Eating

Self-sabotage

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So my weight has plateaued. I’ve been playing with about three pounds lately, losing them, gaining them back, and losing them again. These three pounds started as my nemesis, but are now a comfort. I’m so used to having them around, the number on the scale rarely shocks me anymore. If it’s excessively high, then yes, I’m shocked into clean eating and tracking like you wouldn’t believe. But when I settle back into that three-pound range, I feel fine again. Life is good. The three pounds are here to stay.

But life maybe isn’t so good. Maybe I started this program to reach a goal, and settling for a weight 15 lbs above that goal is exactly that: settling. Has my body just reached a weight it’s comfortable with? Or is it all in my mind?

I talked with a friend about this lately, a friend who’s also trying to lose weight, and we narrowed down the reasons for my stall to two things: failure and money. Both of these are rooted in that emotion which pretty much drives every part of my life: fear. If I reach my goal but I can’t maintain it, then I’m a failure. I’ve failed another diet, failed Weight Watchers yet again. I’ve failed to live up to the goal I’ve set for myself, the ideal that women in this country strive toward. I’m a failure.

And money. Yes, I’m shelling out $20/month to access Weight Watchers’ points calculator and a host of other online tools, but what about the money I’ll need to buy myself a whole new wardrobe? I’ve lost one pants size so far. Which means that most of my larger pants still fit, albeit loosely, and the smaller ones I kept around “just in case” fit perfectly. If I lose another 15 lbs I’ll have met my goal, but that will also mean I’ve lost another pants size, and then my smaller jeans will be too big and I won’t have any fallbacks. If one of the major goals of weight loss is to have a body that looks good, that means I have to dress it in a way that’s flattering. Which means I’ll have to buy clothes that fit. And a wardrobe overhaul is just not something we can afford right now.

Both of these issues are a symptom of a bigger one: fear. No one wants to be a failure, especially someone who looks so eagerly to others for approval. And yes, I don’t have the money to buy a completely new wardrobe all at once, but I bet I could get a few new pieces and fudge the rest until I do. I’m just scared of what life will look like then. Will I still have to track everything I eat, or will I instinctively know what not to put in my mouth? Will I still weigh myself every day? Will this truly be a lifestyle change, or was it another fad diet that I was just trying out for a few months? What happens when all of this is over?

Last night I sat in bed and cried to Chris that I just want to eat like a normal person again. I just want to enjoy fall. I want to bake pumpkin muffins and buy Starbucks lattes and snuggle under blankets and watch TV. I don’t want to worry about what having two muffins instead of one will do to my points. I don’t want to worry about the amount of sugar in a Pumpkin Spice Latte. And I especially don’t want to worry about trying to get 10,000 steps in when it’s freezing and dark and drizzly outside, like it is today.

I cried and I cried, I let it all out, and then I woke up today and went back to counting points. I went back to scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast, a Mason jar salad for lunch, almonds for snack. Bunless turkey burgers for dinner and berries and cream for dessert and people if I’m honest, all the fun has been sucked out of eating. Where are the tender muffins, the spoonful of cookie dough you sneak before putting the trays in the oven, the scone at your favorite coffee shop? Where are the chips you mindlessly eat on the couch, the bedtime bowl of ice cream, the gourmet donuts from the donut truck? Food is life to me. And food is such a big part of my life, especially with Weight Watchers, when I’m tracking everything so closely. And yes I have treat meals and yes I go out to eat occasionally but my day-to-day menu is so unfulfilling I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. So I’m asking myself these questions: (1) Why did I want to lose weight in the first place? And (2) Could I be happy being the weight I am now for the rest of my life? I feel like this plateau, after lasting so long, is no longer only physical, but mental too. There’s got to be a reason I keep doing this to myself. A reason I keep gaining back those three pounds. If I could only put my finger on it, maybe I could finally move on.

