Monday, April 30, 2012

Heavy Past

When I was young, I was a spindly girl along with my four brothers, all legs and arms: my mother likes to tell a story where someone saw the five of us all together, looked at her accusingly, and asked, "Do you feed those children?"  (She did, of course).  At some point before puberty, I got a little chubby, but as soon as I got a growth spurt, I was a normal, slender teenager.

I  honestly don't really remember this phase except that I was shy and wanted to hide my body and dressed in out-dated clothes.  I only know that there was a period of time in my teenaged life that I didn't really think about my size, and I didn't want anyone to notice me.  I wore huge, baggy t-shirts and oversized sweaters and avoided anything fitted, though a friend was able to talk me into wearing some trendy, tighter clothes a couple of times.

I must have started to put on weight before I worked at a fast food chain, but I don't really remember.  I do know that working there when I turned 16 was the start of my weight gain; by the time I graduated high school, I was a size 14.

Several memories have surfaced as I was thinking about my weight struggles: one, a memory where my dad, frustrated, called me lazy when I refused to do some chores, and I went and wrote angrily in my diary about how I was fat and how much life sucked (ah, teenage angst).  There are quite a few entries like that.

Two: I frequently went to the doctor when I was 16 until I graduated high school because I had horrible, recurring ear infections.  There was the WORST NURSE in the entire world who worked in that office who tried to tell me to use ear candles to get rid of the infection and was generally annoying and neither nice nor good at her job.  She was taking down my information (weight, BP, etc), looks up at me and says, "Don't you think you need to lose some weight, dear?" I felt the tears well up, and my mother was upset.  Weight was somewhat of a taboo subject in our house, so I never heard anything from my parents about being concerned about my weight--my mother had endured too many taunts as a teenager and could not bear that I would suffer the same injuries.  I knew I didn't look like the girls around me, but I didn't think a lot about it.

Three: I had saved up money my junior year and bought a beautiful dress (which, unfortunately as it turns out, was not well-suited to my pear shaped body).  I wore it several times, including for graduation.  Someone asked me what size I was, and when I told them, they commented, "Huh, I thought you were bigger than that, especially in that dress."  I was stung.

There are more memories about generally being unsatisfied, not feeling like I was pretty, and longing to be like the other, thinner girls I associated with.  For me, though, the turning point came my sophomore year of college, where (after putting on a freshman 20 or so), I went to the gym and got on the scale, and saw the number: 200.

I didn't really know what I was doing at the time, but I knew I had to do something--I could not continue to go up in weight.  At this point, I was a size 18.  I found a Denise Austin show on one of the TV channels we had in the dorm; I recorded it an did it a couple of times a week. I began to read more about health and nutrition.  I think I lost a bit of weight; mostly, it was a relief not to gain more.  The real breakthrough came that summer, however, when I traveled to Mexico for six weeks: I was sick for the first part, didn't eat a whole lot during meals, and walked all over the place.  I returned to the states around 10 pounds thinner and fitting into my abandoned size 14 jeans.  I was happy, and my mother and many others remarked at the difference in appearance.

The next school year, I managed to maintain this size and began dabbling with running (but had shin splints and other woes).  Toward the end of the year, one of my friends had lost quite a bit of weight with Weight Watchers, and she offered to share her materials with me and several other girls who were moving into the same house that summer.  I began following the plan...and was shocked by how many "points" I ate on an average day, mainly on snacking.

I followed the plan religiously, tracking my points daily in a little notebook, putting stickers on all my food with their points values.  I also began running with another couple of friends, one who was also trying to lose weight.  Watching him run a mile around the track one day, I was inspired--I wanted to run a full mile, without stopping.  It was hard, but I knew I wanted to do it, so my friend A and I kept running until we both could.  The day I ran a full mile without stopping was amazing--and I immediately wanted to run more.  A and I would continue to run 2 or so miles several times a week.

By the end of the summer, I was around 155 pounds and in a size 10.  I was running more and eating healthier, making good choices.  I walked around campus a lot.  I stopped following the plan precisely, but continued to lose weight.  People who hadn't seen me all summer were shocked; one brother exclaimed, "Where'd Jenn go?!?" I liked the attention.  Better yet, I liked that I could run--it made me feel as though I was capable and powerful.  When I ran, I felt free and graceful, so different from my normal existence.  I continued to run from then on, and started playing sports, including Ultimate Frisbee and intramural sports.  From that summer in 2003 on, I would never be the same Jenn, and she was someone I was happy to leave behind.

Reflecting on that past Jenn, though, I realize she wasn't so bad.  She was shy, held back by her own insecurity, but she was the path that led me to where I am today, and I wouldn't be myself without her, without the memories of that awkwardness and youth and hope and desire.  I hope by sharing this story, it can connect with others of you readers who have shed someone, left some version behind.  Or who perhaps hope to find some other version of themselves.  I know that I'm moving toward some future Jenn, who I hope (regardless of my size or physical fitness) is wiser, smarter, and continues to strive to be kind to herself and others.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Running and Eating (Too Much)

When I was training for the marathon, I could eat almost anything.  It was awesome.  I would eat and eat and eat and not gain a pound because I was running so much.

But then, I stopped running as much, yet I continued to eat the same or more.  Then the series of injuries caused me to reduce my running even more.  And now I'm seeing the effects.  I've put on about 10 pounds since the start of the year, and I don't like it.

So, I'm going to shift my attention to yoga+strength training and eating non-processed foods.  The last time I only ate non-processed stuff, I felt amazing--I had so much energy, I slept better, and I lost weight without really trying.  This time, I'll have to try a bit more.

