Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guilt and Forgiveness

I'm sorry, but this got pretty long. 

For the past several years, we’ve been lucky enough to go on an amazing vacation to Rehoboth with some of our very dear friends.  And through a sheer coincidence of fate, it happens to be Restaurant Week when we’re in town.  It’s fantastic, special three course menus at almost all of the restaurants, for set prices, highlighting regional cuisine.  Very, very lucky all around. 

This year when we left for vacation in the beginning of June, I swore to myself I’d be “good.”  I charted out the distance between our house and each end of the boardwalk, and then again from the boardwalk to the end of the main drag.  I figured if I walked as much as I thought we would, and if I ate well, I might even manage to come away from vacation lighter instead of heavier. 
On our Saturday trip down, we stopped at a nice restaurant, and I proudly ordered a salmon salad.  We grocery shopped, and I kept an eye on what I put in the cart, making as healthy of choices as I could.  Even when we went to the massive liquor store, I bought low calorie booze.  That night we went to a local British pub, and again, ordered fish with a vegetable.  Smugly.  This was going to work.
Then came lunch on Sunday.  We went to Dogfish Head’s brew pub for lunch.  And I was presented with their three course restaurant week menu, and it all went to hell.  Fresh mozzarella?  Deep fried soft shelled crabs?  Home made tiramisu?  Yeah.  As I was spooning the tiramisu in my mouth, a dessert at lunch, I thought to myself, “it really doesn’t get more decadent than this.  It’s not even noon and I’m eating dessert.” 
And with that began my downhill slide.  I told myself that we were on vacation, my diet could be on vacation too, I could truly enjoy myself.  To eat with abandon, to throw caution to the wind.  But I felt horrible about it.  Guilty.  Really, really beat myself up inside.  Even though I knew we were walking at least five miles every day, sometimes more (we hiked a good bit as well).  I thought that it would counter balance things a bit, but every bite I put in my mouth had guilt attached to it. 
Then one morning, we were all hanging around the fantastic front porch of the rental house, each picking away at our version of a morning meal.  It might have been a morning that I slept in and the others walked to the beach towers, it might not have been.  But it was just a nice lazy day, reading, drinking coffee, hanging out.  I had an assortment of foods on my breakfast plate – fresh berries, a hard boiled egg, and a few slices of honey blueberry bread from the farmer’s market.  And it hit me then that my friends, all eating similarly odd concoctions of food, really didn’t care what I ate.  They weren’t judging me.  Admittedly, for as long as I’ve known these people, I’ve probably been “most likely to order dessert,” but regardless, they were not the people who were making me feel bad about my food decisions.  It was me.  And me alone.  I’m the one who judges myself, and I’m the one who makes me feel bad about what I eat. 

So for the rest of the trip, I let myself enjoy the food.  We were on vacation for goodness sake!  I ate, I drank, I savored and enjoyed every single minute of it.  I accepted the amount of weight I would gain back, acknowledged that there would be a higher number on the scale when we went home, and just let it go.  I think at one point I even tweeted about it, that the person who you’re hardest on is often yourself.  It was sort of a revelation.  No guilt.  Just acceptance.
We came back from vacation and I lost the weight I had gained, relatively quickly, but to be honest I think most of it was water weight from the booze.  I was back on track.  Again, smugly.  I went into the end of the month at my lowest weight in a decade.    
And then, at the end of June came my high school class reunion.  (Which is another post all together.)  For a variety of reasons, not all high school related (Matt had his first bout of the illness that eventually put him in the hospital), it was a weekend of emotional eating.  On Sunday, when I finally left the family picnic, I stopped at one of my favorite childhood restaurants and got take out for myself – pepperoni rolls, hummingbird cake, some sort of cheese based vegetable casserole.  Chocolate milk. 
We had friends over for the Third of July, and I ate like I’d never heard the word “diet.”  In fact, I specifically asked friends to bring foods that weren’t healthy.  All tied to emotions.  All tied to being the fat girl in high school, the girl who had to plan an event she didn’t even want to be at, the girl who wanted to drown her sorrows in the company of good friends and good food. 
Hot on the tails of the Fourth, we went to Chicago for a conference.  And let me tell you, Chicago is one hell of a town to go on a food bender in.  We ate some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten in our lives.  I drank booze out of quart glasses.  Our last meal in town had seven courses.  But we walked.  Constantly.  Our hotel was incredibly inconvenient to anything.  And the first day alone my pedometer marked 13 miles.  In flip flops.  When I told fellow conference attendees the places we’d walked to, more than one said “but you’re not supposed to walk there.  That’s what cabs are for.” 
We came home from Chicago and Matt went right into the hospital.  I took over cooking while he was sick, and I’m the queen of comfort food.  Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, sandwiches on fresh bread for lunch.  Whatever he wanted to feel better, I made.  He wanted Burger King on the way home from the hospital, and he got it.  And now, it’s the end of July, and as I sat down last night after a heated and stressful neighborhood council meeting, I ate a handful of homemade oatmeal cookies and acknowledged a few things about myself. 
1)      I am always going to be an emotional eater.  What I need to do is to acknowledge that, and balance it with exercise or something else, to not let me gain weight back that I’ve worked so hard to lose.

