Fat Lady on a Bike: My Journey to Peace and Fitness

Join me and my wonderful Electra Townie bike on my continuing journey to inner peace and both inner and outer fitness.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taking It On the Road

I'm sitting at a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, on the brink of several days of meetings, followed by a weekend family visit, contemplating with much curiosity and a little trepidation what it means to have taken my current array of medical concerns on the road.

It started this morning, at the TSA checkpoint, where I didn't know that I was supposed to take the CPAP machine out of its case so it could be specially screened.  Actually, it started before that, when I had to shlep the additional carry-on with the machine, mask, hoses and cords.  I try to travel really light with respect to what I carry on, so this was a major shift, and one that I felt, literally, as I trudged around the airport.  Maybe this means that in future I can't bring my computer backpack, but should go with a wheeled carry-on.  Sigh.

I stuffed a little cooler into my backpack with lunch, since I was traveling at noon, and that was fine.  When I got to Madison, I immediately went to Whole Foods Market to get some supplies, and was dismayed to find that they don't sell a couple of key items that I'd been counting on, like the American cheese that has been a mainstay for me since day one.  Sigh.

Then I got to the Doubletree and was handed the famous warm chocolate-chip cookie of welcome.  Sigh.

No question, it's going to be a challenge.  I've never been a particularly demanding diner; in fact, I've always thought that people who demand changes and substitutions are kind of a pain in the neck, or elsewhere.  But meet me, newly minted pain in the neck, or elsewhere.  It's not going to be easy for me to be so assertive about food; as a life-long fat person, I've generally tried to disappear into the woodwork when it comes to making food choices in public. I've also taken for granted that I can pretty much go anywhere and eat anything.  Not any more.  I'm hoping for steak houses and salad bars, places where I know I can get plain foods on my permitted list.  Goodbye to the Afghani and Nepalese restaurants, the Jewish deli, and the cheese curds and fish fries of previous trips.  Sigh.

On the positive side, I have a fridge in my room, which now contains some wonderful organic Fuji apples, some organic cottage cheese, some baby cucumbers, sourdough rye bread that I plan to bring down to breakfast, and the rest of the American cheese I brought from home.  On the shelf above the fridge are my Wasa Rye crackers, my Brown Rice Snaps, and a jar of almond butter.  In my suitcase are the peanuts and cashews I brought with me.  I won't starve, a thought that is incredibly comforting.

And tonight, when I get ready for bed, I can fill my CPAP humidifier with the distilled water I bought, put on my nasal pillows, and feel as cozy and comfortable as I do at home.

Enough of sighing.  Enough of trepidation.  I'm looking forward to my dinner.

A hui hou.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ups and Downs

Sunday I went with a friend to an aqua fitness class at the Newton Boston Sports Club (thanks, Alesia!).  The class was fun, and a good workout, but I mention it because of the amazing pool in which class was held.  There is a moveable wall that can create a class space, while leaving lanes for lap swimming (though much shorter than usual), and there is a movable floor to that class space, so that it can adjust for the heights of the students or be raised level with the sides so that people with mobility issues can get in and out comfortably. 

When I first heard about that floor, I couldn't quite get my mind around the concept.  Where did the water go?  What would it feel like?  Now that I've experienced it, I still don't understand quite how the water gets around the floor, but I do know that feeling the bottom adjust, gradually feeling on firmer footing, is a perfect metaphor for so much about my life now.

Ups and downs:  it's all about ups and downs, treading in deep water and sometimes feeling the bottom solidify beneath my feet.  And occasionally swallowing water and sputtering when I can't quite find my footing or slip a little on the tiles. 

In the food department, I've had my moments of less than supportive choices (see Oops, my last post), but the other evening, when I was scheduled to add mint via some Haagen Dazs Five ice cream, when the moment came, what I really wanted was an apple.  So that's what I had, and I enjoyed it enormously.  I ended up having the ice cream in the wee hours when I couldn't sleep and was actually hungry, and enjoyed it enormously then.  Both of those decisions were definitely an "up" moment.

In the sleep realm, my ups are that I find the CPAP mask generally comfortable and the machine incredibly quiet, and I don't have any trouble wearing it all night.  But the downs are that I still have significant trouble falling asleep, and that I am not really sleeping very restfully -- lots more moments of conscious wakefulness, probably due to not being used to being tethered, than I had with the apnea.  I assume that the bottom of that particular pool will slowly, slowly rise until one day in the near future I will be waking refreshed and restored from a good night's sleep.

In the area of physical activity, the up is that I am starting to be more active.  The downs are that I am feeling more joint pain and am usually exhausted after I exercise.  I know that both of those things will get better as I keep going, but sometimes the feeling of treading water in an uncomfortable pool makes it hard to stay in the water, let alone move ahead.  Still, I know that persisting through the discomfort is the only way to lessen it, and so I continue to agitate hands and feet, metaphorically speaking, to keep my head above the water.

May we all feel the reassuring solidity of the floor under our feet.

A hui hou.

Friday, October 8, 2010


In the interests of honesty and full disclosure, I want to write about last night, which was not my finest hour.  After so much positiveness, I suppose a small step back was inevitable.  That doesn't make it any easier to experience, unfortunately.

I was ravenous yesterday.  I got up late and had to rush out of the house to meet a friend for a physical activity date, so all I had time for was a banana on the way down to the garage.  When I got home at noon, I had exactly an hour to eat breakfast/lunch and get ready to go get my hair cut, so I shoveled in some cottage cheese with pineapple (one of my favorites) and a couple of WASA crackers with some butter.  I enjoyed that, but didn't have the time to fully appreciate my meal.  When I got home a couple of hours later, hungry again, I hurriedly ate lunch.  I enjoyed that, too -- especially the lettuce -- but even when I was finished, I didn't feel particularly satisfied, which was odd, because I had had more than enough food by any standard.  Dinner was a hurried affair during "Grandma Thursday" -- never an occasion for eating particularly mindfully, with various grandchildren clamoring for attention, and when we got home at 9:30, I was hungry again.

