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Weight weight… don’t tell me

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Several years ago, I threw out my scale. The contraption had come to rule my life, with every weigh-in feeling like spinning a wheel in a game show – What did she win, Bob? – except the needle never landed on the jackpot. Tossing my scale into the dumpster was equal parts terrifying and liberating, and for years, I had no idea what I weighed.

But this past year, my mind started to play tricks on me. The mirror has never been dependable for me, as the image I see rarely matches reality. The old paranoia started to creep in; I was convinced I was gaining weight, even though my clothes still fit and my diet hadn’t changed. And while I kept a good poker face about it and didn’t mention this insecurity to almost anyone, inside, I was falling apart.

So in January, I decided to once again embrace the scale. In the midst of the mind-games that were yanking me around, I needed an objective number to ground me in reality. And no one is more surprised than me, but these days, I have to admit that knowing my weight is almost a comfort – an unbiased, unemotional truth in a manic world.

On Saturday morning at the gym, I stepped on the scale – the mechanical kind they have at the doctor’s office where the little weights are moved to the right or left until everything is balanced. I automatically set everything to the number I had been last week, but then was horrified to have to keep moving it up, up, up – over 10 pounds higher than it had been a week before.

Panic started to rise in my throat, threatening to strangle me. THIS CANNOT BE, I despaired. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?? NOOOOOOOO!

And then I heard a snicker behind me.

I whipped around to find a man much too old for pranks standing behind me with his foot on the corner of the scale, pressing down, laughing at his own trick. “I got you!” he crowed.

Fine, it’s kind of funny to retell it now – but in the moment? I was not amused. I was not a good sport. After calling him a dipshit in my mind and a terrorist to his face, I said, “That’s one of the meanest things you could do to a woman.” A sudden fury was rising, as were my eyebrows. He must have sensed my intensity, because he took a step back. I turned to face him square on. “Are you going to leave and let me weigh myself? I’LL WAIT.”

He slunk away, I stepped back on the scale and got the number I was expecting, and then spent the rest of the day thinking about body image, weight, beauty, and how they’ve all become so inextricably fused.

I recently saw an interview with Mindy Kaling. When asked, “What’s the biggest compliment someone could pay you?” without skipping a beat she replied, “That I’m beautiful.” No apology. No pretending that her answer was “wise” or “generous” or “compassionate” in the name of respectability. She wanted to be known as beautiful.

And it was so refreshing.

Because ladies, isn’t that it? Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ll go ahead and own it: I want beauty to be the truest thing about me. Granted, the definition of beauty has been twisted by our culture to the point where it’s difficult to even be able to define it – but we know the real thing when we see it. We want to be associated with it. We were designed to want to be noticed, seen, and enjoyed.

Beauty is beyond the physical, of course – if you say differently, I’ll fight you. But because we live in this very physical world, it includes our bodies, our features, our faces. This is why we make attempts to foster our beauty – not to manufacture it, not to attain it, but to release what is already there. We want our outsides to match our insides, respecting and cherishing the bodies we’ve been given.

Of course, that’s the ideal world. Reality is much more warped.

I manage the Instagram account for my work, and a recent hashtag search accidentally led me to the accounts of young girls struggling with eating disorders. One of them had posted a picture of our product, a 200-calorie snack bar made of nothing but dates, peanuts and sea salt, with the caption, “I feel so guilty about eating this. I don’t deserve food.”

It broke my heart. And while I’ve never struggled with a full-blown eating disorder, I know guilt. I know deprivation. I know workouts as punishment, ubiquitous insecurity, and self-hatred – yes, hatred.

If I were a “tie a bow on it” type of Christian, this would be the time to say that God thinks we’re beautiful (even if the world doesn’t), that our hearts are all that matter (so stop being so vain), and just wait until that glorious day when there will be no more insecurity (the struggles of this life don’t mean a thing). But I’m not that kind of Christian.

I believe that “Thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven” means that the physical here-and-now matters. I believe that our desires are important, because they point us toward something True. I believe that we come into this world packed to the core with beauty, and that part of the work of this life is to let some of that loveliness out, restoring us to what we were originally imagined to be. I believe that we get to play a part in making this sad place beautiful again.

And that’s something worth putting my weight on.

Food, glorious food

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In the midst of this crazy season, I am trying hard to make healthy choices. I’m regularly meeting with my counselor, and she’s shepherding me through some precarious territory. I’m facing a lot of the ugly stuff head on, and praying – really praying – for the first time in years. I’m staying as active as I can, and sleeping as much as I can, and spending as much time with life-giving people as I can.

