Life Is Recovery

After my morning workout today

Me after my morning workout today

For those who don't know -- and how would most of you know? -- I'm recovering from a bicep tear I inflicted on myself seven weeks ago. To make a long story short, I fell, at top speed, in full face-plant position, with my arms up at my shoulders. Theoretically, this is the proper way to fall, spreading out the impact and all. However, a couple days later, with my arm still tender, I tried to shovel wet snow. Believe it or not, it wasn't the shoveling that did it so much as a sudden grab for the shovel, when I dropped it. That's when I felt a sharp rush of pain. The next day, I had a giant bruise and a diagnosis, confirmed by my osteopath father, of a torn bicep.

Each day, the pain ebbs away a little further. Each day, however, I face reminders of where I used to be. I was regularly lifting 20-pound dumbbells as part of my workout routine. While I am still, admittedly, carrying far too much body fat, I had acquired a decent amount of upper body muscle. For the first time in my life, I didn't watch my arms wobble in the mirror when doing arm movements in my aerobics classes.

Now, seven weeks in, the workouts that came easily just a couple months ago are simply impossible for the moment. I've paused my home weightlifting workouts until at least February, and when weights are called for in my aerobics classes, I go with weights I previously considered "baby weights." However, I'm making slow strides, getting better every day. A couple weeks ago, I returned to my regular classes at the YMCA -- Cardio Kickboxing, Water Aerobics and Zumba -- and while I had to modify some movements, I felt great about being back. With the holidays, scheduling exercise became more difficult, so I simply focused on the same thing I'd focused on for my first three weeks of rest and recovery: my diet. That was the one thing I could control, so I resolved to drink lots of liquid, track my intake, and avoid alcohol.

You see, in the past, I've often resulting to self-sabotage when I got hurt: over-indulgence, whether alcohol or food, intended to mute the pain. Eventually, I would come back to my senses, usually about 15 pounds heavier, and regret it. That's how I've managed to pack on 45 pounds since my mother died three years ago. First one thing and then another, and I'd fall off the wagon of healthy eating and plunge into despair, trying to fill the void with comfort food that ultimately provided no comfort.

This time, I'm happy to say that I've stayed at about the same weight as I'd been when I first got hurt. It's a little difficult to tell, because my previous scale was very inconsistent. Step on it 30 seconds later and you could get a different reading altogether. I recently bought a more precise digital scale, so regardless of where I was before my injury, I am starting anew now. This scale also tracks body composition, such as muscle mass, fat and water, so I'll be focusing on body composition, not so much on my actual weight. My muscle mass is currently good, but my goal for this year will be to get my fat ratio down into the normal range.

I'm trying to remember to make note of the small milestones. Like today, for example, when I was able to do burpees, the first time since my injury I felt good enough to even attempt them. Slow and steady, with no jumps, but I was able to do it. Right now, when one of my most difficult challenges is to get up and down again, that was a true victory.

The thing is, I'm pretty good at hiding pain, so I usually don't reveal it unless it's impossible to fake it. The arm? There was no hiding that: first of all, the giant bruise and extremely limited strength. Now, when I look normal, I still have to draw attention to it by bowing out of activities that might put too much strain on my arm, like helping to put up tables at the weekly Cub Scout meeting. Before, I was one of the people leading that effort.

With that in mind, I'm going to woman up and admit something that very few people know, except perhaps my sister and my husband. I didn't just hurt my arm in that fall; I also did something to my right shin, on the same side of my body as the bicep tear. That pain, however, has not been as debilitating, so it's easy to hide. Primarily, I notice it when I'm getting down on the floor and getting back up again, or when I start walking after being seated for a while. It's never risen to the level of concern I had about my bicep, and therefore, I simply haven't mentioned it. I can walk and move almost as well as I could before; and unless you knew exactly what I was doing before the injury, you probably wouldn't notice. The ibuprofen I take for my arm helps that, too, but reading up on it, I probably should have been icing it this entire time, as well. I'm going to start doing that now.