Being hungry is not bad.  Eating when hungry is not bad.  If I had only eaten a snack or small meal in response to that hunger, I would not be writing this post.

But I was tired, I was aching (both my sore ankle and my arthritic knees have been causing me much pain the past few days), and I was, I think, feeling the cumulative effects of rushing around mindlessly most of the day.  So I had one snack.  And then another.  And a little later another. 

Any one of them would have been a fine choice.  Any one of them would have left me feeling comfortable, both physically and emotionally.  Instead, by the time I'd finished the last spoonful of cereal (the third and final snack), I was feeling incredibly stuffed and a little nauseated.  That was interesting in itself, because the fact is that the total quantity of food I consumed was way less than I might have in the bad old days; I think I have finally gotten used to eating the smaller amounts that are more appropriate for my current age and activity level.  But feeling that uncomfortable also made it very clear why overeating was not a very useful technique for managing whatever it was that I was trying to manage. 

The bottom line was that I was still tired and still aching, only now I was also feeling sick.  Bleah.  So I finally did what I should have done in the first place and put myself to bed.

I write this not as a public mea culpa.  I don't feel guilty, only a little sorry that I didn't make a healthier choice.  Mostly, I found the experience extremely interesting and perhaps indicative of how far I have come.  And possibly of how far I have left to go.


A hui hou.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lettuce Rejoice!

So far, my fears about sugar seem to have been unfounded, and I am happy to report that yesterday's new food, which was lettuce, led to one of my more astonishing experiences.

I decided to add lettuce, even before some of the more interesting vegetables that I love, like zucchini and eggplant and cabbage, because I figured that when I go out of town in a couple of weeks and have to eat in restaurants, lettuce would give me access to a whole bunch of choices that will make my life much easier.  It's a rare restaurant that doesn't offer a Caesar salad with grilled chicken, fish or steak -- I never eat the croutons anyway, don't need the parmesan and usually prefer to have it without dressing, so if they can give me the protein without seasoning, I'll be fine. 

Now, like most perennial dieters, I have long had a love-hate (sometimes even a hate-hate) relationship with salad.  For the 4-5 years I followed the Carb Addict's Diet, a hefty salad was a required prelude to each "reward meal" -- the one where you could actually have carbs.  When I did low-calorie programs or old-style Weight Watchers, salads were the "free" food, the one you almost didn't have to count, unless you used a lot of dressing, which I never did, by choice.  Even at Green Mountain, where the program emphasizes the joys of eating rather than restriction and deprivation, salad is an ever-present entity, usually a planned part of every lunch and always a choice if you are still hungry after finishing lunch or dinner.  Though Carol thinks of salad (and also raw fish!) as comfort food, salad never did it for me.  Ever.

But yesterday, I can't tell you how excited I was as I picked out some succulent hearts of Romaine to have as the new food of the day, the accompaniment to grilled salmon and boiled Yukon Gold potatoes.  The excitement built as I assembled my salad -- tearing up the romaine, slicing some cucumber, washing a handful of super sweet grape tomatoes, and cutting some black olives in half to add a salty contrast.  And when I ate the first bite, I felt as though I had never tasted anything so delicious.


I'd have to say that I enjoyed that salad significantly more than the long-awaited almond horns I added on Sunday evening.  And I enjoyed the lettuce again an hour ago as I munched my way through the remaining leaves with my lunch.

Is this a simple case of absence making the taste buds grow fonder?  Or have I really changed in some very fundamental way in my relationship with food?

Only time will tell.

A hui hou.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I've been quiet this past week as dealing with a new physical pain drove out the psychic pain of waiting for my CPAP.  But I have not stopped my progress with the LEAP protocol, continuing to add a new food from my non-reactive list every other day.  Though I have mostly been going in order, according to the phases provided by the LEAP lab, I decided (with dietitian support) to jump ahead a little bit with certain foods that will enable me to eat out with a bit more ease when I travel on business in a couple of weeks.  So I skipped a bunch of fruit and cabbage in order to get to eggs, beef and lettuce.  But last night, as an extra special treat, my added food of choice was cane sugar.

It felt kind of dangerous and scary.  Adding sugar, after the addition of eggs, means that the world of baked goods is opening up, albeit gluten free.  Specifically, I ate two little gluten-free almond horns (courtesy of Aleia's), and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  As I opened the bag to share with my dining companions, I wondered whether I was actually opening a dietary Pandora's box. 

So far my experience with the LEAP protocol has been nothing short of amazing.  I have simply had no desire to eat any of the foods to which I tested as sensitive, and also have had no desire to jump the gun on any late-stage foods before their time.  Though I've occasionally had urges to eat salty/crunchy (usually satisfied by organic American cheese on sesame-rice crackers) or sweet (cashew butter with a little honey or maple syrup mixed in or some freeze-dried fruit), they have been momentary urges only and easily satisfied.  There was no "bag of cookies" option.  And while it has felt as though those particular cravings departed when I finally dealt with the buried feelings about my mother and her death (see my blog posts from June), being without emotional impetuses to eat is still an extremely new experience for me, and one that I'm having a little trouble trusting.

On the one hand, those almond horns sat on the counter for four days, waiting for me to pack them up for our trip to Vermont, without once calling out to me seductively.

On the other hand, sugar was not yet a permissible food.  Now it is.

Will things change now?  I don't think so, and I certainly hope not, but only time will tell.

A hui hou.