Category Archives: weightlessness

chronicles of the journey to get back in shape

Again seeking weightlessness. This time I really mean it.


I hope you haven’t noticed that it’s been nigh on two years since I proclaimed that I was in search of weightlessness. What have I been doing since then? Uh, gaining more weight, of course.

I had a lot of false starts, but somewhere along the line I noticed that I never quite found the time to make a new way of living and being a habit. Yes, it’s true, I have a lot going on in my life and this almost always ended up on that back burner I never quite got to at far corner of the stove. So I hoped having several weeks in a row off from work in my sabbatical would give me the opportunity to make changes and keep doing them long enough to reset my life.

I’m happy to report I have made progress, at long last. Here are the four things I’ve done so far (and plan to keep doing):

1. Get a coach.

A dear friend once told me he found it interesting that elite athletes already at the top of their game rely on coaches to keep them going forward, but the rest of us don’t really think about doing that…and we probably need it way more than the top jocks do.

Finding such a person to help you lose weight and get back in shape can be really intimidating, because you are so vulnerable. One snarky comment or not quite disguised eye roll could set us back for months. I was afraid such a person would take one look at me and say, “Uh, sorry, you are way too far gone for my program.”

This is a case where relying on a referral from a friend who has been there too is really useful. A friend from work gave me Lea‘s phone number and I worked up the courage to call her. My first attempts to meet with her were hijacked by other realities in my  life, but I have to give myself credit here for not giving up when I faced those all too frequent stresses that can easily derail progress in my life.

I met with her, she assured me I was not a hopeless case after all, she designed an exercise program for me that is both gradual enough for me to achieve it but challenging enough to kick my butt. And she was kind about it. After the second session, I began to feel stronger and more in control of my destiny.

I had actually been afraid to try a lot of things since my encounter with herniated disks and pinched nerves that robbed me of the use of my left hand and arm and knocked me on my butt in summer 2009. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do them, and I would rather not know I had lost that ability. So I just kept putting off trying them.

Working with Lea, I am discovering I am stronger than I thought. My physical confidence has grown markedly, I have way more energy to do other things and I’ve only had five sessions with her so far. Two days ago, she introduced me to the elliptical machine. My conclusion? #hehateme

I will be going twice a week for the next several weeks and am really excited about the prospect. Even though my ass is totally dragging after enduring a 60 minute whipping from her. It’s a good hurt! 🙂

One down, more to go.

2. Identify a daily cardio program I can keep up even when it’s pouring rain. And do it.

Years ago, I loved to run. I mean LOVED to run. I am nowhere near running shape, so I’ve been walking. The weather has been so nice in Portland over the past few weeks (until yesterday!), but I know the rains are coming, if they have not already settled in for another long visit. I am not so much thrilled about walking in the rain. I need to do something indoors when it’s that wet out.

It has to be something nearly logistic- and equipment-free. I am so easily derailed by things taking too much work before you can even start. I need something than can fit fairly seamlessly into my day every day. I don’t have to drive anywhere, change clothes, get a bunch of tools, etc.

So what else do I love to do? Dance. I LOVE to dance. You know, the kind without rules, you can do whatever you want and just move your body to the music. So this is what I’ve come up with for the wetter months, that I can do even at work. I’m making a specific playlist of music I love to dance to and during lunch hour I’m going to find a secret dark hideaway corner no one in the office is using and dance like nobody’s watching (which, hopefully, they won’t be). But I really don’t care if I look like a dork. This is my life at stake here. I need to do this.

I may only get through a few songs at this point, but I’ll work up to keeping at it for 45 minutes. Then an hour.

Check this one off the list!

3. Figure out if I’m the kind of person who can join a gym, and if I am, find a gym I’m compatible with.

OMG, I cannot even fathom going to one of those gyms where the pretty people go to watch themselves in the mirror and try out their pickup lines. Just. can. not.

It’s also more than hard for a former farm girl to get her head around having to go to a special place and do programmed movements to get exercise, because a big part of me thinks that’s pretty darned funny because your daily life should include working hard enough to break a sweat. I remember being so struck by a particular passage in Nicholas Gage’s book about his mother’s life, Eleni. The Greek villagers would bring out their chairs to sit and watch the British soldiers run up and down the hill above the village to get exercise, which provided no end of merriment for the villagers watching them scamper up and down for no apparent reason.

Inside, I’m kinda one of those villagers. Intellectually, I know I need to get over this because I have become the fat villager who is about to break her chair and better get off her butt and join the army scrambling up the hill.

But I digress.

I went looking for a gym that seemed short on narcissism and long on forgiveness. And that had other people shaped like me. And did not seem to be part of the self indulgent superficial youth-obsessed sex-sells part of our culture. A gym that was more a part of the let-it-all-hang-out anything goes different-strokes-for-different-folks part of our culture. In other words, a very Portlandia gym.

I actually found it. Get this: there is a Green MicroGym near my home where the cardio machines are somehow hooked up to the grid and generate electricity for the gym. (Hmm, maybe that explains why the lighting was so tastefully low when I took the tour :-)) The manager was oh-so-nice and assured me I would not break the machines when I sat on them and that it’s not a gym where the oil-slicked animal-grunting body builders flock but it attracts regular inner southeast Portland kind of people. Like me.