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Eating

Weight loss: Where I’m at today

I’m never sure how much to share about Weight Watchers. It seems like people are in two camps: interested to hear about it since they’re also interested in weight loss, or annoyed to hear about it because they’re perfectly happy with their diet and lifestyle and don’t need anyone telling them how and what to change, thankyouverymuch. I used to be in the second camp. I was when I was younger; I would actually pride myself on how much I could eat while still maintaining my size 6 figure. Then I was again last year. I’d given up on dieting and decided I just wanted to be happy. And food makes me happy. So I ate what I wanted. And instead of being happier, I was sad. I was moody all the time, I was embarrassed to try on clothes, and my depression became worse. I’m not saying that your mental outlook is completely tied to food, but I want to confirm what I’m sure you’ve already heard your doctor tell you: diet and exercise WORK. They do. Those MDs know what they’re talking about. Listen to them. I wish I had.

I’m about four months into my current Weight Watchers journey and I’ve lost almost 20 pounds. I’ve lost 10% of my body weight, which according to a non-official website, means my risk for heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other terrifying illnesses is significantly lower. It also means that 10% of my former self is gone. GONE! I love thinking about it like that. May she never come back.

I was working out regularly, but then things got in the way, and now my exercise is walking everyday. I do make an effort on this—it’s not just to and from the car when I’m out running errands. And I hope to get back to the gym some day soon. I discovered, though, that what motivates me is seeing the number on the scale go down, not the number of steps I’m getting on my Jawbone go up. So I stopped wearing the Jawbone. And I stopped the intense exercise. I think my weight goes down more slowly when I’m working out hard. For now, when I’m trying to lose, walking is enough.

I still have another 15 pounds to go before I hit my goal and see what it’s like to weigh what I weighed before I had kids. But my outlook has already improved. I feel better, both physically and mentally. Shirts I wore last year are too big. I need new jeans for fall because my old ones don’t fit. My bones are poking out of my skin; I’m becoming more angular than round. And I love it. I can’t wait to see what this next season of weight loss brings.

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Thanks for following along with me. If you have any questions about Weight Watchers, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I would love to encourage you on your journey!

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Parenting

I still have days

I was able to share about my recent depression roller coaster ride because I had gained some perspective. Three weeks into it—a month—I would have told you how awful I was feeling. How hard the whole thing was. How much effort it took for me to not only go to the umpteen appointments I suddenly needed, but just to schedule them. Blocking off previously free time to go to the doctor to get better? The whole process was daunting.

I talked before about how much easier it is to stay in bed, alone, and have a lovely pity party for yourself. You don’t have to go anywhere, do anything, talk to anyone. You can eat whatever you want, maybe watch TV. But recovery. Recovery is a completely different animal. Recovery takes effort, it takes motivation—for me, it took the fear of what would happen if I didn’t get help.

But through all of this, I want to reassure you that I am not 100% better. My depression is not cured, and it may never be cured. Recently my doctor sat me down and gently explained that my brain doesn’t make the same chemicals that everyone else’s does, and therefore I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life. THE REST OF MY LIFE. In other words, I will never be normal. I try not to think about it too much. I try to live in the present, to appreciate the fact that I’m not breaking dishes in anger or hiding in bed every time something doesn’t go my way. That I can hang out with the kids with patience and grace and sometimes even create scenarios in which all of us have a really great time. The main reason I wanted to do all this was for my family. I know they need me, and I know they love me, and me getting better is for all of us.

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All that aside, I still have bad days. I still feel sad. I still get easily overwhelmed. I still wonder if the person who chose not to stop at the stop sign and instead decided to try to run me over hates me, and if so, why? I still spend way too much time in my head, and I still have days, although rare, when I think everyone would be better off without me. I still have days that are hard, days I don’t want to shower or workout or make dinner or see anyone. I still have days that need to be quiet and low-key, days I need to give myself and my brain a rest. I still have days when I’m too quick with my temper, yelling when I should be consoling, angry when I should be understanding. I still have days I make mistakes. I still have days I wish I was more, better, different.

But then I have good days. Days I wake up rested and happy. Days I feel proud of what I accomplished. Days full of sunshine and laughter and splashing at the pool. Days that are so good they make those bad days seem like mere shadows in my mind. Those are the days I keep close to my heart.

Image credit: simplereminders.com.

