Depression

Today I went through my depression tag. Since old posts imported from Blogger don’t have the correct tags, I also searched my blog for “depression”, “depressed”, and “quality of life”, and tagged any untagged posts that were actually about depression.

I was sort of hoping to find a pattern, something I could point to as a potential reason. I don’t think I did. But I came across this:

Sean says that I tend to have periods of depression that eventually pass. I guess I’m in one of them now. I hate my job and the thought of going back in tomorrow makes me want to cry. The thought of not being able to find a new job does make me cry. I feel trapped and helpless, like I can’t do anything except commit to things I hate in order to have the money to make myself feel better by buying things and eating out.

Every time I try to start something up to better myself, I do really well at first, and then I just taper off until I’m doing nothing again.

This is horrifying because it’s from 2004. Apparently this type of feeling is not particularly new for me.

The self-loathing has obviously always been there. I mean. But it seems like I have known for over a decade that I have this cycle wherein eventually I lose motivation and feel trapped and helpless, and I haven’t managed to learn anything or do anything about it.

I hope the steps I’ve taken this year to address my mental health will help me.

Getting things in order

It’s been quite some time since I have edited and uploaded photos. Today I moved over four months of photos off my phone. These joined a mass of other photos dating all the way back to November 2014, plus a few from August and March 2014…all waiting to be processed. (I don’t even want to know how many photos this is total.)

To make the task seem less overwhelming, I created some main category folders for each month—1403, 1408, 1411, 1412, etc.—and put all the daily folders inside them. This makes my My Pictures folder a lot more manageable, and it also gives me a way to organize the task of going through these. I can pick a month folder to do one day, or a day folder to do another day, depending on how much time I have.

I’ve felt a little disjointed lately. I spend a lot of time doing “fandom stuff”—looking at, sharing, and creating fan content. And this is fun, and I’ve enjoyed it, but I sort of feel like I haven’t been doing anything else, besides work and chores. So I think I will make an effort to diversify. Get back to photography a little. Read stuff that isn’t fan fiction. Get out of the apartment more.

I’ve also been thinking about getting back into running. I need to do some sort of exercise; just taking the stairs in the parking garage at work is not enough to keep my cardiovascular health where it needs to be. I haven’t really tried running since I lost all the weight. It might be fun. I’m thinking about checking out Zombies, Run, which apparently has a plot and stuff! That sounds neat; maybe it will encourage me to keep running. We’ll see.

Time to reboot

I’m home in Kentucky at my parents’ house for a long weekend. I wanted to get away. Do something different. See something different. At first I thought about going away somewhere. I considered Savannah, or New Orleans, or Charleston, or Orlando. But I’d be making such a trip alone, and I’m starting to think alone isn’t really what I need.

On the drive up here, I listened to two-thirds of a book called The Depression Cure by Stephan Ilardi. It discusses lifestyle changes you can make to combat depression. I think the recommendations make sense and might be able to help me with the mood swings I’ve been having. The book cites six key strategies: “dietary omega-3 fatty acids, engaging activity, physical exercise, sunlight exposure, social support, and sleep.”

Of those six items, I think I’m okay on at least one: sleep. Other than a couple times that I’ve let writing interfere with going to bed on time (like right now), I usually sleep well. I suppose you could also argue that I’ve done engaging activities (writing).

But my diet has been pretty terrible in recent months—takeout and fast food—so I’m sure my balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (ideally 1:2) is completely out of whack. While I do take the stairs, in the parking garage at work and to get from our garden level apartment to street level, I don’t get any other exercise. I haven’t been outdoors much this winter, so I haven’t had the benefit of sun exposure. And lastly, perhaps due to the writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time alone, even on my lunch breaks at work. (A week or so ago I actually had lunch with three other coworkers, and I felt amazing afterwards.)

I’ll finish the book on my drive back home—I’m just about to get into the part with actionable steps. When I get home, I’ll try to start making some healthy changes.

But here, now, at my parents’ house surrounded by family, I’m going to relax and listen and talk and hug. I’m going to let this little break rejuvenate me.

Please help fund this Kickstarter for diabetics

I am so inspired by Nial Giacomelli’s The Diabetic Journal. This is a personal project, an application to help manage all the overwhelming variables in a diabetic’s life, that has grown beyond personal use and into something that Mr. Giacomelli wants to distribute absolutely free as a smartphone app. He’s made no profit on it and will make none. He’s looking to Kickstarter simply to allow him to focus on the app, to get it out the door with more features and a more streamlined UI.

I have no horse in this race; I’m not diabetic. But I’ve been through a lot of health-related crap. I can only imagine what it must be like for diabetics to have to manage their illness every single day for the rest of their lives.

This app would help them. And it would be free.

But things are looking bad. The word’s not getting out, or people don’t understand, or some other problem is keeping the project far from its goal.

I’m a backer and I want The Diabetic Journal to get my money.

If you’ve got anything you can send, anything at all, please. For once, here’s a Kickstarter that isn’t about personal profit or entertainment or special perks. It’s about helping people.

Isn’t that something that’s really worth Kickstarting?

Back The Diabetic Journal

Knee pain

I’ve had on-and-off knee pain throughout my adult life. Historically it has only been one knee at a time, and it usually passes in a few days. During these times, moving and especially bending the knee is painful. I have difficulty getting into and out of a seated position or going up and down stairs.

Last night both of my knees started hurting while I was curled up on the couch watching TV. My legs also hurt at the place where the femur attaches to the pelvis. Getting up from the couch I found myself stiff and wracked with pain. I took some Tylenol and went to bed–painfully, pulling my legs up onto the mattress with my hands.

I slept for only a few hours before awakening with even worse pain. I tried to lie perfectly still and go back to sleep because I did not want to have to get up, which would require me to move my knees. Ultimately, though, I was in too much pain to sleep, so finally I forced myself out of bed by maneuvering my straight legs over the side and propping myself up into a standing position. Limping to the bathroom, I bent at the waist to search beneath the sink for unused medicine, and thankfully I came across a pain pill from when I had my weight loss surgery. I took one, then sat on the loveseat with my legs propped up and surfed on my phone until the pain subsided enough for me to go back to sleep.

When I woke up a scant few more hours later, the pain was back again, so I called my doctor’s office and made an appointment. My doctor, Dr. M, wasn’t supposed to be in today, but apparently they called him and he came in especially for me, which was really nice of him. We talked about the pain symptoms, then he had me lie back while he moved my legs around to see what hurt and what didn’t. The hip pain, he said, is probably bursitis; he doesn’t think it’s related to the knees, which makes sense because I’ve never had the two symptoms simultaneously that I can remember.

