Um, So Like, When Is She Going to Drop the Weight?

I created this site two weeks ago, titled it Liz Drops the Weight, and . . . have yet to lose a single pound. I haven’t even been trying. But the time is nigh!

Last night, after I decided to give the therapy a go (one individual and one group session per week, and my checkbook is screaming bloody murder by the way), I mused on the fact that I’m really ultra super tired of being fat. Nothing new there. But I’m ready to take action. John expressed concern because he knows change of any kind is often tough on me, and here I just committed to starting some pretty intensive counseling. Am I up to adding another big change to my life simultaneously?

It was a very good question, the kind of thoughtful point I’ve grown to appreciate from John. At the same time, I feel like the counseling and weight-loss could go hand in hand very nicely. And I don’t want to go through yet another Texas summer obese! Unless you’ve spent months upon end fat and living in 100-degree heat, you don’t know what that’s like. It’s revolting, exhausting, and dispiriting.

I’ll be hitting up Weight Watchers (not for the first time) on Sunday afternoon to get the ball rolling. I can do this. Also, my secret dream? To be one of those Success Stories on their website. I’m putting that out there even though I feel a bit sheepish admitting it. But as the manga story the other day taught us, sharing your dreams puts you one step closer to your goals!

Special Halloween bonus: The scariest music video ever, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Watch out for: a haunted boarding school; Bonnie Tyler’s hair; terrifying schoolboys with demonically glowing eyes—seriously (evidently this is what she means by  “turn around bright eyes”?); choreographed ninja dancing at 1:20; various homoerotic scenes involving the boarding-school boys dressed alternately as fencers, tumblers, swimmers, wrestlers, and football players. Plot twist at the end! Apparently Bonnie Tyler is a total cougar and is actually one of the professors at the school?? Most terrifying moment: A tie between the incidents at 3:34 and 5:11. You just have to see this for yourself to believe it.

Healing the Mind, Handling the Weight

"A Contented Skull"

Chiho Aoshima: "A Contented Skull"

The reason I’m re-entering therapy this evening actually has only a little to do with my intent to lose weight. At the very least I can honestly say that my weight is only one part of the larger motivation to try once again to heal my thought patterns and emotions.

I won’t be rehashing my past woes on this blog, but I think it’s important to be up-front about the fact that I have dealt with recurring major depression since my late teens. I don’t blame my obesity on the mood disorder, but I do see the destructively tight-knit relationship they developed over the years as being very problematic to my well-being. To be blunt, I don’t think I can achieve and maintain a healthy, stable weight unless I get a handle upon these darkest parts of my mind and emotions. I don’t think I can maintain a healthy relationship unless I find some peace in this aspect of my existence. I don’t think I can achieve much of anything unless I put some work into finding a different way to approach sadness and setbacks.

I have seen a psychiatrist regularly for years. Let’s just say I became resigned to popping the pills, and I don’t have immediate plans to go off of them. That being said, I knew in my heart that it’s true what they say: The best hope for recovery lies in combining the medications with some form of counseling that addresses what’s going on upstairs. Still, I have procrastinated. I felt deeply cynical about my chances for a life not ruled by these unexpected deep chasms that open up at my feet without warning. I tried halfheartedly with a psychologist last winter, but it just wasn’t on. Before you could blink, I was a therapy drop-out. Again.

I don’t zealously subscribe to any particular religion, but I do believe in synchronicity. This is, after all, what has led me to where I am today: Mentally preparing to try again. It started when I came across a letter on Slate.com from a woman pleading desperately for help in escaping her painful self-loathing. I read the advice columns on Slate and Salon regularly, and the most outlandish scenarios hardly make me blink anymore. But her letter (the first one on the page) brought tears to my ears because some of her words could have been written by me. I got prickles of instinct (or maybe it was just cold in the office that day) and decided to pursue the options Prudence suggested to the advice-seeker.