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Everything Else

Getting over it (Part 3)

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The final change I made to help me get over my depression was to my diet. I stopped drinking—did you know alcohol is a depressive? That it disrupts your sleep? You wake up more times throughout the night than you would without it, and you don’t get as much REM sleep, the kind you need to wake up feeling rested in the morning. So now I don’t drink. If I’m with strangers, I tell them I’m taking a medication that doesn’t allow me to drink alcohol. And I sort of am. But what I’m really doing is avoiding something that could make me feel much, much worse in the long run. I’m doing something good for me. It’s not up to everyone else to understand that, and they don’t need to know why. As an obliger, it’s hard for me to not do what everyone else is doing, but in this case, worth it.

And, I started Weight Watchers again. For some reason, I was ashamed to admit this, like I shouldn’t need help to lose weight. But I do. I have only lost weight twice in my life—the first time with a personal trainer, the second with Weight Watchers. So here we go again. I am counting points and eating fruit like it’s going out of style. I’m trying a bunch of new recipes, which as you know, is fun for me, and I’m figuring out ways to make my old favorites a little healthier. I like the challenge, and the planner in me likes to know what I’m going to eat the next day, whether I’ll stay within my allotted points or not. So far the weight loss has been slow-going—I’ve consistently lost about a pound a week, which isn’t much. But to sustain this kind of lifestyle, I’m told that’s a good thing. So I will continue to trudge along, to eat healthfully, and reap the benefits to both my body and my mind.

I had an appointment with my psychiatrist last week and she did the depression screen again, and my score was a fraction of what I started with. My suicidal thoughts, which once occurred almost daily, have disappeared. My outlook on life is happier, my attitude more easygoing. Medication works, people. Talk therapy works. Exercise works. Taking care of your body works. I’m here to tell you that recovery is possible, and if you’re even considering making an appointment to speak with someone about how you’re been feeling DO IT. At first it will feel overwhelming but it will get better, I promise. Just remember, we’re in this together.

I’m looking forward to summer for the first time in years. I’m going outside and looking at the sunshine and thanking God that I now have the mental capacity to appreciate it. I want to go out more than I want to stay in. I want to go to the pool with the kids and get a tan and not waste one more second of my life wondering whether I’m important enough. Whether I’m good enough to take up space on this beautiful Earth. I now know that I am. That there are people here who need me and love me and depend on me. I am important to them. And I am important to me.

I am enough.

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Everything Else

We can do hard things, but what if we don’t want to? (Part 1)

It’s hard to get up and go to work after four days of being off. It’s hard to find the shoes you want to wear when you keep them downstairs by the door but you thought they were upstairs in your closet. It’s hard to make a protein shake for breakfast when you can’t find a good recipe. And it’s hard to leave the house at the wrong time—it’s hard to be early and it’s hard to be late. It’s hard to get everyone out the door, and it’s hard when you can’t do everything you want to do in the morning, like make breakfast for the people you love.

Life is hard.

Somehow we keep going but that doesn’t make us heroes, or worthy of praise—it just makes us human. We keep going in the up and down days, the happy days, and the sad days. We hope we have more of the former and less of the latter. We hope, we pray, we plan, and we breathe; we make dinners and put gas in the car and get excited when a trip to Target is necessary and not needless.

Sometimes there are harder things, things that don’t involve the banal of the day-to-day but deeper things, like our hopes and our dreams. Our outlook on life. Or our depression. Getting through this latest bout of depression is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—second only to shooting a baby out of my vagina without an epidural. That was hardest; it’s been almost four years and I still haven’t processed it completely.

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This winter, I could feel myself slowly pulling away: cancelling playdates, spending more time alone, becoming short with my family, sleeping a lot. I attributed my constant malaise to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but deep down I think I knew it was something more. I’d been on the same depression medication for about a year and a half, and I thought it was working. (As an aside, I saw a psychologist early on in this disease—like 10 years ago—and she criticized me for wanting to change medications too often. Not knowing why she thought it was OK for me to continue feeling badly when it seemed like the solution was so clear, I became confused and scared by her bullying. I stayed on the same medication because she told me to, and I started feeling worse. Eventually I stopped going to her and I had my kids, etc. But I still have that fear of questioning a doctor, and in this instance, I was afraid to ask for a medication change, even though I really thought I needed one). But it seemed like I was getting sicker. In January I had migraines more frequently than usual. In February I had the flu. I missed a lot of work, and my manager called me on it. When I realized that depression was affecting not only my home life, but my professional life, it was like a wake-up call. I couldn’t believe I’d let things get so far out of control.

