Thursday, July 31, 2014

When You Get Super Disappointed at the Gym

URGH.  Last night, I realized that the Spinning studio I used to really dig is on my shit list.  Once my August monthly expires, I don't think I will renew.

Remember, how stoked I was about the Spinning studio here in Charleston before I moved?  And for good reason.  By chance I dropped in on a few of the best classes they offer and those three hours on the bike motivated me, grounded me and inspired me.  Exactly what every great Spinning class should.

When I actually started to attend classes often, I tried not to see the flaws.  Yes, some classes are FAR better than others.  One of the owners is a Master Instructor (which is a HUGE deal in the Spinning community) and her rides are beyond comparison.  Her classes are the ones I first tried.  She is an incredible leader and her profiles do something for my soul that even therapy can't always achieve.  They help me reflect and look inside myself.  I drip sweat whenever I attend.

The other instructors are okay.  A few are above average, but most are dreadful.  And I like some of them a lot off the bike and I know that changes how I view them in class.  I let shit slide.  I try to support them and give them encouragement, but the truth is that other than Miss Master, the rest of the classes are sub par to classes I have taken elsewhere.  I have been spinning for six years on a regular basis and have experienced far more than 1,000 classes.  There were some years that I went to class everyday and I sometimes even took two classes back to back.  When you have spun as much as I have, you can see the level of preparation from the minute you step into the studio.  It is so much more than a banging playlist.

Before I started working, I made my workout schedule around Miss Master.  She travels ALL of the time (teaching and speaking about the Spinning brand, she is international monthly), so she isn't even there all that much.  I would be at her classes whenever I had the chance.  And she teaches mid-morning on weekdays (because she is a mom and owns the studio and clearly she doesn't want to do early morning or evening classes).  It really wasn't until after I started my jobs that I realized how lacking the other classes are.

I have asked if I could teach as I am certified and an "enthusiast."  I love and respect the program and when you get into a class that has been thoughtfully outlined, I think that Spinning offers a mind-body connection that few other exercise classes can.  I KNOW I will be an incredible instructor because when I am passionate about something, I give it my ALL.  The answer I received was that I could begin working towards this goal, but in order to be an instructor you have to have achieved many HUGE teaching and bike related accomplishments including teaching Spinning for over two years at a certified studio, riding outdoors, attending the World Spinning Conference, being a certain level certified instructor (which requires a lot of time and money to attend all of the courses necessary) and undergoing metabolic testing.  I kinda gave this the side eye, but brushed it off because it is clear to me that some of the instructors do not have this level of training and education.  Because if they did, they would simply be better instructors and "get" how to ride a bike.  But, who am I to point fingers?  And I didn't have the solid proof necessary to prove that some instructors weren't really trained.  And I have better things to do than be a Spinning detective.

Well, last night after work, I ran over to the studio without checking the schedule.  The typical Monday and Wednesday evening instructor is the second best instructor and she just happens to be the other owner.  Go figure!  Don't even ask me why the two best instructors teach the same day……On Monday, her class was AWESOME and I sweat like it was going out of style.  I went back looking for more.  And more was NOT what I got.

What I got was a BRAND new instructor.  A gal about my age who had NO CLUE what she was doing.  Her play list was off, her form was dangerous.  She was on stage leading a class, but had no technique.  She wasn't using proper cues, she seemed lost and nervous.  She had no energy.  It was the least inspiring 50 minutes of my life…..but, but, why did she look familiar?? As I half ass petaled and did my own workout (what she was trying to have the class do was incorrect in terms of speed and heart rate), I kept staring at her.  I knew I knew her and the intrigue of trying to place her kept my buns on the bike.  With minutes to go, I figured it out.

This new instructor is the former manager of Lululemon.  Miss Master Instructor is a brand ambassador for them and they are good friends.  FUCK.  IT IS ALL WHO YOU KNOW.

I recall only a few months ago sitting in class when the now instructor was being celebrated for attending.  This was in April.  She sat next to me and didn't know what she was doing.  She was new to the program, Miss Master made this clear.  We were there applauding her for it.  3-4 months riding is NOT 2 years TEACHING.  My mind started to race and my blood boiled.

I did something I am not proud of.  I hopped off my bike at the beginning of the cool down and I stomped up to the desk and I asked how long Lulu had been teaching.  It was her fourth class.  I asked how with all of the "rules" how did she get to teach?  She is not just new to teaching, she is new to riding, how does ANY of this make sense I demanded.  The answer I was given was exactly what I knew.  There is a "special" mentor program for certain people who show great potential.  You have to be selected by Miss Master.  Lulu and Miss Master have a relationship and had one prior to her teaching.  I stood there fuming.  I really wanted to knock the towels off the shelves.  The girl at the front desk then told me all I needed to know, "Well, you know, Lulu and Miss Master are really good friends.  They have known each other for a long time."  I grabbed my bag and stomped out of the door.

Favoritism at it's finest.

I get that life isn't fair.  I understand that I am not what they are looking for.  But, what I want to tell Miss Master is that when you so clearly break the rules for friendship, you compromise your business.

I made the same mistakes in business and I failed.  I gave friends deals and passes and I never should have.  People do not treat you professionally when you do.  I lost some of my vision and integrity.  I discounted my gifts and purpose and started doing things on other peoples' terms.  I broke the rules with my own brand and I suffered the integrity of my product.  Miss Master is now doing this.  I see it and I feel it and it was probably there all along.  And what kills me the most is that I know that in the long run, she won't succeed and I do want her to succeed.  Even though I lost respect for her as a person and business owner, I will always consider her an incredible instructor.  The BEST instructor I know.

I will not be supporting this studio any longer when my next month expires.  I know it may seem drastic, but working out shouldn't feel like high school.  Last night, in a moment of anger, I studied all of the instructors on their website and I realized that it was indeed just the owners classes that I really enjoyed.  Everyone else didn't really do a good job, I was just looking for something that wasn't there.  I needed to love it, to get back in shape.  I will never recreate my favorite Spinning studio in Chicago and that's okay.  My Chicago gym was a special place where I first discovered my love of the program.  It is something to remember, but not try to imitate.  That year was a good year in general.  It was the time in my life when I was finally getting things together.  It was before I met Awful and forgot all of the lessons I had just learned.

