Desperately seeking a dose of self confidence

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but self confidence is a precious commodity—one that’s not easy to find. You’d think it would come automatically once you’ve found your inner skinny girl (or skinnier girl anyway), but that’s not necessarily true.

Not true at all, actually.

I have a friend who’s lost 40 pounds (no, not me). She’s dropped three sizes and gained a whole lot of healthy habits I can only pretend to emulate. And you know what she said to me? She feels fatter, uglier than ever.

Why? Because while she’s thinner, she’s not nearly as thin as she thinks she could be—as she thinks she wants to be. She’s not shopping in the plus sizes anymore—but she’s not shopping in the itty bitty teeny weeny bikini department either.

And every time she turns around, she sees someone she thinks is thinner. Maybe, just maybe, cuter. And in her mind? Better.

How do I know? Because I think the same way.

See, when I was heavy, I was comfortable with myself. Don’t get me wrong—I hated being fat. Hated looking in the mirror and seeing what I’d become. But I knew where I stood. Those skinny girls? No way I could compete.

Nope, I was fairly invisible. Men’s gazes just kinda skated right on by. Everyone’s did, really.  And that was okay by me. There is power in anonymity.

But once the weight came off, so did the invisibility cloak. People looked at me—and when they did, they saw me, including all five bazillion ways I didn’t – don’t – measure up to Miss Teeny Weeny Bikini. And that? Very, very bad for the ego.

In fact, I’ve spent the last month struggling with that very thing. That failure—real or imaginary—to compete with the woman I think I should be. It doesn’t help that I’ve been pulling 70 hour workweeks, neglecting my workouts and my diet. Or that I’m up a pound.

But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is inside my head. And I’m not sure how to fix it. I know I can’t let my inner demons bring me down. But I don’t know how to shut them up, either. Or how to get my Inner Goddess out of the funk she’s currently in.

Until I figure it out, I’m just going to take some advice my grandma once gave me: flash the world your best smile and it’ll be too dazzled to see the quaking mess that’s hiding behind it. So far, it’s working.


Maintaining is the hardest thing

It’s 7:30 a.m. Friday morning. Time to face the music. Or, rather, the numbers. I’m standing in front of my scale, heart beating loudly in my chest, trying to get the nerve to step on board.

“Please, please, please don’t let it be bad news. Please don’t let it be bad news. No bad news, not today,” I chant.

Finally, there’s nothing to do but do it. So I close my eyes, hold my breath and wait for the digital demon to do its thing.

Thankfully, the gods have decided to be merciful. My weight’s exactly the same. In fact, it’s stayed steady for a whole month now—I seem to be actually getting this maintaining thing down.

Now, in a perfect world, I’d still be losing. I still have ten more to go. But given everything else I’ve got going on right now, I decided to take a little break from the whole diet business.

Instead, I’m trying to just live. And good lord is that scary.

There’s something very comforting about being on a diet. When I’m working toward a goal, it’s easier to make myself do stuff I have no desire to do. Like ignore cravings for cake and eat carrots instead. Or go sweat at the gym after a 12-hour work day when I really want to go home and watch reruns of Scrubs.

But now that I’ve hit it? Well, for a while, it was great. People noticed. My clothes fit better. I felt better. But eventually, the novelty wore off. And now I’ve just got to keep on keeping on. With no real reward in sight.

Well, except for stress-free encounters with the scale.  Clothes that continue to fit.  And a self-confidence level that remains somewhat healthy.

All good things. But when I’m faced with a plate of brownies, or a grease-laden pizza, or am weighing the pros and cons of that second pint of beer, they’re hard to remember.

And the easy excuse, “I can’t because I’m on a diet,” is gone. Instead, I have to rely on the self-discipline that I’ve supposedly learned over the last year or so. And the healthy habits that are supposed to have burned themselves into my consciousness.

