As of today, I’ve lost 5.6 pounds.
This number might not seem like a big deal to most, but it’s huuuuge for me right now. Two weeks ago, I finally decided to say fuck-all to conflicting nutrition recommendations and strict diets. I’ve said it a million times before, but I never did it. I felt safer hiding behind low calorie diets or diets that severely restricted certain foods. I kept on binge eating. I kept gaining weight. I’ve wasted so much time worrying that I’m not following “the perfect diet for PCOS” or “the perfect diet for insulin resistance” or whatever that I’ve used it as an excuse to not make any changes- or make changes that I either knew wouldn’t be good for me, or wouldn’t be permanent. I’d say “I don’t want a diet, I want a lifestyle change” but then I’d try to find the next super restrictive diet I could hide behind. It’s an exhaustive & overwhelming world out there, especially when you have a history of disordered eating.
I hate wasting leftover vegetable odds & ends, but it happens more than I’d like to admit. So today I decided to salvage some leftover coleslaw mix & aging celery and put them to good use. I found a chicken chow mein recipe from Cooking Classy & decided to adapt it based on my tastes/what I had on hand. I also wanted to make a vegetarian version, since I’ve honestly scrapped the whole keto diet trial so I can focus on more vegetarian recipes. Big switch, right?
I’ve gone back & forth for ages over whether I should go with a keto diet or a vegetarian diet. They’re not entirely mutually exclusive, but a vegetarian diet does make the whole keto thing a lot more difficult. I just don’t think keto/LCHF is for me, really. I don’t feel great when I’m eating a lot of fat. Plus, I freaking love beans & whole grains & starchier veg & fruit. And I don’t feel comfortable with such a high/frequent consumption of animal protein. Not that I give two flying flips if anyone else does it, because I strongly believe you’ve gotta do what’s right for you. I would ethically looove to be a vegetarian (or a vegan), but…beef. I can leave behind almost every other meat out there, but I have a lifelong love affair with beef.
So I’m trying to just calm down about the whole damn thing. Eat more vegetarian meals. Focus on lowering my refined carb intake. Explore other protein sources. Maybe I’ll finally become a vegetarian one day, who knows. I’m even considering trying another month without meat. We did this last year (still shocked that D agreed to join me!) and I made it two weeks before I caved in and had a burger. But “Meat-free May” has a nice ring to it & it’s a good time for fresh produce, so we’ll see. If I do, you better believe this lo mein will be on the menu.
MAKESHIFT VEGETARIAN LO MEIN
Adapted from: HTTP://WWW.COOKINGCLASSY.COM/2015/03/CHICKEN-CHOW-MEIN/
For the noodles
8oz of thin whole-wheat spaghetti noodles (I just made a 16oz box & saved the rest for something else)
1 heaping cup thinly-sliced celery (used 3 large stalks)
4 1/2 cups shredded coleslaw mix
1 1/2 cups frozen chopped onion (you could use fresh onions, but I’m #lazy)
8oz bag of frozen shelled edamame, heated in microwave according to directions
1 heaping tsp jarred minced garlic (again, use fresh if you care that much)
olive oil, to coat the pan
sesame seeds, optional
For the Sauce
5 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
- Mix sauce ingredients & set aside.
- Cook spaghetti according to directions & set that aside, too.
- Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions & celery and cook until softened & somewhat translucent.
- Add coleslaw mix & heat until it’s slightly wilted, but still crunchy. (Unless you like it softer, then keep on cookin’.)
- Add garlic and heat for roughly one minute.
- Add edamame, spaghetti, & sauce. Toss to coat & serve.
Meal planning is simultaneously one of my most favorite & least favorite things to do, depending on the state of our budget (& kitchen!) and how ambitious I’m feeling that week. But once it’s done, I always feel relieved. Always. And I usually eat much better on weeks where I have a meal plan, because it eliminates those “oh crap, we have nothing for dinner so let’s just get takeout” nights. Or the takeout nights are factored in to the meal plan, because this is Real Life and I will always need someone else to cook some cheese enchiladas for me from time to time. Either way, they make my culinary & domestic life much easier and seem to help with my health as well. So really, all they do is win-win-win (#nomatterwhat).
But I haven’t done any proper meal planning since the holidays. Yeah, “the holidays” circa 2015. THE SHAME, THE HORROR. And because of that, I know we’ve eaten more fast food than two people ever should, bought more random pieces of processed crap than we’d like to remember, spent way more money than necessary on food, and neglected some mighty fine pantry staples in the process. Yep, I have not been on my meal planning game at ALL this year and I’m finally coming around to the regret that brings. Some people can make healthy choices on the fly, but I need to be annoyingly methodical about making sure I’m eating well.
One thing that REALLY helps me out is creating a spreadsheet for my weekly meal plan. I know, I know – most people hate Excel & I totally understand why. I am the last person on earth who wants to use it in a professional setting, but for some reason, I love using it to keep track of random personal crap. I’m not super skilled with it, but I usually know enough to get by (or sometimes, get myself in trouble).
So, I decided to create my own meal planning template. It looks a little something like this:
I have a different spreadsheet for each week of the month saved in the workbook, so I can do bulk planning (rare) or plan week-by-week (much more likely to happen). But it’s nice to have the entire month laid out so I can note upcoming special events in the “Important Info” section – birthday parties, date nights, etc. – so when that day comes, I won’t plan to cook chicken curry when we’re already having pizza & birthday cake.
Each day is set to a default of 1400 calories, but of course you can & should change this to whatever works for you. I’ve set it up so that the calorie inputs for every meal are deducted from the daily total calories (obvs.), but that’s completely optional if you’re not a calorie counter. I’ve just found it’s handy to be able to input rough estimates for each meal & watch the calorie totals update accordingly. I rarely fill in all of the calories for every meal of the week, but putting in estimates for the major meals (usually dinner) & getting the remaining calories for each day helps me fill in the gaps. It also helps me shift my calories around to accommodate bigger (/better) meals on the horizon.