The one thing I will be doing?  Training seriously to become an instructor at another gym!    Sometimes rejection is the best motivation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ditching the Diet Soda and a History of My Other Vices

I get addicted to things easily.  It is a hard fact that I have recently come to terms with.  It sucks.  I am a creature of habit and I love routine.  So when I really like something, even if it is bad for me, I want it in my day (and in my mouth) all the time, anytime.  Not good.

As a very little girl, I can tell you that my first vice was apple juice.  I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming for it.   My want was so strong that sometimes I would have drunk the last bit at dinner time, so my Dad would actually go out at midnight to buy more for me.  At a place really far away because this was 1985 and things weren't open around the clock like they are now.

As I grew older, I liked many things: ice cream, chocolate, bagels and cream cheese, pizza, my still same indulgences, but the next thing that really hooked me was nicotine.  I tried my first cigarette when I was thirteen and became a pretty regular smoker by age fifteen (there was one local gas station by my high school that didn't card for cigarettes).  At this time, I also became a very regular diet soda drinker.

I see now that I was using cigarettes and diet soda as an appetite suppressant.  I was always searching for thin, so smoking and drinking zero calorie chemicals filled me with something to do with my hands and mouth instead of eating actual food.  And because I was young and therefore an idiot, it also made me feel very glamorous.  Celebrities smoked and drank diet soda, models did, too.  Even grungy rockers indulged in smokes and Diet Cokes, it felt so rebellious and grownup.

As the years passed, diet soda and Parliament Lights became a staple.  Sometimes it was all I sustained on until dinner time.  Smoking became less enticing as the years passed because I could no longer stand the smell and because a smoking ban in bars and restaurants was put into action in Chicago.  Besides being a diet aid, smoking was also a way for me to deal with my social anxiety in public.  I chained smoked whenever I went out for a night on the town.  Hard fact, but going out was actually a bit less fun for me when I couldn't smoke.  I finally kicked the smoking habit for good about seven years ago and it actually wasn't that hard, which surprised me.  I am pretty good at doing things when I put my mind to it, I just have to be ready to make a major change.  I was way ready to no longer smoke.

As my vices peeled away: alcohol, ADHD medicine, pot; food became my new drug.  It makes sense because I had never dealt with the beginnings of my eating issues.  The ones that started popping up in puberty and were quelled with diet soda and cigarettes before I ever realized that my feelings and actions around food were disordered and extremely unhealthy.

Just recently, after all of these years, I decided to give up my oldest remaining vice, diet soda.

I love diet soda.  My top picks are Diet Dr Pepper and Diet Coke.  When it gets bad, I can easily drink 5-6 cans a day.  Diet soda has always been with me.  Through  hangovers, all-nighters, finals, 18 hour work days, long drives in the car.  I was always drinking one, thinking about drinking one, or on my way to get one.

Over the last year, I have given up most of my empty calories.  I eat whole foods and avoid my binging triggers when I can.  But, with my clean salads, I was still slugging back the diet soda.  It hit me a few weeks ago as I admired my grocery cart in the checkout line.  As I unloaded my beautiful produce and lean cuts of meat onto the conveyer belt,  the Diet Coke 12-pack wasn't really making sense to me anymore.  Yes, that first sip out of a newly opened ice cold can from the fridge is intoxicating, but I actually started to not even really like it all that much.  Diet soda had started to leave me feeling polluted and my only real major sugar cravings appeared after I drank a few of them.  Sometimes after a few cans or a large fountain cup (ahhh, the best, especially from McDonalds) I would start fixating on a doughnut or cupcake, treats I am not even really a fan of (ice cream YES, baked goods, not so much).  And it is worth mentioning, that diet soda has changed the quality of my teeth.  All that acid has broken down my enamel and vanity usually wins for me in the end.

I have now been ten days without a diet soda.  The first few days were actually brutal.  I had horrible migraines, outbursts and cravings for every diet soda I ever tried, including Fresca.  I REALLY wanted a Fresca.  But within about five days, I was fine.  Just like when I gave up smoking.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be once I got past the initial discomfort and break of a long-term routine.  I still drink coffee (never giving that up) and I bought lots of fancy bubbly waters and seltzers.  I am quenching my thirst just fine.  And popping open a little can of Perrier gives me the same satisfaction of having a diet soda in my hand (or cup holder) 24/7.

I am excited.  Another vice smashed and hopefully gone forever.  It feels incredible to take control over all the things I allowed to get so out of control as major or minor as they may be.  Once in a while, I plan to enjoy a cold regular Coca Cola as a special treat and I promise that I will savor every sip of it.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Time is Flying and the REAL TRUTH About My Weight…...

HI!!!!!!!  Helllllllooooooooooo??????!!!!

I have been thinking about blogging for days which turned into weeks which turned into months.

June was the busiest month EVER.  We had guests every weekend and an engagement party and we took a trip to Florida to visit best friends and I am currently working two part-time jobs which actually equals one full-time job.  The jobs are in different cities and both operate under southern terms (LAST MINUTE EVERYTHING), so I will have my day all planned out and then I will get a text saying to come in (unplanned) or don't come in (as planned) and the whole thing can suck it.  It isn't forever and I already have a full-time job lined up when I move, so I can make this work for a few more months.  A paycheck is a paycheck and it is really nice to have one (or two!) again!

The wedding planning is coming along.  All of a sudden it is getting SO CLOSE.  I will be a married lady in less than four months.  Gulp.  So much to do, but I have my lists and hope to get most of it squared away this month which is actually making me very excited.  It is hard to tell clients this, but so much of the wedding planning and decision making (after vendors are selected and contracts are signed) happens just a few months out, so I decided to make July the real decision making month, so I don't have to make final decisions more than once.  My invitations have already been printed out and they are FABULOUS!  I seriously cannot stop staring at and fondling (not the right word….) them!!!!

So, my weight…..anyone who reads here even just a little knows that it is a huge issue for me.

