Friday, July 27, 2007

Down 10! Feels Good!

I'm down 10.2 lbs as of Tuesday. Wow does that make a difference in how I feel. Finally, I feel like I'm moving in the right direction.

Walking, Biking, Water, Eating sensibly, well and healthy, Not boozing it up too much (and making sure to really enjoy it when I do!), attending Weight Watchers meetings. These things are all helping. It also helps to not sit in front of the TV eating chips and drinking Chardonnay when I'm depressed. I've been drinking tea and reading instead.

It's a slow road though. 10 lbs. in 9 weeks. Not bad actually....a pound a week basically.

Everyone have a great weekend!

BTW - Looking at doing this in a few weeks: Hank Aaron State Trail 5K Run / Walk

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Short and sweet this week because I'm sure you're sick of my giant essays...

Today, Wednesday weigh-in: 216.0, fat % 46. I've been essaying up a storm, time to be short and sweet. I'm going to run a local triathlon because I'm still really into this whole "being in training" aspect, but I must eat better. I've been doing that lately. Maybe it's the farmer's market season. I buy these fresh veggies and then I'm really into using them in good food combinations. Yesterday I made this wonderful shrimp artichoke salad form a recipe I found (and kept in my recipe binder) in Health or Shape or Fitness or one of those magazines. It had no farmer's market ingredients in it, but just going to the market puts me in that wholesome food mood.

Can't wait to hear how BlogHer went.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Fat Loss vs Fat Acceptance, Redux

OK, numbers first, as usual. 217.3 -- up 1.5 over the past two weeks. I didn't weigh in because I was on vacation, and I just didn't want to think about it.

I guess it's time for me to chime in on a discussion going on in fat blog land…. And Erin at Minx, Redux, puts it very succintly: "I absolutely do not understand why there must be a size acceptance camp and a weight loss camp and ne'er the twain shall meet."

Quick background on why this seems hot right now: BlogHER, basically a convention of women bloggers, is next weekend in Chicago. (Wish I could be there, but, frankly, I've got one blessed summer weekend with no official plans and I'll de danged if I'm going to spend it cooped up in some hotel conference room. Next year, sistahs.) There's a panel about body issues going on and the fabulously witty wieghtloss/weight issues blogger Wendy Mc Clure is (appropriately) a panelist. Apparently there's a camp of people disgruntled by this, (represented by the comment "What business does a former Weight Watcher have on this panel") because as somebody who apparently "bought into" the whole dieting thing, what could she offer on fat acceptance? Erin's post on the topic covers about 90% of what I have to say on it (the next 10% coming up) so I'll just excerpt (links and emphasis in the excerpt are MINE, not hers):

I think it's stupid, actually, because anyone who approaches this with an ounce of common sense will recognize that the healing process of losing weight, of accomplishing more things with your body than you thought possible at first, of being able to slip on clothes without worrying about what you look like...of those vast improvements in mental health far outweigh and often support the physical benefits of weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. Every single person whose life has been changed through weight loss has talked about the immense sense of freedom they attain while they're going through the motions of working off the fat. They talk about the broken relationshps they've been able to heal, of the new self-confidence, the sense of efficacy...and yes, they gleefully recount the times they've been checked out by someone at the supermarket, or the day that they managed to walk into a non-Fatstore and try on a pair of jeans without tears of shame. And I know the Size Acceptance movement says it should never be about the last part, but it is. It always is, and it always will be. Validation for one's successes, at least in some small measure, will always be an innate human need, and there's nothing that redefining how we're supposed to think about ourselves can do to combat that.

