Shots and needles.

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Mae is the nurse that taught me how to give myself shots. We’ve been friends for 10+ years. Early morning hours before we took off on our 100 mile bike ride for Tour de Cure for Diabetes 2014.

“I could never give myself a shot.  How did you learn to do it?”

I was told I was diabetic and the doctor literally gave me a bag with a vial of insulin and a handful of syringes in it.

He walked out the door…

I was scared to death. Being told I was full-blown diabetic was scary enough, but now I was going to be on insulin. I was given NO INSTRUCTIONS on how to give myself a shot.  It was ALL just a little (ok… a lot…) too much.

The doc did tell me they had to be done in a very specific way; administered within an 8 inch radius of my belly button.  Did I understand what he was telling me.  I numbly nodded yes… (I tend to do that when I am totally intimidated or totally lost… 🙂 )

I sat there dazed, confused, starting to cry… Mae walked in the room.  Mae was the nurse. And this is how I remember what happened next…

Me: Crying in earnest now…  ‘I don’t know how to give myself a shot.  And I have to…”  (There may have been some wailing or sobbing or arm-flapping in there… Mae could tell you in better detail.)

Mae:  ‘Let’s see what is in that bag in your hands. We will figure this out…’

She proceeded to calmly and reassuringly talk me through what each thing was and how it was used.  She told me to get a Sharp’s container and alcohol pads. She talked me through how to give myself a shot.

I dried the tears after a while and walked out.

I knew that I HAD NO CHOICE. It was something I was simply going to have to do it.  I would just have to learn.

I got home and put everything on the counter.

I fished around for what I needed and eventually drew the meds into the syringe.

Then I stood there… With the needle pointed at my belly… Thumb on the plunger of the syringe…

I knew I had to give myself the shot.

So I started this ‘dance‘.  I don’t know what else to call it.  I was basically chasing myself around the kitchen…  I would try to bring the syringe in close and I would back away from MYSELF. I have no other explanation to offer. I was chasing myself around the kitchen. I am positive it looked totally ridiculous.

And then I stood still some more with the needle poised… WILLING myself to just give myself the damn shot.

I COULD NOT do this...

I cried some more. Cussed a lot. Stomped my feet. Threw the syringe.

Deep breath.

Cussing fluently and quite creatively at this point – but with less volume…

I retrieved the syringe and checked to make sure it was all in one piece and that the right amount of insulin was still in it.

Ok.  So maybe if I metaphorically ‘took a running jump…’?  You know — STOPPED thinking about it so much and just jumped in with both feet???

That’s how people conquer things they are afraid of — they JUST do it…

So I grabbed the syringe in both hands.

Stood there for a moment and then finally got up the nerve…

I STABBED myself in the gut.

HARD.

Much like a scene from Romeo and Juliet – with the dagger…  I used enough force that I knocked the wind out of myself. I wound up sporting a faint, softball sized bruise on my belly that looked remarkably like my fist.  🙂

But I got it done!

Turns out those needles are fine gauge and short. You can barely feel them.  HONEST!  There were several times over the years where I would give myself a shot and have to look down and check to make sure the needle had actually connected with my belly.

But that first time?

That first time I had to give myself a shot?

That was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. PURE fear. But I got it done.

I just did it. 🙂

(Nike has it right.)  🙂

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Success AND failure…

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My sis. 🙂

My sister called me out the other day. As only a sister can.

In a blog, I said I had failed at ALL kinds of diets. I listed Weight Watchers (WW) as a failure.

My relationship with WW is actually a much more complicated and nuanced story than simple success or failure.

WW was an important part of my recent weight loss journey. I was with the program for over 2 years (2011-2013). Never missed a meeting in all that time. They taught and fostered habits I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

My sister was right to call me out on not giving them proper credit.

I was trying to make the point that I had tried and failed at a ton of programs because I wasn’t MENTALLY ready to commit and succeed. My history with WW had been fraught with failure.  It remains the most failed diet program of all time for me.  I attempted WW at least 14 times that I can remember.  It was the very first diet I ever did with my mom when I was 12-13.

