Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hic et Nunc (Written in 2010 after a healthy eating immersion)

It was the bronchitis that made me realize I needed a change. Oh, I’d known for years that my weight was a problem, that moving around was not as easy as it used to be, that I was spending much more time horizontal than necessary; but, the endless hacking cough, jarred something loose in my brain. The something said it was time.

I’d had for years a barely conscious wish that I would get ill or have some kind of accident serious enough to jolt me out of my fumbling life. And, here it was. The illness was enough to keep me home from work for two weeks, plenty long enough to make me question my entire life up until this point. Somewhere, through a steamy fog of green tea and honey came the realization that: A) I needed to spend this summer with my kids and B) This weight needed to come off once and for all. 

Fifty pounds. That was the difference between what it said on my driver’s license and my actual weight. Well, there you go. 50. It’s a big number when you are talking about pounds. How could I do it when I had not lost more than seventeen at any given point? Of course, I hadn’t needed to lose fifty then.

Luckily, I had the Engine Two Immersion coming up in a few weeks. When I got back to work the next week I pulled up the itinerary: 

7 a.m. - Workout
8-9 - Breakfast
9-5:30 - Classes
5:30-6:30 - Free Time ( only an hour??? When am I supposed to swim, or enjoy the private room that I was paying extra for??? Or see the warm Texas sun??? )
6:30 - 7 - Cooking Demo
7-8 - Dinner
8-9:15 - Class
9:15 - Fall into bed exhausted

Whoa. I had my work cut out for me and I knew it. I was starting to get nervous. I ran the schedule past my former Marine husband and he said: “ Yup, that sounds like boot camp”. I suspected as much.

I am thinking about my relationship with food, working at Whole Foods and all the times I have tried before. Would this time be different? It felt different. I told my dear husband that I needed his help. I could not do this alone. I could not have my non existent willpower tested by him bringing home 2 dozen Krispy Kremes ( It’s a bargain! You get six free if you buy eighteen! ) or bagels (we can freeze the rest! It’s cheaper that way!)
No. I needed him to understand that willpower does not exist for the addict and I am an addict as surely as those folks on “MTV Crackhouse” or whatever it’s called.

Sure, I work at Whole Foods and the cookies and cake we sell there are marginally better for you than eating a Cinnabon, but, I’m pretty sure organic heroin will kill you just as quickly as conventional. If I had to cook my sugar and inject it between my toes, I probably wouldn’t do it. But, all I have to do is open my mouth and before I even know what’s happened, I’ll have eaten seven cookies. Sugar is my drug of choice.

As Dave Matthews sings: “ Sugar ain’t poison, but sugar will kill you”. Sing it, Dave and quit looking at my stomach rolls.

I need to look at this immersion as the last chance; my last shot at lasting change. Because, geez. If I go all the way to Texas, sweat and starve for a week and I come back and eat a Bavarian cream doughnut, it will all be for nothing.

I need to end my destructive relationship with my drug of choice; no methadone, nothing to take the edge off except for leafy greens and apparently, country western dancing. My brain hurts already.

Three days to go and I am really nervous. While I know that a bit of struggle and deprivation is good for me, I’m not sure if I am ready. I guess the better question is: Will I ever be? Will I ever be ready to put down my bent (from ice cream) spoon in favor of a forkful of kale? Will I ever be ready to get busy living rather than dying? It’s such a silly question. Of course! I want to look better , have more energy, run around with my kids, look better , but why does it have to involve 7 a.m. yoga? I hate 7 a.m. and yoga terrifies me. I’ve heard people fart doing yoga. I have spent the past almost forty years avoiding farting in public. I do not want to stop now.

I want to think that I have a choice, that I am doing this not really because I have to, but because I want to. That I am ready to embrace change wholeheartedly, amen. But, the truth is, I am terrified. Maybe I really don’t know who is living under these excess fifty pounds. Maybe I won’t like her when I meet her. I’m pretty sure she’s a bitch. Is this skinny bitch any fun to be around? Does she still like to hang out after work? Will she drink the occasional one too many Jack and Cokes? And scariest of all, will she be enthusiastic about everything?

