How Did That Happen?

I posted this photo on Facebook.

Ok, and Instagram too!

Ok, and Instagram too!

This morning I was digging through my storage closet for a spare carry-on suitcase. The plan was to quickly pull it off a shelf and zoom over to visit a friend. I remembered how easy it was to accumulate stuff when my parents were in the hospital. I knew there would be extra suitcases to spare.

Yes, I am officially a bag lady.

The first bag contained my Santa decorations. Excellent timing – the cold weather is here, Halloween is over so I can decorate. (I’m kidding. Tree trimming will only happen if I host a dinner party.)

The second suitcase had one item. I blinked at it. I held it sideways.

I shook it.
As though attempting to remove sand from a beach towel.

I opened it.
I peered down.

I thought, “Hold mother of poo. This really can’t be right.”

So I stepped into it. Right over my Calvin Klein jeans, wearing my pink plaid sneakers from who knows where, I stood in a hula hoop of medium weight khaki. My face broke out into what can only be described as a shit eating grin of satisfaction.

(Sorry Mom. I get to curse. This is my blog. It feels good.)

I eyeballed the perimeter of my circle. There was space. P-l-e-n-t-y of space. There was no need to hold my breath and tug desperately. I hoisted this knee length skirt up to my shoulders.

It was around 8am on a Sunday. If I could have woken up a neighbor to properly document the moment, believe me, there would be a better photo. I wiggled so that I could wear the skirt as a tube top, but with my arms inside.

The wiggling was for effect only. That d*mn skirt was loose around my shoulders.

Instead of being quick with my time and being nicer to my friend (I had promised coffee delivery) I embarked on a selfie mission.

And so I finally captured that goofy moment.

Here’s what I wrote on Facebook

“When you lose weight it sneaks up on you. This is a size 18 skirt from Target. I’ve owned sized 24W shorts (with elastic!) from Sears. That was the only place I could find clothing one summer. I’m notoriously tight fisted with money. However I forked over full retail. It didn’t matter: I needed clothing. Today I get joshed by friends for asking for photos. I *love* them. I don’t recognize the person in the photo. Heck yes, I want proof of the changes made.

I moved to Phoenix for a change in quality of life. That has 100% happened. I attribute much of it to the sunny blue skies.”

How Did This Happen?
My gym workouts were a bit scattered when I joined LA Fitness, with a training session 1x/week. Thankfully I met Mike Berg who taught me how to lift weights.

Post foot surgery I said “No!” to that gym. I’m having tons of fun at Arizona Training Lab with Ben, Dave & Megan.

How Much Do You Weigh?
Thanks for asking. Currently 132.4 lbs. I am 5’1”

I’ve been messaged by a few curious folks. Happy to share. However, you will never see a before picture of my gut…as I never took one. Didn’t even want to look. (I have some limits!)

Do You Drink (Any) Powder Shakes?
Please don’t ask this so you can try and sell HerbaLife to me.

Have You Tried (Any) Slimming Wraps?
See above. I will block/unfriend/hit you with a brick. No.

Are You Wearing Spanx In This Photo?
No. I’m wearing jeans for goodness sakes. Spanx are reserved for special dresses.

Did You Have Surgery?

I looked at it for five minutes. Having surgery scared me. Being overweight presents unique obstacles while an individual is awake. I couldn’t imagine – intentionally – having elective surgery to make this change.

At the time I was hovering at the BMI requirement. The Mayo Clinic general guidelines are a 40 BMI and above. Why did I dismiss surgery so quickly? The risks. There was the dying on the table (that seemed important), brittle hair (sore spot for me), a lifelong need for vitamins, infection, blood clots…and weird things like my poop being messed up. (Don’t google “dumping syndrome”. Just don’t.)

A team of nice folks would need to evaluate why my “efforts to lose weight with diet and exercise had been unsuccessful”. I would have to document about six months worth of failure if interested.

I would need to prove that I was helpless. Those are my words. Those are strong words. But that’s exactly what my brain registered when I looked at the BMI table requirements for surgery.

“You must be 80-100lbs over your ideal weight range.”
Nah. That couldn’t possibly apply to me. There was no way I was so over bounds. Off I went to look at the chart.



I knew I was overweight. My belly rolls informed me. My heavy breathing and inability to find clothing screamed it. My tired feet, knees and hips complained.

The red zone on the BMI chart smacked reality into me.

Winning was bad here.


Today I do not agree with the BMI chart. It’s just a chart. It’s helpful. But when I was super heavy those guidelines were intimidating.

How Did You Do This?
Really? HOW?

I decided to fight with determination.
I am one stubborn person when I need to be. (If you’ve found this post and are curious about surgery The Cleveland Clinic and Mt. Sinai’s Surgically Slim are great places to start reading.) I am NOT saying weight loss surgery is bad. It was not the right choice for me.  The post-op diet would have killed me. No real food for weeks?

Nope. I don’t have that kind of will power.

