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Archive for the ‘Wedding Times’ Category

I am still clawing my way back onto the wagon.

We’ve been home for a little over two weeks now, and I have struggled to get back to my good habits. As I mentioned before, it’s hard when special time ends. I experienced a singular moment in my life, and I did so in the company of all the people I love best, with much celebrating, in many beautiful places. The return to work and daily routines is a real come down in excitement. I didn’t want all that specialness to end, and even though Stephen told me that special times would be all the time, as long as we were together (I know!) and even though I agree with him, I still felt the post-wedding blues people talk about. And food felt like one part of the celebration that I could keep going.

Or rather, I knew as soon as we got back that I needed to return to my healthy habits, but knowing did not translate to doing. I intended to eat well, and then I ate treats anyway. Over the course of our first week back, I found myself behaving in ways I hadn’t in almost two years. Work had several needless food extravaganzas, and instead of my usual habit of saying, “I don’t eat that” and moving on, I actually ate a cake pop. A cake pop! Because it was there and it was delicious. Just like the Chinese noodles, the cookies, the cheese, and the chocolate I found to eat.

It turns out, I can’t jump on and off the wagon as easily as I might like to think I can. The jumping off part is easy enough, but it is not such a simple task to climb back on. It should be. After all, it is only choices, and I know how to make good ones. But I am a food addict. My vacation from healthy eating reminded me of this. I struggle with moderation. It like the saying regarding alcoholism goes: “One drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough. Substitute drink for cookie, and that’s basically me.

Or it can be me. I actually have managed moderation for all the months of my plateau, I suppose. In this time, I’ve had treats here or there, but just little bits and bites. But the goal in this time was always to be absolutely healthy. Once I allowed myself to “just not worry about it” for a week and do what I wanted, I really went crazy. I didn’t know how to just enjoy a piece of cake and then let it go. Because once the sugar was in my system, and the idea of cake was in my heart, I bent my thoughts and efforts toward it. I thought about it; I sought it out. I felt myself sliding back into my old ways of always thinking about the next opportunity for treats, the next fix.

It is not how I want to live. And so, with help from some dear friends and my new husband(!), I took sugar off the menu again. I had to put money on it to keep myself from eating it. But whatever it takes to get this monkey back off my back – one step at a time – they’re steps worth taking.

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I ate all of the things.

Oh hello, delicious cake.

Oh hello, delicious cake.

At our wedding, in the days before, and on our honeymoon afterwards. It started as a trickle – some chocolate here, a margarita there, a piece of cheese at breakfast – and became a thundering torrent, a river unleashed. Chocolate croissants and coffee with milk for breakfast every day of our honeymoon in Sausalito. Pasta for dinner one night, steak another night. Desserts with every meal. I actually shared Stephen’s ridiculous mountain of ice cream, chocolate and peanut butter sauce at the shop at Ghirardelli Square. Normally I scoff at that kind of brazen, advertising-encouraged consumption. I also don’t really eat ice cream anymore. Except that I did. And french fries too. And also some salt water taffy.

I was not having a moment of “a few nibbles here and there” or “the appreciation of a special meal” or even “a day off to enjoy what I wanted within reason.” Ho no. I just WENT for it.

It didn’t start out that way, of course. I arrived in Santa Barbara on the Thursday before my wedding, eyeball already spasming, recent cake-eating indiscretions having been committed, but still mostly intact. I ordered fish and salad for that first dinner with my family and had plain yogurt with fruit for breakfast the next day. But that afternoon, when I started to really feel the intensity of being less than 48 hours away from my wedding and still needing to meet with our florist and take care of random things that had been forgotten, I began to slide. An hour before dinner with 20 friends and family members, I was buying votive candles at CostPlus World Market, and I decided I needed some chocolate. Dark chocolate, because I was being reasonable, of course. Except that I bought three bars.

