The Bend

Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.
–from Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

I suspect this is relatively normal, but in the past few days, I’ve started to feel overwhelmed by anxiety. Assuming I go full term, which is never a guarantee, I have less than 14 weeks left in my pregnancy. Some of my anxiety is about what’s left to be done – finding daycare is the big one – some of it’s about thinking I should be doing things more/differently/better, some of it’s about labor and delivery, and some of it’s about what comes after. All of it is fucking with my head.

I’ve been having trouble concentrating at work for the past several days. Pre-pregnancy, when my anxiety started affecting me that severely, I’d pop an Ativan to get me through – maybe once a month, if that. Ativan is contraindicated for pregnancy, though, and while a single 10mg pill probably wouldn’t make a difference or cause a problem, I just can’t do it. So I’m stuck trying to use relaxation techniques and whatever the fuck people did before drugs. And I hate it. So now I’m writing about it in the hopes that it will help.

Daycare here is a nightmare. I started looking at 12 weeks – so, in May for care to start late next February – and it was already too late. We want the baby in the city with us during the day for a lot of reasons, but everywhere has waiting lists that are at least 12 or 18 months long. It’s ridiculous and I know we’re going to have to come up with an alternate plan, but that plan doesn’t exist right now. I seem to be sort of counting on the fact that my life has largely been charmed and things just seem to work themselves out. That is a terrible plan.

One of the ways I’ve been dealing with lower levels of anxiety throughout my pregnancy is by buying books. I have What To Expect, The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy, two books on natural birth, two books on breastfeeding, and The Birth Partner, which David is reading. I feel like learning all I can is the only way to feel in control. We’re also going to take a birthing class, like Lamaze, and three prenatal classes my insurance company offers – one each on labor/delivery, breastfeeding, and infant care. I’m way more informed about things than a lot of moms-to-be that I encounter online, and yet I often feel like there’s still so much I don’t know. Maybe I just need to accept that I can’t learn it all, I don’t know, but for a booksmart nerd like me, that’s really hard.

One of the biggest things is worrying about all the things that can go wrong. This is everything from the ridiculous – How do I know this parking garage isn’t going to collapse and bury me in the rubble? What if my house is built on a sinkhole? – to the actually possible – What if I fall on my belly? What if I end up with severe postpartum depression, and worse, what if no one notices and I hurt the baby? I double and triple check before crossing the street, I won’t eat cold lunchmeat or soft cheeses, I don’t walk under scaffolding if I can help it. Some of that’s reasonable, sure, but my brain is starting to have trouble distinguishing the things that aren’t. Maybe it’s time to check back in with my counselor.

I don’t have a good ending for this post, no tidy way to sum everything up.  I guess I’m just putting it all out there so that it’s out there, out of my head.  Maybe even just doing that will help.  Thanks for listening.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.
– Mark Twain

Wednesday’s Writing Group prompt: What is the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?

I am not going to go into details on this (so maybe I’ve picked the wrong thing for this prompt?). Something happened to me – or, more accurately, someone did something to me – many, many years ago. It fucked me up in a lot of ways for a really long time, and probably still does, to an extent.  But the person responsible is not a monster; I don’t hate this person, and I’m not angry at this person. I forgave this person a long time ago and, honestly, it wasn’t even that hard to do.  I’m responsible for me, and any anger or hurt or resentment I carried over what happened only hurt me, kept me from moving forward, so it had to go. And that was the end of that.

I Got Skillz

If I could have, I certainly would not have chosen this particular form, given the bony ideal of our society.  Mine would have been taller, leggier, skinnier-armed.  But since I wasn’t consulted in the matter, and since I walk around in these curves every day, sleep with them every night and wake up with them again, I’ve had to make peace with them.  Consequently, I’ve come to think my body is quite lovely and womanly.
– Geneen Roth*

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Tell us about a skill (other than writing) that you’re currently working on building in your daily life.

So many.  Mostly, or most importantly, I’m working on my health habits.  This means that I’m trying to make making healthy choices a habit.  This means that I’m tracking my food intake and trying to pay attention to my hunger cues.  This means I’m going to the gym or otherwise exercising more days than not (right now it’s 4, so I’ll take it), even when I really don’t want to.  This means I’m learning to recognize that surge that happens after something stressful that automatically makes me think, “I must eat to fix this thing I don’t want to feel anymore, and don’t give me any of that carrot stick shit.”

This also means that I am exhausted.  And resentful.  And hungry. But I keep trying.

* I’m not there yet, but this kind of acceptance is what I strive for.

