Feel Me Up, Tie Me Down

Swimming for the amount of time that I do takes a lot of effort. I don’t mean the time in the water, I mean getting my ass up off the chair and into the pool. It’s worth it, of course, especially now. I have something I haven’t had in a really long time…muscles! I expected the arm and shoulder muscles, but it’s the other ones that have me obsessed.

My glutes, obliques, and upper and lower abdominals are starting to emerge. There is still a layer of fat over everything, and likely will be for a few more months, but underneath, there is a hardness that wasn’t there before. I was squishy and jiggly. Now I’m mostly jiggly and only moderately squishy. While lying in bed, I poked and prodded at my body, amazed at how quickly it is changing. I still have grandma wings under my arms, but they are noticeably less noticeable.

Last night, I was only slightly teasing when I told Ron he needed to start exercising or he wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. While the soreness slows me down and I’m sleeping about 12 hours a day, when I’m awake I’m full of energy. The best part is that the crazy awful pain in my left shoulder blade has decreased to a mostly tolerable level and is staying even. That’s better results than steroid shots, without the yeast overload that they cause.

This morning I shopped for swimsuits and had to laugh at the ridiculously poor photoshop job from the Walmart web guys. I despise shopping at Walmart, but they are the only ones that carry Catalina, which is the best suit I’ve ever had. No binding, easy on and off, and it’s held up really well. I need a couple more so I can rotate through and have one to wear while I wash the rest. A good suit for athletic swimming doesn’t have cutesy ties, ruffles, or frilly skirts. I found two that weren’t hideous or just for show, and they were only $16 each. Paired with bike shorts (2 for $12!), I am good to go.

A woman stopped me in the locker room to ask where I bought my swimsuit with the long legs. She couldn’t tell that they were bike shorts underneath my suit. Most bike shorts are made of the same lycra spandex that suits are made from, so they are fine for the pool. They keep me from worrying about my bikini line, plus they also keep my thighs from chafing while I swim.

Swimming gives fast results, especially when one does it for an hour and a half, three or four times a week. You can either spend twenty or thirty minutes using a few muscles here and there, or 90 minutes using EVERY muscle. One swim is not just equivalent to three gym sessions, it exceeds it. In the gym, most people alternate upper and lower body. That means at three times a week, you will only work one part once a week. Results increase motivation, too. One is much more likely to continue when effort is worth it.

Then there’s the injury aspect. While swim injuries do occur (I pulled an oblique the other day while reaching for the wall), they are much more rare than gym injuries. With severe fibromyalgia, the gym is just pain waiting to happen. The pool is pure relief.

Almost any doctor will recommend exercise for people with fibro, which is always a laugh. It hurts too much to even get started! A pool is the solution. It is zero impact, so no weight stress on joints, bones, or muscles. The water is supportive, so it holds you up until you can hold yourself up, and it gives your body a chance to completely relax most muscles without any pressure on any tender points.

More than anything, though, swimming just puts me in a deliriously happy place. It’s meditative, breathing in and out and counting the lap in my head over and over so I don’t forget where I am. It’s relaxing, listening to my favorite music without interruption. It releases endorphins, increases seratonin production, and spurs brain cell generation. Yep, swimming can make you smarter!! Some doctors believe it is more effective than anti-depressants. Considering I can’t take any SSRIs because they make me vomit uncontrollably, swimming is a triple win for me: weight loss, stress reduction/anti-depressant/anxiolitic, and body sculpting. Yeah, that 90 minutes is totally worth it.


Saturday Night I’ll Be In The Spotlight

Today is my 46th birthday. Every birthday, I look back over the past year and think, “This has been the best year so far!” In a way, it is, because the new one has yet to reveal itself, but I am always amazed at how each year outdoes the last.

45 was fantastic in every way. Matt got better and started a new chapter in his life. Aubrey moved out and has yet to  move back now that Matt is gone. My relationship with Ron strengthened and we’re better than ever. I made fantastic friends, cleared away the clutter of bad relationships, became a better knitter. We got a new (ish) car. Everyone is as healthy as can be expected.

