Clothes and image

February 26, 2007 at 11:21 pm (Everyday, Weight Loss)

The weight loss is still going along, and I’m very well motivated by wanting to fit into the clothes in my closet. However, I’m struggling with my image — I feel old. And when I don’t actually *feel* old, I feel like I *look* old.

By and large, the way I’d like to dress seems too “young” for me. When I was a young adult, I found my mother attempting to dress like people in my generation to be completely repulsive, and I’d like to avoid that pitfall if possible. There are people in my generation who can pull off dressing as if they were much younger, but they seem to have that special…*je ne c’est quoi* necessary to do so.

Needless to say, whatever they have, I don’t. And I believe it’s crucial to understand when you’ve reached that point of maturity where you really look like an idiot trying to dress like a goth, or a punk, or a cheerleader, or a Spice Girl, or whatever.

So as I lose weight, and I look at the clothes in my closet, I wonder…what pieces would I actually wear?  What is hopelessly out of style?  What is (or was) flattering?

I’m afraid that I am, for the most part, clueless when it comes to dressing myself. I’ve always managed to put together a few good outfits in each weight range that expresses one part or another of my personality, but for the most part, it’s always jeans and a casual shirt.

And do you know what that says to me about my personality?  “Lame.”

Lazy. Lethargic. Preoccupied. Distracted.

I mean, philosophically, I place a high value on function over form, comfort over fashion. But isn’t there a happy medium?  Where I can dress like a woman and still be comfortable?  To be a little rebellious without looking stupid?  To be artsy and non-conventional without calling too much attention to myself?

It’s quite possible that my main fault is that I can’t manage my finances well enough to afford a nice wardrobe. I always see women with looks I admire, and I know that I could put together their outfits for a reasonable price, but I still have clothes in my closet from 10 years ago!  I rarely shop for new clothes. I’ve been trying to do so more often, but with a weight in flux, as it has been for the last two years, it’s hard to justify buying really nice outfits when I know they won’t fit after too long.

Anyway, enough of this for now. Let’s just say that I want to lose the weight and start thinking about my wardrobe and my overall look a bit more. I’d like a new haircut and to update the contents of my closet. And when I look down at the scale and see another pound gone, I know that I’m one step closer.

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Weight Watchers

February 22, 2007 at 8:57 pm (Weight Loss)

Now that I’ve fully introduced my blog with posts written on days when I was fairly depressed, I’d like to shift gears a bit. For the last few days, the depression clouds have parted a bit and I’ve been feeling more optimistic.

Last night I went to a Weight Watchers meeting. It’s my very first one. Honestly, I’m not sure that I’ll find it terribly inspirational; the leader couldn’t possibly be at her final weight (which I thought was a prerequisite for being a leader), and her personality was saccharine. That said, I know that I could use a bit of accountability to stay on track with weight loss, and knowing I’ll be weighed every week will probably help. Next week I plan to register for 10 weeks in advance.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Weight Watchers philosophy and programs for the last few weeks, and during the last two weeks, I’ve tried really hard to stop snacking on some of my “trigger” foods. (i.e., the ones I just can’t stop eating once I start.) For me, one of the worst is Gardetto’s; a savory, crunchy snack that not only packs on the pounds, but makes my skin break out. I have scars on my face from acne induced by a Gardetto’s habit. Since laying off those kinds of snacks in the last couple of weeks though, my skin is cleared up, and this morning I felt somewhat pretty when I looked in the mirror. It’s a wonder what a couple of weeks can do.

I’ve also been trying much harder to control my portion sizes. I’ve still eaten the foods that I would usually eat, but just tried to eat less. To make up for the volume, I’ve been snacking on celery and carrots. Although I know that this sounds a bit cliche (eating celery and carrots on a diet), I actually *love* raw celery and carrots, and eat them even when I’m not dieting. Just now I’m eating them with the intent of actually filling a void.

It’s not feasible in the long term to keep eating a large quantity of food, whether or not it will make me gain weight. It keeps the overeating habit alive, I think, and that’s something I’m trying to break. But as part of my “baby steps” plan, I think that substituting unhealthy snacks for healthy snacks is good progress. As time passes, I’d like to reduce my dependence on snacking and eat more reasonable portions when snacks are necessary.

