Observations of a Pop Culture Junkie

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who am I to judge?

Part 2 of my "A New Year, A New Outlook, A New Me" post is coming, but, I think it's good, every now and then, to expand the blog beyond me. So, here's what I've been thinking about the past few weeks...

Karl Lagerfeld vs. Adele 

A week or so before the Grammy Awards aired on February 12, 78-year-old Chanel designer, Karl Lagerfeld, told French newspaper, Metro, "The thing at the moment is Adele. She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice."

Adorable Adele - too fat?

Despite having battled his own weight-related demons in the past, losing over 30 kilos over 10 years ago and having kept it off, HuffPost Celebrity revealed that this was not Lagerfeld’s first gaffe in terms of discussing “women’s bodies or their weight.”

In 2009, the freaky-looking (and I think that is being kind) designer had commented, "No one wants to see curvy women. You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.”

Creepy-looking Karl Lagerfeld

In the face of a worldwide backlash against his remarks regarding Adele, Lagerfeld apologized, saying, “Adele is a beautiful girl. She is the best. And I can't wait for her next CD." OK, Karl.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A New Year, A New Outlook, A New Me - Part 1 - Physical

It's been a loooooong time since I've posted, mostly because life has gotten in the way and, by "gotten in the way," I don't simply mean that I've been busy, although I have.

First, I had to resolve the health issue I previously posted about involving Douchebag. Thank goodness, my health is fine (although I still have thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills, thanks to him), and I never have to think about or deal with him again.

Next, I was the victim of a crime -- my summer subletter, the sister of an acquaintance, robbed and severely beat me, an incident that has had very serious ongoing financial, health and legal ramifications. (More on this another time.)

Lastly, there have been three deaths in my family in the last eight weeks, including the shocking death of my aunt, whom no one knew was sick and who had become a second Mom to me in the years since Mom died. Talk about pain.

Those are the major things . . . life got in the way.

On the plus side, I am happy to say that the Old or, as a friend put it, the "New and Improved" Rachel - the one that my best friend from law school once called his funnest and coolest friend" - is back.

First, the physical difference.  I am down 10 jean sizes from where I was last year at this time!

Here's a look back at the 2011 transformation in pictures...

February 2011

June 2011

November 2011

Early December 2011

NYE 2011

Because I knew that I'd eventually want to do a "before and after," a la the "They Lost Half Their Body Weight" people featured in People and on the Today Show's Joy Bauer Fit Club, I kept the fat jeans.  I haven't checked yet to see if I can fit my whole self into one of the legs of those jeans, but I'd venture to say the visual difference is noticeable to put it mildly.

I feel really gratified that I set a goal and have gone a long way toward reaching it. Those 100 pounds (yes, 100 pounds) I gained after Mom died are mostly gone.

The compliments I've received have been myriad and are greatly appreciated, each and every one, each and every time. They serve as invaluable positive reinforcement. I can't tell you how awesome it was to see a doctor whom I hadn't seen in months and have her remark, "You've lost a tremendous amount of weight since I last saw you." I can't explain the joy (jumping up and down in my mind) of numerous friends who hadn't seen me during the spring/summer calling me "The Incredible Shrinking Rachel" when they next saw me. Me? Are you talking to me?!? I can't express my happiness at the trashbags full of "fat clothes" waiting to be donated to a local charity as soon as I can find someone to carry them for me. [I sustained a back injury during the assault.]

Unfortunately, I don't have a recent (i.e., 2012) full-body pic to show yet, and, rest assured, I'm not going to show one until I take one that I love because that's just how I roll.

I have many of you to thank for being part of my wonderful support system during this long and arudous endeavor. Your cheers and enthusiasm mean the world to me, and I can't possibly express my gratitude adequately.

People have asked me how many pounds I have lost. The truth is - I don't know. I stopped weighing myself and started focusing on how my clothes fit and how I felt/feel in them. Unlike a Weight Watchers weekly scale-focused check-in, I find this reality check to be much more effective for me. Generally, I'm going down a jean size a month (sometimes more). There's a clear difference in the size and shape of my face. You can see the weight loss in my neck (my nutritionist pal gauges my weight loss by how low my necklace hangs. Apparently, it used to be a choker . . . not anymore.). My ass is smaller. (I even think - dare I say it? - the boobs may be getting a little smaller! Unless you've ever been a DDD, you can't begin to understand that joy.)

