The Empty Seat

Today I took my first Southwest flight since posting Flying While Fat. I took the window seat, as usual. Coincidently, a lovely woman who did not quite fit in the narrow airplane seat took the aisle seat. The inevitable announcement came on that the plane was nearly fully and almost every middle seat would be taken.  Guiltily she looked around. “I hope someone very thin chooses this seat,” she confessed.  “I can’t help it. I spill over a bit.” My heart ached for her.

In the end, it was a non-issue because “nearly full” isn’t the same as full. The last passenger to be seated chose the empty seat behind us, next to a woman with a baby on her lap. You could see him debate which was worse, and while I felt bad for the woman with the baby, I was glad to have a little extra wiggle room myself.

Once the seating drama was settled, I debated mentioning Southwest’s policy to my seatmate. Would I embarrass her? I didn’t want that. But at the same time, if I could help her avoid embarrassment on future flights, wouldn’t it be worth it? In the end, I pulled the website up on my phone and showed her, outing myself as a fellow fat person. I wanted her to know how many flights I had worried if the seatbelt would fit or if I would be “called out” in front of everyone as being too fat to fly.

She said she was grateful for the information, and would use it for her return flight. We chatted a bit and I even shared my blog address with her (J., if you’re reading this Hi!) Then we morphed into normal air-travel manners (she with her book, me with my headphones and laptop.) End of story.

Did I do right? When is it ok to intrude on someone else’s story? I never know. It worked out this time, I think, but I don’t even know if I would do it again.

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Bathing Suits Make You Fat

OK, Not Really! But it sure can seem like it.

One of my favorite beach pics from childhood. I'm the one with the long legs. Can you believe I thought I was fat, even then?

One of my favorite beach pics from childhood. I’m the one with the long legs and pony-tails. Can you believe I thought I was fat, even then?

So my sister posted this article on FB about moms forgetting about how they look and wearing a bathing suit to have fun with their kids. I liked the article, but as I am a mom who has always worn a bathing suit, and loved summer, sun, and fun no matter what I looked like, I didn’t have an epiphany over it. I may have even felt a little smug.

Until I went bathing suit shopping. Last year I had to break down and buy a new suit because my old one, after about 6 years, was threadbare. And while I’m all for flaunting it, I didn’t want to accidentally flaunt more than I intended. Of course this summer I am nearly 70 lbs lighter so there was no choice but to buy yet another suit.

Now everyone who loves shopping for bathing suits, raise your hands. Go on.. anyone?? But I really thought I’d be kind of into it this year. I’ve enjoyed my last few shopping trips, trying on new clothes, shopping in regular stores with discount prices. I thought this would be a similar experience.

I forgot one key element – bathing suits have their own agenda. For one thing, whatever size you are in real life, you are two or three sizes larger in bathing suits. I was reminded of this truism after trying on 4 different suits in the regular part of the store. None came close to covering all that is me. Somewhat mollified, I reminded myself that I still buy my bras in the plus department, so I headed to the other side of the store to find the big-girl suits. Of course the pickings are slim on that side of the store. I wanted a one-piece but would have settled for a tankini if it didn’t have too big of a skirt. My days of tent dress bathing suits are long, long gone.

The 16W was ridiculously small and 18W was not much better. To my surprise and chagrin I ended up with a 20W suit that looked a little tight, but mostly fit. It didn’t really flatter, but it was a one-piece with decent breast support. I can run, swim, and play in it without worrying about anything popping out. It was black and white herringbone pattern, so not really as eye-catching as last years cheetah print suit, but at least it wasn’t all black.

The rule is I weigh in once every two weeks. The goal isn't to lose weight, per se, but to focus on freeing myself from food and improve my overall health. So why do I get so obsessed with the scale?

The rule is I weigh in once every two weeks. The goal isn’t to lose weight, per se, but to focus on freeing myself from food and improve my overall health. So why do I get so obsessed with the scale?

