Monthly Archives: July 2016

Biker Girl!

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So, yesterday I tried something new, something I have wanted to do for a long time. Something I used to do when I was younger.

I went biking!

OK, I didn’t go very far, but that’s OK. I have not been on a bike in over 20 years. When I was very young, a kid all the way through high school, I used to bike all of the time. It was my main source of transportation and gave me a sense of freedom.

Once I became morbidly obese weight in the high 200s to low 300s, biking was not an option for me. So to be able to get back on a bike again held a lot of meaning.

My sister moved to Texas a few weeks ago and she gave me her bike. She knew I was looking to buy one, but I did not really have a lot of time to be trolling Craigslist to find an inexpensive used bike. She was purging before the move and decided to just give me her bike.

When I first got on the bike, the tires had no air. I fit on the bike perfectly. We put it in the back of my car, and it stayed there for a few weeks until I could deal with the no air problem.

I went to a bike shop near my apartment to get air in my tires and get a couple of supplies. I wanted to get a helmet and some lights for the bike. I also wanted to get a bike rack because getting the bike in and out of the hatchback is a pain in the ass.

Immediately after getting air in the tires and getting the bike rack installed, I drove out to my brother’s house and hung out with him and my niece for a bit. Well, really him, because my niece is now 8 and friends are much more important and fun than aunties. So basically, I drive 40 minutes to get a hug and then she runs off to play.

Such is life.

Anyway, it was late by the time I got back home. I took the bike off the rack and was walking it out of the garage and up to my apartment. I stopped in the lot for a few minutes a figured I would give it a quick spin.

To my surprise, I could barely touch the ground. I immediately felt very unsteady o the bike and almost toppled over. I tried a couple of times to find my balance, but I just couldn’t.

Feeling a bit embarrassed and nervous, I took he bike up to my apartment and just stared at it a bit. I was absolutely convinced I would never be able to do this. But I really wanted to. I put the bike in front of a bookcase and practiced sitting on and putting my feet on the pedals just to get the feel. In retrospect, holding onto the bookcase was probably not the brightest idea. Had I toppled over, I risked pulling the whole thing down on top of me. Fortunately, that did not happen.

Yesterday I was determined to at least get on the bike and maybe try to do a couple of laps in the parking lot. The parking lot of my building is kind of big, so a couple of laps would be a good starter.

I was very nervous and feeling very self-conscious about what people would think because I couldn’t even find my balance. Nonetheless, I did it. At first, I tried to position myself near a pole so I could balance myself. Then I practiced just scooting along to get the bike moving. I tried a couple of times get both feet on the pedals, but could not find my balance.

After a few minutes of scooting, I just told myself to do it. I took a deep breath and just forced myself to put both feet on the pedals and push. And I was off! A little wobbly, but I did it!

I rode around the lot for about 10 minutes. I did several loops in the front of the building and around the back. When I was done, I was exhausted and a little sore, but I did it!

I took the bike back inside and figured I was done for the day. Then my friend Sush texted me and asked if I wanted to come watch the DNC with her and watch the democrats elect Hillary, the first woman to run on a major party ticket. I excitedly texted back sure! I’ll ride my bike over!

I don’t know what made me say that. Maybe it was the endorphine rush from my short ride around the lot that made me feel invincible, but a huge part of me was screaming, “WTF! Why???”

Now Sush lives about a mile down the W&OD trail from where I live, so it’s not far. That wasn’t the problem though. I live on this HUGE hill that leads down into Shirlington and then down to the bike trail. While I could ride comfortably in my parking lot, and I was pretty sure I could make the mile on the bike trail, I was very worried about going up and down that hill.

So, I walked the bike down the hill. Once in Shirlington, I started riding towards the bike trail. I stayed mostly on the sidewalk except when I had to cross the street. It was a pretty easy ride on the trail. I was slow and other bikers did pass me. Fortunately, I had spent enough time walking on the trail, that I was familiar with biking etiquette. If another biker wants to pass you, they ring a bell or say, “On your left,” and that is your queue to stick to the right so they can safely pass. And it truth, I wasn’t on the trail long enough for this to really be an issue.