This morning I weighed myself and the scale said 192. I’m 5’6″, so obviously, this is just tipping into “obese” territory. To make matters worse, I know that my scale is anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds lower than what it should display, based on what my weight has been at doctor visits. But since I’m unsure of what corrections I should make in my weight, for now, I’m going to use my scale to judge any relative loss. When I start WW meetings, I’ll post those weights.

According to Weight Watchers, a 2 pound loss per week is good progress, and the first overall goal should be to lose 10% of one’s weight (for those of us who have 50+ pounds to lose). So my goal is to lose 19 pounds by May 1.

Right now, I’m feeling like this is achievable.

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I don’t know why she swallowed a fly…

February 22, 2007 at 5:23 pm (Beneath the Surface, Depression)

So now you know that one of my problems is that I’m an undisciplined person. This is, perhaps, one of the “root” problems that will prevent me from achieving change in the more superficial areas of my life (i.e., losing weight, not picking at my fingernails, keeping up with the laundry…) I’ll proceed under the assumption that the reader knows that everything is more complicated than it appears at first glance; it will get tiresome to repeat that point too often.

Here are some of the things that I’d like to change in my life.  I’ll list obstacles later.  There is a great deal of overlap in all of these areas, which I will attempt to unwind eventually.

– I’m a procrastinator (Hah! Now you know why obstacles get listed later…)

– I’m undisciplined

– I’m a terrible housekeeper

– I’m overweight

– I’m a chronic overeater

– I eat unhealthy food

– I never exercise

– I waste a lot of time on pleasurable activities

– I only occasionally answer email or voice mail

– I have a terrible work ethic

– I am always late paying my bills

– I forget birthdays and anniversaries

– I’m neglectful in many ways

– I’m not very well groomed

– I pick at my fingernails
Sure, there are other things about myself that bother me, but at the moment, this is the list. It might appear that several of those things are superficial, and it’s true, but the problems at the root are deeply ingrained issues that prevent me from being the person I’d like to be (i.e., neat, tidy, organized, well-groomed, responsible). In fact, as I list those qualities that I’d like to achieve, they strike me as qualities that most of the people around me, in the workforce for example, take for granted. Or at least most of them. It bothers me that I have such problems achieving such basic things in my life (paying bills, for example, even though I can afford them).

The consequences of these simple things, as you can imagine, are not simple. If I don’t pay my bills, for example, I get late fees. I get sent to collections. My credit report is marked. This makes it harder to get the things I need, to afford my expenses, to buy the necessities. And it’s all my fault. Why can’t I pay my bills on time?  Well, I’m a procrastinator.  Why am I a procrastinator? Well, because I’m lazy. Why am I lazy?  Maybe because I’m depressed.  Why am I depressed?  Well, because my brain chemistry is wrong, first and foremost, but also because my life is complicated by not being able to afford the necessities, because I can’t pay my bills, etc.

It’s a big, ugly cycle, and I’m tired of it. There are certain elements of my depression that are out of my control, but they are manageable.  What I need to do is take measures to reign in the rest of my life, the parts that are under my control, to avoid making matters worse. I must take charge of those things that are within my sphere of influence. To do so, I must change.

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Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

February 20, 2007 at 9:12 pm (Beneath the Surface)

I’ve read that according to chaos mathematics, everything in the universe becomes more complicated as time goes by. Nothing gets any simpler.

I’m inclined to believe this assessment of things.

When I was younger I was of the opinion that we humans make things unduly complicated, and that in most instances, everything could be simplified if one had the disicpline to do so. Maybe this is true on the surface, but as we get older, we become more aware of nuances and subtleties that lend more complexity to every situation, making a simple solution harder and harder to achieve.

In my life, there are many things I’d like to change. But as I try to evaluate each of them, I realize that they’re hopelessly tangled together. If I’m to change one thing, I’ll also need to change another in order to achieve any lasting change, or I’ll experience the typical “bounce back” to old patterns.

Take, for example, a garden. If your garden is crowded with weeds, you can pull them, but if you don’t make other changes in your garden, the weeds will only grow back. You’ll need to do one or several other things to avoid the necessity of pulling weeds again. You could spend a small amount of time pulling seedlings before they sprout and go to seed, making more weeds, you could purchase herbicide and take the time to apply it, or you could dig up the entire garden, place a weed barrier beneath the bed, and then start again from scratch.