Now here’s the strange thing: I went home feeling a bit fatter than I had felt coming into the store. I didn’t realize it at first. I just know that I felt kind of fat.  My jeans felt tighter. My legs and arms felt thicker. I started obsessing about my food. Had I been overdoing it? Maybe I should have skipped the homemade smoothie for desert? Had I been skimping on some of my runs the past week? Was this whole food program thing falling apart on me?

I didn’t connect any of these feelings to the suit at that time, but the fat feeling stayed with me. The next morning I decided just to see how bad things were. It wasn’t my weigh-in day, but damn it I was going to weigh in and face the damage! Instead, I found I had lost another two pounds. Not two pounds in two weeks, but two pounds in 5 days.

Staring at empirical evidence, I still had trouble believing it. I felt fat. I looked fat. But I was thinner than I had been in about 7 years. It took me a while to piece it together. When I woke up yesterday morning and put on the white capri jeans I felt good. I felt strong, breezy, and even a little (dare I say) pretty. When I got home that night I felt sluggish, fat, and miserable. What had happened?

It finally dawned on me that everything had changed in that changing room (no pun intended). Something about pulling on and off spandex suits and examining yourself in front and back mirrors under fluorescent lighting is so demoralizing that even someone who generally feels good about herself, can fall apart.

Oh, I have so much more work to do on myself.  I talk a good self-acceptance game, but when the going gets tough I get tough on myself.

No Run, No Walk, No Guilt

Sometimes you just need to enjoy the wallow. (Advice I give my daughter from time to time.)

Sometimes you just need to enjoy the wallow. (Advice I give my daughter from time to time.)

Yesterday was one of my “blue” days. It started out with me spending hours on a work project that should have taken only an hour or two… Actually it ended there, too, because the work project sucked my day dry. At a certain point I knocked off, not because I was done, but because I was done! I should have gone out for a run. Or maybe even a walk. There was plenty of daylight even.

I had been sitting in my chair all day and I knew what I was supposed to do. I even knew I would feel better if I did it. But I just didn’t want to. And I didn’t want to feel bad about it either.

I do my steps every day… or most days. If I do miss a day it is because I’m sick, or work crazed, or life crazed. Like the other night where I was in my car for 8 hours, at a friends party for 5 hours, and missed my step goal by 200 because I actually ran out time. (Just like Cinderella, my fitbit resets at midnight).

This was different. I really wanted, craved inactivity. I didn’t want to clean, cook, work, run, or do anything productive. Most of the time I shake it off and do what I’m supposed to. But yesterday I didn’t. I wallowed. I vegged. I made like bread and loafed about. I danced the couch potato… (Yeah, that’s all I have)

I was guilty about it as I was doing it. I thought, you could just shake it off and get going, you know. I reminded myself that the rest of the week would be harder. But I did it anyway. And by the end of the night I didn’t even feel bad about it anymore.

And guess what. Nothing happened. The sky didn’t fall. The earth didn’t shatter. I actually feel just fine today. I got back to work, finished my project, ate my correct food, ran 2.25 miles and will somehow manage to get my steps in by the end of the day.

So I’m over the guilt. (Baby steps)

Shopping Made Easier

So this happened.

The best runs are out in nature. #runenvy

The best runs are out in nature. #runenvy

The weather has been a bit crazy. Cold and rainy when I leave the house, heat wave by the time I get home. Or vice versa. Heavy winds one day and not a breeze the next.

Since I travel so far for most of my work, I have gotten into the habit of bringing my workout clothes with me in the morning so I can change on the way home. Most of my best runs happen at a beach or park that is on my way home. Which means preparing a lot of alternatives and still getting out of the house by 6 am. Do I need long sleeves or short sleeves? Long pants or short? Sweatshirt? Plus the usual: Change of socks, bra, sneakers, and hair-ties.

So I’m on my way home and I realize that I only packed  long-sleeve shirt when I left home. It was about 50 degrees and pouring rain, so I guess it made sense at the time, but now the temperature was over 80 and I didn’t think I was going to enjoy a long run at the beach in long sleeves. And I was already too far onto the beach road to make any good shopping choices. Only discount stores and surf shops between where I was and where I planned to run. What to do? What to do?

