Mania on Vacation

I’m in between jobs at the moment. I quit a job at a fast food restaurant because of the horrible, horrible conditions and the brutal way the staff treated me, and found another job three days later as a housekeeper at a senior living facility…SCORE! The job doesn’t start immediately. I’ve been told that it can take up to three weeks to have my application processed (which took me over an hour to complete because it had to be done very carefully or it would be rejected). Then the next steps would be drug testing, physicals, and TB shots. If I heard correctly, I had to do one round of testings for one company, and then another for the company I’ve been hired on. So yes, it is quite the process but I’ll be working for a respectable company, in a respectable position, where the patients I will be housekeeping for will treat me like family once I’ve earned their respect. Good lordy, imagine going from the retail and fast food industry, where people scream and yell at you for god knows what, two industries where you work minimum wage and people tell you that if you want a raise, find a more respectable job…to a respectable job with nearly full-time hours, a steady, set schedule (4 days on, 2 days off, repeat), and to be working with seniors that I will get to know and love dearly. Yes, it will be dirty, hard work, but it will be so worth it…and, it will look even better on a resume than what minimum wage and retail/fast food can provide.

I have 2-3 weeks of R&R before starting my new job. I set enough money aside to pay for my bills in case it takes more than a month to get my paycheck. I’ll also be getting a paycheck from my last job, unless they screw me over like all the countless times they did. But to be honest, I don’t have much money if I’m not careful. When I’m manic, I like to spend, spend, spend. I can’t do that anymore unless I earn some money around the house or at my grandparents house which is not a lot but will get me buy. What I’ve noticed, however is two things. First, I’ve been taking my meds every single day for two months, and this past month I have altered my eating habits and exercising every singly day. So overall I feel grounded. Second, when I’m working and manic I feel like I need to tackle a big day I have to crank it all out in a single sitting. Now that I know I have the opportunity of free time, I can tell myself, “I can finish it or work on it tomorrow. I can take my time. I don’t have to do it all at once.” I am really grateful for that, even though I don’t have the money to do all the shopping and eating out that I’d like to.

Eyes on the Prize

My 5th weekly check-in was all but disappointing. I gained 1.2 pounds from last week. It’s so aggravating, but my bottle of alcohol and mac n cheese caught up with me. But that’s okay. Yes, I gained weight, but I’m still 14 pounds lighter than I was when I first started. Papa also reminded me that the exercise I do gains muscle and makes me stronger. It’s true.

My time at the gym today was eye-opening. I am not at the point of jogging or running, but I spent ten minutes going at the fastest stride I’ve built up to. Comparing to when I first started, I would go at a slow walk and when I wanted to go faster I’d boost it up a click or two. Confidence built in and I was going up half a point, then boost it up a click or two, and now I’m going at a faster pace for longer periods. My goal is to try jogging, but at this point I’m still not going at a fast stride and I’m not confident enough in the treadmill to jog. It’s difficult when I compare myself to the joggers and the runners and those crazy people who do the highest incline on the machine…but who doesn’t compare themselves to other people? I realize everyone at the gym has their own reasons to go and their own strengths and weaknesses, but the way I see it, it’s motivation to get stronger. Not necessarily so I can “beat” the person on the machine next to me (I know I’d fly off the treadmill if I did), but when I look at the joggers and the runners and the crazy people on the highest incline I see confidence. I’ve only been working at the gym for a month, and though I’ve improved in confidence, I have a long way to go for self-improvement.

What I have improved on in my experience at the gym is that I have gotten stronger. I first mentioned my increased speed, but I have also discovered that doing the ab and hip machines have become easier to do. I ached all over after the first time I did them, but I learned to stretch afterwards. After a month on the machines I have decided to increase the weight, but not the sets. I’m happy with the sets I do; I make sure I do a full rep, and a ten-second pause after each set. I’m very excited to see how it turns out.

Follow the Spiders

“Follow the spiders…why couldn’t it be ‘follow the butterflies’?” –Ron Weasely

My first post should jump right in to where I am now. I am following the spiders. Never blindly, of course, but I am following to an unknown destination. It could be dangerous, treacherous, and oh-so-frightening.

Yes, I am talking about weight loss.

I am not on a diet. I am not on a weight-loss program. I don’t starve or deprive myself or count calories. I am simply making lifestyle choices. There was no defining moment that made me want to lose weight. No neon sign that told me to lose weight. Perhaps I looked in the mirror and thought “hm, I could change this.” Perhaps it was the lack of food I was eating for a period of two weeks that made me think, “well, none of the food I am eating is healthy and it’s not healthy not to eat.”  Perhaps the mania was going strong and I thought “Sure I could lose 96 pounds!” Or perhaps it was a combination of all three. Whatever the reason was, here I am, two weeks into my goals and lifestyle changes, and I am thriving.

This month I have lost 14.6 pounds. But wait, this month? You’ve only been dieting for two weeks! True, but two weeks before I began this journey, my highest recorded weight was 206 pounds. When I began my journey, I was 195 pounds. I’ve included that period of weight loss into my total pounds lost because, well, why not? 11 pounds is 11 pounds!

