the determination in your soul.

Every time you approach the middle of anything, you tell yourself that this is where you PROVE you’re awesome. By picking up that bar again and again and once more. Pressing your feet forward one more mile. Pushing on when you’re body is far from tired but your dumb brain thinks it’s impossible. This is when you listen to your heart. I’m sure it’s whispering to you that you can do any damn thing you want.

Jodi, Fat or Not

Israel 2010

Hello I’mperfect Lifers!

I was going to make my first post an introduction-type thing, but right now I’m writing to distract myself from wanting to binge which just kind of brings you, the reader, right into the middle of things, which might be the best place to start anyway.

Hi, I’m Jodi, and I struggle with binge eating.

Israel 2010

I guess a little history is in order: I’ve always been fat, there was a peak of fatness which collided with a a 10-day outdoorsy trip to Israel that was an eye-opening experience for me in terms of who I was, how I felt about myself, and how I thought my fat was making me unhappy, followed by a total life overhaul that resulted in a 90 pound weight loss. This was around 2010.

I maintained it somewhat haphazardly for about 2 years, with some juice cleanses and really, really low calorie eating, and running now and then, until another trip, this time to Europe, threw me off emotionally and upon returning I fell back into the loving arms of binge eating, followed by depression. This was about 2013.

Paris 2013

Here’s what I believe: the things that make me the happiest will also contribute to weight loss. I’m team body acceptance. I’m team health at every size. I’m team love being in a bathing suit and I’m certainly team enjoy my body naked.

And as such, my personal blog, and the title of this post, is called Jodi, Fat or Not. When I sought to change my life in 2010, yes a lot of it WAS motivated by weight loss, but I was also deep in the trenches of body acceptance at the time and I loved the pride I felt for my body and the way I embraced the word fat, and I didn’t want to lose any of that along the way. In making the changes to lose weight, I discovered that a lot of them were also making me happier, like consistent exercise and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

I fall into the category of people who believe dieting and the diet industry is right up there with the devil, but, as a binge eater, I DO believe in calorie counting. As someone recovering from binge eating disorder, it’s super helpful for me to be able to see, in numbers, that I did eat the right amount of food for me, that I am taking care of myself through nutrition, and that I am consciously eating food controlled by what I know is good for me long term, not controlled by the emotions calling out for bags of m&ms and plates of cheese.

It doesn’t work for everyone, it really, really works for me.

By the time I had lost those 90 pounds, though, I found myself really isolated. Saying no to parties or dinner out with friends, and that’s not living life, and that certainly wasn’t making me happy.

So, when Andrea put out a call for bloggers, the chance to be part of a community where I could share what I was going through, I knew it would be exactly what I needed.

Blogging has opened me up to hearing so many stories from so many women and I absolutely love it. I’m shocked to learn how many people relate to my binge eating saga.

I’m emphatic about my stance on body acceptance, because I truly believe in it. I think that changes motivated by hate don’t stick, but changes motivated by the desire to love yourself and embrace everything you think is a flaw, that’s where magic happens.

I’m excited to start sharing with new people, to again open up my life and talk about the things the world tells me I should hide (looking at you, back fat), and to continue exploring what it’s like to be a champion for myself and my body in a fat-shaming society.

What I learned through the effort to lose weight was that I was worthy of my attention, as I was, fat or not. And that lesson has always stuck with me, although I sometimes lost sight of it, and even though I gained back about half the weight I lost.

In the moment that I want to binge, like right now, it’s me not facing my life. It’s me looking to hide from what I’m feeling. But every time I stick with myself, I push myself to be ok with being uncomfortable, and I recognize that the feeling of wanting to binge is just an urge and I don’t have to act on it, I get a little bit stronger. My resolve and commitment to myself is reaffirmed and I get the chance to tell myself a different story, not one where I hide behind food, but one where I am open and completely in love with life.

Loving ourselves through the process of  owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do – Brene Brown

Be sure to subscribe to this blog to keep up with progress updates and posts!

Turning 30 isn’t for the faint of heart

My 27th Birthday

I’ll start out by saying that I turned 30 this past weekend. You may have already figured that out from the title. Thirty is an age that strikes fear into the heart of many a woman. Entering a new decade of life has a way of making you reflect on all the things you haven’t yet accomplished. Full disclosure: I’m not married. I don’t have 2.2 perfect little toddlers running around like so many of my friends do on Facebook (Facebook envy, anyone?). I’m not even where I want to be in my career right now. In short, it would be oh so easy for me to freak out about turning 30. But I’m not freaked out. I’m excited. I view this decade as a new beginning. I spent the majority of my 20’s in a prison of my own making. My body was my prison. Every single year, my birthday wish was about losing weight. I was so certain that everything would be perfect if I could just be thin.