Saturday morning, I had a full-on breakdown, crying on the deck in front of my room, overwhelmed by thoughts the enormous step Stephen and I were taking, the transformation it would create, the loneliness of that passage despite being surrounded by so much love and support, the desire to see everyone and the pressure of it too, and the fact that my damn eyeball spasms were getting more insistent and frequent. I was still feeling raw and vulnerable when I got to the lunch family friends were throwing an hour later. And then I saw my cousin’s margarita. All icy and cold with salt on the rim, it seemed like possibly the best idea ever. And really? It was. Two margaritas later, my eyeball was spasming a fraction of the amount it had been before, and I felt much better.

From that point on, I pretty much did what I wanted. Ate pastries for breakfast, ate chocolate, drank. On our wedding day, I was too busy and emotionally full to really eat in any real quantity. But when Stephen and I sat down with some friends at a booth in a bar at 11:30 after the reception had ended, I happily ate half the tiramisu he ordered. And half a basket of bread. The next morning, at our day-after brunch, which had been rained out of its original outdoor location, I ate mini-croissants and bacon exclusively.

It wasn’t like my trainer always said it would be: that once I had changed my palate, I wouldn’t enjoy really sugary or rich foods. Or if that was the case, it took very little time to override that truth with consumption and return my palate to the state of MORE SUGAR MORE SALT MORE FAT MORE YUM NOW MORE it had known for so many years.

And because I was going off-plan and off the wagon, I really went. On our honeymoon, I actively looked for foods I hadn’t eaten in almost two years because “What the hell? I was eating now!” By the third day, I had eaten an entire box of chocolate-covered ginger, and Stephen was worried about me. I told him not to worry. It was special time, and when it ended, I would rein it back in.

But it’s sad when special time ends. It was hard to go back to regular life after 10 days of being surrounded by beauty, joy, and celebration. All the delicious food and special meals were the proverbial icing on the literal cake I was eating. I knew I had to get back to normal, but normal was a lot less shiny and fun.

Still, we came home, married, happy, and definitely fatter. I weighed myself the day morning I left for Santa Barbara and found I was already up two pounds from where I had been the week before. When I weighed myself the morning after we got back from our honeymoon, I found I had gained another five pounds. In all, I gained seven pounds in two weeks. Half a pound a day.

And so the lesson is as clear as any of the others, which all have been the same: I can eat whatever I want, but there will be consequences. Also, I am a dry drunk with food. I abstain, but my mentality has not changed, at least not as much as it needs to. This is a bigger issue. The more immediately digestible truth is this: My body does not handle empty calories or sugar-laden, carb-filled foods well. It’s a shame that it should be that way when all those foods taste so good, but on my best days, I know it’s a blessing too. Because I clearly struggle to be moderate with my consumption, and I need the outward indicator as a reminder to care for myself. For years, even that wasn’t enough.

But now that I know the benefits of being in good shape and good health, I know it’s worth it, that it’s better – even if sometimes just barely – than a bowl of warm pasta on a windy night in Noe Valley or a sangria at happy hour with my new husband. Because I know it would have been harder to enjoy all of those things if I didn’t already feel so good about myself and the changes I have made in my life. Plus, I know that in the end, what matters most of all is the company I share those meals with.

 

 

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Chocolate was an important part of my wedding. I did not go into the weekend with the intention of stocking my room with chocolate bars and then steadily working my way through them, but I’m glad that’s what I did.

The plan had been to eat reasonably but indulge some and enjoy myself because obviously, it was my wedding. This plan started to crumble the Wednesday before the wedding when Stephen’s coworkers threw us a wonderful wedding shower in their school library, complete with one of the most amazing cakes I’ve ever eaten, made by one of Stephen’s dear coworkers.

It was worth it.

It was worth it.

Still, I managed to keep it together for my first 24 hours or so in Santa Barbara, ordering fish for dinner and eating yogurt and hardboiled eggs instead of croissants at the inn’s breakfast.

But planning and executing a wedding is some of the most intense stress I’ve ever experienced. By the time I got to Santa Barbara on Thursday, my right eyeball was spasming every few minutes, which continued until the day after the wedding. There was just so much: so many people I loved, all of whom I wanted to talk to all at once, so many details still to get into place, so much to coordinate.