I have not always been fat. I was a skinny kid, an athletic teenager and young adult and at one time, I. Was. Hot. I hate that people who meet me now only see the fat me and probably couldn’t imagine anyone different. I want to change that. I want people to see past the chunky exterior and see the beautiful me and not just the “great personality”. My wit doesn’t make the reflection in the mirror any better; in fact, it’s worse since I am really good at making fun of myself.

So, choice? I think I’m long past having a choice. I need these five days to be the beginning of a new life.

I am still terrified. And, I feel the need to eat pretty much non-stop until I board the plane in thirty nine hours…but, who’s counting?

What is the deal with parking at O’ Hare? I almost parked in International which seems to be in another zip code, but after an illegal 
U-turn or three, I made it to the correct parking garage.

The time has come. I got through security with only minor issues. I’m aggravated that I had to check my bag. I apparently packed a gallon sized bag of toiletries instead of the allowable quart. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that extra eye cream is explosive…argh. It was nice to see Danny for ten minutes before I had to check in, I am hoping the next time I see him I will be committed to this lifestyle change…and skinnier…but, let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

The first hurdle past, all I have to do is try and relax. I have a whole row to myself on a full plane ( jaw drop here ). I’m not sure how it happened, but they are closing the doors and no one has come to sit by me…I’ve checked my pits and don’t have b.o., so, yay! I’m claustrophobic enough without being surrounded by strangers making idle chitchat.

We’ve almost made it through the clouds which the pilot promised would be “choppy”. As a white knuckled flyer, I took this to mean “nose dive into oblivion”, but, so far, it’s been uneventful. After the wind, hail and rain of the last few days, this day is lovely.

I’ve eaten what promises to be my last taste of mayo, cheese or turkey and am getting into the mindset that I hope will carry me through these five days and the rest of my life. I am on this journey because I want to live a long, healthy life. I want to climb stairs without wheezing, wear a bathing suit with confidence and be a pain in my kids’ collective ass for at least forty more years.

I am thinking about (my father) Bill a lot. I wish he had had the opportunity that I do now. I wish he’d had someone say “ Hey! You are killing yourself with cigarettes and pizza and I’ll miss you if you die!”. But no one did. Not that we didn’t love him, just that none of us thought it would catch up with him so soon. Forty-six is way too young to die. I guess this is as much in tribute to him as it is for me. I love you, Bill. Rest peacefully. We’ll catch up in about forty years.

Bumps ( the actual, not psychological ones ) behind me, I am coming in for a landing. I’m looking out at a landscape that looks remarkably like the one I just left; mostly flat, mostly brown. Though this landscape is warmed by 77 degrees and sun!

Once on the ground I head straight to baggage and am immediately struck by eight foot tall guitars in front of me!

SXSW is happening this week and this must be a part of it. I take the first of many pictures, the first of many memories I hope to hold in my heart after this week is up. I take another of a butterfly kite flying overhead. I see it as a symbol of my transformation.

This is real. I am here. I am doing it.

I run into M at the transportation desk. I knew her by name only, but since we are both from the Midwest Region, we are chatting away in a matter of seconds. We laugh about the things we won’t eat again - ever, as we ride to the immersion. She is talking about Shamrock shakes. I am talking country fried steak - we are in Texas, after all.

Speaking of steak…Longhorns! Actual Longhorns by the road! 
I must be in Texas! I feel like a five year old! I can’t sit still!

Settling in at the first lecture of the trip I am awed by this beautiful group. We are all shapes and sizes and all here for the same reason; to improve our health and let’s face it: look hot. Rip (Esselstyn) has already mentioned farting twice. Oh god. He’s also warned us about poisonous snakes, tarantulas and bobcats ( I want to meet a bobcat! ) Awesome! I love, love this place. I was calm the second I stepped out of the van. It is so beautiful.

