A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

I now twit, er... or tweet. Anyway, you can follow me on twitter @Aeon1202

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Disappearing People

We live in a society which teaches us daily that one of the highest accomplishments people can achieve is to essentially disappear.

Recently I was having a conversation with my Mom-in-law about weight loss and something occurred to me; I cannot say that I’m losing weight, “for my health.”  I can’t do that because it’s a straight up lie.  Yes, the functionality of my joints has absolutely improved with weight loss, that makes simple mechanical sense – something load bearing which bears less of a load is going to last longer.  Other than that I had no health issues whatsoever when I was 75 lbs. heavier, and in fact in one very real way the year of persistent starvation conditions have made me less healthy.  I always had very slight heart arrhythmia issues, now it’s something I have to live with daily (yes, my Doctor is monitoring the situation).  Also, I used to have perfect blood pressure and now I do not.  Now it's slightly high.

The more I research, the more I learn how many of the studies detailing the health benefits of weight loss are created and funded by people who financially benefit from the weight loss industry.  It's looking more and more credible that the reason many people have health problems is because they have spent a lifetime yo-yo dieting which is, demonstrably, quite extremely bad for you.  To say I'm feeling lied to and disillusioned by the whole thing, not to mention beyond fed up with the supposed "obesity epidemic" would be something of an understatement.  The reason I want so badly to get to my goal weight at the moment is so that I can stop starving my body and let it finally recover from this awful roller coaster.

I've said it before and I will again: except for people on either extreme end of the scale, I believe that being a stable body weight, regardless of where you fall on the BMI, is always healthier than losing or gaining significant amounts of weight.  Bodies hate change.  Bodies will fight you, punish you and give out on you attempting to maintain homeostasis because homeostasis is precisely what is the most effective at keeping you alive.

I know the obvious answer here is to stop.  Stop right where I am.  But I can’t.  I cannot let go of the ingrained, conditioned, social desire to keep on disappearing.  The rewards are too intoxicating, too deeply written in the roots of my psyche since the day I was born.  I want more and more of beautiful clothes, compliments, and fitting effortlessly into everywhere and anywhere.  I am beyond ashamed to admit this, but even the smug, idiotic feeling of superiority that comes from turning down desserts over and over and over again – I am addicted to all these things.

This week a lovely, loving woman I know said to me that her best motivation for weight loss is having to look at herself naked in her full length mirror when she gets dressed in the morning.  I could have cried.  Not just cried, but sobbed.  This is a woman who has told me over and over how beautiful I am (and she absolutely meant it), and who is currently at her goal weight.  Meaning she weighs at least 50 lbs. less than me.  In her eyes, I’m beautiful and she’s essentially monstrous because she still hasn't disappeared enough.

When will it ever be enough?

I wish I had some happy, hopeful note to end this on, but that’s just not the head space I’m in at the moment.  I want to tell my friend over and over that she’s beautiful just as she is, and just as she was before she lost 100 lbs.  I want to tell her that it doesn't matter what anyone anywhere thinks of her appearance so long as she is content with it.  I want her to believe me, but I know that she won’t.

We can believe that for each other but no one ever does for themselves.  Not even me.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Packing on the Pounds

Think about that phrase for a moment.  What does it do to you?  Does some part of you inwardly cringe when you hear it?  When it’s applied to a person, what do you think of that person?

I really dislike the phrase, “pack on the pounds.”

It crops up often in news media.  Gossip magazines will squeal with delight over celebrities who have gained a little weight, possibly because they’ve had a baby or some other silly little life altering event, screaming out headlines like: “so-and-so is visibly fatter, they’ve really packed on the pounds!”

The other place I frequently notice it buried is in articles about the obesity “epidemic” or how life changes and the passage of time can cause our body weight to increase.  For example articles that say things like, “women over 40 can really pack on the pounds,” or, “after women get married, they really let themselves go and pack on the pounds.”

