Day 90: Three months In

Between one thing and another, I forgot to mention that I did finally hit the two-pound-a-week average as of Monday last.  I now weigh 21 pounds less than I did when I started, and I lost eight between the September and October weigh-ins. The new jeans are already loosening up, and I’m getting more sleep if I go to bed early. Being a fifth of the way to my goal still has me mightily pleased with myself, though it’s getting a lot easier as I go. I still have My Fitness Pal open most of the time on my notebook, but I’m not as obsessive about the process as I was in the beginning, or even a month ago, now that I average two pounds lost per week.  I’ve started carrying a piece of paper to note start and finish times when I work instead of setting a stopwatch on my cellphone. At the beginning, every damned minute counted because I was starting from way too close to zero; I’m still short-winded, but I’m not struggling with sustained cleanup runs, and the chronic pains from inactivity are fading out as the post-activity needles take their place. I’m okay with that.

Figuring food is also a lot easier, too. The things I usually eat accumulate on My Fitness Pal, so logging is simple, and the measuring cups are close at hand, so it’s not a big deal to assemble a salad or whatever and log it for the calorie content. I’ve even started posting recipes with serving sizes, so I don’t have to remember all the stuff that went into the pea soup or the details of a crock of pulled pork.

I’ve found, too, that we eat cheaper, now that I’m taking in about half the calories I did three months ago. We eat better, with more fresh veg and fruit, and less fat, but the overall volume is less, and we don’t spend the money we used to on sweets or ordering in. I’m not sure I actually cook more, but a head of romaine is cheaper than a loaf of good bread, and chef salads are about as fast as a sandwich once the lettuce is torn up and the cheese sliced or shredded. I find I do have to watch how much we buy, though, and re-package meat for the freezer more often, because we don’t eat whole packages of anything quickly anymore. That’s coming together pretty well; I forget fresh bananas now and then, and I ended up making croutons and bread crumbs from half a pack of rolls that we skipped over a couple weeks ago, but it’s getting cool enough to make a meatloaf one of these nights soon, so it’s no loss in the long run.


Day 89: Housecleaning

The fires here in California are dreadful; I’m awaiting word on a family member in Santa Rosa. I’m reasonably sure he’s in a safe area after chatting with a representative from the SRPD, but the waiting is bad, and it’s worse on his mom, who has seen the videos I avoided. I scan the news for useful information I can pass on to others or otherwise help where I can from here, but all in all, it’s not much that I can do, and the horror is overwhelming if I let myself consider it too long.

So life goes on.  Bryan tells me of the latest political disasters now and then; it’s a different kind of devastation incoming from Washington DC, and it is relentless as those elected to lead abandon our people to the natural disasters and actively seek to destroy what solace remains in our country. There’s not a lot I can do about those, either.

About all I can do is to modify myself and my living conditions here at home; I diet and re-work the house as much as I can, putting such order as I can in place. The trash bin I bought last week was delivered today; it’s crimson plastic, and with that addition, the kitchen towels and the new red throw rug are beginning to tie together visually, rather than existing as isolated bright splashes against the beige, black and steel that are there now. The rust towels Bryan washed yesterday put life back into the bathroom that the light colored towels can’t. I fixed the skirt on his rocker yesterday. Today I’m purging the last of the SCA and fantasy garb, tossing cartons of scraps and failed projects into the dumpster and shedding illusions — and disillusionment — as I go. I wonder sometimes if I am lacking something that others possess in being able to do this, but so far it works well for me, and over time I find my baseline distress and bitterness are less.

Note: if you like the header illustration, you can find it here.

Day 81: Nope, Not a Diet Post

It’s been more than three weeks since my last post.  I’ve lost another four pounds, as of a week ago, so I’m still on track, but the violence of weather and of humanity, and the callous dismissal of both by those in power here in the US, overwhelm me.  I lack words for the sorrow and horror I feel at the devastation of Harvey, Irma, and most of all, Maria. The slaughter in Las Vegas pales by comparison, and it is more than enough by itself. Yet it is the blatant disregard, the chiding contempt coming from the walking filth living in the White House that leaves me sick with outrage.