There’s no special section for it on the spreadsheet, but once my weekly plan is finalized & stuck on the refrigerator, I tend to use the cell just below the daily remaining calorie total to plan my grocery list for the week. I’ll type up any ingredients I need for the recipes for that day, along with any household products we may be running out of, and then I’ll compile the daily lists into one weekly grocery list. I’m rarely fortunate enough to get away with just one grocery trip each week (primarily due to the nature of fresh produce), but having a master list for the week helps me keep an eye on sales & plan when my second (or third, ugh) trips should be.
It all sounds complicated, and it can be a little time-consuming depending on what & how much you cook each week, but the heart of it is really simple: pay attention to what you eat. Try to plan for the good days as well as the “cheat” days. Even at the height of my meal planning mania, I rarely stuck to my plan 100% of the time. Some people would call that a failure, but hey, it’s life. There are also other people who would undoubtedly find my method too convoluted for them, and that’s fine, too. Find whatever works for you and what helps you make healthier choices.
If anyone is interested in using my meal planning template, I’ve included a link to download it below. It’s already filled out for the month of April, but you can always update the dates (and header!) for whatever month you’re in. It should already be formatted to print correctly (landscape; fit to 1×1 page), but if you have any problems, please let me know! Lord knows I’m no Excel expert.
I plan on sharing some of my favorite meal planning tips soon, so stay tuned!
Click to Download: Meal Planning Template – April 2016
I know there’s nothing the internet loves more than an unapologetic fat woman discussing her menses, so let’s roll!
For real though, as mentioned in almost every blog post so far (or at least in every other conversation I’ve had this week), periods are a bitch. A big ol’ raging bitch who wants to punch you in your lady bits and your back and your legs and hey, maybe your stomach, too. Want some nausea? Or maybe some diarrhea? Hell, let’s throw in a headache for good measure. Okay, now let’s do one last check to make sure your innards feel like something is furiously gnawing on them. OH AND I ALMOST FORGOT, YOU’RE REALLY BLOATED LOL. Good luck finding any clothes that fit this week, not that you’ll need them thanks to that hot bath you’ll keep retreating to. It won’t really do much, but that’s how every “remedy” seems to work during this magical time. Advil & Midol might as well be placebo pills. Heating pads are the equivalent of someone gently patting you and saying “there, there.” Nice gesture, but wholly ineffective.
And then there’s the blood. OH, THE BLOOD. I feel like referencing Carrie is so overdone, but still applicable. You’re either waking up multiple times a night to go to the bathroom & empty a few buckets of blood, or you’re sleeping through the night & then doing this really charming penguin waddle as you race to the toilet in the morning. Spoiler alert? You rarely get there in time. If you slept all night without taking care of business, you will most likely have an accident. Hope you weren’t wearing cute panties! (But WHY WOULD YOU BE WEARING CUTE PANTIES?!) I keep a special selection of, erm, “tie-dyed” granny panties just for this time of the month. They are hideous. They will get more hideous over time. My crotch will never know the freaking difference.
As mentioned before, these god-awful periods are why I’ve taken birth control pretty consistently for the past decade. Human beings are typically expected to be functional, but Stephanie on Her Period is capable of very little other than bleeding and cramping and trying not to feel like death. I’m obviously being a little hyperbolic, but uhh, not much. Ask those who’ve had the pleasure of being around me during that special time when I’m not on the pill. I get pale. I get weak. I get terribly freaking sick. It’s the pits. THE PITS, dude.
So anyways, birth control. Suppresses ovulation, you get a nice little pseudo period, no more cramps, no more heavy bleeding. Bada bing, bada boom, you’re good to go. Right?
Uh, nah. In my last post, I said:
There are times when I feel a little more…uneven than usual, but so far, no major problems. Sometimes I do feel like I have to choose between my mental and physical health with birth control which isn’t fair, but it’s also not necessarily the truth. So far, I’ve been treating one aspect of my PCOS – painful periods. But what if I made a concerted effort to treat my PCOS in its entirety instead of just one symptom of it?
Let’s start with the first part. I have felt like I’m torn between mental or physical health, and especially so in recent weeks. It’s weird – I do great on most forms of birth control for a few months, but then I start to realize The Change. Sometimes it’s Jekyll/Hyde kinda shit, and sometimes it’s realizing you’re crying in a parking lot because you accidentally ordered fries instead of Greek potatoes with your gyro. I’m an emotional, sensitive person. I’m a crier. But even I’m not THAT much of a crier. It was a good day! I was in a great mood! So why the everloving fuck was I crying over steak fries?!
Birth control, man. It’s fabulous for some women & I am openly envious of them. It’s wonderful for my periods. But for my mind, my emotions…it’s pure hell. And sometimes the change is so subtle that you can barely distinguish the side effect of the pill versus a normal mood change or “rough patch” for you, at least initially. But over time, for me at least, it’s easy to tell when things aren’t right. Like when I’m crying over steak fries. Or not wanting to touch Dustin with a 10-foot pole. Or being afraid to leave the house ever, even when I really want to. I get irrationally sad and scared and angry on birth control. My sex drive withers up & dies. (Sorry, boo!) I don’t find humor in the little things anymore. I don’t find humor in much anymore. It’s super scary, honestly. Super scary to realize that you’re not yourself and you now have to parse all of that. But I’ve been suppressing my hormones with synthetic hormones. That affects way more than just “that time of the month”. It affects every single moment of the month. And for me, the negatives heavily outweigh the positives when I look at it all objectively. (When I’m in the middle of my period, I’d probably agree to never have sex or leave the house ever again if it meant the pain would go away. Sorry again, boo.)
I also have the super fun side effect of artificial, neverending hunger when I’m on the pill. It’s one of the reasons I quit taking it before, and yet another reason why I’m done for good this time. I’m overweight (okay, fine, OBESE), and excess weight increases allllll of the nasty PCOS symptoms that I’m trying to fight. The pill makes me ravenously hungry 24/7, and I genuinely never feel full. Ever. Since I’m fat, some people would undoubtedly just attribute that to my diet & my desire to eat, but I was fat before restarting birth control last time and I NEVER felt hunger like this. It’s horrible. There are times when I genuinely don’t want to eat, but I feel super hungry & like I have to eat. Dustin is a big dude (how many times can I apologize to you in one post?!) and I could out-eat him literally any day of the week. It’s insane. There are times when I’ll finish my meal and then eat his leftovers, too. And then dessert.