46 is going to be amazing, though. I’ve got a core group of truly wonderful women that I regularly spend time with, talk to, dine with. I’m in better shape than I was a year ago, and I’m getting physically stronger every time I swim. I’m a faster knitter, so I should be able to finish more projects this year. My friend Danna and I are starting our own line of hand-dyed and hand painted yarn.

This year, the house will finally get (at least a little more) organized, I will get rid of anything that doesn’t fit me in August, and I will do whatever it takes to avoid getting any more steroid injections. We will finally get a few projects done around here, like fixing the fence that is currently held up by a rope to our basketball hoop.

This year, we will get the last credit card paid off. We will take another vacation together this fall that will be better than last October’s because it won’t have the pall of my newly diagnosed heart condition hanging over it. We will buy a second car that’s not from craigslist. I will visit Matt in California at least once.

Yep, 46 is going to rock. And if you don’t believe me, just watch.

Existential Weight Loss

Yesterday, a friend posted a link to a blog post about “before” and “after.” The blogger’s weight loss was extreme and she was having problems adjusting to the “after” aspect of her journey. I’m in the before, and the during, but I highly suspect my after will be quite different than hers, because I’m also in my after.


My before photo, taken February 20, 2015 at a knitting retreat. Apparently I had a serious case of resting bitch face that day, because I was actually having a really great time. LOL! Photo credit: Sara Serine Orton


I’ve struggled with an eating disorder and with my weight since I was 14. I was skinny as a teenager, but I was on the flag team and we had a horrible coach who was an ex-cheerleader and baton twirler. Jayne was overly focused on our weight and would make us step on a scale every Friday morning. If we weighed more than what her little insurance chart said we should, we supposedly wouldn’t be allowed to perform. Of course, she let everyone dance anyway, but the fear was instilled in us all. I already had ridiculously low self-esteem, so it was easy to see my 125 lb self as humongous.

At 5’4.5″, my frame is not meant to weigh 125 lbs. I missed periods. I fainted regularly. And I starved myself daily. I developed bulimia, but not the throwing up kind. I wished I could throw up, but I thought it was gross and just couldn’t make myself do it. Instead, I learned to “calorie shift.” I would starve all day so I could binge on junk food at night. Starve and binge, binge and starve.

While I was pregnant with my son, I gave up on the starve bit and just binged. And binged. And binged. I weighed 183 lbs when he was born. I’ve never been below 163 since. Even during my two years with Overeaters Anonymous, I was a size 8 and to me, I still wasn’t thin enough. I wanted to fit back into my junior size 13 skirt that I wore in college (at 163 lbs), and dammit, I did eventually make it, but I still thought I was fat.

This time is different, though. Why? Because this time, I’m not in it for a number. I’m not in it for a size. I’m not trying to make an old boyfriend jealous, or get a new boyfriend.  There is no magical thought process of, “If I’m thin, I’ll be happy.”

I am happy. I absolutely LOVE my life. My husband loves me unconditionally. My friends could not care one whit what size I am. It’s been years since I let my mother’s not so subtle jibes about my weight bother me. I am not the number on the scale, I am not the size on the label of my shirt. I weigh what’s on the scale. I wear the size on my shirt. Those things do not define me, no more than having fibromyalgia defines me.

This time, weight loss is secondary. Maybe even tertiary. The reason I am swimming is the same reason I am gluten free. Swimming makes me feel better. I want to feel better. Therefore I swim. I count my laps because I’m OCD and I’m competitive, although this time, I am only competing with myself.

Along with swimming, I’m trying to eat better. Yeah, at the moment I’m still eating junk food, but I’m eating less junk food. I’m trying not to eat out. I’m piling my plate with veggies. I will not weigh my food, I will not count portions or points or calories. I WILL NOT let my food make me crazy. Crazier.

I am not exercising and eating better because I hate myself. I am exercising and eating better because I LOVE MYSELF. I want to weigh less because I want to be healthy, not because I want to be thin. Healthy is my goal, which I know includes weight loss, but that weight loss is just a side effect of exercising and eating better.

