Remember The Ant Farm!

Tara Brach tells a story of her son who, in first grade, received an ant farm for his birthday. He watched the ants living life the way they do, and in the process, he grew to know them. He saw fellow ants take their dead comrades to an “ant cemetery.” He watched them build homes and share food, and observed their interdependence. Then one day at school, he saw his classmates on the playground squishing ants and laughing. He was devastated. He couldn’t understand why they were killing the same kind of creatures he’d witnessed living their lives in his ant farm. His mother said, and I’m paraphrasing, that his classmates, unfortunately, didn’t know the ants like he did.

You can’t destroy that which you love or know intimately. And, on the flip side, you cannot love what you do not know.
So why is it that we do things that hurt ourselves, the person who should be our own best friend,  the person we love most in this world?
The hurt is often subtle. A bag of Cheetos, a donut at a work function, some ice cream after a long day. In and of themselves, these things aren’t “bad” when consumed mindfully. For instance, I chose to eat a few baked chips while writing this blog. I wasn’t subconsciously destroying my food plan. I’m PMSing and I recognized the craving for salt and crunch. It feels awkward to say I “loved” myself enough to eat baked chips, but satisfying that craving by consciously choosing to eat a small portion was, in a subtle way, an act of love.
Now the decision I made yesterday to sit on my ass all day and not exercise when my body was clearly needing movement? Not so loving. My excuses and distractions were like squishing ants on a playground. I was not intimately in touch with what was going on in my body. I put my fingers in my ears and refused to listen to what it was saying.
I attended a lecture last Saturday on the topic of how to change your life. I’m not looking to change my entire life, but there are parts that could use some tweaking. The speaker, Eileen Colianni, is the one who said, “You cannot love what you do  not know,” and she went on to emphasize that “knowing” isn’t enough. We must act, too.
I “know” eating carrots rather than carrot cake is a healthier choice. I “know” going to the gym is a better choice, too, than…say…going to Dunkin Donuts (unless it’s for a non-fat latte AFTER a workout!). I know these things and yet…sometimes something stops me from choosing the better path.
As Eileen said, we are often caregivers and are used to asking, “What do you want from me?” She challenged us to turn the question around and ask, “What do I want from me?” And to get what we want, she said, we have to decide something. De-cide. The root of “cide” is to kill. So in order to decide, we must (proverbially speaking) “kill” something to get what we want. For instance, if I want to lose 20 pounds, I need to “kill” the thought that floats around in my head that 20 pounds will magically disappear simply because I want them to. Therefore, the death of a negative thought or a misheld belief is the key to knowledge and, in turn, the pathway to love. Loving what we know.
(Maybe now is a good time to take a deep breath and reassure yourself that you don’t have to fully ingest or even accept what I just wrote. I know I get all tight in the stomach and I scrunch my shoulders and wince my eyes when I read convoluted philosophies about “how to” live my life. So…OK…take a deep breath. Hold it a few seconds. Let it out. Feel better? That, my friends, was an act of love.)
We all have it within ourselves to discover our own truths about what we truly want and need. And it is without self judgment that I urge you to examine what those somethings are. What good is self flagellation anyway?
If you need a reminder about not being able to destroy that which you love, remember the ant farm! Make it your mantra and do what it takes to love your bad self!

The Mental Price of Skinny (and how I’m finding middle ground)

It felt good to write and publish my last post, “Intentions and Confidence.” It feels right to have my voice out here again, even though it is a somewhat changed voice. But isn’t that what our voices do? Change, grow bolder, and perhaps wiser?