However, if the pain in my knees is rheumatoid arthritis, it may be related to the hip pain after all. At this point we don’t know what’s causing the knee pain. From the exam we know that it is the tendons on the top of the knee that are the problem; twisting my legs doesn’t hurt while bending them straight up and down is incredibly painful. And we know that Grandma had arthritis. So Dr. M drew some blood to check for general inflammation and for arthritis in particular. He also gave me a prescription for more pain medicine, for which I’ve been extremely thankful today. While the hip pain is relatively dull and seems to be fading away, the knee pain just won’t quit. Moving around seems to help, but without the pain medicine, moving around hurts a lot.

Here’s hoping the bloodwork reveals something that can help me long-term. And short-term, here’s hoping the pain takes a hike soon.

A breath of fresh air

I spent this past week in Kentucky with my family, and while there I didn’t check ADN, Twitter, or Google Plus at all. I got on Facebook about three times total, to check private messages and make sure no one had posted anything important to my timeline. The day after the election I tried Facebook again, but a quick scan through the news feed made me wonder why I ever used Facebook to begin with.

I realize a lot of this is just election exhaustion, and that will pass. But I truly enjoyed spending a week not checking social media obsessively. I left my phone in my purse most of the time and didn’t use it for anything but one phone call and maybe three text messages. (I may have also played a turn in chess, but I don’t remember.) I also didn’t unpack my computer right away, and when I did I mostly used it to review Japanese on WaniKani and to watch lectures and do assignments for my Coursera Python class. I also added to my Goals document, which I started working on in October. It’s a simple list of ideas I’ve had that I want to see to fruition.

The rest of my time was spent with family members, talking or playing games or enjoying meals. I got to celebrate Halloween, Connor’s 13th birthday, an early Thanksgiving, and Daphne’s second birthday. I didn’t really go anywhere beyond my parents’ house and my brothers’ houses, but it was relaxing, and I didn’t get too stir-crazy. (When I started feeling antsy, AJ took me to a cool walking trail so I could enjoy the fall leaves. It totally rejuvenated me.)

While I was staying with my parents, I also wrote a few entries in a journal, by hand. It takes a lot longer for me to write by hand than it does for me to type. I found that I was doing more crafting so I wouldn’t write anything poorly. I also found that I had no desire to share the brief brags, complaints, and jokes that I normally would post to social media without hesitation.

I used to despair that all my thoughts were lost to the ether. When social media came around, I thought it was my salvation. Finally there was a way to chronicle everything that went through my head. This was important to me, for some reason. I’ve always wanted other people to understand me, but I’ve rarely felt like anyone does. I suppose I thought the more I shared, the more others would learn about me, and maybe eventually they would come to understand me. (This might be a large reason why I have such a problem with lying or with being misrepresented.)

I’ve gone overboard with sharing here on the blog, and I think my social media participation is probably even worse. It’s so much easier. Just taking a week off from it, I feel very different…like I have so much more time.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do. As a professional in the web world, I probably need to maintain a social media presence of some sort. And it would help to stay on the cutting edge with things like ADN. But of all the social media I abstained from this week, the only one I really worry about quitting completely is Facebook, due as I’ve said before to the possibility of losing touch with far-flung friends and family. Maybe I will find a way to limit my participation, perhaps by scheduling a time each week or so to “catch up”. Or maybe I’ll do something else. For right now, I’m putting that decision off, as I don’t really have any desire to get back on social media.

Juggling social media sites

I’ve mentioned before the problems I’ve had with various social media sites. In an attempt to see if I could improve my experience, I started using Google Plus and ADN, but neither of those could replace Twitter or Facebook…so for the past few weeks I have been using four social media sites instead of two.

This is a huge time suck, and I’m not sure I’m really adding much value to my life.

I’ve mainly found Google Plus to be a decent place for news links, but I’m flummoxed by the lack of a “send to Instapaper” button. I despise having to open the link in Safari, copy it there, and then paste it into Instapaper. There are also occasionally some interesting discussions on Google Plus, but I don’t have enough people in my Circles for this to be a frequent occurrence.

ADN is a different animal. There are plenty of interesting people there, but a lot of the ones I’ve interacted with seem to have a lot more time to dedicate to ADN than I do. I tend to dip in and out; they’re there for longer blocks of time, holding up numerous conversation threads with sometimes dozens of people at once. ADN sort of feels like a microcosm of a party, where the extraverts are flitting around happily and I, the introvert, am observing, trying to interact, feeling overwhelmed, and ducking out early. I often feel like I’m missing everything, that I am not “cool” enough for ADN. Sometimes I attempt to broach what I consider to be important topics there, only to be either ignored entirely, or briefly engaged and then ignored. I guess I wouldn’t say that I have made any real friends on ADN. There are a few people I enjoy chatting with, to be sure, but for the most part it just feels really hard to interact on ADN.

I do try to keep in mind that it took me many years to get Twitter and Facebook curated such that I was comfortable with them. At first I would just follow anyone on Twitter who seemed interesting, but after awhile I would feel left out because these interesting people weren’t following me or talking to me. Eventually I learned to follow people who would actually interact with me, which made the experience much better. I also learned to temper my expectations, so I could follow bigger accounts and know that they have so much interaction to deal with, there’s no way they could respond to everything people said to them. I kept my following list as small as possible, so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing the party. I have a sort of balance on Twitter that gives me information and interaction. I have to remember how long it took me to get there.

Facebook is a different animal. I use it to keep track of actual friends: people from school, people from IRC, people from the AMRN, people from work, and family members. These are people I actually want to keep up with, not just random acquaintances. I use Facebook as the contact list for my personal life, essentially, which is why it is always distressing when someone decides to close their account, and why I have so much trouble with the idea of closing mine. The archivist in me loves that I can collect information about myself and my friends all in one place, and this built-in need usually wins out over my privacy concerns. I realize this is probably bad, but I don’t know what else to do. There is literally nothing else out there that can replicate what Facebook does for me.

I’m starting to wonder, though, if there isn’t a way I could try and quantify the benefits of the various social media platforms vs. the drawbacks. As I said, checking these four services takes time. What might I be doing with that time otherwise? Couldn’t I use my blog to chronicle my life, rather than depending on Facebook? Couldn’t I create an address book of the people I care about and contact them in other ways? Couldn’t I use RSS feeds to read news? Would these things save time? Would they free my mind for creative endeavors?