Kid-style drawing of person with shopping bags in a  yellow dress.And then it dawned on me. I could buy a shirt or tank top at a regular store. This is kind of a big deal. Normally only plus size stores carry my size. I’ve had actual meltdowns because I couldn’t find something that fit. But that isn’t where I am today. I actually can go into a regular store and find something in an XL that will fit.

Once the idea was in my head, I couldn’t wait to do it. I mean I really don’t enjoy shopping and I normally avoid it at all costs, but I couldn’t wait to walk into a store and find something that fit. And that is what I did.

There was a little-bit-of-everything store and I picked up two tank tops for $12 (regular sizes are so much cheaper than plus sizes). I also found a raincoat while I was at it. They didn’t have an XL, but I found the L zippered up. It was snug, but since the raincoat was pink, I thought I could make do.

Then I made it to the beach and did my run before the sun set. It may seem like a simple thing, but to someone like me, this is h-u-g-e!

 

Tap Dancing On the Scale

The scale does not define you.

I’ve lost a total of 65 lbs since Nov 23. What I’ve gained in that same time is even more important.

So  this week I had a big scale moment. I hit the 200 lb mark. I’m not sure why this particular number holds any meaning to me, but I can’t help it. In my brain, 200 lbs is the difference between normal fat and really fat. If I am more than 200 lbs I’m really fat. If I am under 200 lbs I’m just normal fat. I write it knowing how crazy and wrong it is.

I actually never expected to get here. When I started this “cold turkey” plan it was just a lark. I’m just going to do something until I can work myself up to dieting again is what I was thinking. But something happened along the way. I started to get in touch with my body at a more personal and profound level. I started thinking about the foods I was eating and changing my relationship with food and with my body. And it is working like nothing I’ve ever done before.

I don’t feel so broken right now. That isn’t just losing weight – I’ve lost weight before, lots of it, lots of times. The difference is that this time I don’t feel like I’m fighting the weight off. I’m just focusing on being the best me I can be, and as a result, my body is getting stronger, and leaner, and healthier. One of the many side effects is losing weight.

Dear Diet, It's not me, it's you. I just don't think it's going to work between us. You're boring, tasteless, and I can't stop cheating on you. I don’t know if I will continue to lose weight. I suspect at some point I will reach a weight and stay there, but I don’t know. If I need to make adjustments at some point, I will do that, but not to lose more weight. I do know that right now I can’t imagine ever giving up on this food program because I feel so good and in control. Even if I never lose another pound, I never want to go back to the haze of food cravings and sluggishness.

Everyone I tell thinks I’m crazy. I eat the same thing every day. How can that not be boring? I never eat the fun foods, like pizza or chips. Here’s the thing, though — I’m not really tempted. The other night, I had dinner at my mother’s and she had a big bowl of chips out. I ate one. No, seriously, I ate one chip. In the history of me, have I ever eaten just one? I’m not even sure why I ate the one. I guess it was so long since I ate a chip that I wanted to try it and see if I still liked it. And it was fine, but it wasn’t great. It wasn’t so amazing that I had to eat a handful, or a bowlful. Or more.

And that seems to be the wonderful side-effect of this program. I can walk down the cookie aisle at the grocery store and not even think about buying or eating a cookie. And that feeling is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. When I stop feeling this way, I will come up with something else, but for now this is working so I keep doing it. The same thing. Every day.

 

Flying While Fat

How easily do you forgive and forget?

Here’s the thing. I’ve always preferred to fly Southwest over other airlines. Some people hate their policies, but I like that everyone is treated equal, there is no first class, and you get to pic your own seat. I also like their prices, the fact that the airport is closer to my house, and they don’t charge for luggage (a practice that makes me want to scream.)

A little too tight for comfort.

A little too tight for comfort.

So when all the brouhaha about their discriminatory practices with overweight people started buzzing around, I had mixed feelings. I had never had anything but positive experiences with Southwest, and I travel a lot for work. At the same time, the stories I read were horrible and the way certain people had been treated was outrageous.

