Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An interview with PastaQueen

Fellow weight-loss-blogger and author Jennette Fulda, aka PastaQueen, is doing a virtual tour to promote her book, Half Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir. I was flattered when I was contacted by her publicist to take part.

So, while I sit here and wallow in self-pity because I have the stomach flu from hell, here is a Q&A session with Jennette.

Q: You recently admitted to yourself (and to everyone who reads your blog) that you are a compulsive overeater. Why do you think it took you so long to realize it, and how have things changed since then?

A: I was lucky not to encounter any extremely stressful events during my initial weight loss. Without any huge triggers, it appeared that my eating was under control. I had never attempted a serious healthy eating and fitness plan before, so I assumed my weight problem was caused by lack of knowledge.

This past year I've dealt with the stress of starting a new job, promoting a book and dealing with a chronic headache. I began to realize that these stressors made me want to eat and that this urge to eat was not necessarily felt by other people around me who could leave meals half-finished on their plates. Eventually I realized that my brain is wired a little differently than other people's and that I like to use food as a drug when my life is out of control.

I'm using several strategies to manage my overeating. I don't bring trigger foods into my house. I know that if I buy a box of granola bars, I will probably eat the whole box, so I try to buy single servings. When I cook meals, I try to make only as much as I want to eat so I don't have an opportunity to binge. These techniques help, but it's still a struggle.

Q: Training for and running my marathon was one of the most challenging things I've ever done. What were you favorite and least favorite things about your half marathon experience?

A: My favorite part was eating a Cinnamon Crunch Bagel and knowing I'd already burned off the calories I was consuming. This might be part of the reason I gained a couple pounds while training instead of losing weight :) I also enjoyed pushing past my limits. I would never have run in ice and snow and negative degree temperatures, but I did those things running with a training group. I was surprised I was able to do it, but I don't have any desire to do that again:)

I didn't enjoy gaining weight when I was exercising so much. I also resented the amount of time it took to train, particularly near the end when I had to complete several 45-minute runs a week. Getting the runner's trots after my training 10K run wasn't pleasant either.

Q: You've been dealing with chronic headache pain for several months now. How has it affected your commitment to a healthy lifestyle? Do you think there is hope to lose weight for overweight people living with chronic pain?

A: It's harder to get up the motivation to exercise when I'm in pain all the time. Remember the last time you had a headache? Did you feel like doing anything, let alone run or bike or jazzercise? I feel like that all the time. It also makes me want to eat more because enjoying a pint of ice cream or a box of chocolates genuinely makes me feel better, if only briefly. My medications don't seem to do anything, but the Steak N' Shake milkshake never lets me down.

I went through a pretty bad time last September and October, but I seem to be pulling out of it lately *crosses fingers* I've found that if I eat well 80% of the time and moderately exercise I can maintain my weight without gaining. Now I have about 25 pounds I'd like to lose again.

I think there is hope for overweight people with chronic pain to live a healthy life and perhaps lose weight, but it depends on what is causing their pain. If you have a bad back or arthritis it is more difficult to find an activity you can do, but there are options like water aerobics (as lame as that might sound). My doctors have also told me that regular exercise helps moderate chronic pain. People who get 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week will be in better health and feel slightly less pain than those who don't.

Q: In your book, Half Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir, you don't specifically say what type of diet/exercise plan you used to lose weight. Why did you feel the need to keep that out of the book?

A: I believe that any healthy, sane diet that enables you to eat less calories than you burn will result in weight loss. I did not want people to think they had to follow the exact same diet I did to see results. Different plans work for different people. I also did not want to appear to be an evangelist or spokesperson for one specific diet. Nor did I want to be answering questions about the diet plan for the rest of my life. It's easy to find out what diet I was on my scanning my blog, so if you really want to know you can find out.

Q: Do you find that maintaining your weight loss is easier or harder than losing the weight in the first place? Why do you feel that way?

A: Maintenance is definitely harder than losing weight. I still have to do all the things I did when I was losing weight, but I do not get the positive reinforcement of seeing a lower number on the scale each week. Instead, I get to see the same number, or sometimes I see a small gain. I am also bombarded by temptations from other people and advertising to eat poorly. It is difficult to say no 20 times a day for the rest of your life.

It's also easy to get bored with a routine. If I eat the same meal too many times, I tend not to want to eat it again. If I do the exact same running routine 4 days a week, I get sick of it. I see my relationship with my body like any relationship. There was an initial phase of joyful infatuation that was lots of fun. Now I'm a couple years in at a more comfortable phase where I have to work harder to keep things interesting.

Q: Suppose a pill existed that would melt away excess pounds overnight. It has been tested in 50-year studies by the FDA, and has been determined to be perfectly safe. It has no side effects whatsoever. Would you take it? Why or why not?