I Have Thoughts

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.
– Sherlock Holmes, in A Study in Scarlett, by Arthur Conan Doyle

So, this Jezebel article is making the rounds: Weight Watchers Probably Won’t Help You Lose Tons of Weight, So Maybe Stop Dieting?  The article was prompted by Weight Watchers releasing its latest iteration, Weight Watchers 360, this week.  Most of you know I have been on Weight Watchers for more than 6 years; I got the new plan information in my meeting earlier tonight.

There are a lot of different topics covered in this article; let me say up front that I’m not here to debate the science of weight loss.  I know the statistics, I know all about Health at Every Size (HAES), I read several fat-acceptance blogs.  I don’t dispute that many, if not most, people fail at “diets,” and I certainly believe that weight is not a barometer of health.

Also, I don’t disagree with this, either:

the new plan, dubbed Weight Watchers 360, is pretty much almost exactly the same as the last time I attended — “Members will still continue track their food intake with PointsPlus values — numbers assigned to foods based on the content of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and fat,” — with a few more add-ons to purchase.

In fact, as soon as I remembered it was roll-out week, I wondered how long it would be til my leader showed us the new crap to buy, which is always only marginally different than the previous crap.

My main issue with the article is that it appears to have been written by someone who has not experienced Weight Watchers in several years, at least since the switch to the PointsPlus format (as opposed to the plain old Points format), and that the author appears to violate one of my scientist father’s favorite axioms: Anecdote does not equal data.  That is to say, she presents her own experiences with Weight Watchers as the Weight Watchers experience.

So, here’s my experience:  I joined WW when I was 29, the summer between my second and third years of law school.  I was tired of not feeling like I fit, both in the world metaphorically and in my own skin literally.  I lost exactly 50 pounds in exactly one year; it took me a year-and-a-half to lose the next 24.  During that time, I was following the program closely, though not perfectly or religiously.  I was exercising four to five times a week.  Once I got the hang of the program, I didn’t find it difficult at all, but I had a pretty laid back attitude towards things: I recognized that points are not an exact science and I accepted that, when I couldn’t calculate points precisely, I would just have to do my best to estimate.

The Jezebel author said WW and its focus on points caused her to obsess over food; that’s my default, though (healthy or not), so it didn’t feel any different to me.  If anything, I felt more in control of my eating when I was following the program.  Growing up, my mother didn’t allow junk food in the home, at all, and, far from teaching me to eat a balanced diet, I fairly lusted after the things that were forbidden to me.  When I baby-sat and the parents said, on the way out the door, “Help yourself to any snacks,” I was like starved man at a buffet.  When I had to sell candy bars for fundraisers at school, my poor parents always had to cough up the difference to cover the ones I secretly ate.  Because I constantly felt deprived (despite never actually going hungry), food is, to this day, probably the thing that occupies the largest part of my thoughts.

WW gave me structure, and rules, and a limit – when you’re out of points, stop eating. That seems crazy to some people, my husband included.  But I never learned to listen to my body, to feed it when it was hungry and stop when it was satisfied.  When there were good tasting foods to eat, I ate them in quantity, like I might never have them again.  And implicit in the limit is, if you’re still hungry when you’re out of points, you probably aren’t eating the right things, so make your points count nutritionally.  That’s another thing I think the Jezebel writer gets wrong:

If we really wanted to make a difference in national health — from WW to fat kids — we’d be focusing on health. Weight would not be a factor. Programs like “Weight Watchers” would be “Health Watchers” (or, er, something catchier?) and we’d focus on eating fruits and veggies, moving our bodies, and loving ourselves at whatever weight.

But as long as I’ve been a member, WW has, in fact, focused on eating fruits and vegetables, and exercise (Activity Points, anyone?), and not beating yourself up when you stumble (which is a form of loving yourself no matter your weight).  If the author didn’t get that at her meetings, she was going to the wrong meetings.

Speaking of meetings, this is another place where my experience largely diverges from the author’s.  In 6+ years on WW, I have never gone even a single week without attending a meeting.  I’m not kidding – I’ve attended meetings in at least five different states and in Canada.  I’ve gone when I was on vacation, and even while I was on my honeymoon.  My leaders have never “beaten into” our heads the amount of weight they’ve lost; some of them don’t even mention it unless someone asks.  I’ve never seen young children at WW meetings who are actually on the program (and you have to get special permission under 16, I believe, to even join).  I’ve certainly never seen anyone “shamed” at the scale, as the author contends; every receptionist I’ve ever encountered has been exceedingly discreet.  And while I have seen members “brag” about disordered eating behaviors, I’ve also seen my various leaders explain why those behaviors aren’t healthy and help the member identify the need she’s trying to meet and find other, healthier ways to meet it.  As for this:

There were the women who presented, at least to me, as being socially acceptable weights. I sat next to a few of them, and they shared with me the pain of trying to lose the “last five pounds”. Anyone who’s ever been to a WW meeting will let you know that this person is a common fixture. While perhaps not technically underweight, and you can’t tell anything by looking at a person, I’d find it highly unlikely that these people needed to lose weight for medical reasons.