I did get off the trail a little too soon and wandered around a neighborhood that was not Sush’s for about a minute, then got back on the trail to get to her actual neighborhood. Sush was so excited to see me riding a bike. She knows what an accomplishment this was for me. She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders since I started my weight loss. She knows how much I struggled before, and she is so happy to see me doing things I never would have attempted.

The ride back was a little more difficult. Coming back to my neighborhood was kind of uphill, so the ride was a little more of a struggle. And it was so hot yesterday. And when it came time to walk the bike back up to my apartment, I was thoroughly exhausted. But I did it!

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Me post bike ride.

I’m going to go for a little ride tomorrow in the other direction on the trail just to see how far I get. I don’t work until the evening, so if I start early enough, I should be OK. I’m so glad to be biking again. I think my next investment though is going to be a pair of padded biker pants.

 

Eating Disorders in Literature – Another Look at Borderline Insanity (an FBI thriller by Jeff Miller)

So, a few weeks ago a friend and fellow writer released the second installment of his FBI thrillers about his heroine, Dagny Gray. I wrote a review of the novel on my writer’s blog.

If you don’t want to go there and read my review, that’s OK, I’ll let you know what I think here. I loved the book. I a big fan of Jeff and his writing and I love the Dagny Gray character. Part of the reason I love her is that she feels like a complete person. She’s flawed and driven, and in some ways, broken. And yet, she does what we all do…she gets up every day fights. She fights against the bad guys in her job, and she fights against her own inner demons. Jeff has written a character I can fully identify with on many levels.

But this post is not about Jeff. This post is about my reaction to reading about a major character struggling with an eating disorder.

I was lucky enough to be included as a beta reader for Borderline Insanity and receive an advanced copy. I did not share my feedback with Jeff, in part because I was so deeply affected by Dagny’s struggle. After reading about her deeply emotional difficulty with eating, the guilt, the shame, the stress,  I cried off and on for a couple of days.

I was struck by Jeff’s ability to so clearly articulate those feelings. I really felt like he had intimate knowledge of what that struggle is like. It felt as if he reached inside my head and pulled out my innermost thoughts and fears and put them into words. It affected me deeply to read my own thoughts and feelings on the page.

Dagny suffers from anorexia nervosa. Of course, I have often argued that anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and morbid obesity are all parts of the same illness. I still feel that way. And after reading this book, I am even more convinced. I’ve often argued that anorexia and bulimia are the acceptable illnesses per our society because most of the patients affected by these diseases are very thin.These illnesses have long been treated medically while the morbidly obese have just been told by doctors to “lose weight” and you’ll be fine. Anorexia, bulimia, they are illnesses. Obesity, a character flaw. It’s only in recent years, say the past 15 or so, that surgery and other medical solutions have been offered to people trying to lose weight. But I digress…

In Borderline Insanity, Dagny is forced into therapy by her boss as a condition of keeping her job. She is not open to being helped at all. Also, a coworker, in an attempt to be helpful, asks her from time to time if she’s logged her calories on her Weight Watcher’s app.

Dagny uses every excuse to avoid facing her problem. She throws herself into her work.There are many instances in the book where she looks at her app only to be reminded that calorie count is zero. More than once, to meet her calories for a day or two, she sits in her car at a drive through, eating a high caloric meal and cries.

Oh I know this feeling. The first time I read this scene, it was like a punch in the gut. The number of times, mostly pre surgery, that I did something very similar is a lot. I could eat an entire frozen pizza and a big bag of chips. The first couple of bites, I was usually OK, but as I continued, bite after bite, the guilty and shame became overwhelming. I would literally eat until I became sick and cry and cry.