The only time I can ever remember being thin before was when I was born weighing 4.5 lbs. And I can’t say I can honestly remember that. I was always the chubby little girl, not really big enough to be made fun of, but just big enough to realize that I didn’t look like everyone else. I didn’t have the worst eating habits, but I didn’t have the best either. Playing soccer kept me pretty physically fit, but I just couldn’t appreciate my muscular body. The words “thunder thighs” came to mind on a frequent basis. I could only obsess over the fact that I didn’t have the stick-thin legs that all the other girls seemed to have. I excelled academically in high school, but that left little time for soccer anymore. My weight slowly crept up. I’m only a little over 5 feet tall, so any weight gain at all was pretty obvious. By the time I graduated, I was 225 lbs.

College was more of the same. I didn’t set foot inside a gym for years. Plus, I had a lingering foot injury that kept me on crutches and totally physically inactive for months. I’ve always been an emotional eater, and the stress of college combined with my frustration about my foot injury had me shoveling in the pizza like nobody’s business. I put on an additional 50 lbs in the space of a year. It was at this time that I started to realize that my weight could be a serious problem in my future career as a nurse. It’s pretty hard to lug around 275 lbs through 12 hour shifts day after a day. Plus, it seemed just a wee bit hypocritical to try to teach other people how to lead healthy lives when it was quite obvious that I wasn’t taking my own advice.

I started working out and eating healthier, although at that time my idea of eating healthier was pretty heavy on the Lean Cuisines. This worked out quite well until I happened to hear about a Biggest Loser style contest on a local TV network. I applied to be a contestant, and I was selected. I got free training at a local gym and got to be in my very own TV segment every week. Sounds great, right? It started out that way. But then the evil all-or-nothing side of my personality kicked in a big way. I wanted to win this contest, and I would do whatever it took. I exercised obsessively, whenever and wherever I could. It got to the point that I would get anxious if I wasn’t burning calories. I just ate iceberg lettuce and canned crab (not sure how I chose that particular weird combo, other than low calories). I “rewarded” myself with 6 peanuts for dessert. I was obsessed with being the best. I was kind of like Natalie Portman’s character in that movie Black Swan where she creepily goes, “I was perfect.” Except I wasn’t thin like her. And, you know, I never stabbed myself with a jagged piece of glass.  What made it worse is that my trainer encouraged this behavior because he wanted me to win too. I won the contest all right. I even got under 200 lbs for the first time in years. While I definitely looked thinner, it was evident by the dark circles under my eyes that I was far from healthy, physically or emotionally.

My 27th Birthday

I think it will come as no surprise to anyone that I gained the weight back within months of me graduating from college and starting my first real job. Being a nurse was harder than I ever expected. I worked hard to make sure everybody thought I was okay though. I was an expert at keeping it all inside. I would eat all my feelings until I couldn’t feel much of anything anymore. That continued until I reached a turning point in every sense of the world. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually; I just knew that I couldn’t live like this anymore. When I finally gathered up the courage to face the music (which came in the form of the scale I had hidden under my sink for months), I was stunned to see that I weighed in at an all-time high of 328 lbs. I was 27 years old, but I felt like I was 50. My joints hurt all the time. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. I had to go the doctor more than your average 80-year-old for one reason or another. Honestly, I was pretty much a hermit. My sad goal in life was to be invisible, because that seemed infinitely better than having people judge me for how I looked. I hated how I looked, but even sadder still, I really hated myself.

And that’s where the story ends.

Haha, just kidding! That wouldn’t exactly be inspirational. The truth is that I started changing my life from the inside out on June 26, 2012.

I’ve lost 170 lbs since then and weigh in the 150’s for the first time since before I hit puberty. I’m not going to pretend that it’s been all inspirational before and after pictures and perfectly cooked organic meals. I’m not perfect. My journey (duh, of course the word “journey” had to come in at some point in this post) hasn’t been perfect. But for the first time in my life, that’s okay with me. Going from 328 lbs to 158 lbs did not involve a magic pill or potion (much to some people’s dismay). It did involve a bunch of hard work, perseverance, planning, and faith that I was going to succeed. The story of exactly how that was accomplished will be revealed in my next post (gotta keep you guys coming back, right?). I have a little less than 20 lbs to go until my goal weight. That still seems really amazing to be able to say. I’m not going to say that I will be “finished” losing weight then, because I know now that there is no finish line. There is only a switch to maintenance mode, which is something new I’ll have to figure out.

So yes, I did turn 30 last weekend. But like I said before, I am nothing but excited about that (well, except for the tiny, shallow part of me that wants to stay and look 25 forever). Age is nothing but a number, and throughout these fantastic last 2 years, I have learned that I am so much more than just a number. I may not have accomplished all the typical milestones that many people have at age 30. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t accomplished incredible things. Yeah, I’ve lost 170 lbs, nothing to sneeze at certainly. But it’s the changes on the inside that are the most remarkable to me. I don’t desire to be invisible anymore. I want to be seen and heard. I am finally, finally, able to say that I am so proud of the person I am today, the person I always knew that I could be. And if that’s what 30 is all about, then I am all for it!

