Friday, February 26, 2010

Heavy with regret

I was e-mailing with a dear friend the other day about us possibly getting together soon. I miss her and would love to see her. She only lives about 30 minutes away from me, and yet, it’s been about two years since we’ve seen each other.

I can blame hectic schedules--a perpetual lack of time, perhaps. But the truth is that the only thing that has kept me from getting together with her is shame.

Now it’s not just this particular friend. In fact, when I look back at the opportunities I’ve missed because I’m embarrassed by my weight or ashamed of who I am, I feel more than a little regretful.

I’ve skipped weddings. I’ve avoided family members and dating. I’ve made up excuses and lied to get out of parties and other events.

And let me say something obvious to those who know me—I am an extrovert—a social, talkative being with CAPITAL LETTERS and lots of exclamation points!!!!! But the more I’ve grown outward, the more I’ve also grown inward. I’ve made my life into a tiny bubble, rather than be the bubbly person I’ve always been.

The worst thing is that I know these people, like the friend I was e-mailing, love me. They love me for all the good and all the bad, inside and out. Sometimes, though, when you’re consumed with insecurities, you can talk yourself into believing that people dislike you as much as you do yourself.

I know that’s why it’s so important to learn to love yourself. I also know that’s not an overnight process. I have beat myself up for years and convinced myself I’m not worthy. And to change that takes acceptance and growth that won’t come just with weight loss.

So I’m working on the outside and I’m working on the inside. And the day they both finally reflect my true self is when I believe I’ll find harmonious happiness—CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points!!!!! included.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Losing weight the hard way

When I was in fifth grade, I had to memorize a poem to present to my teacher. I chose “Sick” by the great Shel Silverstein. I can still recite most of it.

“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.”

Little Peggy Ann goes on to list the myriad reasons she must stay home, including a hole in her ear, a hangnail and a temperature of “one-o-eight.” But then, miraculously, her ailments heal in an instant.

“What’s that? What's that you say?
You say today is…Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!”

When I was 10 or so, I thought that was the funniest thing in the world. But you know what’s not funny? Actually being sick.

Last Wednesday, not long after I posted my Diet Coke entry, I started feeling like I was coming down with something. I had chills, my throat hurt and I had a headache. My first thought was “I can’t be sick! I have to go to the gym!”

Who AM I?

Anyway, despite my attempts to hold my illness at bay, I got sicker and sicker. By Thursday I was at the doctor with a five-minute rapid strep test that took only about 30 seconds to render positive.

I had strep throat a lot as a kid, but I don’t remember it ever being this bad. I was knocked out for four days, more miserably sick than I have been in years. So sick that I lost my appetite.

Now, me losing my appetite is kind of the same as me losing my need for oxygen. It just doesn’t happen. But when every swallow felt like 1,672 razor blades scraping my throat, food lost its appeal. A few days with only a banana milkshake from Zesto (yes, I had a milkshake. It was cold on my hurty throat. No judging!) and I had lost 8 lbs.

Normally, I’d be thrilled. But instead, I’m worried. I’m behind on my 5,000 steps a week and fitness class requirements. My energy is still pretty low and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to go back to the gym. I’m also afraid this will throw off the steady weight loss I’ve been experiencing and I’ll have to gain a few to lose a few next time.I’d love to hear your tips for getting back to exercise and eating right after a sickness.

Thank you for indulging my whininess. Trust me, without the banana milkshake it would have been even worse.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I’m giving up

It’s that time of the year again. Lent. Long gone are the days of my Catholic school childhood when I would swear to give up being mean to my little brother or having bad thoughts about the girl who sat next to me in homeroom.

Gone also are the Fridays of fried fish sticks and tuna and egg salad swimming in yummy mayonnaise. Even more painful for me is the loss of my most favorite thing--grilled cheese sandwiches dunked in creamy tomato soup (though I think I might be able to make those work, just in a new way).

This year, I’ve thought long and hard about what to give up. For the past few years, when my eating was out of control, I’ve given up fast food or junk food. I’m already doing that, now. What food vices do I have left?

Just one.

And this is a doozy for me. My beloved Diet Coke. Now, before you say anything, I’m an educated girl. I know that Diet Coke is not good for me. I have read the chain e-mails about pouring Coke on your car battery to break up the corrosion, or using it to take the poison out of a jellyfish sting or cleaning your tile grout with it. I get it. It’s bad for me. Bad, bad, bad. But as I’ve always said, you’ll have to pry the Diet Coke out of my cold, dead hands before I give it up.

It’s not that I drink a ton of it. I usually only have one a day. I don’t drink coffee. But I need that cold, bubbly, artificially sweetened yumminess to start my morning. The rest of the day, it’s strictly H20. I’m lucky that I actually like water.

I thought if I were going to really challenge myself to sacrifice something this Lent, I’d commit to saying goodbye to my dear friend, DC. In my head, I can see the slow-mo montage. DC and me strolling down the beach, hand in can. DC and me sharing the morning paper (Business section for him, Sports section for me), or getting into an impromptu food fight while baking a cake—all while Queen’s “You’re my Best Friend” soars in the background. I'm crying, DC's beautiful can is sweating. Ah, the memories.

So, farewell, my red, white and silver friend. I’ll see you in 40 days. Parting is such aspartame sorrow.

