Sigh, I was up slightly this week, but only .2 pounds, which is pretty much staying the same. Still a bit depressing as I am monitoring daily and stayed within my calorie goals. Bodies are complicated, however, so although what we do matters, the results are not always predictable or measurable. It is the overall journey that is important. At least that is what I keep telling myself.
It is also like the work for justice. Progress is made, and then the forces of greed and hatred raise their ugly heads. We have to keep trying to bend the arc.
I am still adjusting to the new group. There were lots of new-to-me folks last night, and a lot of good tips from those that have been doing this longer. The free flowing conversation is a bit disconcerting, with some people talking a lot and others saying nothing. I’ll get used to it, but I found myself being quiet, not my usual mode of being.
Another new revelation for me was that we are actually supposed to continue reporting our activities (tracking calories and exercise) to our facilitator each week. There are prizes involved! I will catch up on it, but I was completely clueless about the reporting requirements. Our new exercise goal is 420 minutes per week, more than I have been doing lately. Winter is harder because I can’t swim. I could cheat and count my steps around the house, but no, there is no real point in faking it. Maybe I will try 2 spins on the bike some days. I can’t seem to manage more that 30 minutes at a sitting on the bike because, frankly, my rear end gets numb after 20 minutes or so.
This is a marathon, not a 50 yard dash. Staying steady, and on pace, one step and one day at a time, is how to do it I think. This is for the long haul. Damn, I wish it was all easier. I am going to a rally this afternoon for immigrant rights. It is something that would have been a huge physical challenge for me a few months ago. Change is possible, on all fronts. This I believe.
(My stats for the last week – up .2 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 260 minutes. My cumulative weight loss so far is 66.4 pounds.)
Unitarian Universalism is an embodied faith; our theology proclaims that all our bodies are sacred and beautiful, and that our physical selves matter. Our faith is demanding; we are called to stretch ourselves and to be transformed.
For much of my life, I have lived in my head and my heart, and my body was mostly a vehicle for getting things done. It was also a source of pleasure. Among other physical pleasures, I have enjoyed bubble baths, soft kittens, and delicious food. I spent time caring for my mind by studying, reading, and learning. I also tended to my heart and soul, through prayer and by opening the pathways of empathy and compassion, even when it was difficult. Despite my theology about the importance of the body, however, I mostly simply used it, ignoring what it might need to stay healthy.
I gained weight slowly over the years, and in some ways relished being fat. In my large female body, I felt like I projected a safe presence, and the hugs I gave congregants seemed to be received as nurturing rather than sexual or threatening. I did always ask before hugging someone new, however; prior trauma can be so easily triggered by touch. I was largely happy with my “earth-mother” image of myself. I did not enjoy squeezing myself into airplane seats, or enduring the indignities and judgements that society places upon fat people, but I loved myself and my body, just as it was. My dear wife also loved me, no matter what size I was.
But I forgot that my body needed my care and attention, and that just as my heart, brain, and spirit needed exercise to stay healthy, so did my body. I forgot that this faith demands a wholeness of mind, spirit, and body. I forgot these words of the 16th century Unitarian, Michael Servetus:
“It is necessary to care for the body if we wish the spirit to function normally.”
Last year, I got a wake-up call, a revelation if you will. My health had begun to deteriorate, so much so that I had to leave a ministry earlier than planned. Most of my health issues were made worse by the amount of weight I was carrying. I knew this was true this time, despite the years of doctors implying that my weight was the cause of what were completely unrelated problems. I realized that if I was going to have a decent quality of life ever again, if I was going to be able to continue to work for justice, I needed to lose some serious weight. Exercise wasn’t going to be enough; my body and I needed both physical and spiritual rehabilitation if we were going to survive.
I had never seriously dieted before and was very suspicious of the diet industry. To me, it symbolized both capitalism and misogyny, the policing and sexualizing of women’s bodies for profit and control. One can be healthy at any size; I still believe that, but it wasn’t true for me, at least not any more.