I have a few options for evaluating my social media use. I could stop completely for a given amount of time and see what happens. I could limit my use to a certain amount of time per day and see what happens. I could continue as normal, but track my time on social media the same way someone evaluating their diet would track food. That last would be the hardest to implement, but it might provide the best data.

Ultimately, I think social media has become habitual for me, a way of having something to do when I’m not sure what to do next. (Chores are also like this for me.) It may be distracting me from achieving goals, because working towards something is harder than taking a routine action. To achieve a goal you have to come up with a plan, and you have to break it up into steps, and you have to constantly figure out what the next step is. With habits, you just do it. No wonder habits are so hard to break. You feel like you’ve accomplished something, even if you haven’t.

Maybe instead of focusing on social media, I should focus on my goals. As I invest more time into achieving goals, the unimportant stuff will start to fall away naturally.

Regardless of how I change my social media habits, I do know this: things can’t stay the way they are now.

General life update

Me at Stone Mountain, 9/28/2012

You know that feeling where you have something you want to say, but you’re really busy, so finally you just splooge out whatever and slap it up onto your blog just to be done with it? And then you’re left staring at that obnoxiously ill-formed post for days because you don’t have time to write another one? Well, that’s how I feel about my most recent post, and so I’m basically writing this one to bump it down. :>

I’ve been doing well. I’m not sure I have mentioned this on the blog yet, but I’ve had a full time contract position for the past several weeks that has been really fun and rewarding. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the work and the people, and I hope to be called back again for future projects.

In addition to that, I’ve been taking free courses on Coursera to try and improve myself. I’m interested in data, statistics, design, user experience design, programming, critical thinking, all sorts of stuff. I started out taking Statistics 1 from Princeton, but unfortunately the time requirements of the course were too much for me alongside full time work and my home obligations, so I had to drop it in the fourth week :( I do feel that I learned a lot in that time, though. I am now taking Learn to Program: The Fundamentals (a Python course) from Toronto University and Human-Computer Interaction from Stanford University. So far it seems that the workload and time requirements are low enough that I should be able to manage both courses while working full time, which is a relief. I’m really enjoying the Python class, and Human-Computer Interaction is fascinating.

After these two courses, I’m scheduled for a more intense Python course, then a general course on design, then a course intriguingly called Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, and finally, next April, Introduction to Data Science. I am so excited about all these courses. It has been great to engage my brain this much again; I love the feeling. There are other Coursera courses I’m interested in as well; it was so hard to narrow them down! It’s amazing and wonderful that all of this content is free.

Sean and I are coming up on our 10th wedding anniversary next January. We’d like to go somewhere new and special to commemorate it, but we’re having a hard time deciding where. Due to financial constraints, we’ll probably be limited to the contiguous United States, and obviously weather will be a factor that time of year. Suggestions are welcome!

That’s about it for now. I hope to write again soon. :)

My new old relationship with eating

Me at the Grand Ole OpryAs time has passed since my duodenal switch surgery (it’s nearly been a year!), the rapid weight loss I was experiencing has declined to possibly nothing. This was anticipated, and as I’ve reached an excellent weight of 136, not unwelcome. However, there is still the possibility of losing a bit more weight before the slight rebound I’ve been told to expect. If I can manage to lose a bit more such that I rebound to about where I am now, that would be great.

Things have become more challenging, though. In the beginning, I hated eating and had to force myself to do it. When I did, I could only stand certain foods. Over the weeks and months since, though, my tastes have started to go back to where they were before the surgery. My perspective has flipped right back to loving food and wanting to eat all the time. And I’ve become accustomed to the amount my small stomach can take in, such that I am able to pace myself and potentially overeat if I don’t pay attention.

Due to malabsorption, I should not be capable of becoming morbidly obese again so long as I don’t go crazy with my food choices, but there’s nothing keeping me from being overweight but my own willpower. This surgery, after all, is not a magic bullet. It didn’t do all the work of weight loss–I had to eat right and exercise–and it will not do all the work of keeping me at a healthy weight. My need to get enough protein has made me a label-reader; I must keep up that habit. Further, I am working to limit processed foods as much as possible, as this is the best way to keep my sugar intake down. This is very difficult now that I have a taste for sugar again. My ideal is to get my sugar fix through fruit, but when I want an actual dessert, I try to at least go for items sweetened with Splenda, honey, or real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. And of course, I don’t drink sugary filler.

Beyond eating right for health, I will also have to manage the side effects of this surgery for the rest of my life. One very unromantic side effect is that white bread, white rice, and normal pasta make me gassy. In the beginning I just didn’t eat those things at all, but now that my tastes are pretty much back to normal, I’ve been craving them. So I buy 100% whole wheat/grain bread products (not “multigrain”), and I try to only eat brown rice.

Pasta has been a different animal, though. Sean and I make a lot of use of those Knorr noodle packets, because they’re simple and fast. But they don’t come in whole wheat varieties. There was a whole wheat version of the Alfredo noodles at one time, and we tried it and didn’t care for it…and that must have been the general consensus, because I don’t see it anywhere these days.

I recently bought a bunch of plain whole wheat pasta in various varieties, but I haven’t made much use of them. That will require finding good sauce recipes and keeping those supplies on hand, and I haven’t figured all that out yet. I do still plan to try, but some days I consider it a victory just to leave the kitchen clean!

Luckily for me, the last time I went to the store, I found a 50% whole grain version of Kraft Dinner. Obviously this isn’t a perfect solution–at 50% that means there’s still gas-inducing content–but it tastes great and so far doesn’t seem to affect me nearly as badly as the regular dinner. Sean and I love macaroni and cheese, so this is an excellent solution until I get to the point where I can make my own pasta sauces.

I started some work as a temporary on-site contractor a couple weeks ago. I’d forgotten how the office environment encourages my boredom-eating. Having nothing to do but the work I’m there to do is good, obviously, but my creative, multitasking mind tends to get antsy. I like flipping back and forth between tasks; it lets my brain refresh itself and promotes my creativity. I’ve realized since going back to an office environment that I’ve used eating as a “task” to reboot my brain. I’d take a break to grab a snack and then munch on it thoughtlessly while working. This is obviously not a habit I want to get back into, so I’m working on replacing it with something else, like going to refill my water bottle or standing up at my computer.

