eat, move, think, feel

Year of Pain, Year of Humble November 13, 2014

IMG_7202Last week, after I spoke on a panel on reproductive stigma and justice, an audience member came up to me and said, “I know you.” I looked at her. I didn’t recognize her at all – a warm smile, brown skin, dimples. I squinted and said, “Really!” She said, “You’re Foodie McBody. I follow your blog!”

I was overwhelmed by a storm of thoughts and emotion. What blog? Hahaha. I haven’t posted a thing in months. And who? Foodie McWho? That person was a person who had receded so far away from me. I’d changed my Twitter handle and Instagram name, and nobody called me that anymore.

Foodie McBody was a person who, once upon a time, took her health by the reins and galloped into a transformation. There were years of glory. The first 5k! The Weight Watchers Lifetime key! The 10ks, the half marathons. Four of them. The two triathlons and more 5ks than I could count. I loved my health and loved my active body and I was just proud and glad, even through the struggles. I had little bouts here and there – a sprained ankle, a wrist flareup. But they all resolved within a month or two, and then I was back in the saddle again.

But then 2013 happened. I call it my year of pain. When my hip gave up after the Oakland half marathon, my last, and told me I might need to get it replaced. And then the fateful bounce on the trampoline that ruptured my cervical discs and brought me to a halt. When I could do nothing more than move, agonizingly, from one horizontal position to the next. Surgery, recovery and rehab in small, tentative steps.

2014 was supposed to be my comeback year. But it has not been that. After a brief triumphant walking 5k at the start of the year, I have been plagued by a thyroid condition that stalled my metabolism, and a foot ailment that won’t let up. Plantar fasciitis turned to posterior tibialis tendinitis leading to some sort of Achilles problem. My Achilles heel, indeed. Every morning I hobble out of bed like a 90 year old. Actually, I hobble out of bed more painfully and slowly than my own 92 year old mother, which is humbling, to say the least.

my Achilles heel

my Achilles heel

Do I want some cheese with my whine? Well, why not.

2014 has been the year of humble. But if I’m honest I also have to admit that it’s been a year of fear. Recently our family re-watched Spirited Away, one of those hallucinogenic Miyazaki films. One of the most disgusting images is this creature, the Hungry Ghost, that eats everything in sight – frogs, bicycles, humans, and keeps wanting more. It grows into a mountainous blob of sludge, its arms outstretched, and stinkily consumes everything in sight. When our young heroine refuses to be intimidated by the ghost, and doesn’t run away from it, it starts expelling the contents of its innards. Finally it shrinks to a fraction of its enormous size, and silently boards an underwater train, presumably bound for freedom.

That image has haunted me. And I think that that creature is like my fear. It reminds me of the Before version of Foodie McBody. Before I charged into healthy living in 2009, I was afraid of everything. Afraid to move. Even when it felt good.

For much of the time these days, I am paralyzed by fear. Only recently I’ve been able to venture into small, almost laughable activities. I join a weekly AquaFIt class at our pool, where most of the participants are ten, twenty or even thirty years my senior. For an hour we splash around the pool with foam weights and noodles. It feels like play, but when I climb out of the pool, I have to admit it’s kicked my butt.

I walk silently in the redwood forest near my house. Today I did a silent walk and in the quiet green I thought about my fear. The sky was white, a little blue, like the inside of an ice cube. The air I moved through was chilly and perfect, and the sun blinked uncertainly through the clouds every now and then. What am I afraid of? I am afraid of pain. My left heel sent out little jolts. So what, I said. So what. It’s not killing you. I notice. What do I notice. It’s like electricity. It’s like heat. It’s like a twangy little song reminding me that I’m alive. I liked the feeling of my legs. I still have muscles there. They’re still strong. I pushed up the gentle incline and I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t die from shortness of breath. I was doing it. It was just a walk. Calm down, I told myself. You’re okay. There’s nothing to be afraid of.


Worse than the pain, though, is the shame. The pain of shame. Of knowing where I was three years ago, that relentless athlete that swam in the icy, salty bay. The one who looked fear in the face and climbed on the bicycle, up hills, up so many hills, near whizzing cars and dogs. I ran and ran and ran. Three or four days a week, tweeting about my six pain free miles, my happy eight miles. These days I would consider it a victory to walk a 5k, to make it around Lake Merritt without sitting down, without limping. This is the greatest pain. To look in my closet and push aside the majority of the clothes, because nothing fits.

How to find compassion? That is what I want for 2015. The year of compassion. To say, it’s all right. You’re okay, whether you never complete another triathlon again. Whether those 15 pounds stick around like old friends. You’re okay. You’re okay.