But my diet? It’s deplorable.

I mean, I’m good at breakfast – always have been. An egg on toast, a little bit of yogurt, two cups of coffee. And I always pack a lunch, so I don’t veer too far off course during the day. But dinner?

I’m so bad at dinner. Like, a-bag-of-croutons-and-a-glass-of-wine bad. Or, popcorn-and-a-popsicle bad. Or, nothing-bad. Given the amount of times my dinner is “nothing,” I should be Kiera Knightley-skinny. But I’m not – the Lord hath made my frame substantial – so yay, I’m just starving.

Sometimes I sit around dreaming about real dinners – meals that would actually taste like meals, and not just… Wheat Thins. I fantasize about what I want. But do I decide to fix myself these imaginary dream meals? Of course not.

I’m not sure why I just can’t get it together to make a proper dinner – it probably has to do with a lack of time, a lack of energy to plan, not wanting to stock my fridge when I’m out of town so often, and just living alone. Knowing how many of you cook on a regular basis – and then post gorgeous pictures of your food – it’s embarrassing to admit how bad I am at this. I’m the anti-ultimate woman.

But there HAVE to be options, right? Meals that EVEN I could make, without an abundance of time and/or effort?

If you have ideas for dinners that
a) are quick
b) are satisfying
c) are healthy
d) are simple to prepare and/or can be made in larger quantities and then eaten throughout the week…

… then please. I’m begging you. Share them. I’m so hungry.

“Back” in action

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Thank you for your well wishes – after throwing out my back on Tuesday night, I am slowly on the mend. Still creeping along and needing pain killers, but I’m back at work. And on the bright side, I now have a prescription for massages – hey-oh!

In other news, Facebook is serving me up ads like this:

I mean, I know I’m no slip of a girl. But Facebook thinks I’m a “big and beautiful princess”? Where do they get this? My skydiving instructor referred to me as “light” and my ER nurse said I’m “a pretty small person” – FOR THE RECORD.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be at my house nursing my bad back like a couch potato, not exercising, not doing anything fun, probably winding up a big and beautiful princess.

My first trip to the ER

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

I woke up this morning with a hospital bracelet on my left hand and a patch of gauze taped to my right. Last night, for the very first time in my life, I had reason to visit the emergency room – and judging by the Vicodin now pumping through my veins, it was nothing short of a necessity.

Perhaps you recall the time long ago that I worked out with Gunnar the Viking. Although I never paid for another personal training session, I’ve incorporated some of the moves he taught me into my regular workouts – and last night, while lifting an embarrassingly small amount of weight, I threw out my back.

And just like that, I am one of the Debilitated.

The pain… I wish I could communicate the pain. My lower back is a war zone, a constant buzzing electricity that shoots hot daggers of fire throughout my body whenever I move, making me cry out loud and literally want to vomit. I somehow made it out of the gym and into the driver’s seat of my car, and then, with tears streaming down my face, drove home where Hannah encountered me gasping for air and crying.

She took off my shoes, laid me back on a heating pad, elevated my legs, gave me some Aleve, and we both went to bed. Except I never fell asleep – the pain kept getting worse, I kept crying uncontrollably, and after 4 hours of increasing agony, I did what any logical person would do: I called my mom.

Now, I’m not saying I’m super tough or anything, but I definitely don’t lose it like this. Physical things don’t make me come unglued – emotional things, yes (we all know this), but physical things, never. My mom was freaked to hear me so hysterical, and convinced me to go to the hospital.

And because everyone loves an oversharer:

I got my first-ever oxygen mask (when the nurse said that the nasal prongs looked a little bit long and he would look for his scissors to trim them, I assured him that it would be okay because “I’ve got nostrils for days.” Really? Who says that?), an IV for pain meds, and prescriptions for various narcotics. I’ve been ordered to “take it easy” for several weeks, which is disappointing and scary for someone as active as I am.

Then again, when do we ever have a doctor’s order NOT to work out? If it weren’t for the pain, I’d be almost intrigued by this invitation to a slower pace.

My pain level was a 9-10 last night, but down to a 4-5 with the drugs today. I’m in bed with a heating pad, surrounded by pill bottles and books and projects that I would work on if I weren’t feeling so mentally dulled. Toad is the best little companion, letting me sleep until 10am without begging for her breakfast or needing to go out. And Hannah is the champion of roommates, getting up at 2am to drive me to the hospital, sitting with me until 4, taking me to the pharmacy this morning, and not making fun of me for whimpering.