The phrase itself brings to mind something I used to do on the beach as a child.  I would sit in the sand and pack it all around me until my legs and the lower half of my body was encased in it.  Then if I’d struck water in one of the holes I had dug, I’d make dribble castles all over my thighs.  I did this because the sand felt cool and good and because it was fun – I was packing on the sand all around myself.

Here’s why I have a problem with it in regards to weight gain: “packing on the pounds” implies an intentional, deliberate action.  I was deliberately packing sand around my body because it was fun, and using the phrase with regards to weight says that the person doing it is trying as hard as they can to gain as much weight as they can.  It brings to mind mental images of people gleefully grabbing up globby, greasy handfuls of fat and smacking them onto their own thighs and stomach in an effort to see just how big they can intentionally make themselves.

With very few exceptions, people don’t gain weight on purpose.  Most of us don’t even fully realize when it’s happening.

I got up to 290 lbs. very gradually over the course of thirty-some years.  Even though I’ve been suffering from binge eating disorder since I was around twelve or thirteen (I think it began around the time I began my first calorie restrictive dieting effort) I have never put on weight very quickly.

Since I journal everything I eat I now have a good working knowledge of how many calories a lot of foods contain, but I believe that most people do not.  A single tablespoon of butter or mayonnaise contains 100.  A tablespoon of olive oil is 120.  On top of that, when someone is eyeballing a portion instead of measuring, they don’t really have a clear understanding of just how small a tablespoon or even a cup of something actually is.  It is not difficult to gain weight in a culture of convenience food and vehicular travel, and you don’t have to be a lazy glutton to make it happen. A few high energy food choices or a single cup of full fat hot chocolate a day is more than adequate to do the trick.

Pervasive and negative language choices like this are another facet that I believe contributes to fat hatred and bias in the United States.  Much like my previous post about the way overweight actors are used and portrayed, this is another subtle negativity that works its insidious way into people’s brains.  It teaches us to see a fat stranger or even a friend who’s gained some weight and automatically think, “woah – they’ve really packed on the pounds!”

It implies deliberate self-neglect, a slovenly nature, and lack of care for personal health that is in most cases both unfair and untrue.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coming Clean

The reason there have not been steady status updates in a while is because it has now been officially a quarter of a year (three months) since I lost any significant weight.  I’m not gaining, I’m holding steady at around a 75 lb. loss.  I go up a pound, I lose two, I gain three, I lose one a week for two weeks, I gain one, etc. etc. ad infinitum.

I’m not quite ready to call it a day and decide that life at just over 200 lbs. is good enough, but I also haven’t yet cracked the code for shedding that final 45 to achieve my goal weight.  After losing as much as I have, it feels tantalizingly close, and yet as stubbornly slow as my metabolism has become it also feels endlessly out of reach at the same time.

Sometimes I’m highly motivated for three or four days at a time, sometimes I’m spending three or four days firmly wedged back in my old habits.  The problem is half metabolic slowdown due to extended starvation conditions, and half a motivational loss.

I haven’t found the secret to getting back on track, but I am glad that I’m maintaining and protecting the investment of all the work I’ve done so far.

If anybody has a suggestion for getting things moving again, I am all ears.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Real Danger of Fat Stereotypes

If you’re not watching The Blacklist let me offer a sincere recommendation that you check it out.  It’s both well written and well-acted with interesting storytelling and exceptional character development.  It takes a lot to get me to watch a show that doesn’t have aliens, fantasy creatures or superheroes in it, so the fact that I was pulled out of my preferred genre by this one is saying something.

That was the good.  Now here’s the bad:

A recent episode featured a doctor who was selling internal organs to wealthy (and unscrupulous) people who were ill but for whatever reason weren’t eligible or couldn’t wait to be on a legal list for a transplant.

Right away I knew what was coming.  Queue the negative fat stereotyping.