Plus, I was always a little worried that “it would happen to me.” Like luggage getting lost, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before I ran into someone who would rudely shame me in front of the whole flight.  Only it never did.

And now, I’m happy to say, it seems that Southwest has revised its policy on how to deal with customer’s of size. Or, to be more accurate, it has posted these policies and educated its staff so that no one is singled out by a rude or ignorant representative.  It is an interesting approach. They give the customer the choice. You can purchase one ticket and discuss seating with the Customer Service Agent on arrival. This puts you in the precarious position of not having that extra seat in case of a totally booked flight. Or, you can proactively purchase a second ticket and then get a refund for said ticket after the flight. There is the added expense of purchasing a second ticket, but then it is refunded. Kind of like a rebate.

I’ve read several articles with mixed reviews about this policy, but I haven’t heard of any airline doing anything even close to this. I even like the way Southwest words their policy. They give the customer several options, so that they don’t have to be embarrassed about approaching the Representative and asking for the extra seat if they don’t want to.

I read one blog about someone who tested out the policy without buying an extra seat, and I am glad to say she had a mostly positive experience. I would very much like to hear from anyone who did purchase the extra seat about how quickly they got their refund, and what the experience was like. I feel like even having a policy like this is progress.

5 Lessons I’ve Learned From Fitbit®

Of course mine is pink. That's the point, right?

Of course mine is pink. That’s the point, right?

Without my Fitbit® I wouldn’t even have a 3,000,000 step challenge. I got mine as a gift two Christmases ago when I was trying (again!) to get back to Weight Watchers. I thought it would help motivate me, but I had no idea how much this tiny technology would change my life.

I got very sick shortly after getting my Fitbit. I was in and out of the hospital twice and had major abdominal surgery. There were several weeks where walking 1,000 steps seemed an unreachable challenge. During my early convalescence I couldn’t wear the Fitbit because I couldn’t wear anything on my waist, but after a few days I was able to put it on.  I remember my first goal was 250 steps. Each one was painful. But within a week I was able to walk over 1,000 steps and within a month I was up to 5,000 steps.  And that was my first lesson learned:

I will survive this, and be stronger for it.

Over the past year and a half, I have used my Fitbit religiously. I wear it all the time. Normally it is hooked on my pant waistband or belt. When I wear dresses I attach it under the dress right on my underwear. I even wear it to bed, on the waistband of my pajamas. I don’t have one of the fancy, new Fitbit products that track sleep, but I like to know that if I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, the Fitbit will record my 18 steps. You know- just in case!

And in reflection, I’ve gotten a lot more than a counting of steps from this little device. Here are some other lessons learned:

Every day is a new start

The Fitbit recounts to zero every day at midnight, regardless of what my day has been like. Whether I’ve had a good day or a bad one, whether I’ve walked 10 steps or 10,000, tomorrow is whole new day. This helps me put the past behind me. I look at every day as a clean slate. It is what I do today that matters. I can’t fix yesterday, I can’t go back and change my decisions or actions, but neither can I rest on my laurels. And I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. The only thing I can control is what I’m doing right now, today.

A step is a step

The Fitbit doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if I run 2,000 steps in 11 minutes or walk them briskly in 15 minutes, or meander slowly for 30 minutes. It simply counts each step equally. Likewise, it doesn’t care if I sit on my butt all day and then run my steps in one long run, or if a stop and start a hundred times. Each step counts as one step. This helps me pace myself, both in fitness and in life. Being the fastest, the strongest, the smartest isn’t necessarily being the best. Endurance and perseverance are rewarded in the long-term. I try to remember that with my work and my personal life as well. The number one quality that “winners” all share is they don’t quite and they don’t give up.

Every step counts

Footprints In The SandIn Weight Watchers they tell you that even little things make a big difference, like parking at the far end of the parking lot or walking up stairs rather than taking the elevator. Until I had my Fitbit, I didn’t really see how little things like that could make a difference. But now I do.

