Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Out of the Darkness

A little over two months ago, I stayed home from work.  I was sick.  It certainly wasn't the worst cold I'd ever had but it had zapped my energy.  So I stayed home.  I don't get sick often, and I rarely call in sick to work.  I don't know why I couldn't pull it together that day.  I just couldn't.  

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was laying in the bathtub, listening to a podcast.  I think it was about the disappearance of Maura Murray.  The podcast went silent.  That was weird.  I reached over for my phone and saw someone from work was calling.  This is someone who has never called me on my cell phone before.  As soon as I touched the phone, I heard the words in my mind: "Mark killed himself."  I know people think I'm crazy when I say that, but it is exactly what happened.  I frantically tried to swipe my phone to turn it on.  My finger was slightly wet.  It took a few tries.  I was starting to panic.  Our Manager was on the line.  She asked if I was home.  I said I was.  I knew her part of the office was short handed, so I immediately told her I was sick but I wasn't so bad that I couldn't come in if she needed help.  I needed this call to be about anything other than what I knew it was.  Then she said the words.  She didn't know how to tell me this but that morning, my boss had committed suicide.  She asked if I could call someone to come be with me so I wouldn't be alone.  My whole world started to swirl.  I didn't know what to say.  We exchanged some words, mostly to comfort each other.  Then that was it.  In an instant, my entire life changed.

I could not have guessed how much I was going to love this job when I started in February.  After spending 20 years in litigation, I was finally in a job that was fun, challenging, rewarding, and didn't make me feel like I was getting an ulcer.  I couldn't believe that my amazing, happy world was being turned upside down.

There is some controversy over my boss' suicide, but none of that matters.  He was a good man and a great boss.  He left behind a devastated and confused family, and a lot of friends and co-workers who did not see this coming.  In the wake of his death, we are all still reeling.  Our office brought in grief counselors immediately.  I went into work that first day, specifically to meet with them.  My knees almost buckled when I walked into the office, but I was otherwise slightly worried about how well I was handling everything.  I mean, I was sad.  I was profoundly sad.  But I found that with every new person who wanted to come into my office and talk about it, it got a little bit easier.  People remarked on how well I was working through my grief.  The funeral was hard, but still I felt like I was holding it together.

Then the panic attacks started.  You'd think they'd happen at work.  Or in crowds.  But they didn't.  They started happening when I was falling asleep.  Or when I was in yoga.  In the quiet moments, my body would revolt.  There were a couple of times when I jumped out of bed in my sleep and found myself in the front room.  Apparently I was not handling things as well as I thought.  

Tragedy and grief are such weird things.  This terrible thing happens.  And then what?  The first day or two, people worry about you.  They ask how you're doing.  Then they move on with their lives.  But you can't move on.  You have to keep living it.  Every time you walk into the place where you used to see him every day.  Or see his signature on something.  Or you forward yourself an e-mail from his e-mail address, forget, and freak yourself out that he's e-mailing you from the dead.  Every day gets a little easier but you don't forget.  Then you feel bad.  You're just his co-worker.  What about his family?  They must be suffering more than you.  This sick circle begins -- feeling sorry for yourself, then feeling guilty that you are being selfish when other people must be hurting more.

I have been very lucky.  I have been blessed to not have been dealt a lot of tragedy in my life.  My Auntie Lori also committed suicide in 2009.  But she was a tortured soul and I only ever felt relief that she had finally found peace.  This suicide was different.  What did I miss?  Sure, I had noticed my boss had seemed more stressed and down than usual.  But, despite those words that flashed through my mind the second I touched my phone, I don't think I saw this coming.

It has been two months and one week since my boss took his own life.  Certainly, every day is a little easier.  However, I do have days that catch me off guard.  For example, after returning from a week off work for Thanksgiving, I somehow expected to see him when I walked through the door.  Then I was kind of confused when I remembered that he wouldn't be there.  I also feel some anxiety when I think about who may possibly be his permanent replacement (we already went through some stress while waiting to see who would be his interim replacement).  I started with the grief counselors again after the panic attacks started.  I am back on track with my yoga classes and am now working out at home in the mornings.  I still feel days where I am sad and miss him.  But for the most part, life goes on.  There is no other option, right?  I feel like this happened at the best time possible.  I feel like I have my eating disorder under control for the first time in a very long time.  I have mostly made peace with my body and actually like how I look these days.  It is a huge win that I haven't turned to food for comfort during this time.  Also, as part of the healing process, some of us from the office will be organizing an Out of the Darkness walk through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Hopefully, that will keep us busy, help us feel like we are giving back to the community and help honor the memory of our beloved boss.  

