Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tired of Climbing

In moments of despair, I often feel like I'm in a deep, dark pit which I am trying to climb out of with little, slow or no success. In good times, I don't think about being in it because I have the sense of moving up toward something better and brighter, but the truth is that I'm still there and still climbing. I only really notice where I am when something happens to knock me down deeper or stop or slow my progress. The effort of the climb or in simply not sliding down deeper, however, is always with me.

This pit isn't physical, of course, nor is it necessarily metaphorical, but speaking of it in this fashion renders it so. This tunnel toward the center of the earth is psychological, and it is uniquely mine. The depth, the shape, the angles, the obstacles, and the holds are formed by my personal history.

Everyone has their own pit of some sort, but not everyone has one as deep, dark, or as difficult as any other particular individual's. In fact, I dare-say that mine is nowhere near the hardest to climb up from nor the deepest, but it's still pretty deep. Some people have very shallow ones, or very gently sloping ones. Their move toward the brightness and beauty of daily happiness is so effortless that the only thing which makes it hard for them to regularly climb out is a catastrophe. For others, it tunnels all the way through to China. They can't even see the light of joy, and mainly imagine what awaits at the top.

The pits we're in are formed by life experiences and circumstances.

Poor? Dig a little deeper.

Ugly? Deeper.

Sick? Deeper yet.

Emotionally unstable or sensitive? Much deeper.

Fat? Tormented? Abused? Much, much deeper still.

There's a nearly endless list of things which can make that hole harder to get out of, and I've lived a lot of them, though not necessarily the worst possible ones. My husband, on the other hand, has one of those shallow, gentle pits. He spends little time in it, and gets out of it pretty fast. He had good parents, a middle class lifestyle, and a natural easy-going nature. He's not only in a shallow pit, but he's got strength to climb out.

One of the things I've realized is that a lot of people, me included (for a little while at least), think that the pit they're in is entirely dug as a result of one factor, their weight/relationship with food. They think that losing weight will mean they are out and in the sun. It's not like that though. Dealing with your food issues makes you stronger for the climb. It may make you move up a little faster, and even closer to the top because less is weighing you down. I'm not talking about the ballast of your body, but that of social censure, self-hatred, and rejection. Losing these things which fall away with the weight makes the climb easier.

You are still, however, in that same hole. You're not out by a long shot simply because you've dealt with food issues. If you think you're out though, you're more vulnerable to easing your grip and slipping back down again, pulled down by the weight of self-loathing and disgust when you think you're detestable again because you've regained weight or started to eat in a less noble fashion.

I realize ever more clearly how deep I'm still in a dark and unhappy place and how hard it continues to be to pull myself up and closer to the top. At times, I grow incredibly weary of the effort of it all, but I still keep trying because I want to reach the light at the top. This has little to do with food anymore, and that's what brings about a certain clarity. It has to do with all of the crap I've been through in life as a result of the way I've been judged, mistreated, and physically damaged.

Every day is a new day with pain - knee pain, back pain, and sometimes other random but not infrequent pains like headaches or stomachaches. Every day is stressful. Every day is walking out on a limb in fear of falling off but walking out on it nonetheless. You can only do that so many times before you grow worn out and just want to stop. You want to arrest the climb for awhile, even let go and slide down just so you don't have to exert even the effort of holding yourself in place.

In all of this, what I realize is that food actually played a role of value in that climb. It was fuel, both emotionally and physically. The emotional palliative effects made the pain more bearable. The physically fueling effects made the exertion less noticeable. Food made the climb easier, but the results of using food in this fashion made it harder.

Gaining weight and being super fat added to the pain and sapped my stamina, but it was hard to find the strength to let it go and keep climbing while waiting for the slow changes that would make things easier to manifest. It was, essentially, abandoning the medicine and hoping in a few months, years, etc. to no longer feel sick. It takes a very long time, but eventually, that is what happens. If you keep climbing without that ballast, you get stronger and can climb a little better and with greater ease. But, it's not easy. It's never going to be easy, and right now I'm just tired of climbing.