Still, I go through the necessary motions, shopping, cooking, eating as close to the limits I set myself for this venture as I can, though the obsession has ebbed with the development of skill at figuring calories and portion size on the fly. I eat out with friends, noting after that my strategies need to change here and there to enjoy what I eat and to eat only enough of it.  I work on stuff here, another box of clothes or bedding or art supplies organized, shared or trashed. Bryan started a new D&D campaign, his first in months, so we and some friends shared an adventure far away from our present reality for a few hours. That was best and happiest of all, though tiring for him.

And so life goes on.

Day 59: Back on Track

I didn’t even count last night’s bout with the Chinese food we ordered in until this afternoon.  Yesterday’s diary up to that point was 137 calories under the limit; by the time I’d done with the sides, the lo mein and picking the meat and pineapple out of the sweet and sour pork last night, I was 1326 net calories over and in no condition to start working it off.  To add insult to injury, I felt like shit this morning, too, for similar reasons; I don’t do well short of sleep, and I was up late with things to be seen to and up early this morning.  On the upside, I was still satiated from last night, so I had my morning coffee and made a pot of the vegan pea soup first thing.  A half cup of that and the coffee carried me into mid-afternoon, though I’ve got a cup of black seedless grapes at hand to munch on until sometime around sundown.  That leaves about three cups of pea soup between me and the 1,000-calorie gross minimum on MyFitnessPal.  It’s going to take some doing to work off the take-out, but I want my two pounds this week free and clear.

Realistically, the big clamshells would be fine once in awhile if I were limited to one of those for the day, starting early in the day or early afternoon, say after a morning of coffee and housecleaning, or after walking down to pick it up at the restaurant.  As it is, it’s more practical to make “Asian” food at home, where I can control ingredients, and burn calories as I go, and to confine the deliveries mostly to pizza, which is lower in calories and less compulsive.  However I sort this out, it will be sorted shortly.  For now, there’s a rack of dishes to wash and a kitchen floor to mop up.  Life goes on.

Day 57: Break Day

Yesterday, Day 56, was a Friday.  My Fridays usually come in two flavors: cook for the weekend day, and Bryan’s Vampire Night.  Yesterday was BVN, and for me it was heavily spiced with unspent outrage from Day 55’s doctor encounter, so I worked off 771 calories in a little more than two hours of break-neck cleaning, aerobic paper scanning (two boxes at knee height, one for input, one out, bend/retrieve, start scan, bend deep, hit the save button, bend left, bend right, feed in another page, drop the first into the out box, run around doing other stuff during the next scan, get another sheet, repeat) and cooking up a stir-fry and rice for our lunch.  I was laughing and goofing by the time I was done, and the aftermath in the afternoon and quiet evening gave me time to think.  Bryan is a good sport about being my sounding board, and I gave a lot of thought to a situation he predicted would hit me at least once in this process, that I would hit a point at which I would ask myself why I’m doing this.  I’ve hit that once or twice already, but after talking to others and, so far as I can tell, being only partially understood, I figure a mission statement of sorts is in order.

We live in an uncertain world, one that is becoming more so daily.  As I write, Hurricane Irma is setting new records for ferocity and, no doubt, U.S. records for property damages.  I dread imagining the human suffering and loss in the southern U.S., to say nothing of the greater, ongoing catastrophes happening in Asia and elsewhere.  The West has different, growing problems, but in the turmoil of living poor in California and my own difficulties of various sorts, I’ve allowed myself to become dependent and nearly helpless in this increasingly uncertain world.  Twenty years ago, I used to walk for miles; a block or two without pausing to stop for breath is beyond me right now.  Two or three hours of vigorous house cleaning is about all I can do on a good day; after that I am exhausted and struggling stupidly to do whatever else remains to be done before I fall asleep wherever I am, in public or private.  To remain so helpless is intolerable to me.