Ever since first grade, I’ve been honing my voice. (Read “The GleefleThat Sneefed” from my ZenBagLady blog.) I can shut it up for awhile, but it doesn’t take long for it to start knocking in my brain, “Let me out, damn it! I’ve got something to say that you (meaning me) need to hear!”
And so last week I let my voice out of its mind cage and resurrected Lynn’s Weigh. You see, months ago, I thought I’d written the last chapter of my weight-loss, weight-maintenance journey. I thought I had nothing thoughtful to say anymore. I wasn’t losing weight. Hell, I wasn’t even maintaining! I am 20 pounds heavier than my goal weight – weight brought on, in part, by arthritic and personal issues. But the biggest reason I’d gone blog rogue is, quite frankly, I was ideologically exhausted. I didn’t know what I believed anymore.
For six years I was a food purist. I became a vegetarian along the way and I ate a salad every day and two servings of fruit. I limited my carb intake, and shunned white sugar, white flour, white rice, white potatoes, Splenda and Tofurkey. I weighed myself every morning, naked and evacuated. Every point-something number mattered and was recorded. When the scale read between 128-132, I was happy. Anything more than 132, I panicked.
I ate, drank, and slept weight. I wrote about it, talked about it, and even got on camera a few times to show what losing weight looks like. Weight was a full-time job that didn’t pay the bills and left me emotionally drained.
Then I got divorced, and for the last two years, life has morphed into something very unlike the life I lived in the comfort zone of yore. Weight used to be my purpose. For the last year, it’s been more of a backdrop. It is my Intention to find a middle ground. A place I can lose or maintain without losing perspective. A place in which I can walk and chew gum at the same time.
This doesn’t mean I’ve changed my belief that good nutrition and balanced food choices and portions are essential to weight loss and maintenance. And I still believe in the power of exercise, both on our minds and bodies. Those themes will remain the same here. What I’m learning is how to set my train back on the tracks when I get derailed by physical issues and emotions beyond my immediate control. I listen much more closely to my body and treat it with even greater respect than I thought possible. I’ll share these insights with you along the way, as I’ve always done, but with less absolutes than before. Balance, I’ve learned, allows for some wiggle room.
I’m also back because I have the best readers in the blog-o-sphere! Readers who aren’t afraid to speak up, share, ask questions, and support one another. Call me selfish, but I need y’all (or “yinz” if you live in Pittsburgh). Thanks for sticking with me, and if you’re new here, welcome! I’ve posted 400+ blogs here in five years, so start reading! There will be a quiz on the material in a few weeks. Oh wait, that’s MY life. I’LL have a quiz on material I’ve read over the next few weeks. I’M the one in school. Everything gets so tangled up in my head sometimes 🙂
As a quick update, my daughter, Carlene, was married in October.
Luca is 3 1/2. Claire is a squish over 5.

Maelie (AKA MaeMoo) will be 2 in four weeks!
And my grandchildren keep growing like weeds!
Grandbaby #4 is due the end of February. My daughter, Cassie, amazes and inspires me every day. She teaches spin and a strength training class several times a week this late in her pregnancy. When I had 6-7 weeks left of my pregnancies, I went to work (in an office), came home, and plopped in front of the TV. I’m still guilty of that, and I don’t work in an office and I’m not pregnant! I have no excuse! 
Congratulations to MariankaK for winning Carla “MizFit” Birnberg’s book, “How to Build Muscle and Lose WeightWithout Losing Your Mind.” As I mentioned last blog, I’ve been reading Carla’s blog for years and her down-to-earth approach to life, fitness, motherhood, you name it has grounded me many times, especially those times I didn’t realize I was ungrounded! Give her blog and book a look-see if you haven’t already. 

Lost In Space

The space of my life right now is filled with crazy difficult challenging things. School, work, joint issues, relationships…you know what I’m talking about. 

In a few moments of reflection today in my doctor’s office, I realized that within the crazy spaces, there has been a lot of “fun,” as in moments or stretches of moments of oblivion. Those “caught-up-in-the-moment times of ‘ahhhh….’” times.  
A good joke, an unexpected moment with a friend, being drawn in by a beautiful flower or bird, a meeting of the minds with colleagues over a cup of coffee… For me, these moments get buried in the monotony of my primary spatial existence. When fun is happening, I often concentrate on what future challenges lie ahead instead of breathing in those moments of laughter and calm. 
You know how you can hear 10 really good things about yourself and one bad thing, and you remember and focus on the one bad thing more than the 10 good things? If we only concentrated more on the good than the bad, how much better we’d breathe and eat and exercise and overall treat ourselves better. 
I sometimes get so caught up in how my jeans fit and what I eat and in reminding myself to read the latest/greatest report on weight loss that I forget how to live in my body and have fun in it and with it. Those are the times I need this guy: 
Danger, Lynn Haraldson!
The two things I thought about in the waiting room today were: 
1. Maelie Julianne – grandbaby #3 – turned 1 year old on Feb. 10. All the regulars were at the party – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – and everyone wanted to see and hold Mae. She allowed people that and entertained everyone with her teetering walking, but she escaped the crowd once in awhile, gravitating to one of her favorite toys her mom put in the corner of the dining room so it was out of the way. I watched her play while everyone else talked and ate lunch and I thought, ‘How cool! Mae’s 1 and already she knows she needs time alone.’  Don’t we all? To recoup and recognize fun when we experience it? Of course! But…do we do it?
2. The soup kitchen where I volunteer is surrounded by poverty and need. Everyone who works there understands that and does NOT take that truth lightly. But inside – where we do our work – there are a lot of moments of fun. Peeling butternut squash and telling jokes, inventing a cabbage and tomato dish with only what’s in the pantry, washing dishes with a latex-glove-encased stopper sticking out of the water… Heck, even putting on a hair net can be hysterical! (You’ll have to trust me on this.) Thinking of my fellow volunteers and the paid staff who patiently guide us through our work made me crack up in the doctor’s office. I’m sure I made a few heads turn, but I don’t care. ‘How lucky are you?’ I thought. *grin* It was a fun moment.
I’m five weeks into the spring semester, and I’m learning a lot about enteral tube feedings and medical terminology and bacterial growth in food. But it’s the life lessons I continue to learn that mean the most: 
Little. Things. Matter. 
Little things make me sane. They ground me. 
I know each of our lives is multifaceted. But thinking strictly within the realm of diet and exercise, how often do you allow yourself to have pure, unadulterated fun that doesn’t include body image or food? 
Body image and food (and all that they encompass) have become the buzz in the background of my mind, and I’m not sure that’s always a good thing. But…like laughter…it keeps me grounded. I just have to remember to keep a pulse on all of the things that make up the space of my life. And that includes fun. 