I signed up for a medically supervised weight loss program through my health plan. It isn’t easy, and has required intense concentration and focus, but the weight is coming off. It is hard, but it is what I need. I am learning to tend my body in the same sorts of careful and attentive ways that I have always cared for my heart, my mind, and my soul and spirit. My body is so much more than a vehicle; it is my home. I have no regrets about my past habits, but it was time for me to go home. I needed a revelation to really understand that our minds, bodies, and souls are deeply interwoven, and that only when they work together can we live to our full potential. Sometimes we need revelations – sometimes we need two, or three, or twenty-three. I am so glad that revelation is not sealed!
Thanksgiving Day was also the 30th birthday of our twins (the 2 sitting in chairs.) And of course we had two cakes, neither of which I even tasted. I actually left the room while everyone ate cake – part of why I had a successful Thanksgiving. Weirdly enough for a holiday week, I lost 4.6 pounds, one of my highest weekly losses ever, which totally made up for the 2.2 pounds I gained the week before. Since the dinner was just us, our 3 children, their partners, and Anne’s nephew Tom (who took this picture) I did not have to be shy about compulsively staying within my calorie budget. I ate really lightly earlier in the day, weighed the turkey I ate and simply brought measuring cups and tablespoons to the table. I had enough left in my budget to have 4 ounces of turkey, 3 tablespoons of gravy, 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup of stuffing, 3/4 cup of roasted brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup of green bean casserole, 1/4 cups of roasted sweet potatoes, and a 1/2 cup of salad. The servings were small, but it was a feast! It came in at 566 calories. (A Big Mac w/out fries is 563). It was more than I had eaten at one sitting in a long time and I felt more than satisfied. Losing a good amount of weight the same week was just more “icing on that cake”- the one I did not eat!
I also realized this week that I am really grieving the strong bonds we had in class with the facilitator we had. It was 30 weeks of intensive work together. Now we are thrown into a group with both a new facilitator and a bunch of strangers who have been in the program longer. I like the new facilitator and am enjoying the stories and wisdom of the veterans, but it is still a loss. Losing my “fat lady’ identity is also a loss. Every change in life involves a loss. Change, even “good’ change, is always hard, but it is what life always is, if you are going to keep living it anyway. It will take time to build up trust in the new group, but I am confident that it will happen. I am going to work on helping it happen if I can. It reminds me some of congregational work. Everyone wants to hang out with their friends, and visitors can be ignored. If we care about what we are doing, in church, or in a program that depends on mutual support, we all need to do what we can the build and strengthen community, inviting the stranger, the new-comer in. I truly believe that diversity of all types is a blessing. We can learn so much from those who have different life experiences. It helps to have at least something in common, however, whether it is a commitment to losing weight or to creating a more just and peaceful world.
I am grateful for so much on this week after Thanksgiving. Most especially the rain, which extinguished the fires and cleaned the air.
(My stats for the last week – down 4.8 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 210 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 66.6 pounds.)
This week I had what was only my second weekly weight gain that I have had since starting the program, but I know why. I love mystery in general, but not when it comes to improving my health. Three things contributed to my gain: take out Thai food, shrimp tacos with sweet potato fries, and not exercising at all because of the terrible air quality. I enjoyed the food, so maybe that was almost worth it, but the bad air had no positives to it. With so many losing homes and loved ones in the devastating fires, it feels a little bad to whine about the smoky air, but breath is live, and when we can not breathe, it feels like we are dying.
I do not want to die. At least not too soon. I have more to do, not the least of which is trying to improve our environment so that our planet might continue to sustain life.