When I think about it, my life for the past 20-some years can be seen as a series of injuries. If I start back in grad school, I've experienced the following (in roughly chronological order), almost none of them from organized physical activity:
  • An injury to my left shin that resulted in a huge, hard nodule that took ages to reabsorb, from tripping over a bicycle chained to a bike rack in downtown State College.
  • An injury to my left trapezius, which took years to heal and still bothers me sometimes, from a bad side roll in Jung Sim Do class, when I heard something go "pop." The campus health center gave me muscle relaxants for that one.
  • Sprained my right wrist when I fell while kicking a giant piece of ice that turned out to be frozen to the pavement. This happened while I was waiting with other English grad students for a van to take us to a writing conference. I wore a brace for weeks and wrote -- badly -- with my left hand. I had to do exercises to regain my wrist strength.
  • Hurt my tail bone by falling in an upright position on the stairs while carrying a fouton. Had to sit on a donut for months and had to stop doing Pilates for longer than that.
  • Broke my toe getting changed before Water Aerobics class about five years ago, because I accidentally kicked a surprisingly sturdy bench. I broke my toe again last year by accidentally kicking a box of books in the dark.
  • My back seized up on me while I was trying to sit down about three years ago. With care, eventually, I got back to normal.
  • Hurt my right knee after twisting it, shortly before Otakon 2018. I had to wear a brace for several days and avoid stairs.
Looking at this list, you might conclude I'm accident-prone. I'll admit that I am. But I remind myself of the most important thing: I'm resilient. I heal. I did it before, and I can do it again.


First Week of 2015: Progress Report

So far so good! Believe it or not, I'm down 8 pounds as of yesterday. In this first week of 2015, I went back to the basics with the Virgin Diet: avoiding all seven of the high-FI (food intolerance) foods (gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, soy, peanuts, eggs). While I have been faithfully avoiding gluten and dairy, since those are the foods I react to the strongest, I had backtracked in terms of sugar and would have eggs about once a week, most weeks. It happens to be much easier for me to completely avoid corn, soy and peanuts. But I'm going through the three-week process I've done every January for the last couple of years, of avoiding all seven foods for three weeks and then testing, one week each, the foods that J.J. Virgin says are safer to work back in: gluten, dairy, soy and eggs. (She advises people to continue to avoid sugar, corn and peanuts for various health reasons, not just food intolerance.)

What I think has helped me the most, though, is returning to her guidelines regarding water and meal times. She recommends drinking 16 ounces of water half an hour before eating, limiting water consumption to 8 ounces during a meal, waiting a half hour and then resuming water consumption. This has helped me to follow the meal guidelines of eating every four hours with either one morning or one afternoon snack, and ceasing to eat at least several hours before bedtime. (These, by the way, line up with recommendations of other nutritionists I've read since first discovering the Virgin Diet three years ago, including one dietitian who specializes in advice for women diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome, who tend to gain weight easily and have a lot of trouble losing weight.)

In addition, I'm taking Cleanse Smart, which is designed to rid the body of toxins. I will note, by the way, that I do a similar cleansing regime about every 4 to 6 months and don't normally see these sorts of results.

The Virgin Diet doesn't stress counting calories, but I've found that tracking my food intake and exercise via the LoseIt! app helps me pay attention to what I'm eating. Also, they're currently having a January challenge, which I joined just for the heck of it, and the rewards and reminders they send to for doing things like eating fruits and vegetables or tracking your intake have been great positive reinforcement.

Interestingly, I did not exercise that much this week, because I'm still recovering from my Christmas flu. I didn't attend my kickboxing class at all last week and only did one day of water aerobics. This week, I'm hoping to get back into my normal routine. It will be interesting to see what happens. I forgot to take my measurements the first week, but already I feel like my clothes are fitting better, and my face in the mirror seems less bloated.

Baby Steps

Yesterday, I managed to remember to track all my food using the LoseIt! app. This helped to keep me from nighttime snacking, because I could see that it would have put me far over for the day. Having at least one evening snack has become a habit with me, even on days when I'm not hungry or don't really feel I need it. I'd like to make a change.

I also kept up with my water intake yesterday. which did a lot to help me feel full. It kept me better hydrated, which no doubt helped with my recovery from my lingering cold.

Speaking of the cold, I still have some chest congestion so am going to stay home from my regular water aerobics class today. I'm hoping to return Thursday, but I'll see how I feel.

In addition, I bought and installed a battery for my Weight Watchers scale, which tends to have, I believe, more accurate results than my other scale.

This cold is still making me tire easily, as well as being emotionally fragile. When I went to pick up KFP from preschool yesterday, there was construction blocking off the side entrance, which is how parents enter the driveway for the car line to pick up children. The construction workers had also put up signs on the continuation of that street across the road, preventing cars from "stopping and standing" there, thus preventing me from parking and crossing the street on foot to pick him up! I had to circle around, through slow traffic, and come through the back entrance into the church/school parking lot, even though I knew that I would have to disobey the driveway's one-way sign when I left. By the time I walked around to, first, the side door, where they told me to go to the front for the car line, and then to the car line, where the administrator waited with the kids, I was in tears and embarrassed to discover that KFP was also crying, because a little girl had told him that only girls can have parties. (Incidentally, I now wonder if there was a misunderstanding on his part, because he later amended that claim to say that they told him that only girls can have parties and babies. Maybe the girl meant to say that only girls can have babies, which actually makes a bit of sense.)