And it has nothing to do with food.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pushing Ahead

A few posts back, I wrote about how I was ready to place myself at the mercy of a food schedule which was not of my choosing by applying for a job. There was another dimension to this as well, and that was actually having enough confidence to go to a job interview. I had the luxury of not having to get the job for financial reasons. If I was not hired, it would not be the end of the world so I could go into it with less stress about what was riding on it economically.

The job, which is only part-time and two days a week, would force me to eat in a very different pattern than I have become accustomed to, including a very long delay for dinner. In essence, I would have 14 hours between waking and my last food intake of the day. This is the challenge I wanted to face and while I could schedule things this way of my own volition, I felt that surrendering control was a very important aspect of this. It turned out that I got the job, and yesterday was my first day in this situation.

Things went smoothly, though the schedule isn't as rigid or extreme as its going to be eventually. I was very hungry by the end of the time, and there was a longer gap between a snack and dinner, but I didn't ruminate on food or feel it necessary to dive into a pile of food when I got home. In fact, though I was very hungry, I ate a reasonable portion and didn't feel compelled to dive into the refrigerator and start cramming stuff in my mouth. I set up the meal at a leisurely pace. The only "problem" was that I felt strange all night because I went to bed feeling fairy "full" (definitely well-sated) and had sleeping problems as a result. I'm accustomed to going to bed with a fairly empty stomach.

Beyond this challenge, which I don't view as over but as a first hurdle that has been cleared, this experience has highlighted something which I have noticed more and more as time goes by. That is, the lack of a response to my weight. For years, when I walked into the room, eyes lingered on my body and faces registered negative reactions. It still catches me off-guard when people see me and don't react as if the Loch Ness monster had suddenly revealed itself before their eyes. During the interview and the initial visit to the workplace, people just treated me like a normal human being. Even though I'm still fat, it's not enough to set off the "whoa, look at that freak" alarms now.

I've mentioned before that a lot of people who lose weight discount the notion that they are treated better for being smaller. They attribute it to changes in their demeanor and confidence levels. I've also said before that that's a steaming pile of crap and nothing I have experienced has dissuaded me from that opinion. The world is a far less hostile place when you're not big and an increasingly friendlier place as you approach an average or "normal" weight. The silent judging mellows out (or stops) and the reactions that are animated enough to let you know how they feel but not enough to allow you to call them on it disappear. The titters, the sotto voice comments, and the overt mockery stops once you reach a certain point.

While I am greatly relieved to be spared the emotional pain of these actions, I'm also disgusted that this is the reality of life. I'm the same person as I was before. In fact, in many ways, my eating habits are "worse" because I allow myself to eat food openly that I never ate in private before (like cake). I buy donuts for breakfast once a fortnight or so. I engage in more overt "fat person" behavior now than ever, but now I'm not regarded with disgust for it. That means that the judging was never about my actions or who I was, but only about my appearance. It was about inferring who I was based on my body, not who I actually was.

Being aware of this change in dynamic is important to me on several levels. First of all, I think it's easy to respond to this change rebelliously and believe that one should just go ahead and be as fat as one wants as a way of thumbing ones nose at the prejudice and damn the consequences. In essence, the shallowness should be met with contemptuous defiance. The other reason is that it's all too easy to be treated with greater value (that is, to have neutral rather than negative value) at a smaller size and to start to incorporate this into ones worldview. If people treat you better at a lower weight, then perhaps you, too, may embrace the notion that they are correct and that weight is indeed a reflection of a person's value. This is a trap I see people who have lost weight fall into all too often, only to regain their lost weight eventually and come out with even more intense self-loathing than ever.

At the moment, I feel quite good where I am, and am content to continue on as I have with no modifications to the way in which I'm carrying on aside from those forced on me by the work I've taken on. The challenges now are in pushing ahead into a greater range of "normal" living and to ease myself into doing the types of things "normal" people do without my old fears holding me back. My fear vanishing isn't related to the behavior of others, but rather my own ability to increasingly manage my issues psychologically. I have confidence bred from two years of re-shaping my life one small change at a time. The reactions of others only serve to confirm their judgment, not the rightness of what I do.