I'll add that that last part -- the validation -- wouldn't be truly effective without some measure, be it a scale, dress size, or ability to hit a milestone/objective, that is, as we say in the IT world, "SMART." (Good ol Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Results-focused, and Timely. Anything else is just the same ol' "When I get a Round TUIT" which means it will never happen. Anyway, she goes on to add:
I also understand that another problem with weight loss blogging as a means of size advocacy is that it's a fairly self-centered activity … When I write what I ate, what I was thinking when I ate, how I'm feeling, etc., I'm not doing it to inspire anyone at the moment. (Although when people say they draw inspiration from my words, it's a phenomenally gratifying feeling). I'm writing here because I don't have a support network in my own real life, and this is the best way I know to reach the widest variety of people going through a similar process. In my writing, I am not changing minds or effecting societal progress...I know this.

In other words, we're looking for, and we've found, community. The fact that so many of us write the similar posts as we hit milestones means we've found it. We have found a common ground in the joy of fitting into the skinny jeans. We find a common ground in our shock that one damn burrito at Chipotle will wipe out your flex points well into 2015. We find common ground in the fact that this topic right here is a hot one, and its getting us thinking. And that in and of itself is "effecting societal progress." Every movement has its proponents that are moderate to radical, and often the radicals are the squeaky wheels who get the grease, and are thus identified with the entire movement. Do all feminists agree with, say, Andrew Dworkin or Catherine McKinnon? (For that matter Susan Faludi or Naomi Wolf?) But at the same time, all make important points which should be discussed, and are good touchpoints for forming your own value and belief system. Anyway, Erin continues:
But as I considered that, I also realized the other question I have for the size acceptance proponents:

If size acceptance is built upon the idea that you should be comfortable in your own skin, regardless of your weight or appearance, then why be political about it?

Because in general, like Erin, I like the concept/spirit of size acceptance advocates. And I understand the anger that often fuels it: whether I'm walking down a street and have somebody lean out of a car and scream "FAT" at me (this happened to McClure, and its happened to a lot of us), or if I'm at a business conference with some blowhard acceptantly tossing off fat hatred, or reading about some nutcase who's calling for the detrhoning of a singing contest winner because she isn't rai-thin. Or even the time I was sitting in a Weight Watchers meeting a few years back and some wiener runs in and screams "FATTIES" and runs out. There is a lot of fat hatred going around out there, and outisde our safe little community it gets vicious and vile. I won't deny that the fat acceptance movement is as necessary and vital as femininsim itself. Erin wraps up her post thusly:

I suppose what I'm trying to say, in a very inefficient manner, is that I like the spirit of the size acceptance activists. I like what they stand for, but I do not like their politics. I'm angry that Wendy McClure was made to feel even a little unwelcome because she had the audacity to look for a tool that would help her feel better about herself. I'm angry that talented writers like Jen are told there must be something psychologically wrong for them to want to reduce their body shape and look better. I'm irritated that just because I want to feel that profound sense of relief when I walk into a store knowing that there WILL be something there to fit me, that I've been branded as superficial, body-conscious, shallow for wanting to look a certain way. If that's the case, then label me as such, but I'm fairly certain that in the last seven months of learning how to eat correctly, to vanquish bad habits, to move past all the hang-ups I have about how I am and what I can do, I've done more for my own self-acceptance through dieting than I ever would by simply throwing my hands up in the air and saying "so what?"

I'll say it again: the sense of achievement I've gotten from success in the weight loss realm has indeed bled into the rest of my life. I've re-ignited my band. I ran a triathlon. I bought a two-piece swimsuit and wore it in public. All of these things are things I said I wouldn't do until I was at least down to a size 12-14 (and I'm not there yet, honeys!). In addition, I helped organize and participate in my first art show of my photography, I stumbled onto a stage alone and sang acoustically, I climbed a challenging alpine tower. I wouldn't have had the confidence to do these things, but because I had the confidence that came with achieving a SMART objective, I did them. And I'm still fat. If anything, I've underscored the lesson that my fat is not a cause of any pain or lack of self-confidence I have -- it's a symptom, because being fat didn’t stop me from doing any of these things.