2)      I can’t beat myself up about my relationship with food.  I’m the only one judging.  I’m the only one I’m disappointing.  I’m the only one who set unobtainable goals without room for error.  And I’m the only one who can fix it.    

3)      Considering how much we’ve eaten in the past two months, I think I’m on my way to understanding what it will be like to “maintain” after I finally reach my goal weight.  That’s been a pretty big fear of mine, given that I’ve done this in the past and gained it all back, so that’s a good thing. 

4)      It’s time to forgive myself.  I have two more emotional hurdles to get through in the near future, but looking at my calendar, once I survive to mid-August, the rest of the year is smooth sailing.  I have given myself permission to eat what I need to in order to stay sane until then, and then I will re-dedicate myself to weight loss and exercise.  FORGIVE, ACCEPT, LET GO.

5)      It’s also time to congratulate myself.  Regardless of how stressful the past two months have been, I’ve still lost (and kept off) forty pounds this year.  It might not be the amount I wanted to based on my irrational goals, but it’s still pretty damn good. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Proof is in the trash bags

It has taken me most of the weekend (and four oversize trash bags), but I've finished cleaning out my wardrobe.  I still have a bit of a closet to do, but after two days of this I need a break.  Yesterday I went through all of the pants and skirts, and by the end of it I was a little loopy.  When you start thinking of things like "these were the pants I had on when I got that speeding ticket," it's probably time to take a break.  I have to say, it was also kind of emotional.  Surprisingly so.  It was hard to get rid of some of the pants, knowing that they were my "favorites" at a certain size, but I tried to stay pretty ruthless and not keep anything that I currently can't wear (unless it's too small and something to work towards). I admit a lot of what I wanted to keep, my favorites, were like clinging to a sense of security, knowing those favorites were the clothes I would most likely wear when sad, or because they did the best job of hiding me. 

This afternoon I went ahead and went through all of my dresses, suits, and blazers.  These have lived in a section of the wardrobe that are hard to get to, behind a chair, and I rarely wear any of them.  I kept a few of the wool pieces to use as craft parts, immediately discarded a lot of the suits and blazers based on style (hello loud red plaid!) and then enlisted Matt's very critical help to decide which of the dresses to keep.  I had a very interesting mix of far too old of a style (very frumpy) and far too young.  I have a handful of things left, as evidenced by the photo proof I've shared.  I really really struggled with keeping things out of sentimentality, and kept just a few things - the dress I wore to our wedding rehearsal (which fits again), a sweater with fond Valentine's memories, the kimonos my dad brought me back from his travels. I've moved the dresses into the skirt/pant wardrobe (and my jeans over into the sweater storage I weeded previously) and my plan moving forward is to move my sewing fabric into that rarely used section and out from under our bed. 

I guess I was surprised at how long it would take, and how emotional it was.  To really face the reality that I had so many clothes, and so few of them were flattering.  So much of what I had wasn't based on a style choice, but more on a "well, this fits, it covers me, and won't draw attention to me."  I found ridiculous clothes - sweaters with shoulder pads, a pair of jeans with a loop like painter's pants, lots of appliques, lots of embroidery.  I found clothes from more than one store that doesn't exist anymore.  (I'm sorry Casual Corner that I was too fat to help keep you in business.)  And I found that I was able to unpack all of my "skinny" clothes from the last time I lost weight and try them all on.  Some surprisingly, can be rotated into my wardrobe now.  Some are so painfully out of style they're going away.  And some I'm still not quiet comfortable with how they fit, but I'm getting there. 