These days do not look like 2010 or 2011. These days look like walking in the beautiful trees, like greeting my gray haired companions in the shallow end of the pool. Of meditating every morning, first in silence and then listening to the calm, warm voice of my teacher, leading me through the compassion meditation. Open to the possibility of being kind to yourself, he says. Open to the possibility of appreciating your life.

I’m open.

my walking meditation path

my walking meditation path


Another Chronic Disease, O Boy June 17, 2014

Five years into being diagnosed with type II diabetes, I finally felt like I had come to some sort of peaceful relationship with it. I felt like I was managing the best I could, and was really pleased late last year when my endocrinologist decided to discontinue my oral medications. I hadn’t even been considering that as a goal, so when she suggested it, I was both surprised and happy.  She said I was doing great. YAY ME!

I was interviewed (and photographed) by Diabetes Health Monitor magazine (a staple in endocrinologist offices everywhere!) and feeling pretty darned good about it all.

Then, a couple of months ago, things started changing. My blood sugars started bumping up. Then they bumped some more. They went higher than I’d ever seen before. I panicked. I called my endocrinologist and begged her to let me resume the medications.  She said okay, and resumed my lowest dose. Sigh.

Then my weight started inching up at a steady rate, despite my doing basically nothing different than I had in the past five years. Now, I’ve been doing Weight Watchers for a long time. And I’ve learned that when I see a surprise gain at the scale, there’s always been a reason. An indulgent weekend. A sedentary retreat. Any of those things. But I’ve always easily been able to right the ship, and come back on course within a very short time.

This time, not so much. I mean, not at all. That in spite of all my best efforts, the ship was not righting. Every few days I’d step on the scale, and every time, it was higher than the time before.

I was starting to freak out. I was starting to dread my WW meetings (which I LOVE) for fear of being called out as fraudulent, bogus, the works.  I was getting frantic that my clothes were getting to be terribly ill-fitting (or non-fitting). My torso was starting to resemble that of a 2nd trimester pregnancy. And I wanted to sleep, like, ALL THE TIME.

What the hell!

For a while, I was in silent paralysis. I couldn’t discuss it or deal with it at all, I was so freaked out. But then I called my doctor(s) who recommended thyroid testing. (and: lo and behold, thyroid problems can cause out of control blood glucose!) An ultrasound revealed an enlarged thyroid. Next step: blood tests. I had the tests last week and this week, while on vacation with my family, I received emails from both doctors. Normal TSH levels are .5-5, and mine is 9. Bingo.

Diagnosis:  hypothyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease. Then I nodded. I had about 90% of the symptoms. Weight gain. Puffy face. Fatigue. Brittle hair and nails. Memory issues. Joint pain. Weakness. Vision problems.



Well, damn.

I’m trying not to be all WHY ME? about this, but damn. Come ON. Okay. So what do I do. I start taking thyroid supplements. I start figuring out how to manage THIS chronic disease.

Part of me is really, really pissed off. But part of me is relieved. That it’s not worse. (it can always be worse, right?) And that this condition has a treatment. For which I am very grateful. I can’t wait for it to start WORKING! (this could take weeks–>months)

As I did when I first started this blog, and basically with every time I’ve every struggled, I know that reaching out with the struggle is better than struggling alone.  I know that finding community and support is better than flailing around alone.

Even thinking about writing this post has made me feel better.


Back In the World (Sort of.) November 23, 2013

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

Little by little. I’m venturing out. I’m doing small things, both in and out of the house.

Everything feels huge. HUGE. The first time I drove the car last week, I felt like a sixteen year old with a new permit, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, waiting long minutes before pulling into traffic. Testing out my neck, my reflexes, my attention, my ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. (the radio, other cars, my husband’s voice) I drove about 5 miles to drop my mother off at her volunteering gig.

I am humbled and amused that my 90 year old mother has about 100x more stamina and energy than I do. She can spend a day stuffing envelopes, come home and walk the dog, then go out to a Golden State Warriors basketball game, cheering and stomping until 10:00pm. All of which would probably kill me at this point.

People are happy to see me out in the world. They tell me I’m looking great! The teeny tiny bandaid at the the back of my neck doesn’t really represent anything. I say, the incision is small but deep. But it’s not just the incision that cut through the tough white fascia in my spine, the muscles and the drilling into my vertebrae. It’s the six weeks of unfathomable pain, of lying in bed trying to find a position, or walking around in ballet position, of counting the minutes before I surrendered and had to just get horizontal again (15 minutes on a really good day, 2 minutes on an average day).