So how did this journey begin, really, and what does it entail? If my therapist were to ask what really made me want to lose weight, I would tell her that I believe it’s the second part of fighting my illness. Going from 110 pounds to 206 pounds there were many times where I thought, “hm, scales going up. That’s okay, my cutoff point will be at X-amount pounds.” But then I kept repeating myself, extending the cutoff and extending the cutoff. In all honesty, I didn’t have the strength to lose weight at those times. I was severely depressed, and it took years to finally be okay with my body even as it was expanding in the waistline. That was really, really, really hard to do. I had to stop telling myself I was fat and ugly. I had to stop comparing myself to other women, “f***k, she’s skinnier than I am, I’ll never be that skinny again!” or “She’s freaking huge, thank god I’m not as fat as she is!” and trying to find some happy medium where I could settle with being comfortable at the weight I’m at. Once I “settled” with being fat, was I really happy with that? I would spend time looking in the mirror, looking myself over. The bloated belly. The muffin top. The lack of protruding hipbones I once adored. I would be deceiving myself if I could settle with how I looked.

It took me so long to be comfortable with my body, how and why should I risk losing my self-esteem and self-image in some grand attempt to lose almost 100 pounds? Now is the time to act. I mastered the med-taking, the curbing, managing, and monitoring of manic and depressive symptoms. I know my mind and all it can do; I am mentally fit. Five years post-diagnosis and I am bipolar strong. I no longer have an excuse, I cannot use my illness as a crutch any longer. Five years later, it’s damn well time to lose the weight. Here is where we get into the unknown of following the spiders. I have never made any attempts to lose weight. I’ve never set any goals or limits to do so. What plan do I follow, what gimmick do I have to jump hoops through? It’s all new to me.

The answer was extremely simple, I made my own weight-loss profile, recording my current eating habits, targeting foods I need, foods to avoid, and foods to cut out, and exercise habits which were non-existent, brainstormed, and produced three types of goals: water consumption, fitness, and nutrition. My water goals included drinking 8 big cups of water a day, fitness goals were to enroll in a gym membership and get 60 minutes of exercise every day, and nutrition goals were to increase veggies, avoid sweets, alcohol, and carbs, and to cut out pizza, soda, and mac n cheese (all big no-no’s for me). Next, put this plan to work. I made a big poster of my weight-loss profile and post it on my wall in my bedroom, keep a daily food journal, post motivating and inspiring sticky-notes on my mirror, and keep a chart of times I meet my goals of water-consumption and 60 minutes at the gym. I also read 100 Days of Weight-loss by Linda Spangle to stay motivated and find inspiration, and it’s very helpful. I read a brief chapter a day and do the “homework” at the end, and it fits for all diets and weight-loss program and I recommend this book for anyone looking to lose weight. It’s a gentle reminder to push forward and stay dedicated to reach one’s end goal.

I may use “diet” and “weight-loss” program as terms to describe what I am trying to achieve, but keep in mind I use these terms loosely. The ultimate goal is what most people call “lifestyle changes”. That’s all I am doing. I’ve made lifestyle choices. I focus on drinking plenty of water, but if I don’t meet that goal (and I found that this is hard to do with my need for multiple cups of coffee), it’s not the end-of-the-world-stop-my-diet-because-I-failed-so-I-should-just-give-up. It’s only inspiration to move push forward and work towards meeting my goal next time. My goal is to eat two salads a day–a side salad at lunch and a big salad for dinner, but you know what, some days I want to eat breakfast for dinner or some days I just want to eat a helping of veggies or fruit and call it a day. And that’s okay. One of the biggest issues with dieting and weight-loss programs is that some are just gimmicks setting one up to fail. One can NEVER have this, one should LIMIT that, one should AVOID doing this. That’s probably the diet people have when they want to lose weight fast and not learn what it means to truly learn a healthy lifestyle. And sometimes that’s okay. You want to look good when you’re walking down the aisle, you need to lose weight fast for a hip surgery. It’s okay. Every person is different, everyone has special dietary and fitness needs. We are all learning! My weight-loss profile is custom-made by me for me, no gimmicks, no limits, no BS. I’m taking it slow because I’m in it for the long-run.

I just had my first holiday dinner. My Dad BBQ’d his world-famous ribs for Easter. My parents told the story of how they had the butcher cut the ribs especially for them, and I know what a rare treat it is indulge in my Dad’s ribs and how hard he works to make them perfect. It was the first big test in my lifestyle change. An hour before dinner I had a big salad with lots of veggies and toppings, then before I even touched the ribs I had a serving of coleslaw and 1/2 cup of baked beans. I was full enough to eat only a couple half-pieces. I later declined pie, but I allowed myself to indulge in this special occasion. Nothing is off limits, I only make choices.

But wait, don’t you have limits and off-limits? Yes and no. I choose not to eat certain foods, but I do eat foods that are off limits. I choose not to drink soda, I choose not to drink alcohol, I choose not to eat certain foods such as bread as part of my lifestyle change, but that doesn’t mean I absolutely cannot have it. I eat waffles, drink alcohol, and occasionally I’ll have a soda, but when I have a goal in mind, it makes me think twice before I consume these foods and beverages. It allows me the freedom to make a choice. If I told myself, I absolutely cannot have a certain food or alcohol, and then I have it, I sabotaged my diet and all my progress is ruined and I might as well give up. But when I make the choice, and I say, okay, I’ll have my Dad’s BBQ ribs because it means so much to him, or do I really need to drink this wine because it will make me gain weight, then I have the freedom of what I put in my body, then it’s not black-and-white, then it sets me up for success instead of dwelling on my failures.

These past two weeks have been the ultimate test. From going from one meal a day with fast food and junk food as filler to eating more veggies, exercising almost every day at the gym, meeting some goals and need to focus on others, I’m making lifestyle changes by making choices. I have an end goal in mind and a long way to go. Keep following me and showing your support by leaving comments. Right now, I’m following the spiders.