I think the problem might have a lot to do with as (and I wish I could find the post, because the line in it was perfect and I want to give credit where credit is due) somebody said, "One persons goal is another person's starting point." In other words, we all have our own definition of where we need to be to feel comfortable in our bodies. Frankly, my goal of 160, and perhaps 145 (and maybe I'll feel good at 185, I'll know when I get there, because last time I was 185, I didn't feel perfect but I could wear and do what I wanted and that was good enough for me) still will be considered FAT by the media's standards. And if the fat acceptance movement is about feeling good and being accepted at whatever weight YOU feel good in, count me in! I just saw the fabulous Candye Kane wail the blues a few weeks ago, and while I get the impression she's a little unhappy at 220 or wherever she's at, I also know she's fine with being fat overall, and she'd be happy at 210, and if that's where she's happy, good for her! She's beautiful NOW, she's sexy NOW, and she's comfortable with herself NOW. It's just that right now, I don't feel good for both physical and vanity reasons, at 217.4. I can do most things I want to do, but I can't wear what I want to wear and I can't do everything. And I've also realized my eating habits are bad because I'm not eating fat food to nourish. I'm eating it to relieve stress and to soothe some pain. I'm using food as an anethestic, and mentally and physically, that's not right. I'm using food as a drug and I'm addicted. That much I've figured out. And I'm still trying to figure out more. But here's the thing. Again, my weight is tied to SMART objectives, because it’s the one thing about myself I can be truly objective about: I can MEASURE how many pounds or dress sizes or whatever I've achieved. I can't do that with "happieness" or "stress" (perhaps by measuring blood pressure, but frankly, my BP has always been great.). I need to be able to measure.

But I think that all us us suffer from some level of insecurity, and this whole issue of fat acceptance vs. the dieters (us sellouts!) is a symptom of it. About a year ago, I wrote on this blog my thoughts on "what happens when I DO lose the weight" and it's a topic that surfaces in the fatosphere now and again: when we lose the weight, will we will accept our fat sisters as the beautiful people that they are? (Some ex fatties don't, you know. They become some of the biggest fat haters ever.) And even in this process, I wondered aloud:
In this respect, I think I'll always have empathy for overweight women, but when empathy transitions to sympathy, when does it become patronizing? And how do we keep from being patronizing, beyond the obvious difference between "I remember when I was there, here's what worked for me" as opposed to (and I've seen this in more than a few books/blogs written by former fat women) "I remember when I was such an idiotic fat cow." That's the easy difference, it gets harder when you realize that, after all these years of being victims of a form of elitism, we're sort of joining the elite. Its like I've written before, I love the people in this phat little club of ours, but given the choice, it’s a club whose eligibility I'd rather not qualify for. I'm seeing a lot of us at this point struggling with this: to remain "fat accepting" yet to want to cast off our own fat. Is it elitist to say: "Well, fine for you if you're OK with being fat or not ready -- for whatever reason (god knows it took me a while to be truly ready to do this) to lose it yet, but its not acceptable for me."? It really is the opposite of the Woody Allen paradox: "I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me in it." We are members of this club, and we want out. Is that an insult to the current club members?

I think the fact that I/we want out of this club is being taken as an insult to the current club members. And the more radical among them are turning it around and getting elitist on us, calling those of us who follow the diet plans or track our numbers the joiners, the blind falling for the media expectation. I think what I loved so much about McClure's book was the very thing that some reviewers on Amazon hated: that she was/is this extremely intelligent woman who was conflicted in succumbing to basically the self-brainwashing that is required to succeed at weightloss. (Because if you are going to lose weight in the long term, you really have to change your life, your way of eating, the way you approach food. McClure has found a tool that seems to be working well for her… I'm still looking for mine.) But this concept of behavioral modification is just plain icky to people like me and McClure and many of us, because we've spent our whole lives as intelligent women taking pride in the fact that we are thinkers, that we don't do things blindly, that we don't run with the pack. And now, here's some of the people in the fat acceptance movement, people we thought were our sisters, telling us that we've fallen prey to the great media monster, that we're doing exactly with Big Diet Industry wants us to, that we've covering up our reasons for doing so with the "health" card. No, I admit it, its vanity. I admit it, I do want to lookbetter. I admit it, I'm not comfortable in this skin of mine. But I also agree that we need a movement that will say, as I so enthusiastically say to Candye Kane, "Girlfreiend, you're beautiful. All 220 pounds of you. And don't let anybody tell you you're not." Because Kane is beautiful because she at a place and look where she feels so. And I suspect she won't be insulted when I finally feel great in this body of mine, whether its at 199, 185, 160 or 145, because she's got the confidence in her own heart.