So Friday afternoon, eyeball spasming all the while, I went with my dear friend (and our officiant!) JV to meet with the florist in the hour or so gap we had before dinner. And there I learned that I was incorrect in my belief that she was providing the tea lights. I wasn’t mad or anything, as my florist was amazing, and I’m sure it was a detail I did not make clear. But suddenly it was the Friday before my wedding; family and friends were meeting soon for dinner; and we did not have little candles to go in the 30 some-odd lanterns, 22 of which Stephen had taken the time to paint to match our wedding colors. So JV and I went to CostPlus World Market, one of my favorite stores to buy tea lights. Because it was another detail that had to get handled.

It’s a memory I love, wandering through the store with my dear friend, finding random things I suddenly realized we might need. One of the items I decided we needed was chocolate. I bought three bars of orange and ginger infused dark chocolate and I did not feel bad about it. My other dear friend, D, met us back at my suite with two more chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s and I was glad for them.

Food had been my comfort through much of life and many challenges. There is a part of me that appreciates the benefit of having a major life transformation without relying on food for comfort, that understands how that would be beneficial. But also, it was a weekend, and it was okay to eat some chocolate. It helped ground and center me. It was part of the celebration. It is a joy to remember running through that store with one of my best friends and then sharing squares of chocolate on the drive back to our inn. It is one of the many moments that made the weekend so special.

And the flowers were beautiful

And the flowers were beautiful.

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I am married.

ourwedding

Just over two weeks ago, in front of family and friends, I made a declaration of love and commitment with my now-husband. Our wedding day was one of the most full days of my life: full of love, my favorite people, beauty, intense emotion, music, cloudy skies, adrenaline, bright colors, and so much joy. The intensity of it – the strength of my emotions and the gamut they ran, the feeling of being surrounded and supported by so many people and so much love, the multitude of precious, memorable moments piling on top of each other – is something I could have never imagined in advance, and I replay it over and over. There is so much to uncover in what felt like one of the most real, most full days of my life.

I am deeply grateful for all of it.

Getting married resembled but was nothing truly like what I have been shown – through stories, images and media – the experience to be. Much like the experience of being in love, our wedding was grittier, truer, more detailed and infinitely more meaningful and precious than the glossy visions I was brought up on. Images of weddings, ideas of weddings have surrounded me since childhood in movies, fairy tales, magazines, and pictures of my parents and other family. And I’ve been inundated for months by them as I’ve scrolled through Pinterest and blogs – the detailed shots of mason jars and place cards, ethereal shots of brides in sunlit fields, festive shots of carefully coordinated flowers and centerpieces. It’s all so lovely, and we had most of those elements at our wedding (although I was a bride on a lawn, rather than in a field), but none of them where the truth of the wedding.

The truth of it was in moments and feelings. Waking up next to my best friend and having her say, “It’s your wedding day!” My parents stopping by my room in the morning to kiss and hug me and chat with my bridesmaids. My brother driving me in my massive dress to the courthouse with classical music playing on his car radio. The freezing sea wind at the top of the courthouse’s bell tower and the warmth of Stephen when he arrived for our first look pictures. The cool and dim light of the courthouse halls where I waited with my mother and bridesmaids for the wedding to start, the adrenaline and rush of anticipation as I peered out the window and saw people gathering on the lawn. The words I shared with my dad before starting our walk down the aisle. The smile on Stephen’s face. The boisterous swell of mariachi music after the ceremony. The faces of so many people I love all around me. The gleeful walk to the restaurant with a parade of family and friends shaking maracas behind us. The moments before we entered the reception, just Stephen and I making jokes as we hid on the balcony. The rush of the reception, of talking to so many people, being surrounded by so much joy and love. Maracas being shaken at us all night. My eight-year-old goddaughter dancing among all my college friends. My one trip to the bathroom, which was an event of its own. The dancing. The sangria. The laughing. The joy. The last dance with Stephen, surrounded by friends and family, the love we were held and lifted in. These and so many other small moments were the great blessings of our wedding, the gift for the beginning of our lives together.