So far, I've crossed over quite a few goal posts in a move to being "normal". I've started to eat out at restaurants regularly (once every one or two weeks), broken out of my rigid eating scheduling and become more flexible about when and what I eat, gone on a job interview and exposed myself to new people and uncertainty. All of this occurs while still operating at a modest caloric deficit and not having a set exercise schedule, but trying to just make sure I walk everyday. In fact, due to my back injury a few months ago, I have cut back on exercise for fear of bringing on another incident. And, I'm still losing weight at an expected and moderate pace.

I don't want to diminish in any way how hard this has been. It isn't very hard now, but the road to this point has been long and tortured at times. However, I'm gratified that it has been a unique path, and that the road has gotten easier as time has gone by. One of the hardest things about this all along has been not knowing if it was going to "work" since I haven't done what most people do. Stomping down your own path with people warning you that it's a road to nowhere isn't as easy as jumping on a bandwagon.

Many people are all too fond of saying, "you will fail" because you aren't doing what they feel is "right" or of value to them. Can you succeed with temptation at every turn? Can you vanquish your psychological demons and discover that the biological ones will come to heel as a result? Can you eat like a "normal" person and still lose weight? Well, the answer for me has been, yes, I can, and I'm not smug about it nor do I believe what I have done and am doing is right for anyone but me...

But, sweet peaceful Buddha, I'm so insanely glad this is where I'm headed rather than being on the road to food-, weight- and exercise-obsessed "sainthood". I have more peace in my life now than ever and it has nothing to do with the number on the scale or what I put in my mouth. The relief I feel about this is more profound than anything and I wouldn't trade this feeling for the perfect body or for large amounts of cold hard cash. So many years of my life have been spent in a state of pure psychological torture over food and I can see that those whips and chains are close to being put away forever.

Equivalencies (and Lisa)

Sometimes I wonder if one of the reasons the thriving diet world is so dysfunctional is that failure, struggle, and all of the drama that come along with such things are infinitely more compelling than a life of quiet success. People read romance novels not for the happy ending, but for everything that leads up to that point. Once that end has been achieved, they move on to the next drama- and romantic-tension filled book.

This "drama" adds a largeness and dimension to ones own struggles and removes some of the mundane aspects from what is often a mechanistic process. There is little that is more boring than counting calories, tallying up minutes on the treadmill, and eating steamed, roasted and boiled lean protein and vegetables. Listening to someone paint this focus in life as a picture other than what it is helps one frame ones own struggles as having significant value, rather than being a grind. This drama is largely what makes it so hard for me to read such blogs in the long run.

Through one of my link chains, I discovered a blog after my own heart, though not necessarily one that follows the same path as mine. This woman, Lisa Sargese, has been struggling with her weight all of her life, has suffered many of the same psychological traumas as me, and is approximately the same age. When I read her blog, even when she talks about adding in some type of food or exercise, I don't feel the sense of "sickness" that I get with other blogs written by people who are working on weight control. I get the sense of someone who is trying to grow in whatever way she can given the damage to her life from physical and mental aspects. Regardless of the outcome of her efforts, I can see the growth and relate to her struggles. I can also see someone who is trying to become functional rather than replace one dysfunction with another more socially admirable and acceptable one.

One of the things Lisa wrote about which has rarely occurred to me, and provided me with food for thought was the way in which people look at couples and decide whether or not one can "do better" than the specimen one is with. Because I've been married for a very long time to a husband who is unconditionally loving, I haven't entertained such thoughts since early in my marriage. At that point, I was convinced that his family disapproved of me in part because they thought he could "do better" than me, though not physically. When I gained weight back (and more), I occasionally thought about how people must look at him and think about what he was doing with his enormous wife.

Though when we first got married, I thought our attractiveness levels were roughly equivalent (neither of us models of great beauty nor horror, though I think my husband is uniquely gorgeous and insanely appealing physically... to me if to no one else), gaining weight made me feel that I moved from his rough equal to being a monstrosity that was unworthy of him. Eventually, I stopped thinking concretely about this, but I did often remark that he "deserved" a better wife than me. Those comments weren't motivated so much by my appearance as by the limits on our lives because of my weight. I thought he deserved a wife who could walk around the city with him for more than 5 minutes without pain and who did not attract unwanted and unpleasant attention with her size.

