Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.

 

The Year’s End… 

The last weekend of 2015 is upon us and as I reflect back over this past year, it has been one of changes.  It is a good time to reflect and compare the beginning of the year with the end.  Have I grown?  Have I improved?  Have I had fun?   I think yes to all three questions.

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions but I do make a few goals.  Actually I limit them to five to not overwhelm myself.  And as my recent blog post, I took out the one goal that was a thinly disguised weight loss goal.  Well actually I trashed all of them and will need to rewrite them though they are similar each year.

One is to finish my degree program which I should graduate May 7.  One deals with my writing and publishing.  One is for inner peace and not letting things get to me so much.  One is a cycling goal where I strive for a particular number of miles to ride for the year.  Which leaves one goal open since I took out the one goal.  It’s like a bonus taking out the weight loss goal and giving myself the freedom to just be who I am.  So what might my new goal be?  Endless possibilities, right?

After the last almost 10 years of dealing with my mom’s three bouts with cancer, her death and the aftermath of deep grief, the light has returned.  The other day I saw one of those quizzes on FaceBook titled “What Friend Has Your Back?”  I usually do them and not post them too often, just more out of curiosity.  I figured it might be one of my daughters or one of my girlfriends who comment on my posts often and it would calculate it on the number of comments or likes I get from particular friends.  Except the answer stunned me.  My mom’s name came up and considering it’s been two years since she was probably even on FaceBook and she didn’t quite get the whole idea of it, I could only feel it was a divine intervention.

This I took as a sign and felt that it was as if my mom was trying to tell me that no matter what, even death, she was still here for me.  While I still miss her every day, I felt the veil of grief lift so I could feel the warmth of the sunlight on my face once again.  This Christmas was a happy occasion even though it was also her birthday.  We felt her with us, we kept some of our traditions but made new ones.  And for the first time in a very long time, I feel positive and uplifted and well, happy. Because I know that is what my mother would want.  Not me moping around, feeling sad and depressed.

A new year isn’t a magical antidote that fixes your life.  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is in reality, just another day.  Any day of the year can be a new start.  But it does give you a jumping off point to focus on a new goal or goals.   Though, you can set goals any day or take steps to a new project or improve yourself.  Though I think it’s important to love yourself just the way you are.  Losing weight isn’t the magic bullet.  Sure your life may change but it can’t fix a lot of things.  Or starting a new job might not be all it’s cracked up to be.  Examine your motivation.  If you think it will be the fairy dust that will make your dreams come true, you might want to step back and examine what it is you really want.

People jump from relationship to relationship or job to job or move from place to place searching for something elusive.  when the core issue is they just need to love and accept themselves, maybe speak up for themselves more or change their mindset or maybe just stop being a victim of your own choices.  Accepting responsiblity for your life isn’t easy.  Granted you can’t control everything such as a loved one’s death or your own health if a serious illness strikes, but you can choose what you do in the midst of your challenges.  Either you sit around and feel sorry for yourself or you find a way to thrive with whatever options you have available.

I’m excited about this next year.  There isn’t a magical rainbow promise but if I can meet my goals this year, that would make it great.  And if I don’t meet one or two of them, there is always next year or maybe I need to rethink the goal and adjust it.  My gift to myself this year is to accept myself right here and right now.  As well as being more accepting of others too.

Here’s to a wonderful next year of your life.  Many blessings for 2016!

I Give Up (But in a Good Way)…

Many of my earlier posts swirled around my struggle with body issues and image.  I’ve never been a petite girl.  As my husband says, I have good German genes.  Growing up in the late 70’s and all throughout the 1980’s, it was everything to be thin.  Tiny and thin and here I was, large-boned, large framed and for a while taller than every boy in my class almost.  Thank god those guys hit puberty.  Sometimes in middle school I felt like a giant among my peers.  I wasn’t fat growing up, maybe a little chunky from time to time but when the majority of your friends are in single digit sizes, and you are wearing 12, 14 and sometimes 16’s, well you feel much like the names you’d hear whispered or sometimes if they got brave, said to my face.  It seems our job as adolescents is to prepare our peers for getting our butts kicked by real life and grow a thicker skin.

When I graduated high school, I pretty much starved myself my junior and senior year.  And I got down to a size 10.  Not quite single digits but almost.  I literally ate like what I assumed a model would eat.  Pretty much little to nothing.  I was tired a lot, didn’t have a whole lot of energy but at least I wasn’t “fat”.  Looking at photos of me back then, I think I really would love to go back and slap myself for thinking that.  Hindsight though… I got married young to someone who was very emotionally and verbally abusive.  When I got pregnant at 20, I gained 70 lbs with my 8 lb 1/2 oz baby so I really didn’t lose the baby weight after her birth.  Sixty-two of those pounds were pretty much still mine to carry.  I gained 50 lbs with my second child.  I lost some but not very much.  My third child, I worked out and ate better and only gained 30 lbs.  And then came the divorce.  Nothing like a good life changing event to help you lose weight, even if it’s not on purpose.