(((whew))). I went a long while on that, eh? But this is complicated, and this self-serving blog exists for us to sort things out, not change the world.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My First Triathlon, by Veronica Rusnak, Age 46

Well, I couldn't decide which blog to document this all in, so I'm splitting it up. Part one of The Triathlon experience is at my non-weightloss blog because it seemed to belong there.

But here's Part II. In the other blog, I documented everything up to the point where I put on the swim cap and got in line for my heat. So here i am.

Overall, I'll tell ya, I really liked the vibe of the Danskin Triathlon. It was upbeat and feminist enough, but not to the point of making me want to vomit. They didn't get in your face about it. It was a woman's athletic competition, but at the same time, it was like we were all helping each other out. And germane to this blog, it was a place where I don't think any woman of any size felt "wrong." Like my friend Jen had told me, we wouldn't (and weren't) the only large women there, all decked out in skin-tight tri suits. I actually wore a black sports bra and boy shorts for the swim, which I was getting psyched up for, standing knee deep in water I didn't expect to be this warm at 7:20 in the morning. And another thing that contributed to this vibe is that we were always referred to as "athletes." As in "only athletes are allowed in the Transition Area" or "This table of food is for Athletes Only." Not "women racers." Not "participants." Athletes. And we were treated as such, and I think that in turn trasnformed many of us (who never used the term to describe ourselves before) into such.

Sally Edwards wades over by us. She's the national spokesperson, and its at this point I learn that she's turning 60 this month. She looks great, a bit weathered seemingly more by having done hundreds of triathlons rather than sheer age. She's a cheerleader for us. Each heat gets an inspirational "word" that we are advised to chant to ourselves. Our heat's word is "phenomenal." (Jen told me that her word for her first tri was "Beautiful" or something like that -- "It wasn't a word having to do with performance, it was an esthetic word like that.") Nonethless, I'm glad my heat's word is truly a word that describes a performance, rather than "beautiful" or "Stunning." Our heat's caps are green. (I wanted purple, but, oh well.)

So I spit in my goggles (to keep them from fogging) put them on, the countdown goes, and we're off. I put the hammer down to start, and probably started off too strong, because it was a pace I couldn't keep up for more than 50 yards, and I'm slowing down already, and have to succumb to doing to breaststroke to get my wind back, while women who took it normal are passing me. Still, the majority of women I'd talked to were just afraid of the swim overall, so I know I'm going to be at least average (which I turned out to be). I find my stride doing a good freestyle crawl, I'm hearing Sally's "I am a phenomenal swimmer" chant in my head, and I'm going. Every wich way. Its a windy, choppy morning, and I'm doing what I learned I tend to do -- I'm veering to the left. About halfway through, I picked a few other green caps to follow, and of course, they're veering left as well. So I decide to try to overcompensate. I probably zig zagged across the entire course. A few green caps are passing me, but I'm also catching up to the yellow caps of the heat before us, and nobody from the heat behind us is catching up to me, thank God. I see the end and realize I truly did overcompensate -- I'm totally to the right of the finish pad and BLAM -- I knock my knee into a canoe that's at the right. Somebody warns me about rocks I'm about to step on, and my knee is killing me, and I have to climb up this sandy hill with my throbbing knee but I manage.