I am living in the after, but I’ve only just begun.

Short, Dark, and Chubby

When I was in Europe 15 years ago, no one could guess what country I was from. I was too dark to be English (plus I had no accent), not dark nor blonde enough to be Spanish (plus I had no accent), and I was really too chubby to be European of any nationality. I certainly couldn’t possibly be American because I was quiet, polite, inquisitive, respectful, and not arrogant. But American I was and American I am and 15 years later, I am still short, dark, and chubby.

My husband loves short and dark. He finds my brown eyes and black hair and olive complexion most attractive among a sea of blonde haired, blue eyed, pasty white skinned soccer moms, which I don’t understand but I’ll take it. However, the chubby is something we both struggle with. Don’t get me wrong! He still finds me attractive and I still feel sexy and we have a healthy sex life, but I would be so much more confident if I could look like I used to and he worries about my health, rightfully so. It doesn’t help that in the back of my mind, I keep hearing words he said back when I lost a ton of weight with Overeaters Anonymous. He loved my new, thin, body, and said it was such a relief after my being so chubby for so long. That was great until I gained the weight back. He never said anything mean or derogatory, but I knew he longed for the days when I was the perfect size to complement his size.

After coming back from my trip to New England in January/February, I weighed more than I’ve weighed in five years. It’s not my highest weight, but it’s getting there. I couldn’t even fit into my fat clothes. The only thing that fits are knit skirts with elastic waistbands and t-shirts. Fortunately, I have plenty of both, but I’m sick of wearing them. It was long past time to do something.

I love to swim. I can spend hours in the water, backstroking across the English Channel in my mind. I have waterproof music, so I can swim until my battery dies. I feel graceful and light and athletic when I am in the water. I decided I need a pool if I’m going to stick to any kind of exercise regimen. I looked at various pools around town and it was a nightmare! The JCC has a fabulous pool but it’s outdoors and in the summer, there will be 50 million kids splashing around, plus they have limited hours. UIW has my favorite pool, but the parking situation is ridiculous, plus their locker room is beyond disgusting. The public natatoriums are filthy, the locker rooms make me wretch (I once saw the same used tampon on a shelf for a month in spite of my complaining about it every other day), they have limited hours, and they are expensive. A few of the school districts have their own natatoriums, but again, limited hours and expensive.

No matter where I went, it was going to be expensive. I started looking at gyms, which around here is Gold’s Gym. I saw five that were decent, but the pools weren’t very clean and they were crowded. However, there is a gym about 30 minutes from my house that has a gorgeous, clean pool with clean lockers and is loaded with amenities, but it is pricey; about three times what a regular Gold’s membership costs. Ron very generously agreed that it was worth it if it meant I would swim regularly. So I joined last week and let me tell you, with that price tag hanging over my head, I’m swimming, dammit!

I’ve missed one day out of four, which isn’t bad. It takes me almost four hours from start to finish to swim one mile. A lot of that is travel time to the gym and back. Even without travel time, it’s three hours. I have to gather my stuff from where I put it all out to dry, change clothes, rinse off, swim (which takes about an hour and a half), then shower, change clothes, come home and hang everything out to dry again. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is.

On top of that, I sleep about twelve hours a day to compensate for the exercise. While yes, my body is less sore, the payoff is that I am more tired. When I’m awake, I’m more energetic than when I don’t swim, but I’m not awake for as long. What it comes down to is that 16 hours of my day is taken up by sleeping and swimming.

All of this puts my husband on the other side of the fence. Now he’s telling me to slow down, not to swim, not to go to the gym, to take it easy. This is what ALWAYS happens. He teases me that I need to exercise, but when I do, he insists that I’m overdoing it and need to rest.

This time, I am not listening to him. I’m not listening to anyone except myself. I will know when I’m overdoing it, but until that time, swimming is my focus. I will Nike this bitch one day at a time, one lap at a time. I don’t care what time of day I have to swim, I will “Just do it.” I can’t do anything about short, I can’t do anything about dark, but I can certainly change chubby.