Monday, October 24, 2011

Medifast Begins

I got the big box of food packets a couple of days ago. I have been doing Medifast now for 2 full-days. I've learned that I don't like most of the stuff I've tried, but it does keep me feeling full. Now I'm wondering if it's possible to survive on chocolate protein shakes and peanut butter bars for 6 months. My starting weight was 226 lbs. In order to not be considered overweight by the medical community, my goal weight is 125 lbs. I have to lose 101 lbs.

This weekend was also the second annual Race for the Cure. My whole family does this walk with my mom, who is a breast cancer survivor. That was pretty great. She made it again, although struggled a bit more than last year. She had a stint put into an artery and her mobility has degenerated since last year. It was pretty worrisome thinking about her health. But we all cheered her on and had a pretty fun time ourselves.

I've come to a weird level of acceptance with my mom's health. She is sick and there is nothing I can do about it. I've managed to let go of my anger and frustration with her choices. I need to put that energy into fixing myself. I think a lot of my anger came from the fact that when I look at my mom (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis) I see my possible future. I don't want to be mad at her for not fixing herself. I want to spend that energy on me. I can prevent that future if I want to. I just have to want it bad enough to make the radical changes that I need to make.

That's the biggest reason why I'm willing to choke down Medifast meals. I know it will get me where I need to be.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different...

At my annual exam this year, my doctor discovered that I am pre-diabetic. That means that the level of glucose in my blood is higher than what the body can process in a healthy way, but not yet high enough to diagnose me with Type 2 Diabetes. It's the precursor though.

When we eat carbohydrates, glucose is released from our intestines into our blood stream. Insulin is then released to help cells take up the glucose as energy. Without insulin, our cells cannot take glucose out of the bloodstream. We need insulin to process glucose. Now, when you eat a high-carbohydrate diet, your body can become resistant to insulin. In other words, your body releases insulin to process the glucose, but the insulin is less and less effective. More and more glucose is left in the bloodstream as the effectiveness of the insulin drops. Glucose in the blood is toxic in high concentrations. You body tries to compensate by dumping even more insulin into the system, but it doesn't matter because your body is becoming more and more resistant to insulin. This is diabetes. Your body can no longer make enough insulin to deal with the large amounts of glucose, thus slowly poisoning your blood.

There is only one cure for this malfunction: eat a low-carbohydrate diet. The paleolithic diet has been shown to fix insulin resistance. I've tried it in a half-assed way and gotten some proof that it would work for me, if I could really do the work. But I have been unsuccessful at sticking to it. There are too many roadblocks for me personally: too open-ended, too many choices, not enough time to prepare the food, no desire to cook, and, most of all, zero desire to think about food. With the paleo diet, you really have to think, plan, and cook, cook, cook.

But I don't have time to figure out my psychological problems anymore. My body is in trouble. After a lot of reading and thought, I have decided to try Medifast. Someone whose opinion I trust, a doctor, suggested it to me. Here are some of her own words:

"Not the most real food way to lose the weight, but my relationship with food was so fucked up, the only thing I could do was remove most of my choices and retrain my brain...not the tastiest way to go about losing weight, but it gave me time to just stop thinking so goddamned much about food. [After reaching my goal] I switched to a more Paleo diet and still limit my carbs at this point. The thing it did for me was stop the cycle of stuffing sugar/carbs and crashing. Getting the weight off then served as a motivation to stay healthier too."

So I did some research. Medifast was originally a prescription-only diet (now available commercially) used by medical professionals to help patients with diabetes or other metabolic syndrome symptoms. It puts the body into a ketonic state, which is specifically talked about in the paleolithic literature. Look at this cool graph. By keeping your daily intake of carbohydrates under 100g a day, your body will start burning stored fat as it's primary fuel source, as well as regulate insulin production. The science makes sense to me.

Now, I know this is not real food. It's all dehydrated protein shakes and MREs. You eat 5 supplements and then one meal of real food everyday. I don't think this is going to be fun. I also don't think this is a shortcut. I'm very scared to do this. But I do know that I need to do something different, something where I don't have to think, decide, or agitate about food. I eat what they give me, and my body starts to repair itself.