Meanwhile I was forever experimenting with the pharmacy that was multiplying in my bathroom, trying to test the drugs to see which would bring relief without vomiting or psychosis or some other unpleasant side effect. Meanwhile my muscles, so long the pride of my body, have thinned down into thread. I have to be careful with what I lift. Even some plates are still too heavy. I’m better with saucers, single utensils, the little mugs and glasses, not the big ones. Pots and pans are out of the question. I won’t be hauling the turkey next week.

This week I stopped in at the Weight Watchers center to check in with Julie, the fabulous leader who has been filling for me since September. I told her I didn’t think I’d be back this week. Just sitting in a chair listening to her speak tired me out. I couldn’t imagine summoning the energy to stand up in  front of the meeting room. Not yet.

Last night I went back to the Writers Grotto because my beloved office mate was having a pre-nuptial party and I wanted to celebrate with her and the writers I’ve missed for so many months. I wanted to see my little space that I’d missed.

My succulent plants were long dead.

is this a metaphor for something?

is this a metaphor for something?

After a couple of hours of merriment (during which time I mostly slouched in the corner of a sofa, kind of dazed) I felt like I was melting. Unable to speak or hold up my head. I got home around 7:30 and went directly to bed.

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

This is how it is now. Better, so much better, but so far from where I was. I’ve taken a few walks this week, no more than a mile at a time. I slow-walk, always with a friend, whose arm I can grab if I start to wobble, half a mile to the “It’s Nice To Be Nice” bench. Then I rest. Then walk a half mile back to the car and again, directly to bed. It wipes me.

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Still, I’m managing to get some things done. I’m checking things off my to-do list. Phone calls and getting stuff done that I never had time to do before. Small things.

I’m reading. And writing. Thinking about new directions for the new year.

I’ve started reading Roxana Robinson’s stunning novel, Sparta, and reading about the Marine returning home from Iraq, and how returning from his experience is so surreal and terrifying, how his loved ones want to welcome him back just as he was before.  I know that two months of a herniated disc is not really comparable to four years of war, but it’s been like a little war in my body. It was a shocking kind of attack like I’d never experienced before. Where everything I believed and knew about myself was called into question.

I’m putting my life back together but it’s so much slower and in smaller increments than I ever could have imagined.




Diabetes: the Snooze Button September 28, 2012

Filed under: diabetes,diet,Fitbloggin',health,lessons learned,weight — Susan @ 12:18 pm

blood test

Yesterday I went to visit my new endocrinologist. My original, best doctor I’ve ever had left the practice last year and I was pretty bereft about it. I have some major Abandonment Issues, and yeah, I felt abandoned. So I acted out. I stopped testing my blood sugars and I neglected to call the office and get reassigned to a new doctor. I was mad and sad.

But leading up to Fitbloggin’ (that recap post WILL come, I promise!) I was practicing my show, which opens with me sitting in the doctor’s office. Doing this repeatedly reminded me about NOT going to the doctor’s office. I knew I had to stop putting it off. So I made an appointment and yesterday, I went.

The doctor was fine. I didn’t love her, but I didn’t dislike her either. She’s another young, female doc like my other one was. And I think I appreciated that she told it like it was.

“You’re not doing too bad… In fact, many people would kill to have your numbers. BUT…”

“But, things are worse than they were. I don’t like the trend.”

I knew that was going to happen. Which is why I had been avoiding this visit. But by the time it actually came around, I was ready to hear it. I wouldn’t call it a wakeup call exactly. Because I was already awake. It’s like, you’re already awake, and you’ve already hit the snooze button so you can lie there, but you don’t want to get up yet.

That’s been me the last six months or so. Awake, but not ready to get up.

Now I’m ready to get up.

The doctor also said, “Also, your weight. You know that extra fat (pointing at my stomach. OW.) can increase insulin resistance.”

Yeah. Yeah I know. I know! I’m on it, doc. So she gave me a challenge. I need to improve things (weight and blood glucose A1C) by January. Or else. Or else what? She will increase my meds.

She also said, “You know, you probably could get off your meds altogether. If you work at it.” Sting.

So. This is my challenge. January or bust, baby. I know I can do this. I KNOW I CAN. And now post-Fitbloggin and post-everything, I feel ready to do it.


100 Pounds Gone!!!!!!! August 12, 2012

Go Henry!!!