Sure enough, the show soon cut to a shot of an obese man portrayed sitting at table in a restaurant scarfing down piles of what I believe were chicken wings in a slovenly fashion – covered in sauce and practically grunting like a pig, with an oxygen tube in his nose to boot.

Why does he have to purchase a new heart?  Because he doesn’t deserve one, of course.  He’s fat!  He eats chicken wings non-stop (seriously – there wasn’t a single shot of this character where he wasn’t at the table with obscene piles of food in front of him).  Obviously putting a new heart in him would amount to throwing it away because he’s slovenly and disgusting and undisciplined, so he’s got to buy one on the black market.

This character managed to portray, in only about ten minutes of screen time, almost every negative stereotype about fat people there is.  Here’s a list:

1)      Fat people never stop eating and rarely move, and that’s the sole reason they are fat.
2)      Fat people are disgusting, sloppy, and pig like.
3)      Fat people do not deserve medical intervention and treatment for the reasons listed above.
4)      Only a pervert would find a fat person attractive (there was a slim, beautiful blonde who never spoke seated beside the fat character.  The main character remarked with dismayed awe on how she could possibly stand to get anywhere near him – the subtext being that only piles of money can trump fat where women are concerned.  Negative stereotypes for all!)

As I stated up front I do generally love this show, but this episode obviously left me pretty cold.

My husband is about six feet tall and falls into the perfectly normal range on the BMI scale.  I fall into the obese 1 range, right on the border of merely being overweight, even after shedding 75 lbs.  Ironically once I enter the overweight range I will be in the group with the longest expected life span since statistics show that overweights tend to live longer than normals.  We both exercise regularly and can hike four or five miles with no problem.  Of the two of us, he’s the one that is likely to consume twenty chicken wings in a sitting.  He orders cheese steaks while I dine on spinach and romaine sandwiches with roasted red pepper, mozzarella and balsamic.  He’s pre-diabetic and I am not.

In truth, both of us are pretty healthy.  Although my husband’s dreadfully inefficient metabolism allows him to eat like that while quite simply refusing to hang onto any excess calories, he’s also great at remembering to eat his servings of vegetables every day.  But of the two of us I absolutely work at it harder – I cut up veggies, buy fruits, and plan every lunch down to the calorie and fat gram at the beginning of every week while he casually heads over to Subway or Wendy’s whenever he gets around to noticing he’s hungry.  If I ate the same diet he did my extraordinarily calorie-efficient metabolism would store pounds of fat at a truly terrifying rate.  I can manage not to starve to death on far, far less calories than he can (bring it on, nuclear winter!)  But because society has had it drilled into them over and over and over that our eyeballs are the only diagnostic tool needed, if strangers were asked to look at us both and point to which of us lived a healthier lifestyle – I would bet every penny I own that the majority of people would point at my husband and not at me.  I am the one in danger of experiencing poor and neglectful medical care (though thankfully this has only happened to me once) on account of my appearance, and he is not.

Over the years I’ve read story after story after story about fat people dying from medical neglect.  Either because coming into a doctor’s office with a head cold and being told to lose weight caused them to avoid preventive care for years, or because doctors dismiss them and their symptoms due to a deeply ingrained bias and fat hatred.  The media that we consume, both entertainment media and through news stories – is basically the transfer method by which fat hatred and bias filters into the public consciousness.

People are fat for a myriad of different reasons.  In fact I would go so far as to say the reason for being fat is probably 100% unique to each fat person.  Yet the thing we most often see portrayed in entertainment are images like the one illustrated above: the fat person is an undisciplined, disgusting hog who deserves to die, who can only be loved if they pay someone to love them.

That is why this is important.  The constant streaming reinforcement of these negative and incorrect stereotypes into our brains via the media isn’t just the annoyance of TV being its usual, stupid, shallow self.  It could literally be costing some people their lives.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recipe Share: Pam's AMAZING Eggplant Bruschetta

My sister made this at our family dinner last Sunday night and I’m telling you – it’s the most awesome thing I've eaten in a while.  The crunch of thin sliced baked eggplant, the richness of cheese, the bright flavor of fresh, late summer tomatoes…. SO SO GOOD.