And get this! You don’t have to sign a contract!!! Can you believe it? A gym that doesn’t feel like a pyramid scheme scam. Wow! How could I resist???

I calculated that I probably won’t be ready to use the machines until November and can keep working with Lea and doing stuff outside until then, so November 1 is my start date.

But another mission accomplished!! Check.

4. No More Garbage In, Garbage Out

A funny thing happened when I started working out with Lea. It hurt so much and was so hard, I wasn’t about to sabotage any however small forward progress by eating too much high caloric food. You know, the kind I love so much.

So I’ve been keeping a log of my food intake. And, of course, when you actually note it down, you notice more. Like when your danger periods are so you can make a plan to overcome them. (Mine are in the evening, apparently I need to be handcuffed around 7 pm every day.)

Another local person on the weight loss fitness journey is an uber geek, and he generously shared a list of FREE apps he is using to document his progress. I’ve downloaded Lose It!, RunKeeper (not just for running) and Daytum and begun to use them. They are so darned handy, doing things like calculating how many calories in the food you just ate, how many you have left to consume that day given your weight loss goals, how many calories you’ve burned, etc. These tools make it so much easier to figure out what is really going on.

I feel I am really BEGINNING to get a handle on the eating too much thing. Emphasis on the beginning part, naturally. But even beginning makes me feel more in control of my destiny. And stronger. And that I can do this.

Yes, I think I’ll check this one off too!

More to come!




In search of weightlessness


I’m about to take a very big step onto a limb that probably won’t hold me. Yes indeed. I’m going to finally face a big truth in my life. That would be my weight. Maybe the hardest thing of all for me to talk about. I have a lot of shame attached to this one…

What’s really weird is that when I was a child, I was so ashamed of being too skinny. Or “poor” as Granny used to call it. “Marie,” she would say, “you don’t eat enough to keep a bird alive. You’re too poor.”

By far the strongest memory I have from grade school is the humiliation and down-to-the-marrow shame I felt on weigh-in day at school. I doubt very many people where and when I grew up had scales at home. I certainly never saw one in any house in the vicinity of Star Route, Milo, Oregon back then.  In fact, most health screening children got when I was growing up happened at school.

Twice a year, at the beginning and the end of each school year, the scales (the kind you stand on and move the weight along the bar until it balances in the middle of the space on the right) was brought into the classroom and one by one, we went up, took off our shoes, and stepped on the platform. The teacher would adjust the bar and call out the number, write it down in a chart, and call out the next student’s name.

The afternoon of the day of the second weigh-in during first grade, as I passed my teacher and the second grade teacher in the hall, my teacher said to the other: “Marie is the only student in first grade that didn’t gain a bit of weight the whole school year. She weighed 46 pounds at the beginning of the year, and 46 pounds today.” She shook her head, and said to me, “You’re going to have to put on some weight or you’ll blow away.”

I can still feel my face burning with shame. Hearing that and feeling that changed who I am, I believe.

In second grade, when the scales were wheeled into the room, I could hardly breathe. Every time a name was called and got one student closer to my desk in my row, my panic went up another notch. By the time my name was called, I felt about to faint.

The strangest part of this memory is that, even at age 7, I was remarkably aware that I needed to not let my anxiety show, that I was alone in this experience, and I could not admit it or share it with anyone. I needed to keep my shame to myself.

Where on earth do children learn this by this tender age??  Well, maybe that’s another blog post.

I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was when she called out the number 49. Yes!! I had put on weight!!! I didn’t need to feel shame anymore that day!! I was ecstatic! For a while.

I continued to be skin and bones through high school. I started gaining weight after leaving home for college, but then only finally reached what would be considered appropriate for my height. I started filling out more in my late 20s, then packed on quite a few pounds when I was pregnant. I was 30 when Blaine was born, and finally got back in shape over the next few years, when I ran nearly seven miles nearly every day.  I loved running so much, it was my meditation and salvation during some really stressful times.  I never fully recovered my running form after a stress fracture in my right foot put me into one of those wooden bootie things for a couple of months.

In fact, I’ve never really achieved regular demanding exercise for a sustained period of more than a few months for the past 20 years.  I also have an addictive fondness for chocolate (among other calorie laden food items). And it shows. I now weigh significantly more than I did when I was pregnant. More than I’ve ever weighed in my life. Twice my weight in high school.

You notice I am not naming a number? I tried. No can do. The shame, I am still drowning in it. I can only say it is way too high.

And I need to fix it. I remember visiting my Aunt Cora not long before she died, after her leg had been amputated because of diabetes. (Everybody called it “sugar diabetes” where I grew up. Haven’t heard that phrase in so many years.)  I could be her.

I don’t want to be. I want 2010 to be the year I face this and fix it. I don’t really have a plan at this point, but I’m going to make one. My coworkers are in this with me; each of us in our department faces our health issues and we have resolved to tackle this together.

I will track my plan and progress here in coming months. Please help me. I need your support. Have you faced this and fixed it for good? What worked? What advice do you have?

I have a feeling I need to go after the shame as well as the pounds. I guess you could say I’m seeking weightlessness in more ways than one.