Why was I successful this time around??!

I was mentally READY.  

WW worked well for me this time around for 2+ years and 100+ pounds BECAUSE I was really, truly ready to work at it.

Have whiplash yet? 🙂

So then, what prompted me to list WW as a failure?

I reached a point, a year ago, where WW was no longer working for the life I was trying to build. It was not a decision I made lightly or easily. It was like breaking-up with a long-time friend…

After a lengthy discussion with Jim, my WW leader, he said; “The need for you to transition to something else simply shows your growth and life changes. It is not a flaw in the WW program.”

He is right.

Here is what Jim and I talked about…

My needs were becoming drastically different. I was active and falling in love with endurance sports. Being focused on calorie restriction WHILE trying to run longer distances was driving me crazy. I made the decision that my focus for 2014 was going to be training hard to run long distances, eating to fuel what I wanted to do and learning to not worry about what I weighed.

Because…

I had become obsessed with the numbers on the scale. Anxiety over the weekly weigh-ins. Stepping on my home scale 2-3 times a day to make sure I wasn’t gaining DURING THE DAY. I would not eat or drink the day of a weigh-in if I felt I was in jeopardy of gaining for the week. Even on days when I was running or working out.

At this point in the story folks usually become alarmed…

Rightfully so. 

This was NOT EVEN REMOTELY HEALTHY behavior.  It was stupid, unsafe, unhealthy, mental BS.  And WW would NEVER, EVER condone that type of behavior if they were aware of it.

I felt trapped in a ‘competition’ against a scale.

It had to end.

Lastly, I encountered a philosophical difference with WW. The part of my brain that wanted to have a relationship with food that was intentional and thoughtful had been fighting against a ‘free for all’ mentality.  Let me explain…

Weight Watchers is trying to help people eat healthier foods while restricting calories so they can lose weight. They have a category of ‘free‘ foods (essentially lower-carb fruits/veggies) that you can eat until you are satisfied and you don’t have to count the calories.

How many of us who seek out weight loss programs (especially those of us who are repeat customers…) are truly capable of discerning ‘full to satisfaction‘?  Or are capable of eating in moderation?!??  If we were capable of ANY of that we WOULD NOT NEED the program.  Just saying…

Here’s how my messed-up brain works…

So, I have eating/food issues, I habitually and willingly overeat and you are telling me FOOD IS FREE?!! Awesome!  Even if it’s food I don’t like — I like it now.  It’s free!  I can eat ALL I WANT! I have permission to over-eat, because it’s FREE! And I WILL find a way to overeat, I have spent a life time doing it.  I’m DAMN good at it.

*Spoiler alert*

As it turns out all foods have caloric and nutritional values. Nothing is really free. 

I have finally accepted and embraced this not-at-all-sexy-cool-or-fun truth.

I now count calories. ALL the calories.


My sister was right. WW deserves due credit for giving me tools, structure, support and help. To an outsider it looked like I had nothing but success with the program. Then I left, quietly. Most of the WW folks have no clue what my history was, what my reasons were.

WW gave me some great tools, helped me establish some critical and needed habits.

And I do need to thank WW for those fundamental gifts.

(For the record… My sister is still speaking to me. 🙂 )

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Jim! My current friend and former WW leader. And trail running partner. We were 2.5 hours into a 5 hour run. 🙂

Portable excuses.

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‘I get caught in situations where I do not have access to smart food choices. I wind up eating things I didn’t plan on eating…’

Holiday parties? Extra-long commute home after a busy day? Endless meetings at work?

I think we all get caught in situations where we are hungry and our options for healthy foods are limited.

For me; THOSE situations were the exact excuse I was always looking for to allow overeating/ binging/ permissible gluttony. I mean — if the situation was out of my control THEN making poor food choices wasn’t REALLY my fault. Right?

‘I had no choice, Taco Bell was the only drive through around’, ‘It was quick and easy to grab, and I’m really busy’, ‘I will get right back to healthy eating just as soon as I’m not starving…” or ‘It was cake.” (Cake is simply its own classification of excuses. 🙂 )

Mind you, I wasn’t having these conversations WITH anyone, they were simply the excuse generators working seamlessly in my head.