P.S. The comment section is now working. Thank you, IS&T! Oh, and I lost 3.8 lbs. this week. Yay me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lead me not into temptation; I can get there all by myself

First of all, I want to thank all of you who wrote to me, left a comment, called me or said something to me in person about my first entry. Admittedly, I was extremely nervous to put myself out there the way I did, but as I told many of you, your response made it all worthwhile.

Some of you poured your hearts out to me. You shared with me your own triumphs, your struggles and your heartaches. I can’t tell you how much that meant. Please know that we’re in this together. I’m just one girl who happens to be blogging. But my goal is that you think of me as yourself. Just another person who has to fight this battle every day. Some days I succeed and others, I fail. I just want to win the war.

So, look what I got last week:

Can you see it? It’s a tiny little star that says 5 lbs. Yep, I lost my first 5 lbs. I’m happy about it. But I’m also trying not to focus on how many more of those I need. My mind can be a dangerous place. I swear there’s a little evil man in there yelling at me, “Five pounds isn’t enough, Erika. Why don’t you just quit? You’ll never get there. It’s too much. It’s too far.”

I refuse to let him win. So, if you ever see a crazy girl walking around the Park, having a silent argument and punching the air, that’s just me, fighting the little evil man in my head. I think he needs a name, don’t you? Suggestions welcome.

Last week was a pretty good one for me. It was the weekend, though, where I had to fight the hardest. I’m a weekend manager at the Ronald McDonald House near Children’s at Scottish Rite. Once a month, I stay at the Ronald, as I call it, so the House manager can have a break. I’ve been doing this for about four years now and I love it. It gives me a great opportunity to interact with the patients and families of Children’s, which is important because I write about people like them every day.

It also gives me a chance to eat. And eat a LOT. The House is a compulsive overeater’s best dream and worst nightmare. Cookies, cakes, candy, chips, yummy homemade food of every type. Every weekend I work there, I make a pact with myself to avoid the unhealthier foods. It’s a pact I break every weekend.

Here’s a sample of this weekend’s yummy fare. It was extra exciting, because many of our wonderful, kind, well-meaning donors had brought treats for Valentine’s Day.

Hershey's Kisses.

King cake.


More cookies.

Oh look. More cookies.

Heart-shaped pizza from Papa John's, just for Valentine's Day.

And here’s one of the snacks I actually ate.

Hi, I’m an orange. But you can pretend I’m really a piece of cake if it helps.

I’m happy to report that I walked out of the Ronald for the first time ever still feeling good about myself. I brought my own food. I didn’t binge. I even avoided the kitchen unless necessary. And because I’m still working on this “being in the light” thing, when people asked me why I was eating my own Weight Watchers pizza instead of the Papa John’s pizza, I told them honestly that I was trying to change my life.

I did allow myself one Hershey’s Kiss, though. Happy Valentine’s Day to me.

I hope you are all doing well on your own paths. Just remember, day by day, my friends.

P.S. I wanted to let the first entry simmer, but I plan to update at least two or three times a week, so check back often. Also, I know for some of you, the comment section is blocked, but please e-mail me if that’s the case. I try to respond to everyone. Your feedback keeps me going!

Monday, February 8, 2010

An introduction

Most people eat food.

Me? I eat my feelings. It’s kind of how I got to where I am today.

I’ll tell you about that in a second. First, let me tell you why I’m blogging in the first place.

I recently joined the Weight Watchers at Work program that Children’s is combining with their You4Life wellness Program. We participate in the typical Weight Watchers meetings, but have other incentives and accountability tools from You4Life to help us stay on track.

At the open house for the program, the opportunity for one person to blog about her experiences was presented to the group. My heart started beating. Hard. I’m supposed to do this, I thought. But that’s a far cry from who I was just a short while ago.

A few months ago, my teammates went to the wellness fair to get their metrics done in order to qualify for an insurance discount. I, on the other hand, pretended to be too busy to go with them. The real truth is that I wanted to stay in the dark. So much so, that even the prospect of saving money didn’t trump it.

See, I can look in the mirror and know there’s a problem. I can avoid seeing pictures of myself to hide the truth from myself. But the issues are still there. I have finally decided to bring things into the light. I’m Erika and I’m obese. And now I’m working to change that.

How did I get here?

I’ve pretty much struggled with my weight my whole life. I was never a skinny kid. I was one of the tallest in my class until about eighth grade. I just kind of grew before everyone else did, upward and outward.

When I was 12, I went on my first diet. That became a pattern that would continue for years. On a diet. Off a diet. Always thinking about food no matter what. I lost a lot of weight before going off to college at Georgia Southern. But there, instead of gaining the freshman 15, I gained the freshman 50. Apparently chicken fingers, grilled cheese, burgers, beer and 2 a.m. trips through the drive-through will do that. Who knew?

I lost a lot of weight in the late ‘90s. But then my world changed. In 2000, my mother died of melanoma. I was devastated. And to combat that, I ate. I ate a lot. I ate all the time. And I got heavier and heavier. During these past 10 years, while I washed my feelings down with chips and cookies and fast food, I became someone I didn’t even recognize.

So here I am—trying again in earnest, and sharing my journey with you. I hope to be someone you can relate to, whether you struggle with your weight or don’t. I promise to be honest and let you know how things are going. This is for me as much as it is for all of you--because, so far, I’m finding that being in the light isn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

P.S. I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to add your comments in the comment section or send me an e-mail by clicking the “Contact” button. You also can subscribe to the blog and be notified when there is a new entry.