I was touched by the number of people who reached out to me after this happened. I wanted to thank everyone again for all of their kind words. I am taking it one day at a time but feel like I am coping fairly well. The holidays are coming up and I know that can put a lot of stress on people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out and ask for help. AFSP's suicide prevention line is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). I imagine my boss didn't understand exactly how many people loved him until there was standing room only at his funeral held in a two story church. I remarked that it was sad that it took someone's death for them to learn exactly how many people do care. I think we all get wrapped up in our own bullshit and lives. I'm trying to take a look at the people around me to see who is struggling. But if you are struggling and you aren't getting the help you need, please ask for help. I promise you are loved.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Operation Love My Liver

So, in June, I wrote about my liver issues again.  My liver enzymes were continuing to elevate despite all of the diet changes, and supplements I had been adding to my life.  I mean, seriously, the number of pills I take equal an additional meal every day.  It gets tiring.

In my last post, I mentioned some sample liver numbers over the years.  Here they are again.

Date          Weight          AST (10-30)          ALT (6-29)
3/2013        257               33                           21                          (fairly normal levels)
6/2014        257               57                           37                          (started working with Ellen)
9/2014        246               42                           29
12/2014      244               39                           29                          (almost normal again!)
6/2015        255               48                           30                          (WTF?!)

I went in for another check-up in September and fully expected my levels to start to drop again.  I was eating well and skipping sweets at parties and events.  I didn't even have cake at my sister's wedding!

I was extremely upset to learn that my numbers had actually increased.  My weight continues to be around 255 pounds.  My AST went up to 51 and my ALT to 46.  My doctor again tried to push diet pills on me.  He also wants me to see a liver doctor.  He insists that it is my weight causing these issues.  I refuse to believe that is the problem.  I used to weigh 350 pounds and no one was worrying about my liver then.  He said he wished we could find some old blood labs so that we could compare.  I went home and I actually found one set of blood labs done right before my gastric bypass surgery, when I would have weighed around 330 pounds.  My AST was 43 and my ALT was 36.  (Also Ellen said that the ranges used are so broad, and that I should be shooting for the median number, which is 22 for AST and 25 for ALT.)  Anyway, yes, those numbers from 2003 do show that my liver enzymes were elevated, however it also means that weight loss alone won't fix them, as I am currently 80 pounds lighter than that and my liver enzymes are higher!

So here's a new chart for those keeping track:

Date          Weight          AST (22)          ALT (25)
5/2003        330               43                           36
3/2013        257               33                           21                          
6/2014        257               57                           37                          
9/2014        246               42                           29
12/2014      244               39                           29                          
6/2015        255               48                           30   
9/2015        255               51                           46                       

I did find out that one of the supplements I was taking needed another supplement to help it work properly.  So it may have been clearing the liver but it needed help to remove those toxins from the body.  Meaning, those toxins have essentially just been stewing in my body for the last year.  They had no outlet.  It makes sense to me now as I noticed I started hating the smell of my own sweat probably nine months ago.  It never occurred to me that it was a sign that my body was struggling to clear itself of toxins.  I now have a second supplement to help the first one work properly and my sweat no longer offends me, so I have to assume it is working.

I made a deal with my doctor that I would continue working with Ellen and eating as cleanly as possible (although I do allow planned sweets so I don't push myself into a binge).  I didn't let Halloween ruin me this year as it did last year.  I even went through a horrible tragedy at work (my boss committed suicide -- I will probably write more on this topic later after I have had some time to heal) and didn't fully turn to food for comfort.  If I take these tests again in January and my numbers have not gotten better, then I told my doctor I would consider the diet pills and referral to the liver doctor.

For now, I am trying to enjoy my life, hang out with my family as much as possible, and not allow food to continue to control me.  I exercise to feel good and I eat to heal my body.  My friend Ginger started Operation Love Lori's Liver.  So I make sure everything I do is geared towards that.  Join me in this operation and do something to love YOUR body so you can be the best you possible!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wipeout Run

Last month I joined a few friends (and my brother) and did the Wipeout Run (my sister-in-law and baby girl joined to cheer us on).  Much like the TV show (although a lot easier), we faced obstacles, all while running a 5k in the South Bay heat.  Luckily, this day wasn't one of those 100 degree days.  I think it was only in the mid-80's, however, running around without cover in the blazing sun still lead to overheating and a sunburn.

Leading up to the event, my only true concern was not whether I would injure myself, it was whether or not the life jacket would fit over my monster boobs.  My second (minor) concern was whether I would be able to keep up with the rest of my group, who were way more fit than me.  When we arrived and joined the cattle call to wait for our turn to run, there was a guy hyping up the crowd.  We were laughing and dancing (and preparing ourselves for our sunburns).  Once the horn blew, we were off.  Our group ran off toward obstacle one.  I almost ran the entire way.  But after that, I was too tired and too hot to keep up that pace.  My group didn't complain much (although Jessica DID make us walk the entire 5k instead of letting me cheat and take shortcuts in a couple of places).  Boo.  