I talked to my manager and decided I would tell her the truth: that I had depression. I was terrified to do this, again because of a previous experience, this time with a Charge Nurse I shadowed in nursing school. When one of her nurses called off for the third night in a row, she said, “That’s pretty typical for her. She has depression.” I knew then that I never wanted to be stereotyped as someone who can’t handle going to work because they have depression. But that’s exactly who I was, and I had to own it. I sat down with my manager and admitted I was sick, crying as I did it. But it was absolutely the right thing to do, because she turned out to be someone who helped tremendously in my recovery.

To be continued…

Photo by Markovich Photo Art.

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Eating

Quick update with recipes

I talked to a patient last night, one who was considerably worse off in the mental health department than I am, and he said to me, “I function pretty well for a crazy person.” This is something I think about myself on a near-daily basis, and hearing it from him was an eye-opener. If he thinks he functions pretty well and is all the way down there on that end of the spectrum, what does that say about me? (I think it says maybe that I’m crazier that I thought. But I don’t want to get into that just yet.) My therapist has been talking to me about positive self-talk and I realize that telling myself I’m a highly functioning depressive is like writing a big blank check that says it’s OK for me embrace the negative aspects of my depression—to cancel plans with friends or not get that important thing done because I was “too sad.” And I tell myself it’s OK if I flake out on that stuff because look, I still made my family dinner! I went grocery shopping this week and while I didn’t get the medal I thought I deserved, I got to say that I function well in society because I ran an errand! I’m not sure if any of this is making sense, but what I’m trying to say is, just because I have this disease doesn’t mean I get to use it as an excuse for bad behavior. It does mean I’ll have bad days, and it does mean I truly may not be able to get out of bed and go to that play date at the park, as good as it may be for me. But it also means on the good days, I’ll be able to run errands and plan activities for the kids. And I need to embrace that for what it truly is, not hide behind the fact that living with depression is just so damned hard.

I have been thinking a lot about normal and what that word means to me. I said to a friend recently, “I just want to be normal.” I just want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to have to take medicine, I don’t want to have to take naps in the middle of the day, and I don’t want to have the thoughts I have, the scary ones and the sad ones, the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and the questions: “Are You sure I’m really supposed to be here? That my life is important too?” I asked my therapist and (of course) she encouraged me not to compare myself to anyone else, and said normal is maybe just doing a little more than I do now. Maybe a good goal for normal would be showering every day. Another would be to wake up a few minutes earlier so I can see my kids off to school. A third could be setting a regular bedtime. So I will work on these things, and they will take time, and then maybe when I’m comfortable with them, I’ll ask again, what does normal look like for you?

Because I’m a highly functioning depressive I am still able to make dinner for my family just about every night. I wanted to share a couple of new recipes we’ve tried and encourage you to try them as well. The third is an oldie but a goodie, a cupcake that’s been in my arsenal for a while but includes the best buttercream I’ve ever tasted. I’m making them this week for a good friend, and I think you should too.

Shauna Niequist’s White Chicken Chili
MY KIDS ATE THIS CHILI. I have made so many kinds of chili: regular chili, green chili, turkey chili, chocolate chili, vegetarian chili, even taco soup. This is the only one my kids have eaten and actually enjoyed. Also, it’s an easy recipe that’s totally doable on a weeknight.

Teriyaki Meatball Bowl from LaaLoosh
This girl has a true grasp of Asian flavors. I made my own teriyaki sauce for this recipe and it was amazing! My meatballs weren’t perfectly round so of course my kids complained (these don’t look like meatballs! How are we supposed to eat these?) but they tasted absolutely delicious. I served them with edamame for a well-rounded, very filling meal.

Gimmie Some Oven Vanilla Chai Cupcakes
So, so good. A wonderfully spicy chai-inspired cake with a buttery frosting, made less rich and sticky-sweet with the addition of more spices. Yum.

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