Today, I hope to keep up with the good habits of tracking my food and drinking more water, and will continue to focus on getting better from my cold. I will also leave much earlier to drop KFP off and pick him up, if possible!

New Year, New Goals

I can't believe how long it's been since I posted here, but in a way it's not really a surprise. You see, I lost most of last year, sunk in a pit of depression and frenzied activity; focusing on the things that demanded attention while ignoring my own emotional needs and eating out of emotion instead. This was kicked off last spring by my simultaneously breaking my toe and winding up in a bit of friend drama that has still not been entirely resolved. The ensuing combination of forced inactivity and self-pity caused me to gain back the 15 pounds I'd lost via the Virgin Diet in the course of about 7 weeks. I had a brief turnaround over the summer, losing half of that weight, but then fell victim to the usual holiday dangers and surged back up again.

Over Christmas, I came down with a cold that forced me to hit pause. I realized that I can't keep doing this to myself; I can't keep sabotaging myself with negative thoughts. Instead, I need to take a new approach. Instead of focusing on a fixed goal, a certain amount of weight loss I want to achieve in 2015, I need to celebrate the small victories. I need to actively celebrate the small steps that will lead to better health and wellness: drinking more water, avoiding the foods that make me bloated and damage my digestive track, eating healthy foods (including lots of fruits and vegetables), getting enough sleep, avoiding nighttime snacking, and daily exercise. Therefore, I'm going to track achievements in those areas in a fairly regular way: if not daily, hopefully several times a week.

So today, although my weigh-in this morning was higher than it's been in about three years, I'm not going to focus on that. Instead, I'm going to note the following positive things: 1) My cold finally shows signs of abating, with my cough mostly under control, congestion mostly gone, and my voice still rough but returning to normal; 2) My engagement ring fits today! (In my most bloated stages, I could not wear it); 3) I got about 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night, which might not seem like much, but considering how restless I've been since getting sick, and the fact that I slept uninterrupted without taking Nyquil (until KFP woke me saying he'd had a nightmare), it's an achievement; 4) My hands are a little dry but not cracked and bleeding like they usually are by this time in the winter.

What I hope to focus on today: Drinking enough water and eating right. I'm going to start tracking my food again with the Loseit! app, not so much to track calories as to keep myself conscious of what I'm eating.

Hopefully, by refocusing on the positive, I'll avoid the sort of pit I fell into last year. Because bad things (like colds) will happen, but it's important not to let such setbacks completely derail me.

Progress and Update

A recent disappointment in the job department may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Namely, two of the shows I was transcribing have stopped airing, meaning it's possible to get to bed at a decent hour now. Considering that my best periods of weight loss last year happened when I was on vacation and sleeping longer hours, this could mean that I'll finally break off the plateau where I've been, hovering 1 to 2 pounds below or above 190.

I've also stepped up my exercise, taking an intense kickboxing class on Mondays, doing 15 minutes of yoga in the mornings, and trying to work in extra movement wherever possible. My kitty in particular is enjoying the yoga; he comes down on the floor with me, purring, and likes to run underneath every time I do Downward Facing Dog! He doesn't get much alone time with his mommy anymore, so it's a great time to bond with my kitty-boy.

While the scale remains more or less unchanged (but the work schedule just changed a little more than a week ago), my clothes are fitting differently. I've noticed my pants are starting to seem loose in the butt, and my shirt looser around the waist. Maybe my body composition is changing, acquiring more muscle and losing some fat.

In other news, a friend pointed me towards a video competition held by an early education advocacy organization called Baby Steps. I was able to put together a two-minute video featuring, of course, my son, Kung Fu Panda. Please take a moment and check it out. Hopefully, it will make you smile. It's called "Puppet Problem Solving":


You'll have to scroll to the bottom of the screen to view it. Look for a still that shows KFP with two puppets.

If you like the video, please vote by clicking on the box in the upper right-hand corner of the video. Judges will award top prizes based on specific criteria (such as creativity and production values), but there will also be a special "audience favorite" prize.

My Latest Big News

I'm still stuck at a plateau with the weight loss, but that might be partly because I've begun lifting weights again and am presumably gaining muscle. At a Halloween party last weekend, I thought I was being very careful but might have accidentally eaten some dairy (and was running to the bathroom a couple times an hour most of the next day). Either that or I had the 24-hour stomach flu.