So into Transition, where I remember I'm blind as a bat without my glasses, and I'd neglected to count how many racks over my bike is in. (I'd counted on being able to see the signs!). So its like I'm in a parking lot and can't find my car. I find it, finallly, and congratulate myself for thinking of putting a bottle of water for the purpose of squirting sand off my feet, which I did. Note to self -- my favorite baggy bike shorts are too big, but they were still hard to get on a wet body. Opt for true tri bottoms next year. On with the bike shoes, helmet and road shirt, and off to the Bike Start.

I hop on and start flying. I'm flying past all these other women and I'm wondering, "Wait, am I breaking some sort of etiquette? Am I not supposed to put the hammer down until we get out onto the open streets?" Another woman zooms by and I realize "No. I'm just a strong cyclist." And unlike a lot of the people here, I'm on racing wheels and my tires are new racing slicks, and that makes a monster difference right there. I shift up and I'm off. At first I'm wondering if I'm pushing it too hard, but again, I realize, this is my leg. The bike is my strong suit. I've alrady trained and proven i can hammer the bike and still make the run, so I go. I'm calling out "Passing on your left" so many times I'm starting to feel like a broken record. I keep wondering if I'm going to peter out and these people are going to pass me later, snickering. And then there's the ones who don't move to allow a pass. Duh.

About four other women who are clearly bikers are in a pack with me, and by mile 4 we've formed this little mini-peloton. We alternate passing each other (2 of them are better hill climbers than me, where me and this other woman were better at straightaways than them) but it's like we've found our own little impromptu team. We take turns being the one to holler "Passing on your left --- there's 2/3/4 of us!" and frankly, it's a rush. It's the first time in this race that despite all the talk of "athletes" that I really start to think of myself as such. I'm a bicyclist. And while I'm pounding it up a hill, passing still more women (and cheering them on, telling them hang in there, because I remember those days of grinding up a hill against the wind at the beginning of training), I'm feeling like yeah, maybe I will someday compete in a bicycle race.

It's a ferocious headwind on the homestretch back. I feel like I'm in the Tour de France, hearing all the strangers cheering for me and my fellow cyclists, reading all the chalk graffiti aimed at particular racers along the route, hearing those cowbells going off as we pass, being waved at by local residents, families with "Go Mom!" signs, the local cops both watching us (because it's not like there was a whole lot of traffic to worry about in rural Kenosha, WI at 8 am on a Sunday morning). Finally, I'm still passing people on the stretch to the Bike Finish, I slam on the brakes, dismount, and take it down a notch, running my bike back to the rack, and sucking down my third dose of Clif Orange Cream carbo gel. I get the bike shoes off, adjust my ankle brace, slam on the running shoes, replace my helmet with a headband, squirt water on my head and go.

It's at the Run Start that I'm conscious of the timing chip at my ankle, going beep as I step on the mat and head out to the running course. Damn, that sun is hot at 9 am. It's already something like 85 degrees out. My feet are already hot. I start my chrono timer, because in training I found that it takes me about 10 minutes off the bike and into a run to find my stride.

It's been 10 minutes, and I'm just barely finding my stride, but darn it, my goal was to RUN this whole run, not walk a single step of it. There's plenty of women passing me, just as I passed people on the bike, but at least I'm still running. God, it's hot. It's freaking hot. And finally, after 12 minutes, I hit my stride. I've got a good rhythmic breathing going and I see a sign and what's this? It's only been a mile? Heck, I could swear we were halfway done! OK, keep pushing. We go past a beach house and I see one woman attempt to use the bathroom there and it's locked and I say out loud, "I'm so sure they've locked that!" to laughs around me, and doing so reassured me that I must be at a good level of effort because I can have a conversation, so I'm not overworking. Isn't that the rule of thumb (at least it is in aerobics classes.)? Anyway, there I am. We get to the part where you have to run out and double back, and there's a woman with a garden hose spraying us down, there's people handing out water, and those Jelly Belly Sport beans, which are suddenly the most delicious things in the world, but I'm too spent and concentrating on running to be able to open the package. Another woman sees me and says "Hang in there, do you want some of these beans?" She hands me a few, and they're delicious. Like Quench Gum, they are, they zing in my mouth and give me the jump I need. And there's the water people again, on the doubleback, handing me a cup of water to wash it down. And there's teh sign: 2 miles. One to go.