A Tale of 20 Pounds

I couldn’t wait to see Denny yesterday. We met for breakfast at King’s in Kittanning, even though we were hoping to find some dive in East Brady, which probably exists, but not on Google.

Denny’s a long-time friend of ex-Larry, and they’d been on a “Sideways”-ish tour of the NY and Canada wine country over the weekend. Denny is also my friend, and the thing about friends when you get divorced, they either pick one side of the couple to side with or they throw their heads back and say, “I like you both. I’m not gonna choose or get in the middle.” Denny’s that friend.

When I walked into King’s, Denny was seated in a booth facing the entrance. When he saw me, he stood up, gave me a big hug, and said, “Hey, I was expecting that waif of a woman in a pink shirt! Your face is fuller. You look great!”

What I heard: “Damn, Lynn, you gained weight again!”

The last time Denny saw me I looked like this:

This is what I look like now:

My lowest weight was 125. I am now 145. Twenty pounds in two years. The gain has stopped, and I know why it happened (surgery, menopause, divorce, move, stress), but still…

I sometimes want to be that waif again.

At least I think I do.

And yet….

1. When I gained 10 pounds last year after my knee surgery, my body felt better. I have severe osteoarthritis, and when my body-fat levels were low, I was in a lot of pain. I’ve not been in as much pain at 145. Hmmm….

2. I like my current food regimen and I don’t want to change or reduce amounts at this point. I eat healthy foods, I’m still a vegetarian, but I’m no longer a food Nazi. I police myself, don’t get me wrong, but I let a baguette or full-fat cream cheese or a piece of my daughter’s banana bread fall through the cracks sometimes. I confess: I’m human.

3. This gain has stopped (I’ve stayed the same weight for 3 months) and I’ve fell in love with exercise again. It was a rough summer. My brother’s seizures and my pending school schedule had my undies in such a bundle there was no way to detangle them. Now that things have settled down and I have a better understanding of what’s what, my exercise schedule and nutritional intake are front and center again.

I learned that in times of stress, that when I stay focused on my health, my principles will not fail me. In the last three months, I’ve made the best decisions I could and stayed conscious of everything I put in my mouth. My food plan – culled over the last six years – has become rote. And that is what I think is the key to success. When the diet you choose becomes second nature, and you allow for some latitude and yet reign yourself in when you go too far, you are there. You get it.

My body has a few more curves than before. I’m no longer a waif, and that sometimes makes me sad. But I feel better physically. I’m strong and I look…eh…well, I’m still working on that positive. I look OK. I fell in love with being skinny. Waifishly skinny. That’s a psychological thing I’m still working out.

Today I was driving down Route 28 on my way home from Claire’s taekwondo class. A man – who I’d guess was in his late 60s – driving a late model (1980s?) black Jaguar passed me, and he was wearing a safari hat like the Man in the Yellow Hat from the Curious George books. There was what looked like a book mark hanging from his rear view mirror. He was singing. I imagined the book markish thing was some kind of saying or verse that he liked that kept him grounded. I thought about what mantra I might hang on my rear view mirror, what words would remind me that I am OK here in this moment, at 145 pounds, happy to be alive and singing in my car.

I’m open to suggestions. What mantra do you live by? What words give you strength?

Vacuums and Bodies Work Better When You Consult the Owner’s Manual

I bought a Dirt Devil canister vacuum when I moved to Da’burgh 8 months ago. It’s not quite the dog-hair-sucker upright Kenmore – with what seemed like 382 settings and attachments – that I left behind, but it is more portable and gets the job done.

At least it used to.

The double D came with an owner’s manual, which I promptly put in the junk drawer along with the microwave manual and the toaster oven manual and the range manual and the Cuisinart manual and Harrison Township’s 2011 garbage and recycling schedule. (I know it’s garbage day when I look out the window. If the neighbors have their garbage out in the morning, I slap on my sandals and roll the can to the curb.)