I figured I’d write all of this down so that someday when I’m about to give birth and afraid of the pain, I can look back on this and say, “Remember that? You’ll be fine.”

Come hell or high water or high-waisted jeans

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of fashion.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not BEHIND the times.  I’m not wearing shoulder pads or anything.  I know how to dress myself and my slightly complicated figure.  I splurge on good denim, accentuate the positives, and know when to belt a dress.  When I actually try, I can put together a somewhat decent outfit.

But most of the time, I don’t really take fashion risks.  I like my tried-and-trues.

So on Saturday, when Ashley and I were at Anthropologie and she convinced me not only to try on but subsequently drive home with a pair of high-waisted jeans, I was shocked.

And when we got back to the house and my brother immediately brought up Steve Urkel, and then taught my nephews how to taunt me with the classic Urkel line, “Did I do that?” needless to say, my confidence was shaken.  But then I remembered that my brother isn’t exactly rocking the fashion world himself (sorry, Jeremy).

So I put on the new jeans, and headed out for dinner and drinks – looking no less than 7 feet tall, I might add.

But I left the tags on, just in case.  (I know – go ahead.  Judge.)

So what say you, my little sweeties?  Yay or nay on the high-waisted jeans?

Hips don’t lie

Friday, January 14th, 2011

It’s clear from every wedding reception/bachelorette party/alcohol-fueled error of judgment that I am no dancer.  I’ve got rhythm, but I’m all kinds of awkward in my own skin – and this is never more obvious than when I am called upon to drop it like it’s hot.

But then there’s Zumba, the “Latin-based dance-fitness program” that has swept the nation.  I am, as usual, behind the times – tons of you have been on the Zumba train for years.  Case in point, here are my co-workers Emily and Kelli rocking their Zumba moves at Kelli’s wedding, because they are out-of-control awesome.

But I?  I’ve been too nervous to go.  Listen, I may be all lips and eyes, but I’m also all hips and thighs – two things that I don’t really feel like calling attention to.

But I’ve been hating the treadmill.  And last night, I was feeling brave, so I decided to try Zumba for the first time.

Our instructor was a Colombian man in a tight shirt who spoke broken English with a lisp, and said enthusiastic things like, “This class is crowd tonight!”  And it was – the room was packed from wall to wall.

And then the music started.

And then the dancing started.

And everyone was SO INTO IT.

Everything went so fast, and just when I would catch on to what was happening, the moves would change.  These people were like border collies, so attuned to their master’s instruction that at the flick of his wrist, boom – they were box-stepping.

I, on the other hand, was like a dog in socks, stiffly turning in circles.

Zumba is full of what some might call “uncivilized” moves – swivels and shimmies and gyrations (sorry for saying “gyrations”).  If it’s true that hips don’t lie, never has it been more obvious that I’m practically a Puritan.  I tried to be as “into it” as everyone else, and to just let my body do it’s thang – which worked for a little while, until I caught my reflection in the mirror and realized I was doing the Roger Rabbit.

But this burning up the dance floor apparently burns up the calories, and I have never had 60 minutes of cardio go so quickly.

So Zumba, you have not seen the last of me – or my hips.

Work it out

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Last week, I met with Gunnar, the Viking trainer man.  I had one free training session that was included with my gym membership – but wound up not signing up for the real deal, because I refuse to pay $50/hour to be tortured.

At one point, I said, “Gunnar, you are KILLING me.”

He replied, “No, Annie – I’m IMPROVING you.”  Then he had me do squats so rapid and forceful, it looked like I was driving a stake into the ground with my ass.

He put me on one of those slanted sit-up racks – the ones where your head is lower than your hips, as if to prevent pre-term labor.  Under those conditions, a single crunch would be difficult enough – but then he put a 25 pound weight on my chest and told me to sit up.

I held lunges and planks.  I jumped onto a metal box over and over.  I scissor-kicked.  I swung dumb-bells into the air, knowing that one sweaty-palmed slip would result in the death of an innocent by-standing body-builder.  In short, I did things that no self-respecting person would do in public.

When it was all said and done, my entire body was quivering.  I was like a terrified stray dog, completely incapable of self-calming – barely able to stand up, let alone walk back to the desk to talk nutrition.

Gunnar told me that to reach my fitness goals, I could eat no more than 1400 calories a day.