I didn’t really WANT to plan ahead. That would mean I had NO excuses to eat all the things I thought I loved… Fast food, chips, candy, cake…

This ‘excuse’ thinking was a deeply entrenched bad habit. One so well-tuned and so cleverly hidden that it took me almost a year to truly figure out WHAT the underlying issue was.

At the core — it’s a simple (I did NOT say easy… I said simple…) mental battle…  Here’s what my dad always tells me;

If you want to, you will find the way.  

If you don’t, you’ll find the excuse.

I really, really wanted my weight, my diabetes and my issues with food to all be someone else’s fault. I needed, wanted, allowed EXCUSES to rule my weight and my eating.

Placing blame is so much more comforting, rewarding and freeing than having to ACCEPT  and shoulder the blame.

So, I finally figured out that PLANNING ahead in regards to food was a very BIG step for me.  It was going to be a critical skill if I was going to be successful in forging a new lifestyle.


When I pack my bag(s) for the day, I always check my purse to make sure I have some kind of snack stashed away.  I don’t leave the house without going through the mental checklist; Wallet, keys, lipstick, snack… 🙂

Here’s what you can usually find in my purse/car/desk/gym bag:

  • bottle of water
  • apple
  • 150-220 calorie bar of some sort (Kind bars or TRIO bars are my current favorites.)
  • small bag of mixed nuts

Something to eat so that my options are NOT entirely limited.

So, do you have a favorite portable snack, routine or trick for remembering to take along something healthy??!

Please SHARE!  I would love some new ideas that we can all use.

My top tips?

  • I keep a box of Kind/TRIO bars are in the truck of my car and in my desk.
  • I have a small stash of healthy snacks at work. I re-stock it every Monday morning.
  • I volunteer to be the one to bring food/snacks. I have control of my food and responsibility for feeding others WHICH always motivates me.
  • I gave my good friends permission to remind me to pack a snack. I promised not to bite their heads off.

These tricks and tips no longer allow me as many excuses.

I may not get it right ALL the time, but I get it right MORE of the time.

Bra runs amok

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Marie, me, Mary, and Anneke. Tour de Outback bike ride in Lakeview Oregon in 2012. First bike ride event for me, SO FUN!

Women who are active and endowed with certain ‘charms’ need GOOD sports bras.

No way around it.

I have become somewhat of an expert on sports bras since deciding I wanted to live an active life. Let’s call it necessity. Or self defense. 🙂

Let me tell you a story…

My friend Anneke TOLD me several times early in my lifestyle-change journey that I needed to get a ‘good sports bra’.  Her exact words to me were ‘Betsy. DO NOT run to Walmart and buy a cheap, uni-boob, stretchy sports bra. They don’t provide support. Spend the money and buy a decent one.”

I was losing weight and was NOT going to spend $50 on a bra that would not fit in less than 2 months.

So I ran to Walmart and bought TWO cheap, uni-boob, stretchy sports bras. I did NOT tell Anneke what I had done. (I’m guessing that RIGHT ABOUT NOW she has figured it out.. 🙂 )

Prior to figuring out they made sports bras in larger sizes or that I really did need a special bra for running/jumping/moving?  I was doubling up my regular bras, a very COMMON practice for larger busted/overweight women. I have a feeling I am the only one dumb enough to publicly admit to this practice.

But, you do what you have to do.

Anyway, I signed up for a bootcamp class led by another friend, Amy. Her fitness bootcamp classes are well known in our area for being really fun and a welcoming spot for all abilities. About 75-100 people in a gym all jumping and moving and sweating. Fantastic music. Everyone having a great time for an intense hour of cardio.

I and my new sports bra went to her class.

About 15 minutes in — we do something called a burpee.

Variations abound, BUT the basic concept is: You start by standing up straight, quickly drop to a push-up position, do an actual push-up, hop back up quickly and then with your hands over your head — you jump for the sky.  Repeat multiple times. Fast, fluid, strong.