It was all so beautiful, and the best example of how true beauty comes from within and radiates out, just like the love we feel.

weddingdance

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And then there was the day I discovered that my wedding dress, the one I picked and paid for back in February, was not going to work.

Last Thursday, I went in for my dress fitting, to try on my dress for the first time since it arrived at the store and have it altered to fit perfectly. Things did not go well. When I put it on, my dress was not the same as the version I had tried on the store. Oh it looked like a reasonable facsimile of it: same color, same lace, same basic shape. But it was actually cut differently. The back was two inches higher; the straps were shorter; there was an extra panel of material in the bust; the neckline was and inch higher. They were not big differences, but they were real differences; and their effect was to make my dress look dumpy on me.

The great appeal of my dress, what made it The One, was how it fit: the plunging neck and back, the straps that hung in an almost ’20s style, the fitted look that showed off my figure very well. This new version of my dress had none of those elements, and as much as the very kind seamstress tried to help, not all of them could be fixed. We couldn’t cut the dress to lower the neck and back.

It turned out to be an issue of size. I had tried on the dress in a 14, and it fit great, except where it pulled across my stomach too tight, showing more contours of stomach fat that could ever be considered a good idea. My trainer claimed I would easily lose 10 pounds and that would fix it; my dear friend JV suggested that I should buy my dress to fit the size I actually was, and if I did lose 10 pounds, I could alter it, but if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be a disaster. I have cried over enough clothing disasters to know to listen to JV. So I ordered the dress in a 14W. The sales associate told me that it would be the same, just slightly bigger, creating more room in the stomach, which then could be taken in.

It was not the same. As it turns out, the difference between a 14 and 14W is the difference between the store’s regular clothing sizes and their plus sizes. And the plus sizes are made differently. Which would have been an important detail to share. My best friend (and Lady of Honor), who was with me the day I bought the dress, was concerned about me not being able to try on the size I was ordering in advance; I shared this concern. My sales associate told me it was not a big deal; the dress was the same, just a little bigger.

It was not the same. And it was a big deal.

Standing in my dress last Thursday, fully pinned for alteration, and seeing that it still looked dumpy on me, I thought about bolting. I did not like this dress – my wedding dress. I felt awkward and unattractive; I looked like I’d fashioned my own clothes out of a fancy curtain, and not nearly as successfully as Scarlett O’Hara had. The alterations would be expensive. I thought perhaps I should just cut my losses, take my useless, expensive dress and run. I could use the alteration money to buy a dress at a department store that was at least flattering.

This is when the store manager showed up and asked what was wrong. I told her I didn’t like my wedding dress. It was a strange thing to say and also liberating. Because it was true. She told me I could exchange it for another dress in the store. I believe my exact response was, “Really? Great. Fuck this dress.” And so I went wedding dress shopping. Again. One month out from my wedding.

This time, I took my time and tried on as many dresses as another dear friend and I could stand to go through. I felt pressure to decide, but this time, I did not give in to that pressure. And when I finally did decide the next day on a new dress, this time, I did not pick the one that I thought was best because that’s what all the people I love told me; I picked the one I liked best. Of the three favorites, it was all my bridesmaids’ least favorite (smart phones make opinion polling so easy!). But it was my favorite. So I got it.

And then I felt a weight I hadn’t even known I was carrying lift. I had been shouldering anxiety about my dress since I bought it. Because I was worried about it not fitting well and looking good. There was that pull in the stomach. If I were thinner, the dress would look better. I had spent the two months since purchasing my dress worrying constantly about getting thinner, working at it, and breaking down when it didn’t happen.

The truth is, if I had lost the weight, the problem probably would have gone away. I could have traded my size 14W for a 14 and had the dress I had envisioned. But I had not lost the weight, despite all my effort, and the size 14 was still too tight in my gut. I could have beaten myself up about this. I could have looked at it as a failure. I decided instead to let go.