Lingerie that barely fit at this time last year is now HUGE on me. The sexy high leather boots that I gave to my skinny friend, A, this summer because I'd always had trouble zipping them up; they zip now - no problem, and they're HOT. (Thank goodness she brought them back to me, wisely anticipating this!) As of last week, the Flashdance-style, shoulder-bearing sweatshirt that I "stole" from my sophomore in college roommate (in all fairness, I didn't actually steal it. I just borrowed it for long enough that she eventually officially gave it to me. I've acquired some of my fave clothing from friends and beaus alike this way ;) fits for the first time in five years. My hands look different. My ring and watch are loose. I'm beginning to see definition in my collarbones. You get the point. (I'm really not trying to brag.)

Moreover, although I have a ballpark idea of what the scale would say (the doctor weighed me on Halloween), I don't want to beat myself up because the number is a few pounds more than I'd like it to be when I have done such a great job overall. (Boy, I haven't given myself a compliment like that...maybe...in forever?)

Also, I still haven't reached my ultimate weight goal, which, I've realized, surprisingly, is going to be a feeling, rather than a number or a size. I'll know it when I do, and that day is coming. Apologies in advance, but, even when I do know the number, I'm not going to tell. It's going to be a sacred secret between me and G-d and maybe a medical professional or two.

And another thing...weight doesn't come off one's body evenly. I haven't been able to get on the treadmill much of the year because of my back injury. This means there are problem areas...I won't tell you what they are, but I know them. I feel them. I beat myself up about them constantly. Constantly.

I have yet to stand fully naked in front of a man. There are certain spots I still prefer to keep covered, if at all possible, during intimate moments (super romantic, right?), and  I have learned ways to de-emphasize those spots. (Did I really just say that out loud?) OK - TMI, even for me, the Queen of TMI...moving on...

I don't loathe passing by the mirror naked or trying on clothing anymore, as I did for the past five years. I'm not parading myself around the way I would when I was 22-years-old and had a smokin' hot bod either though.

There's still work to be done. Even when the weight is all gone, there'll be work to be done. That's just the reality.

So, how did I accomplish all this? Much to most people's dismay, there is no magic formula (for me or anyone else, for that matter, I firmly believe). I may not have lost/be losing the weight in the "right" way, but, for lack of a better term, "it is what it is."

I spent much of the year operating under an extraordinary amount of stress that resulted in me simply not eating sometimes. It wasn't intentional. I'd all of a sudden just realize that it was 11 p.m., and I'd eaten nothing all day. This still happens, although I think it's happening less now.

I was dead broke, so I didn't buy a lot of groceries; that also resulted in some not eating.

My most serious challenge remains the ability to force myself to eat three meals a day. I'm just not a three-meal-a-day girl. I never was. Offer me additional time to sleep or time to eat breakfast, and sleep wins every time. I dislike most traditional breakfast foods. Also, the smell and thought of food in the morning tends to nauseate me. Let me be clear . . . I know how important it is, from a nutritional perspective, to eat three meals a day and how bad it is to skip meals or, even worse, days' worth of meals. Trust me, I've heard the talks; I've read the books; I know. This is a challenge I will continue to face my whole life, I suspect.

On a healthier note, I've learned to listen to my body's cues more successfully. I eat when I am hungry. I rarely overeat. In fact, I rarely eat to the point of feeling full. I often don't finish an entire meal. Whereas before, I would've - by virtue of being raised by a good Jewish Mom - been a member of "the clean plate club," I rarely clean a plate anymore.

I feel better physically. I feel healthy!!! Any joint pain I had is gone. My asthma is better. My cardiovascular capacity is vastly improved. I have more energy than I've had in eons. That's an amazing feeling! I look forward to exercising. I don't shy away from having my photo taken (as much). I don't try to bury myself in baggy clothes anymore. I'm enjoying having my curves back in the right places.