Last Saturday, Cooper the Wookie came to visit for the weekend. The boy is a very hairy Flat-Coated Retriever you can groom and groom and groom again and still leaves a silhouette every time he gets up off the floor or couch. When he went home yesterday, he left behind enough fur to stuff several accent pillows.

After he left, I took out DD and started to vacuum. I’d noticed a few months ago (yes…a few months ago…*hanging my head in shame*) that it wasn’t picking up as much as it used to, but I lived with what it could do because I wasn’t curious enough to find out why it wasn’t working at her highest potential. But yesterday, when it was merely moving Cooper hair around and not sucking it up, I gave it the attention it needed months ago.

Of course by “attention” I mean I assumed I knew what was wrong. First I checked the hose for a clog. That wasn’t the problem. I cleaned out the dirt cup, which – surprise, surprise – wasn’t very full. That wasn’t the problem, either. Finally, I disassembled part of the canister and gave it a shake – a vacuum version of a smack on the TV when the screen goes wonky. But when I reassembled the canister and turned on the power, it still had little suction.

That’s when I reluctantly walked to the junk drawer and dug out DD’s owner’s manual buried under the batteries, the loose-change bag, the matches, the box of birthday candles, an extension cords, a Clorox bleach wand, a bag of thread, a first-aid kit, an address book and a hot water bottle. I turned to page 9 and began reading the troubleshooting guide.

Problem: Cleaner tools won’t pick-up. Possible reason: 1. Hose clogged (“Nope.”); 2. Dirt container full (*eyeroll* “Duh…no.”); 3. One or both filters are clogged (*sigh* “I clean the filter all the…wait… BOTH filters? There’s a second?”

(For some reason, at that moment, I started hearing Darth Vader in my head, “So, you have a twin sister… Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will!” Mental note: rent “Return of the Jedi” this weekend.)

I flipped back to page 2 and the diagram of the vacuum. Sure enough, there is a second filter located inside the first filter inside the dirt cup. I unscrewed the filter and took out the most gawdawful dirty filter I’ve ever seen. I mean, that baby was filthy. I brought it to the kitchen, and it took 15 minutes of brush scrubbing and butter-knife-poking to get all the dirt out of the folds. Once it was dry, I reassembled the filter and put it back in the dirt cup, sealed up DD and pressed the power button. Holy suction, Batman! My DD was alive again.

Understanding the functionality of a vacuum or a microwave or a car isn’t innate, even though we like to think so. The whole point of an owner’s manual is to educate us on the use and care of whatever it is we bought. However, it’s often easier to assume we know what’s wrong, even though it takes us into a frustrating maze of “you have no idea what you’re doing, you idiot.”

The same thing’s true for our bodies. We weren’t born with personal owner’s manuals, but by virtue of our experiences we write our own owner’s manuals every day. Yet how many times do we hesitate to take out that manual and learn from our experiences for how best to correct whatever’s wrong? It’s easier to assume.

God knows I’ve been making a lot of assumptions lately about my body. I get caught in that perpetual cycle of thinking, ‘I know what’s wrong,’ and not stepping back and analyzing what works for me to stay fit.

For instance, the muffin top thing I’m sporting. I was looking at it the other day while eating a fistful of melba, wondering – even though the melba was in my calorie allotment for the day – where it came from.

“Um…duh, Lynn. Carbs like that cause you to gain in your belly,” said the voice in my head.

But here’s the deal. I wanted those melba in the moment. They sounded good, looked good and so I ate them, despite copious amounts of evidence in my food journals that, to the contrary, they’re not a good choice for me. You all know I’m all about living in the moment, but eating in the moment? Not so much. That’s not what being mindful is about.

My owner’s manual, when I stop being complacent and assuming I know everything about everything, teaches me to “clean the filter,” so to speak; to remember that when I eat a smoothie before a workout, I perform better, or when I lay off a few workouts to give a sore joint a chance to heal, I don’t hurt later.

Too often I am content to work with what my body can do in the moment, even when it throws out warning signs that its filters are dirty. So my goal? To be less reluctant to consult the past and instead, work with my experience to help my body perform at its peak. Complacency and assumptions can have no place in maintaining my weight loss.

I’m The Little Red Engine, Damn It!

Power walking with my dog the other day, I felt every jiggle of my reemerging Little Miss Muffin Top (how I didn’t miss you!) and a panic I haven’t felt in several years set in: Get this fat off me NOW!

I’ve learned a thing or two about weight loss these last six years, namely that there is no quick fix (duh) and that it will take time (double duh) and that I need to appreciate who I am right here and now, muffin top and all, if I’m going to be successful.