“But… how many do YOU get to have?” I asked.

“4500,” he answered.

Then the Lord and I had a chat about the injustice of it all.

Better self

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

After my half-marathon back in April, I quit running cold turkey.  I don’t like to run when it’s hot outside, and I focused more on hiking and mountain climbing this summer.  Because I’ve been insanely active, I didn’t think that it would be that hard to get back into running this fall.

Oh, my friends.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give the treadmill a go.  I ran one ugly mile.  When I stopped running, my butt kept moving.

Bad.

Then, someone who will not be named told me that she didn’t think I could fit into the bridesmaid dress I ordered for Mel’s wedding.

Bad bad bad.

But AP’s reverse psychology has kicked in, and as of last night, I’m back up to 3 miles.  You’d have thought I’d won the Olympics.  Come Halloween, I’ll be up to 5.  And after tomorrow night when I meet with a Viking of a trainer man named Gunnar, I will be back on my way to that ever elusive runner’s booty – the one that I never get, no matter how far I run, but always think MIGHT happen at some point.

For me, running helps ward off depression, insomnia, and existential crises.  It’s a good and healthy thing for me to do.  I haven’t weighed myself since March of 2009 – which, I might add, is more liberating than terrifying, even though I still have my terrified moments – and while I have a hunch that running actually makes me weigh more, if I don’t ever see that number, it doesn’t even matter.  I feel better.  I look better.  I think better.  I sleep better.

In short, I’m back on the path to my better self – the one with happier thoughts and a smaller booty.  I know: you’ll hardly recognize me.

Have I mentioned my state of physical woe?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Last Thursday morning, I was in a car accident.  Don’t worry – the Honda’s fine – or, at least she will be after the other guy’s insurance pays for a new $750 bumper.  Do you know what this means?  I am losing my bumper stickers.  All of them.  No more “FRESH BEER.”  No more “VIVA NASHVEGAS: EAT MORE RHINESTONES.”

This is probably for the best.

While my car will be spiffed up in no time, I am suffering the effects of whiplash.  My lash was whipped.  I am stiff and sore, and can barely turn to the left to check my blind spot when I drive.  I don’t even want to think about what further calamity this could lead to for the Honda.

But you can’t keep a badass down, and on Sunday, I walked a grand total of 17 miles – a 9 mile hike south of the city, and then an 8 mile walk back in Denver.  When I finally got home, with the force attainable only by a girl who had just walked 17 miles, I stubbed my toe on the couch.  I stubbed it so hard, so mightily, that I thought I was going to pass out from the pain.

It didn’t take long to figure out that my toe – the same one that I broke back in January – is blasted to smithereens.  I won’t go into the dirty details, but let’s just say that it’s swollen beyond recognition (I’m sorry, are you a toe?), and black, and the bruising wraps around to the bottom of my foot, spidering its way up the ball.

Sorry.  Maybe those were the dirty details.

So that brings us up to the present moment: ice on my foot, heat on my neck, wishing for whiskey.

Good morning.

In other news, look what happened to my sister.  She’s always getting picked up by guys.

Trying for triceps

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I have negative triceps. There’s, like, nothing there. If my arms were outerspace, there would be a black hole where my triceps are supposed to be.

Haha, PHYSICS JOKE!!! Science is sooooo funny.

I am 3 1/2 years older than my sister Becca, so when I was 15 and basically the same size I am now (massive), she was 11 and scrawny. She is still incredibly skinny – she turns sideways and disappears, just like Olive Oyl – and can wear clothes that the cool kids wear (skinny jeans, tiny dresses with leggings underneath, various Forever 21 garb), while I and my thighs are banished to more frumpy sensible attire.

I am not bitter. Then again, here is a picture of me as a child:

ap2

I have always had those thighs and a scowl.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that when I was a full-grown 15-year old and Becca was her scraggly 11-year old self, she could beat me in arm wresting.

I have never had any upper-body strength. But I want that to change, because what if one day, I find myself dangling off a canyon edge? A single pull-up could save my life. And if that’s the case, it’s time to take action.

Take action to get action. That’s always been my motto.

Several times each week, I see the King of the Weight Room at the gym. You know exactly who I’m talking about: Stallone in “Cliffhanger.” The man who is bursting out of his muscle shirt. The guy whose neck is just a direct path from his ear to his collarbone.

This man is to triceps as Hunter Lane is to quads.

In other words, I have found my new trainer.

He just doesn’t know it.

YET.