Monday - 

Slept like a log last night, which is surprising. First night away, no Danny, strange place, staring down a 7 a.m. workout and I slept like the princess without the pea.

John Pierre is an interesting fellow. He enjoys talking about love and compassion while torturing us with sprints, squat thrusts and jumping jacks. I love his enthusiasm. He has us moving parts that don’t get a lot of attention and it feels really good, at least, afterwards. He said that he wants to be the candle that lights the next candle. A few sparks have landed on me, we’ll see what they turn into.

Dr. Esselstyn was very informative. His lecture was quite sciencey, but, he made it accessible. I’m pretty sure I never need to see another picture of an artery, though.

This family is amazing! They are all about six feet tall (except Ann, but her personality is ten feet tall!) and they just glow! Talk about energy, too! If that is what this diet does for you, I am already sold.

Jeff Novick is my new hero. He grew up in Brooklyn, which automatically earns him points from me, because, come on! You can’t beat a real Brooklyn accent! He managed to be hysterically funny while talking about the serious matter of our children dying from McDonald’s.

Took a really awesome nap on my free time and woke up to sweet potato lasagna, which was divine and some kind of fruit concoction for dessert, courtesy of Chef A. J.. So far, I have eaten more today than I do at home! Yay for not being hungry!

The only real problem is the caffeine headache. Oh god. By the time Natala spoke at about 8:30 I was seeing double and had to press my hands against my forehead to stay focused. But, her words were really powerful. It seems crazy to imagine that we live in a culture where when faced with losing your foot to diabetes, all most doctors do is shrug and tell us is that we need another pill. Now, Natala has cured herself with the most healthy remedy possible: food. What could be simpler? And why don’t more doctors prescribe this? Of course the reason is as simple and complex as there being no money in greens and billions to be made in colorful pills. It’s disgusting.

I find myself fighting back tears thinking about Bill and how much I wish he could hear this and live. All I can do now is save myself and hopefully, spread the word so that others can benefit too.

On a lighter note, here are some of my sillier notes from today:

and…John Mackey arrives…I’m feeling starstruck
I just figured out who R is…he is snoring loudly behind me!
To quote Jack Lalanne ( as said to his wife ) - “ Don’t worry, I can’t die; it’ll ruin my reputation!”

Tuesday - 

I am already feeling different. I made the conscious decision tonight to choose some extra quiet time over dessert. The black bean brownies will be fabulous, I’m sure, but I need to sit down with my thoughts. It was another long, interesting day . I am not craving sugar and my caffeine headache has mostly gone. I am sitting on the world’s most comfortable bed and looking out over my private balcony. If there is a heaven, I hope it’s like this.

I am more relaxed than I have been in months, years, maybe. When Danny called last night to tell me all the things that were going wrong at home, I stopped him and said I had to hang up. I need this time. This peace. This tranquility.

I did some yoga today which was a nice change from the pounding that John Pierre gave us yesterday. It felt really good to stretch all those muscles while the sky just opened up outside. Sure, it’s raining, I’m a tiny bit sore, but oh, I am at peace.

Today’s sessions were really great, especially since my new best friend, Jeff Novick talked twice. He really made the sessions fly by! I learned some really nasty things about food labeling, though, I thought I knew everything! Here I am, an ISE for Whole Foods that does tons of research and why don’t I know this!? It’s maddening. Thinking about Bill again. I want to shake the food manufacturers for killing him.

Called home tonight and talked to the boys. Hearing their voices made me miss them. It also reminded me of why I am here. I need to be there for them for a long, long time. I feel like I need a few more days, but something has already shifted in me and there is no going back now.

Some silly notes from today’s classes:

C.R.A.P. = Calorie Rich And Processed
John Pierre is the Energizer Bunny
Shut up, Linda!