I need to lose weight to treat my PCOS, but the pill makes it really difficult for me to lose weight. But I’m to the point where I believe that significant weight loss (among other things) would have a more positive effect on my body & my symptoms than the pill ever could. See, the pill is usually prescribed as the first line of defense for PCOS, but I think it’s important for people to know that it doesn’t actually cure anything–it just helps manage some of the symptoms. Like many treatments, it acts as a bandaid: it may alleviate some of your symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the root cause of your problems. When you go off of birth control, your symptoms come back.
You often hear that PCOS isn’t curable, but it’s treatable. And I think that’s important to consider, too. For some women, birth control is a godsend. It’s an effective form of treatment for them. I know it was for me for many years, back when it worked effectively and didn’t negatively impact me mentally & emotionally. I’m in no way trying to downplay the effectiveness or the worthiness of birth control as a treatment option for PCOS, because so many women have had great experiences with it. But as someone who had to go through hell to realize that it wasn’t a great option for me personally, all I can do is recount my own experiences. (And lord knows I’m not a medical professional, so please don’t take any of my words as advice. It’s just my rambling ass story, nothing more.)
PCOS can be difficult to even treat successfully because the causes and symptoms vary so widely from person to person. For instance, I’ve spent most of this post bitching about my period, but there are many women with PCOS who never even get theirs. They’d probably love to have my period problems instead of wondering where theirs went. And although it’s called polycystic ovarian syndrome, you technically don’t even have to possess ovarian cysts to have the syndrome. Confusing, right? So it’s tough for doctors to prescribe a cure-all (or, uh, treat-all) for PCOS when it’s an entirely different thing for each person who has it. For years I’ve lamented the fact that I’m insulin resistant (while simultaneously ignoring said fact with my poor diet), but I’m finally getting to the point where I realize that it’s a blessing in disguise. I don’t like being insulin resistant, but I’m honestly lucky to know that I am. So many women with PCOS would love to know some of the underlying causes of their problems, but they don’t. I do. I know that insulin resistance plays a major role in my version of PCOS, so I know I need to start treating that directly. There isn’t that much literature on how to effectively treat PCOS yet. There’s a ton of information on how to address insulin resistance. And in doing so, I’ll also be addressing my PCOS in the process.
It’s taken me years to get to this point, though. For so long, I was happy with the “bandaid approach,” if you will. I was content with sacrificing my emotional wellbeing for period relief. I was okay with ignoring the underlying problems associated with my PCOS. But how has that helped me? It hasn’t, at all. So now, I’m taking a much more aggressive, integrated approach to treating my PCOS. It’s a work in progress and will be for the rest of my life, I’m sure.
First up, my supplements:
Yes, that’s a hell of a lot of supplements (or #expensivepee if you’re a hater, haha). And no, I don’t want to get into why I’m taking each one of them yet because this is already a really lengthy post. But in the future? Definitely!
And yes, I’m the fool who changes all the variables at once instead of gradually adding them in and seeing how I react. I’m not proud of my all-or-nothing mentality, but it is what it is. I knew if I didn’t start everything now, I wouldn’t get around to trying them all. It’s dumb, I’m dumb, it’s fine. Think whatever you need to. But I know that I can always weed them out one-by-one in the future if I have any problems and I’m not afraid to do so. But I’ve put a TON of research into common deficiencies for PCOS patients & people with insulin resistance & on & on, so I feel really good about starting here.
I also got a prescription from my gynecologist for generic Lysteda (which is still $52! save us, Bernie Sanders) which is supposed to help with heavy menstrual bleeding. You take 2 pills, 3 times a day during your period for 5 days and it’s supposed to substantially lighten up the bleeding situation. If it works without any major side effects, that would be AMAZING, because then all I’d really need to address is the horrible cramping. From the reviews I’ve read, some women reported that it helped with their cramps, so it would be an absolute freaking GODSEND if that was the case for me. If not, I’ll keep pestering doctors and trying supplements and doing what I can to try & make that one week per month more livable.
And until then, I’ll be content knowing that the other three weeks per month will be so much better because I’ll finally feel like my damn self again.
It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting here on the couch, drinking leftover iced coffee & constantly refreshing my USPS Tracking page. You’d think I was waiting on something special to get here, and I guess you’re mostly right. I’m eagerly awaiting a delivery of supplements today, because a) I’m kinda boring, and b) these supplements represent my first step toward finally treating my PCOS. I’ve done so much research on this crap over the years and know so many things that can potentially help ease my symptoms, but I’ve just never done them – or, I’ve never done them consistently. Weird, right? Stupid, right? Yup.
But finally, FINALLY, I am tired of just saying “I have PCOS” and then doing jack shit about it. I guess I thought if I pretended my body functioned normally for long enough, either my body or my brain would eventually start to believe it. Er, nope. Still have thinning hair, facial hair, excess weight (especially around my stomach, whew), dark skin patches, anxiety, mood swings, on & on – and of course, my ovaries still have that sweet string of pearls on them. (Yes, that is actually what some doctors call it when you have so many ovarian cysts, hahaha). I also have The Worst Cramps in the World and quite possibly The Heaviest Periods in the World if I’m not on birth control, which is why birth control has been the one thing I’ve done fairly consistently since my diagnosis back in the day.
Hell, that hasn’t been easy, though. When I was old enough to get kicked off my parents’ insurance, I had to switch prescriptions to something cheaper, which lead to taking Sprintec, the Devil’s pill. Really though, some women do fine on it – like any prescription, birth control is one of those things that is highly specific to the individual. But Sprintec was TERRIBLE for me. It’s the pill that made me start paying more attention to the possibility of side effects with future prescriptions. I became horribly depressed, and at times, suicidal while taking it. I remember driving home on the interstate late one night and just letting go of the wheel. Thank the LORD that didn’t last long, and the roads were mostly empty (I was depressed, not a dick – I wouldn’t want to take anyone else out with me).