I WILL get on the stationary bike this week, and will meet the Thanksgiving dinner challenge with resolve. I had a melt down yesterday, faced with the sight of the dinner rolls my wife had purchased for the meal. After some tears and conversation, she froze the rolls and agreed to skip the mashed potatoes. She is so wonderfully supportive and understood that the stuffing and gravy would be enough of a challenge for me. I can avoid dessert easily. I have never really liked pumpkin pie anyway. We are also having roasted brussels sprouts and I am roasting the sweet potatoes rather than coating them with butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows. The kids are bring a salad and a healthier green bean casserole. My plan is to measure out a small serving of dressing, a tablespoon or two of cranberry sauce, and a couple of dollops of gravy. Turkey is a really good protein, low fat and low calorie, so I will have a healthy serving of that. After that I will stick to the veggies. I will likely go a bit over my calorie budget today, but that is OK. Today is a day to feel thankful and not deprived. I am grateful for my improving health and I have a strong desire not to sabotage my progress. Wish me luck and grace!
(My stats for the last week – up 2.2 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for <30 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 61.8 pounds.)
Last night was our first meeting with the new Lifestyles group. The lifestyles group is composed of people who have finished the 30 week intensive. We can attend the weekly meetings as long as we want and some people have been attending for way more than a year. It was good to hear from those who are further along on the journey. Us new kids composed about half of those in attendance last night. It was both good and hard being with my peeps in a different environment. The bonds between us are so strong that it will take awhile for us to blend and join with the others that have been there longer. I liked the new facilitator and am hopeful she can help us accomplish a melding together so we can become one ongoing supportive group. I did miss the intimacy and trust we have had in our smaller group and I hope that can both continue and expand.
This week has been impossible for exercise because of all the smoke from the horrible fires up north. The air is classified as “unhealthy” for everyone, and I am in the “sensitive” group so have been coughing even when indoors with the air purifier running full blast. My heart goes out to those who have lost homes and family in the fires. We really do need to get a handle on climate change before the West goes up in flames and the East and South are completely devastated by monster hurricanes and floods.
I also had my RMR (resting metabolic rate) test this week and found that my body burns 1555 calories a day when I am doing absolutely nothing. As a result, I am going to increase my calorie intake to 1350, which should still keep me on the weight loss path without going too low. Even with virtually no exercise, I still lost 1.2 pounds last week.
Sadly, too, we closed the pool for the winter, so the stationary bike will have to do once the smoke clears.
I also got some new pants last week. They were both on sale and fit! I am holding off on buying more as I hope to shrink out of the new ones before too long.
(My stats for the last week – 1.2 down pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 30 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 64 pounds.)
They shared the “before and after” pictures with us last night.
I am not done, but you can really see the difference. What you can’t see is how much better I feel.
Our last meeting last night was simply hilarious, as well as moving. We’d written a song for our facilitator, whose name is Joanna, and we gave her a gift after we sang it. To the tune of Oh Susanna:
“Oh, Joanna, oh don’t you cry for us. We’re off upstairs to lifestyles, our new group for to meet. A protein bar is in our mouth, a tear is in our eye, we’ll stay your cohort two seven, Joanna don’t you cry.”
She was totally blown away not the least by the fact that she had also written us a song TO EXACTLY THE SAME TUNE! Serendipity? Traveling along on the same wavelength for 30 weeks? A miracle?
Her song was amazing, with a verse about each person in the class, which I must say, nailed us each quite precisely.
The chorus was “Twenty Seven, Our cohort lost the fat. Smart skills, waters, logging cals, We’ve got the skills done pat.”
My favorite was the last one, “xx kept us very in the know on making habits stick, when faced with hard decisions, for God’s sake don’t be a dick.” It was one of his more famous lines during check it. We were all practically on the floor laughing.
I loved my verse too:
“Our group was helmed by Theresa, Reverend mom to all, her sage advice was cherished, she throws veggies at the wall.” The veggies at the wall line also referred to a check in story, but the less said about that one the better.