Because of my weight, we couldn't go to restaurants because of my chair fear, couldn't go to movies for the same reason, and he had to go out and shop alone. There were hits to his quality of life because of me, and I felt he "deserved" better than me. Being the wonderful and loving person he is, he never once criticized me or complained. Even now in retrospect, he never says or does anything to make me regret the limits of our lives for so many years.

What I realize now is that his actions have left me in a rare place mentally in regards to my weight loss. Instead of being focused upon my appearance, which I feel at my age would be a discouraging factor in continuing to work on my weight, I am honed in on quality of life gains. It's not about a taut tummy (which is out of the question for me anyway - stretched out skin does not snap back when you're in your mid 40's), but about being able to do the things other people do without a second thought. Because of him, my eye is on the achievable rather than the unachievable. I don't like my stretched out and wrinkly form, make no mistake, but I'm also not questioning the value of my efforts in light of the fact that I'll never look like anything but a disaster naked.

There are many gifts that my husband has given me, and this is just one of them. It's something that I didn't even realize was the case and a blessing that is worth noting and being incredibly grateful for. People who go into this with a significant other who has helped shape their thinking such that they value the impossible to attain ideal rather than the doable are working at a disadvantage I have not had to cope with.

I think this advantage, along with many other things such as valuing changes in action and thinking patterns rather than the end results, has made it easier for me not to fall into certain thinking traps. In particular, there is the weight loss burn-out near the end of the process in which someone says, "good enough" before they reach the goal they set and they start to slide back into old habits. Essentially, they miss enjoying food and accept the body they have, often with a load of cognitive dissonance quieting self-justifications.

Make no mistake, I have no problem with body acceptance at any size. If you're happy with who you are (whether you are healthy or not), it's nobody's business what your weight is. However, the reasons are paramount. "Good enough" thinking is spurred in part by the focus on appearance, which I generally do not have and I'm pretty sure I have my husband to thank for that in large part.

I note this here in part because I think that it's important to understand the dynamic involved with your choices and the opinions of others close to you. They can shape you in ways you can't easily detect at times. Sometimes it is highly destructive, or, as is my case, it can also be highly constructive.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Other Goal

In previous posts, I have mentioned that I worked in a mental health facility in the distant past. In my experience, there were two types of people. There were those who knew they were ill and those that were told they were ill, but refused to accept it. The former tended to be the most highly dysfunctional people who couldn't support themselves because their illnesses were so incapacitating. They lived by virtue of the mental health support systems and whatever public welfare systems they qualified for.

The group of people who lived in denial of their illnesses tended to be people who were capable of functioning to various extents in the real world. They could hold jobs, at least for a certain period of time, but their illnesses affected quality of life for themselves and those around them. The difference between the first group and the second group wasn't that one tried harder than the other, but rather that their respective demons were more or less tenacious and their disorders more of less socially palatable. People with personality disorders may be unpleasant to work with, but they didn't hear voices or see things.

The fact of the matter was that both of these groups of people were ill and needed help, but one group felt that the status of being "mentally ill" was an unfair imposition, not a true state of their being. They could only conceptualize mental illness in broad and crude strokes, and they decided they didn't fit between those lines. That didn't make them any less ill, but it did make them far more unwilling to cooperate with treatment or to face up to the existence of their problems.

I declared at the end of January that one of my goals would be to stay out of the weight loss world except for the occasional encounter through relatively casual perusing. Except for two intentional visits to blogs of people I have a strong personal interest in for various reasons and therefore wanted to "touch base with", I have followed up on that goal. It was surprisingly easy both to drift away from the weight loss world for extended periods of times by simply filling in the internet reading "gap" with new material. It was equally easy to step in for a moment and to head back out again.

The main "problem" I have had with following up on people who I care about and want to see how they're doing is that it's easy to find yourself wanting to touch the trunk of the tree but to then find yourself shimmying up and climbing along the various branches. That is, when I visit these folks blogs, I tend to find myself following links and blog rolls to other areas. This isn't really a serious problem because I am not really deeply engaged in the weight loss world again. I open the door and even walk inside and look around then stroll back out again. Mind you, I don't think it's a "bad" world, but I do think that it is often a "sick" one, and just a few minutes spent there remind me of why I got away from it (and need to largely remain away from it).