What Do You Eat?
I’ve seen your comments about exercise. But what do you eat?

Food people. Real food. I tried Weight Watchers and did not enjoy it. I tried it online. I went to meetings. I’m a repeat offender. Always trying to game the system.

I’d eat the attractive looking carrot cake, artfully layered with white icing, in a negative second. (Assuming the white goop was not smeared to the plastic.) I would then consider scarfing another ninety calorie treat down, [curse], do it and then be down two portions.

“Er-Ma-GAWD. That was FOUR points.”

Still craving something I’d coach myself on the next meal. “Eh. You can wait. You’ve got to be aware of your points.”

And this guilty party would scarf another cake down. (You guys! They aren’t even two inches long. They are narrow. Perhaps an inch wide and high. Judge my craving only after you’ve tasted on. Pfft.)

Ordering a box of cakes (or frozen chocolate chip cookie dough sundaes, one of my other favorites) would set me back $6.49 plus whatever FreshDirect charged me to deliver groceries.

I am cheap. I have been told “thrifty” is a more palatable word to use. Or “frugal”. I prefer “cheap”. That money can be used for haircuts. Paying for plastic wrapped food in super tiny portions pained me.

I would buy myself an elegant glass of wine.
Or Beer!
Or a Moscow Mule!

Great program. I just failed dismally with it.

What Else Can You Say About Food?
I initially met with a nutritionist to learn about portion control. After tracking every single morsel in MyFitnessPal a (much alarmed) trainer told me I wasn’t eating enough.

She was right.

1330 calories is just not enough food.

I’m not sure how those calories are recommended. However, I had the recommended program with a 0.5 lb loss a week. When I started to exercise “sedentary” seemed appropriate for the slug-level pace I performed every action at.

“Sedentary” in this application = spending most of the day sitting. I sit all day with the exception of a workout. Teachers, salespeople, nurses are allocated more calories.

Once I started lifting weights my progress was limited unless I ate. For me MyFitnessPal was a great launching point. It helped make me aware of the food I was mindlessly eating. I no longer use that tool (or any) to track.

My relationship with MyFitnessPal ended. I still sit the majority of my day. But given an option that involves moving I take the longest one. My car is often at the end of a parking lot. I take the stairs. I carry my grocery bags out to my car. (All five of my plastic bags. No idea how much they weigh, but who cares? I have arms and no kids attached to them.)

So….Again. What Do You Eat?
I avoid eating things I can’t pronounce. If it comes in a box that usually means “No”. I do not believe in artificial “no fat” foods. I’ve tried many of them. They were never filling for me and did not taste very good. A friend hit me over the head with the stupid stick and said, “You know it takes chemicals to make that stuff, right? You’re just eating a bunch of chemicals?”

I’ve curbed the booze during the week. (I’d never get up for 6:30am bootcamp in time, so this is good news all around.) I eat two fistful sized proteins of meat/fish/poultry 2x’s a day. I start every day with old fashioned oatmeal.

I consume an incredible amount of produce. I am never hungry. So help you – if you’re in my way of food – bad things will happen.

To you.

Does It Hurt To Say “No”?
Not anymore. I feel amazing. (Just not when I’m the last kid in gym class. But I’m trying!) I’m stronger. Saying “no” is just part of who I am. That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying myself. I’m doing things in a balanced way.

When I eat – which is often – I eat to enjoy.

Wait, wait, wait. Why do you have to say “No?”
Aren’t you a buzz kill all the time? Mike, my super awesome trainer, broke it down to me before a holiday season.

“Do you smoke?”

“Would you take a cigarette?”

“Then just say no to that [insert offending piece of food you’re not ok with]”

How Much Exercise Are We Talking?
I work out about 4x/week at bootcamp. I try to walk there at least once a week. My canal rides have not happened as often as I’d like. (But surprisingly I am able to go far. 15 miles is pretty respectable for a newbie.)

What Did You Look Like “Before”?


This. Yikes!

This is what a 200+ pounds of Irene looks like.

"I wish my brother wasn't taking this photo!"

“I wish my brother wasn’t taking this photo!”

It’s funny. I found these photos on an old thumb drive. I noticed my mastery of hiding behind things and people. Sometimes I was pretty slick at pulling off a “good look”.

Behind a sign! Quick!

Behind a sign! Quick!

The bend was a more complicated maneuver. Too much and cleavage might spill. Hats off to myself for this one.

Before I learned the proper squat technique.

Before I learned the proper technique for a squat.

I existed in a heavily cropped dimension.

I also appear to not be breathing.

I also appear to not be breathing.

See? Cropped.

See? Cropped.

THIS was my all time favorite. New car purchase required a photo. I perfected a rear swirl of sorts.

Nifty, huh?

Nifty, huh?

The swirl is no longer required. Hiding is no longer required. I do huff and puff my way through exercise. It is with frustration at myself. But only because I want to do more. Not because I feel bad. That simply isn’t possible.


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