Pam’s Amazing Eggplant Bruschetta

What You Need:
·         1 eggplant peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices 
·         Salt to sweat the eggplant 
·         Two eggs
·         Splash of milk
·         Italian seasoned bread crumbs
·         Two large tomatoes
·         Generous handful of basil
·         1/4 cup of good season’s Italian salad dressing
·         2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
·         1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

What to Do:
Lay the eggplant on a cookie tray and sprinkle both sides with salt, then cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for ½ to 1 hour. This draws moisture out of the eggplant. 
Meanwhile dice the tomatoes and basil into small pieces and toss with salad dressing and Parmesan cheese.
Take eggplant from the fridge and pat dry with paper towels.
Mix the eggs with the milk and dip each piece of eggplant into egg mixture then into bread crumbs. Place slices on a greased cookie sheet. 
Bake eggplant at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes then turn the slices over and bake another 10 minutes or until the eggplant looks crunchy.
Remove from the oven and add a pinch of mozzarella cheese on top of each slice and a generous spoonful of the tomato mixture.  



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering the Day

Most people of my Country and generation have a, “where I was when…” story.  This is mine.  No more, no less.

The primary thing I remember about that day is a pervasive feeling of being alone.  It was a Tuesday, and I was at work.  When things started happening in the morning I first found out about it from my boyfriend, Ted (who would in another month’s time become my fiancĂ©).  He called, sounding stunned, almost numb, to tell me there had been a terrible accident causing an airplane to crash into one of the buildings in New York City.

I assumed he was right, a terrible accident, a failure of aviation or unfortunate human error.  I also assumed he was talking about a small vehicle, perhaps driven by one person or two.

Time passed.  I remember I was listening to NPR radio, getting occasional updates but mostly still focusing on my job.  Ted called again, with further news that another plane had crashed.  This is when I discovered that the plane wasn’t small, and that there was no accident in progress.

It wasn’t until sometime later that I found out most of my friends were sent home from work that day.  Ted stayed at his office, but shortly after the first crash he and all his co-workers had gathered around a television, glued to the news.  This is why he kept calling as my primary source of information. 

The company I worked for at the time sent down an official word to us on the situation: do not go home, do not watch the news – just keep working.  It seems ghoulishly coldhearted now in retrospect, but at the time they must have thought it the wisest course.  Two months later, the recession that resulted from this day would cause them to let go of 1,400 employees nationwide, myself included.  The company I work for now sent home all of their employees to be with their families at around Noon.

At some point in the afternoon, one of our engineers called.  He was crying, not quite hysterical but close, and trapped in New York City.  He had a friend who worked in one of the towers and had just seen it collapse from a distance.  Another engineer arrived at the office with rumors that planes would continue to fall throughout the day, as many as fifty in total, and since one had just done so nearby us in Pennsylvania, no one anywhere was safe.

I didn’t know what to do, so I did as I’d been told – I kept working.

Later in the afternoon my co-worker Carla and I went out into the parking lot for a few minutes.  Looking up, we realized that we had never noticed how many planes pass over us at any given time until they were abruptly all gone.  The sky was very blue and completely silent.

I went home from work at my usual time, and finally at around 6:00PM put on a television.  Only then did I see for myself the full extent of what had happened.  And only then did I start to cry.

That was the Fall I acted for the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, and that following Saturday I reported for work in full costume as expected, but I was numb with fear and grief – neither my heart nor head in the situation.  I remember my friend and show partner, Jill, taking me aside and buying me a cookie.  I remember she told me that my job was to make people smile, to comfort them and take their mind off of what was happening – so that’s what we did.

