Wednesday, April 14, 2010

what's in you wednesday

Stress is some powerful stuff.

My sophomore year in college, I broke up with a guy I had known and been dating since the ninth grade. In high school. We always lived a few hours away from each other, but the second half of my freshman year, he transferred from his big university in North Carolina to be closer to me, at my small university in South Carolina. Less than six months later we split up.

Although I felt that the time was right to move in our own separate ways, the stress resulting from that one decision, when I would see him in the cafeteria - or on my way to class - or at social functions, was crippling. He had been such a huge influence in my life, through what I consider some of my most formative years and I was in a baaad state.

During that time, my appetite dwindled to the point that the only thing I could really tolerate were Club Crackers. Whenever I'd go in to the cafeteria, he was there, so I'd grab a handful of two-per-pack crackers and retreat to my dorm. I don't remember how much weight I lost during that diet by heartbreak period, but I do recall that a size 2 pants were too big.

I also remember that I broke out in a rash, which no one could diagnosis for several weeks. It started out on my abdomen and worked it's way all over my 'trunk'. The doctors first thought I had ringworm or possibly scabies, which meant sharing clothes with my highly fashionable roommate was completely off limits. That turned out to be almost painful for me to bear than breaking up with my boyfriend of six years.

Eventually, my skin condition was diagnosed as pityriasis rosea. Which is noncontagious. And which happily, meant cute tops, sweaters, jeans and skirts could again be shared.

The rest of that year, I intentionally sustained from dating any one. Instead, I built a lot of wonderful friendships with girlfriends, took spur of the moment road trips, stayed out late and ate hashbrowns and waffles until 3:00 AM. I also buried myself in to schoolwork so by the time I transferred to California the following year, I had a 4.0 and was totally renewed.

And ... that's when I met Charlie.

To this day, that sophomore year in college marks one of the most stressful years of my entire life. And there is no doubt, stress has some funny ways of manifesting itself. It can cause you to break out in a rash, develop hives or an ulcer, make you sleep a little - make you sleep a lot, make your appetite soar or totally crumble.

What with returning to work full time, my husband being laid off, having multiple job opportunities presented to me, debating school for our children - moving - career changes - weaning - losing precious friends and family to cancer - concerns about my extended family - topped off with month after month (after month!) of illness - this past year has definitely ranked up there on the stress o'meter.

Unlike 1990, however, this year I'd be lucky to fit one of my arms in a size 2 pant.

In contrast to my sophomore year in college, to combat what seems to be unending stress this time around, I've been snacking on comfort foods. High carbs. High fat. High yummy. Come here you hot toasted bagel smothered with cream cheese and you too, you squishy blueberry muffin!

Get in my belly!!

Perhaps it's the weaning coupled with the lack of training for a marathon, but this past weekend I hopped on the scale for the first time in months and was stunned to see that I was about 18 pounds heavier than I was last year at around this same time. Because I'm not quite so open that I'll admit my exact weight, I will divulge that last year there was a "4" in the grand tally and now there is a "6".

I can't believe I admitted that.

Next thing you know, I'll be telling you my age.

(39, a week from yesterday.)

This is bothersome, because it's not like I'm eating EVERYTHING in sight and it's not like I'm doing ZERO exercise. I'm just not exercising the way that I was when I wasn't working full time and most days, I spent chasing children all over creation and eating whatever small scraps they had remaining on their plates.

Alas, these days, whenever I feel stress, I reach for the baked goods and my stretch pants and pull up a chair to my work computer. As a result, I'm blowing up like a balloon while my husband is winning FIRST PLACE in triathlon relays. Talk about throwing salt in my full time working wound. Not only do I have to spend my days away from my children, now I'm getting F-A-T.


Although I have considered throwing in the towel on these "What's In You" posts, I want to keep writing them because I really think that the struggles that I'm facing with balancing motherhood - career - family - and maintaining personal health is something that a lot of people can relate to. (At least that's what the comments and e-mails I receive suggest.) And while I might not be an absolute beacon of physical health at this very moment, I don't want to stop thinking about it.

When I stop and think about it, and put those thoughts on paper, I try to do better.

I make time for walks or (VERY short) runs that I otherwise wouldn't make time for. I'll also take 15 minutes in the morning, or just before bed (or sometimes both!), to stretch, do some yoga, maybe throw in a few sit-ups.

These are small things, but they're better than nothing.

By writing these posts, I also think a bit more about what I'm feeding myself. For instance, when I wrote about Jack LaLanne last week, I have really strived THIS week to reduce the amount of food that I'm eating that has been "Made By Man." I've consumed a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables and protein, and have significantly reduced flour. When my sister, Eileen, was in town last week, she introduced us to Ezekiel bread which has been a delicious and much healthier substitute.

I'm writing this post from a train northbound to Los Angeles.

The last time I traveled to LA for a meeting, it took me four hours, one way. This train, which departed at 6:10 AM, will get me there in less than three hours, I'll be two blocks from the office where my meeting will be held, and I won't have to deal with parking. As I'm writing this, I'm flying past bumper to bumper traffic on Interstate 5 and it's very difficult to not feel GIDDY.