The Story of Us (Me and My Fat)-Part One by Lindsay Flye

Lindsay Flye tween birthday

I did not grow up thinking I was fat. I had a happy early childhood and don’t remember having any younger year issues with my size or how my size related to the world. I did, however, weigh more than other children in my age/height range. I am convinced, to this day, that I just have dense bones. ;>

My mother was overweight and struggled with her weight her whole life. When I was 11, in an effort to make sure I didn’t turn out just like her, she put me on a 600 calorie a day diet. I don’t remember all that I was able to eat, but I remember an abundance of nonfat yogurt, string cheese and deli turkey slices. I remember having to regulate myself, with her help, and track calories. I lost 15-ish pounds and my mom seemed happy so I guess I was happy, too. Right?

Wrong. I felt insecure and unsure of who I was and where I fit in with all the others who were more “normal” (aka more slim) than me. Entering the early stages of puberty, I felt like I wasn’t good enough just as I was. I had to slim down to fit in. And I was so so so hungry. In my mother’s attempt to not make me like her, she made me just like her… weight and food obsessed, low self-esteem and a deep sense that being heavy makes one unworthy of the best life has to offer. Bless her heart, she really did (and does) the best she can. Dieting by the age of 11 set up the foundation for a deprivation issue that I struggle with to this very day – when I don’t think there is going to be enough food for me, I panic. Deep, primal, pure panic. And if I get very hungry, I kind of flip out… deprivation mentality at its best.

The overarching message I heard from 11 onward was that when I lost some weight… when I was a smaller size… when I was a more “normal” weight … then I’d get the friends, the boyfriend, the social life I so desired. I was a social kid but didn’t have an abundance of friends (and certainly no boyfriends), and over time, I didn’t think I really deserved them. I took what I could get, putting me in a lot of strange and borderline abusive friendships, and eventually, relationships.

My junior year of high school I started dating “M”, two years my senior, who went to another high school and I was with him, off and on, for three years. It was a mess. I was a mess. While I’ll go into that relationship more in Part Two, it was my very first relationship (albeit, not my last) that could be classified as “love addiction.” I couldn’t let him go… and I was dieting constantly…. Even eating/drinking nothing more than breath mints to try to drop a few pounds. My self-esteem dropped lower and lower. And then high school was over and it was time for college (Stay tuned for Part Two)!

Lindsay Flye ImprovingWhen I look back on my life thus far, I think in terms of “what I weighed when”. When I was 11 I was 135 pounds and got down to 118. I started high school at probably 145 and I took my senior pictures at 175 and I graduated high school at 185. While college and beyond will be covered more in Part Two, I hope that I can think of my life, eventually, in terms of accomplishments, successes, adventures, love stories and beautiful moments. After all, it is all of these things, and more, that define who we are, not a number on a scale or a size on a tag. We are more than our weight; we are AMAZING!

Stay tuned to read The Story of Us (Me and My Fat) – Part Two – The Middle years (19-26)

Fear is the Mind Killer by Holly Hughes

Holly Hughes Head to Head

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

I didn’t say that. Frank Herbert did in the book Dune. But I think about this quote all the time.

Holly Hughes 3 years oldTwo years ago, I had gastric bypass surgery. At the time, I thought I had a problem with food. I had been heavy most of my life and all of my adult life. I spent my time on the diet yo-yo. I binged. I purged. I starved myself. I ate grapefruits. I ate no grapefruits. I ate negative calorie foods. I restricted and tweaked and logged calories ad nauseam. Everyone once in awhile, my body would throw my mind a bone and lose a couple of pounds. Once I even lost 50lbs by logging food and working out at least 5 days a week on an elliptical or treadmill at least 30 mins. I dreaded those 30 mins every day. But I put 30 of those pounds back on, one by one. I didn’t really know how big I got, because for years I wouldn’t go on a scale, but when I applied for the weight loss surgery process, I weighed in at 339.6. And that was after a diet.

At the same time I was playing with my food, I was also suffering from panic attacks and swinging bouts of depression. I didn’t realize that I had been having panic attacks since I was about 9 years old until my therapist told me that when I would start hysterically crying that it was a panic attack.

I have finally figured out that I don’t have a problem with food. I have a problem with fear. Food is how I dealt with my fear.

Short list of stuff Holly is afraid of:

1. Failure
2. The mere idea of space (you know, that vacuum of infinity past our atmosphere)
3. Regain
4. Down escalators
5. Driving over bridges

Holly Hughes Head to HeadAfter 2 and half years, I have taken off about 170 lbs, give or take. I found a supportive group of people who made workouts out an enjoyable experience soon after I had my surgery. Then I found crossfit about 5 months ago and from day one I started, I went 5 days a week and never looked back.

Andrea has given me the opportunity to chronicle the next few months of my life on her site. So here I am, overcoming my fears with deadlifts, pull ups and sorts of devilish physical challenges that remind me that even if I am afraid, I should do it anyway. The fear will always pass and only I will remain.