Most of the obstacles were fun and had very little danger of actually hurting us.  However, the big red balls were a little more daunting.  My experience in watching the show, and others who went ahead of me, is that the danger is bouncing off ball 1, face planting into ball 2 and then backwards taco'ing and kicking yourself in the back of the head, thereby destroying your back.  NCPP was the following weekend, and I just couldn't afford an injury.  So, I bitched out and just kind of jumped around the sides of the balls and made half-assed attempts to actually jump on the balls from the ground (instead of jumping off the platform).  I left lots of face sweat on the balls for the next person though.  I was okay with that.

As I was walking with my crowd toward an obstacle in the middle, I hear: Is that Lori?!  It seems like I can't go anywhere without seeing someone I know!  Danielle, another Twirly Girl, was running the course with her husband and some friends.  We bounced through the next obstacle together and then they were off (because they were actually running).

The next stressor came towards the end, when I had to try on that life jacket.  I had watched videos, which showed zip-up life jackets.  Those would never fit.  I even e-mailed the promoters to explain my plight.  I was assured that their life jackets went up to XL and I would be just fine.  XL.  hahaha!  This chick has never seen my boobs!!!!  As we walked up, I saw a really big dude with a jacket on, completely un-done.  But I noticed, it had buckles!!  No zippers!  I picked up my XL, let out the straps and put my life jacket on.

The whole course took us two hours to walk, but we had the best time.  I would definitely do it again, so I hope it comes around again next year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chunky Girl Comics at Wizard World San Jose

Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of once again donning the Candy costume and joining my fellow Chunky Girls (and boy) for a panel discussion at Wizard World in San Jose.

Although we knew our body diversity panel was set to be the first discussion of the day, when Marisa and I turned to corner to our room, and saw it was already full of people, we backed out, believing we had accidentally walked into the end of a previous panel.  We sat outside for a few minutes, then looked at the sign again, which reminded us that we were first up that day.  Holy shit, all those people were there...waiting...for us!  We peeked around the corner, noticed the panel table was empty and our name tents were there, so we sheepishly walked into the room and took our places.

The panel was fantastic!  I realize I am a nerd-in-training, and so some of the conversation was over my head, but the discussion was not only about diversity in body type but also in race (both in comics and movies).  It could very easily been an uncomfortable or heated conversation but everyone was extremely respectful and I felt like it was very productive.

I would like to (once again) thank Marisa of Chunky Girl Comics for including me on these awesome adventures, Gia for being reliable and fun-sized, and Ray of Tragic Hero Comics for being our Chunky Boy nerd in the know.  His knowledge of comics always impresses me.

After the panel, we stayed to sign autographs and take photos.  Again, we were so surprised and humbled by the number of people willing to wait to talk to us.  It was just such a great day and an amazing experience.  Of course, there were plenty of shenanigans, including celebrity stalking and planned debauchery (which really didn't go down as I had hoped).

On Sunday, we headed into Wizard World one last time before leaving for the weekend,  We happened past Josh McDermitt and Michael Cudlitz from The Walking Dead in the hotel lobby.  Marisa and I stood just close enough (but we thought, just far enough away), trying to decide whether we should say hi.  Suddenly, we hear one of them say loudly (pretty sure it was Josh): "And then I killed a goat and spread its blood all over my body!"  Soooooooo, we left.  The bonus was Marisa got to meet Dean Cain (of Superman fame) at Peet's two seconds later.  We still should have gone over to talk to TWD dudes!

As always, pictures speak louder than words, so enjoy a few photos of our adventures from that weekend.  We are very much looking forward to Wizard World Reno in November!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NCPP - Pat the Bear Turns Two

Well, we did it again.  Call us crazy, but Ellen and I survived another year and brought Northern California Pole Presentational to the Bay Area once again.  

I have to be honest.  I was tired this year.  New job (love it but it has longer hours and I had to completely re-do my after-work schedule so as not to burn myself out).  Less pole.  I just wasn't sure I wanted to keep doing this.  So many late nights and long weekends spent on the computer.  Planning.  Sending e-mails.  Gathering music.  Spreadsheets.  Scheduling.  Stressing.  But when the day arrived, I was reminded why it was all worth it.  We certainly aren't doing this for the money.  I'm barely doing it for the love of pole.  We do this to be part of a larger community.  For me, it is all worth it because of all the happy faces that I saw coming off that stage.

I really do want to personally thank each and every person who participated that day -- the judges, volunteers, vendors, sponsors, studios, audience members.  I am grateful to The Stage for providing us with a legit theater.  I am eternally grateful to Ellen, who keeps me on track and helps balance our workload.  I could not do this without her.  And I am ever so grateful for the dancers.  This show is for THEM.  I am not a natural performer (or even that great of an unnatural performer).  I am always terrified to perform, so I have the utmost respect for the performers who are spending their time and effort preparing to dance for us.  This year, thanks to the awesome cyborg headsets, Ellen and I got to actually watch a good portion of the show.  I am always amazed by the artistic beauty that pole dance inspires.  NCPP performers did not disappoint!