In other, more pleasant news, I'm holding a free promotion for my essays book, The Art of Life. If you haven't heard me talk about it in other social networking platforms, it compiles the best pieces from more than 10 years of newspaper columns and online writings. In it, I touch on pop culture, pet care, and much more. From Marilyn Monroe and women's self-esteem to wry observations about neighbors, the book delves into the humor and beauty of life.

And from today through Tuesday, November 12, it's free! Just stop by Amazon and snag your fee copy of the Kindle version of The Art of Life. Don't have a Kindle device? No worries. Download one of the free Kindle apps for PC and smart phones. Then share the news with your friends.

If you do download it, please leave a quick review at Amazon, Goodreads and any other book review sites. And thanks in advance for all your support! So far, I've already reached #6 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Humor & Entertainment > Humor > Parenting & Families, and the promotion is less than 12 hours old!

Long Overdue Update

Me in the Mirror
Me in the mirror at Kohl's

I haven't posted in this journal for far too long, so here's a very quick update: I'm down roughly 20 pounds since I began the Virgin Diet in January. This week the scale registered 187.8 pounds, but I was down to 185 earlier this summer. I've been at a plateau, which was probably in part brought about by returning to some old habits: not being as careful of avoiding the seven high-FI (food intolerance) foods, except for gluten and dairy, which cause me the most problems, and peanuts and corn, which are easiest to avoid. My changed eating habits, in combination with stress and poor sleeping habits, meant that my digestive system went completely out of whack again in late summer.

In September, I cut all seven high-FI foods out of my diet again (gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, eggs and sugar). I took some supplements recommended in J.J. Virgin's books to restore balance, and I tried to get on a more regular sleep schedule. Of course, the sleep issues continue because of my late-night transcription work, but changing the eating habits has me feeling good again, with very little gastric distress.

My son began preschool in September, and as a result, I've begun lifting weights again, in addition to my Zumba and Water Aerobics classes. I've been eating more protein and trying to remember to drink water.

So as a result, when I went shopping this week for pants at Kohl's, I got a great surprise. My first trip into the dressing room, I found the perfect pair! A pair of Lee Comfort Fit pants worked perfectly and even looked great in the 360 mirror. I bought two pairs, in chocolate and wine. Then, shortly afterward, I checked out the winter coats and found the perfect coat, the first one I tried on! It's a plum-colored zip-front jacket with a hood and attached matching scarf. I wanted to get a little color into my wardrobe and say good-bye to the gray wool coat that is now too big.

I'd like to lose 5 pounds before Philcon, which is in mid-November, so I've put a picture of myself on my honeymoon at my desk. My main problem has been late-night snacking while I'm working, so I'm hoping that looking at the picture will remind me why I need to be more careful.

The Virgin Diet Day 84: Slow But Steady

A tortoise makes slow progress but wins!

I had a couple setbacks this past month, jumping up to 193.6 pounds from 191.4, which was a big disappointment. But I'm heading down again and am hoping to keep it up.

Weight: 190.0 (down 2.4 pounds this week; down 16.6 pounds overall)
Fat ratio: 37.5 (down 0.7 this week; down 2.2 since 1/23)
Water ratio: 37.1 (same this week; up 2.1 since 1/23)
Muscle ratio: 32.5 (up 0.3 this week; down 0.4 since 1/23)
Bone ratio: 4.0 (same as last week; down 0.6 since 1/23)

Neck: 13" (same; down 1/2" overall)
Bicep: 11" (same; down 3/4" overall)
Chest: 36" (down 1/2" this week; down 4" overall)
Waist: 31 1/2" (down 1/4" this week; down 5 1/2" overall)
Hips: 39" (down 1/2" this week; down 3 1/2" overall)
Thigh: 18 3/4" (same this week; down 1/2" overall)
Belly: 38" (down 1/2" this week; down 5" overall)

I'm doing better than I was last week, when the gas was so bad it was like the symptoms I'd been experiencing before going on the diet. I'm still not sure exactly why, but I think the culprit was the Vega One Vanilla Chai powder. This is doubly surprising, since I've used both their Vanilla and Chocolate flavors without any trouble. Still, it's the only thing that was really different.

The other possibility is that I threw my system off with a couple weeks of small indulgences: eating a few items that had added sugar in them, drinking alcohol, eating soy at a sushi restaurant. That's why this past week I went back to basics and avoided all seven foods. Hopefully, I'll continue to feel good going forward. It's a relief to be doing better again, since it was disheartening to return to my old, bad way of feeling. It reminded me of the movie "Awakenings," where catatonic patients see a miraculous recovery and then go back to their original state again, when the medicine loses its effectiveness. I felt as if I'd had an awakening and then went back to being the way I was again. I have so much joy in me now to be back to feeling healthy and good!