The group then overwhelmed me with some gifts. Two Tee shirts, in two sizes, one that I will need to shirk myself a bit more to fit into. 100% compliant because I was the only one who did not “cheat” the entire time. Except last week when I had that martini, but they didn’t know that when they ordered the shirts. A swimming trophy for my exercise, and egg cookers because I’d complained about peeling hard boiled eggs.
Hugs and tears all around last night. I blurred the faces in our group pic for privacy as not everyone has been as blatently public about being in the program as I have.
I am so happy that most of the group will stay together in the Lifestyles class. As we said last night, we need each other to keep on keeping on and really change our lives for good.
Tomorrow I am scheduled for a test that will tell me what my resting metabolic rate is. RMR is the amount of calories a body burns when it isn’t doing anything. It will help me know how many calories I should have each day to keep on losing the rest of my weight that needs to go. No exercise today and no food or coffee tomorrow morning before the test. I am looking forward to it.
(My stats for the last week – 1.8 down pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 260 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 62.8 pounds.)
Sunset. It is almost sunset for our group – at least as it has been configured for the last 28 weeks. Actually 29 weeks. I started counting weeks on this blog from the week we started meal replacements, not the week we started in the group. So next week will be the end of the 30 week “intensive phase” of the program. We will start in “lifestyles” which will be more weekly meetings that we can continue attending as long as we want. Forever might be good. It might take that long to really get committed to healthier eating in the long haul. I still have quite a bit of weight to lose, so it will be more than just “maintaining” for me. 61 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, however, and I am proud of myself.
Endings are almost always bittersweet. It does feel good to have finished something, but we will be leaving our awesome facilitator behind. I hope the new one has a good sense of humor too. She will need it; we are pretty rowdy. A few people in our group will be going to other lifestyles groups, ones closer to their homes or on nights that will be easier for them. I will miss them fiercly as well. Most of us will stay together though, a very good thing. I love our group!
It was a small group last night, only 8 of us plus our facilitator. A few people were traveling and others were spending Halloween with their kids. Quite a few of us wore costumes, which was fun. The topic was alcohol use, especially around the upcoming holidays. I haven’t had a drink since April when I started the program, and my intention is to wait until I get to my maintenance weight before having even one of my beloved martinis.
Alcohol involves more risks to weight loss than the obvious ones of calories and lowered inhibitions. I learned last night that it is important to eat some protein before drinking, because otherwise the body digests the alcohol as a priority and anything else will go directly to fat production. Who knew? My friend Brian must have been onto something with his blue cheese stuffed olives. I could maybe try a pepperoni stick as a garnish. Just kidding, but the protein idea was a good tip.
The holidays are coming, and I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner again this year. It will be a smaller one, just the kids and their partners, but I am going to try some healthier side dishes this year. Turkey is an awesome low fat protein if you don’t drown it in gravy.
I am still losing a pound or so each week – which shocks me in some ways. I am also not feeling hungry, except right before meal time. Having 3 small snacks in addition to 3 somewhat larger meals, seems to be working.
It has been another hard week in the world and I don’t have the emotional energy right now to write about all the horror this week. I wrote this poem earlier after attending a vigil. But please vote and please vote for Democrats. Lives are at stake, so many lives, so many precious lives.
(My stats for the last week – 1.7 down pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 390 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 61 pounds.)
Halloween is coming and our kids came over to carve pumpkins last weekend. They all live in apartments, so they left the jack-o-lanterns for us and our neighbors to enjoy. It was the first time carving pumpkins for both of our sons’ girlfriends, as neither one was raised in the U.S. They had fun – and it was fun seeing the fun they had. This is what sharing different cultures should be like – fun. Where did we learn the fear that so many display toward immigrants? It has always been here I know, but I hate it.