Because really, it’s a fucking dress. And I am more, much more than a dress. As I was trying on new dresses, I had a moment of resentment at my situation. My fiance is also not perfectly fit. He has also been eating better but has not lost weight. He got to go to a suit store, try on a suit, find the one that fit, and rent it for under $200. No one talked to him about how he could improve himself to look better in it; no one judged him. And that’s how it should be.

I never, ever wanted to be one of those women who became obsessed about changing my figure for the purpose of a dress and a day. I have never been able to lose weight for external reasons anyway (I get resentful and gain weight spitefully instead). And I didn’t want my wedding day to be another reason to judge myself and feel bad about my body.

Because that’s bullshit. And honestly, a way to oppress myself, to push down everything in my that is joyful, amazing, substantial and worthwhile just as I am. I do not become more as my body shrinks. I become more when I grow as a person. But it’s easy to forget that when all the messages society feeds me say the opposite. I forgot for a couple of months. But luckily, I was given the opportunity to remember.

I found a new dress that I look bangin’ in, right this minute exactly as I am. And when I woke up the next day after choosing it, I felt so much lighter. I was not going to spend the weeks leading up to my wedding worrying about if I could look good enough, thin enough, or be enough. I already am enough. And a dress has nothing to do with that.

Still not my wedding dress, or even my former wedding dress, but it is another dress that was too tight in the middle. I've tried on a lot of dresses in the past seven months.

Still not my wedding dress, or even my former wedding dress, but it is another dress that was too tight in the middle. I’ve tried on a lot of dresses in the past seven months.

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I have been doing a good job of being hardcore in my workouts and in the cleanness of my eating. I am also gaining weight. After a week of diligent carb cycling, super clean eating, and intense workouts, I stepped on the scale on Saturday fully expecting to lose weight (since I’d done everything I should and very little that I shouldn’t), hoping it would be as much as 2 or 3 pounds. Instead, I gained a pound and half. And I lost it.

It took a few minutes, but I started crying. Crying over a number, crying because it brought up so many feelings of inadequacy for me. First, I was frustrated because I didn’t know why it was happening; but quickly that spiraled downward, and all I could think was, “I’m not good enough.”

No matter what I do, or how hard I try, it’s not enough. I don’t do enough. I am not enough.

The feelings were brought up by my weight-loss efforts, but they are about so much more. This is one of my core issues, this insecurity, this sense that I lack. Of course, it is all false. I am inherently good enough; I am inherently worthy of love, a precious being.

But I have been losing site of that again. All of this wedding planning has pushed me back to the exterior, to the feeling that I have to be and seem a certain way in order to be good enough. I’ve been getting stuck in that damaging message that how I appear is what matters. I feel judgment, and I judge too. I look at wedding websites and blogs, and all the thoughts about decor and dress styles are thoughts of judgment. What if I don’t do it well enough? What if people think it looks dumb or cheap? What if they think I look dumb? Or worse, fat and ugly?

I’ve gotten so overwhelmed by the expectations of appearance, of being a bride, and what I am supposed to do to fulfill those expectations. Get my hair done for the day, and cut and re-dye it first, get my makeup professionally done. Have my teeth whitened. Get a facial to remove the milias on my face and just freshen the whole thing up. Have my eyebrows done. Buy special undergarments, buy jewelry, buy shoes. Get the dress fitted. And lose weight. Lose weight, lose more weight, seriously, lose some more weight because everyone, I mean everyone will be looking at you. All these terrible messages about how much I have to do to look good enough and, thus, be enough.

I was crying because of all the pressure I’ve felt about losing weight to look better in my dress, and what if I don’t and I end up looking terrible? It was so hard to come back out of that mindset, and it took totally breaking down and then having a friend remind me that it’s not about the dress or my size, but about love. And how I look is a reflection of the joy and love I feel because that is what truly matters.

It’s an important perspective shift. I can either be dragged around by my anxiety, by feelings of inadequacy, by worry, feeling burdened by my every move and how, if it’s wrong, it could mean judgment and the removal of love. Or… I can start with my own heart, with the joy I feel, with the love I know, with that deep understanding of my own self and my worth and move forward in that way, knowing that I am valuable, I am love. And nothing changes that, not a number, not anything.