So I went searching for help, like I always do, in the blog-o-sphere. Wise people out there, as you know. First up, DietGirl, who I’m so very sad I won’t get to meet at FitBloggin’. My Jeep needs new tires and a fancy oil change or it won’t pass inspection. Ergo, I can’t afford to go. *tear* If you or anyone you know wants to attend FitBloggin’ and is looking for a half-price ticket (part of my Lynn Needs New Tires fund), shoot me an email at

Anyway, back to DietGirl and her recent blog, “New Year Goals Check-In: April,” in which she outlines what I define as a kind of Self Bill of Rights. One thing she wrote really struck a chord, especially in light of my recent interview on Two Fit Chicks and A Microphone:

“The thought of having to be ‘hardcore’ for the rest of your life was just totally depressing, quite frankly. But I’ve been thinking about it and I reckon what I’ve been doing this year is sustainable and realistic – healthy but not hardcore…I feel so peaceful and positive right now, and a helluva lot happier than I did when I got to my so-called Happy Weight a few years ago.”

Sustainable and realistic; healthy but not hardcore. Hmmm….

Then there’s Sandrelle, who blogs at Keeping it OFF! She, too, is one of my weight-loss heroes. We share many things in common regarding how we lost weight and in our philosophy of weight maintenance. Like me, she’s gained a bit from her lowest weight and feels…well…blah. As she posted on Lynn’s Weigh on Facebook: “I’m also up a few pounds, around 140, and NOT happy because it’s not me. It doesn’t feel like me.”

Doesn’t feel like me. Hmmm…

Finally, BFF 40-Something’s Shelley posted this week about being angry that she didn’t appreciate her body when it was at a weight she realizes was probably her “happy weight.” She just didn’t know it until it was gone.

Shelley wrote: “I truly did not appreciate how good I looked last summer. Don’t get me wrong – I was thrilled with fitting into the size 6 Bermuda shorts, but did I focus on that? No – I couldn’t stop seeing my extra belly flab…WHY didn’t I appreciate my body then? I’ll tell you why…decades of dieting. Never having the inner strength to say ‘I like how I look and feel now’ – never quite standing up for myself.

“I am so mad. I just want to go back and say ‘You dope! Enjoy what you’ve achieved!’ and I know that I’m not showing self-love, but so what. Sometimes I need a reality check.”

I like how I look and feel now. Hmmm…

So the three points I’m pondering in my continued search for body acceptance are: 1) What is sustainable and realistic; healthy but not hardcore; 2) Why does this extra weight not feel like me; and 3) How do I get to the place where I like how I look and feel in the moment?

I used to be hardcore. Worked out so dang hard I didn’t have my period for 3½ years (see “To Weigh Or Not To Weigh…”). Then my body started falling apart and I had to back off the 90-minute marathons at the gym. But in the last several months I’ve more than backed off. My exercise routine has gone from tsunami to a nearly dried up creek bed. Granted, it’s been a rough few months, but it’s time I…(click on the video)

Somewhere in me exists a balance between Hardcore Lynn and I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It Lynn. I’ve not thought about what is realistic for me and what my body can take in terms of exercise. Therefore, my plan is to sit down with myself and conduct an inventory of what I realistically can do in light of my limitations. I can walk, I can ride my bike, and I can do modified strength training using the exercises my physical therapist prescribed last year.

The tricky part of this inventory, however, is learning to accept my limitations without throwing in the towel. I will establish exercise goals and find the strength and tenacity (which I know are in me somewhere) to reach these goals. Sustainable and realistic, healthy not hardcore.

Next, why doesn’t this added weight feel like me? Considering I’ve been overweight or obese most of my adult life, you’d think I’d not feel like myself at any weight, and yet at 132 I felt at one with myself. Nothing flapped around much, I liked how my body looked in any type of clothing, I felt…healthy. This added weight, particularly around my stomach, doesn’t feel healthy. Having said that, and considering point #1, is it realistic that – given my physical limitations – I will be 132 again without living on 1200 calories a day?

Which leads me to point #3.

If I’m going to accept where I am right now and love the me and the extra pounds (and realistically lose what I can), I first need to understand why I’m not accepting where I am right now and why I don’t love the me and the extra pounds.

The first word that comes to mind is “failure.” I feel like I’ve failed. Failed myself, failed my family, failed my blog readers. Looking the way I do now, with a bit more weight (which I know is hardly noticeable to most people, but I see me naked every day), I want to hide in t-shirts and shy away from being touched for fear someone will “feel” the real me. I’m this close to saying, “Weight, you win! I’m crawling back in that fat hole again. I give up.”