Over the weekend, Crush and I visited his grandmother for a quick dinner and she was in rare form.  I sadly cannot share a lot of what she said about other people because it is not PC and truly awful and she is actually (I am hoping to still think) a very interesting and wonderful person.  She comes from a different time and she is currently isolated and alone a lot and I have seen it happen with my own grandmother, that kind of loneliness can create an opinion that isn't nice and often isn't true.  She is becoming bitter.  Bitter is never much fun.

On Saturday, before we went to eat at a restaurant, Grandmother offered us some cheese and crackers and wine which is very traditional around here.  A little cocktail hour.  I declined the cheese and crackers as I have been doing for months (I just don't find it worth the calories personally and crackers are a very binge inducing food for me) and then this little conversation happened:

Grandmother: Are you trying to lose weight for the wedding?

R&F: Yes, I have been for a while, not just for the wedding, also for my health.

(She eyes me up and down slowly)

Grandmother: Really???  I haven't noticed a change.

R&F: Yes, I am losing very slowly.  I am down a few sizes and it is coming along.

Grandmother: I can't tell.  But it is hard to tell with you big girls.  You really need to get on it, time is ticking away.  You really don't want to be a plus sized bride.  Your photo will be in the paper.

R&F: I will keep this all in mind, thank you for the suggestion (what Smartie Best Friend told me to say when you don't want advice, but want to be polite, it shuts down all unwanted commentary.  For real! Try it.).

As I sat on her antique couch in the parlor (seriously), I felt my eyes well up with tears, but I got myself together.  This is an opinion of a woman almost ninety who comments on every one's weight including her own granddaughter who is WAY too skinny now, but used to be a lot closer to my size.  It is funny when you start seeing the flaws in other people's families.  It takes time, but no family is perfect.

My own grandmother also has an issue with my body.  I discussed it briefly with my sis over text yesterday and she offered me some great insight.  My body is tall and broad.  I am 5'10".  It isn't a body that was around so much a century ago.  Women are getting taller and broader and now it isn't so uncommon to see a taller lady.  A bigger lady.  A beautiful lady who is a presence because of the space she commands when she walks into a room.

I kept to myself about Grandmother's comments.  It didn't even really register to Crush.  She insults him on the regular about his hair, clothes and posture.  Grandmothers are like that a lot and he is immune to commentary which is a quality I find very endearing in him.  I cried a bit to myself in the shower yesterday as I wanted life in South Carolina to be free of everything I hated about Chicago, including comments about my weight, but enough idealizing reality!  Life is life and a thousand miles doesn't preserve me from idiots.  They roam the ENTIRE world.

I haven't binged in months.  Months.

I feel so much better.

I am taking it day by day and I can't believe it sometimes.  Binging was my best friend for nearly four years.  Binging was my constant companion.  Binging was my reward for work completed.  Binging was a focus to fill my time when many of my friends were busy with their husbands and children and I felt like I couldn't bother them.  Binging was my dirty secret that I wanted to keep hidden even as I had to continue to buy larger pants.

Now for THE REAL (I have given bits and pieces in context, but here is the total situation) weight recap:

- My lowest adult weight ever that I remember was 165 pounds.  I got there right around my sister's wedding almost five years ago.

- When I started to date Awful, I didn't even realize it at the time, but I began using food as a coping mechanism because I was in an unbalanced and emotionally abusive relationship.  One year after my sister's wedding, I was up nearly 50 pounds.  The morning of my tummy tuck, I weighed 211 pounds.

- When I moved home with my folks, my weight fluctuated.  I began taking the ADHD medicine, Concerta, to help me cope and function.  Secretly, I wanted it because I was desperate to lose weight.  These kind of medicines make me lose my appetite for weeks and I wanted the easy way out and I needed a push to literally get out of bed because I was so depressed (why my doctor even suggested it, I literally couldn't move some mornings).  On the medicine, I lost about 15 pounds.  The bounce back effect for me was brutal.  I had severe withdrawals and craved carbs, candy and junk food in abundant amounts.  I put on all the weight I lost and more.

- During the almost two years I lived with my folks, I was stressed out and depressed.  I was in a cycle of using food as a emotional release and I was hurting myself.  Gorging so badly, it was like I was in an alcohol stupor many days.  My weight ballooned from time to time.  For a few weeks, I wouldn't eat much and then I would quickly lose 10 pounds.  Then I would eat again and gain weight rapidly.  The cycle repeated over and over again.   During this time, I began seeking therapy for my food addiction.  It took a little bit of practice and patience to take what I was learning and apply it to my life, but I started changing my habits and daily routine.  Little my little.  At first, I could only go a few days between binges, but it was progress.

- When I moved to Charleston, I got on the scale after allowing myself to eat everything I wanted before I left Chicago.  A huge struggle for me in my parents' house involved the little treats (ice cream, bread, potato chips, crackers) they have that I couldn't have around me in the beginning of seeking therapy.  I am now okay around all food because I use my strategies and I never allow myself to get too hungry.   When I got on the scale my first day in Charleston, finally ready to face this weight battle head on, my weight was…..GULP….my weight was 227 pounds.  THE HIGHEST WEIGHT I HAVE EVER BEEN.  From my thinnest, I was up 62 pounds.

- I decided to go slow and steady.  One day at a time.  A few pounds at a time.  I eat tons of fruits and veggies and lean protein.  I love cottage cheese and popcorn. I get excited over new salad recipes.  Fresh peaches and watermelon get me going.  I allow myself my absolute favorites once in a while: a few slices of Papa Johns pizza, a scrumptious gourmet burger and fries at local place famous for them or a delectable ice cream cone from a candy shop I love.  Treats are a part of life.  I don't hate myself anymore after I eat them or allow a little slip-up to define my mood and turn me into a total bitch like I used to.  Food is food.  It isn't the boss of me.  There is always room for some yummy when I eat pretty nutritiously most of the time.

- I got on the scale yesterday afternoon feeling VERY defeated by Grandmother.  The scale read 190.  I  have lost 37 pounds since October.  My goal weight has been 175 pounds (I think 165 actually looks a little too thin on me) for the wedding and I know that I will get there.  Just a little more to go.  175 is my life goal weight.  Whereas, it isn't my skinniest, it is a weight I feel healthy and strong at and one I think I can maintain for the long haul.  It is a good choice for me.