There are two groups of people in the weight loss world and they parallel the groups of mentally ill people that I discussed at the beginning of this post. One group knows they have a problem psychologically with their relationship with food. They "know" this mainly because of physically undeniable repercussions. They can't lose weight or keep it off. They can't stop eating certain foods, at least not in a controlled fashion. Their bodies are such that they cannot function or have lifestyle or social impediments because of them. They will accept treatment of whatever kind they must in order to deal with their problem, but in many cases nothing seems to help. They are like the seriously ill people I mentioned earlier, not because they have a serious mental problem, but rather because they have fully accepted the fact that they do indeed have a serious issue that limits their happiness and quality of life.

The second group is comprised of people who have lost weight and deny that they have any problems with their relationship with food. They are largely functional and externally do not manifest symptoms of their issues. On the surface, all seems quite normal. Under the surface though, they have a plethora of issues that remain unresolved. They ruminate about food, experience anxiety entering situations in which they are either exposed to highly caloric foods or foods whose calorie counts are not known, and generally approach food as something to be wary of. Their relationship with food is far from casual or normal. While they have a grip on food when it comes to quantity, they don't when it comes to emotions. It's still controlling their minds, it's just not affecting their bodies, and that makes them think they are "well".

Touching base on occasion with these blogs has been beneficial to me because it reminds me (yet again) of how important it is to get out of the weight loss world when the time is right in order to tread a continued path to psychological wellness and a normal relationship with food and ones body. Even perusing them for a short time makes me profoundly uncomfortable because it brings me back to who I was in the maddening early stages when I was plagued by thoughts of food all of the time. It makes me appreciate all the more that I've managed to move beyond that place. Frankly, I don't know how people who have lost weight and continue in that mental state can deal with that sort of thinking. I've said before that I'd rather remain as fat as I was than to live forever in that mental torment, and I still mean that. Fortunately, that's not the choice I have to make.

I follow a blog written by a young woman who has battled and recovered from anorexia. I didn't follow her blog because of this, but rather because she writes most of the time about other topics. She only writes occasionally about her former disordered eating issues. The fascinating thing about reading what she says and her concerns about falling back into her lifestyle is that her feelings, thoughts, and opinions about her relationship with food in so many ways parallel exactly the types of things being written by weight loss bloggers. I've seen with crystal clarity how those who eat too much are on the same coin as those who eat too little. This young woman shows how important it is to move away from all the thinking and communities which talk about that thinking and to get on with forming a normal relationship with food and life. She reinforces my sense that the weight loss world is a sick one that you need to get out of when you're ready to take the next step. She did it, and you can see how she has benefitted and understand the caution she exercises in not going back to those mental places that got her into her disordered state.

Because of my progress psychologically lately, I've been thinking that something that was heretofore unthinkable for me may yet be possible. With continued "normalization" of my relationship with food and sound eating habits, I'm beginning to believe that there may come a time when I won't even have to count calories. Some day, I might be able to eat casually, like people who haven't had a lifelong eating disorder that caused them to weigh over 300 lbs. for most of their adult life.

While I still think my body's ability to know when I really need food is "broken" and that I may eat too much or too little if I don't track calories, my psychological exercises as of late have increased my sensitivity to actual hunger in such a manner that I may be headed to a point in which my body is slowly being tuned to better understand actual physiological hunger and satiety. Rather than having to artificially control how often and how much I eat via calorie counting, I think I may yet be able to repair the biological damage from years of overeating and reset my leptin responses and signals between my stomach and my brain.

This will be no easy feat, and it's something that I will have to enter into with care and purpose when the time comes. However, the way I feel at present, I do believe it is at least a possibility that I may one day be able to trust myself entirely with food and form a completely normal relationship (i.e., eat all foods in the quantities which maintain health without emotional entanglements beyond those associated with sensory pleasure) with it, and I know very well that I couldn't be entertaining this as even a remote possibility if I had continued on the way I see so many successful weight loss bloggers going with their still psychologically unhealthy relationships with food.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fear of Hunger

During the entire time that I've been losing weight, I've had the luxury of setting my own food schedule. This is because I work from home and can eat whenever is most convenient for me as well as prepare food easily from what is on hand. I've had the advantage of time, scheduling flexibility, and access to fresh food and cooking equipment. The value of this when you need to control your intake is immeasurable.