I’ve never really suffered under the delusion that my world was safe.  As a small child, I worried constantly that someone was going to shoot a nuclear missile at us.  So the events of that day didn’t really change my perception so much as clarify it a little.  The world isn’t safe, it never was, and it’s populated by some people who will kill you because of who your parents are, what you look like, where you were born, what you believe, or simply because it’s what they want to do and what they want is worth more than your life.

Now, thirteen years later I’ve been struggling even more than usual with the pervasive darkness and how to respond to it.  A friend of mine recently told me that the only positive response is to be the light.  You may be small, you may be only one, but all you can do to change the world is treat it and the people in it the way you wish it could be.

My light may be small, and very dim at times, but I am trying.  And at least I know I am not alone.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Status Report: 2 lbs. lost, 74 lbs. total

I am now firmly ensconced in a period that I am referring to as: the long, slow slog.

At one point I was the rabbit, taking off an average of two to three pounds every week.  Now as I approach the 200 lb. body weight mark I’ve slowed waaaay down and become the tortoise, losing a fairly steady pound per week.  You may (or may not) notice that I’m only giving status reports every few weeks these days, since reporting in with that same one pound loss every week is kind of boring.

I’m aware that it’s a healthy rate of loss, but I honestly could be doing better.  I’ve been really struggling with maintaining my motivation and not sitting down every now and again with a bag of chips or too many slices of pizza.  These slip ups are happening once a week or so – which isn’t often enough to make me gain, but is often enough to cause the extremely slow rate of loss I’m seeing now.

Also, I’m not so sure it’s very good for me to average 1,300 to 1,500 calories most days and then jump up to 2,200 once a week or so.  Although there is some compelling evidence to support the idea that this zig zag method of calorie intake does trick the metabolism out of getting really sluggish due to perceived starvation conditions, I think the higher days should really involve something a bit healthier than pizza.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Recipe Share: Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Veggie Salad

The Stuff You Need:
·         3 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (tastes better if cooked in chicken broth rather than water)
·         1 pint cherry tomatoes cut into fourths or one regular and one yellow tomato, cut small
·         1 (16 oz.) can of sweet corn or about 16 oz. of fresh cut from the cob, if you have it
·         1 (16 oz.) can of black beans (rinsed)
·         2 cloves garlic (finely minced)
·         ½ red onion (finely diced) or four scallions (chopped small down through the white stems)
·         1 yellow, red, or orange bell pepper (finely diced)
·         1 large handful of finely chopped cilantro or one large handful of chopped basil – whichever herb you prefer is fine
·         2 ripe avocados (cut into small bite sized chunks)
·         Salt and pepper to taste
·         2 limes
·         1 tbsp. honey

What To Do:
1)      Mix all ingredients together except the avocado, honey and lime in a large bowl.
2)      Whisk together the juice of two limes with a tablespoon of honey until the consistency is even.
3)      Open the avocados, cut them up and put them on top of the salad, then pour the dressing over before tossing everything together thoroughly.  I recommend doing the avocados last and then dressing them right away because they will oxidize and turn brown quickly when exposed to air, the acid in the lime juice keeps them from doing this, so you want to get them dressed ASAP after you’ve got them out of their peels.

This recipe is an adaptation of one I found on the Rants from Mommyland blog, which is an absolutely endearing and funny read whether you’ve got small children or have just been one at some time in your life (it is linked at lower right if you’d like to see for yourself).  I put in a lot of alternates so that it can be customized per individual taste and preferences.  Either way, it’s so healthy and tasty your body will thank you for eating it!

Nutrition Info:
Serving Size:   1/8th of entire recipe
Calories Per Serving:   259
Calories From Fat:   71.2
Total Fat:   7.91g
Saturated Fat:   0.76g
Cholesterol:   0mg
Sodium:   227.9mg (this will be more after you add salt & pepper to taste)
Total Carbohydrate:   36.21g
Dietary Fiber:   5.75g
Sugars:   6.76g
Protein:   7.17g


Thursday, September 4, 2014

The "Split Plate" Charge

This falls squarely into the, "no wonder people have a hard time maintaining healthy body weight" category...