We posted a note on the NCPP blog yesterday.  Please visit that post and check out the eloquent thank you posted by Ellen on Facebook.  We have just signed the contract for next year and will be announcing the new date soon!  Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates and photos and we will see you next year!

Thanks for fulfilling my fantasies -- so many groups and duos!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chunky Girl Comics on KTVU!

Marisa and I recently filmed a segment about Chunky Girl Comics with Bay Area People on KTVU Channel 2.  We had such a great time.  As soon as I walked into the room, I just wanted to sit on the newsroom desk.  Claudine Wong said, why not?!  So up I went!  Thank you, Claudine for being so awesome!  I feel so grateful for Marisa and the adventures we are experiencing with Chunky Girl Comics.  If you are going to a local comic book convention, let them know you want to see Chunky Girl Comics there!

Check out the segment below!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review of Artista Active Wear's Monokini

Recently, I posted a photo of myself wearing Artista Active Wear's monokini on Instagram and I received messages asking how well it supported "the girls."  So, Saturday, I went to the studio to test it out.  I did video my review, but apparently didn't realize that camera wasn't focused, so I figured a written review and pieces of my dance on video should suffice.  I recorded this dance at 9:30 PM on a Saturday, after having participated in the Wipeout Run (a 5k with ten obstacles) that same afternoon (and after spending over four hours in the car going to and from the event).  I got ridiculously sunburned.  And I haven't been doing regular pole classes since starting my new job in February.  Now that the disclosures are out of the way, don't expect much from the actual dance.  Just watch the movements and see how the outfit moves with me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was recently invited to be a Brand Ambassador for Artista.  However, I did purchase this item with my own money.  This review would be the same whether I was reppin' them or not.

First off, I loved how the monokini looked.  I did order a size up (XXXL), as I felt I was between sizes, and I probably would have been fine with the XXL.  Second off, I loved how it felt.  It was comfortable to wear.  No riding up or slipping down.  And no dreaded back rolls.

Now, for how the girls reacted.  In the category of "TMI," although most people probably do know, and again, in the interest of full disclosure, I had a breast lift nine years ago.  However, my boobs are way bigger and sit way lower than I would like.  That being said, they are still way perkier than the boobs I used to have.  If I had tried to wear this outfit back then, my boobs would not have stayed in place.  However, I do have a halter dance bra that would fit just fine under the monokini.  I have to say, though, that I loved that this outfit didn't give me a back roll, and I imagine a bra under it might do that.

At the end of the day, though, I did love the outfit and would recommend it.  If you want to see it in action, check it out below.  And if you want to order it (or anything else) for yourself, you can use my discount code for 10% off: ABALM10.  Just visit www.artistaactivewear.com.

Check out the video and let me know if you have any questions!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Off The Floor: a pole dance documentary

I was recently offered the opportunity to watch Off The Floor, a documentary about Jessica Anderson-Gwin and her dance troupe, Jagged.  I had been a fan of Jagged for many years, but had NO idea of their history.  This month is kind of crazy with NCPP coming up, and I felt like I wouldn't have enough time to fit it in, but something drew me to say yes.  I am so glad I did.

The stereotypical theme of stripper versus modern dance is definitely interwoven throughout the film.  While I tend to shy away from having that argument (strippers do also use poles, so if that is a problem, maybe this isn't the right dance outlet for you....), as a person with a somewhat conservative day job, I do understand it.  I also understand the struggle to find the proper venue for a show.  Not only do the ceilings need to be high enough, and the set-up needs to be right, but the venue has to understand what you'll be doing.  In the beginning of the movie, Jess is calling venues to set up a show, and then tries to explain what pole dance is.  I feel like I made those exact same calls in the early days of the creation of NCPP.  We really only lucked out with a fantastic venue because Ellen had connections.  Otherwise, almost three years later, I might still be making those calls.

It was absolutely amazing to see where Jagged trains.  I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone, but you have to watch it for the sheer brilliance of how their practice space gets set up.  Seriously, I want to live there.  I mean, you know, if they had a space like that here in Northern California that wasn't on International Boulevard in Oakland.  It really does show you the heart that these ladies have.  It is the love of dance and pole that drives them to make due with what they have and create a most beautiful show.  

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I LOVE GROUPS!  I don't want to discount all of the amazing solo dancers I have watched, and I have been very lucky to see some of the most famous pole dancers in person.  I have been completely spoiled to see the best of the best perform.  So I feel like watching the creativity that comes out when a group of polers gets together is like eating the most delicious chocolate and the calories not counting (it's a serious compliment from a fat girl).  