Even less tolerable is the prospect of stomach surgery.  I already know that if I cannot control the impulses that push me to load my stomach with calorie-dense food when I am in distress, I would cause myself harm the first time one of those binges struck after surgery.  On the other side of it, if I can control the impulses, I don’t need the surgery;  it’s just a matter of time.  My weight loss goal is roughly the same as a realistic and somewhat conservative estimate of the results I might expect to achieve with surgery — I went into it in some detail here — but steadily over the course of one to two years instead of six to nine months of training and another six to nine months of crash weight loss from medically-induced starvation that would require another surgery to get my stomach back to something like normal, assuming I could get the reversal.  That’s more uncertainty than I can rationally contemplate for myself.

And, after two months, I am seeing results.  I’m thirteen pounds lighter; the tightness and cramping in my chest has stopped; and I’m able to work nonstop for an hour or so at a time, take a breather and come back to do it again.  The funny part is, my stomach capacity has actually shrunk as well.  Bryan and I ordered in Chinese food dinners today because fuck cooking, and I have been hungry for broccoli beef since the last time we ordered in.  I took the time to measure out a cup of broccoli beef and a half cup each of the lo mein and fried rice that came with it; combined with a packet of foil-wrapped chicken and two egg rolls, it was too much food by the time I was done.  It was also less than half the dinner meal, so I will be eating lo mein and fried rice for days.

Day 55: Weigh-in and Perplexity

First, the good news.  I’m down to 277 pounds, which is six less than last month.  That is about what I expected under the circumstances, and I foresee general improvements.  That said, I am trying figure what the actual fuck my doctor is trying for, as the diet/exercise as given is doing what’s expected (and is a healthy rate of weight loss) but he’s looking for something else, from his manner.  The implication is that I would/could/should be doing and losing a lot more.  I’m going to see my general practitioner and see if I can get a referral to a nutritionist and, I hope, get another copy of the physical therapy referral I’ve mislaid.  The neurologist isn’t trained in this, at least as his specialty; it’s time to find someone who is.

Still, the trip was worthwhile, in part because I had a chance to shop at Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree on my way home.  Both the stores were larger than those in my neighborhood, so I was able to find things the local stores don’t have in stock.  I’d been wanting some small sealable containers to go with my meat-carton bento set — Hillshire Farms packs their sliced meats in Gladware reusable containers that are even labeled in such a way to make reuse easier — and I found a pack of ten quarter-cup plastic containers for a dollar that are perfect for holding some sriracha sour cream dressing or to keep the pickles and cheese from blending in transit.  If you’re interested in more bento information and some neat pictures, have a look at BentOnBetterLunches.

Day 53: All About the Food

This morning was productive despite the smoke and damp in the air.  Cooking and cleaning the kitchen totaled just over two active hours again, which translates to some 600 calories, but the stove is clean, the tacos for dinner only need the meat heated up in the microwave while I cook some tortillas.

I also came up with a killer salad combination based on the antipasto salads I’ve been ordering in.  My roommate Bryan is fond of thin-sliced ham for sandwiches, and I just shredded a pound of colby jack so we’ll have it on hand for the week or so it might last around here.  Toss in some olives and sriracha sour cream dressing, because sour cream has half the calories of ranch dressing (no, I don’t want lite ranch, thanks).  It’s 336 calories of wonderful.

Ham and Cheese Salad
Makes 1 serving. Approximately 336 calories

2-3 cups salad greens, lightly packed
4 slices thin-sliced ham
1/3 cup shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese
10 medium black olives, halved lengthwise
4 Gedney sweet pickled pearl onions
(optional, but awesome if you like them)

Sriracha Sour Cream Dressing
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Teaspoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste
1/2 Teaspoon Worchestershire sauce, or to taste

Roll the ham slices loosely. Cut the roll lengthwise, then crosswise to make bite-size pieces of stacked ham. Assemble the salad ingredients more or less in the order given.  (I like the pickles to the side, but that’s me.)  Mix the dressing, adjusting to taste as necessary, and distribute as you like on the salad.

Although this is pretty wonderful by itself, recent experience has taught me there’s a practical reason salads are served with a starch such as croutons or crackers.  The salad alone has 15 grams of carbohydrate, mostly simple sugars buried deep within the fibers of those greens.  Since I’d worked all morning on a banana, a cup of coffee and gummy vitamins, I burned through those 15 grams of sugar in no time.  A slice of heavy whole-grain bread smeared with pbj took care of the problem enough for me to have the nap I also needed.  Lesson learned!