I did the push-up part of the burpee and when we got to the ‘jump for the sky’ part…

All hell broke loose.

When I landed, the girls unceremoniously tumbled out of the bottom of the handy-dandy sports bra…

The CHEAP piece of crap bra then proceeded to quickly and tightly roll itself up toward my neck.

Kind of like an old fashioned window shade.

So… Standing in the back of Amy’s class with everyone doing burpees… I am being choked by my bra.

AND my boobs are very decidedly NOT in the bra.

I am a sweaty mess. In a form fitting workout shirt. Boobs loose. Bra choking me.

I tried to discreetly unravel the bra from my neck and armpits… It became obvious that it was NOT going to happen…

At this point I’m on the verge of hysterical laughter…  Not tears.  I KNOW full well that this is damn funny and totally stupid.

But I also have NO real clue how to undo this holy-freaking-sweaty mess without having to walk through what feels like 1,000 people to the bathroom on the other side of the gym which now feels bigger than a football field.

I have no choice.

I crossed my arms and made a red-faced hobble/dash for the safety of the bathroom.  I got everything put back where it belonged. I quickly went back out to the class and gave it half-hearted gusto. Keeping my arms GLUED strategically to my sides. 🙂

I got home and promptly tossed BOTH bras in the trash can with some creative language thrown in to make me feel better. I silently vowed NEVER to tell a word of this story to Anneke. Ever.

I immediately set out on a mission to find a better sports bra so that I could keep going to bootcamp with Amy.

Over the next year or so I tried EVERY bra they made in my size. Varying degrees of success.  Mercifully there were no more epic, public failures. 🙂

About a year later, I was whole-heartedly trying to learn to run. And it was – uh – apparent that I would need a REALLY good sports bra.  Better than the ones I had found on my own at that point. I needed one that had exceptional motion control, would protect my back and would not chafe me.

I asked Spencer (running coach) to please connect me with any of the local female athletes he knew so i could ask them a question.  He introduced me to Taryn.

Taryn is an athlete and dietician. She also happened to be working at a running store.  A quick email to her with far too many personal details and within a day or two she had me in a GREAT sports/running bra. One I could RUN, jump, move around in with NO ISSUES! It fit perfectly! To this VERY day that bra has never betrayed me. And I’ve put it to the test. 🙂

What I learned from all of this was:

  • Sports bras really do come in all sizes. ALL sizes. It may cost you, but remember what it could cost you NOT to have a good bra. 🙂  Pay the money and get a good one.
  • Ask your local RUNNING store for help.  Guy, girl – NO matter.  Those folks in running stores have heard it all.  And runners have to have some of the best motion control on the planet.
  • On a similar note… Yoga bras and some of the other fun/cutesy bras are not necessarily serious about keeping the girls locked down and in place during high impact sports. ($58 bucks for the TaTaTamer and it does not tame the Ta Ta’s.)
  • Read reviews on websites. Large busted women/over weight women have compassion for their well-endowed sisters and will usually post what the issues/benefits are in pretty plain language.

So the moral of this story?

Burpees are bad for you. (KIDDING! Amy I’m kidding!)

Listen to your friends who are speaking from hard-earned experience.

Invest in a good sports bra. 🙂

apples to apples

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I usually have an apple stashed in my office, car, purse… Within arm’s reach. 🙂 Photo credit to Dr. Greg Thompson; hands down one of the best teacher-educators on the planet.  He retires the end of this year.

‘What ONE piece of advice do you have for chronic ‘dieters’ who really, really want to be successful this time around?’

LEARN what HUNGER really feels like.

I was brutally honest with myself when I started this journey 3+ years ago.  I knew that I had a really big problem, a really unhealthy relationship with food. And that I was going to be trying to stabilize blood sugars, get off of insulin, lose weight AND trying to find answers to some complicated food issues. ALL at the same time.

I like to keep things interesting.

I knew that perhaps my biggest hurdle was that I fundamentally did not understand hunger.

My body had NOT BEEN HUNGRY in years.  I didn’t know the feeling.