Post surgery is a little different. I cannot eat the same volume of food in the same amount of time. I can eat more than I could immediately after the surgery, but that is normal. I can eat most of a small meal. And I’ll repeat it again, because I think it needs to be said. That is normal.

What’s not normal is some of the bad behavior I have fallen back on. While I cannot eat a whole pizza, I still find it hard to stop once I start. Granted, the pizza is much smaller than the pizza I would have eaten pre surgery. And I might make that pizza the only thing I eat all day. But I will finish the entire thing over the course of a day. I might through 70% of the crust in the trash, but I will still eat the whole thing until it’s gone. And by the time I’m done, I feel just as guilty if I had eaten in all within 30 minutes.

I cannot eat a whole big bowl of popcorn, but if I buy a jar of kernels, I will have popcorn for as many meals as I can for as many days in a row as I can until the popcorn is gone.

Of course, the answer to the above problems is simple. I do not buy popcorn or pizza. Not normally. But when I’m in the throes of the crazy thoughts that go through my head, which are usually triggered by some kind of stress or something else that I cannot control, I tell myself the lie.

The lie being, I can buy this and have just one pretzel. Just one slice of pizza. The lie is the first step to giving into the binge. And at first I do have just one. But the truth is, that is not where it ends.

Dagny had to force herself to eat and I struggle to not overeat, but the emotions, the sense of worthlessness, guilt, and shame, are the same. Seeing her struggle on the page, my own thoughts open for the whole world to see, really opened my eyes to the fact that I cannot do this alone. That is why I sought the help of a therapist and nutritionist. It hasn’t been easy, but I just take it one day at a time.

I am going to wrap this post up with a quote from Jeff’s book, which he borrowed from the bible. I’m not normally an overly religious person, but I think this quote aptly summed up the way I feel a lot of the time.

“When Rebekah was pregnant with Isaac’s twins, the babies jostled within her. She asked the Lord why this was happening and he said, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples within you will be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, the older will serve the younger.'”

I often feel as if I am at war with two parts of myself. The self that I try to portray every day, the strong, confident woman who knows her place in the world versus the insecure, self conscious, out of control crazy person who hides from her problems by binge eating.

I took steps a couple of years ago to try to reign in the latter, but sometimes I feel as if the former is losing ground. Seeking help through therapy is my way of trying to bring those two parts of myself back together.

I love that Jeff wrote a book where the main character has an eating disorder. I have never read a book outside of self-help or teen books that addressed eating disorders and the psychological effects. I think Jeff did a great job.

I hope he makes it big, really big. Like JK Rowling big. The world would be a better place for it.

Life 4 Years Post-op & Living with Binge Eating Disorder

So, this is the blog post I’ve been kind of regretting. I haven’t kept up on this blog, in large part due to some of the stuff I’ve been going through since my last post, and it has been difficult for me to write about.

Some of it was difficult because of my self-imposed restriction of talking about work on social media. I still do not wish to discuss my job, but I am going to discuss a few of the general situations that added a tremendous amount of stress to my life. And there are two different issues I will write about here in reference to my previous job.

I enjoy a certain amount of intensity in my job. I like a challenge, and I have a ridiculous competitive streak in me. I work at a fairly high level, (not in position, but ability).  I have a good ability in my profession to see the big picture, and I understand how to breakdown the different parts of an operation. I willingly take on a lot of work, often more than I should.

In my last job, I was one of two people who did my job. I worked for a good company, but one that did not understand the nature of how to run my kind of office. It’s not their fault. They absorbed my office when they bought the company I worked for. Their business was something else completely.

What caused me stress was they wanted my office to be more profitable, but they did not know how to make that happen. And they did not understand that bringing in more work did not make the office more profitable, it only increased the work and stress level. As a result, I was working 10-14 hours a day and seemed to make no progress at all and no one understood why I couldn’t get more done. And no one listened to my suggestions on how to improve the office.