In the meantime, I can focus on preparing a healthy dinner for myself, cooking with my children, and just basically trying to find the joy that is hiding in the kitchen. I know it's in there somewhere, I just can't ever find it.

The shipment of supplements should arrive later this week. I'll be posting my process from there.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Suck

We recently discovered that my daughter Molly is gluten intolerant. She's not full-on allergic, but her body can't digest it, and she gets terrible belly aches. The good news is that my house was already gluten-free. We just had to convince her dad that this was real and get him on board. She's been a real trooper about changing what she eats. She's had a few chances to cheat, and I've said, "You can eat a little of it if you're willing to deal with the belly ache later." Every single time she has said, "No. It's not worth it."

Now we are at the Disneyland Resort for the week. My mother has generously brought myself and my two kids down here for a crazy, fun and food-filled vacation. Molly has been AWESOME. We went to the breakfast buffet at the hotel; she ate clean. We went to lunch inside Disneyland; she ate clean. We went to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner; she ate clean. That includes some bread-free treats as well. The kids is just on top of it.

Meanwhile, I made a pact that I would eat gluten-free this week in solidarity. "If Molly can't eat it, I won't eat it." That lasted a whole... zero days. At the breakfast buffet, I snuck some banana nut bread while she wasn't looking. For lunch, breaded fish and chips. For dinner...a variety plate of gluten. Oh and my son got some donut holes, and I snuck a few of those as well.

My ten-year-old daughter is showing me how it's done, and still I choose to fail. I suck.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Once More, With Feeling!

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve wandered away from the path of health. Here I am looking for it again. It’s a treacherous path, but I’m trying to stay on the straight and narrow in spite of all the things calling me back to the dark side. I think my metaphor got lost a bit there. Here’s where I’m at: rock bottom. My health has deteriorated to the point that I can no longer ignore.

First, my blood sugar level indicates that I am pre-diabetic. The only way to avoid becoming full-blown diabetic is to get my insulin production under control. I’m going to write a whole post on that later. Next, I have been diagnosed with chondromalacia patella, which is a fancy way of saying that my kneecap is rubbing against my fibula. According to my orthopedist, the only cure is to lose 100 pounds and get all the extra pressure off my knee joint so that it can heal itself. I’m going to write a whole post on that later. Finally, I want to have another baby before my eggs are completely useless, but Robert refuses until I get to a “healthy” state. However, he would not tell me what would indicate a healthy state. I guess he’ll know it when he sees it. I’m going to write a whole post on that later.

Bottom line is that I need to radically change the way I eat and lose a LOT of weight. I’m so depressed. I started crying in Fred Meyer today just because I could. I feel like I’m being punished for something, but I’m not sure what. Bad choices? I think so. I could have fixed my health a long time ago, and I didn’t. I don’t want to do what it takes to get healthy. I’m willing to do the physical exercise. Nobody does CrossFit without a crazy work ethic. But I am pissed about the food restrictions.

I don’t want to cook whole foods. I want to eat cereal and milk for breakfast. I don’t want to spend a fortune on organic vegetables and grass-fed meat. I want to shop at Costco and put the money into our Buy-A-House savings. I don’t want to skip birthday cake while everyone else gets to eat it. I want to fit in with social and familial expectations. But I’m backed into a corner now. The only way out is through food.

Food and I have such a colorful history. The highlights include getting beatings from dad for not cleaning my plate, getting guilt trips from Martha-Stewart-esque mom when I don’t praise (eat) her cooking, a sister who is bulimic, and, of course, pad-locks on the food pantry when I was in high school. I don’t like to cook. I don’t like to be in the kitchen. I don’t even like to eat really. I just shove something quick into my face when I have too. And the more easily obtained and less flavorful, the better.

So here I go again. I’m starting at 236 this time and have to get to 135. Jesus, I’m screwed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spoke Too Soon

3 days after I wrote that post, I got some very sad news. My favorite uncle had passed away. I happened to be at a brunch when I heard. I was standing in the kitchen next to a giant platter of muffins, scones, cookies, etc. My brain turned off, and I started shoving that stuff into my mouth as fast as I could. I barely even tasted it. In about 90 seconds, I had eaten 2 pounds of white flour, butter, and sugar. I soon felt very sick, and I was still sad. That was awful.