Last night, before class, a few of us got into a conversation about choice and abortion. A class member said he protested outside the Planned Parenthood offices every month, because he did not believe in abortion. I told him that I had friends who served as escorts at other clinics where the demonstrators were aggressive and sometimes violent. I mentioned the shootings at the clinic in Colorado, and the doctor (George Tiller) who was murdered while attending church. My friend said his group wasn’t violent and I said good, and I asked him if he was also against the death penalty. What I did not say, and would have said if I had thought quickly enough, is that is safe abortions are not available, women and girls will die, because they will take whatever desperate steps they think are necessary, with quacks, coat hangers and poison. I am old enough to remember what it was like before Roe vs Wade. I don’t want to return to those days. Life is more important. Comprehensive sexuality education and free and easy access to birth control are the solutions if you want to reduce abortions. Abortions rates (and teen pregnancies) are proven to decline in places where those are available. The conversation was a cultural exchange, not as fun as the Halloween pumpkin carving, but not violent or hostile either. On a day when public figures and news organizations were the target of terrorist bombs, it was refreshing to just talk and exchange opinions respectfully.
Words matter. Our class topic included the negative self talk that is part of struggling to lose weight. It is hard to stay positive, to lift up hope in such scary times, but I do believe it is the only way we will survive.
The scale surprised me this week because I had a small weight loss despite the fact that I was prepared for a gain. It seems like I did fine at the retreat and at the dinner out we had with the kids. (Thai food works, or at least Chicken Ka Prow worked). I also signed up to have the test that will measure my resting metabolism rate. (RMR – the calories a body burns just existing.) Knowing this number, which is different for everyone, should help me calculate more precisely how many calories I should consume in order to continue to lose weight without kicking my metabolism into starvation mode. I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple of weeks after I get the test done. I will need to do the test later as well, because the RMR number goes down as weight goes down. More facts, more data. I can’t get enough of either. Oh and more love, more hope, more courage; I can always use those too. Be well.
(My stats for the last week – down 1.7 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 240 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 59.3 pounds.)
I missed class this week because I was attending a gathering of UU Ministers at a local retreat center. What a joy and a challenge it was! It is always a joy to gather with beloved friends and colleagues – those I have known for years and others that I just met this week. The program was excellent and included a lot of prayerful singing – singing is something I don’t do well, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it. I particularly enjoyed some of the conversations I had with the newer ministers and seminarians. They hold the hope for the future, not only for our faith, but for the world.
No one understands a minister better than another minister. While resting in the embrace of that mutual understanding, there were also challenges. We are human and part of the larger culture and are not unaffected by the wider systems of power and privilege that bring such harm to those who are trying to survive on the margins. I had to do my “Jeremiah” thing during a discussion of white supremacy where I witnessed a few “micro-aggressions.” It is so important to at least name those when they happen.
I am also realizing that I am completely out of patience with the “hurt feelings” of those who feel victimized when someone names the harm they have caused to others. No one expects perfection. If you blow it, when you make a mistake (and you will), apologize, and then SHUT THE F___ up and move on. No one you have harmed wants to hear about how guilty you feel about it or how your intentions were pure. Process those emotions with others who have similar identities to yours if you need to do so, but don’t redirect the attention of a larger group to your emotional distress. Don’t make it about you. This is work, very hard work indeed, that really needs to be done, again for our faith and for the world. The blessing I felt is that everyone there at least wants to do the work, even we bumble and stumble along that journey toward justice making and beloved community where all are truly welcomed in the fullness of who they are.
The other challenge, for me at least, was the food. (This is my weight management blog after all.) The retreat center served very healthy, and mainly organic, food, so it was much easier than it might have been. It was also super tasty. I stressed some though, as I was not able to weigh or measure anything and I had to guess at the calories. The lunches were vegetarian, so protein was harder to find and manage with no lean meat available. It was also hard to pass by the awesome desserts and say to no to the social hour wine. I stayed strong on those last two, however, and next week’s weigh-in will tell me how well I did on estimating calories. This was my Tuesday night dinner plate:
Baked chicken with pesto sauce, roasted cauliflower, and a smidgeon of salad. The salads were all pre-dressed, so I was careful with them. My guess was around 340 calories.