Happily, I’ve taken advantage of working in a skyscraper to use the stairs. Four flights up and down! Unhappily, working full time outside the apartment has made it impossible for me to meet my personal trainer during the week. I’m trying to figure out what to do about that.

久しぶりのRAMBLE

I’m in a share-y mood, so I’m going to go all stream-of-consciousness like I used to back in the halcyon days of this blog. No real topic, no defined start and end, no “point”. Just what I’m thinking.

The post title, if you’re interested, just means something like “A ramble, for the first time in awhile.”

I wrote this morning on Facebook that I wished I was better at humor. I’m extremely serious, and I tend to react badly when someone throws a discussion off-topic in a humorous way. Basically, I don’t understand and can’t really put up with trolls. This is why I never read forums. I also hate practical jokes. I love laughing, and I enjoy funny things very much, but I hate it when serious discussions are derailed for a laugh (or even to make a point, because I often have trouble figuring out what point is being made). I’d like people to just respond respectfully and openly rather than being what I interpret as summarily dismissive.

Other people don’t seem to have this problem, though, so I can’t help but feel deficient.

Abrupt topic shift! I started using the WaniKani beta yesterday. WaniKani is a kanji learning system that incorporates SRS and fun. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and I hope I can stick it out. Other than watching lots of anime, I haven’t really been doing much with my Japanese study lately, so I’m really wanting to get back on track (or on a track in general).

Speaking of anime, I’m finding myself infinitely perplexed by anime genres. Polar Bear’s Cafe, which I adore, is apparently shoujo. I’m not sure what genre I would put it in if I had to choose, but when I think shoujo I think Sailor Moon, so obviously there’s a disconnect somewhere. I’m also confounded by the shounen genre, as evidenced by this post and comments. Either Japan is cool with young kids watching really violent and sexual stuff, or there are subgenres I’m unaware of…or something. I guess knowing what genre something is doesn’t really matter in terms of enjoying it, but I would like to find a good way to identify anime that I have a high chance of enjoying, and to know what to expect from it. The best I’ve come up with so far is that I generally like “sports” anime, where characters work towards a goal and compete with each other, and “slice of life” anime, especially high school. I generally dislike “harem” anime, where one male character is surrounded by a bunch of girls drawn in an oversexed way. But anime isn’t always labeled this way, especially on Crunchyroll; their “slice of life” genre includes surreal comedies, for example. I usually have to read a show’s description and watch the first episode before I know if I’ll enjoy it. Unfortunately for me, I watched School Days all the way through without knowing what I was in for, and that was just traumatic.

I recently watched the first season of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion on Crunchyroll. (Season 2 isn’t available.) The show isn’t what I would normally go for. It is intensely tragic. But somehow, it felt like it was what I needed to see at that moment. It was a reminder that we can become blinded by our own goals and ambitions, and of how much our pasts can define us if we let them. As you might imagine, I identified most strongly with Suzaku (voiced by my beloved Sakurai Takahiro). But there’s no way I could argue that Suzaku always did the right thing or made the right choices. You can’t say that for anyone in the show. That’s what makes it so compelling and real and, again, tragic. As the audience, you can see how everyone’s decisions come together to impact the entire country, and you wish so-and-so knew such-and-such or hadn’t made a certain decision. None of the decisions themselves feel fated, like there was nothing else the characters could have done. Instead, it’s kind of like in a video game where the choices you make build up to determine your character’s “alignment”. But as things progress, the options diminish, and the ones that could right a character’s path become more and more dangerous.

The story reminds me a bit of Song of Ice and Fire. No one has the full picture but the audience, who is left simply watching as horror after horror unfolds. Unlike Song of Ice and Fire, though, I feel like there is an actual purpose behind the story in Code Geass. Song of Ice and Fire just feels like a laundry list of bad things happening.

Health-wise, I’m doing okay. I feel like I spend most of my day either trying to figure out what to eat or actually eating something. It’s pretty annoying. I have found a new, delicious Atkins bar, the Peanut Butter Granola. It is awesome and I’m very happy to add it to my arsenal. In terms of real food, I’ve found my George Foreman electric grill to be invaluable in easily cooking chicken, burgers, and tilapia, and I’m still relying on yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese snacks to supplement my protein. I also eat a lot of peas. I’ve added other vegetables and fruits to my diet, in moderation. My biggest problem is carbs; I eat too many potatoes and noodles and too much bread, and I haven’t been as careful about choosing wheat over white. Sweets aren’t really an issue for me anymore, as I rarely find them all that delicious, though I do wish I did, sometimes.

Personal training is also okay. The worst part about it is having to deal with another person, but that is kind of the point. They’re there to motivate me and to give me something new to do. So I endure.

Actually, I am feeling better about personal training right now than I was when I wrote the previous paragraph, because in the intervening time I went to a personal training session, and while I was utterly depressed going in, I actually feel fairly good after having worked out. So there’s that.

I’ve been depressed off and on for awhile now. I feel immense pressure, mostly from myself, to do something, but I can’t seem to figure out what, exactly. I’ve been trying various things without success. I’ve also been running away from various things. I want to feel in control, to have a plan. It’s killing me not to.

I’ve also had a lot of time to think these past few months…perhaps too much time. I spent a long while trapped in misery, thinking of all the pain in the world and in my own personal circles that I am powerless to do anything about. It took an incident of extreme thoughtlessness on my part–an event in which I tried to help, but had no resources to do so, and ended up adding to other people’s burdens–that helped me realize I could prioritize, and that sometimes I have to say no. I’m happy to say that I have at least pulled myself out of that murky hellhole of guilt. I seem to keep finding other things to worry about, but I don’t think I will fall into that same chasm again.

I have, however, been increasingly down on myself lately, and I’m even finding myself resentful of others where I don’t want to be resentful. I’m projecting my own confusion and helplessness on them, judging them for the things I self-judge, and it’s not fair to them or to myself. Intellectually I realize that I am partially crippled by circumstance, and while I can’t use that as an excuse per se, I can at least be more understanding of myself and allow myself to make mistakes and learn from them rather than simply hating myself and spinning my wheels in frustration. But it’s so very hard not to blame myself for everything.

I’ve even found myself thinking despairingly, “I’m so fat,” when that is hardly true. It was always my old internal mantra, and I guess it just naturally comes out when I despise myself. I’ve been trying to remind myself that no, actually, I’m not fat, but that’s hard, too. My inner voice argues back, What about all that flab?