Day 51: A Bobble and Onward

Yesterday was not fun, but it worked out.  I’d started the day with too much coffee on an empty stomach, then eaten most of my calories in carbs and fat by late afternoon, so I was frantic.  Bryan ordered Chinese in — I had bbq pork tofu, no rice or noodles, and one potsticker — and that got me back on an even keel. This morning I had the rest of the tofu dish and a regular-sized cup of coffee for breakfast, then I set about cleaning up the kitchen and prepping food for us this week. That took about two and a half hours, not counting breaks, as there were pans and nearly all our plastic storage containers to wash.  I’ve got the chicken cut up and marinating four different ways, and I can prep veg as I go over then next day or two, so I can stay busy on something besides the kitchen chores.  I like to cook, but it tires me out after awhile.  I thought perhaps I’d burn an even 1,000 calories getting chores done, but I was tired enough after prepping the chicken to cook a cut-up breast with butter and hot sauce and call it good.  Sour cream has half the calories of ranch and tastes better, so another win dousing the fire of the hot tenders, but washing up the pan and dishes from dinner can wait until morning.  The fade is hitting me hard as I type this, and Bryan still has broccoli beef from last night, so I don’t have to worry about his dinner.  It’s time to wind down and call it a night.

Now, if those clouds would give us some rain to clear the air and dampen the fires here in the West…

Day 49: Progress!

This is the second day of severe heat in the current run.  Yesterday was a record-breaker here in Sacramento at 109°F; the damp air is gray-blue with smoke from fires all over the north state and farther north. Nonetheless, I got out this morning before the heat became brutal and, for the first time in much too long, I walked to the bus stop without pausing to catch my breath even once. My chest didn’t hurt, and I was just starting to breathe deeper when I got to the corner across the street from the bus stop. None of the trip was as difficult as it has been for the last few years, and I got back very warm but not ill.  I think I’ll try walking to the store next time; it used to take me 20 minutes, which is not a bad length of time to stretch my legs every day or two, and I can set the stopwatch on my phone to track the actual time.

As for actual shopping, I kept the veg down to what we might need in the next day or two, and I picked up some tools we need, such as the bin I’ve been wanting for the lower shelf beside the sink and a mini rake that I’ll need for reaching stuff indoors more than I will for leaves outside in the planter box. I also made a point of picking up a big sack of salad mix, some of which I covered with the last of yesterday’s antipasto salad, then topped it all off with hot marinated chicken chunks for lunch. I’ve decided almost anything that can be served over rice can be served over greens to advantage, so I’ll assemble another chicken salad for dinner.  Bryan’s off until times unknown, so it’s dinner for one tonight.

This is one of those times I stop to remember how very fortunate I am. I’ve got an apartment I can afford, full of cool air in the middle of a heat wave, a bottomless supply of filtered water and ice, and my stomach is full of good food. I’m also making noticeable differences in how my life works, and I’m the healthiest fat chick I know.

Today, my life is good.

Day 48: Fuck This.

I’ve been at this for almost seven weeks now.  I am more active, and I am losing weight.  It shows in the shorts falling off my hips, in the slippers I could barely put on sliding on comfortably this week.  It shows in not having to adjust myself to find a comfortable position to sleep in — and sleeping with less intense pain when I wake. I can walk farther, with less difficulty, and on an active day I can burn off 600 extra calories.

I cannot maintain an average of 1200 net calories a day.  My eating has become erratic, with days of eating less than 1000 net calories, thanks to exercise or sleeping off a flare, broken up by days when I eat closer to 2500 or more, usually as I cycle into an aching, foggy-headed flare. I can counter some of this with food choices — eating my fill on salad instead of buttered bread reduces the overall calorie load and fills me up — but despite the intellectual focus and determination, the helpful milestones and assurance that this will continue to accrue benefits, my body recognizes this process as starvation. I take vitamins and minerals; I exercise and keep my macronutrients in pretty good balance; I drink plenty of water and get rest, but my body grumbles nervously about Winter coming, and how hot pea soup really needs that slice of sweet, heavy bread slathered in soft butter to be just perfect before bed.

Fuck that.