The good news is that I got back on the wagon immediately. I didn't say, "Well, I screwed up this week. Might as well throw in the towel and start fresh next week." I screwed up, but I didn't have to give up. I course-corrected and kept moving forward. And I was still very sad about my uncle, but food doesn't make that sadness go away. I just have to sit with it until I don't feel sad any more. That's life.

I do have to go down to Southern California tomorrow for the funeral. I'll be with the extended family for the whole weekend. I'm very nervous about how I'm going to handle food while I'm there. Everyone is going to be sad, including me. There will be bad food all around. It's going to take massive willpower to say "no." I also worry that people will feel like I'm saying "no" to them. Food is how we show love. When someone gives you food, you're supposed to eat it. If I don't eat the food, I'm rejecting their love. I know it's messed up, but that's the culture of my family. They don't take "no" for an answer.

A couple of friends gave me some good advice on possible ways to say "no" and explanations. Also, I got some practical advice on things to take along on the trip to help me avoid high pressure situations. I'm going to take workout clothes to go for a run at some point. I'm going to hit the grocery store for fruit and nuts to take with me to my cousin's house. I'm going to find a Subway (or something else healthy) and eat a meal before I go to the wake and have to stand around all that food. I'll deal with it by being proactive. At least, that's the plan.

And speaking of going for a run... yesterday I accomplished a major goal of mine. Before I found CrossFit, I was jogging. I entered a couple of 5k races (3.1 miles) and did pretty poorly, 45 minutes or so. It has been my goal to be able to run a 5k in under 40 minutes ever since I joined CF over a year ago. Yesterday, I did it in 39:24! Yay! It felt great!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Peeking Around the Corner

I'm nervous to say this out loud for fear that I might somehow jinx it, but I believe I've turned a major corner in January. I feel better emotionally and physically than I have in a long time.

My mom was admitted into the cardiac unit again for the same angina that has been bothering her for months. The medication was not controlling it anymore. She had a blocked artery and wasn't getting enough oxygenated blood to her heart. She agreed to have a stent put in. That is a vast improvement because six months ago she refused. I had a terrible day where I couldn't feel anything but despair for the situation. She has given up on her health, and that's that.

It also brought up some feelings about the divorce that were unexpected. My husband left four years ago, and I keep thinking that the pain of that is over. Anyway, when I heard about my mom, I didn't know who to call. I don't have a husband or a boyfriend to help me deal with these things. That's one thing that I lost in the divorce, someone to help manage a crisis. Well, I called someone unexpected and had a good cry over the phone. That turned out to be ok. I put a message on Facebook, and lot of my friends responded. I'm not really alone. There are people who will help me if I'm willing to ask. Then two more friends called me later in the day. Again, people that I would not have expected. And they both offered useful words of wisdom.

Everyone had the same advice for me: you have to be afraid. There is no running away from or trying to bury fear. You just have to feel it and move through it. That was pretty awful to hear, but I knew that they were right. So I tried it. I didn't go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. I didn't go to Dairy Queen. I just felt sad and frightened for a whole day. And when I woke up the next morning, it was gone. I don't mean my feelings were gone, but the overwhelming pressure on my chest was gone. I could go about my day.

And I didn't turn to food for comfort.

I'm still sugar free after 25 days, and I have given up fast food as well. I'm steadily losing weight, but more importantly, my performance at the gym has seen significant improvement. I feel great. I jogged a mile today in 11:37. That's a personal best. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

C'mon, Jen!

I am so angry that I am shaking. Texas sent me a couple of emails today that have me furious, but I'm furious with myself. There were parts of our relationship that were abusive. I pretended I didn't see it so that I could have a boyfriend. How sick is that?

Today I called him out on it and used the word abuse. His response was, "What? I didn't know I was abusing you." I listed all of the behaviors that I've been objecting to for two years. Then he says, "Oh yeah. I knew I was doing those things, but I didn't know it was abuse."

I think it's time for a little Feminism 101.