I always park at the farthest spot in the lot, just for those extra 40 or 50 steps. And I always choose the stairs over the elevator when I have a choice. When going around town, I frequently think “Should I walk or drive?” If I won’t be carrying anything heavy, I usually choose walking.

I also walk now in times and places where I used to sit: While waiting for a train or planes, for example. I walk up and down the train platform and I’ve literally done miles in airports waiting for planes. Or on my lunch break. I used to sit and check Facebook, but now I’m more likely to walk around the block, or (as I did last week) around the aisles of the auditorium. I’m surprised at how many times and places I’ve found to add a few extra steps to my day.

Everyone needs friends

I was the first of my friends and family to get a Fitbit, but it wasn’t long before my circle of Fitbit friends grew. First my mom got one. Then she got one for my daughter. I got one as a gift for my friend, who convinced her daughter to get one. Little by little my circle of friends grew. We “cheer” each other on and send supportive messages. Sometimes seeing how many steps my friends are doing gives me just a little encouragement to go another half mile.

A talisman has the power you give it

I may be obsessive, but I touch my Fitbit about a 100 times a day. Maybe more. I’ve probably touched it 5 times during the writing of this article. When I first started wearing it, I would touch it from time to time to make sure it was still there and hadn’t fallen off somehow. Over time I started just touching it just to make sure I had remembered to wear it, or to remind myself to exercise. Soon, though, I found it had become a reassuring habit. Touching my Fitbit reminds me of my journey, of my commitment to myself. Touching it reminds me that I am in control and helps me feel empowered. Over time it has become more than a tool for fitness, but the touchstone of that part of my life.

Belated Step Challenge Update

I have to work, parent, clean, cook, & work out. On any given day I can pull off 2 of these (3 on a good day). #reasonstorun skip cleaning.

Blogging doesn’t even make the list.

If you are wondering where I have been the past two weeks, it is nothing serious. I have been inundated with work and just didn’t have time to blog.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have been running and eating healthy, but I just haven’t been able to squeeze everything into my day the way I want. I can’t tell you how many times I walked or ran between 10 pm and midnight just to get my daily steps in before collapsing.  Likewise, how many days I woke at 4 am just to get my work emails or reports done before starting my regular workday.  In fact, even though it is Sunday, I should be working on my handouts for tomorrow’s presentation, not writing my blog.

Although I have several posts composed in my head that I want to write, I feel compelled to use this time to update my monthly step-challenge progress. Even though I am a week late with this update, I am excited to share my results. I’ve really been struggling with my challenge the last few months, but May was definitely a turn-around time for me.  The weather, of course, had a lot to do with it. It is much easier to talk yourself into a run or long walk when you have clear, sunny skies and a warm breeze.  But there were other contributing factors, such as spending the weekend at Fire Island with miles of boardwalk, feeling really good about where I am at work (even though the last two weeks have been time-consuming they have also been very rewarding), and having my sister from Canada stay with me for two weeks (best therapy ever!).

So when I finally ran the numbers for May I wasn’t surprised to see that it was my best month of the year. I was surprised at how well I did.  For those keeping score, I’m trying to walk/run 3,000,000 steps in 2014.  Mathematically this means I need to take 250,000 steps per month. Well, I crushed that number in May! Crushed it!

mayfitbit

 

I walked nearly 350,000 steps, almost 100,000 over my monthly goal.  This is equivalent to 159 miles.  Of these, I ran 34.5 miles which is about the same as what I did in April. My running stayed about the same, but my walking was crazy good. May 25 was my best day, both for the month and the year. I walked 22, 369 steps that day. My previous high day was 14,000 steps. In May, I went over 14,000 steps 5 times. I had 26 days out of 31 that I walked over 8,000 and 22 of those I went over 10,000 steps.

fatnfortystepsmay

For the first time since January I feel confident that I can make, and maybe even exceed my step goal.  I know I have a long way to go yet (about 1,800,000 as of June 1) and I haven’t made up the shortfall from February and March, but I am much closer. And with the beautiful weather, beaches, and boardwalks beckoning me, how can the next three months not be my best ever?