Which is how I ended up making an appointment for this evening with a Dialectical Behavior Therapy counselor. It’s a mouthful, right? It’s also a style of counseling I hadn’t heard of before in all of my attempts to excorcise the demons, and it didn’t sound too bizarre (i.e., no magic crystals or talking about my aura). And the people it seems to help sound quite a bit like me in some aspects.

Tried and true cognitive behavioral techniques play a part in DBT, but it differs from this well-known (and often very helpful) therapeutic model by including an additional focus on mindfulness, which is the idea of entering a Being state of mind rather than a Doing state of mind. “Being” involves being aware of the present moment while simultaneously suspending any judgments of it. However, most of us live almost entirely in a “Doing” state of mind. And that works very well for solving external problems, because your mind is constantly busily comparing where you are to where you want to be, and finding similar situations in your past that have come up and analyzing how they might offer strategies that would be useful in achieving your current goal (whether it’s driving to the grocery store or building a house).

The Doing state of mind often fails miserably—and actually increases your misery—when applied to internal problems, however. Let’s say you’re simply feeling a bit melancholy one evening. The Doing mind will start doing what it does best: calling up past situations that are similar and incessantly comparing where you are to where you want to be . . . but in this case it’s just hammering home painful memories and your perceived shortcomings, all the while reinforcing a powerful negative circuitry that connects your mind, emotions, body, and behavior. Before you know, you are in the grips of an all-encompassing despair and you don’t even know what happened. I have been there. MANY times. I’ve started reading The Mindful Way Through Depression recently, and it discusses this phenomenon and how to seek out mindfulness as part of the healing process.

At any rate, giving a new style of therapy a try is something I owe to myself. Maybe I haven’t had great success in the past with either counseling or weight-loss, but that’s no reason to give up on myself. I mean, I could live for decades. And decades. Why live them chronically miserable and fat? Hopefully you aren’t giving up on yourself, either. Let’s do this thing, shall we?

Manga (hint: it’s not a fruit)

About five years ago I started reading manga. That’s right, those little “comics” from Asia that have taken over several aisles in your local Borders at this point. They come in series for the most part, but they’re bound like little paperback books.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to introduce: Useful Weight-Loss Lessons from Manga.

Those dots on Age-chan's face are supposed to be zits, FYI.

Today’s manga wisdom comes from Papillon, Volume 1. It’s the story of the “ugly” older twin, Ageha, who has always resignedly hung out in her vivacious twin Hana’s shadow. When Hana goes after Ageha’s crush, however, all bets are off and Age-chan starts to evolve with the help of her (admittedly pervy—par for the course in manga) school guidance counselor. A few tips on going for the goal:

1. Your attitude affects your behavior. The, um, “unconventional” high-school guidance counselor grabs a picture of Ageha and her crush that she’s been keeping in her date book and doodles things like “We’re in a relationship” on it. Not much different from creating a visualization board/vision collage or reciting a mantra as part of your weight-loss efforts, right?

Manga text reads right to left

FYI: Manga text reads right to left


2. No need to be shy about it. Telling others about your fitness goals is how you find a network of support.
In what seems like a disastrous turn for Ageha, the photo of her and dreamboy with the doodles on it is discovered by a classmate and passed around her entire homeroom. Even her crush sees it . . . Gah! I’m so glad I’m not in high school anymore. Naturally Age-chan freaks out and when she runs into her guidance counselor, she’s miserable and furious at him for doodling on the photo in the first place. Now everyone knows her secret! His response takes her off guard:

The counselor sees the bright side of Ageha's secret being out.

A bright side to the secret being out?

How to find supporters. . . .

How to find supporters. . . .

So . . . those are just few little pearls of manga advice for you today. Yes, I’m a geek, but at least I’m open-minded. I takes my inspiration wherever I can find it!

Soundbite of the Day

“Counting calories is so 1980s.”

Soooooo 80s.

Soooooo 80s.