The movie not only follows the path of Jagged and Jessica from approximately 2010 to 2014, but also includes interviews from some of my favorite pole celebrities and pioneers of modern pole.  I also recognized many of the dancers in Jagged from various showcases and competitions that I have attended.  It was a lot of fun to put the pieces together and realize how many of these girls I had watched before.  I also feel like Jagged was way before its time.  Pole was very much a solo gig all the way back in 2010.  I started poling in 2009.  I attended California Pole Dance in 2010.  All solos.  Pole Show LA had some doubles and groups.  Then Pole Convention had doubles and groups.  I'm sure there were plenty of doubles and groups happening before I realized it but I still remember seeing Mina and Nadia perform for the first time and being completely blown away.  I also remember watching Jagged compete at Masters (maybe this was 2012 or 2013?  I'm getting old).  They were beautiful to watch, and perhaps that is where my love affair with groups began.  

I really believe that polers should watch this documentary.  It does a great job of showing, not only how pole dancers are often treated, but how difficult it is to be an artist.  These ladies put their hearts, souls, and, often, all of their money into this art.  This movie is especially for those polers who are just starting to dance.  For every one of them who won't have to hear, "isn't pole dancing for strippers?"  (Because, let's be honest, even if you support strippers, it gets old when everyone asks you that question.)  A debt of gratitude is owed to all of the pole dancers that came before them.  Fawnia in 1994.  Sheila in 2000.  And every amazing poler since.  One of the girls in the movie had a great line:  The pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their back.  I believe that Jessica and Jagged are part of pole history and I applaud them for sharing themselves with us in this movie.  

Jessica is competing this weekend in PSO's Nationals championship.  In honor of Jess, Off The Floor is offering a $3 discount off the price of the movie.  Just use the code: USNPC.  I am a busy person and I often find myself having a hard time sitting through movies, but I found this one to be engaging and completely worth 90 minutes.  The website is:  www.offthefloormovie.com.  

Go watch it, come let me know what you thought, then wish Jessica good luck this weekend at Nationals!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Not So Happy Feet

Last year, I chronicled my latest adventures with my feet (I had plantar fascial release on my right foot in 2013).  I was having the Graston technique performed, and after maybe 10-12 visits, by February of this year, my foot pain completely went away.  It was fantastic.

I got a few months of relief, then the pain started creeping in again.  I don't know what happened.  I can't blame my weight.  I essentially weigh the same.  Perhaps I am more active.  I am definitely hitting my yoga classes 4-5 days per week (plus I was doing pole every other week until I hurt my shoulder about a month ago, and hiking when I can get it in).  You would think that stretching wouldn't cause pain.

I signed up for a 5k in late July, so I started Couch to 5k again a few weeks ago (well, kind of started Couch to 5k).  The pain started before the jogging.  I did exactly two days of running and got scared that I would cause myself more misery so I got back in to see Angela and have her do the Graston technique on me.  This time, she added cups.  The suction brings pain relief almost instantly.  Unfortunately, the relief doesn't last forever.  (P.S.  The jogging never equaled additional pain.)

So, I don't know what it is.  Maybe I'm on my feet more at this new job (which I still LOVE, by the way).  Maybe the yoga IS too much.  Maybe my shoes are offending my feet.  Probably my sugar addiction is adding to the inflammation and pain (even though I'm so much better, there is freaking sugar in EVERYTHING).  Some days I just recognize I may never know what perfect storm set off this round of pain.  What I have learned is that I am what I eat, and if I am whining about my pain all the time, I just find more pain.  So, I am talking about it matter of factly but I am not trying to dwell on it.  I am not letting it hold me back from doing any of the things I want to do, but I am trying to be smart about rolling my feet out with a small ball (MELT Method) and icing on occasion.  I have also learned that if you don't use it, you lose it.  No matter what, I need to keep moving.

I have been working on something regarding food and health that I'm not ready to talk about yet.  But I feel like I'm in a much better place mentally than I have been in awhile.  The one thing I'm learning is that I need to stop beating myself up because that is what holds me back.  I hope to unveil a mentally healthier me in a few short months.

Do you have any foot pain tips?  Finding the Graston technique has been life changing for me.  Has anyone else tried it?

My sister got married last weekend -- thank goodness we weren't in heels all day!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blood labs, sugar, and diet pills...WTF

I am eleven years out from gastric bypass surgery.  Every year I go in to have my blood drawn and my vitamin levels tested.  Pretty much every year, at least one thing is bad.  On a fairly consistent basis, though, my liver panels have been off.  Right after surgery, apparently it was expected.  Quick weight loss causes fatty liver.  Who knew?  But in the long term, what causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is...SUGAR!