I was so, so used to simply eating because it was mealtime, or I passed the frig, or it was in front of me, or because it was a special occasion, or…

And I’m not alone.  In any conversation with folks who have lots to lose, at some point our conversation will come around to hunger.  And the ways we ignore it, abuse it, refuse to allow it to happen…

I had to figure out what it meant to be hungry if I was EVER going to get a handle on overeating.

I was pretty sure that the only way to have long-term success was going to be tied to whether I could feel, understand and respond to hunger.

So I came up with a trick that would a) teach me to understand what hunger was and b) wouldn’t mess too badly with my blood sugar.

Apples.

Honeycrisp apples to be specific.

I put a BUCKET of apples in the fridge.

And I made a deal with myself…

Anytime I thought I was hungry and it really didn’t make sense for me to be hungry (had just eaten lunch, had eaten most of my calories for the day, etc…) I could eat an apple.

And only an apple.

IF I was indeed hungry enough to eat an apple…  Then I was probably legitimately hungry.

IF I was NOT hungry enough to eat an apple…  Then I was simply cruising for food out of HABIT or bored or emotions or….  I would eat nothing.

If I was NOT hungry enough to eat an apple — I was not hungry.

I used apples to train myself to at least STOP and recognize if what I was experiencing was TRUE hunger.

The worst day I had?  I ate 6 apples. 🙂

I had days where I just couldn’t tell if I was hungry or mentally craving food/comfort/company.  So I ate apples.  Burden/guilt free…  I was trying to teach myself to learn something new, so I gave myself permission to eat as many apples as needed.

And BOY did I learn. And man alive did I eat a lot of apples those first few months. 🙂

Just this week I had to buy another big ol’ bag of apples and put it front-and-center in the fridge to REMIND me to listen to my hunger.  And not just eat because I’m bored or tired or frustrated or lazy.

I don’t think we are ever done learning. 

And as much as you do NOT want to hear this… I don’t know that we — if we have a food addiction/issues/overeat — are EVER off the hook. We have to stay vigilant about not letting the bad behaviors creep back in. 

Which is why there is a big bag of apples in my fridge even after 3+ years on this journey.

I find it ironic and fun that while we give apples to teachers as gifts, in my case APPLES have BEEN my teachers. 🙂

So what DO I eat these days?!

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Sunrise. Day at a time.  (Photo credit; Jeff Sherman)

I was at an event for work and a woman who hadn’t seen me in a while walked up to me during the reception;

‘I’m just going to follow you around and watch what you eat. I need to lose some weight.  Maybe I can learn from you.’

Confession?

Nothing makes me more self conscious than knowing someone is watching or judging what I eat.

I spent a lifetime trying to hide the true bulk of what I was really consuming. And I got REALLY good at making sure no single person had the whole picture.

I mean, c’mon… I KNOW I was WEARING my poor eating habits for the whole world to see. But I had pretty solidly convinced myself I was hiding things well enough to deflect major attention.

Insecurities run deep and old habits die hard. Even now, I will still find ways to skip social events that involve food if at all possible.

Throw into this particular awkward ‘party’ mix that I had just done a LONG run. What could that possibly have to do with food you wonder??!  I was eating anything and everything that was not nailed down. I had burned 1,000+ calories running that morning and I was freaking HUNGRY.

And someone wanted to watch me eat?!  Egad… 

So, I promised her that I would share what I used to eat compared to what I eat these days.  She promised to stop following me around. 🙂


So how do you get to be almost 400 pounds and a type 2 diabetic?

Here’s how: I would consume roughly 3,500-5,000 calories on any given day of fast food, carbs and highly processed foods. I was not exercising. This was how I spent the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

A fairly typical day looked like.

  • Breakfast: McDonalds Sausage biscuit, hash browns, large diet coke
  • Snack: Chips, large diet Dr. Pepper
  • Lunch: Qdoba nachos loaded, large diet coke
  • Snack: Candy or more chips, large diet Dr. Pepper
  • Pre-dinner snack: 2 McDonald’s cheeseburgers, large fries, large diet coke.
  • Dinner: Chicken enchilada casserole, rice and beans, chips and salsa
  • Snack: Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream

Unbelievable that someone could eat that poorly, that much?  I WISH I was making this stuff up… But I really did eat all that stuff. Daily.