All of that being said, as my previous post indicates, I have been making efforts to introduce flexibility and variety into what I do so that I can approach food like a "normal" person. In addition to my cafe experience in which I spontaneously stopped for cake and tea, I have been attempting to eat out at restaurants more often (about once or twice a month). For a lot of people, this is the most scary element because they have no control over the ingredients and have to make broad guesses at the calorie counts based on their accumulated knowledge. Frankly, this also hasn't been a big issue for me. I just tend not to eat all of what I'm served, particularly leaving behind quite a bit of the copious amounts of carbohydrates that tend to be served.

At present, I'm looking into some part-time work at an external location (outside of my home) in order to supplement my income. I've lost enough weight now that I'm not afraid to at least apply for jobs for fear of being denied work based solely on my weight. I may not be hired, but I doubt it'll be because of my body size. As I've pondered working at a location in which I have only access to external food sources and, more importantly, will have to eat according to the schedule someone else gives me, I find a fear of hunger issue creeping up on me.

This fear of hunger doesn't have to do with being afraid of putting up with the discomfort I feel, though obviously, that isn't pleasant. As I've said before, it's not supposed to be because humans are driven to survive and being driven to seek food by physical discomfort enhances the survival of the species. Since I've been practicing hunger conditioning, I have learned to endure hunger pangs with more equanimity. My body has also made some biological adjustments so that I don't find that I "crash" so hard when I'm running on empty. I used to get headaches, feel very tired and crabby, and generally miserable when I was hungry. Now, it takes longer to get to that state and mainly it's just the grumbling stomach that I have to deal with.

Rather than my fear being related to physical issues, it's connected to psychological ones. I'm afraid that becoming too ravenous as a result of an imposed schedule will result in making bad choices when I finally can eat. That being said, I'm actually keen to be put in this situation because I've been testing myself on this for quite some time. There are times when I am out of the house and start to feel quite hungry such that I'd like to come home and chow down on what is easiest, or grab a quick snack at a store or bakery.

In such situations, I have been consciously delaying eating until I can put together a proper meal or snack. I remind myself that I will feel more satisfied, get better nutrition and enjoy the food more if I wait just a little longer. This may sound a little like trying to get comfortable with starving myself or feeling ravenous, but it's really an exercise in self-control. Most of the time, I'm looking at a delay of no more than 30 minutes before I can eat if I simply wait until I get home and prepare something. Often, the delay is much shorter than that (5-10 minutes) since I usually have food on hand. If I was looking at being ravenous and delaying for an hour or more, I'd probably opt for a less nutritious externally acquired snack.

This is all about reshaping my relationship with food such that I continue to master it rather than have it go back to mastering me. The little delays are actually very important because even just waiting 15 minutes (when I'm quite hungry) to put a meal together rather than impulsively grab something on hand which is easy to just cram into my mouth (like Triscuits or cheese) extends my control over my body and my control over my intake. It helps me form an increasingly casual relationship with food rather than a dire one in which I must act on hunger expeditiously.

So, while I'm a little afraid of the prospect of having less control over my eating, I'm also a little excited to face the challenge. It's one thing to delay eating of my own volition because I choose to, and quite another to have no choice. I think that I'm ready to surrender some control, and to submit myself to an external schedule. The only question now is whether or not that opportunity will present itself (if I get the job) or if it will continue to remain an abstract notion for a bit longer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Having my cake

Yesterday, my husband and I went out to take care of some shopping and during the extended time it took to walk, my husband and I stopped in at a coffee shop and had tea and coffee and cake. At this particular shop, you have to bus your own tray and my husband took his tray over first while I fussed with my coat. As he was at the other end of the shop, I walked over so he saw me approach from a distance. He said he was struck by how much smaller I looked and that my body was one which people would no longer take unusual interest in because it appeared "normal".**

After we ate our cakes and left the shop, my husband said that he was proud of everything I'd accomplished with my weight loss. I noted the irony of his saying this after he and his wife, who is eating a restricted number of calories, had just left a cafe and consumed about 300 calories of cake. My husband never would have seen the connection, but it's an exceptionally meaningful act for me.