Further, when I think about all the things I want and can’t have–children, frequent world travel, a piano, even just eating out–all I can think is that it’s my own fault, that I should have done something differently, or I should be doing something differently now. I don’t know what, though. It makes me miserable.

I’m tempted to round out this post with an uplifting “I’ll just have to do my best!” paragraph, like usual. But I promised not to have a point or a real ending. So I won’t. I’m not really feeling that emotion right now, anyway.

Instead, I’ll just mention that I’ve been watching Glass Mask again, and I am so jealous of the heroine, Maya. Her life is hell, but she knows what she wants to do and she’s willing to fight for it. I wish I had that kind of commitment to something. Something profitable, that is. Of course I have that commitment in spades when it comes to my husband and family.

Maya gives up her family to pursue her dream. I don’t think I could do that. I think that sort of sacrifice is easier when you’re young; you want to escape and find something new. I felt that way in my early 20s. I don’t feel like that now, or at least not in the same way. I still want adventure, I still want passion, I still want to learn and explore. But I can’t abandon my family.

It’s hard to explain what I mean by that. I don’t mean I wouldn’t move to another city or country, for example. I just mean that I could no longer make that decision on my own, without considering other people’s needs. My life isn’t just about me.

Oh hey, I have another topic. It’s kind of weird, and I’m actually kind of afraid to talk about it. It’s men.

For much of my life, the story heroes I identified with most were men. I wished I could be like Anne of Green Gables, but I knew I never could (she was slender with slim fingers; I was shaped more like her friend Diana, of whom Anne was jealous but I was not). I also liked Pippi Longstocking. But for the most part, I always felt like being a girl was too complicated, and it would just be easier if I was a boy. (I know; the grass is always greener.) I don’t believe I am gender-queer or anything, just that I didn’t know what to make of myself, and I was trying to figure out what role I played in life. As a child I pretended to be boys plenty of times: Simon of The Chipmunks, Donatello of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I didn’t want to be one of the Chipettes; they weren’t in all the stories and when they were they were often annoying. I didn’t want to be April O’Neil, because while she was cool in some ways, she wasn’t one of the core group, really. She wasn’t a ninja. She wasn’t a turtle. I certainly didn’t want to be Venus de Milo, the token female turtle, named not after an artist but after a work of art. Even as a kid that offended me. (I did pretend to be Smurfette when I was very young, but I didn’t particularly like it, because she was everyone’s love interest, and that seemed weird.)

It always seemed like there was a group of cool, interesting guys, and then one girl who was put in to have a girl there. I wanted to be one of the interesting people. And, to be frank, I didn’t usually find the shows with lots of girls in them, or centered around girls, to be all that interesting. I didn’t care about hair and makeup and clothes. I wanted to see adventure stories.

One exception was Clarissa Explains It All; I adored that show and wanted to be Clarissa with all my might. She was very much like me; she programmed on her computer (though she did far more advanced things, like building video games in which she threw things at her little brother) and she wore the clothes she felt like wearing, which in retrospect were “cool”, but I felt like they expressed her personality rather than following trends. She also liked Star Wars, which to me was the epitome of awesome (in the hoary pre-prequel days).

As I got older I started wishing I was a boy not as much because there were few cool stories about girls, but because I started watching USA and Lifetime movies and seeing how often women were victimized by men. I thought if I was a man, I would have less to fear. It occurred to me only this morning that I spent a great deal of my life being afraid of men. To be honest, I’m still afraid of them. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to protect myself–maybe more than the average woman? I don’t know. It always felt like even saying the wrong thing could result in violence against me. There are things I still fear to do or say.

Intellectually (I like to evaluate things intellectually, apparently!) I realize that this is sexism on my part. The actual percentage of men who would respond to an offense violently is small, at least here in the US. I do all my male friends a disservice by thinking this way, though I can at least say I don’t think any of them would be violent. I just have this creeping fear inside. Seeing some of the online comments against women, all the legislation aimed at women recently, and all the violence against women around the world only makes me more paranoid. I don’t like living with this fear, but it’s been a part of me for so long I’m not sure how to get rid of it.

I hate when the strong hurt the weak. I have always hated it. As a kid I couldn’t stand seeing it on TV, even in cartoons. I still don’t like it; I won’t watch shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. And I hate how casually people threaten violence against one another, especially online. I hate…hate.

Non-sequiturs to escape the previous topic:

Nichijou‘s first opening theme song, “Hyadain no Kakakata Kataomoi-C”, is awesome.

What is up with SKET Dance adding five million female characters with ever-increasing busts?

Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a weird-ass show.

I need to find a new place to explore.

Chobani’s plain Greek yogurt is the best.

Weight goal: achieved! Sort of.

Me, July 20, 2012As of today I am at the weight at which I said I’d be content, 138 pounds. I look good. I feel great. At this point I could just say “mission accomplished” and go on with my life.

But there’s more to these life changes than meeting an arbitrary weight goal. The post-surgery weight loss period lasts up to two years, and I’m just now ten months in. There’s a whole year left in which I can work to sculpt away my remaining flab. And after that, it’s not like I’m going to go back to eating and living the way I did before. My food tastes have changed, and I am loving how energetic working out is making me. I’m looking forward to maintaining a healthy lifestyle forever.

I mentioned before that I wasn’t going to be paying as much attention to weight. And I haven’t been; I rarely weigh in. But I’ve decided that when I do, I want the various trackers I use to reflect my current reality. I’ve reached one goal. Now it’s time for a new one.

Today is my new “start date”. Based on my weight loss slowdown, I decided a pound a week was a reasonable rate. I put in 125 as my goal weight; two programs tell me I can reach that weight by the end of October.

I don’t know if I’ll actually get there–muscle weighs more than fat, and I expect to gain more muscle as I continue working out–but it’s nice to have a modified plan with a fresh goal line to start with.

Here’s how my SparkPeople goal line looked originally. As you can see, the deceleration of my weight loss caused my tracking line to approach the goal line (click to embiggen):

Weights from September 26, 2011 to July 23, 2012 with goal lineHere are my weights from April until now, showing the approach more dramatically:

Weights from April, 2011 to July 23, 2012 with goal lineAnd here is the beginning of my new goal line!

New weight loss goal and start of goal lineI’m pretty excited to start with a new plan and goal, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things play out in the next three months.

Weight loss surgery challenges

I am currently over eight months out from duodenal switch weight loss surgery. In that time I have lost 109 pounds and gone from size XL blouses to size M and size 26W pants to size 10. My shoe size has also gone from around 8W to 7, and I’ve had to have my wedding rings resized.