Nobody wants to start again from scratch, but I find it’s incredibly difficult to make small, incremental changes. [Problem #1: I'm a very undisciplined person.] To do things in small doses over a long period of time takes discipline. It’s easy to get fired up about something in the short term, but maintaining momentum over a long period of time is much more difficult. This is, I think, why so many outpatient treatment facilities exist for so many different problems. A person needs to remove themselves from the problematic situation in order to achieve a drastic short term change, because it’s easier than making small changes within the environment that was a problem in the first place.

That said, I’m going to try to take the more difficult path, making small, cumulative changes without digging everything up and starting again. I’ve done this before, probably more than once, and you see where it has gotten me. Drastic measures can only improve one’s situation so much, and they often cause irrevocable damage in other areas. “Fresh start” sounds positive, but consider the destruction that must be wrought in order to get to that point. You must systematically tear down everything around you in order to rebuilt. Unless you live in a cave with no human contact, this means hurting everyone around you. It means complete and utter upheaval. It’s traumatic.

I’d like to avoid that this time around.

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Intro

February 16, 2007 at 10:54 pm (Beneath the Surface)

You could probably call this an early mid-life crisis. I’m turning 36 in a couple of weeks, and although I still haven’t reached 40, I can feel it creeping up on me. Besides, picking an age like 40 is purely arbitrary…it’s special because it has a zero in it. I don’t think that identity crises care about how symetrical a number is.

My oldest son is 16, and my youngest is 3. I think that this “crisis,” if you could call it that, hit me when my older son turned 16. I had a sudden revelation that he’s not a child anymore, that any real influence I could exert on his life, his way of thinking, his character, has already occured. He is his own person now. Certainly not a static person; he’ll continue to grow and learn, but the role I play in what is to come in his life will be less crucial, I think.

Along with realizations relative to my role in his life, I started thinking more deeply about where I am in *my* life. It’s a classic case of looking around me as objectively as possible, taking stock of my situation, and holding it up against the hopes and goals I had for myself when I was younger. As it turns out, it’s not terribly pretty.

I’m currently in my third marriage, and it’s failing. The glue that holds us together is our young son; we are in a custody stalemate even before one of us visits a lawyer. It’s true that we do still hold some affection and love for one another, but I’m of the belief that two people can love one another deeply and still not be able to have a successful relationship. That’s us in a nutshell. In some ways it’s good that we’re still together, and in other ways, it seems like it will only result in disaster. Honestly, I’m not very optimistic about our situation anymore.

I spent my early 30s in therapy to learn how be a whole person. How to take responsibility for my life and my emotions, and how to cope with depression, with which I’ve struggled with since I was a teenager. What I’ve found since then, however, is that although I can accept responsibility for my actions, thoughts, and feelings, it doesn’t mean I’ll do a good job of running my life. And although I’ve developed some skills for coping with depression, it’s still an insidious presence.

This is a blog that I’ve started to explore questions about whether a person can truly change. As I’ve come to this place in my life, there have been several times when I’ve changed my life for the better. The changes, however, were superficial at best, and the same character flaws and emotional hangups, the same bad habits and shortcomings, always prevented any change from being sustainable. Although on the surface it might look like my life has improved, under the hood it’s a complete mess. And so I wonder – is it even possible for me to change?  I mean *really* change?

I’m not an alchoholic, I don’t beat my kids, I can afford to eat and pay my mortgage. My problems are relatively minor in the grander scheme of things. But they are *my* problems, and so they’re serious to me. I can count my lucky stars until they fall from the sky, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m unhappy with my life and I believe I can do better. What is the purpose of life if not to become the person you’d like to be? When I was younger, I had all sorts of aspirations, some of them mundane (“I will always burn scented candles in my house”), some of them grandiose (“I will be an award-winning poet.”).  On a microscopic level, I’ve achieved some of my lifelong goals. But when I broaden the scope, when I look around me, I’m not seeing a life I wanted to be living.  All the pieces are there, but they aren’t coming together in a way that satisfies me. And I hold myself responsible.

So if you’re interested in exploring some of these questions, please stick with me here. Some entries are destined to be ordinary, everyday happenings and obstacles.  Some will be philosophical, and some, inevitably, will be excursions into do-it-yourself-psychoanalysis. Consider this a case study in whether or not the old adage is true: “a leopard cannot change his spots.”

Really?

Can a leopard at least change the way he *thinks* about his spots? 

Can a leopard thrive *in spite* of his spots?

We’ll see.

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