And it didn’t help that I was taking it during a difficult time in my life, so the confluence of events brought me to the lowest point in my history. I cried all the time. No, you don’t understand – LIKE ALL THE FUCKING TIME. I was hopeless. I wrote some really great stuff then, so shout out to the writing catalyst, but I’d much rather be happy & healthy with writer’s block. One day I just randomly Googled that prescription, and lo & behold, I found so many accounts of other women pretty much losing their minds on it. So I stopped taking it and was honestly shocked to realize how much better I felt once I was off that shit. My life was still hard and I was still sad, but it was bearable. I started to become functional again. I also became really afraid of taking medicine.
Without birth control, however, my periods became unbearable again. Painful periods are one of the symptoms that got me to the doctor in the first place back in high school. I remember having such terrible cramps in band class one day that I got permission to go to the nurse’s office, but the pain was so intense I had to stop in a bathroom halfway there and lie down on the most disgusting ass floor imaginable for like 20 minutes before I could even finish walking to her office. It was that fucking bad. All of the basic stuff people suggest for cramps – heating pads, NSAIDs, etc. – none of that shit even touched the pain. All I could do was suffer through it.
I recently tried going off birth control again (NOT Sprintec, no worries there) and of course, the horrible periods came right back. So now I’m taking them faithfully, but I’m definitely monitoring the side effects. There are times when I feel a little more…uneven than usual, but so far, no major problems. Sometimes I do feel like I have to choose between my mental and physical health with birth control which isn’t fair, but it’s also not necessarily the truth. So far, I’ve been treating one aspect of my PCOS – painful periods. But what if I made a concerted effort to treat my PCOS in its entirety instead of just one symptom of it?
Which brings me back to this morning, sitting here and waiting for my supplements to arrive. I’ve got multivitamins, biotin, inositol, magnesium, fish oil. It’s a lot, and I know I’m going against that whole “change one variable at a time” principle. There are people who could undoubtedly find fault with what I’m doing, and they’re welcome to have at it. But for so long, I either willfully ignored my PCOS or got so overwhelmed by the conflicting information out there that I became apathetic.
If you want your head to spin, Google “which diet for PCOS.” One page will tell you to become a vegetarian, another will say to eliminate dairy, another will recommended a ketogenic diet, some want you to just focus on the glycemic index, others recommend whole grains & fruit juices. It’s fucking bonkers, dude. Everyone thinks they know the answer, but I’m a strong believer in bio-individuality. What works for you may not work for me, and vice-versa. I believe this so strongly for other people, but for some dumb reason, not knowing the “perfect” path for myself has kept me stalled for so long. I’m a perfectionist, which in turn makes me a procrastinator because literally nothing is perfect. It’s stupid. So, this time, I’m just gonna go with what I think will work for me. I know what I do and don’t like to eat. I have a pretty damn good idea of what I should and shouldn’t eat most of the time. I know I need to exercise. I know I have certain deficiencies and need supplements. I know I probably need to restart Metformin for my insulin resistance. I just have to actually fucking do these things and block out all of the static out there. And all of the fear.
I’m learning that it’s okay to not fully understand where to start, but it’s not okay to use that an excuse to avoid starting at all. That’s what I’ve done for so long. 10 years of ignoring something so important. I sometimes feel ashamed I’ve ignored it for so long. I think part of this is because it’s taken me so long to stop feeling ashamed of having PCOS & the symptoms that come with it. I’d worry so much about how my hair looked (is my bald spot showing?) and how my face looked (oh god, is my mustache showing in this light?) and on & on & on. I didn’t want to talk about my symptoms or my PCOS. I just wanted to hide it all & blend in, despite my body’s best efforts to do otherwise.
Eventually, you get tired of hiding. You get tired of worrying.
Look at that. Two things I spent a decade trying to hide and now there are photos of them on the internet. And I’m still alive. But I spent YEARS worrying about the outward stuff and ignoring the inward stuff. I’d obsess over “how bad I looked” instead of thinking about my elevated risk of diabetes and heart disease and endometrial cancer because of this fucking syndrome. I didn’t take a prescription that would help my insulin resistance (a huge thing for many PCOS patients & the root of so many problems) because it meant I couldn’t have alcohol and I didn’t want to “miss out.” What’s more important? Occasional drinks with friends or my fucking health?! My priorities have been so fucked up for so long. I’ve ignored so much, and in the name of what? Fitting in? Insecurity? Laziness? Fear? I’m a smart, strong person. How have I put this off for so long?
So this is why I’m still refreshing that damn page, waiting to see when my Amazon delivery will get here. It’s a small step forward that represents a whole lot of bullshit I’m leaving behind. I’ve finally learned how to love myself, so now it’s time to turn that love into action. I’ve mentioned before that my goal word for 2016 is consistency, so I’ve gotta create my own little “health schedule” if you will and just stick to that damn thing. I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I know it will be easier than ignoring my PCOS for a freaking decade. It’ll be easier than letting myself willfully get all of the nasty diseases I’m predisposed to thanks to my PCOS. I survived my Sprintec depression. I survived people calling me bald in high school. I survived a transvaginal ultrasound when I was still a virgin. (THE HORROR.) So I’m pretty sure I can take some vitamins & eat better & move around some every day. I think I’ve got this. Now it’s just time to prove it to myself.
I’ve recently joined a PCOS support group on Facebook (which is just about the best thing to happen to me) and this week we’re doing different challenges. Today’s challenge is to write a letter to any version of your former self. The contents of my letter may not seem that new to many of you, especially after my last post re: weight, but it was seriously cathartic to write this. I see myself writing more of these in the future to different versions of myself, because it’s a great way to learn a little bit more about your journey and feel better about the path you’re on.