Do I eat the "evil" comfort foods - filled with fat and carbs and chemicals - that I've always loved? Some yes some, although not nearly as often or in remotely the same quantity as I did previously. Are there foods I avoid because I know they are trigger foods that made me tend to overeat in the past or which I routinely ate to deal with stress? Hell's yeah. Do I feel deprived? No. Never. Do I binge on said evil foods sometimes? Yes. (I am being honest. You're all here to hold me accountable.) Do I count calories? No, for the same reason I don't use the scale. Do I say "no, thank you" to things that I'd like to eat, things that look or smell amazing? Often. Can I have one bite of something super delicious and stop there? Sure. Tomorrow's another day; I will see that deliciousness again in this lifetime. Do I pay more attention to what I eat, in terms of protein and nutrients? Absolutely. I've even learned that "breakfast food" doesn't have to be cereal or eggs or oatmeal. It can be leftover pizza, as long as I'm eating a proper quantity at a "breakfast-y" time.

Do I compare my body to others, including those oh-so-thin (read: anorexic) celebrities? Yes. Our culture makes it nearly impossible not to. If there's one silver lining though in having had the scale reach a number I never imagined I'd see, in my worst nightmare? I can look at People or Us or any similar magazine and tell you exactly who's lying about their weight loss/gain (emm...Kirstie Alley...ahem).

Is this the "right way" to lose a large amount of weight. I don't know; I suspect not. I wouldn't recommend "The Broke-Ass Crime Victim Diet," as I dubbed it some months back, to anyone. Ever.

I am continually learning and practicing better eating habits though and eating (or not eating) with more awareness than ever before. I am proud of what I've accomplished. I've traveled a long road, but I still have "miles to go before I sleep."

Maybe the most important - and the healthiest - thing to come out of this year is that I truly realize, down to the depths of my soul, how crucial the psychological aspect of physical fitness is. You can't have one without the other; they are symbiotic. The yin and yang of a well-balanced person.

But I'll address that in my next post...stay tuned.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Me, a model?!?

Despite the fact that Mr. Wrong and I were wrong for each other in pretty much every way possible (remember that, Rachel, remember...when you're down and depressed, remember...it was wrong, and it would've continued to be wrong, and it would've only gotten more wrong probably as time passed), I adored him, we had fun together, and I met some great people through him.

Among them, a fashion designer whom I'll refer to as R to protect her privacy for now (hopefully, down the line, R will let me interview her for one or both of my blogs), an entertainer I'll refer to as T, and, through T, a stunning runway model whom I will refer to as E.

E and I met the other night and hit it off immediately. In addition to being a successful model, she's a singer, and we bonded over our love of music and my desire to return to the stage.

Anyway, R was kind enough to invite me to her fashion show on Thursday night. Not being much of a fashionista (although I have perfected Deadhead Chic), I was really excited to go and see what it was all about. Luckily, I also had a great Wing Woman, as E was game to join me at the show.

Lots of things happened that night. We had a blast, and much weirdness ensued.

The weirdest thing of all though...the thought of me as a model?!?

Of course, as soon as R saw E, she thought she'd be perfect to model. Wanting to be an observer for once though, a chance she doesn't often get, E passed.

I joked to R that, once I'd lost 20 or 30 more pounds, I'd love to model for her. Much to my shock and delight, she responded by asking me if I wanted to model that night - 3 nights ago. I thanked her profusely, but told her I wasn't ready. Still, needless to say that, after a few years now of dealing with major body issues, it ROCKED to be asked. R - you're a doll!

E didn't understand why I'd want to pass up the opportunity. The short answer? I am getting there (there being where I want my body to be), but I am certainly not there yet. I still have a long way to go.

Exhibit A: a photo of me and E from Thurs. (Yes, because of the lights, we look like aliens.)

With E, at fashion show, 2-24-11

Hopefully, you can tell (compared with my photos from the summer) that I have made A LOT of progress. I am simply not there yet though and can only get there with time and hard work.

Exhibit B: seeing E's FB photos - holy %$&*! Oh, to be that young again, that skinny (although I was always curvy even when skinny) and that hot...WOW! E is no joke. The fact that I can stand next to her without wanting to die, let alone post a photo of us together, is more than slightly amazing.

After the show, E and I were talking to R, and she told us that she likes using models of all shapes and sizes in her shows since, as she wisely recognizes, most of us simply cannot look like E, much as we'd love (even kill and starve) to. I told R that I'd remind her of her offer some months down the road when I am closer to reaching my weight and fitness goals.

