Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's Working...

I'm still losing weight. I started right around June 1, and I'm down 14 pounds. It feels wonderful and I know what the difference is this time: when I plateau, I know it's temporary and keep at it. The last 20 times I've tried to lose, I'd get discouraged and give up when I didn't see the hard work pay off. It felt like too much work. I tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Slim Fast, you name it. They're all great programs--Weight Watchers is by far the best one, as it teaches you what portions should look like and how to feel fuller on fewer calories.

It took a sea change in the way I think that's making the difference. And that took changing my lifestyle and sticking with it when it felt like torture--I stuck with it, and suddenly, it felt right. It took about about a month to go from having to fight myself off the hot apple cobbler in the chowhall to feeling like it's okay if I have a small portion every so often and I'm not in danger of going back for a bigger portion once I get a taste.

At one point, I weighed exactly the same, to the decimal point, for two weeks. I kept pushing, and sure enough, one day I got on the scale and started dropping again. It goes in spurts--two pounds down, steady for a week or even up a pound, suddenly another two pounds down.

I read Thin For Life, which is a book based on folks registered in the NWCR, the National Weight Control Registry, and most of them said their mindset had to change for meaningful weight loss to occur. And it's absolutely true; I'm starting to view what a meal looks like differently. Same with snacks. Something just clicked and it doesn't feel like deprivation the way it used to--it feels natural. Which it is. This is how humans were designed to eat--not gargantuan portions and gobs of fat and sugar.

About the NWCR: in order to register, one must have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year. The average weight loss among participants is 60 pounds, and the average time they've kept it off is 5 years. So these are the people who know what they're doing. In addition to reading about them, I'm reading studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The prevalence of common themes is striking and all roads lead to the following truths about weight loss:

--You must exercise. Period. I heard Oprah tell a complaining guest that she also hates it. Oprah hated it this morning, in fact. The thing that changed is that now, it feels like something that just gets done every day, like brushing my teeth...I don't always "feel like it," but I do it anyway. I do an hour of moderate-to-intense cardio, 5-6 times a week, and lift weights 2-3 times a week. Sure, it's a lot, but look at the payoff...I used to spend three times that long in front of the TV. That's why God made DVR--you only watch what you're really into, and you can record it to watch when you do have time. Right now, I have two Baghdad Boyfriends--do you think I miss TV??

Not exercising means not losing weight. It's just that simple.

--That piece of cheesecake isn't the last on Earth. I somehow reached the point where food doesn't have such a grip on me--I MUST eat those fries!! Not eating the cheesecake now does not mean I'll never eat it again. That sense of urgency has faded considerably.

--A meal does not have to take up a huge plate. I've had to change what looks like a meal--for instance, last night I had two small, baked chicken breasts and some peas, and that was plenty.

--Not eating carbs is stupid. I tried it in the Army--I did lose weight (quickly), but I felt like I'd landed on a planet with twice Earth's gravity. However, replacing some carbs with lean protein means you feel fuller and stay that way longer. I've cut way back on simple carbs, because they have no fiber and have very little nutritional value, and upped the protein considerably. It works. Where a plate of vegetables alone leaves me feeling like I've only snacked, a big slab of chicken feels like a meal. Most side dishes are the kiss of death--potatoes, rice, all that stuff. Big calories, small payoff.

--People who weigh themselves frequently tend to lose more and keep it off more successfully. I weigh myself every morning. You can correct mistakes quickly this way...oh, hell, I'm up a pound, guess that lamb schwarma at the Iraqi restaurant last night was a little too much. Better make sure I get to the gym today. Then that pound is gone the next morning. I no longer have that feeling of, well, I already screwed up by eating that cake for Melissa's birthday, I might was well have some onion rings. I guess the bottom line is, it's the way I talk to myself that's changing. The more success I see, the easier it all is.

It's changing everything. I love to get up in the morning and choose a cute outfit. Looking good feels amazing and my mood is much improved, all day every day.

I can't wait to go shopping when I go home for Thanksgiving.