Whew….this was not easy for me to share.  But, I am proud of myself.  I have come a long way and for the first time ever, I haven't starved my way down in weight.  I want to jump up and down!

Yes, Grandmother may never approve of my big.  But, the important thing is that her grandson loves every inch of me and always has, even at ALL of my sizes.

Monday, May 12, 2014

More Tummy Talk and Body Acceptance Thoughts

THANK YOU ALL for your wonderful feedback and for reading.  I find great satisfaction from sharing my CORE here.  I know that life online is often sunshine and flowers and if I wasn't anonymous, mine would be, too. Who wants to post the bad stuff about themselves publicly?  NOT ME!  I give great credit to the people online who put it ALL out there with their name AND face.  I have a major confidence crush on all of YOU!

I love sharing my real story because I know it is a story so many of us share.  As people, we have dealt with successes and failures.  We have yearned for something that didn't work out.  We have had our hearts broken.  Struggled with our self confidence.  Experienced emotional anguish and friends that couldn't give us what we really needed.  And then we jumped online and we googled our whoa and we ended up on a message board or blog or website and we didn't feel so alone anymore.

The struggle with my body has been long and dark.  I have wanted thin for so long that I forgot why I even wanted it at all.  I have always associated health with being skinny and they are not the same.  When I was at my thinnest, I abused food, exercise, drugs and alcohol.  I was on tons of antidepressants.  I yearned to be accepted by men and included by women.  I craved love.  I feared that the word "fat" would be associated with my name.  

I fought with food.

I went through periods where I wouldn't eat more than diet soda and broccoli.  I got thin.  I binged so regularly that my stomach could easily accommodate an entire medium Chicago deep dish pizza (this is no small feat….I could have probably taken Adam from Man vs. Food at an eating competition!).  I got fat.  I got on the scale and cried.  I got thin.  I drove miles to stores where no one would see me, so I could buy larger pants.  I got fat.  I restricted so much that bridesmaid dresses had to be taken in three full sizes to fit my new starved shaped.  I got thin.

I avoided mirrors.  I avoided full fat dairy.  I avoided plans out with friends.  I avoided the bread basket and open bottles of wine.  I avoided scales.  I avoided a break in my routine.  I avoided sleeping in and giving my body a break from the rigorous torture I was making it endure.

And then I was thin again.

Life was supposed to be perfect now, right?

But, where were the men and my friends and why wasn't wearing a smaller size as fun as I thought it would be?  The rush of adrenaline watching the scale tick down only lasts for so long….a bite won't hurt, right?  My control would waiver.  I would spend hours thinking about a bag of gummy bears or a burrito.  I would allow myself a nibble of fresh baguette or a tiny taste of tiramisu and I would become a frenzied dog in heat.  There wasn't enough I could eat to fill up my broken heart and spirit.

And then I was fat again.

Avoidance mode. The mirrors, the people, the plans and the gym because I was too embarrassed to be seen in public.  I have let people down.  I have not showed up when I should have.  It is so much easier to be "tired, sick or too busy" than hungover from food or without anything in my closet that fits.  Would anyone even believe me if I told them that I couldn't come to dinner "because I do not have anything to wear?"

When I realized that my food addiction was so much more than a love of eating and cooking and actually involved deep seeded emotional issues that I needed to work through, I was scared.  Could I overcome this?  Food has been my friend.  I still yearn for the comfort that only unrestricted calorie consumption and Bravo can give me.  To glaze over just like a Krispy Creme.  But it is no way to live.  It is dark, isolating, sad and empty.  When I feel the compulsion to shut in, the most important thing I can do is get outside for a walk, or go to the library or call a best friend.  I need to break that moment because if I give in, one binge has the power to turn into months and months of self induced destruction by food.  I deserve better.

I will never be as thin as I once was by starvation.  If my body wants to amaze me and go places that it hasn't in years (as I have seen from my sister and a few best friends after babies and breastfeeding), then I will relish my shape, but no more than I love my body now.

I know I am a broken record, but my goal is to get to a place of total peace with my body.  I want to find the optimal weight for my build (still have a little to go, but not a ton).  I want to be healthy, strong and free from worrying about my tummy, thighs or arms.  I want to get dressed and look in the mirror and be fine with what I see.  To not pinch an inch or fantasize about a dress I used to wear or sigh when I put my bronzer over a lovely fleshy cheek and not a sunken cheekbone.

I am getting there.  Everyday isn't as good as I would like.  I sometimes eat lots of Special K bars out of habit.  The rustling of wrappers comforts me still.  Once in a while, my want of an ice cream cone outweighs my need and it may even be my third dessert of that day.  Sometimes the scale goes up and not down.

But, I am enjoying the give and take.  The downward trend overtime.   I am tracking everything, even the way over my calorie days like yesterday which included mimosas, potato chips and a bakery cookie.  But it also included family, stories from the past, long walks, lots of hugs and a brilliant beach moon.  Life happens and I want to learn to live in a world where food and my guilt with food, do not intersect.

The nonstop restricting works, but without good habits, my weight will never stay stable.  My goal once I get to the right weight for me is to stay within seven pounds (not including pregnancies hopefully to come, then I will stay within whatever the doctor recommends) for the rest of my life.  I won't be the skinniest I ever have been, but I will be the most stable.  I want to chose a weight (I am still seeking what may feel right) that is realistic for life.

Stability may not be as exciting, but the Weight Roller Coaster is one ride I am ready to get off of!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bathing Beauty and the Story of My Tummy

Things are finally happening here in Charleston!  I am interviewing for jobs, walking around the city for hours while I rack up steps on my Fitbit and finding the ease of familiarity that sets in when I don't have to use my GPS to get to the gym or the grocery store.

It feels good.

I have said it a million times, but transitions are my enemy. I like the feeling of knowing exactly what will happen.  I like schedules and set routines.  I like knowing my way around.  I need to stop being such a clenched hard-on.

Lately, I am trying my best to be in the moment.  I am reading books I have always wanted to and I am finding peace (and not anxiety) in my thoughts.  I am eating and sleeping better.  I am trying my best to react minimally to countless last minute plans (thanks (NOT) in-laws to be) and to be open to experiencing new friends and new places.