For now though, I can revel in the thought that I was asked to be a model by a well-known and extremely talented designer. Moreover, I think that, when the time comes, and I'm feeling ready, if the offer is still open, I'll do it.

Now that's something I never in a million years thought would happen! For the offer and the encouragement, I thank both R and E from the bottom of my heart.

Just wait 'til I cross "be a runway model" off my bucket list! ;)


Now, you're probably thinking this means something other than what it does, namely that I am starving, dying to eat the things I am "depriving" myself of in an effort to lose weight.

On the contrary, I have no desire to eat and barely any appetite. If I've eaten 10 actual meals in the last month, I'd be shocked. (BTW, that's BAD. That means my metabolism is probably slowing to practically nothing right now, despite working out.)

There are a few parts to this: first, the former pseudo-significant other. I was "dating" someone who, in a desire to lose weight before modeling in a show, basically decided not to eat anymore. Obviously then, I did not want to eat when I was with him (him having no weight to lose, except MAYBE in the modeling world, and me having much weight to lose still). Add to that his near-constant comments about my weight: "heavy," "chubby," etc. and his constant evaluations of other women's physiques. It got to the point where I had to explain to him explicitly (both verbally and in writing) that each time he made such a comment, even if it was a back-handed compliment, it was like he was sticking a knife in my heart. Add to that the positive affirmation I received each time I had lost additional weight when he saw me. (I mean, I am down 2 or 3 jean sizes since we met.) That was nice, but it also, unfortunately, reinforced my lack of desire to eat and lack of appetite.

Remember that fitness is both physical and mental, and they are inextricably intertwined.

Enter the part where things went south with pseudo-sig other, and I realized he was not treating me the way I deserve to be treated. Trust me when I say that it took A LOT to get to that point (a lot more than most people would deal with) because I really adored him.

Having grown up in a household of domestic violence where my father ruled with an iron fist and a leather belt, I am, sadly, used to being treated badly by men. As a result, looking back, I always let my boyfriends treat me badly, not to the point of being beaten, thankfully, but VERY BADLY. It wasn't until a year and a half ago or so that I finally stood up to the person I had been dating for the better part of a year and said, "F%&# you. I deserve better. Goodbye." That's how damaged my self-esteem was...

And still is...this time, it took me a much shorter time to tell my "special friend" that I deserved better and to say goodbye much as it hurt. Still, even as I sit here and write this, knowing how miserably things ended, I question myself. Maybe I made too big a deal out of things. Maybe I was being too sensitive. Maybe I shouldn't have let his comments bother me. Maybe then we'd still be "dating" instead of me being back in the NYC dating cesspool again. At least I'd have someone attaractive of the opposite sex to spend intimate time with, right?

I know deep down that I did the right thing and that I wasn't being treated well. I have to remind myself again and again though, daily, even hourly, especially on nights like tonight, when I had hoped to spend time with this person, that I am better off being alone than being with someone who treats me badly. This is an extremely difficult mental challenge that I face now and probably will face for the rest of my life with respect to whomever I "date."

Then, there was the stomach flu, my parting gift from Mr. Wrong shortly post-Valentine's Day. That was good for a week or so of little to no eating because anything and everything made me violently ill.

Then, there's the issue of logistics. I have been out of work for two months which, for me, means I've been going to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning most nights and sleeping until mid-day. My entire body clock is off.

Part of the reason I did really well losing weight this fall was that I was working regular hours and, with a regimented work schedule, was, thus, able to do a decent job of forcing myself to eat three meals a day.

I've never been a breakfast person. I HATE breakfast food. In this journey to fit, I have finally gotten to a point though where I know that I need to eat three times a day, and I realize that breakfast can be whatever I want it to be as long as there's protein involved.

Now comes tomorrow - WORK - amen! Hopefully, now that I will be working regular days again, my body clock will reset itself, I will regain an appetite and desire to eat, and I will be eating three meals a day again in addition to working out.

That's my challenge for this week...stay tuned.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fear of Backslide

Suffice it to say, I was doing GREAT at getting back to exercising for the first time in 5 years until this week when...first, I learned that the guy I was "dating" was a complete and total loser and user (and, obviously, a waste of my time and effort) and, second, I was stuck suffering from the raging stomach flu he so generously passed to me as a parting gift, wiping me out for the past four days.