It doesn’t always work. I’ve eaten a few too many brownies lately. Blown off a few too many gym dates. Indulged in a pint or three. But I’m getting better about it. And I think I’m finding some balance.

But I still feel like I’m blundering about in the dark. And I remain just a little bit terrified.

After all, forever is a mighty long time to keep this up.

Published in: on June 9, 2008 at 3:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Working out with the Worms

Every once in a while, I get tired of running to nowhere on the treadmill.

Sick to death of smelling that special gym-fresh rankness every exercise facility ever built seems to share.

Ready to quit the whole going-to-the-gym-to-sweat-profusely-and-hurt-incredibly routine.

In fact, over the past month and a half I’ve averaged oh, maybe two workouts a week. Max. Which ain’t nearly enough. But when burnout strikes…it hits hard. And I was fried.

Then, five yards of prime topsoil (and a bit of cow poo) landed on my driveway. Why? Because my blood runs a bit green. See, my mom is a Gardener. With a yard worthy of a magazine spread. And she taught me a house isn’t really a home until it’s surrounded by flowers o’ plenty.

Unfortunately, my house sits on top of a quarry. You can’t dig into rock. Or grow anything in it. Trust me. I tried. Thus, the giant dirt pile.

So what does that have to do with exercise, you ask?

Well, let me tell you, after 72 hours of shoveling, hauling, digging and planting, every muscle in my body hurts. And since gardening burns approximately 383 calories an hour, I killed something like seven bazillion calories.

If that’s not a workout, I don’t know what is.

And I feel good. Sore, sure. But I accomplished something—something Big. Something that I couldn’t have done if it weren’t for those muscles I spent so many hours building in the gym.

In fact, if I had gotten that same pile of dirt delivered this time last year, I would have had a heart attack—or at the very least, a pain-fueled temper tantrum—before the first wheelbarrow load got moved. And the results wouldn’t have been nearly so satisfying.

So what did I learn today?

First, you don’t have to go to the gym to get a workout. But all those exercise sessions I do put myself through inside that hall of torture? They’re way worth it.

So I guess I won’t cancel my membership just yet.

Published in: on June 2, 2008 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Lose the weight. Not the cake.

I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a domestic goddess. I can cook if I have to. But I’d much rather watch my husband do it.

Unless, that is, we’re talking about baking. I love baking. It calms me. Comforts me. And, of course, makes my belly happy. Very, very happy.

So, when I decided to go in search of my inner skinny girl, doing without cake was not an option. Instead, I went in search of new ways to get my bake on.

Here are three of the easiest, tastiest recipes I’ve found.

Carrot Cake

1 box of any commercially prepared carrot cake mix
1 14.5-ounce can of pumpkin
¼ cup of water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix with electric beater for two minutes. Then spread in a 9 X 13 pan (hit with non-stick cooking spray first) and bake for 25-27 minutes. After the cake has cooled, top with fat-free whipped topping.

The cake will be very moist. For an extra dose of deliciousness, add a cup of canned pineapple tidbits to the batter.

Diet Coke Cake

1 box of chocolate or Devil’s food commercially prepared cake mix
1 can of diet coke

Yep, that’s really it.

Combine ingredients and mix until all lumps are gone. Then spread in a 9 X 13 pan (greased with non-stick cooking spray) and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (or according to package directions).

You can experiment with different cake mixes and flavors of soda. Lemon cake mix + diet 7up = yum.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

2 cans of pineapple tidbits
1 container of fat free whipped topping
1 box of angel food cake mix
1 box of sugar free vanilla pudding

Combine 1 can of pineapple (with juice) and the angel food cake mix. Spread in (greased) springform pan and bake at 350 according to package directions.

Meanwhile, mix cool whip, vanilla pudding and the second can of pineapple. Refrigerate till ready to use. This will be your icing on the cake.

See, I told you these recipes were easy. Best of all, they’re all 3 points or less! So go ahead. Have your cake and eat it too. Your inner skinny girl will love you for it.

What does skinny look like?