Since weight loss & self image have clearly been on my mind lately, and since it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I wrote my letter to an extremely vulnerable version of my former self, early-college era Stephanie:
Dear Former Stephanie,
I’m sorry he doesn’t love you by now. I know you thought he would, and I know you thought all of your weight loss would help. I’m sorry he said you “had too much weight” to wear that new gorgeous yellow dress you loved. I’m sorry you decided to wear jeans under it after that comment, and I’m especially sorry that stupid action gained his approval.
I’m sorry you lost your virginity to a man who didn’t love you, who barely touched you, who got angry at you when you couldn’t find the words to describe how weird you felt afterward. I’m sorry you had to stare at his wall covered in magazine clippings of traditionally attractive women while you laid there. You knew he thought you weren’t attractive enough. I’m sorry you knew this. I’m sorry you ignored it, too.
I’m sorry you had to hear his mother tell you that you shouldn’t eat the full-fat peanut butter, and that you should only carry your lunch to class instead of getting fast-food occasionally, and that he should only serve you half portions of meals & desserts because you’re trying to lose weight. I’m sorry she told him to tell you to keep going to the gym as if it was more motivating to hear that through the grapevine. I’m sorry she said it was normal that his sister skipped dinner for a few days in a row, because sometimes ladies starve themselves to stay slim. I’m sorry she expected your nearly six foot frame to look like her petite figure. I’m sorry you somehow believed her.
I’m sorry you’ve let him use you for so fucking long. I know you’re “best friends”, but are you really? Sleeping with him at night while he’s degrading you during the day? I can barely even call it sex, because you’re mostly covered & barely move. He has to know you get nothing out of that. But I know, it isn’t all bad between you two. It’s easy for me to only remember the bad parts. He makes you laugh. You have a lot in common at times. But Jesus, Stephanie, that isn’t enough.
He’s not enough to make you starve yourself. He’s not enough to make you start bingeing, either. He’s not enough for you to hide any part of yourself, including parts that you really love. He’s resentful of any success you have. Remember when you did better than him on that test and he got really angry at you? What the fuck was that about? It’s funny now, writing this to you…it’s all so juvenile, it sounds like everything happened in high school. Kinda sickening that you’re both actually in college. How stunted is his emotional growth? How desperate are you for attention and approval?
But he’s not the only reason I’m writing this. You already know you need to leave him, but you won’t. You’ll wait until he closes the door, because you’re so afraid no one else will ever care for you. Sure, his affections are limited and fragmented, but it’s the most you’ve had so far. Sometimes you feel special, so you convince yourself that’s good enough. WAKE THE FUCKING FUCK UP, STEPHANIE.
Do you realize how funny you are? You can make anyone laugh about anything, even the tragic stuff. That’s a gift. You’re a talented writer, but you’re wasting your talent writing his damn school papers. You’re super smart, you’re hella compassionate, you’re loyal to a fault. You have excellent taste in music, sweet fashion sense, & you’re a pretty damn good cook, although you don’t fully believe that yet. Wouldn’t you be happy to find someone who had those traits? Yes? So, why do you think no one else on earth would be happy to be with you?
Oh. Yeah, okay. Because of your weight, even though you’re now only 153lbs thanks to your disordered eating. But your tummy is still flabby! Your thighs still touch! And on top of that, your teeth are crooked. Your hair is thinning. Like, noticeably. Remember when people said you were going bald in high school? Those were fun times. But really, I understand why you’re so insecure – you’ve had a lifetime of not fitting in, in some good but mostly in some really not-so-good ways. You think you’re ugly. You think you don’t have much value because you’re not attractive. But Stephanie, you’ve got it all wrong.
You’re beautiful. I look back on pictures of you sometimes and want to cry. You are gorgeous. But it isn’t because of all the weight you’ve lost. Honestly, it’s despite all that. I know the weight loss doesn’t bring you the joy and acceptance you expected. You don’t even feel healthier, because you’re not. You know you aren’t taking care of your body – you’re punishing it. But you’re a beautiful, amazing person who deserves to love herself as she is every damn second of the day. You don’t need to change yourself for someone to love you. And you don’t need to change in order to love yourself. You’re worthy of everything just as you are right now.
You’ll get there, you know. It may seem completely unbelievable now, but you’ll truly love yourself one day. And guess what? You’ll weigh almost 300 pounds when it happens. I know, I know – try to calm down a sec. But just know that there will come a day when you wake up and the first thing you think isn’t something negative about your body or your appearance. You’ll even decide to lose weight to get healthier for yourself, not for some jackass guy.
It sounds cliched, but please remember that things will get better. YOU will get better. Sure, your clothes will get bigger in the next few years, but so will your heart and your horizons. You’re destined for so much more than crying in his crappy little bedroom at his parents’ house.
Oh, and about that…I know you resent spoilers, but I should probably tell you that he definitely doesn’t come back into your life. But you know who does? A guy from high school, one you had a minor secret crush on in senior year. Remember the Banjo Kazooie noise guy? HAHAHA, YEP. GET READY. And guess what? He knows you’re fat, and he knows that fat is just another adjective to describe you. It ain’t no thing. He’s seen your bald spot. He’s even seen you naked. With the lights on. Repeatedly. He’s watched you have nervous breakdowns and scream and cry and maybe even puke and oh god, I’m giving away too much. He’s amazing, and he loves you just as you are. It’s the kind of love you either don’t think is real right now, or that you don’t think you deserve. When you’re with him, you’ll realize that you had a very weak definition of love before.
You have a wild few years ahead of you, and life honestly won’t take you the places you think you’ll go, but it takes you where you need to be. And for the first time in a long time, you’ll be happy. Really & truly happy. You’ll be that genuine kind of happy that has a weird easiness about it, that just sort of follows wherever you go. It won’t always be easy, but you will start to silence the demons of self-doubt. You’ll develop patience. You’ll practice kindness. And most importantly, you’ll finally learn to love yourself no matter what.