Summertime is usually a kind of sparsely-populated time around Weight Watchers. A lot of people are traveling, on vacation, or just not in the mood. Maybe they’re out earning lots of activity points. But at any rate, it’s not usually one of our busiest seasons. But this year, for whatever reason, my Wednesday night meeting is hopping. Last week was a huge one. I had over a dozen “celebrations” (where people are recognized for milestone weight losses, from 5 lbs on up) and the most fantastic one was Henry, who celebrated his 100 lb (actually 103 lbs) loss. (and counting)

Henry joined about a year and a half ago. At first he just charged out of the gate with huge losses every week. Then things started slowing down. Then he hit a plateau. And his weight went up a bit. And up. It went up and down. But through it all, he never stopped coming. Even when things were not going the way he wanted, he smiled and said, “Well, I’m here.” He came to meetings no matter if the scale told him good news or not.

A few months ago, we had a “Success Stories Live” event, in which we profiled several really successful members from our local group. One of Henry’s relatives was featured. At that night, he came up to me and said, “I’m going to be one of those people up there” (being featured) next year. And I saw that look of absolute determination in his face. From that night on, he just dove back into the program one hundred percent. It has been amazing to watch. Once he decided, it was pretty much all but done.

I could not be more overjoyed for him and his family. He first joined because his baby son had some medical issues. He wanted to be there to be a good role model, to provide for his family and to prevent health issues in himself. He is doing that all in such an amazing way. Add this to the face that Henry WORKS IN AN ICE CREAM STORE and also is a cake baker. Whaaa? Yes.  He is a professional baker who works in an ice cream store and he just lost 100 pounds.

(side note: he actually baked the delicious wedding cake for my triathlon buddy Lily’s wedding this weekend!!!!)

It is so inspiring to have Henry sitting in our meeting room, which is one reason I think the meeting is busting at the seams, especially for a summertime meeting. We have had to bring out extra chairs the past couple of weeks, which is great. The energy is high and the contagion of his success is spreading.

Every year, Weight Watchers staff have a special event with awards and recognitions and stuff. There is a special award for leaders who have had members who have lost 100 lbs or more during the previous year. I have never gotten that award. It’s really only a small handful of leaders who do. I have looked around at those leaders and thought, those members have really stuck with it. It’s a huge milestone and it takes so much dedication and commitment. I’ve had people come in with the goal of losing 100 lbs, but at some point they have drifted off.  Henry is the first person I’ve had who has hung in there through many ups and downs. I am fully confident that he will reach his final goal this year. I’m so happy for him and proud of any part I may have played in his achieving it.

Truly one of the highlights of my Weight Watchers career.



Confessional: Weigh-In February 21, 2011

Filed under: emotions,weight,Weight Watchers — Susan @ 7:57 pm

image from Flickr: Wade Kelly

Something happened a week or so ago that was a first. And not a happy first either, like “My first half marathon!” Woo hoo! It was the first time that I had a weigh-in as a WW staff/Lifetime member where the notice popped up that I had to pay. Which meant I was over my range for Lifetime membership. This was the first time this has happened since I made Lifetime status in July 2009.

I was “only” over by 1.8 lbs. Which on one hand is “not a lot.” But on the other hand… if that happened every month for a year? There goes almost 24 pounds, just a little bit at a time. And that’s how it happens, isn’t it?

I wasn’t completely shocked. January was a total bust for me as far as activity. I was sick about 70% of the month and probably only exercised 2-3 times. When I weighed in during the first week of February, it had had its effect.

I have been wrestling with this blog post ever since. It’s so much fun to post fantastic, celebratory, Woo-Hoo! I DID IT! sorts of blog posts. This kind is not so much fun. But I do think it’s just as important. It’s one of those moments of honesty that I think are absolutely crucial to this blog, and my whole process here.

So here I am. I weighed in at 1.8 lbs over Lifetime range. I am here to tell you that this is not going to happen two months in a row. When I weigh in again in the first week of March, I will be FREE again. I love that: “Free Lifetime.” Not only is it free in that you don’t have to pay, there’s a Freedom to knowing you are in range. I have been free since July 2009 and I am not about to put those chains on again. I worked hard to get there. I am going to get myself back there.

This is something that has happened to most WW staffers that I know, as well as many many Lifetime members. At some point, something slips for one reason or another, and then you’re up. Just a little. And then the little kind of snowballs into more and more until it’s… oh my god. Right?

Wrong. That’s not going to happen here. This is one of the HUGEST reasons that being a WW leader has helped me. I am not going to stand up there week after week if I’m not walking the walk. Or running the run. Or tracking the points.

This is my vow to myself, and to anyone reading this. I’m saying it again. I’m going to see that “FREE” pop up on the computer in March. And that’s that. It was interesting to have this, um, Learning Experience here, but what I learned is that I don’t want to repeat it. Got that?