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IMG_6685

Two years ago, the idea of tasting cakes, for free no less, would have filled me with anticipation and glee. How many cake tastings could we schedule? And how much cake would we be allowed to eat? I have always loved cake.

But that was a different life, pre-July 2011, and now, the prospect of tasting cakes for our upcoming wedding filled me with annoyance and frustration. Because it creates an uncomfortable conflict for me. I am being hardcore right now, and cake eating does not fit into hardcore healthy living. On the other hand, this is the one season of wedding preparation I’ll ever have (hopefully), and I do want to experience it fully. And everyone has talked about how great the cake tastings are. I don’t want to eat cake, but I also don’t want to miss out on something; so which desire is stronger?

The not missing out one. I figured I could eat just a bite of the cake. I’ve had some cake in the past year and a half; it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

So last Saturday, my fiance and I met with a baker in Santa Barbara, a serious woman who runs her own cake-making business, baking everything from scratch herself out of an industrial kitchen in a building next to a church draped in bougainvillea. We met her at this kitchen, where she had set up a plate with four slices of three-tiered cake in the middle of a table in her cheerful, cluttered front room. We tried four different cakes: vanilla with lemon curd, white chocolate mousse and raspberries, vanilla with passion fruit, white chocolate mousse, and coconut, chocolate with chocolate mocha mousse, and chocolate with chocolate ganache and white chocolate mousse. You know… just something light and simple.

They were all delicious cakes of course. They were also very, very sweet, some a little too sweet for me, which is an interesting way my palate has changed. It used to be that a sugar cube wasn’t too sweet for me; I’d snort pixie sticks given the chance. (I actually did that once for real – terrible idea, from my young and stupid college days). I really just wanted all the sugar in my mouth, all the time. And now, because I don’t really eat it, I’m much more sensitive to it. This is an obvious cause-and-effect relationship, but one that still surprises me because of how big of a change it is.

Stephen and I did not eat all of the cake. I did eat more than one bite though. I actually had two to three bites of each type – so easily the equivalent of a whole slice of cake. But once we had tried them all, we pushed the plate of cakes away from us and continued our discussion about cake designs (beautiful) and pricing (insane) without devouring the whole plate of proffered cake and then licking it clean. (Stephen has joined me on the healthy eating plan this month, which fills me with delight daily and makes me feel much better in instances such as these where I’m not the only one having to exercise massive self-restraint, but am actually part of a team that is choosing a healthier, better path). And so I experienced a cake tasting, and it was fine and good.

Until half an hour later when my body rejected that cake like a baboon heart.

After we finished meeting with the baker, we walked several blocks to a Starbucks to talk with our month-of planner about an assortment of random details. For the last couple of blocks of the walk, my stomach started feeling rumbley, and then I began to feel pain cramps. About the time we walked into the Starbucks, the cramps became intense, and I had to quickly excuse myself to the bathroom. Because guess what my body doesn’t like anymore? Buttercream. And regular butter and regular cream, and really the whole mess of sugar, more sugar, sugar as ganache and fruit-filling and frosting, with some eggs and white flour thrown in for good(bad) measure. I used to eat stuff like this all the time – every day in fact. And my body was so numbed to it, so used to the flood of unnecessary glucose and chemicals into my body that it just accepted that crap. And then stored it. Now though, I have truly recalibrated back to how my body is meant to be. For the most part, I feed it nutrient dense, energizing foods and keep it free and clean from crap that will clog it up. And like a well-cared for machine, it runs better, and responds better. And it sure as hell knows when it’s been given something bad. It lets me know too.

It’s hard some days, of course. Cake is yummy. And eating is fun. But on the balance, I think this is an improvement. I feel good because I’m healthy and I take care of myself. Which makes it easier to live without needing food to make me feel better. And without that crutch, I can look to other sources – like people and art and nature – for fulfillment. And I can still eat cake if I really want it – just not very much, and certainly nothing that rich – and it’s nice for it to be something I want instead of something I feel like I need.

A Plague on My House/Digestive System

A Plague on My House/Digestive System

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