The Ghost of Stephanie Present
I remember when I got my last job, a marketing position at a global law firm in Atlanta. I thought I’d finally made it – a prestigious employer, a decent salary, solid benefits. And most importantly, a clearly defined career path. But time passed & I soon discovered that I hated every moment of it. Finally, after working nonstop for a few weeks and having way too many emotional breakdowns, my boo suggested that I quit. I was horrified to do it – our rent wasn’t cheap and all of our bills were divided 50/50. I kept putting it off, knowing that we had a vacation coming up. I thought it would be enough to restore me. Little did I know, it would do exactly that, but not in the way I’d planned.
We went to San Francisco and Seattle for a whirlwind weekend, our first time in both cities. I reconnected with a dear friend in San Fran and had one of the most beautiful days of my life. I’ll never forget us driving down the California coast, windows down, stereotypical breeze in my hair. It was the first time in weeks I’d felt really and truly happy. I remember Dustin reaching up from the back seat at one point to touch my arm. It was a simple gesture, but I knew what it meant. Later, he confirmed it: “You looked so relaxed and happy. I haven’t seen you look like that in so long.” It made me cry. I knew it was true. So when we got back from our trip, I quit.
I’m so grateful to D for all the hard work he’s done keeping us afloat financially since then. He’s never once tried to make me feel guilty for my decision. I’m also keenly aware that we were/are extremely lucky to be in a position where I was able to leave that job, even if things are still tight because of it. And in time, I would eventually encourage him to leave equally toxic jobs. Again, we’re lucky we were able to do so. So many people in situations like mine don’t realize how privileged they are, but I’m grateful for the luxury of time away from the corporate world to figure out an alternate career path. I’ve never found joy in the typical 9-5. So I’m definitely #blessed (haha!) to have the opportunity to figure out what I want to do in life and to have an amazingly supportive partner by my side.
But it’s weird when you step away from the working world. You don’t realize how much importance is placed on your job title until you no longer have one. When most of your friends are thriving young professionals, your job is the typical topic of conversation. And it makes sense – it takes up a solid 40+ hours of your week. But when you no longer have that in common, you feel disconnected sometimes. “Oh, what have you been up to?” Uh, washing dishes & doing laundry & researching recipes & buying groceries. You know, the errands & chores you do in your off-hours. That’s my 9-5.
You can feel oddly resentful sometimes, even though you don’t envy their jobs or their successes. I’d resent feeling like I needed to justify my existence or the use of my time. Yes, I’m not waking up early and going to work, but no, I’m not usually lounging around & playing video games all day. (But some days? Hell yeah!) And so what if I did? Why do I have to justify my time to you? Don’t get me wrong, most people I know are amazing and would never make weird implications. A lot of the time, you just feel insecure and start projecting. But there have been a few people who made me feel kinda shitty about it, and that’s on them. My value isn’t determined by my career or lack thereof. It’s been a surprisingly hard lesson to learn, especially in American society where your career is so intrinsically linked to your identity. That’s a really stupid concept. I thought so before I was unemployed, and I believe the same now. (But I can’t speak much more on that subject in this post or I will never get to the slightly exciting news, haha.) Still, it’s been tough. I’ve had quite a few ugly cries over it.
It’s always been my plan to go back to work. I’m smart and creative and like to get shit done, but I know the typical corporate job isn’t a feasible longterm option for me. I loathe it. I flee. Rinse & repeat. So I’ve spent months researching different paths and options with no real success. I’d either find worthwhile projects that weren’t profitable, or profitable options that fit into the corporate cubicle above. I’ve always envied people with clearly defined career goals. I want to be a nurse. I want to be an architect. On & on. I’m pretty good at achieving goals, but it’s tough to set a goal for something intangible. Thus the cycle of frustration is born. I want a job – I don’t know what job I want – what about that job? – oh, I don’t want that job – okay, what do I want in a job? – I want a job that offers a, b & c – but what job is that? – I don’t know – oh fuck this, I’m going to nap.
This endless loop led to yet another crying jag last night and a little heart-to-heart with my main man. And for the first time ever, I feel like there might’ve been a breakthrough.
“But my interests & skills are random and unrelated…music, food, decorating, entertaining; writing, marketing, organizational/administrative stuff…”
“What about event planning?”
Oh. Well, uh, duh.
It wasn’t the first time someone’s suggested that career for me (not trying to sound smug, just keepin’ it real), but it was the first time I’d really thought about how it represented the intersection of my abilities and interests. I know professional event planning is way different & more involved than throwing your own holiday parties, but I’ve always taken my party planning pretty seriously. I’m neurotic about calculating food & drink quantities, making playlists, and finding ways to keep people engaged & entertained. Themed decor holds a special place in my heart, but I also know how to keep it classy if needed. I work well with tight budgets & I somehow genuinely enjoy the organizational aspect of throwing a party. From budget spreadsheets to grocery lists to hourly breakdowns of what I need to do, I get a little anal retentive when throwing a party. And all of this is after the hours of research I usually put into the food, decor, etc. It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it brings me so much joy. I’m never happier than when I’m planning another party. I almost feel guilty saying this, but the weeks of planning are usually my favorite part of throwing a party. I’m weird, what can I say.
I know there will be a million challenges and obstacles on this career path, and I’m not naive enough to believe that working for clients will be the same as planning events for myself. Still, it is such a unique combination of my talents and strengths that I feel confident about it even despite the inevitable difficulties. (And for someone who gets anxious ordering at Subway or calling to make a doctor’s appointment, that’s saying something, haha.) Any career path will be challenging in some way or another, but I think it’s all worth it if you love what you do. And I do love event planning.
I have a lot of research and a ton of work ahead of me, so wish me luck! And, y’know, maybe hire me in the future. <3
Here’s a photo of me at my thinnest, physically & emotionally:
And here’s a photo of me now, at my fattest & happiest:
So, these photos beg the question – was I unhappy because I was thin? Am I happy now because I’m fat?
Nope. Not that simple.