We all know what physical abuse is, right? I don't need to explain that a man should never use physical or sexual violence to control a woman. But what about the other stuff? The verbal stuff can be very damaging as well, and this is the stuff that tends to get missed. Or in my case, blatantly ignored due to my own insecurity about being unloved. Read this...

"Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults." Counseling Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

When a man makes demands and attempts to control your behavior, insists that his feelings are the most important, and ignores your basic human rights by threatening to leave, blowing up in anger, and generally disrespecting you, THAT IS ABUSE.

I ignored this controlling behavior and to some extent let it succeed for far too long. I was walking on eggshells to avoid fights. I looked the other way when he said I made him do it. I had accepted his excuses for his behavior and rationalized that he had a bad childhood, he's insecure, and he's really trying to change. But none of that matters. I was the one accepting it. I was the one who kept coming back for more. Who can I blame for being treated badly except the person who let it happen? Me.

So I'm angry at myself. I want to be a strong woman who doesn't take abuse from anybody. How could I have been so pathetic? Is feeling love worth giving up my self-respect?

More importantly, why on Earth did I think that what he was giving me was love?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Only As High As I Reach Can I Grow

I heard something on the Biggest Loser last week that has been stuck in my mind. (Yes, I love the Biggest Loser. Shut up.) Jillian was yelling at some fatty as usual to, “Reach for it! Reach for it!” The fat girl was barely extending her arms all the way. Jillian stopped her and said something to the effect of, “Don’t you know how to reach for something?” The girl started crying and had a major breakthrough. That’s why I call Jillian the “Fat Whisperer.” She knows just what to say to get fatties moving.

Anyway, I have been stuck on that idea of reaching for what you want. There are people in this world that let fear, or pain, or history, or whatever stop them from reaching for things that they want. I am not like that at all. If there is something that I want, I go get it. When I wanted to be a Montessori teacher, I picked the whole family up and moved to Wisconsin for a year. That’s who I am. I reach for things. And more often than not, I get them.

[Side note: this is why the food behavior has been a weird struggle for me. I want to be healthy, right? But if I really wanted to stop eating junk, do the work, and get thin, I would. I obviously don’t want it deep down. So the question is “why?”]

Recently I learned that the private school where I started my teaching career is looking for a head of school. Moving into a leadership position has always been my ultimate goal in the Montessori world. It would mean a huge bump in salary and getting back on track with my career.

There are a lot of reasons why I should NOT apply. First, I’d have to leave Eugene. Second, I’d be living in the same town as my ex and that means more shared parenting. Third, I’d have to run my own household again instead of letting my parents take care of me and the kids. Fourth, it’s actually a pretty demanding job that requires a lot of different skills. Finally, and possibly the worst part, I’d have to start wearing suits and make-up. All of these things terrify me.

But here’s the thing, I would be good at it, maybe even great at it. I have no idea how I will stack up compared to other candidates, but if given the chance, I would be fantastic. I’m very scared about the interview process. I have no idea what kind of reputation I left behind at that school. I’m extremely scared to be disappointed and feel worthless. But the opportunity is right there. I have to try.

I don’t understand people who are so afraid of change that they don’t even try for happiness. You might epically fail and have to pick yourself back up. You might be monumentally successful and discover a life you never dreamed possible. You might end up in the exact same place that you started from. There is NO way of knowing. Why wouldn’t you roll the dice?

Life is too short not to reach for it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Early Signs of Progress

This was a shitty week. I don’t need to go into all the reasons why. I’m just trying to accept a lot of things that I don’t have control over right now. Breaking up with Texas feels like some kind of spiritual test. I didn’t want to do it; I’m still full of doubt about it, but it was the right thing to do. I can’t continue to make excuses for his behavior and keep my self-respect. So now I have my self-respect, but I don’t have him. What a lousy choice to have to make! And I am not turning to food to numb the pain. I just have to feel sad.

Yesterday I drove to the coast and had a big cry about it. Then I went to the casino and won $150. Life is strange.

Alright, on a positive note, since going sugar-free I have not puked at one workout. This may seem like a silly thing to be excited about, but I was throwing up almost every time I went to the gym. My body was so full of garbage that I just couldn’t handle strenuous work. For the past week, I’ve seen significant improvement to my cardio conditioning. My heart gets pounding and the sweat is pouring off of me, but I don’t feel like my insides are fighting to be outside.