I am also thinking about taking the test in the next few weeks that will tell me about my metabolism – how many calories I burn just breathing. Knowing that number will help me calculate with more precision just how many calories I should be eating each day. It is not good to go too low because too few calories can slow your metabolism permanently and make long term weight loss more difficult. Too many calories, and you don’t lose any weight. The program includes one free metabolism test, and subsequent ones cost $50. The recommendation is to wait and do the test when your weight loss slows, but I want to do it before then. If it turns out I need another one later, I can just pay for it. Given the investment I am making already – in money, time, and attention, I am not going to quibble over an extra 50 bucks if it will help.
There are maybe a couple of weeks left of swim season, before we need to close the pool for the winter. I hope to catch up on my exercise goals this week.
(My stats for the last week – down ? pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 240 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 57.6 pounds.)
Now that I have fully transitioned back onto real food, I am going to recycle this gross shaker. It is not like I didn’t rinse it after each use and wash it with soap, but the residue from the shakes simply did not come out. When I used the dishwater, the gunk got baked on.
It makes me wonder what the inside of my stomach looks like. Kind of creepy, but the program worked, so I am not complaining. I have lost a significant amount of weight and am primed to continue losing until I reach a weight that works for me and keeps me healthier. The Kaiser recommendation is to continue to use 3 products a day for the rest of my life. I have decided to ignore that. Once I finish my last 3 shakes I am done. The shakes are too gross to me at this point and the bars, while handy in a pinch, don’t seem necessary for every day. Costco also sells protein bars for half the cost of the Optimist products. Eating every 3 hours or so makes sense to keep hunger at bay, but I think I can do that eating somewhat more natural food. (Are low-fat mozzarella cheese sticks real food? They are a handy protein though. Hummus, fruit, all of those type of choices can work just fine.) I certainly don’t want to discourage others who might make different choices about the products, but this is what feels right to me.
This week I have been pondering how my body feels. It is smaller. I have more muscle and less fat. I am stronger. My skin even feels smoother. My ankles are no longer swollen and the lipodermatosclerosis in my legs is way less painful. I can open the solar pool cover all by myself, something that wasn’t possible 2 months ago. I will need to buy some new clothes soon as most of my old ones are way too big. I actually feel thin. I am not thin, however, and anyone else, looking at me, would still see me as fat. But I FEEL thin. When I last worked for the federal government, there was a lot of talk about reinventing it. We also talked about “right-sizing” rather than “down-sizing.” I never understood the differences as we went through round after round of hiring freezes which caused service declines, but the term of “right-sizing” makes some sense in my current situation. I want to get to a size and a weight that feels healthy. If I feel good, I don’t really give a damn what other people think. I am too old and have been through too much in my life to start worrying about other people’s opinions now. We talked about goals this week in class. We got the always important reminder that we are the most important person in our lives and that we need to continuing prioritizing our own well-being if we want to be able to help others. My motivation remains that of improving my health.
I took a class in seminary where we were assigned the task of doing a theological reflection about a core life issue. We got extra points for tying the reflection to a scripture from a religious tradition of our choice. Working on that assignment, I realized that the story of the prophet Jeremiah really spoke to me. He was one of the dudes who kept speaking truth to power, calling the wealthy to help the poor, etc. They kept throwing him down a well, but he never shut up. Speaking the truth is important, even if those in power don’t listen and don’t care. Even in the bottom of a well, you can create ripples that can change things several millennia down the road. The walls of the wells that confine us will eventually crumble. Speak your truth. Never give up. Rock on Jeremiah. Rock on Anita Hill. Rock on Christine Blasey Ford.
(My stats for the last week – down 4.3 pounds, drank over 7 gallons of water and exercised for 330 minutes. My total weight loss so far is 57.6 pounds.)