The Dreaded Tigris Pink

S is one of my co-workers. He scratched his eye somehow, and it swelled, turned red, and just generally looked--and felt--dreadful. Being somewhat of a jokester, he told C, another co-worker, that it was pinkeye.

"You better not give me that shit," C said.

"I can't help it, it's the Tigris Pink," said S.

"The what?!?"

"The Tigris Pink. Highly contagious, hurts like hell. Doc says I might lose some vision."

"No shit??? Man, you better stay the hell on your side of the room, buddy."

S came into my office and told me about the joke. "Wait here," I said. I walked down to their office on the pretext of needing some information on a report.

I peered at C. "Are you okay?" I asked.


"No, I mean, your eyes look red. Did you just wake up?"

C just looked at me with his mouth open. "Well, hope you feel better," I said, and walked out. I told S what I'd done. He walked into the bathroom and C was leaned in over the sink, staring at his eyes in the mirror.

"They're not fucking red," he muttered.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Your High is My Low

The lows are in the 90's. And it ain't even August yet--it'll get at least five degrees hotter. I always had the feeling that people don't completely believe me when I say it gets up into the 120ยบ's.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Man Camp

My friend brought me to a compound for an organization outside the Department of Defense so that I could meet some folks outside my workplace. A breath of fresh air, a little variety, some new faces. Sounded lovely.

This particular compound is within the IZ, and requires an escort. We waited at the gate until our contact met us and signed us in, following the round of introductions. We passed through a second guard shack, another ID check, then through the door to the interior of the compound.

And stepped directly onto Mantasy Island. A gender-reversed Playboy Mansion.

Muscular men in varying states of disrobe wandered freely about the patio area, playing pool, drinking beer, talking shit. Music played. Steaks grilled.

I stood there and blinked. We were the only women visible, and all those tanned, smiling faces turned our way. Drinks and steaks appeared. We were led to a table, our body armor whisked away. Biceps, chests flexed, backs rippled, laughter. I wore a very cute above-the-knee green skirt and sandals, and every hour I've spent on the elliptical trainer paid off right then and there.

I've been back twice, and bought a cellphone to keep in touch with my secret, new land. There are texts in my phone every time I leave my desk. It's intoxicating.

And I haven't whispered a word about it to any co-workers. It makes my days much brighter to have a secret life of my own, separate from work. I don't drink there--that's just too risky--and I'm not breaking any rules.

Just a bit less sleep and great company. I feel as though I've been handed the keys to the wardrobe with the mantasyland on the other side.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Haunted House

We live in a massive, concrete builing, like a large city block with all kinds of sections, floors, and interconnecting hallways that snake through the dark and spooky innards of the building. There is no way to know what went on here back in Saddam's day. Since we bombed the shit out of it, there are large chunks of concrete hanging from rebar threads all over the outside, rubble everywhere that hasn't been rebuilt.

The hair on the back of my neck always stands up whenever I sprint through the pitch-black cave that leads to the gym--the alternative is to walk all the way around the giant city block in the white-hot sun, and I'd rather take the short sprint.

R is the new guy. He looks about twelve and must endure a great deal of ribbing: Does your mamma know you're here? All in good fun--we really like him. R was on the other side of the building in our sister organization's office spaces, and realized he was late to a meeting with some big Sergeant Major. He asked someone over there how to get through the building back to our side, and they pointed to a door.

R went through the door into total darkness. He turned around to go back, just as the door clicked shut. He stood there, let his eyes adjust, and looked for the light. He made out a door to his left, and walked through it...also into total darkness, and this door also clicked shut.

He stood and listened. There were faint clanking noises and he could hear heavy breathing. He could tell there were people in the dark there with him--not ghosts, but people rustling around, clanking things, breathing. He had that same hair-raising feeling I get in the gym tunnel, unsure if these sounds were the result of his wildly racing imagination, and if not, what the hell were people doing in a pitch-black passageway?

Finally, he raised the courage to speak. Uh, is someone in here? Someone chuckled Yeah, of course, as if stating the obvious.

Just then the power came back on. He was in the gym.