For the first few months of this process, my biggest challenges were emotional. As my body changed rapidly, I started to lose my sense of identity. I never realized just how much I identified as “the fat one” until I wasn’t anymore.

Now, though, the weight loss has decelerated, and I’m quite pleased with who I see in the mirror despite some lingering trouble spots. My biggest challenges have shifted to complacency and boredom.

You see, while I was focused on the rapid weight loss, while I could tell I still had plenty of weight to lose, I was very motivated to eat right and exercise. I thought at the time that the surgery was some sort of miracle cure for food addiction; I didn’t really crave anything, and though I got tired of eating the same high protein foods over and over, it didn’t really bother me because I had a goal, and because food wasn’t nearly as important to me as it once was. And I also knew that I had to make sure to work out during the rapid weight loss, so I would lose fat rather than muscle mass. While I wasn’t quite as dedicated to exercising–I never have been–I still did a lot of walking and spent more time at my apartment complex workout room than I normally would have.

But here I am, basically happy with my weight, not losing quickly anymore…and suddenly really wanting to enjoy eating again. I’ve slipped. I’ve had cookies. I’ve had sugar-laden sauces. I’ve eaten too much bread. I’ve gone for fried food–and fries. Thanks to my smaller stomach and rerouted intestines, I can’t eat or absorb as much food, but eating too much of the wrong kinds of food is still bad. It’s just so much harder to keep that in perspective when I feel good and look good and just want a snack. When I see TV characters eating these huge, delicious-looking meals, and I wish I could eat them too, and I know I could never finish those portion sizes. When I start to mourn the me who could enjoy a big slice of cake.

I’m in danger of slipping back into my old patterns of emotional eating, eating when I’m not hungry, eating just to eat.

The thing is, eating these bad-for-me foods doesn’t really give me any joy. They taste better now than they did a few months ago, possibly because I’ve been eating them more and my taste buds have readjusted, but they’re not really satisfying. And then there’s what happens later. Too much sugar gives me severe abdominal pain. Too much fried food gives me diarrhea. Too much white bread or white rice gives me gas. There are compelling physiological reasons not to eat foods that are bad for me. But the delay between the eating and the punishment is just long enough that I can trick myself into thinking it’ll be okay, that the food will be worth it. It usually isn’t, but my emotions don’t remember that. I just want the food because I want it.

I must reiterate that until recently, maybe three or four weeks ago, I didn’t even have this problem. It’s like all of a sudden my food cravings woke up, raring to go…and now every meal choice is a struggle.

Then there’s the exercise. For awhile there I was taking pretty regular walks. Now, they’re intermittent. I spend most of my time sitting or standing at my computer, or lounging on the couch. Errands do take me up a flight of stairs, which is great but not enough. And I’m not doing any strength training. No toning at all.

My forearms look pretty good after all this weight loss. My upper arms do too, if you look at them from the correct angle. But then I raise my arm and you see the huge dangling flap of fat and wrinkly skin. Might this have been avoided if I’d actually committed to working out properly?

I look pretty good in a pair of jeans these days. But take them off and what do you get? Folds of butt skin. Disgusting.

And I still have fat to lose, on my stomach and thighs. Now that my body is smaller, it seems more striking, though I’m able to conceal it pretty well with clothing.

I said before that I’m pretty happy with how I look, and despite what I just described, I am. If this is where my weight loss is going to stop, then that’s probably okay (though I might have cosmetic surgery on my arms and butt).

But as I mentioned in my post about the weight loss deceleration, I still have over a year left to lose weight. It’s possible I could get rid of more fat, and maybe even tone up.

Being complacent about what I’ve already achieved isn’t going to get me there.

So, frankly, I’m a little scared. I’m scared that my boredom over food will continue to impact my meal choices. And I’m scared my complacent opinion that my body looks okay as it is will mean I’ll pass on exercise that not only might help me look better, but would keep me in better health.

I don’t want to give up so soon. I don’t want to say “That’s good enough.” I didn’t expect this hurdle, here in the end game where I really only have about 25 pounds to lose, if that.

So I’m making a different commitment. Before, when the surgery’s effects were new, it was relatively easy to change my lifestyle to adjust to them. Now I’m used to my new gastrointestinal system and will need to put more effort into staying on top of things. This means I will keep my apartment free of things I shouldn’t be eating, and make Sean’s treats off-limits to myself. I will think of the protein first every time, as I should have been doing all along. And I will try to come up with some method of meal planning that isn’t actually meal planning, because I hate meal planning. (I may just go to the store every day for awhile rather than trying to work out a week’s worth of dinners.) As for exercise, I am going to start looking into joining a gym and/or hiring a personal trainer. But while I explore my options in those areas, I’ll get back to doing workout videos that exercise all the muscles, and resume going on regular walks.

These steps should result in a healthier me, and if they also result in further weight loss and toning over the next year, then that’s great too.

When I chose to have weight loss surgery, it was out of medical necessity, but I was also committing to a lifestyle change. I’m not giving up on that change.

Today, I choose writing.

I’ve finally come to accept something I think I knew all along: I should be a writer. So starting now, I will be taking significant steps to make that a reality. I’ve already been writing blog posts and charting out ideas when inspiration strikes me, but now I will work toward the goal of publication. I’m going to be evaluating various routes–fiction, nonfiction, long form, short form, magazine articles, targeted blogs, serials, comics, maybe even screenwriting–and trying to come up with the best fits for the stories I want to tell.

It all came together

In the past, whenever people told me I should be a writer, I’d always respond, “Sure, maybe, but I have nothing to say.” I think perhaps I just needed to build up life experience and let it all simmer for awhile, because all of a sudden I have plenty of ideas and desire to write.

I think fear played a role too–fear of what people would think, fear of what effect the things I wrote would have on my life. But these days I’m more afraid of what might happen if I don’t say something. It’s oddly given me an amazing sense of freedom.

I’m very lucky that I’m in a position where I can pursue something that won’t have financial benefits for years, if it even has them at all. As such, I am throwing myself into it headfirst and making some serious changes in order to give myself the best chance of success.

Maximizing workday efficiency

The first big change will be social media. When I first started using Twitter, I used it as a microblog, and I really haven’t stopped using it that way. However, few others use it that way, and Twitter obviously doesn’t want me to use it that way. I am unable to go back and read my old tweets, and as such many thoughts and ideas are simply lost. So my first change (and challenge) will be to stop posting my stream of consciousness thoughts on Twitter, and instead put them somewhere where I can use them later.