I have mentioned it before, but I had a tummy tuck a few years ago.  It was something that was encouraged by Awful and I am still conflicted that I went through with it at all. Especially because I wasn't open about it with my family.  Ever since that major surgery, I know that I can't do anything that I wouldn't tell them.  That is my conscious barometer.

My stomach has always been "my area."  Growing up it stuck out like a shelf.  When I glance at the little girl photos of me, I look like I swallowed an entire watermelon.  Firm and full.   By junior high, it got softer and smaller.  I had one large roll when I stood and three medium rolls when I sat.  Even though I had thin arms and legs, my stomach labeled me as fat and I was known as a fat girl when the boys ranked the girls.  By high school, I started to get breasts and hips.  My stomach flattened a bit and above the belly button, I had a very distinct waist and firm upper midsection.  I could finally see my feet when I showered!  Below the belly button was another story entirely.  I was mushy with a soft lower belly.  I was told I had a fupa (fat upper pelvic (pussy) area).  I did.  When I got to college, I put on weight VERY rapidly.  About twenty-five pounds in a matter of weeks.  I developed angry red and itchy stretch marks on my lower tummy.  They haunted and depressed me every time I looked in the mirror and discouraged me from making the necessary healthy eating changes I needed to.  As an eighteen year old girl,  I thought to myself, "why lose weight, because of my stretch marks, I will never be able to wear a bikini anyway!"  Eventually, I did lose weight.  My first big weight loss came a year and a half after my first big weight gain.  The stretch marks started to fade a bit and with a higher cut bikini bottom (which were in style much more in 2001 than they are now), I could even hide them.

I rode this weight roller coaster all throughout my twenties.  Up and down and up again.  At any weight, my stomach was never socially acceptable.  It stuck out in T-shirts.  Sheath dresses pulled across my lower abdomen and a-line dresses made me look ripe with child.  If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me when I was due, I would have at least 10 bucks!  And it never got less traumatic!  The last time someone asked me, I was at my lowest adult weight which was about five years ago.  I died a bit inside. All of my hardwork and discipline and exercise and Spanx and thoughtful dressing (every time I tried to wear boho flowy tops, someone asked me, so I gave those up cold turkey) and STILL….I was still being mistaken for pregnant.

When I met Awful, I was on a boat.  I was wearing a bikini.  I was thin for me.  He later told me that he noticed my smile, my toned legs and how self conscious I was in my bathing suit.  He said "the way you sat with a towel draped across your midsection, I could tell how self conscious you were about your belly." It was true.  Awful knew how to pick out the weak and insecure and I was both.  After we started dating he would tell me that he would "pay to have my stomach lobbed off" and he would squeeze it and call my rolls "the stormy sea." It killed me.  All I wanted was a nice smooth flat tummy.  I wanted to feel what it was like to not have to worry about being called pregnant by a stranger on the train.

So, one day when Awful was grabbing at my stomach and kneading it aggressively like dough, I took him up on his offer to pay for a tummy tuck.  I decided that I wanted to no longer have this weight hanging around my middle.  I didn't want a man to judge me for being lumpy.  And this kills me.  Because I actually secretly loved my stomach.  My tummy was a part of me and my own stupid insecurities couldn't let me celebrate it.   I am imperfect.  So there.

My tummy tuck has settled and it's not without fault.  I have a scar and beneath it, I still have stretch marks.  I knew that both were going to be there post-operation.  They are just very low and now hidden in my pubic hair area.  I have two little keloid scars on my upper tummy from liposuction that accompanied my procedure.  My skin is very prone to scaring and stretch marks, so this doesn't bother me all that much.  The scars have been resistant to silicone sheets and injections and ointments to help reduce them and at this point, it's fine.  They only person that really sees my belly is Crush and I hope to keep it this way.  I know his love is so pure that he doesn't even notice my lumps, humps and bumps.

In clothes, my body has been hugely improved.  Since the procedure, even at my heaviest, I have NEVER been mistaken for pregnant.  This in itself pleases me to no bounds.  I feel like I can go out in public and walk freely without having snooping glances thrown at me…."is she pregnant or not?!?"  I look foxy in tight dresses and I love looking at myself from the side.

I know that my flat tummy may be fleeting.  I will hopefully get pregnant and my stomach will change and I will embrace and love my post baby body.  Sometimes I secretly look forward to my cosmetic tummy becoming undone, so it will officially erase Awful from my body.  I would actually take a not so flat tummy over having to be reminded of him on a daily basis.  When I look at my belly, I often think of just how AWFUL he was.

For years, all I wanted to do was to wear a bikini.  It was a dream of mine.  I fantasized about it in high school and cut out bikini clad models from YM for diet motivation.  When I finally made my WeightWatchers goal weight in college and bought a bikini at age twenty-one, I cried tears of joy in the Dillards dressing room.  But, in a two piece, I never felt confident.  I positioned myself laying down strategically on lounge chairs and waited for friends to be deep in conversations before I would venture into the ocean or restroom.  I hid out on pool steps, so my midsection was covered by chlorinated water and always put a towel, pillow or book in front of my belly when I wasn't soaking myself.

As I get older, I want to feel good in my skin.  I want to feel proud of the person I am.  Imperfections and all.  Even if I am still sporting twenty or so extra pounds.  Even if many of my friends still wear bikinis and still look amazing in them.  So, I took a new approach and I bought a one piece.  I am never going back…..

In my one pieces (I now own three that I LOVE), I feel curvy, shapely and sexy.  My tummy looks flat, my shoulders look strong, I have no back fat (I hated how I looked from the back in a bikini).  I feel like I can sit upright on my lounge chair and walk anywhere I want without a towel or cover up.  It is extraordinarily liberating.  I look forward to putting on my bathing suit and heading to the beach because I love how I look.  I know I am projecting confidence and even I can't believe it, but I have been complimented at the beach several (for real) times in my new favorite one piece (retro style with black and white polka dots) and I even had a lady chase me down to ask me where I got it from (Target).  I think anyone can wear anything they want to the beach, regardless of their size.  For me, no matter my weight, I just never felt at peace in a two piece.