In the short time since I began this blog, I’ve talked a lot about how much weight I’ve lost in the last eleven months. Forty-five pounds, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention.

That’s how much the average 6-year-old girl (and sixteen-year-old model) weighs.

That makes me a size 10—which, as I was recently reminded by a reader, does not make me skinny by society’s standards.

What does it make me? Healthy. Happy. And hot in the eyes of my husband.

It puts the strut back in my walk.

The waist back above my hips.

The chin back in my face.

You get the idea.

But a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words, so see for yourself:

Here’s a full-length shot of me last March.
Me. March 2007.

And one taken two weeks ago.
On the Carnival Legend. April 2008.

Me in all my chipmunk-cheeked splendor last year.
Me. march 2007.

And a goofy picture of me enjoying my lunch.

Amber. 2008.

So. That’s what skinny looks like to me. My version of skinny certainly won’t put me on the cover of a magazine—but it will keep me from becoming part of the dreadful obese person B-roll that pops up on the evening news.

Now it’s your turn.

What does skinny look like to you?

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 7:26 pm  Comments (4)  

The. Best. Compliment. Ever.

It was 9:15 in the morning. I’d gotten up late. Realized there wasn’t a drop of caffeine to be had in the house. Dug through the laundry basket desperately searching for something (anything) that wasn’t too wrinkly to wear. Then gotten stuck behind a school bus that. stopped. every. twenty. feet. on my way to work.

In a word, I was Crabby.

And I had a meeting in 15 minutes.

There was only one thought running through my mind—Get Me Coffee. Now.

Nevertheless, when on my sprint to the coffee shop I noticed some coworkers I hadn’t seen in a long time entering the building, I paused to wave hello.

But they didn’t wave back. Instead, they just stared vaguely in my direction. Snarly thoughts were already forming at the back of my brain when they finally reacted.

“Amber! I didn’t even recognize you!” one said. Better yet, their next comment  included the word “hot.”

Apparently, between the advantageously blowing wind, new clothes and vacation-fresh tan, I looked, well, good!

Now, I know I’ve lost a lot of weight. And I’ve gotten a LOT of compliments (thank you, all of you, I really appreciate it). But since they’ve all come from people that see me all the time (and have heard me whine endlessly) there’s still a little part of me that insists I don’t look that much different. That they’re just being nice.

But this time? Not even I could come up with a reason to negate their praise.

Needless to say, my day (heck, my entire week) got a whole lot brighter after that.

Thank you, you two. You know who you are.

Published in: on April 24, 2008 at 9:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Cruising with your inner skinny girl

Last week, I found myself faced with the biggest diet challenge ever invented—the cruise vacation.

Those stories you hear? The ones that start with “I went on a cruise” and end with “and gained 25 pounds in seven days?”

Probably not an exaggeration.

Food is everywhere. All the time. Want a greasy slab of pizza and a Chicago dog at 3 a.m.? No problem. A six-egg omelet, loaf of French toast and an entire side of bacon for breakfast? It’s yours for the asking.

Go ahead. Ask for two entrees. Get three pina coladas before breakfast. There are no limits, people. None at all.

So what’s a girl who just bought a whole new wardrobe to do?

Get good at ignoring that inner five-year-old. And establish some pretty strict ground rules:

  1. Keep to a regular meal schedule. In other words, go for three squares, not eight.
  2. Save the drinks until it’s actually 5 o’clock. The bar staff is everywhere—get a drink every time they come around and it’s easy to consume 598234643987568534 calories before lunch.
  3. Set a one buffet trip per meal limit. This one’s tough. But important. Before you ever pick up a plate, walk around every buffet counter available to evaluate your choices (there are lots of them). Then make a decision and stick to it. Fill up your plate once and only once. Then leave (it’s easier not to cave that way).
  4. YOU CAN ONLY HAVE ONE DESSERT. Would you have three at home? No. So don’t start doing it now.
  5. Remember, fruit is your friend. And it’s the one healthy snack that’s always available.
  6. There’s a gym. Use it. Just remember, the boat’s moving. So when you’re running on a treadmill, it’s best to hang on. Trust me on this one.