My second Twitter change will be some mass unfollowings, and perhaps following a few new accounts. At time of posting, I follow 156 accounts. Some of them I follow because they are funny. Some of them I follow because they are friends of mine. I have a smattering of Japanese twitterers I follow for the purpose of having Japanese in my stream to practice reading. And then I have a collection of people in the web design industry who I follow to keep up with trends and information.

I will evaluate the “funny” accounts on a case-to-case basis and see if they warrant keeping. Are they funny enough to spend time reading every day? For my friends, if I am friends with them on Facebook, their Twitter accounts must go. Most of them cross-post, so I won’t miss anything but annoying redundancy. For the ones who don’t cross-post, I’ll evaluate them the same as I evaluate the “funny” accounts. Ultimately, does reading these tweets help me pursue my goal or just waste my time? I will cull some of the Japanese twitter accounts, especially the ones I know I just scroll past without trying to read, but there are a few I know I would like to keep. I will also keep Japanese-culture related Twitter accounts. And finally, I will purge all web design-related Twitter accounts. I do not intend to ever again pursue web design as a career. I’ve come to realize that the things I enjoyed about that sphere were content writing/editing and graphic design/layout, and I have no interest in wrangling code. Since I am now resolved to focus on writing, I have no need to read about CSS tips and tricks.

I will start to look for more people interested in writing and storytelling, and follow them for inspiration. I will also look for people who are interested in the same issues I’m interested in. But I won’t let my follow list get so large that a significant portion of my day is taken up catching up on my feed.

Facebook will largely remain the same, though I will prune some Page “likes”. I may add a few new friends so as to get them out of Twitter. Facebook is more private for me, though, so this will be done only after careful evaluation.

I will probably stop using Path. All I ever do there is tell it when I wake up and when I go to sleep, and very occasionally check in to a location.

I am very interested in continuing my study of Japanese. It’s my hope that someday I’ll be good enough at reading the language, and have a strong enough appreciation for and understanding of the culture, that I can translate literature. To that end, I’m going to be removing a few motivational websites and social media accounts from my routine. I once thought that any site that offered motivation would motivate me, but I’ve recently realized that my personality requires a certain type of motivation, and other types can actually demotivate me very quickly. Anything that makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough will make me throw up my hands and give up entirely. One site in particular is written by a person with completely different goals from mine, and I discovered that I was feeling bad because I wasn’t working hard enough on his goals! Even though I know it’s not this blogger’s intent to make me feel this way, nor any other’s, I have to be aware of my own personality and reactions and cut out any negativity, regardless of where it comes from.

Once I have cut out social media distractions and demotivators, the time I spend overall on social media should automatically decrease. I plan to ensure this by not leaving a tab with Twitter or Facebook open at all times, as has become habit. I further pledge to start my day as a producer rather than a consumer. I currently have a habit of reading Twitter and Facebook while I’m getting ready in the bathroom, then reading webcomics when I get to my computer. Instead of engaging in these distracting and procrastinating activities, I’ll think about my day while I’m getting ready, and maybe even start brainstorming what I’m going to be writing and taking audio or text notes with my phone. And when I get to my computer, I’ll start working. Simple as that.

I’ve considered even creating a separate Windows user account for when I am working, and blocking certain websites and applications that could be distractions. But I know that too much change all at once is difficult to maintain long term, so for now I will see how the above adjustments go.

Tools of the trade

Right now I don’t have a great system in place for capturing and then revisiting writing ideas. I’ve been using iPhone voice memos and notes when I’m out and about and Word documents and blog post drafts when I’m at my computer. This piecemeal approach has been okay while I really haven’t been doing anything with most of my ideas, but it isn’t very conducive to getting writing projects out the door. Ideally I will find a way to bring all of these things together so I can easily find them. I’ve been thinking about a cute yarn clothesline with clothespins to hold fancy notecards with the name of current projects. On the backs of the cards I can list where the research information and notes are stored physically and digitally. It would be a fun way to see all my projects at once and keep me focused without cluttering up my desk. I’ll have to think about where such an apparatus would actually go, though.

I already have information on getting published (or, perhaps more accurately, getting rejected) from discussing the topic in my creative writing classes in college and from reading Magazine Man’s blog. I have a few leads on literary journals and know how to find more, and I have ideas about what sorts of magazine I might want to write for. So when the time comes, I think I should be okay to start sending out short stories, essays, and articles. I am also obviously well-versed in blogging, though perhaps not in cultivating an audience. I’m not so clear on how to begin with writing for comics; I would need an artist to bring the story to life, but even writing a comic script is new to me. I will research whether or not there are templates or examples available anywhere. I know there is a format for TV and movie scripts, so all I’ll need to do is find it and study it. As to where one might submit a pitch, again, I’m unsure, but this is only the beginning, and I have lots of research to do. And writing, which is the most important thing.

As far as where I’ll do the writing, I’ve always been most comfortable in Word documents, probably because that’s where I wrote all my college papers. However, I can certainly see the benefit of using an online service, such as Google Documents, and being able to access my files anywhere I go. It’s something I’ll have to think about, but for now I will stick with Word. I will probably sign up for something like DropBox to make sure I don’t lose anything.

Starting out

I’ve heard that six hours is the longest viable block of working writing time. I’m not going to start out shooting for that–going from nothing to six hours would burn me out fast. Instead, I will write until I’m fatigued every day and not worry about how long I write. I know there will be days when I don’t feel like writing, and for now, as I ease into it, I will use those days for research. In the future, though, after I’ve established a writing routine, I will write through the block to keep myself going, and try to hit at least my minimum writing time.

Looking forward

I’m excited to finally have direction in my life. For so long I’ve been reactionary, just accepting whatever came my way and dealing with everything day by day. In recent years I’ve started taking charge of my health, and that has empowered me to take charge of so much more. I’ve learned just how destructive and demoralizing bouncing through life aimlessly can be, and even though I’m scared, I’m putting a stop to the uncontrolled ricocheting and propelling myself towards a goal.

Here I come, universe.

Sayonara, unajuu

One of the strangest things for me about weight loss surgery has been the change in my reactions to food. Some foods I used to adore are now too bland for me; some foods I didn’t really care much about have gained extreme importance. Of course, there are foods I’m supposed to be avoiding, but even when I cheat and let myself have a small bite, I often discover that I don’t like it enough to warrant the cheating.