This simple experience carries immense meaning for me at this stage in my transition from 380 lbs. to my current weight of 199 lbs. The importance is on multiple levels. The first is that I did not agonize over that cake or deciding to have it. Any reluctance to have it or not was based on economics (it was a somewhat expensive indulgence) and my perception of the quality of the experience as compared to what I could prepare myself vs. the novelty and timeliness of it. The calories, while noted and factored into my daily total (which was 1500), were not even part of the decision-making equation.

The second way in which this carried meaning for me was that I never did this before. As a very, very fat person, I would have been too self-conscious to go into a coffee shop, sit my big ass down, and really enjoy a piece of cake. I didn't think I deserved the pleasure, and I thought everyone would be judging me for having the audacity to be fat and eat sweets (in public, no less). I had no reservations at all despite still being overweight. "Dessert" (as in what I "deserved") didn't enter the equation either. It was completely okay for me to have this very natural pleasurable experience. Other people's scrutiny wasn't on my mind. This means I have successfully stopped applying a value judgment to food choices and that I do not concern myself with such judgments made by others (or no longer expect them because my size is no longer one which brings such types of scrutiny).

The third manner in which this was meaningful was that afterwards, I didn't feel remorse or regret. The idea of beating myself up for "indulging" didn't enter the picture. This is because I've practiced balance from the very beginning. I can have my cake, and eat it too. It's all about portions and making choices to find equilibrium, not about denial and deprivation.

Finally, I think the fact that my husband never questions my choices about food in terms of my continuing weight control and loss is also a triumph. It means that the way in which I've carried this out has left him confident in my ability to make the right judgements without resorting to Draconian measures or strict control guidelines. I intentionally left him out of my processes in terms of monitoring me because I didn't want him to be put in the bad position of being my "food police", nor did I want him to have to control his choices so I wouldn't be tempted. The way in which we could enjoy a piece of cake together even while I am still losing more weight without his being concerned that I was "backsliding" was also a victory.

While my husband mentioned "normal" in terms of my body, I really felt it in terms of psychology. Normal people can go into a coffee shop during a long stint of walking and enjoy a beverage and cake without all sorts of neurotic responses, and now, I can, too. And, I can do it and still keep losing weight. This small thing meant more to me than I can really adequately convey in mere words.

**"Normal" in this case is not to be confused with "thin" or "average weight". He means that my body size is not so large as to attract undue attention despite being fat. Essentially, I've gone from freakishly fat to just "fat".


As an addendum, I'd like to leave a comment about my weight loss progress numbers. On January 31, 2011, I posted that I weighed 203 lbs., and on April 5, 2011, I now weigh 199 lbs. That may appear to be only a 4 lb. loss over two months, but the 203 was an anomalous number. That low value came on the heels of my back injury which required a cessation of all exercise and nearly a week of full or partial bed rest. I believe the 203 was a low value brought on by erosion of muscle mass during my period of convalescence. My weight at the end of February was 207 lbs., and at the end of March/beginning of April is now 199.

These fluctuations did not trouble me, because even when I weighed myself at the end of January, I knew that the large drop was likely loss of muscle and there would be a rebound when I could exercise again (after my back had healed). So, this isn't a 4 lb. loss over two months as much as about a 20-lb. loss in 3 months and that is quite satisfactory.

This slowing down in my loss rate was expected though. I knew once I approached 200 lbs. that the rate would drop and I'm okay with that. My sense/plan all along was to hope for (but not necessarily expect) an average loss rate of about 1 lb. per week after I got into the 200 lb. range. I also know that an extended plateau may yet emerge. That's okay, too. I've also had more days as of late (compared to the past, not as a proportion of a week or month) in which I've eaten "more" (closer to 1800-2000). On stressful days, of which I've had plenty lately, I don't overeat, but it becomes harder to endure prolonged hunger. Frankly, I also think that it's not such a bad thing to mix up a few days closer to maintenance level eating at this stage of the game. Much of what I've read would indicate that sort of thing may stave off plateaus. At any rate, as long as I'm not overeating due to stress, I'm quite satisfied.