As the days to my wedding tick down, I anticipate how I will look on my big day.  I don't care about being skinny anymore.

The way I want to look is HAPPY.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Turtle's Pace

Slow and steady wins the race.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  I know this and then I always want the quick fix.  The miracle.  The AMAZING.  I will get so caught up in an infomercial or the latest skin/hair/diet craze that even though I know that I am getting seduced by something that isn't even real,  I often can't walk away.  After I spend money (LOTS of it) that I don't have, I will take a step back and realize that I am crazy and that I just need to go to Walgreen's and Kiehls and count my calories and everything will be fine.

Today I got on the scale and I am down another pound.  I have now lost over 25 pounds (and nearing 30!) since I moved to Charleston and it has been a slow burn.  0.5 pounds to 1 pounds lost most weeks if I lose at all.  There are some weeks that even with the best eating and lots of exercise, the scale stays frozen.  But, this time, unlike ALL other times, I have stuck with it.  All of a sudden, it isn't for a pair of jeans, for my wedding dress or as a heavy reaction to a nasty comment.  It is for life.  I want to live my life without the weight of my weight holding me back.  I want to drink coffee and eat dessert and share appetizers and savor wine and be a part of things.  I want to be present around food.  I want to know that a meal shared with friends counts as a real meal and does not give me permission to have a second one in private where I can "really" enjoy something sinful while I camp out on my couch with the TV serving as company to hide me from my binging secrets.

I acknowledged my eating issues and they are getting better.  I accepted that I had a serious problem with something that I put off for decades.  I even knew when I was 8 years old that sneaking Milano cookies out of my pantry by the handful wasn't something that I was comfortable doing because it made me feel ashamed.

What has been working has been 2 key things.  Tracking my eating (all of it, every tablespoon of cream, every bite off Crush's plate, every nibble straight from the fridge) and my new Fitbit.  The combination of the tracking and the Fitbit, which helps me know exactly how much I have moved in a day and then exactly how many calories I can eat to stay at my goal, has been magic for me.  It has made me accountable to myself.  Something I have struggled with for years.  I have a bad history of thinking I didn't eat all that much or that I worked out a TON when in actuality, I ate three times my caloric limit and worked out half as much as I imagined.  My mind plays tricks on me a lot, especially when it comes to food and people hating me.

And still, the scale doesn't ALWAYS corporate from day to day or week to week, but as long as I know that I am actually doing what I need to be doing to scientifically lose weight (eat less, move more), the scale does eventually catch up.  I haven't had 5 pounds gone in a week, but I am changing.  Slowly, but surely.

Smarty Best Friend said it best when she told me that "she likes to eat healthy because she feels better." It is simple.  If I eat some fruit and veggies, I feel phenomenal.  I move on with my day and have energy and I don't crash.  Cookies, chips and pizza are scrumptious, but they don't make me feel good.  Especially, if I don't treat junk food as something special.  I got into a terrible habit of using food as a work reward and this has been a very hard habit to break.

Yesterday night, I got the urge to try on a dress that I bought for a wedding festivity even though I didn't know which one yet when I purchased it.  It is classic and lace and white and reminds me a little of my wedding dress.  When I bought it, it didn't zip.  At all.  It was on sale and looked like something I would wear.  I have a very particular way that I like to dress and not all things look good on my figure (curvy, tall and broad), but I saw the potential in this dress.  It was on sale after all.  Well, last night, it zipped right up.  Without a Spanx.  And it looks nice.  A Spanx will help to smooth out the areas that always need a little support (tush and thighs say what), but I can't wait to wear it THIS very weekend to a party for our engagement.  I feel so proud of myself and in many ways, I feel like I didn't even try all that hard.  I made small changes and I didn't need to restrict myself with such a heavy hand, like I have always done in the past.  When I strictly limit myself, I have learned, it just leads to a monster binge of everything I told myself I couldn't have.  Everything is allowed, I just need to track it.

So, as I continue my weight loss journey, it's one day at a time.  Rinse and repeat.  I look forward to passing by the exhausted hare on my way to my final goal.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Old Soul

As I get back on here, I will be sharing more about the move to Charleston and then a bit about my next move which will be happening in a few months.  It is indeed a lot of transition!  I am old-fashioned and I am proud of it.

As I reread my last posts and enjoyed the wonderful and thoughtful comments, I giggled to myself.  I was really describing a life from the past.  The truth is that I would have been fine living before modern technology and sometimes when I daydream, I think about life in a different time.  I know this seems CRAZY and I love my hair straighter and Bravo, but I liked life before all of this computer jazz (even though I love sharing my blog) and I know I could have been satisfied in a time when people enjoyed a bit more solitude and privacy.  I think the idea of real people (reality stars) becoming celebrities has sprung this whole subculture of over-sharing.  I get annoyed about it.  My reactions are not the norm.

Have you seen the movie Midnight in Paris?  It is one of my favorites because I like the idea that everyone has their own "perfect" time to live in this world.  I don't know what time mine would be, but I was very obsessed with the entire Little House on the Prairie book series. What always got me was how quiet their life was.  I wanted that.

I was the last one to get a cell phone, the last one to activate a personal email account, the last one to join Facebook (and the first one to quit!).  Don't think I am high-tech because I have a blog.  Blogging involves about as much computer knowledge as sending an email and I can do that.  Over the past few years, I was hiding from life because it was what I needed for me to heal from the Awful epidemic.  I missed out on the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram crazes and I don't see myself wanting in on any of it now.

As a highly sensitive person, I struggle with approval.  I want everyone to like me and it kills me when I am not included (even if I didn't want to attend whatever it was that I didn't get an invitation for).  All of this online stuff is a bit much for me to handle and it gives me horrible anxiety and gets me depressed.  I think, "why wasn't I invited to that wedding, why didn't that person tell me they are pregnant, when did THEY become friends, why are they still friends with my ex" and it just isn't healthy for me.  I take it ALL personally, even when NONE if it involves me.  The news has always been there, but it just wasn't so in my face.  I am fine hearing about something way after it has happened, its just the real time stuff that I have a hard time learning how to react to.