Wednesday - 

Some of my new friends are wearing green today. It takes me awhile before I realize that it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, R is wearing a huge green button down and hooting and hollering about breakfast. I love these people. I wish them success.

Today was by far the nicest day we have had and up until this point I had only skipped out on the late things; dessert, music, etc. But, it was such a gorgeous day that a few of us from the frozen north decided to break out instead of going to one of the lectures. The sky was cloudless and the pool was beckoning. It was so nice just to sit in the sun and laugh and soak it all in. I will miss this place and this feeling.

Notes worth noting:

“Organic heart attack - ha!”
“Stop believing the rabbit!”
“I got blood flow!”
“Veg-jew-tarians - oh boy”

Thursday - 

It’s our last real day and I am feeling a bit down, but also so thankful and happy. John Pierre took us on a little walk up to a “temple” of sorts. It was so peaceful and beautiful.

John has a lot of great ideas for keeping active. He suggests large, elastic bands to be used as leverage while you exercise during TV. commercials. I have a feeling that I will never look at TV. the same way again! He reminds me of M. I remember freaking out on him because he could never sit still. He constantly does pushups, sit-ups and things while watching TV. and it used to drive me crazy! Of course, he is also in really good shape; which goes to show that that type of mentality can get results! I have to call him when the week is over and let him know that after 18 years of friendship, it took this crazy guy John Pierre for me to realize that he was a genius! I’m sure he’ll say “I told you so”.

I’m excited to get my biometric measures tomorrow. I am pretty sure that I’ve lost a couple of pounds and I’ve been so relaxed that I’m sure my blood pressure is down.

The birds are so happy it’s Spring! Imagine only seeing two or three Springs in your whole life, like they do. I’m so lucky will now have a longer, healthier life thanks to all of the great information I’ve gotten this week. 

Jeff Novick’s information was at times, a bit hard to swallow. It’s so maddening that we are boldly marketed and lied to on a daily basis. But, he also gave me much hope that I could do this. I don’t want to be a part of the status quo anymore. Something that stuck with me was when he said something along the lines of “who cares if your diet is a little better than the average American when the average American is killing themselves!” It’s true. I have to be much, much better than average. I will definitely be checking Jeff Novick and Natala’s websites. I would also really love to keep in touch with John Pierre; he really made me see that working out needs to be a part of daily life, like eating and sleeping. Oh, so many great things to take away from this week!

Notes of the day:

Americans stop eating when the TV show is over
The American Heart Association sucks

Friday - 

Melancholy. It’s sad to be leaving, but I feel so empowered! I had my last work out of the week ( hopefully not forever! ) with John Pierre. I thanked him for all he had taught me. I’m finding it hard not to cry with joy and gratitude.

The biometrics’ are in: I lost 2½ pounds and ten points on my blood pressure! Not bad for five days! I’ll get the results of my cholesterol screening when Doctor Pam calls in a few weeks. That should be interesting. I love all the support we are getting. Rip will be calling, Pam will be calling, Jeff has a Facebook page, Natala has a website…it’s all there for us to take advantage of. And, I am sure we’ll need it in the real world!

We had a nice little graduation ceremony before everyone had to catch planes home. It’s amazing that only five days have gone by. It feels like we have been together for months and yet, too short at the same time. I am ready to go out and conquer my addiction.

Since I have gotten home I have not fallen off the plant strong wagon! Yeah, I’ve had a little white flour here and there and I’ve had small amounts of oil and sugar, but no meat and no dairy. I’m not even craving the stuff! The naysayers are already naying, but I won’t hear it. Just wait unitl I am back to a size 6. Then, they’ll shut up!

I feel better than I have in a long time. Maybe one of the biggest changes is that I have finally made working out an integral part of my day, like brushing my teeth. I wouldn’t go a day without that, either! The pounds are coming off slowly and I guess that’s okay. If I get stuck, I’ll start writing it down, like John Pierre suggested.

I’m on my way!

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