And a ferocious one it is. A slight uphill, and we're also against the wind. That's when I start chanting that phoenominal word again, a word I can barely spell by now, but trying to spell it is taking my mind off the fact that I'm ready to drop. No, I've come this far, I'm running this whole thing if it kills me. And I see the finish line. A man in the crowd catches my eye and can somehow see, thorough my sunglasses, that I need an encouraging word and he says, specifically, "Hey, Number 799, you're almost there, keep going, you can do it!" and I do. There's the finish line. It's about a football field away. I'm Fucking Brett Favre and there's nobody in my way and I'm going for a touchdown on the first play of the game. My legs feel alternatively like rubber and steel and I'm pushing it and I hear the announcer saying names before me and I step on the first mat that clearly gives my name to the announcer who pronounces it correctly and I hit the second mat and I whip off my headband and start swinging it around and there's my name "here's Veronica Rusnak, great job!" and I hit the third timing mat under the finish line.

And there she is, Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the First and her court, straight from the Renaissance Faire, to give me my medal. As I mouthed off to her at last year's Ren Faire, I curtsey deeply as I recieve my medal, and people hand me water and and and.... I'm done! I did it! I ran the whole run! I swam the whole swim, and I hammered the bike. I did it! I am phonemonal, even if I can't spell it to save my life.

I walk around the general area, and I spot the Crocs Vendor display. They're offering a foot ice bath for athletes, I sign a waiver, and take advantage of that. It's just the thing for me and my plantar fasciatis, and as I'm swishing around my toes in the baggies and the ice, I think aloud, "I will never ever diss this company's butt ugly wonderful shoes again. God bless the maraketing genius at Crocs who came up with this brilliant idea to associate their name with foot comfort."

Jen and Peggy's heats are just getting going, so I've got at least an hour and half before they're done. I finally end up doing what turned out to be brilliant -- I catch the shuttle bus back to Dairyland Greyhound Park to get my car, and since I'm on an early run, I get a great parking place at the outlet mall and catch the shuttle back to the race. (This was brillian, instead of waiting for Jen and Peggy, to do it now, because by the time Jen and Peggy are done, the line for the shuttle bus is about as long as the run itself!) It's on the shuttle bus back that it hits me. I did it. I've always wanted to do this, and I did it. And being fat didn't stop me from doing it. If I waited until I'd lost weight, I might have never gotten around to it.

I'm still looking for Jen and Peggy, and I still hear the amazing announcer, who has been upbeat and wonderful since 6 am, still calling off the names of each woman who passes the line, with the same enthusiasm he did for me, as he did for the first person who crosses the line, as the last person. I reunite with Jen and Peggy and we gush and take pictures, and we ride our bikes to the mall and we're done.

We do lunch, and it off to home sweet home. My mind is a daze. I'm making conversation, but I'm outside my body as I do it.

So I get home, and get my times, which are posted on the other blog (and also with this picture, if you click on it.). I have goals now. I have to do better transitions. I could probably shave a minute or two off the swim by practicing more in open water so I don't zig zag. Next year I'll have a stronger ankle, but I do need to improve the run. But frankly, hammering on the bike didn't affect my run. My run time/pace was pretty much what it is when it's NOT preceded by another sport, so if I felt at all like I might have held back on the bike (which I really didn't), there's no reason to do so. Specifically, I'm in the 88% percentile of cyclists. My goal next year is to hit that top 10%. The bike is my thing, always has been, and this race validated that. I've never really been a runner, (and this race certainly validated that), but I still ran the whole thing. But despite my rookie status, and despite my fat, I learned something.

I'm an athlete.