I have witnesses. Hell, I have PROOF.

My weight and a type 2 (T2) diabetes diagnosis are confirmation that this was pretty typical fare for me. FOR YEARS.

You don’t just suddenly wake up fat.

You actually have to work pretty hard to get there…

Starting in the early 2000’s, with my new T2 diagnosis, I spent about 8 years settling into a diabetic diet. Portions got smaller. I worked to glean out refined and overt sugar. I focused on a low-carb diet. I lost about 85 pounds during this time period and increased my walking over the years. It was NOT perfect, but it was a HUGE improvement.

July 2011 rolled around and I decided I was going to build a new and different lifestyle. I wanted to be healthy.

And then a WHOLE lot of additional changes have happened in the past 3+ years.

So, what does a day look like NOW?!

I consume about 1,500 – 2,100 calories a day; depending on what kind of exercise I’m doing. I try to work out 6 days a week. I eat a plant based diet.

A typical day pulled from the last month’s food journal:

  • Pre-run: Nut/seed/fruit bar (no sugar added)
  • Breakfast: Banana/granola/cashew butter, decaf coffee
  • Snack: Hummus/carrots and grapes
  • Lunch: Salad with beans, corn, grilled peppers, salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips
  • Afternoon snack: Nuts, apple and more decaf coffee. 🙂
  • Dinner: Quinoa, monster salad loaded veggies, avocado, oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Snack: Honeycrisp Apple with cinnamon and sea salt

Just a few short years ago I would tell everyone that I hated vegetables and I could NOT imagine life without Diet Coke.

Things have changed. 🙂

You don’t just suddenly wake up healthy. 

You actually have to work pretty hard to get here.

 

X marks the spot…

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I got a tattoo in San Francisco this past weekend.

I mean — why not?!?

We were in San Francisco for goodness sake!  I had just finished a big bucket-list event. My friends Wendie and Jeff were getting them too.

That’s about all the motivation and reason most folks would need.  Right?

Well, there is a little more to the story…

This little heart tattoo marks the spot where my type 2 (T2) diabetes diagnosis became VERY real for me.

The outside of my left foot.

I was wearing cute shoes to a conference in the early 2000’s. While totally adorable, the shoes gave me a nasty blister. Three months later that blister had NOT healed. In fact, it was infected and the wound site was growing.

I was referred to a wound-care specialist.  At the same time I was being told that I was no longer pre-diabetic; I was FULL BLOWN T2 diabetic.

The wound-care folks were talking about treatment options being limited because of my uncontrolled T2 diabetes. High sugar in your blood doesn’t allow you to heal normally or well. They would try their best, but they would probably wind up having to cut off part of my foot to encourage healing...

WHAT?

Shitshitshitshitshit.

I was suddenly feeling very motivated to figure out how to become a well CONTROLLED T2.  I did not want my life to be one set-back after another. One complication after another. Losing my feet one chunk at a time…

At one point in that first year of T2, my sister was going to get a tattoo. I had always wanted one. I was starting to get my blood sugars under control. I mentioned offhandedly to my doc at the time that I was going to get a tattoo with my sis. I remember his response…

‘That is the single stupidest thing I have ever heard. YOU have a team of people that barely saved your foot because you CAN NOT heal and you want to purposefully inflict a NEW open wound on your body?  Find a new doctor.’

Um… OK…  So maybe I don’t need a tattoo…

I buried the idea for more than a decade.

I saw my current doc this Fall. When she told me I was no longer a diabetic, I asked her if it would be OK for me to get a tattoo.  I told her I wanted a reminder of my T2 journey and the fact that I was NEVER, EVER slipping back to my old ways….

She tilted her head to the side and said…

‘I would get that tattoo on my foot if I were you.’

That is exactly what I did.

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