Those were the rules. And I stuck to them…for the most part. However, I’m going to avoid the scale for a few days. I don’t think I’d like what it has to say right now.

Published in: on April 21, 2008 at 5:55 pm  Comments (2)  

Cue the Jaws Music

This past Saturday, my husband and I made a little expedition up to The Mall.

To give you a little background, I used to looooove going to the mall. Shopping was one of my very favorite pastimes. But then, my Inner Fat Girl got loose. And when she did, clothing stores, along with their dressing rooms, turned into torture chambers filled with funhouse mirrors.

I cried. I threw tantrums. And finally, I just stopped going. Before Saturday, I hadn’t been on a Serious Shopping Trip in almost three years.

The night before, I was so anxious, I couldn’t sleep. I woke up in a foul mood and snarled at my husband all the way to the mall. When we stepped inside the first store (H&M, in case you’re curious), I was convinced everybody was staring at me—wondering if I’d gotten lost on my way to the fat girl store. By the time I actually found myself in a fitting room, I was well on my way to having a nervous breakdown.

But then something amazing happened. I pulled on a skirt, sucked in my stomach and pulled up the zipper. And…it zipped.

At first, I thought it was a fluke.

So I tried on another skirt. And a couple of shirts. And then some more skirts. And more shirts—this time, button downs. And even, feeling really brave, some pants.

And they fit. They didn’t all look good, but they zipped, buttoned, fastened…generally covering the areas they were supposed to cover without making my body look like a stress ball that’s been squished one too many times.

In the end, I bought seven shirts and two skirts at H&M.

And that was just the beginning.

In fact, I managed to spend more money in a single day than I’ve spent on clothes in the last three years combined. I even got a bathing suit. Not a bikini (no one needs to see that), but a bathing suit.

It felt good.

My husband, bless his heart, soldiered through the day without a single word of complaint. He waited patiently outside fitting rooms, giving advice when asked, keeping his mouth shut when he wasn’t.

But when we finally arrived home, he got very, very drunk—something he doesn’t do very often.

I think I’ll drag some of my girlfriends next time.

Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 2:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Another failed plan

The key to a successful diet is careful planning. Especially when it comes to eating out. I know that. In fact, I almost always get online to look at a restaurant’s menu to see what I can “legally” eat before I go.

I went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. When I go to a Mexican place, I always get chicken fajitas, minus the tortillas. That costs me 6 or 7 points (I’m a Weight Watchers kinda girl). And that’s what I ordered today.

But that’s not what I got. When our order came out, the server presented me with steak fajitas. Now, the logical thing to do would have been to send it back. So is that what I did?


I didn’t want to wait for them to cook another batch.

I didn’t want my husband to feel like he couldn’t eat his meal.

Most of all, I didn’t want to have to tell the server he made a mistake. I’m not good with confrontations.

So I ate it. After all, I thought, how bad can steak be for you?

The answer? Very bad. That stupid cow meat doubled the points value of my meal.

And you know what that means? It means I have to have 0 point soup and salad without dressing for dinner. Mmmm, scrumptious.

So, what have we learned today?

First, I need to grow a spine.

And second, even the best plan in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t stick to it.

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 7:22 pm  Comments (1)  

The pics that started it all.

A picture, as the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. So I’m going to be brave and post a couple of the photos that were my undoing—or maybe my doing? I don’t know.

However, thanks to my persistent begging, the powers-that-be have granted my request to have new photos taken. I’m sure they won’t be as spiffy as these, but if they turn out at all good, I’ll post ‘em so y’all can see where I’m at now.

I can’t figure out how to make them look pretty here, so until I do, I’ll put them on Shutterfly. Here’s the link:

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm  Comments (1)