However…like Shelley, I’m going to stand up for myself and try a little tough self-love first:

“Lynn, you worked damned hard to lose 170 pounds. Don’t you DARE start gaining it all back. No food is going to comfort you; it will only bring you down. You KNOW how to say ‘No’ to yourself. Remember how you used to ask yourself, “How will I feel 5 minutes after I eat ____?” Yeah, well, chicka…make that your mantra AGAIN. Now. Not tomorrow. Today. You want medjool dates? Fine, but one will suffice. Same goes for all your other favorites. Go back to the beginning. Read your blogs. Remember how it felt at 250, 200, 170, 150. You can do it, Lynn. You really can.”

At least, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

All The Weights Of My Life

I’m getting ready to go to Minnesota tomorrow where my family is gathering to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. I was going through old photos for my part of the PowerPoint presentation we’re making for my Dad and while looking at photos of me in puberty, I thought about how weight began to shape me.

When I was 11, I became aware of the social implications of being considered “big.” Formerly kind, carefree kids in my school turned into tyrants, berating the boy who’s stomach spilled over his belt or the girl who couldn’t climb the rope in gym class, like a larger kid’s weight was an impediment to a thin kid’s happiness.

I questioned how my own body fit into these societal rules during the first weigh-in of sixth grade. Remember those public weigh-ins where you’d stand in line in front of the nurse and her scale, getting weighed in turn? When I stepped on the scale, the nurse moved the big metal weight from 50 to 100. It made a loud “cachunk” sound when it settled in the groove, announcing to everyone in the hallway, “Lynn’s gone over 100!”

I was confused since the girl who weighed ahead of me didn’t need the 100 pound weight, and to me we looked like the same size. Realistically, there were probably only a few pounds separating us, but 100 was worlds apart from 99. Adding a third number to my weight wasn’t like adding a second digit to my age. Getting older was still OK. Getting bigger, not so much anymore. And while I was the same person I was five minutes before I got on the scale, I felt more conspicuous, like people would look at me differently now that I’d passed that monumental weight marker.

I looked at the girl next in line. She was clearly smaller and the nurse would have to move the big weight back to 50. I wondered if she’d say anything, whisper my weight to my friends during recess. I looked around at a few girls I thought were bigger than me and wondered, What if I weigh more than they do?

The rest of the year I paid close attention to how our playground culture defined people of all body sizes. No one was immune from the recess body gossip. Not the lunch ladies, teachers, or even other kids’ parents. I left sixth grade afraid of becoming a “big girl,” but there was little I could do to stop it before seventh grade.

It was a rough summer between sixth and seventh grade. Changes popped out of nowhere. I felt lopsided with a 33-inch inseam and squat, pudgy belly. I had no breasts to speak of, but I wore a bra anyway.

I assumed I’d grow up to look like my sister Debbie – a tall, thin pom-pom girl with right-sized hips and proportionate thighs. Instead, I inherited the long limbs, short torso, flat butt genes from my dad’s side of the family. I loved my relatives, but I didn’t want to look like Aunt Ragna.

The day of my seventh-grade physical, I stood shivering on the scale dressed in a t-shirt and waist-high white underwear. My mom sat in a chair while our family doctor stared at my chart over his wire-rim glasses. He tapped it slowly with his pen and looked grave. I expected him to say I had two weeks to live.

“Watch her weight,” he said instead.

I was 120 pounds.

This started me on a life-long yo-yo spiral of weight. Here’s a chart of my weight in adulthood. Looks like the Rocky Mountains.

This was me in 6th grade when I started worrying I was fat.

This was taken on my 16th birthday. I was waist deep in self-consciousness by then.

1987 on my 23rd birthday, a year before I lost 100 pounds the first time.

At 145 in 1994.

And, of course, me at my heaviest in 2004.

We walk a thin line talking about weight with children, particularly girls. Clearly I was not obese in 7th grade, but my weight was rightly a concern to my doctor. I just wish he and subsequently other adults in my life had had more adequate communication tools to relay their concern without shaming me. It was that uncertainty, that feeling of inadequacy that made me feel fat, ugly and not good enough when I weighed 150 pounds when I graduated from high school.

It’s taken me a long time to deal with some of the pain weight has caused me all my life, pain that for the most part was self-inflicted. It’s a journey I’m still on; this journey to full acceptance of myself at any weight. But it’s worth every step. Worth looking at every photo.

I’ll ask you the same question I asked on Facebook: When did you start thinking of your body as large/fat/unacceptable and how has that perception changed (or not) over the years?

What’s Your "What If…" Weight?

I heard Christmas music in Wal-Mart last week. And yesterday, there was a 20-foot Christmas tree near the front door.

Tis the season, my friends. The Season of Food.