So two other pictures:  The one on the left is me wearing a pair of jeans that were the highest size in my closet.  The one on the right is me wearing a pair of cords that are the smallest size.  They fit, but I think they're a little tighter than I'm comfortable with.  But it's not like I'm going to need cords in August. 

Now that I'm done, (Well not quite, I still need to do a closet.) I have to admit that I'm worried. Or overwhelmed.  Right now I'm still able to shop in the plus sized stores I've shopped at since well, I moved out of my parents' house and started to buy my own clothes.  I have a very small handful of clothes from a few non-plus stores.  Very small.  Most of those clothes are from stores who carry plus clothes in the regular stores (Dress Barn, Target, Old Navy).  Right now I'm not at the point I need any new clothes.  And I know I'm putting the cart before the horse, but in 10 more, or 20 more pounds, I'm going to need clothes.  And it scares me to think of even where to start. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cleaning the Closet

There has always been a direct connection between how clean my house is, and my mental state.  Normally I try pretty hard to keep the house at least at a state that if someone stopped by I wouldn't be mortified to open the door.  I think there's a difference between "close friends clean" and "company clean," and we've been close friends clean for most of the year.  It's been fairly self sustaining, and I have to admit it's made life easier to just have to pick up a few things when my parents surprise us, or when we're frantically trying to pack and leaving the house in the hands of our petsitter.

But lately, that's been harder to sustain.  I feel like my energy level is winding down, and it's getting hard to care about the cat hair on the floor or putting laundry away.  Since this is one of the most obvious and tangible signs of me dipping into depression, I know I need to do something about it.  It's just a struggle, bouncing back from a stressful conference, Matt's hospital adventure, and looking at another business trip in the future.  I feel like the lack of control has almost turned into a physical presence, lurking, and when it gets to that point, it's easier to slouch on the couch, to wallow, to nap the chaos away.

Regardless of how "company clean" I've managed to keep the house (or not, presently), there are parts of it that remain absolute chaos.  And I'm going to draw a direct and cheesy analogy.  My closets, and my brain, are both hidden messes, messes that are easy to keep private.  I don't think people who see me on a casual, everyday basis, can see how I'm struggling.  I keep a smile on my face at work, and everyone thinks all is well in my world.  But you can't judge a book by it's cover, a librarian by her smile, or a clean room for the mess hidden behind closed doors. 

The photo I've included (now with bonus nebby cat!) shows the wardrobe where I keep my pants and skirts.  And it's a fiasco.  There are four stacks on the top shelf, three huge piles on top of the shoes, all of the hanging clothes, and a few things that I've crammed on top of the hang bar out of frustration.  The first part of this problem is that the clothes in there span six clothing sizes.  From my biggest point (the holidays 2011) to my lowest point (summer 2003) in recent years, I've got skirts, I've got pants, I've got jeans, I've got capris, I've got sweats.  And to be honest, I hate 90% of those clothes.  That harkens back to me buying clothes to hide in, not clothes that I look good in.

So my goal for this weekend, is to clean out this closet.  I've hit near the bottom range of the sizes again, so plan on donating all of the clothes that are too big to the VA.  Then I'm going to go through what fits, and what I hope to fit into again, and make decisions on if they're flattering or if it fits in with who I'm hoping to become, externally.  And to be accountable, I'll post pictures when I'm done.  

I'm hoping that if I start to address the hidden issues, both emotionally and in my home, I'll start to fight my way out of this bout of depression.  To get up off of the couch and the internet.  I'm really hoping to have a handle on things, to be headed back towards a better place once August hits.  I've been struggling in my head, too hard on myself, my own worst critic, disappointing myself, from Memorial Day to now, and it's time to just stop.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why shoes and boots?

So what am I doing here, starting a new blog?  It’s been years since I’ve blogged religiously, and most of that was private and locked down, kept to a trusted few.  Lately my fingers have been itching and I’ve had that vague sense of unease and I’m hoping I’ll be able to type my way out of some therapy.

The title of this blog is Red Shoes and Knee High Boots.  I should explain that. 