In fact, there are days – weeks, months even – where I long to look like that girl in the first photo. 5’10, 153lbs. She seems happy, right? Protruding collarbones & all. But I know how she, how I, really felt. Unworthy. Unloved. Insignificant & insufficient. And honestly, still fat. I never thought I was as thin as I looked. I always saw a heavier girl in the mirror, even at my thinnest. It didn’t help that I was in an unhealthy relationship at the time, where my eating & exercising habits were often monitored & critiqued, by him & his mother. Where I was told I shouldn’t wear a lovely new yellow dress because I “had too much weight.” On & on it goes.
I lost most of my weight through extremely low calorie diets (for me, at least: ~1000/day, sometimes less) and an unhealthy relationship with food. I got heavily locked into the good food/bad food paradigm and became strict about exercising. Years later, there’s a term for that – orthorexia: an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. Even when I relaxed on the nutritional value, I remained extremely anal retentive about the calorie content. Eventually this would become too much for me, so I’d go into periods of binge eating. For instance, when my food intake was being closely watched in the relationship I mentioned earlier, I’d sometimes stop at fast-food restaurants after our dates and go to town because I was so freaking hungry. I definitely think there was some emotional hunger there, too. I was unsatisfied and unhealthy any way you looked at it.
But life’s weird, and the world of weight loss is even weirder. Even though my lifestyle was the unhealthiest it had ever been, all I heard were compliments.
See, when you live in a fat body, people think they know all about your lifestyle. You’re lazy, you only eat unhealthy foods, you don’t exercise, you probably don’t have a sex life, etc. Your body = a negative thing. Not everyone thinks this way, thank god, but my experience as a thin person sadly confirmed that a large majority of people do feel this way about overweight people. When I was thin, my lifestyle was automatically: a) acceptable, because I was thin, and b) healthy, because I was thin. Just as a fat body garners negative assumptions, a thin body has positive associations just by virtue of thinness. I could’ve been seriously ill, or starving myself, or smoking three packs a day, or doing drugs, or any number of things. Very few people who commented on my “awesome weight loss” really knew what I was doing to lose the weight. They just knew that a fat body had become a thin body and that is automatically an ultimate good.
And it may sound like I’m excluding myself from that group, but I’m not. I’m just as guilty as anyone. You see someone who has lost weight and your kneejerk reaction is to congratulate them. And for the longest time, I received that praise, and I fed off of it. But deep down, I was repulsed. I knew what I was doing was unhealthy. And when you’ve been overweight your entire life, it is astonishing to see how differently the world treats you when you’re thin. Men were suddenly more flirtatious, sales clerks in “normal” sized stores stopped avoiding eye contact, interviewers seemed to take me more seriously. What’s that Eagles lyric? “Even your old friends treat you like you’re somethin’ new.”
It was amazing, and terrifying. Why did people treat me so differently? I didn’t care so much about the pick-up lines – far be it for me to dictate who someone is attracted to. It was just the overall feeling you got from average, everyday people. It was like you just suddenly…existed. It was fucking disgusting and enlightening and incredible and such a hard mix of emotions to process. There was also this constant echo in the back of my mind – what if you regain the weight? How will people treat you then?
Well, obviously, I did regain the weight. My weight gain was far less dramatic than my weight loss, at least in regards to the method. I’m sure most old friends I run into find it dramatic. But in terms of regaining it, I just overate. It wasn’t intentional overeating to somehow shield myself from the newfound world I was suddenly in, though that would’ve been understandable. And it was fairly gradual, over the course of a few years. I also gradually stopped working out. There was a series of unfortunate events – a difficult breakup + graduating college with no idea where to go + quitting my first job + a new birth control prescription that fucked with my mind, and that all eventually led to a lengthy period of severe depression/occasional suicidal thoughts. I had some rough years, and I eventually dropped my unhealthy “healthy” habits in favor of my old unhealthy habits – overeating & not exercising.
So the weight crept back up, as it is wont to do. And I won’t deny that it’s a substantial amount of weight. Today, I weigh 293 pounds. I’ve gained 147 pounds from my lowest weight. I’ve gained an entire person. Sometimes I repeat it under my breath to try & shock myself somehow: “I weigh almost 300 pounds.” There are days where it’s unbelievable and days where I feel each and every pound of that. Being this heavy is not easy. But as I said above, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, right? So how I can be happy at almost 300lbs, even though I still want to lose weight?
It’s because I’m finally, FINALLY, learning how to love myself in spite of it all. It’s the longest, roughest road in the fucking world, but it’s definitely one worth traveling. I refuse to sit here and lie to you and say that I have it all figured out, because I don’t. Far from it. Like I said, there are weeks where I want to run into the arms of eating disorders and become that really thin unhappy girl all over again. But I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of what I’ve survived so far in life, and I’m happy that I’m in a place where I surround myself with good people who genuinely care about me regardless of my weight.
For the first time ever, I feel like I’m ready to lose weight for me AND ONLY ME. I want to do things the right way. I want to take care of my body because I love my body, not because I hate it. I want to feed myself healthy food because I deserve it, not to punish myself. I refuse to buy into the good food/bad food paradigm. I refuse to use food or exercise as punishment for living my life. I refuse to compare myself to people with different body types or lifestyles or ways of eating or living. It’s so mentally and physically and emotionally fucking exhausting trying to live your life as, or for, someone else. I’ve been there, and I regret every second of it. I want to set realistic goals for myself. I want to get back into the 180s, maybe even the 170s again. But I wasn’t happy at 153. I didn’t like what it took for me to stay there. I didn’t like how I felt. Looking back, I don’t like how I looked. But I do remember a brief period in the 180s where I thought I looked and felt pretty good, and I do miss that. I want to get there again, but in a way that’s sustainable this time. “A lifestyle change,” everyone says. Yes, please. I’ll have one of those. Because diets really & truly do not work.
I vow to love my body as it is now, all 293lbs of it, because it has carried me this far in life. Through all the ups-and-downs, it has been here for me. Even when I’ve treated it like shit, it’s been here. I’m proud of its resiliency. I no longer need anyone else to love it or admire it for me to respect it. I’m determined to lose weight and get healthier for myself, in a way that truly makes my life better, not worse.