A: Yeah, I would :) I love eating ice cream, cookies, and chocolate. If I could do that and not get fat, I'd eat a lot more of them. That said, I would also eat healthy foods out of concern for my overall health and because eating chocolate all the time gets old (believe it or not). I find that once I've had a milkshake or some cookies, I don't necessarily want to eat them again for a day or two. It's important to have variety in my diet like in my fitness routine. Also, just because a pill could stop me from gaining weight, it wouldn't keep me from building up plaque in my arteries or developing diabetes, so healthy eating could not be ignored completely.

Wow, thanks for the great insights, Jennette.

Now, if you haven't already, go buy her book! I got my copy the day it came out, and I can honestly say it's a great read. To keep following Jennette on her virtual tour, be sure to tune in tomorrow at This Mama Cooks!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


When Angie and I were in the depths of our holiday binge-fest recently, she made the following comment while we were driving home from a buffet: "I am so sick of food."

I was too. Strange, how the thing I'm most addicted to can cause such a dichotomy of emotions within me. The more unhealthy garbage I ate, the less I enjoyed it. Each Big Mac tasted progressively less yummy than the last, yet I couldn't seem to stop myself. At that point, I believe it was pure addiction, and not true desire, that was driving me.

I often find myself wishing I could be stranded on a deserted island. Hopefully, I'd have ice skates and a volleyball like Tom Hanks did...but there's one thing I wouldn't have, and that's the ability to make food choices. Coconuts? Crab? Raw fish? Bring it on. But please, oh please, don't let there be Golden Arches on my island.

America is a country with a lot of freedom. Sure- there's life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to contend with. But, we also have the freedom to get really fat, to get diabetes and heart disease, and to let our addictions to various things control our lives. I'm grateful for all these freedoms- even the ones that lead to negative consequences. I would hate to take the Right to Drive-Thru away from anyone. But I sometimes wish I could take it away from myself.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Whey to go

I'm feeling pretty damn proud of myself today.

I've managed to not only avoid unhealthy foods, but I've actually enjoyed the nutritious things I ate today. I started the day with a huge smoothie with skim milk, fat free vanilla yogurt, frozen strawberries, and whey protein. Seems like I'm one of the last people to jump on the whey wagon, but I'm glad I finally did.

My big accomplishment for the day was that I ran 3 miles tonight. I think the last time I did that was about 2 months ago. Then, I tried out the new Biggest Loser Yoga DVD, which was tough but very enjoyable. (The plank pose can kiss my ass, however.)

In other news, my training for the Oklahoma City Marathon officially began today. Now that I know I can actually run, I feel a little more confident about getting back in the game. Heh.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wake up calls and new beginnings

Yeah, so it's been a while.

The past several weeks have been filled with food, drink, gluttony, and total ambivalence. I can't even tell you how many times I went through the drive through, how many beers I drank, and how many hours I sat on the couch. I also can't tell you how many pounds I've gained, because I've avoided the scale just as much as I've avoided the treadmill. I do know, however, that I'm currently wearing size 16 pants.

The scariest part is that I didn't really care until a couple days ago.

Angie and I were at a local restaurant for lunch. As we sat in our booth, I perused the menu and wondered whether to have a cheeseburger and fries or a salad. I opted for the salad. Granted, it had pieces of fried chicken, bacon, and shredded cheese. But hey- roughage and all, right?

That's when I started to feel strange. I was sweating bullets and I couldn't breathe. Everything faded to white and I couldn't hear anything. Then I passed out, right there in the booth. Angie later told me I was shaking while I was unconscious. When I woke up a few seconds later, all I wanted to do was get outside, into the cool winter air. Stupidly, I got on my feet and made my way toward the door. Almost made it, too. Right as I was about to reach the door, I collapsed near a booth of ladies. I awoke and a woman was patting my back and repeating "Are you okay, honey?"

"Oh, I wound up on the floor? How embarrassing," I replied in my stupor. I kept apologizing as Angie and the hostess helped me outside and handed me a glass of ice water. I took off all my extra layers and my shoes and took in the water like I hadn't had any in months.

I don't know exactly why I fainted twice in the middle of a Houlihan's, but I know that I have to fucking get real. Right now.

Yesterday, I got reacquainted with that lovely wagon that I've avoided for so long. It was tough. Today was worse, because my body realized I wasn't giving it all the sugar it was used to. It rebelled by giving me a monster headache and a bitchy attitude. I don't care, though. I don't want to die.

When a new season of The Biggest Loser started tonight, I knew it was a sign from the diet and exercise gods that I needed to test my fitness. I put on my workout clothes and noticed right away how much my body has really changed. The treadmill looked at me with surprise as I approached. "Oh, you're back, huh? You think you can just walk all over me after not talking to me for months?" If treadmills could talk, that's what mine would have said tonight. Nevertheless, I got on and was happily surprised to learn I can still run a mile.

So here I am. I'm still planning on rejoining my running group later this month and training for the Oklahoma City Marathon in April.

Here we go. In the words of the great PastaQueen: "Oh really, let's just fucking do this already!"

Woot woot!