I’ve come a long ways from my early days of weight loss and my “Thou shalt not eat __________” mentality. Adopting such a hard-core view was necessary at the time, but through the help of time and my weight-minded friends (particularly the WW 100+ board alums), I’ve learned a bit about discipline and balance since 2005. But food is still a challenge and always will be.

Walking hand-in-hand with that challenge is the way I view and live within my body. I’ve been feeling bulky lately, and when I walk, I don’t “glide along” quite like I used to. I feel more like a gorilla. That’s why I laughed out loud while packing my office yesterday and came across this cartoon:

I remembered I’d posted it on my original website, Lynn’s Weight-Loss Journey, so I went back and read the post that went with it. What I wrote still speaks to me nearly three years later.

When I was 16, I weighed 150 pounds. That was about 20 pounds more than would be considered normal for my age and height, but at a size 12/14, I was hardly ginormous. Yet that’s what I thought I was. Self-conscious, I avoided walking past certain boys in school because I was afraid they’d “moo” at me or call me fat. They did that to a lot of girls who I felt were my size.

My negative body image caused me to make a lot of poor choices when it came to sex and relationships. Although I had some nice boyfriends in high school, the kind who really did like me for who I was, I always felt there was a “catch,” that somehow they were lacking because they liked me.

When I was nearly 300 pounds, this cartoon’s sentiment was most certainly true for me. I always dreamed of “that day” when I’d be 150 again. All my problems would disappear, I’d have self-esteem to spare, and life would be the way I always knew it could be, all because I weighed 150 pounds again.

I’m well below 150 now and problems still arise and I often lack self-esteem, although I admit not to the extreme of nearly 170 pounds ago. My weight, while definitely an important factor in my overall wellbeing, cannot define my life. I am (and so are you) more than weight, and yet I still base a good deal of self-worth on the number on the scale, the size on a tag, and the width of my hips.

How to undo that? Talking with friends who understand weight loss and maintenance, journaling, meditating, and reminding myself daily that I’m OK just as I am right in this moment.

My question to you is this: What do you think your life will be like when you get to goal, or even when you lose 5, 10 or 20 pounds? How do you stay balanced? And has your definition of “normal” weight changed since you were younger?

The Thing About Weight Loss Is…

Reading blogs about the ways in which weight loss/maintenance are integrated into everyday life never fails to inspire me to keep going. And I know that’s why many of you read my blog, too. You expect me to be honest with you about my perspectives on weight loss and maintenance. So with that in mind – the honesty part – today’s blog comes from the center of my life as it is right now.

Over the last month, I’ve instigated some major changes for my life; painfully necessary changes that will take me away from many of the comfort zones in which I’ve cloistered myself since losing weight. But why I’m forging ahead into this unknown is because if I’ve learned nothing else in the last six years it’s that the person I am inside – at any size – is the person most in need of my love and protection.

I believe this is true for everyone, even those of you who have children or other family or friends who you say “come first.” I used to feel that way, too. I used to put everyone and everything else first and me somewhere way down the list. But the only way I could start this path – this time – of weight loss was to accept the fact that if I didn’t acknowledge, value and protect my self-worth, I would be perpetually…in a word…screwed.

Every time I lost weight in the past, I thought when I got to goal, my problems would be solved. And every time I was wrong. This time was no different. I readily admit that I wanted to run away from 300 pounds as fast as I could; leave it buried somewhere in my past. But 300-pound me tagged along, and it was around 200 pounds that I learned that life was what I made of it, obese or not, and I couldn’t run away from 300-pound me, or the me who weighed 139 pounds for five minutes in 1990, or 170 in 1987, or 120 in junior high school. I was all of those weights yet only one person. Me.

When I was 300 pounds, I took comfort in the fact that no one really looked at me – not “that” way, anyway. I didn’t dress to impress, and the expectation of me stemmed usually above the neck. I was smart, I loved what I did for a living (I was an antiques dealer as well as being a writer), and my family loved me for me. Then I lost weight and people DID start looking at me “that” way, and for awhile I allowed the expectation of others to become my expectation: stay pretty and happy because that’s what thin is all about.

Wrong. Thin can solve or prevent a lot of physical ailments, but thin does not resolve issues of self-esteem.

For example, I still apologize excessively, and sometimes I feel I don’t have the right to ask for what I need. These behaviors stem from deep-seeded, long ago issues that I chip away at resolution year after year, the ones that can’t be solved in a few sessions with a psychologist or through ice cream or retail therapy.

And so here I am in 2010, thin and still chipping away at the me underneath.

But, as Martha says, “It’s a good thing.”

I’m not the keeper of the keys, or have all the answers for weight loss, maintenance and life. But I will continue to share here what I observe and know to be true for myself. I will also continue to do my best to stay at this weight because it feels like home to me, which is good because I’ll be moving soon and I need the comfort of the way I feel about myself in this body. We are one, after all, my body and my mind, and while we’re far from perfect, we’re all I’ve got.