I bought the treadmill last January (2010), thinking that, with exercise equipment in my own apartment, I would have no excuse not to work out. After all, I must spend at least an hour each day watching TV, so, why not spend that hour on the treadmill?

In addition, I figured that I would save money by cancelling the gym membership I hadn't been using anyway. The treadmill would pay for itself within six months.

Needless to say, the treadmill sat there gathering dust for about a year.

After my birthday, in early January, I decided that push had come to shove. I made up my mind that I was going to get back on track.

And, I did. Knowing that someone was seeing my body was the best motivator I could've ever asked for. I worked out more since the beginning of January than I had worked out during the past five years, and the results showed. More and more each week. As Treadie (as I affectionately refer to my treadmill) and I spent more time together, I lost more weight and gained more muscle tone, not to mention fabulously inspiring positive affirmation from my Facebook friends.

So, now I'm afraid. Very afraid.

I am ready to start up again. Will my determination lapse though, now that no pseudo-significant other will be following my progress? I guess time will tell within the next few weeks.

Fingers crossed...stay tuned.

Why the journey?

So, here's the skinny...I'm fat. 

It took me a few years to say that sentence, and it still makes me nauseous each time I say it.

I was always skinny. If not skinny, at least toned and curvy in the right places. 

I call this photo from when I was a 22-year-old college senior my "Thinspiration" photo. I may not ever look like that again, but I can sure as hell try. (As an aside, I was not happy with my weight then, but more on that later.)

I had gained weight leading up to Mom's death, but in this photo, my go-to photo for everything, taken a few months after Mom's death in 2006, I certainly don't think I look fat.

SAC Benefit, November 2006

So, what happened? It wasn't about loving food or anything like that. It was simply about loss and depression. I was so engulfed with grief after my Mom died on Mother's Day 2006 that I lost track of everything else but my grief, including what I was eating.

It took a good three to four years to realize what I had done to and what I had not done for my body. The curvy-in-all-the-right-places body was gone, replaced by a body and a person in the mirror that I didn't recognize. Here I was, a skinny girl, trapped in this fat suit of my own making.

When I started experiencing severe lower back pain and some joint pain in the summer of 2009, I knew it was time to make a drastic change.

I started looking into the possibility of  bariatric (weight loss) surgery, but I wasn't sure that was the right option for me.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back came when I visited my brother and his family in Los Angeles that summer. My then-3-year-old niece, Alicia, was playing on the Wii Fit and creating avatars for everyone. (Wii Fit collects information such as your height and weight to help with this and with achieving your fitness goals.) She created an avatar for her aunt and one for her Mom and one for her sister and one for me. I so vividly remember her innocently saying, "Look, Auntie Rachel...everyone else is straight, and you're round," as I struggled to hold back tears. And so I was - on the Wii Fit screen and in life. I vowed that I never wanted my niece to have to see me "round" again.

Still, what takes three years to do (the weight gain) takes a lot of time to undo, if that's even possible, and I was fighting an uphill battle, it seemed.

In November 2009, a few days before Thanksgiving, I underwent a LapBand procedure designed to limit my eating. I won't spend a lot of time discussing this, but, suffice it to say that, for me, surgery was a mistake. If you can follow all the rigid pre- and post-surgical nutrition, eating and exercise requirements and restrictions, there's no need for the surgery. You can do it on your own. I wish I had realized this before I had the surgery, but I didn't.

Fast-forward to November 2010, one year post-surgery. I still hadn't achieved the weight loss I want. I still wasn't exercising. I was still round. These photos show what I looked like in the Summer of 2009. (BTW, when I look at them, I alternatively want to throw up or die.)

Summer 2010 "fat photos"
Now, fast forward again to January 2011. I'd lost roughly 30 pounds since September by forcing myself to eat three small, nutritious meals each day and keeping a food journal. My back pain was gone. My joint pain was long gone. The bariatric surgeon has oh-so-helpfully told me that I am losing the weight "on my own," without any assistance from the LapBand. (Again, why the surgery was a mistake is a longer story that may not be necessary here.)

People are starting to notice a difference and comment on it! I am starting to gain my self-confidence back. I even try to date for the first time in over a year and a half.

I am now ready to take the plunge and do the hard work. Let the games begin...cue "Rocky" training music.