I normally feel really awkward announcing to the world that I'm going on a diet, so I refuse to call it a diet.  I want to think of it as a shift in focus.  For now, I want to avoid (but not 100% eliminate) processed sugar, refined grains, and other foods that tend to be lower nutrients, and also the things I like to eat a bit too much of.  I'll try not to blog too much about it, but just concentrate on gaining a healthier, stronger me.

9 years ago, I was almost 200 pounds, out-of-shape, and didn't think I could run or do much.  I wasn't really unhappy because of my weight, but I think I used it to hide a bit, and I definitely always felt self-conscious.  As I began to drop the pounds and run more and more, I found that I liked my new body and the confidence I found, and I swore I'd never go back.  Getting on the scale this morning and seeing the number continue to creep up takes me back to that old girl from 9 years ago.

Instead of feeling unhappy or helpless, or feeling like I'm worth less somehow because of my higher weight, I'm doing something about it.  I refuse to go back to a place where my happiness rests on my appearance; at the same time, I know it's best for my health if I am more careful about what I eat and I exercise regularly.  Running makes me happy, and I want to keep running for as long as I'm able.  And talking about it with people helps me take control and deal with the issues in a better way, than stuffing it down and eating some more ice cream (which I tend to do).

Anyway, that's my plan. Eat less, move more, do more stuff.  Have fun with friends, but make it less about the food we eat and about the fun we have.  Enjoy the summer by swimming and biking and running and using the extra time I have to go to yoga and build my strength and try something new.

I'm running a half-marathon with my brother in a little over a month, so hopefully I'm over all these injuries soon so that I can start training--until then, light running, biking, and swimming (and yes, K, much more yoga).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fridays Around Here

I have a real problem with working on Friday afternoons, especially sunny spring ones.  But I promised those kids that I would give them back their papers this afternoon, and I've already lied to them about having them finished by Thursday*.

So, I sat in my office at home and worked until 8pm.  Now I'm waiting for our dinner guests to arrive. L sweetly cleaned the whole house when I rejected his requests for help cleaning with an imperious wave and a "I must GRADE!"

BUT, I finished it.  I even got to get out a bit when a friend offered to replace the beer that L consumed that I really, really wanted.

Now to have a bit of fun and relax, until tomorrow anyway...

(PS: The wrist and ankle are recovering nicely, FYI.)

*There was burning and ankle twisting involved.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Baking Disasters

It all began when I twisted my ankle.

Twisted ankle meant a bit of pain and the need to RICE. Which meant I stayed home instead of going out to volunteer with Girls on the Run.  Which meant that I decided to bake something for the dinner tomorrow with my friends, since I could throw something in the oven really quickly and not worry about it tomorrow.

Okay, so it's not exactly fair to blame the TERRIBLE MISHAP upon a silly twisted ankle (which seems to be feeling better, but it might just be that the overriding pain of my wrist is...well, I'm getting ahead of myself).  Anyway, usually if one crazy thing happens to me, it probably means I should watch out.*

All right, I hear you: on with the story. So I decided to make a tart.  It was going to be delicious.  The crust would be gluten free and made of almonds and butter, the filling a luscious lemony goodness.  Thinly sliced lemons macerated in sugar on a bed of toasty almonds.  Delight!

Mishap #1: I was following a paleo recipe that called for nuts, butter, salt, and baking soda.  Not thinking about the filling, I put all that together and put it in the oven to bake a bit.  Then I dumped the lemon filling on it, with all the sugar and juices.  Now, what happens if you mix baking soda and lemon juice? If you guessed it, you'll now imagine foamy almond crust, some of it dripping onto the oven floor.

Well, it'll probably still taste good, Lance and I commented to each other.  I'll top it with tons of whipped cream and no one will notice how ugly it is, I added.

Mishap #2: time to take the tart out of the oven.  So I grab it without first setting out a cooling rack.

And here's with the TERRIBLEness happened:

Mishap #3: I shift the tart to one hand, meaning that the middle was on my hand and the ring was suddenly supported.  The searing pain in my wrist quickly alerted me to my major mistake, leading to

Mishap #4: In which the excruciating pain of metal and hot sugary liquid burning into my wrist causes me to throw down the tart, scream obscenity, and run away.  Lance makes me come back and put my wrist under cold, running waters, after I've removed my watch and flung it away.

We look back at the tart, which came through someone whole, though slightly mangled.  So we ate a bit of it.  It was actually not bad, despite how awful it looks and much pain it caused me.

*And today is 13+13, right? (the 26th?) Though it's not a Friday, so I'm not sure if that matters.

How it goes

You get up in the morning, find some breakfast, drink some coffee, go to work, come home and do it all again.  It sounds depressing, but basically, there's been so little exciting going on in my life that I haven't felt the urge to post.  Though, I did make some awesome cupcakes...

Anyway, it's nearing the end of the semester. I'm gearing up to start reading this summer to start COMPS. Oh my! (That's pretty exciting).  I picked my concentrations--Rhetoric of science, language, pedagogy--and two of my three advisory members.  So my education is moving along well.

This summer, it'll be time to get stuff out for publication. I have several things up my sleeve that I need to put out there. I find the whole publication thing a bit nerve-wracking, but I know I can do it.

On the running front, I did something to my quad (not sure what, but I figured out how to make it stop hurting), and then I twisted my ankle this morning on my first 3 mile run in a few weeks. Argh! Luckily, I think the ankle will be fine if I baby it for the rest of the day.

Well, back to the coffee, then to get ready for work...