I lost 4 lbs. the first week, and although the end of week 2 is not until tomorrow, I cheated and got on a scale mid-week. I had already lost 2 lbs. I know that weight fluctuates during the week, but I’m feeling very confident that tomorrow will show that the plan is working. My body feels like it’s working. Maybe that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Silent Treatment

My mother has access to patient records at Peace Health due to her job position. She broke into her lab tests and read that the growths in her remaining breast are benign. When she informed me of this, I responded with a neutral, “That’s good. I’m glad to hear it.” Mom was pretty upset that my reaction was not more joyous and energetic; since it turns out that she’s ok. I pointed out that she has made it clear that she does not want to talk about her health with me, even going so far as to tell me to shut up recently. She said, “Well I think not having cancer is a little different than you wanting me to lose weight.”

Something snapped in me. I started yelling, “I don’t give a shit if you lose weight. I give a shit that you have heart disease, and diabetes, and joint immobility, and you are in denial. You don’t want to do anything about it.” She silently got up and starting down the hall to her bedroom. I yelled after her, “See what I mean? You just walk away from the truth. I give a shit that you are going to die!” She locked herself in her room and spent the rest of the day in bed, only getting up to take the dog to the vet. Then it was right back to bed.

I tried going in and talking to her in the evening. She said that she is “done being abused” by me, and until I apologize for my behavior, she had nothing to say to me. I said that I was done being polite about her health problems. She responded, “Then we have nothing to say to each other.” It’s been the silent treatment ever since.

This is ridiculous. Why doesn’t anybody else in the family want to hold her accountable? Should I just put on a good face and pretend this is not happening? She has completely given up, even going so far as to start using a motorized wheelchair when she has to walk long distances.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And Here I Go Again...

2010 was a strange year. In some ways, I wandered off the path of Project Jen. I quit watching my diet, I stayed with a bad coach too long for emotional reasons, and I put a romantic relationship above myself out of fear of being alone. In other ways, I did make some steps forward. I walked a half-marathon, starting competitive weightlifting, and put a lot of energy into my children. In terms of numbers, I was 13 lbs. heavier Jan. 1, 2011 than I was on Jan. 1, 2010. I kinda feel like the year was a wash. I didn't make significant movement forward or backward. Looking back, I can see that a lot of the good work that I was doing was being sabotaged by poor decisions that were based on fear and depression.

Which brings me to food. I've said many times, and will have to say many more times, that food is my addiction. I use it as a coping mechanism just like people use drugs or alcohol. My new coach, at my new gym, personally challenged me to give up sugar for one month in an attempt to break my addiction to using food as comfort. I decided this was a good opportunity to go back to Weight Watchers and try to tackle my bad behaviors with food.

I have been sugar free for 10 days now and also I'm back to following the Weight Watchers program. I lost 4 pounds in the first week. And that's great, but actually I'm more proud of the choices that I have been making when faced with pain or fear. In these 10 days, I have been sorely tested and the pull to binge has been great.

My mother's health continues to deteriorate while her denial deepens. Recently, she literally locked herself in her room rather than listen to concerns about her diabetes, hearth disease, arthritis, etc. etc. (the bedroom where she has a "secret" stash of candy bars.) I learned that my Aunt Joyce is having her SECOND leg removed due to diabetes! And I also decided to end my 2+ year relationship because I don't want to keep compromising myself. He was my best friend. I am depressed people. And I am angry.

But instead of eating chocolate cake or ice cream or going through the drive-thru, I am channeling my feelings into action. These things are making me angry and I feel something completely new: defiance. I do NOT want to be sick and obese and sad. I want to show all of these people that I am stronger than that. I can take care of myself and choose happiness. When I am faced with something that upsets me, I want to rebel against the choices of others and NOT eat. That's new. I have never associated opting to not eat as the self-reward. But defying the pull of all these people around me who are selfish, and making my own happiness, feels like a reward. My relatives can kill themselves. I can't control that. My ex can be ego-centric. I can't control that. All I can control is myself.

And I desperately want to control myself.