From the outside, and even to me sometimes, it seems like I have everything I wanted at the beginning of my journey. But I don’t and that’s OK.

Maintaining this latest and largest weight loss is part of my life, but it is not my life. My life is me, and I’m taking care of me, even though this new path will be bumpy as hell. But it’s with a smile and only a little timidity that I say to the uncertainty of the next few months, “Ready or not, here I come!”

And I promise to take you all with me.

Closer to Accepting the "Flabby Bits"

In commenting on my last blog entry, “Hello Flies and Spiders and Little Bugs That Swarm My Wine,” blogger Debby used the phrase “flabby bits” to describe the parts of her body that she’d despaired over the morning before moving her parents into a new home. Despite her “flabby bits,” she still appreciated what her body could do since losing weight and getting physically fit.

I understand that battle. My first reaction (usually knee-jerk) upon seeing my loose skin is an eye roll. Then in the same breath, I remind myself that, overall, I’ve done a damn fine job of improving my entire body. I’m not going under the plastic surgeon’s knife, so my flabby bits of loose skin are pretty much permanent. Deal with it, Haraldson.

Lucky me dealt with it twice in the last 24 hours.

After several attempts at repair, my Oprah elliptical was declared dead a few months ago. Thanks to a good warranty, two fit young men brought me a replacement elliptical today. (Hopefully one that’s new and not refurbished.)

One of the guys saw my photos from the Oprah show on the wall in my office/gym. He asked me about it and I said I’d lost some weight. He asked how much and I told him. As he said “Wow, congratulations!” his eyes glanced over to my arms. I was wearing a very short-sleeved t-shirt, one that doesn’t hide the faded stretch marks on the underside and flabby bits of loose skin.

Thanks to a long winter, it’s been five months since I’ve worn a t-shirt in front of anyone outside my gym, and for a split second, I felt self-conscious. It didn’t occur to me that maybe when he looked at my arms he saw biceps and triceps that have more than seen the inside of a gym. Nope. I immediately assumed he was thinking, If she lost THAT much weight, she has to have loose skin. Yup. Look at that hanging there under her armpit. Yuck. It’s disgusting. She should put on long sleeves. As part of my goal to rid myself of these negative thoughts, I took photos of said skin in today’s t-shirt. I tried to look at them as an outsider. I thought, What if one one of my readers or friends has arms like this? How would I react? And the god’s honest truth is, I probably wouldn’t notice, let alone care.

So the question I is: Why don’t I look at my own body through these same eyes?

The jury’s still out, but at least they’re in thoughtful negotiations.

Skin scenario #2.

Ask my 18-month-old granddaughter, “Where’s the baby?” and she’ll lift up your shirt. Her mom is due with g-baby number 2 in 7 weeks and so to prepare Claire for her new brother or sister, Cassie and her husband tell Claire there’s a baby in Mommy’s belly. Only Claire thinks EVERY belly is a baby.

As Claire and I snuggled together yesterday after her nap, my daughter asked her, “Where’s the baby?” Claire lifted up my shirt, revealing my loose, soft, stretch-marked belly just above my jeans. This made Claire very curious and me very nervous. She dug her little baby fingers into the folds and pinched them gently. My first reaction was disgust. I can’t let my granddaughter play with my belly skin! Ew!

But Claire doesn’t know it’s belly skin. She doesn’t know I had two children, lost a million pounds over and over, or what else my stomach’s been through. She thought it was soft and pliable and fun, as much a part of her Grammy Lynn as her nose, eyes or hair. And so I let her roll it between her fingers. And it was liberating in a weird way. As I said, the jury’s still out, but thoughtful.

It’s not like I’m going to wear a bikini in public now or short-cropped tops. I’m still modest and self-conscious. But a little bit more acceptance seeped into my psyche yesterday and today; a little more softening of my loose skin intolerance.

I readily acknowledge that there’s no smooth transition from eye roll to acceptance. Perhaps the everyday mindfulness of this battle will some day render loose skin a non-issue. I’m working toward the day when upon seeing my loose skin I see just me and there’ll be no eye roll, no need for reminders, and no forgiving.

The photos are probably TMI and I’m sure they’ll find their way into some “Lose Your Loose Skin” cream or miracle pill scam on the Internet, but for now, it’s cathartic to say, “Here’s what it looks like.” To me, it’s not as scary as my head makes it out to be.

The jury’s still out.

Here’s a happier photo of Claire petting our 12-year-old puppy Jake. Golden Retrievers are perpetual puppies. Remember, there’s loose skin lurking under that shirt and above those jeans! LOL