My favorite pole performance
Last year, I updated everyone on my post-surgery blood labs.  It was a lot of the same.  If you: Eat better.  Exercise more.  Lose weight.  Your levels will fix themselves.  My vitamins were okay but my liver panels were off.  Last night, I went in for my annual appointment.  I had expectations that they would be pretty good.  Sure, I've been struggling a bit with sugar lately, but I am NOWHERE near where I was last year when I started this adventure with Ellen.  My doctor comes in with the lab results.  My liver panels jumped.  Really high.  And my doctor's response?  Here are some diet pills.

How did I get back here?

I blame my weight but I actually did a spreadsheet today to track my labs over the last few years.  It is the AST and ALT that are always elevated.  So, let's see if there's a pattern.

Date          Weight          AST (10-30)          ALT (6-29)
3/2013        257               33                           21                          (fairly normal levels)
6/2014        257               57                           37                          (started working with Ellen)
9/2014        246               42                           29
12/2014      244               39                           29                          (almost normal again!)
6/2015        255               48                           30                          (WTF?!)

Okay, I went from 263 pounds (12/2013) down to 242 (10/2014) and now back up to 255, but why did the AST jump ten points?  When I weighed essentially the same weight in 2013, my levels were normal!  (P.S. I started that really crappy job in San Francisco in October 2012 and left in February 2014.  It is entirely possibly that the horrible numbers in 2014 were a direct result of how many cupcakes (and really unhealthy lunches) I was eating at that job.  My favorite sandwich was a grilled cheese with mac and cheese in the middle.  Seriously.)

I was broken when I left my doctor's office.  I didn't say a word.  I just took that stupid prescription.  My mind was racing.  What could it hurt to take a few pills?  Lose the weight, stop taking them, then I'll be all fixed and I won't gain the weight back...this time.  I think I've been through this before.  So many times, I can't even count.  Luckily, I looked up the prescription and learned I had actually already taken it under a different name and had a really bad reaction to it (it is also an anti-depressant).  I already knew I shouldn't take that prescription but that helped me make a more final decision.  No diet pills for me.  I e-mailed my doctor and explained why I wouldn't be turning in the prescription.  His response was that I needed to take this seriously because fatty liver could kill me.  Life is going to kill me.  And so will all the drugs doctors try to push on me.

I went to yoga and cried through the entire class.  I cried all the way home.  I cried while I fell asleep.  It's the same question I ask every time.  WHY ME?  Why do *I* have to struggle so much with these issues?  I know that drugs and surgery and diets aren't the way to fix me.  With Ellen's help, I KNOW how to do all the right stuff.  I need my brain fixed.  I need the thing fixed that tells me I need to turn to sugar (or shopping...now you understand why I don't have credit cards even though my debit card number has been stolen twice this year already!) when any amount of stress hits me.  Because I went months last year without issue.  I don't even know if there was a single issue that made me turn back to sugar.  Maybe just the fact that it was available in my office because Halloween happened and there was candy at every desk.  What I do know is that I need to stop thinking about sugar as an optional item.  I can't have it.  There is no "everything in moderation" for me.  I cannot handle sugar (and no one should...go watch the documentary, Fed Up).

I am still listening to the Psychology of Eating podcasts and watching their videos.  I would like to save up for their eight week online program.  I found a program in my own town that may be covered by my insurance, but it requires me to leave work an hour early four days a week for 11 weeks.  I'm not ready to tell them I'm that broken.  Plus, it seems to focus on modeling good food behaviors.  I know the right behaviors.  I need my brain fixed.  I am searching for a new psychologist who actually specializes in eating disorders.  I have gone to therapy many times, but I never really make my food issues a topic of discussion.

In the meantime, Ellen would also like me to get tested for food and gut sensitivities.  She can help make an educated guess about what is happening inside my body, but since I've had my digestive system re-routed, we don't really know.  The good news is that I didn't let last night's freak out turn into a sugar binge today.  I have been working out consistently (yoga generally five days a week, Jazzercise once a week, couch to 5k once a week; soon to get back to pole after a shoulder strain a month ago).  I am still eating proper meals way more often than not (but will admit I eat popcorn for dinner when I'm in "that" kind of mood -- it is made with olive oil though and popped on the stove, not in the microwave).  The candy has been banished from my office.  I'm not even adding sugar to my tea in the morning!  I do still wonder why the fuck I keep passing up cupcakes at work, though, if my labs are going to keep doing whatever they feel like doing.

Someday soon, I hope, I will be a normal girl.  A girl who just gets up every day and only has to worry about which outfit she is going to wear to work.  I should track all of my thoughts about food and weight so I can actually show people how much of my life is wasted worrying about dumb shit.

Point your toes!
Anyway, I am still feeling grateful for the friends who listen to me and help me as much as they can.  I know no one can save me but me...and I am still trying to do that.  I was just thinking the other day how awesome my life has been lately and I started worrying how I would deal when something "bad" happened.  I guess in the whole scheme of "bad," this was really no big deal.  And I talked myself down without any true damage.  Once again, I have to just take it one day at a time.  It is time to merge what I've learned from Ellen with the skills a psychologist can hopefully give me to help with this crazy brain I have.