I don't want to live my life having to calculate my next move online to be this person that I probably never will be offline.  A very common comment I get now is that, "I should rejoin Facebook because I currently have so much to brag about" and that makes me want to stay away more.  Because then I will be playing this game that I don't believe in.  I don't think I won because I have all of these things now.  I am still struggling with my personal happiness and until I don't care about what anyone thinks about me, I will never be truly victorious.  Let me say this though, I may be forced to rejoin Facebook because I don't seem to be able to connect with anyone in a new place without it.  I hate the idea of this, but it seems like there are more people who use it than don't (I am the exception here).  If I do get back on, I will be posting a very limited profile and I will just use it for messaging as it seems like sharing an email address is even too much work for some these days.  The hypocrisy of my life.

Online, I see people posting these perfect realities (including couples that could hardly pay for their weddings and then jet off to 5 star honeymoons when I KNOW that their credit cards were fizzled out the day before) and then I hear that they are getting divorced and it hurts my heart.  Why can't people just be the people they really are?  It is one of the reasons why I decided to stay hidden after I played around with the idea of posting photos of myself on here.  If I told you who I really am, I wouldn't be able to tell you how I really feel and I want to tell you how I really feel.  I understand the importance of an online presence in this world and the struggle to look good or be real.  I just can't seem to get myself to be a part of it.

As I just started to share recently, one of the real breakthroughs for me this year has been realizing that I am highly sensitive (this article I linked to was a huge eye opener for me).  Because with this knowledge, it makes sense why I just can't handle some things that other people can and why I take loyalty so seriously (I plan to share thoughts on that soon).  Sometimes I wish I could be a person who could be comfortable online as me, who was fine being acquaintances with many, who didn't care about an invitation to a party…..I make things WAY too exhausting than they need to be.

Off to make coffee now in my coffeemaker….maybe if I got my dream to go back in time, I could bring it with me!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Charleston of My Dreams

Charleston is a great place to visit.  A grand one.  Every single time I came for a stay, I was smitten.  It has all of the components necessary for a terrific getaway: amazing restaurants, quaint hotels, a charming downtown, lovely stretches of beachfront, tons of history, plantations (my newest obsession other than my Fitbit) museums and even a pretty lively nightlife.  I have many visitors coming down in the next few months (YAY!) and I can't wait to whoop it up like Vicki (I was waiting for the Real Housewives of OC to come back all winter) with them.  

Charleston is the perfect getaway. Beyond a few jam-packed weekends, site seeing and eating, lies real life.  The days that happen between bursts of fun and fancy.  This is the Charleston I am getting to know. 

Charleston is HOT right now.  Everyone is moving here in droves.  Students and grad students that come for school and never leave, young professionals looking for a faster or slower pace (depending on what direction they may be moving from) and retirees.  Tons of retirees.  My fiancĂ© says that Charleston has been a transient city for some time now.  There are always people coming and going. I have encountered an equal amount of people not from around here as southerners.   I am from Chicago and I was born in New York, so I am used to living around many different types of people.  I associate this melting pot idea with the concept of a city and Charleston is rapidly expanding. There is change occurring at every corner (literally, there is a TON of construction) and I can feel Charleston bursting at the seams.  Traffic is heavy; you can’t even find a parking spot at Publix.  Maybe, this is just America. We can’t fight the mass developers from turning even the most historical places, like Charleston, into Anywhere, USA.  Where there is money, there is this inevitable cookie-cutter assimilation.  I have started to see it when I visit other cities.  Everywhere is starting to look vaguely familiar. 

I hear accents from New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan more often than I hear the soft drawl of Charleston.    I don't mind this, especially since I am an outsider myself.  The people not from around here are the ones that seem to want to help me find a job and actually respond to email (more on this in another post).  Charleston just isn't what I expected.   Tourists came to visit and were charmed into relocation.  It all makes sense.  But, where are my belles and gents? 

You see, I dreamt of Charleston as some kind of magical fairyland.  I imagined that all the ladies would look and speak like debutantes and they would smell of honeysuckle and jasmine.  Men would pull my chair out and compliment my hairstyle and tell me I was "real sweet" just like Crush does.  I only wanted to see Lilly Pulitzer and seersucker.  I thought I would be invited to the finest parties and drink mint juleps and sweet tea and wear ball gowns and gloves.  People would be envious of my figure and poise.  Everyone would admire my ability to make lovely conversation and my big city ways.  I would be referred as "very cosmopolitan!"  I thought that I would learn how to shag and that someone would show me how to set a table properly, using only the finest china and silver.  Down South, I wanted to believe that I could eat all the fried chicken and biscuits I desired and then I would slip on my bathing suit and head to the beach looking as pretty as a picture.  This is my fantasy, dammit.  There are no societal boundaries or calories. 

I set myself up for something that doesn't even exist.   I do this a lot.  I get stuck on how something should be without processing how it really is.  Then, I get disappointed that life isn’t what I imagined.  Exhausting.  And even worse….sometimes my over sweeping generalizations come from TV, movies or books.   WTF?   Nothing is how I wanted it to be.  WHAH WHAH.  The weather, the people, the service, the job market, the common courtesy, the social life, the parties, the food….it was ALL supposed to be different!

 I made my move into what I needed it to be.  It gave me hope and positivity and motivation.  It made me excited.  It got me through a very tough time in my life.  My idea of Charleston may not be where I am living now and that is okay.  My Charleston is a place of fantasy, magic and whimsy.  It is a figment of my imagination that I depended on to give me the strength and courage to leave everything I was once familiar with.  I will always be grateful that I loved the idea of Charleston before I even moved here because it shows me how much I trusted and believed in my relationship with Crush.  And, if anyone knows of a city that allows anyone to join every club (even people like me, who had a grandfather who owned a deli and NOT a plantation) and where I can eat biscuits by the dozen and still lose weight, please let me know…I will buy a one-way ticket and get on the next flight!

PS: Thank you for the wonderful, thoughtful and kind comments yesterday!  They really made my day and I appreciate the terrific feedback.  Also, sorry about the post fonts looking inconsistent, sometimes when I copy and paste (like I have with the last few posts)  I cannot get the words to take on the default font (I am not very tech savvy).  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Being Highly Sensitive is BAD for Business

I have been hiding from this blog.  I have been scared to share this because I wanted and wished for so much more than has been happening lately.  I know with my past personal focus and great hope, I found Crush.  Now, I have to work on all of the other areas of my life that require deep concentration.   