Well.  First, there’s no rule that only people who need to lose weight for medical reasons can join WW.  Second, WW has a weight range for every height (which I believe also takes age into account); as long as you are 5 or more pounds above the low end of the range for your height, you can join.  Third, what the fuck business is it of yours?  The “last 5 pounds” is just as important to her as your 20-, 30-, 40-, or 100-pound goal is to you.  Is it difficult sometimes, as a much heavier woman, to hear a much thinner woman lament how hard it is, when you feel like you’d kill to be the weight she is?  Yes, undoubtedly.  But you are not her.  You don’t live in her body.  And you sure as shit don’t get to judge her or say, essentially, that she has no right to be in that room.

The author also says that WW and its focus on points drove her to disordered eating behaviors, like “starving” herself before meetings, eating whole packages of WW gummies because they were only one point instead of eating an apple, because that’s 2 points (again, this, too, goes to show her info is outdated; fruit is now points-free on WW).  My experience is the opposite: Never in my life has my eating been less disordered than it was during the first three years I was on WW and carefully following the program.  During that time, I was much less likely to hoard food, sneak food, eat alone because I was ashamed of what I was eating, eat until I felt my stomach was going to explode, binge eat, eat mindlessly, etc, etc, ad nauseum.  My entire eating life prior to WW, and in the last 3.5 years, has been defined by those behaviors (why is another post altogether and beside the point for today).  It was only with the structure and support that WW provided me that I was able to eat like a normal person.  I finally fit.

Now, obviously, I have gained back all of the weight I lost, plus 12 pounds, over the course of the last four years.  That places me among the storied 95% of people who reportedly are unable to sustain their weight loss.  That’s not WW’s fault, though, and to suggest it’s a failure of the program is folly.  WW didn’t stop working for me, the way the author claims it did for her.  I stopped following the program, first in small ways, and later altogether (I never stopped going to meetings, though, because I never wanted weight loss as a goal to fade from view; also my unbroken meeting streak is kind of a freakish point of pride for me).

It started when I began dating my husband and wanted to make him all the foods he loved and join him in enjoying them, and when it was more important to spend time with him than to go to the gym.   Basically, I made the decision at that point that something else was more important, and my lack of diligence caught up with me.  Over the last several years, I’ve made numerous halfhearted attempts at following the program for a few days here and there, but I never put in the same level of effort that I did back in the beginning, and so I never saw any results that would lead me to keep putting in the effort.  It’s a vicious cycle.

But.  I know WW would work for me again if I really committed to it.  I’ve never met anyone who truly followed the program (and not even “religiously,” just mostly) for whom WW did not work.  I’m not saying those people don’t exist; the Jezebel author claims to be one of them.  I’m saying, that’s not my experience and the experience of many of the people I actually know who have done WW.  And I’ve known A LOT of them.

My purpose in writing all of this is not say how WW actually is; it’s merely a counterpoint to the Jezebel article, because I feel that author did try to say how WW is, and I don’t believe that any one person’s experience is universal.  Accordingly, as they say on the internet, your mileage may vary.

P.S. Was I the only one who thought it was awesome that the name of the researcher quoted in the Jezebel  article — an article about weight loss — was Dr. Bacon?

Triathlon Update

Devote today to something so daring even you can’t believe you’re doing it.
– Oprah Winfrey

It’s official: I’m doing a sprint triathlon in September.  I know I talked about it months ago, but the truth is, I only signed up two weeks ago.

I’ve been training, though, eight weeks now.  So far, I’ve stuck to my schedule pretty well (that’s a link to a Google doc – feel free to check up on me!), though until this week I skipped my mid-week run every time.  That shouldn’t happen going forward, since I’m joining Lydia’s accountability team for Wednesday morning runs.

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty scared.  When I signed up, I had to state my 100-yard swim time.  Turns out my best training time so far barely qualifies me.  I thought I was doing great – the first time I swam 300 yards (my sprint tri distance) back in May, it took me 20 minutes because I had to stop and catch my breath at the end of each length of the pool.  A month ago, I did it in 15 minutes flat.  Two weeks ago, I hit 14:48.  I was pretty psyched.  I mean, I knew it wasn’t fast, as far as swimming goes, but it was such an improvement for me.  The 100-yard cutoff, though, is 4:59.  I lied and gave my time as 4:30.  I have 10 weeks to get faster.