In my mid 30’s, married for the second time and miserably married to someone even worse than the first husband, I turned to eating for comfort.  My knees started to hurt going up the stairs to the bathroom.  I was out of breath easier.  I felt like shit all the time, in a nutshell.  Since we didn’t own a scale, I finally bought one and stepped on it then immediately started crying when the digital number popped up.  The display read 282.  I was less than 20 pounds shy of 300 pounds.  Well, there was my problem.  Around this time I was also first diagnosed with depression and started treatment.  Everything finally clicked into place and I started taking better care of myself.  Except I still didn’t feel right and finally when I was 40, I was diagnosed by my OB/GYN with hypothyroidism.

Though people believe if you get treated for hypothyroidism the weight comes peeling off but in reality it doesn’t.  The only thing I found is losing weight is even harder than before though my advancing age has a bit to do with that as well.  And the fact I like to eat.  I’ve maintained the same range of weight/size going a bit up or down since I was 38.  Recently I saw were a plus-sized model was angry with Victoria Secret because of what she sees as an unrealistic body image.  I read the article and then looked at the comments which were mostly cruel due to her very large size.  People screaming how unhealthy weight is but weight doesn’t always determine health.

I know thin people with many more health problems than I have but I also try to eat healthy 80% of the time and I exercise doing things such as cycling for 40 miles at a shot, hike, practice yoga and once in a while kickboxing.  My last checkup and blood work there weren’t any issues other than my LDL was not where he’d like it to be but it’s common for those who are hypothyroid.  Being larger doesn’t automatically mean you are unhealthy.  I can’t speak for the plus-size model, she is much larger than I am but I also am not her doctor.  I can’t speak for the thin VS models either.  I just feel like can’t we all just f’ing quit body shaming one another no matter what size we are?  Maybe mind our own business and live our own life?  Be accepting of everyone, no matter size, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and so on.  Can’t we ever just grow up and put our adult pants on and stop acting so cruelly?

Lately, I’ve noticed my clothes are tighter.  We moved in September and I never really got back into my riding schedule and now it’s December in Ohio.  I haven’t been watching what I have been eating either and I think the big change of the move had me emotionally eating without me really noticing that I was doing this.  So I just open up my Livestrong app that I use for food journaling and start doing a check of myself.  I start working out more.  Since I no longer own a scale, I only can go by my clothes.  I’m starting to go back the other way but every time I try to diet or really focus on losing weight or getting smaller, my subconscious rebels.

Each year in December rather than resolutions, I write down 5 goals I want to achieve in the next year.  The first one I wrote down for 2016,  is to lose weight and be more fit.   Then I wrote one for my writing, one for cycling, etc.  As soon as I wrote #1, it bothered me.  It felt like my old New Year resolutions where I would put “I will lose 50 pounds by December”.  I stopped that practice because it always felt like I was a failure when I didn’t meet that weight.  It dawned on me yesterday, that I’ve written a lot about accepting yourself as you are and not worrying about what others think but yet here I was making the same type of goal that I said I would not do.  It was just worded a little different.  I was letting my size bother me.  And in doing so, I was making myself miserable again.

My subconscious fights this thinking by giving me cravings for sweets and junk food I normally don’t have when I am not in this mode of essentially dieting.  I’ve overcome many years of bingeing by following the author Geneen Roth’s advice.  Trusting your body to know what it needs and wants.  The moment I try to control that process, my body and mind rebel.  It says, hey I thought you loved me not hated me, why are you doing this?  So you aren’t perfect, no one is!  I opened my little hard bound book that I wrote Goal #1 in and I tore out the pages, tore them into pieces and then threw them away.  Now I will rewrite my goals and pay attention to what I am asking myself to do.  Maybe I should change #1 to “Love Myself Just as I am”.  Because really that’s what I need to do.   My husband loves me just as I am and thinks I’m beautiful and sexy, he never says you need to lose weight.  My kids and friends love me just as I am.  Shouldn’t I love myself just this way too?

Old habits are sneaky, the reemerge in different ways.  Listen to your inner cues though and follow what feels right in your heart.

Selfies, Not So Silly?

Selfies are a bit of a running joke with anyone who is familiar with social media.  Even grandmas are doing selfies and posting them to their news feed.  They have even created a “selfie stick” to aid in taking photos of ones self especially those of us with tyrannosaurus rex length arms like myself but I have yet to succumb to purchasing a selfie stick.