I am horrible at transitioning and I am still processing a bunch of change.  Lately, I have been enjoying my time here in Charleston. But, do I love it?  I actually don’t.  I like it very much, but I am excited about moving to a smaller place where I can hopefully feel a bit more a part of things.  My feelings about Charleston have been hard for me to accept and it has been a bit of a let down. Embracing the reality of life versus what I imagined it would be is a tough lesson for me to muddle through.   I take everything hard and extra personally.  I am over feeling attacked and like a victim at every turn. 

I struggle with being happy.  I don’t always feel good about myself.  Recently, I have accepted that I am highly sensitive.  It is just the essence of who I am.  I don’t see the world the same way most people do and I am trying to use my fragility as a tool to help me be a better person.  I have always reasoned that I have an issue with being too sensitive. It wasn’t until I ventured into the raging waters of owning my own business (and broke up with Awful and then had a breakdown) that I truly accepted how thin my skin is.  This is an area that has been holding me back my entire life and I am sick of not being able to be a present and active part of this world because I am so afraid of not being liked.

As a wedding planner, one of the main things I have to face is blame. Clients want to blame vendors, vendors want to blame clients, brides/grooms want to blame their in-laws and in-laws want to blame their child for putting them in a situation that they often would like to stay out of.  The cycle of blame continues through families like a raging forest fire until it gets to me.  When all of the blame has been shifted and allocated and there is still a bit left, it becomes my problem.   I once got blamed for the City of Chicago doing construction five blocks away from a host hotel.  The client thought I should have told them that there was construction “in the area” because they wanted to take their families on a walk and the streets “didn’t look nice.”  Because of the construction, they threatened not to pay me.  This shit is real.

I get exhausted all over again just thinking about how I once let myself be roped into madness.  As a way to appease the crazy, I almost always bended over backwards and did not keep my limits.  I wasted thousands (like $20,000 at my last accurate count, thank you taxes) of dollars paying for blame (mostly created by clients) that I didn’t create. This included such shenanigans as clients contracting vendors independently of me (like finding the vendor themselves and wanting to use this person/company, often because of a low price) and paying a deposit directly to the vendors and then hating the initial product (photography and hair and makeup often come to mind) and looking at me to fix it.  Hard to admit, but sometimes the vendors wouldn’t return the money and I would pay the client out of my own pocket to look like the client got their way.  I just wanted my clients happy and I sometimes needed peace.  There often wasn’t enough time in my day to debate $500.00 relentlessly and listen to empty threats from both parties, so I paid it to shut everyone up. I created little monsters by not sharing reality.  I made my clients think the impossible was possible.  I just didn’t have the balls to confront things head on when they were small and then I let the avalanche of missteps bury me whole.  I would grow resentful of clients I felt taken advantage of and it showed.  When I got wind of bad client practices (they exist just like how bad business owner practices do, it is all a 2 way street) I didn’t want to call the client and have the tough conversation of ending our contract and parting ways.  I waited for them to call me out on something and then I folded time and again.  I people pleased my way back in, even when I wanted out. The few epic clients disasters that happened to me….often I had a hand in creating because I didn't cut the cord when the cray first came into light.  Where was my common sense?  My pride?  My integrity?  My ability to stick up for what is right and just and sane?

This has been super hard for me to come to terms with and it was a terrible and maddening way to do business.  I WAS NOT THINKING CLEARLY OBVIOUSLY.  Please know that I have changed every single detail in the way I now do business and I updated it all: business plan, contracts and most importantly how I charge and collect payment.   I realize that creating limits brings respect.  I have to take my business seriously and practice a strict standard of practices without exceptions or it will never work. 

Here I am complaining about Charleston, my sensitivity and my business.  What do they all have in common?  I feel like a failure.  I feel like I don’t have what it takes to be the person I should be.  I live in fear of the few people I should have never gotten involved with, including Awful.  I am sick of hiding out, but I am also terrified to put myself out there again.

I guess I wanted to tell you how AMAZING life is here in Charleston.  How I am popular, thin and wanted.  How getting a job has been easy.  Aside from my incredible relationship with my man, things here haven’t been a cakewalk.  I have few friends and all of the “let’s get togethers” never turn into anything more than unanswered emails and texts.  I feel like a huge outsider.  Job rejection is my norm.  I have lost over 20 pounds, but I still struggle with binging (even if I don’t do it much anymore, the compulsion to do it is a daily battle) and I still can’t get into my pre-Awful clothes although I am getting closer. I am dragging my feet to get back to planning because I am scared, even though I know I am good at it.  Even though I know that the mistakes I made, I mostly brought on to myself for not being stronger. I give too many people too much power over me.  I agree to costly things just to feel accepted and wanted and don’t even realize I am being used, until it has already happened.  I did this again only a few months ago and it was a costly and annoying mistake.  I vowed to myself that this was the LAST time.  I take a lot more time than most to process important decisions and if I feel pressure, it is because I am being pressured.  I should always trust my instincts. 

I WILL learn to deal with the sensitivity.  I have dealt with so many other struggles these last few years: my honesty, my happiness, my food addiction, emotional abuse and being true to myself.  Putting yourself back together isn’t instant.  I want to live my life on a deeper level than most and I am learning that I hold myself to a different standard, too.  All part of the sensitivity cycle.

I thought that everything would be perfect when I met the man for me, just like how I used to think that being thin was the answer to all of my problems.   Life is so much more than a perfect engagement ring (I LOVE mine, but I would have been fine without it) and single digit clothing.   I guess that when you finally find the prince you have always been searching for that you forget that life isn’t really all a fairy-tale.  Some things are harder than others.

Everything is not okay and that is okay.  No one is judging me. Are they?  No one thinks about me as much as I imagine they do.  I know this.  I want to find the balance between love, happiness, personal fulfillment and honesty.  I need to change a bit more to get there and I don’t know how exactly.  But, let’s start with really sharing my life again, all of the good and all of the bad.

Here goes…..