I have blogged before about my frustration with restaurants who charge me more money for ordering less food or less highly caloric food.  For example at breakfast last weekend I asked for my omelet to be made with egg beaters instead of real eggs, and that they hold both the cheese and toast.  They charged me a dollar more for the egg beaters and gave me zero money back for letting them save about four or five ounces of cheese, two slices of bread, butter and jam.  I saved about four or five hundred calories and paid $1.50 more for the privilege.  If you attempt to do something like order tomato slices or fruit in place of oily hash browns that can be anywhere from another $1.50 to around $4.00 charge, so I usually skip a fruit side dish and just eat an apple when I’m home.

A number of restaurants these days are catering to those of us who want to eat healthier, such as Seasons 52 and Harvest Seasonal Grille – which boast unique menus with a large number of entrees that fall under the appropriately sized 500 calorie mark for a meal.  They also specialize in fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, and as a bonus are quite delicious.  Fresh food is pricey, so even though your dining experience at such a restaurant will be quite healthful it still costs a lot less money to eat a fatty cheeseburger and fries.

On average, restaurant portions of food are between two and three times larger than necessary for a meal.  Knowing this, I very deliberately cut a lot of my meals in half before I even begin eating them.  Since my husband and I tend to order very different meals in restaurants (he doesn’t go in for this “hold the butter” and “hold the cheese” nonsense that I tend to pull) so it’s never really occurred to me to just order one meal for two people.  For this reason, until recently I didn’t truly know what a split plate charge was.

Apparently if two people go into a restaurant and order a single meal for the pair of them, many restaurants will tack on an extra five dollars or so for serving a single plate of food to two people.

So, let me get this straight… they bring one meal, they save the entire cost of ingredients, labor and energy consumption utilized in making another meal, and they get to charge more money for the one they did provide – simply because there happens to be two bodies sitting at the table?

Can anyone explain why this is an acceptable and commonplace practice?  I’m just not getting it.

And is this kind of bass-ackward business practice contributing to why so many restaurants go under and close down within a year or two of opening?

Makes a good argument for restaurants that serve the entire menu a la carte.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thunderstruck



Claiming that all people are whatever body size they are for the exact same reason is a logical fallacy – humans are far too complex and diverse both mentally and physical for that to be the case.

In the range of human sizes, there are some people who are biologically hard wired to be thin (ie. the ones like my husband who eat and eat without thought and never put on weight) and others who are hard wired to be fat (those who do everything possible to reduce body size without any substantial results).  I personally fall into neither of those categories.

There are undoubtedly a myriad other reasons at work as well behind why people are whatever size and shape they are – some within their control, some not.

However, I was utterly thunderstruck by a series of articles I was reading recently about obesity as a symptom of an underlying mental health problem.  The thing these articles pointed out that had honestly never occurred to me before, was the following:

If a person begins to lose dangerous amounts of weight intentionally and to the point where their life is threatened, we classify their problem as a mental health issue.  We attempt to intervene, we try to care for them and save them.  They may be hospitalized and they are treated for their disorder with compassion and hopefully as much dignity as possible.  There are countless articles and public health advertisements correctly encouraging them and their families to seek help before it’s too late.  They are not considered to be at fault for what has gone wrong with them.

If a person begins to gain dangerous amounts of weight intentionally and to the point where their life is threatened, we classify their problem as a personality flaw.  They are called gluttonous, weak willed and lazy.  We guilt them, publicly shame them, and offer no mental health related assistance of any type.  They are expected to solve the problem on their own or pay large amounts of money to get someone to help them.  Perhaps they’re offered surgery.  Perhaps they’re offered a spot on a reality television program so that the rest of society can derive entertainment value from their suffering.  There are countless articles and public health announcements berating them for being such a horrible drain on everyone else’s insurance costs.  They are completely considered to be at fault for what has gone wrong with them.

How have I never even noticed this before?

Why is this okay..?!