When I first ventured into selfie territory, I felt quite silly taking pictures of myself.  More on the humorous side, I went for more of the ‘sarcastic selfie’, overdone facial expressions to make it all seem a little less awkward though I looked way more awkward.  I found it easier to take selfies with my girls in them, they seemed more ‘legit’ rather than some overly engrossed middle-age woman trying to be cool.  Being 40’ish, you seem like you are always straddling the line of what seems to be trying to hard and looking ridiculous.

Every day I peruse my Facebook feed reading up on what my friends and family are up to, admiring their pictures, laughing at their humor and feeling sad with their difficult moments.  Selfies fill up a lot of the feed but I never think, wow, they are so vain or stuck on themselves.  I love seeing pictures of people I’ve known most of my life as they smile and look happy.  I always feel like smiling back, noting beauty in each person even though they, like me, are all getting older.  But age doesn’t necessarily mean you become ugly, it just means that beauty changes, evolves.

I have found that taking photos of myself has done a great deal toward making me less photo shy.  Now if someone wants to take my picture, I don’t run away, literally, I would run away, I hated my picture so much.  I can remember once one of my girls, I think my youngest, said, “Momma, you’re never in any of our pictures.”  And then she would stare at me accusingly as if it was a conspiracy.  I never could get much by any of my daughters.  She wanted to know what did I feel was so wrong with me that I didn’t want to be captured in a photograph.  She patted me on the leg and said “But Momma you are pretty.”  As if that solved all my years of body and self-esteem issues.

Maybe some of it is age, the older I get the less I give a rat’s ass about what anyone thinks about me.  At this point you are just grateful you have most of your organs and things work even if they hurt.  I have lost people I love younger than myself to tragedies, accidents and cruel illnesses.  You are a bit more thankful to wake up each morning.  But some of it is just I have forced myself to be less camera shy.  Over the years, it became easier.  Most of my selfies just go into my hard drive and online photo service where I store them as a backup.  Though I own a nice Nikon DSLR camera, I have gotten lazy and take so many of my photos with my iPhone because it’s always available and slowly these phone cameras are becoming almost as advanced as my Nikon.

I have a folder for each year for simply cell phone uploads.  Odds and ends of memories that I capture in my day to day.  Looking at this album, it is almost like a journal, I capture whatever sparks my fancy that day.  Including odd ball items like price tags of floor laminate (so I remember the cost per square or linear foot for when we estimate a job cost), food at restaurants, a flower in a garden somewhere, a random sunset, a strange bug I saw out hiking and many of my girls.  My iPhone photo app now has developed to the point it can detect most though not all of my selfies and puts them into their own folder designation. Literally I have a “Selfies” folder in my iPhone photo app.  I didn’t create it, Apple did but I thought well as times have changed, everyone is taking pictures of themselves.

Am I more self-absorbed because I take these photos as the experts claim we are all becoming?  Not really, I am sure if I was, my husband would probably point out my annoying behavior at some point.  I haven’t crawled into my own world and started ignoring everything and everyone around me.  No, I have simply become much more comfortable in my own skin.  More accepting and less critical of my photos.  Granted I take some selfies and cringe but I can simply delete them.  Take it again.  It is all about camera angle and lighting.

I don’t use filter apps to take away every wrinkle and flaw before I post my pictures or share them.  I’ve run into friends I haven’t seen for years only to not really recognize them because all their social media photos are run through this glam filter that takes away the lines and imperfections making them look twenty years younger.  I wonder if they realize that people are surprised when they see them in person because obviously you can’t walk around with a filter over your face as if it were magic makeup.  Just a random thought.   Now, being more wise to these filter users, when I see someone on my news feed who looks impossibly young for her age, I know, the photo has been probably doctored.

I like real untouched photos, the one that shows how someone truly is.  It is one of the reasons I am not a big makeup wearer.  I’ve seen those makeup tutorials and before/after shots of celebrities and models where you look at the “before” and think well you’re just a regular person like me.  I often thought if I have to put that much makeup on to attract a date, well I just give up.  To each their own of course but I don’t want someone waking up beside me sans my makeup and they freak out because I do not look the same.  Not that it isn’t fun to do dramatic makeup to go out for the night, sometimes I do but mostly my husband looks at me and says something like “You’re wearing a lot of makeup.”  As if I’m trying out for the Bozo convention at the clown college.  He simply is not a fan of me in heavy makeup.  I did grow up in the 80’s though.  We loved all the dramatic look back then.

When I was in my early 20’s, the actress Jenny McCarthy was up and coming.  One day she was on Oprah and I can remember her taking a poster of herself and using a black Sharpie marker, she circled all the areas that had been retouched.  I remember sitting there with my mouth open as this had never occurred to me that these people weren’t perfect after all, they were just manipulated to look perfect.  All those years of sighing over Seventeen magazine or entertainment magazines feeling ugly and imperfect was for nothing.  Certainly there are people with much better genes than I possess but they aren’t these goddesses that they are made out to be.  Throw in my family’s obsession with being thin and yes, I had eating disorders and self-image problems.