One example of how things have changed: I am very picky about meat products now. Most ground beef dishes, like burgers and meatloaf, are too dry for me. I tend to find them flavorless and unpleasant. I have also grown tired of eggs, no matter how they’re cooked; I’ll eat them if they’re what’s available and I know I need the protein, but they no longer give me any satisfaction. (Part of me wonders if I might find farm fresh eggs more palatable. I’ll have to give it a try sometime.) Ham doesn’t thrill me, but it gets the job done…but I love a good pork chop. And of course, steak is marvelous. I eat them rarer than I used to, because that way they’re nice and juicy and soft. We’ve started going to Ted’s here in Atlanta, and I’m addicted to bison steak. Fish also makes me happy. I love a good grilled or broiled salmon fillet, and I’d eat sashimi every day if I could–but it has to be good sashimi. If it’s possible, I’m even pickier about sashimi now than I was before.

I still enjoy cottage cheese, but I have become even pickier about brands. There was once a time when I could eat a non-favorite brand and be okay with it, but now, unless it’s Walmart brand, I can’t stand the stuff. I don’t know what it is about how Walmart makes their cottage cheese versus the way the other companies make theirs, but something is different to my now overly sensitive palate.

Then there’s sweets. I always had a sweet tooth before. Cookies, pastries, brownies, cakes, chocolate candy, anything chocolate really…I’d gobble it all up without heeding quality or quantity. Now, of course, I’m almost completely off sugar, except in cases when it’s unavoidable. There are times when I let myself have some sugary snack–usually when traveling, because I don’t keep that sort of thing in the house–but when I do, it never meets my expectations. It always feels pointless. The taste doesn’t do anything for me. I can vividly remember how eating sweets used to make me feel, but now, after having weight loss surgery, eating them will never make me feel that way again. It is such a strange feeling…almost a feeling of loss, until I remember that this change is what has allowed me to drop 100 pounds.

That brings me to unagi.

In 2001, I went to Japan for the first time. It was an amazing trip that changed my life. While I was there, I had unagidon, barbecued eel over a bowl of rice, for the first time. I promptly dubbed it my favorite dish in the world and sought it out thereafter as much as possible. Towards the end of my homestay in Yatsushiro, my host mother, noting how much I adored unagidon, made me a huge bowl with a double helping. I ate it all.

Since then I’ve found unagidon and its sister dish unagijuu (also called unadon and unajuu, respectively) in various restaurants in the US, including my former favorite Augusta Japanese restaurant (which unfortunately seems to have gone downhill in recent years). Here’s some delicious unadon I had there in 2008, complete with onions.

unadon

You're supposed to eat unadon on Eel Day to build stamina for the summer heat.

I hadn’t had unadon or unajuu since the surgery, until the other night at Haru Ichiban in Duluth. I was trying to go for something with plenty of protein, since it’s easy to mess up and maximize carbs in a Japanese restaurant. I didn’t even think about sugar. Here’s the unajuu:

My last box of unajuu.

My last box of unajuu.

Look at that sauce. Unlike the unadon above, this unajuu is saturated. Apart from sopping it all up with a napkin (which I didn’t think of until just now), there really was no way to avoid the sauce. And, unfortunately for me, that sauce is sweet.

I mentioned that when I eat sweets like candy or cookies they don’t really do much for me. Because of this, I usually don’t continue eating them. On the rare occasions that I do, though, I get this really nasty feeling in my chest, between my neck and my stomach. It’s this weird gurgling feeling, highly unpleasant. And it only happens when I eat sugar in high concentration.

Let me tell you, that unajuu made me miserable after just a few bites.

I stopped, ordered some salmon sashimi to get my protein, and spent the rest of the evening trying not to throw up. I was successful, yay! But that put the nail in the coffin of my once passionate affair with unajuu…and perhaps unadon as well, if it’s made with that same concentration of sauce.

Goodbye, unajuu. I loved you once, and somewhere inside I love you still, but it’s no longer meant to be.

No longer obese

me at 167 poundsAs of yesterday morning, I weigh an astonishingly low 166.6 pounds. That’s a hundred pounds less than the highest weight I ever reached, and 90.4 pounds less than I weighed on September 26, 2011, the day I had weight loss surgery. Now, six months out from that surgery, my BMI has plummeted from 45.5, class III obesity, to 29.5–toward the top of the “overweight” range.

I am no longer obese.

I am no longer obese.

I knew this was coming. Whenever I saved my weight in Weightbot on my iPhone, it would tell me my BMI, and I knew that as soon as I hit 29.9 I would no longer be obese. I felt like I was in the 30s forever. I thought about checking to see what weight I’d need to reach to get out of the obesity range, but I somehow never got around to doing that. This month I ended up traveling a lot and didn’t have access to my scale…so while I usually try to wait a few days to a week between weigh-ins, yesterday’s came after a far longer data-free period than usual.

I didn’t even really realize it had happened when I tracked my weight. I saw the 29 and it just didn’t register. It was only this morning, when I weighed in on the Wii Fit, that the truth resounded in my ears: a different, higher in pitch humpty-dumpty “you’re fat” melody, and the Wii Balance Board character, who for years has admonished me, “That’s obese!”, chirped instead, “That’s overweight!”

I don’t know how much more weight I’m going to lose. I’d need a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 to be considered in the “normal” range; for my height, that would mean a weight between 104.5 and 140.5. I’m really not interested in weighing 104.5. My mid range, a BMI of 21.7 at 122.5 lbs, seems about as small as I’d want to go. I don’t really know what I’d look like at that weight, because in high school, at my most fit, I weighed around 145 to 150.

I don’t even really know what weight I want to be. I used to say I wanted to go for 125 and that I’d be happy with 140, but I can’t imagine what I would look like at either weight. I’m actually pretty happy with how I look now, although I’d like to get rid of some flab. I hope I don’t lose so much weight that my natural curviness goes away.

Regardless, I am extremely pleased with the results of my hard work so far, and I hope I can continue refining my body and becoming even more healthy. I updated the comparison photo I made three months after surgery, and included clothes sizes this time. It’s amazing to me to look back at the changes. (Click to embiggen.)

before and after photosI’m wearing the same shirt in the first two photos, and I thought about wearing it again in the next two, but once a shirt is too big for you, it starts getting unflattering. I did put it on this last time, though; here’s a picture. Rather than hiding fat, the ruffles now hide my lack thereof, which defeats the entire purpose! ;)