Here’s how I’m training:

In the pool, Saturdays are for speed.  I do 300 yards as fast as I can, then tread water for the remaining minutes.  On Tuesdays, after my WW meeting, I walk to the high school to spend 30 minutes in the pool working on endurance.  I do 500 yards usually – 300 freestyle at a comfortable pace, then 200 more, alternating just legs or just arms for 50 yards each.

I bet I could gain speed, or at least shave seconds off my time, if I could learn how to do a flip turn.  I’ve been practicing, but it’s not easy, for a couple of reasons.  Timing is the biggest one – I’m no good at counting my strokes and figuring out when to take the last big breath before starting the flip.  The second one is balance – my hearing loss caused problems in my inner ear, so that spinning or flipping of any kind can leave me dizzy and disoriented.  I figure if I keep practicing (YouTube has a bunch of intructional videos, which were a big help in figuring out the mechanics), I’m bound to get it sooner or later.  (Confidential to kylydia: the noseplug is crucial)  If not, I’ll adopt the touch the wall, turn, and push off super-fast the Olympic breast strokers and butterflyers use.

I’ve started biking to work on Thursdays (occasionally Wednesdays, depending on weather or schedule) and I love it.  I can’t believe I never did it before this summer, and we’re going to be moving soon.  It’s only a little more than 5 miles one-way and takes 30-35 minutes, depending on how much stopping for traffic lights I have to do once I get into D.C.  Before that, it’s all bike trails – I love where I live.  So 60-70 minutes on Thursdays, total, about 10 miles.

On Sundays, I try to do a longer ride, distance-wise, all at once.  Two weeks ago, David challenged me to ride to Mount Vernon; he said it was 24 miles round-trip and not too hilly.  We did 24 miles in May at Bike DC and it wasn’t too bad, so I happily accepted.  Well.  It was 30 miles and ridiculously hilly, particularly on the way there (you may know that Mount Vernon sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac.  I myself forgot this fact.).  By the time we were less than a mile from home, I was just done. I  pulled over and told David to go ahead, that I was not going any further (I was irrational with fatigue and hunger, obviously).  He said he couldn’t leave me behind.  I told him this wasn’t the Marines.  He stayed.  Obviously I made it home – the whole thing took about 3 hours – but what I learned is this: The triathlon will likely take me 2.5 hours (I hope, including transitions); I need to be sure I am adequately fueled the whole time.  I need to look into things I can carry with me and on my bike to keep my energy up.  I also need to pick up the pace – 10mph average isn’t going to cut it.  Luckily, the tri course is reportedly flat, so that will make it a little easier to reach a faster average pace.

On the running front, the bad new is, I’ve skipped every mid-week run but the most recent one.  The good news is, every Saturday run and this past Thursday’s run, I’ve run the entire time, no walking except warm up and cool down.  Thursday, by the end, I realized it wasn’t even that hard – the only reason I wanted to quit is because I find it so freaking boring.  I really think all the cross-training is paying off in endurance.

None of this, however, has translated into any weight loss, mostly because I still am not eating as well as I should be.  Before last week, though, I was on my 6th straight week of tracking everything, which hadn’t happened literally in years, so that’s good.  I’m back on track with tracking again, too, now that our family emergency is behind us.

Another thing I want to do is get stronger.  I really need to add weight training to my schedule.  I always mean to, and then don’t.  So here’s what I think I can do:  Wednesday mornings after my runs, I can just hit the gym in my apartment complex before going back upstairs to get ready for work.  If I leave just a little earlier on Thursday mornings, I can do a session in the gym in my office building, since I have to go down there to shower anyway.  If I split upper body/back and lower body/core, it shouldn’t be a problem doing it two days in a row.

Next, I need to figure out what to wear for the race.  Lydia sent me a link to a site that sells everything I could ever need for a tri, and some of it is probably even in my size.  Choices, choices – tri suit? Shorts and tank? Tri suit and a shirt to go over it for the bike and run?  I don’t know.  Obviously, these suits leave nothing to the imagination – will I be comfortable running in one? (I don’t worry at all about wearing it for the swim – covers more than a swimsuit – or the bike ride – too fast for anyone to notice).  By the end of the race, will I care what I look like?  Maybe, if I want a picture of myself crossing the finish line.  Must think about this.

I’m also considering volunteering at a local triathlon, if I can find one, to see how people handle the swim/bike and bike/run transitions.  I got this idea from Emily at Big Life, Little Blog, and it’s a good one.

My goal in every 5k I’ve ever done has been: “Just don’t come in last.”  I’m 6 for 6.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to accomplish that in September, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  In any event, my goal for this tri is: “Don’t die.  Finish. Try not to come in last.”  That’ll do, pig.