This one comes from a tap dancer in a Broadway musical. In a recent New York Times article, however, she goes on to admit, “But when it’s right there, it’s kind of hard to ignore.” She’s referring to the recent policy of listing calorie counts on menus in New York.

They say that everything comes back around. Like when flared pants came back for that brief period in the 90s. And, more recently, those mod mini-dresses. So why not calorie-counting? If Atkins could make a comeback, why not the unglamorous yet persistent calorie? Indeed.

Soon they’ll be renaming it the nouveau calorie-based weight-loss plan. Shortened to NCBWLP, naturally, because acronyms sound authoritative. Someone go buy that web domain, STAT! Let’s make lots of money.

Everything old is new again. Except my lime-green raver pants from 1996. I suspect they may never be poised for a comeback.

Winds of Change

And yes, if you grew up to the sound of 80s and early 90s Hair Bands, you are whistling that Scorpions tune right now. (Queue: Diabolical laughter)

Guess what? I’m back from Boston! It’s a beautiful, walkable town, a city on a smaller scale (sort of the way Austin is in Texas). This is what fall looks like in New England, for my fellow southerners:

Yellow leaves against a blue sky.

Yellow leaves against a blue sky.

The leaves are turning in Boston.

The leaves are turning in Boston.

The city streets there are beautiful, often cobblestoned, and I could picture how Boston might have looked well over a 100 years ago, something which isn’t easy to do in many American cities (not only because many of them aren’t that old in the first place!).

A street in Boston.

A street in Boston.

And last but not least, to prove that I was actually there, here’s a photo of me with the Charles River flowing by in the background:

Me in Boston, October 2008.

Me in Boston, October 2008.

I will also be using this photo as one of my Before photos. . . . because as Kelly mentioned in a post on her blog earlier this month, Before photos don’t have to be the dour standing-in-front-of-a-wall-looking-morose shots that they often are. This is me in the real world at my current (and heaviest) weight of around 200 lbs. I’ll be dropping the excess weight in the real world, after all, so it makes sense to incorporate this kind of photo into my chronicles online.

The breath of true autumn I experienced this weekend reminded me that this is the season I relate to most strongly. Beautiful but bittersweet, motivating, impatient, mercurial, it tugs at my heart and propels me forward with an aching hope that real change absolutely can be effected.

Boston

I’m on my way out the door to the airport for a long weekend in Boston! Hope everyone has a great weekend and gets to enjoy a bit of nice fall weather. I’m looking forward to a small dose of New England autumn :).

Top 7 Ways to Lose Weight

#7: Haircut. It doesn’t matter if you’re bald. You’ve got some hair on you somewhere.

#6: Refuse to wear shoes and shy away from clothing when at all possible. Everyone does it at at Weight Watchers weigh-ins. They swear it takes off 5 lbs immediately, and you’ll get used to the nudity eventually.

#5: Get a job in NYC working as a criminally underpaid editorial assistant living in Manhattan in a shoebox walk-up apartment on the sixth floor of an crumbling yet overpriced Lower East Side former tenement building. Up and down you go, dearie. No elevators in this hipster squalor, no sir! That would be so . . . inauthentic.

#4: Amputation. The human head weighs 8 lbs, or at least that large-craniumed Jerry MacGuire kid’s head did.

#3: Tuberculosis, aka “consumption.” The only thing being consumed will be your body—from within as it’s ravaged by a glorious wasting disease. Hurrah!

#2: Pay a $8,000 dollars or so to be starved for a month at an adult fat “retreat” alongside the likes of Russian mobsters’ daughters and rich divorcees as well as an obese Native American chieftain who just happens to part-own all the Hard Rock Hotels in Florida. Go home with a calorie deficit AND a budget deficit!

#1: Call your local meth dealer and arrange for a rendezvous. A few grams should keep you speedy and svelte . . . until the inevitable comedown, at which point you will have bigger fish to fry. Like pawning your grandpa’s antique rifle to get some more crank.