Now when I look back of photos of myself in my teens or early 20’s, I want to go back and slap myself.  I want to tell my younger self, “Hey girl, you look good, wear that leather miniskirt and heels.  Own it. ”  Which in turn makes me wonder what my 60-something self would want to tell me now.  I think my older self might just want to tell me to relax and enjoy life.  You don’t always have to be achieving something even though it feels like you wasted your life sometimes, you haven’t.  I need a time capsule.  Or a note I open in 20 years.   Well, I have this blog, maybe that would work as a reminder.

And I will have a whole bunch of selfies to remember how good I looked in my forties…  My daughters won’t have to scramble for photos of me when they are older, I’ve created my own gallery.   Even ones with absolutely no makeup as the one I am attaching to this post with my cat.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of myself and I have no makeup on, my hair is barely combed but I think it truly captures me at this time in my life.   I have been through a lot but I still find simple joys in life like my cat cuddling with me.

Oh and I’m asking for a selfie stick for Christmas….

Surprise! I’m Naked… Well Kinda….

The other week, I had been getting over a randy case of stomach flu.  I was worn out and tired to say the least from my many hours spent in our lovely downstairs master bathroom.  I really like my bathroom, with it’s cheery yellow walls, bright windows and nickel-toned accents. There is an even a piece of art from one of my favorite artists that one can ponder upon from the throne.  However, I really don’t think it warrants a whole day in there but my body thought otherwise.  Strangely enough, on Monday, as I recouped, I felt better than I have in months.  Odd, I thought.  More on that later.

So being drained and tired, the next day I basically went through the motions.  I went to work, did some shopping and all the things I normally seem to do.  Since I was feeling better, I was a little more chipper, chatted a bit more with my co-workers/friends as I went through the hall.  I was in and out of the bathroom, washing my hands without really paying attention to my reflection other than to make sure my pants were zipped as I knew I was struggling to get through the day.  The last thing I want is to be is wandering the halls with my barn door wide open.

Later that night, I was going through my nightly routine where I brush my teeth, remove my makeup and slather on the face cream that’s supposed to keep me from looking like an old bat too soon when I realized there was no makeup to remove.  I had completely forgotten to put it on that morning.  No matter what, even the gym usually and even riding my bike for hours on end, I prescribe to what I call my Basic 3.  Foundation powder, eyeliner (only the top lid when exercising) and waterproof black mascara (making sure I curl the top lashes for the ultimate ‘pop’).  My eyes are my favorite attribute as I’ve gotten more compliments and comments on them, well other than my boobs when they sprouted in sixth grade, than any other part of my body.  But here I was staring at my naked face.  Not even a stitch of foundation to cover the broken blood vessels in my cheeks compliments of my German heritage which I had burned out seven years ago and they just reappear.

I had been reading a book by Jennifer Farr Davis title Becoming Odyssa which is an autobiography chronically her first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) when she was twenty-one.  While I enjoyed the details of her mostly solo-hike, it was her musings about being out in a place with no mirrors for weeks at a time.  That when she met people, she was stinky and dirty, with no makeup or even a shower most times.  People had to like her based on her personality rather than her appearance.  I thought about that for a few moments as I studied my face.  I decided that I would do the same thing the next day, go naked.  No makeup at all.

Well, not knowing I didn’t have makeup on was a lot different than being aware that I had none on.  When I didn’t know that I had forgotten the war paint, I was oblivious so I behaved in the same way and people behaved their same way back.  No one stopped and screamed in horror, “Oh my god, you have no eyeliner on today!” just before they turned and fled the building in disgust.  However, on the day I knew I didn’t have makeup on, I walked around feeling like I left my pants at home.  Self-conscious, uncomfortable and even though I know that no one else cared but me, I had to admit that makeup was a bit of a security blanket that makes me feel pretty.

Reflecting on the day in bed that night, I decided my idea to go an entire week without makeup was going to drive me batty so I decided to resume my normal makeup routine.  I don’t NEED makeup and I don’t wear much makeup but I like makeup.  To me, it is like accessorizing (which I do little of anyway) but my eyes do not have the same impact when I don’t wear makeup.  It’s like art for my face.  And it makes me feel a bit more confident.  Pretty.  It’s an enhancement not a way to hide from the world.

In closing, I believe I have a healthy relationship with makeup and so what if I wear pink sparkly lip gloss to the gym?  It keeps my lips moisturized and soft so I’m not thinking about god damn it my lips are chapped while I’m trying to workout.  Priorities right?