My niece is only six months old.  I don't want her to see me like this.  I don't want her to learn how to have a disordered relationship with food or hate her body because she sees her Aunty that way.  I was named after my mom's best friend.  She was my Auntie Lori.  She had anorexia.  And she killed herself six years ago.  I can't be that Aunty Lori.  I need to be healthy and strong to show that little girl that women can be any shape or size, still be healthy and still love their bodies.

If you have any suggestions for podcasts or websites that may help, please suggest them below.  I'm desperate and I will do anything to fix myself!

Monday, June 15, 2015

DXA Scan Update

I feel like you are looking at me naked!
In 2013, only a few months after my foot surgery, I had a DXA scan.   A year and a half later, I went back for an update.  I have lost a few pounds (damn, I should have done this last year before the Halloween candy got to me).  I am working out five to six days a week.  I am eating way better.  I must have SO MANY MUSCLES!

Boy, did I disappoint myself.

I was a mere four pounds lighter at my latest appointment.  My lean mass went up by two pounds.  My fat mass went down by four pounds.  Not sure how that math works out...  My body fat percentage went down a whopping 1.3%.  Once again, I can't blame anything on being big boned.  My bones weighed in at only 6.2 pounds.

I realize that, like the scale, these numbers don't define me, give me purpose in life or really mean anything.  But it sure is disappointing to feel like I am making an effort and not seeing results.  I don't know what number would have made me happy.  Perhaps this was something that will always be a set-up to feel disappointment.  The one thing I've learned in life is that having expectations is a sure-fire way to feel disappointed as things usually don't go the way I planned.

Practicing baby yoga with Tsunami
Part of the reason I wanted to get my fat checked in the first place was to check the visceral fat, which is the new big-bad for this season.  It is the fat that packs your organs and supposedly makes your body struggle to work properly.  I feel like since I had my plastic/skin removal surgeries, my body shape has changed.  I now have saddlebags on my thighs, which I never had before.  I also carry a lot of extra back fat, which I never had before.  The fat essentially now gathers right above and right below my lower body lift scar, which completely encircles my body.  The pounds of fat in those areas (android and gynoid) were virtually unchanged (although the body fat percentages were slightly lower).  It is hard to tell from the diagram, but it appears that my visceral fat is around the same, and my back fat is considered subcutaneous, which is supposed to be less dangerous.

The one cool thing is a virtual-me was created as part of my latest appointment with DexaFit SF Bay Area, located in San Carlos.  If I do lose some fat and go back to get re-scanned, I can watch virtual-me change as well.  It's kind of fun!  I am watching my food a lot more carefully again, and I know I'm not supposed to expect weight loss, but part of me is still hoping.  My focus does remain on being strong, not getting thin.  And my chaturanga continues to get stronger!  That is pretty exciting.

Have you ever tried to measure your body fat?  How did you do it and what did you think about the process?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cleo's Rock N Pole

Last month, I took on the challenging of trying Cleo's Rock N Pole website.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided a free month of lessons in exchange for reviewing the site.  My plan was to approach the lessons from the perspective of a plus-sized pole dancer who no longer has a pole at home.

Cleo's Rock N Pole is a combination of Cleo's previously-produced DVDs, as well as new lessons and challenges by Cleo, in addition to some videos by guest instructors.  I like how the lessons are grouped.  There are clearly marked sections for the warm-up, fundamentals/pole (broken down by level), floor/chairplay or strength/flexibility training.  In the Rock N Pole section, you can find cute choreographed routines.  I found there were plenty of lessons for someone who does not have a pole at home.  I especially was interested in flexibility and strengthening exercises as I feel like I am constantly battling weight issues and injuries.

I enjoyed the Rockin Legs N Abs (RLNA) daily challenges (found under flexibility).  I was able to follow the videos fairly easily, although I have to say that Cleo moves really quickly.  I would sometimes catch myself trying to keep up, but felt like I was sacrificing my form.  I noticed that when I did some of the moves at half time, I was still sore and sweaty at the end, so it was good to listen to my body.  I really appreciated that Cleo's voice overs often offered modifications and encouraged beginners (or inflexible people like me) to be careful about pushing themselves into moves for which they aren't ready.  The lessons are also accompanied by specific hashtags so you can take to social media to search for others who may be doing the same challenge if you have questions or need motivation.