In January I went to the doctor for a physical, one that was very long over due.  I have white coat syndrome.  I hate to go to the doctor, to pretty much anyone who was going to take one look at me and make a judgment on my health based on my size.  See, the funny thing is, despite being a big girl my entire life, I’ve always been essentially healthy.  Beyond my wonky sinuses and being blind as a bat, doctors are consistently surprised by my “numbers” – blood pressure, cholesterol, even how much I actually weigh (I’m much heavier than I apparently look) – healthy as a horse.  

Now though, as I’m approaching 40, several family members approached me about taking care of myself.  Which led to the aforementioned physical. 

Which led to a blood test.  Which led to some less than satisfactory results.  For the first time in my life the judging eyes of the doctor were in fact reflecting the facts.  In essence, I have until I’m 40 to get my weight down to a healthy BMI, and to eat “right” and exercise.  So two years.  To lose a lot of weight.  To take my numbers out of the borderline region, to avoid medication, to “take charge of my health.”  We’re not quite talking triple digits, but we’re close.  And six months in, I’m starting to struggle. 

And here I am.

So the red shoes.  I bought these ridiculous red high heeled peep toe espadrilles when I lost the first ten pounds.  I don’t wear heels.  These are totally shoes that don’t go any further than our bedroom.  (Hello TMI!  How ya doin’?)  They were a reward to myself.  I read some quote on Pinterest that I’ll paraphrase, but sticks with me.  “You’re not a dog, quit rewarding yourself with food.”  I’ve always rewarded myself with food.  I’m an emotional eater.  My mom and I both use food as a means to show love.  I moved right from my mother’s kitchen into my husband’s, and I think not being in charge of my own cooking has enabled a lot of my food issues.  I don’t grasp portion sizes.  I eat like my husband.  Who hikes home up a mountain every day.  I don’t exercise.  Good lord do I loathe exercise.  

Through walking at lunch, and a few calorie apps on my phone, another ten pounds went.  And into our house came the complete Hunger Games collection of nail polish colors.  Another reward.  The next ten pounds meant a sparkly thumb ring.  I haven’t committed to a 40 pound reward, because it hasn’t been “gone for good” – June and July have been hard months for me.  Vacation, travel, family emergencies, things that meant unplanned eating and a lot of yo-yo-ing on the scale.  I’m at “roughly” 40 pounds gone as I start this blog, but I’ve been “roughly” at that point since early June.  

So the knee high boots?  Those are my ultimate goal.  I have horrible legs.  I hate them.  I’ve always had huge calves, back to my pre-teen years, and boots beyond my ankles haven’t happened in, well, ever.  (Beyond my Doc Martens. Which are oh so feminine.)  So as much as I’m doing this for my health, I’m doing this for a pair of those damn boots.  I want to knit some lacy knee high socks and wear boots with a skirt and rock it out like I’ve never been able to before.  

The thing is, I’ve never dressed for style.  Sure, there are clothes I like, and clothes I love.  But as a fat girl, I have always, always, dressed to hide myself.  I have no true fashion sense, no style identity.  I’ve always bought at least one size too big.  As long as it isn’t falling off of me physically, I’d wear it.  Did you notice that my three rewards were girly and fashion related?  Not by accident.  I’m not girly, nor stylish.  And if I have to do this, if my health is necessitating this physician mandated journey, I want to gain something out of it mentally and emotionally as well.  I want to figure out who I am, and who I want to portray to the outside world.  I’m tired of fitting into the stereotype of the fat loveable sidekick.  (Sookie from Girlmore Girls?  Yep.  Got that trope all sewn up.)  

I have mixed feelings about this journey.  I’ve never been thin.  I remember being a 6X as a little girl and then the next size I remember is a 12/14 as a teenager.   I don’t even know if I’m going to succeed.  All of my self identity is in being a big girl, accepting it, being fat positive, loving myself regardless of the rolls and curves.  Not that I’ve got good self esteem – not by a long shot.  But there is just so much connection for women to tie in our self worth with our weight, and I’ve been here too long to have anything but a skewed view of things.  And this is where this blog comes in, me trying to figure it out.  Welcome to my journey*.

* Not that this will entirely be about health.  It's my blog, I'll post what I want.  I think a lot of my issues keeping a consistent journal is that I'm too hard on myself when it comes to content.  So no restrictions.  Recipes, books, stuff about the city I love.  Heck, probably cat pictures.  This is for me.  And for the few friends I'm going to let know about it.