The “Hunger Diaries” Kerfuffle October 10, 2010

I know I am chiming in VERY late to this conversation, but this is the first chance I’ve had to get my thoughts in order since the huge outburst following Marie Claire’s article was published last week: “The Hunger Diaries: Are Health Writers Putting You At Risk?”

Where do I even begin? Well, lots and lots of people have commented on this issue. Including the “Big Six” themselves: Carrots & Cake,  Healthy Tipping Point, (who started the amazing Operation Beautiful project), Meals and Miles, Cheeseburger in Paradise, I don’t want to be redundant.  And yet there are several things I feel I need to respond to.

  • Healthy-living bloggers (which I consider myself to be) are role models, and as such, bear a certain responsibility to their readers. Well, first of all, I have no idea who many of my readers are. Only a tiny percentage of my actual readers ever leave comments and so I don’t know who they are. I am not anywhere near the readership of “The Big Six,” some of whom have over 15,000 readers per day. (I wish! right?) I believe that my only responsibility is in telling what is true for me. That’s all I can do, really. I’m not here as an expert. I’m just living my life in the best way I can, with all its struggles and challenges, and whatever anybody else takes from it, I really cannot control.
  • One person’s healthy tool is another person’s trigger. We all have our methods. It’s a highly personal, unique and often charged journey, isn’t it? When I began photographing my food, several people commented that it pushed their buttons. It was too much. But for me, it was a comfort. A daily practice, almost a meditative act. I noticed that it made me much more mindful. (I’ve slacked off the pictures lately, and really want to get back to it because I do think it was immensely helpful. For ME.) I was amazed that in some of the responses to the Marie Claire article, MANY people made comments that keeping a food journal was a “dangerous practice” that teetered on disordered eating. That really made my eyes pop because this is one of the main tools of Weight Watchers. Studies have shown that people who journal their food lose more weight. I suppose if you are anorexic and should not BE losing weight, this can be a dangerous thing. Which leads me to…
  • There are eating disorders and then there are eating disorders. They run a huge spectrum, from anorexia/bulimia to compulsive and binge eating. What might be triggering and “dangerous” for anorexics might be just what a compulsive overeater NEEDS in order to be healthy.  Take the practice of “food destroying,” which I was startled to see, ranks as a possible sign of “disordered eating” in some arenas. Wow. Because this is something that I sometimes do, most often in restaurants, when I am given a portion that is way too big for me, and I know that is going to tempt me if I’m sitting there looking at it. I’m satisfied, and I don’t want to eat any more. I might put a napkin over it (I reallllllllllly don’t see anything wrong with that) or sometimes will oversalt it or put something else on it that will make it unappetizing. Case in point: the other night I was out at a restaurant. Server brought us an extra dish of amazing mashed potatoes with butter gravy. How I do love mashed potatoes! I was already full. I had a bite. It was delicious. I could feel the inner Gollum revving up inside me (“My precious… potatoes! Buttttttterrrrrr!”) How easy it would have been for me to just inhale the ENTIRE giant mound, even though I was already done eating. Because I WANTED it. But another voice inside me DIDN’T want it. I dumped some icky sweet sauce from my fish onto the potatoes, and that put an end to it. Now. Was that “disordered eating?” Or was it a tactic that saved me from overeating?   For my particular eating disorder, I think it was a healthy move. Others might disagree.
  • If people with eating disorders wanted to find unhealthy advice out there, it certainly is there for the seeking. People who are prone to anorexia will find instruction manuals in how to do that. People who want to kill themselves, ditto. And people who want to eat themselves into oblivion will find plenty of support as well. Whatever you want to find out there, it’s there.
  • Slanted journalism. I just think it was sensationalistic and wrong. That is all.
  • Back to the Triggers thing. Personally, I am sometimes triggered by reading raw food/vegan blogs because that’s not a choice I want to make, and the sheer idea of it makes me want to go eat a giant bacon cheeseburger. It’s a trigger for me, because of who I am. But if I HAPPEN to read one of those blogs, and then HAPPEN to go on an eating binge, I am going to put on my big-girl panties and not BLAME IT on the bloggers themselves. I mean, come on, people.

I think that’s it for now. But I was amazed at so many things I read this week. Maybe it’s because I’m such a small-potatoes blogger. I am not in any Big Six. Maybe I’m in the Big Six Million. Just one voice in the blogosphere. I write for me because it helps keep me on a path I want to stay on. If it’s at all helpful to others, fantastic. If anything I do or say triggers or is unhelpful to anyone, please avert your eyes. It seems like it should be that simple.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,236 other followers