Finally, I realized that the situation was completely untenable and I left that job. I did have a very frank discussion with them before I left, but I do not know if it ever made any difference, and I never looked back to find out what happened.

The other situation in that job that affected me negatively was one of my staff. She was a friend of mine and I have actually written about her in this blog before. She was one of the people who was an inspiration for me having the gastric by-pass surgery.

I lost contact with her over the years, but then I sought her out to work with me at this job. I did not realize that even though she had the surgery and had lost weight, she never really dealt with some of the emotional stressors that lead her to be obese in the  first place. She says she did, but it became clear to me that she did not.

She actually went the other direction with her eating problems. Because she never regained her hunger after the surgery, she would go days without eating. And when she did eat, she ate all the wrong things. For example, she would try to get all of her calories for the day in one meal by eating cheeseburgers and fries from Burger King. And those calories would have to last her a few days until she ate again. She still saw herself as fat. She still even wore some of her fat clothes that just hung off of her because she was so thin. And she did a lot of stress eating.

Being in a closed office with her, I fell back on some of my own bad behaviors, stress eating, binge eating, etc.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not blaming her. It is my fault I fell off the wagon. I knew better than to engage in those behaviors, but I did it anyway. Mostly because I’ve never dealt with why I gained the weight to begin with. I had many cheesy poof breakdowns.

As a result, I gained about 40 pounds.

I have been away from that job and situation for a year now. Somehow, I thought leaving that behind me, I would miraculously go back to what I was doing before I fell back on my bad behaviors, but I did not. And I’m very angry at myself for having regained any weight at all. And for a while, I was feeling very frustrated and lost.

I would not say that I’m 100% over that feeling. I still feel kind of lost. I’m still angry at myself for failing to control my my binge eating. And I still beat myself up for falling off the wagon.

What has changed apart from my job?

Well, I’m working with a nutritionist and an eating disorder psychologist. I realized that I had a problem that I could not deal with on my own and I reached out to find someone who could help me navigate through the crazy part of my brain that deals with stress, loss of control, difficulty by overeating.

For instance, I had to write, and re-write the above paragraph probably 5 times. Part of my therapy is getting me to think differently. To stop putting everything in such negative terms.

So, I got the negativity out. I am not going to write over and over again using negative terms. That’s not going to change anything. That does not meant that I’ll never write about another bad feeling or frustration, but I’m going to try to find another way to express them.

For example, instead of saying, “I didn’t lose any weight this week! I suck! This is never going to work!”  I may something like, “I did not lose any weight this week. Not really the result I wanted, but these are the steps I’m going to take to keep the big picture in mind and keep moving forward.”

I’m also focusing on all that I have accomplished and creating new goals. I’ve achieved much of what I set out to do, and that has not changed. I can walk anywhere I want. My breathing is greatly improved. And my health is greatly improved. So now what?

I have written down some  new goals that I want as part of my new, healthier lifestyle.

So, what is the future of this blog going to look like? I have put a lot of thought into this.

  • I am still going to write about my weight loss journey.
  • I will write about my new goals.
  • I might write about some of the things I’m talking over with my psychologist.
  • I will write about some of the things in the real world that effect me emotionally or activate my eating disorder and how I deal with that.

My next post, that should come out in the next couple of days, is going to be about a book a friend of mine wrote. His main character is a FBI agent struggling with anorexia. Reading about her dealing with, or not dealing with, her eating disorder struck a chord with me, and I want to write about that.

One of the first things my psychologist asked me was what did I want to get from my therapy.

I immediately answered, “I want to feel good about my body.”

It occurred to me in that moment that I never have. That no matter what I weighed, I always felt ashamed of how I looked.

So, I guess to answer my own question, I want this blog to be about how I go from feeling ashamed of my body, weight gain, the number on the scale, who I am, how I look, to someone who is comfortable with her body and who she is no matter her weight.

A small task, to be sure…