However, to get on this train, I had to leave the house at 5:00, which meant I had to be up at 4:30, 4:35, 4:40, 4:45 4:50 AM, which is very early by my standards and meant I was in an exceptionally groggy state.

A few blocks from the train depot, I was stopped at a red light. As I was sitting at the light, I noticed that across the intersection, the crossing gate was dropping down to signal the approach of a train, heading FAST in my direction. A few feet in front of my car I could see that there were railroad tracks, but I couldn't see the crossing gate on my side of the road. That's when I saw it in my rear view mirror and realized it was BEHIND my vehicle.

To say that the stress that washed over my body, in that very moment, was unparalleled to moving or career change or full time work schedules, is a gross understatement. For a very long split second, my husband and children's bright faces, that I might never see again, flashed before my panicked eyes.

VERY lucky for me, the train was crossing on the opposite side of the tracks and I survived. (Obviously). But once the nausea passed and my heart started beating again, I had an inexplicable craving for a donut.

Instead, I had an apple.

And that's tremendous progress.


  1. We just had this conversation about stress. My husband doesn't eat, he bites his nails. I eat. he doesn't really get comfort eating, but I don't understand him. Strange the power stress has over us. Hope the choice you finally make will help you reduce your stress and not add to it.

  2. Thanks for sharing, and I bet that apple tasted good!

    I was doing great - tracking my nutrition on Sparkpeople, upping the protein, working out. Then something happened, I got upset, and started punishing myself. Quit working out, started eating chocolate, skipped the fruit for the eclair.

    Now, where did I leave my motivation? It's around here somewhere ...

  3. OK, I've been reading your blog for about a week, and everytime I read about the job-move-work-kids stress I want to comment about how I've recently been through some similar struggles (returned to work full time for the first time in years, debating about which job to take, leaving the stable fabulous company, relocating, etc, etc, etc.) but I never do because it would take ages to explain any of it.

    So instead I'll just say that I understand what you are doing through and I admire your honesty. I don't think I shared much of what I was really feeling on my blog about the work stuff.

    And the weight gain I can also relate to...ah, stress. I did lose it again when the decisions were made if that makes you feel any better!

  4. If you find a good eating plan, please tell me ASAP. I do not want to go back to OHI now that I am married.

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am going to have to read more of your story-I am so fascinated you have triplets and a singleton and will def. have to check out your parenting tips and adventure so far :)

    I loved this post about your stressful year of college-I actually had a very similar incident my freshman year of college and at the time seemed like the end of the world, but oddly enough that decision resulted in me meeting some great friends-that weren't friends of my ex-bf, because he had gone to school first and ALL our friends were really his friends-and my new friends introduced me to my husband :)

    OK, long into to me, but I will be back to read more when I have more free time :) Take care!

  6. You poor thing - sounds like you are trying to do everything right.

    I feel for you! Hang in there.

    I lost weight over a 10 week period at Uni because I went to work in a shocking mining town for summer in the middle of the desert and my boyfriend went to another one 4,000km away. The stress of being the only female underground (3,000 pig male workers, 2 females (and the other one was in penthouse) saw me barely eating or sleeping - the only thing that got me through were $20 phone call every night to my boyfriend (now husband of 16 years - who had to explain that having water thrown on me every afternoon at knock off time was their way of perving). You can be lightheaded when Uni age (by not eating) - you can't do that as a mother/sole breadwinner with a mortgage.

    You are doing all you can. It will improve (even if it's only they get older and you have time on your hands to exercise more).

  7. The power of stress! This past year I have lived every day so stressed I didn't think I'd survive. I had a very stressful job, my husband was in chemo, a lot of other personal things going on - I didn't sleep, I didn't eat - I was tired and felt sick all the time -- in the middle of everything I lost my job. I'm the one with the good job, making all the money, paying the bills - kind of job --
    when I was on my way home after finding out I lost my job - I said out loud to myself -- "some day I will look back at this day, as a good day" -- I am early in the journey - but the stress level is so much less - I've gotten control over my house again, well - sort of - and I'm taking one day at a time --
    Thanks for being honest and sharing your life with us - I'm always taking things you say with me thru out my days!
    (remember when you're on the scale - it's just a number!)

  8. Pshaww! You want weight gain? Try starting a BAKING BLOG. Oiy.


  9. Working makes you fat! Its so true! I've always believed it. I was so much thinner when I stayed at home. ho-hum. During tax seaon my yoga was folding the clothes, and my aerobic exercise is running in heels to the door of the preschool from the parking lot.

  10. I am so sorry you are under so much stress right now. I quit eating all together when I get stressed out. Greg eat a lot when he's stressed out. Ying and yang.

    I think you should take option number three. Just quit. You won't be able to buy those fancy marshmellows tuners or headlights, but that's why God made sticks -- to make fire for light and shove marshmellows on them. See? It all works out.

    Meanwhile, I will keep trying to thumb ahead to the next chapter to see what happens in your life story.

  11. On coming train? HOLY CRAP BATMAN!!!