It’s hard. I won’t lie. It’s really fucking difficult. Old habits die hard, and those include restriction & bingeing & self loathing. And laziness. And avoidance. So I’m hoping to use this blog (and my Instagram, since microblogging is my fave) to document some of the stuff I think about & go through on this weight loss journey. I’ve been thinking about it for a while but I’ve been hesitant, partially because people on the internet can be scary & mean, and partially because I’ve had doubts about whether I can do so without entering the realm of unhealthy obsession again. I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with striving for a healthy lifestyle and documenting every damn step of that process, but I also know that I can fall into the trap of comparison & competition and want to avoid that at all costs.
That being said, I’m ready to do this. I’ve already posted a picture of myself in a swimsuit on Instagram last year, and now everyone knows how fat I am (fat = just an adjective, y’all), so there’s not really any more fear holding me back. I plan on continuing to post random pictures of food, but along with occasional progress pictures & workout-related stuff now. I hope to eventually find myself in a community of likeminded people who can support each other. It’s hard, because so many online weight loss accounts (at least on IG) are focused on dietbets and selling shakes and wraps and all these things that either don’t matter to me or feel completely counterintuitive for how I’m trying to do this. (I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong, per se, just wrong for me.) But I’m looking forward to the process, and hopefully I’ll eventually be able to help someone else in their journey, whether that journey is to lose weight or to learn how to love themselves. Losing weight is really important to me at this stage of my life, but if I hadn’t learned to love myself first, then this wouldn’t even be a journey worth taking.
I have a million little resolutions I could bore you with, but like so many people, my primary resolution for 2016 is to focus on my health. I want (and need) to lose weight for a variety of reasons, but if I make weight loss my primary focus, I go a little crazy. Crazy with binge eating, or crazy with undereating, or crazy with overexercising…it sucks, honestly. I’ve had such a difficult relationship with my body, and with food, over the years, so I’m trying to find a way to lose weight without veering into the familiar eating disorder territory. So instead of counting calories like I did for so long (which is totally fine and works great for many people! I just get really obsessive), I’m finally trying to shift to a predominantly low-carb diet.
I say finally because I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome several years ago, shortly after high school I believe, and that was when my doctor first told me I should consider a low-carb diet. I remember eating some really weird chicken burgers for like 2 days and then jumping ship. So here I am, some 10 years (!) and 20 billion french fries later, trying it all again. (But not the chicken burgers – sorry, mom.)
This brings me to today’s recipe, and my first recipe ever on this dang blog. I’m calling it a lazy sushi bowl, because I didn’t want to make the effort to create sushi rolls, nor did I want to source sushi-grade fish. Because I’m #lazy. I also didn’t want to use rice because #lowcarb, BUT I REALLY WANTED RICE, so I whipped up some cauliflower “sushi rice” to use in its place. I added in some cooked salmon & mixed it together with a bunch of other random sushi-ish stuff I wanted to eat and voilà – the lazy low-carb sushi bowl was born. (Of course, feel free to use whatever fish/veggies you love in your version. That’s the beauty of this thing- super easy & totally customizable.)
Lazy Low-Carb Sushi Bowls
for the cauliflower sushi rice:
1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped into florets
heaping 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
heaping 1 tbsp of splenda (or sweetener of your choice)
salt, to taste
for the bowl:
cooked, chilled & flaked salmon (I used 4 fillets)
green onions, chopped
8oz cream cheese, cut into small cubes
- Place cauliflower florets in a food processor or blender and pulse until it resembles rice. Set aside in a medium-sized bowl. (Depending on the size of your appliance, you’ll likely have to pulse them in batches. I used a KitchenAid blender and did mine in probably 4 or 5 batches. Fortunately, it’s quick work once you get going. If you don’t have a blender or processor, you can do this by hand with a box grater, but it’s tedious & rather messy.)
- Add splenda, rice wine vinegar, and salt to taste. I’d probably start with a 1/2 tsp salt and go from there.
- Aaand that’s it for the rice. I know some people like to heat their cauli rice, but since I’m serving everything here chilled, I quite like it raw & cold. Plus, I always make a huge mess any time I try to transfer it from dish to dish, so I don’t mind limiting the number of dishes it comes in contact with.
- Layer everything together! It’s that easy.
welcome to the time of year when everything tries to remind you that you’re too much, or not enough. that you’ve wasted another year, and you need to dedicate yourself + the next 365 days to becoming someone else. but it’s not true – you’re worthy and wonderful just as you are. make changes, make plans, but please, make them for you. make them because you love yourself, not because of shame or guilt or hate. or, god forbid, pressure from anyone else. i’m working on this every single day, and will continue to do so in 2016.
that being said, i’ll have a new post up soon about specific things i’m looking forward to (/occasionally vexing about) tackling in the new year. making lists and making big plans are two of my favorite things, so i’m not one of those anti-resolution people at all. i think everyone could use a fresh start now & again, and what better time than in the middle of the dull, depressing winter? but unlike in recent years, i want my 2016 goals to be guided by love instead of self loathing or fear of judgment or any of the other myriad things that have sadly motivated me in the past. i want to focus on things that will better my life, and hopefully the lives of those around me, not find new ways to punish myself for “bad behavior” the past 12 months.
so while the personal goals are forthcoming, please know that you’re not alone if you struggle with feelings of doubt or regret or self-esteem issues at this time, or any time, of year. just know that you are as valuable and as loved on december 29th as you were on june 2nd and october 15th and will be on january 1, 2016. don’t waste your precious time on earth trying to prove yourself to other people, because if they don’t love or respect you as you are right now, then fuck them. don’t waste another second, let alone another week or month or year, punishing yourself because you’ve lived. pursue whatever form of wellness you’re after, in whatever way works for you. we all have different mental, physical, emotional, professional, personal goals. why should we think that we all need to follow the same methods to reach them? do whatever makes you well. whatever makes you whole and happy and brings you closer to feeling like your best self. you know yourself better than anyone else, so you’ll know what’s right, and when it’s right.
treat yourself with patience and love and kindness, and ignore anything or anyone that tries to convince you otherwise.