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.

Day 40: I’m Good If I Can Keep Moving

It’s been twelve days since I cut my goal intake to 1200 net calories per day.  Since the cutback I’ve been very conscious of my body — the chronic needle pains around my joints, the tension in my muscles and the alternating nausea and cramps in my stomach — to the point I’ve hated life off and on for the last week or so.  I’ve found a temporary fix, though I’m already seeing diminishing returns.  If I can get myself busy physically, I’m able to keep myself distracted and to some extent content so long as keep myself up and moving, with short breaks for water and food.  The mind game alone doesn’t do it, nor can I push myself to exhaustion.  I’ve tried both, and I ended up getting nasty at my sister yesterday and being barely being civil to others I love for the last several days.

I am running out of relatively small jobs to do, however, and I’m looking around for bigger ones that won’t be too much.  When I started six weeks ago, I could run for five or ten minutes at a time, then I’d have to rest and drink a pint of water.  Now I am doing fifteen to thirty minutes of cleaning, cooking, etc. at a stretch; what’s more, I’m getting more efficient, cutting a fair amount of wasted motion out of the process and grabbing larger, heavier objects and moving them around without noticeable strain.  I still get occasional spasms in my lower back but they respond to stretches, so I can come back to a task and keep going.  Fatigue is becoming less of a problem, but it’s still there and I’m not sure if I will eventually be able to handle it without at least two hours’ sleep in the afternoon.  More to come on that as I find out.

Day 38: Tuesday Madness

Last night was a Hawaiian deluxe pizza night.  I’d been up and down all weekend, sleeping six or so hours at a stretch, groggy-awake for about the same length of time, then sleeping again.  The cycle broke around 10 pm Saturday, then I was up for most of the next 24 hours.  It wasn’t a productive period, as I spent most of the day on Facebook and watching reports of the total eclipse, though I did get a few things done.  Today looks to be another long day, though not so sleepy.  I have about about a thousand calories to work off after yesterday’s ravening appetite, but my sister Betty took me to the store, so we have lunch meat in the house again; I can skip the rest of the pizza.  I figure it will take a few days to work off the load from yesterday, but that’s okay.  I can do it.  Making at least least two pots of pea soup is the next point of my agenda, so I can freeze now for the next bout of down time.  The vegan recipe I make is tasty enough to please the omnivores around me and about 230 calories per cup, so in the worst case, half a dozen two-cup plastic containers will keep us in hot food until I’m able to cook again.

Vegan Pea Soup
Makes approximately 7 cups thick and chunky soup, 223 cal per cup

2 cup Dried Split Green Peas
1 cup Raw Carrots
1 1/2 cups each Celery and Onion, chopped
1 teaspoon Morton Lite Salt
3 teaspoons Thyme, fresh, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon Hickory Liquid Smoke

Combine split peas, vegetables and lite salt in a pot with enough to cover all with an inch or two to spare. Bring to a boil, then simmer 30 to 45 minutes on low heat, checking and stirring after every 20 minutes or until the peas start to collapse and the soup thickens. At that point, add thyme and liquid smoke, check for salt, and simmer another 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

This is a soup I am happy to serve to omnivores who aren’t dieting as well as eat myself several times a week.  It can be loaded up with milk products and/or smoky meats, but it doesn’t need them to taste good, and the lite salt cuts the sodium load while it spikes the potassium content, which is a particular selling point to me, as my roommate and I don’t generally get enough potassium.


Day 31: After Charlottesville


I’ve been up since 4:30, getting myself awake enough to cook in the blessed cool while it’s dark outside. I’m feeling the fade already, but I have a pot of pea soup done and a pan of chicken thighs in the oven. My roommate and I may both be exhausted from the events of the weekend, but we will be able to eat something besides sweets and pizza. That much I can do.


Watching the events in Charlottesville from afar, I felt, and still feel, helpless, which slides into useless if I don’t determine to not let it eat me entirely. I’m not losing weight because of some abstraction, some attempt to emulate some perky woman half my age. I’m working as I can to try to be more able to affect the world around me again instead of sitting at home in helpless rage watching my country tear itself apart. I don’t know if the pushing myself to work, to argue, support, and comfort where I can while I get the body able to do more will make a difference in the long term or not — in my grimmer moments I doubt it — but it’s what I can do.

Day 27: Weigh-In and Other Adventures

Yesterday was my first trip to the neurologist’s office since the lifestyle restart.  He’d wanted a pound a week, and I’ve lost seven, so I’m down to 283 pounds. That accomplished, it was time to move to the new goal: 1200 calories a day instead of approximately 1800, which should move me to about 2 lbs a week if I continue to work at my current pace.  That’s not too bad; last week I was under 1200 three days out of seven without trying just by filling up on vegetables and fruit instead of bread or noodles, along with one bag of buttery popcorn in the mix every day so I wouldn’t feel deprived. Still, a third of my calories still sounded like a lot, so I was not so delighted as I might have been when I left. It was warm, perhaps 90 degrees, when I caught the second of three buses home, so I stopped at a Jack in the Box near the transit point for the biggest diet Dr Pepper they sold with an idea I might have something light to go with it for lunch.  Nothing sounded worthwhile to me in my disgruntlement, so I ended up with a small bag of curly fries that were not hideous but proved my initial assessment correct. After lunch, I had half an hour to kill, so I went to the gas station behind the bus stop and bought five tickets for tomorrow’s super lotto.  The odds are of course ridiculous, but as I see it, the solution to my most pressing problems is more money; the other stuff will take time and/or creativity, which I am already applying to them, or they can’t be fixed. Half-price Ferrero-Rocher truffles got the taste of sad curly fries out of my mouth, so I was pretty well satisfied by the time I got on the bus.

I had to change buses at the terminal closest to home because the bus I was riding went out of service at that point.  The terminal is a great place to see urban wildlife.  Not just pigeons, but wild species of songbirds that nest in the trees and eat the ornamental grass seeds, and so on. Well, as the last passenger was getting on, he and the driver noticed a young roof rat, not much bigger than a mouse, had come on board.  The driver tried to run it back out, but it turned and ran back into the bus. I’d sat down and leaned my cane against the wall, and wouldn’t you know it? The poor thing ran down my side of the bus and then it disappeared. While everyone else was up on their seats looking for the rat, I felt a wiggling beside, then behind me. By this point I was already trying not to laugh.

“I’m not sure,” I said loudly enough for the driver and the others near me to hear, “but I think it might be here.  I’m feeling something moving behind me.”   I leaned forward, and the rat was climbing the loose back of my tshirt, so I jumped up, and it fell off. I sat down again and pulled my legs up so it could get on where it was headed, which I guessed was as far from the shouting as possible.  By this time, a woman across the aisle from me was gasping for air but the rest were shouting and laughing as the poor thing ran across the aisle and started climbing a pole next to the open back door.  At that point the driver knocked it down, and it headed back toward the front where it had come in. Eventually it ran back down the wheelchair ramp and made its escape.

Ten minutes later I was home without further incident.  My sister came over with her grandson, and we got a good laugh out of the story.  I figured you might as well.