I would say the hardest thing about doing any kind of home workout is the fact that you are trying to do it alone.  It can set you up to injure yourself, it can be lonely, and it can be hard to motivate yourself to continue the program.  Cleo has a really active group on Facebook called Rockin' Legs N' Abs.  It is a great place to connect with others to receive the moral support that you may sometimes need to motivate yourself to bang out that late night workout even though you're exhausted.  With members from around the world, you will probably always find someone online and willing to chat.  Cleo's site also offers a blog and community tab to help people connect as well.  My biggest concern with any DVD or online workout videos is that those new to this kind of workout may injure themselves.  I believe if you have spent any time in group exercise classes, though, you usually know well enough if you are doing something you shouldn't.  If it hurts, stop.  Definitely talk to your doctor if you are just starting up a workout program for the fist time.

I am an extremely inflexible human so a month of working on my flexibility didn't really give me noticeable results.  I am 18 years into doing yoga and the fact that I can now touch my toes in a forward bend is a huge accomplishment.  However, I did really enjoy Cleo's workouts.  I hope that you will check out her site and then come back and tell me what you thought!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Body Alignment

I think I first heard Katy Bowman on the Joe Rogan podcast.  Those podcasts run three hours so you really get to know a lot about each guest.  So much of what she said about pain in the body and body alignment made sense.  I immediately got on her website and started downloading her podcast.  

Katy is a biomechanist, and she basically tells people how to move properly.  From walking to sitting, she has interesting information on what we are all doing wrong.  Cavemen weren't used to sitting in front of computers 12 hours a day.  Our bodies are made to move freely, not sit captive.  She doesn't have a couch in her house (she sits on the floor).  She doesn't even sleep in a real bed!  

Katy has written several books, including Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, and Alignment Matters.  She has a blog on her website and also offers exercise videos (for a fee).  

From her post about "Diseases of Captivity:"

It’s so much easier to see diseases of captivity in other species. In my next book there’s an entire section that explains the floppy orca fin, how it occurs in captivity, how to recognize your own “floppy fin,” and why exercise does not replace movement.
From SeaWorld: “While a killer whale can and occasionally might travel as much as 100 miles in a day, it should be said that swimming that distance is not integral to a whale’s health and well-being. It is likely foraging behavior. Given the challenge of finding and killing as much as 300 pounds of prey every day, killer whales in the wild — like any species — conserve energy and move only as much as necessary. Killer whales living in our parks are given all the food they require. They also exercise, receive veterinary care, live in the company of other members of their species, and receive mental stimulation. They adapt very well to life in a zoological setting.” Anyone else see the similarities between what SeaWorld is telling us and what we are telling ourselves?
Or a post about exercise:
Exercise is convenient, for sure, but it can also be a highly processed version of what our body requires from movement. Exercise can fall way short of the nutrients movement provides. In short, exercise is the junk food of moving.
Katy believes in eating well and moving naturally.  I've never heard anyone take it to the level she does, but it is all very interesting to me.  
There's almost too much information to digest on her website.  I'm thinking about picking up one of her books.  I am still on the hunt for a permanent fix on a lot of my body issues, and this is just another step in the right (I hope) direction.  I won't be getting rid of my bed or anything, but I am interested in being more aware of my alignment and adding more natural movement to my day.  Has anyone else heard of Katy or her natural movement?  I would love to hear about your experiences!
Not natural movement but still much enjoyed pigeon pose

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sixth Annual Lovely Rita Fundraiser

Last month, Twirly Girls hosted the SIXTH annual Lovely Rita Fundraiser to benefit the National Kidney Foundation.  It does not seem possible that we are six years into throwing these events, but we are!  Late last year, I asked the other instructors to do one long instructor piece instead of each of us dancing separately (this is a popular show, and we could very easily end up with 25+ performances if we aren't careful).  They said yes!  (Although not everyone was excited about my song choice.)  If you want to donate to the cause, please visit THIS link.

Then watch our video and leave a comment with your thoughts!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Chunky Girl Comics at Big Wow Comicfest 2015

Chunky Girl Comics has returned to Big Wow Comicfest!  [You can see photos from last year's adventure HERE.]  In addition to Marisa's table, we were privileged to sit on a panel: Fierce, Fab and Fluffy, which discussed body diversity and plus sized issues in comics and pop culture.  It was another amazing event.  It was so much fun, seeing old faces and meeting new ones.  We ran into Damion Poitier again (who makes me turn into a bumbling idiot who can't find their words, and who is one of the nicest celebrities I've ever met).  The day ended in a mechanical "bull" ride...in a corset.  I have much love to those guys for helping me not fall off.  It's hard enough to ride that thing...it was even harder when you can't bend!!  Video does exist.  Check it out on the fan page:

Riding the bull. In a corset.
Posted by Confessions of a Twirly Girl on Saturday, April 18, 2015

Thanks again to Marisa, Gia and Jess for another awesome Chunky Girl event!

Getting ready

lil bit helping me get ready

The amazing Ray of Tragic Hero Comics

Saw my friend, Jenna!

Prom pose!  Again.  

Damion Poitier


Best day ever

Thank you, Marisa for catching these awesome shots!