What Does Normal Bloating Look Like?

I recorded a video for my YouTube channel yesterday (I’ll post it below) that I thought would translate pretty well into a blog as well (plus, I’m going to add some bonus pictures that aren’t in the video just for my awesome blog readers). For those who would rather watch vs. read (or watch and read), here is the video:

Now…let’s talk about bloating.

This experiment was inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers, Natacha Oc√©ane, who recorded what a normal day of bloating and scale fluctuations look like for her. Now, there are a few differences between Natacha and myself…

Natacha and Me

…have you spotted them?

I’ll give you a minute.

Just in case you can’t tell from this photo, Natacha is in her 20s, has never been obese, and has never had a child — three pretty big differences between the two of us!

I loved her honest portrayal so much, though, that I wanted to provide my own showing my different body type. So, that’s what I did!

Now, if you watch the video, you’ll hear all about how difficult this day wound up being for me. I struggle pretty hard with watching the scale and my body fluctuate. I am hoping that this experiment will help to remind me that these are very fickle things that fluctuate wildly, and there’s no need or reason to change anything just because of minor fluctuations like this.

Now, the experiment…

Method!

I “measured” as soon as I woke up, after my run, after lunch, before bed, and when I woke up again this morning.

I took two sets of photos/video: my abs relaxed vs. my abs flexed (not that you can see them, haha).

I also weighed myself.

What I Ate

Pre-run: espresso with some creamer

Breakfast: protein pancakes w/ extra protein powder, peanut butter chips, coffee w/ creamer

Lunch: half of a buffalo ranch salad kit with a beef pattie on top, sweet potato chips, sour gummies

Dinner: a bowl of cereal with 2% milk, blueberries, and a yogurt

Snacks: lunch meat (turkey), crackers, pickles, protein bar, decaf coffee with creamer

How I Worked Out

5-mile short run

Results!

Here are the weights:

I was 140.2 when I woke up, 138.8 after my 5-mile run, 140.8 after lunch, and 140.8 before bed.

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I woke up at 139.6 this morning.

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Abs Relaxed Photos

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This morning:

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Abs Flexed Photos!

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This morning:

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Conclusion!

Bloat is normal, the scale fluctuates a lot throughout the day and day-to-day, and these things are not something to worry about. I thought, at first, that I bloat up “bigger” than others because of the elasticity in my stomach area, but I’m honestly not sure that’s true now. I think I’m just much more critical of myself!

Also, on a personal note, yes, I have legitimately gained a couple pounds in the last couple of months. I actually had lost about 4-5 pounds when I went on a short-term, idiotic diet, but my body composition test told me that all I’d managed to do was lose muscle & water & freak my body out so that it was holding onto fat for dear life. So, I stopped dieting, got back on the intuitive eating train, and re-gained the weight within 3 weeks. My next body composition test is next week, and I’m hoping to see that I have my muscle (water) back.

Personal Note

This was a really hard experiment for me, and I am feeling all sorts of anxious about putting it out there. I’m definitely struggling with body image a lot these days – more, I think, than I was even before I started exercising.

That said, the exercise is going amazingly well! I continue to see gains in my strength and endurance, and I want that to be all that matters — I at least want it to matter more than a stupid number on a scale. I hope, some day, this is true for me.

 

So, I Started a YouTube Channel…

I’m kind of hesitant/reluctant to share this here, because writing is definitely “my language,” but I’ve decided to start a YouTube channel. Actually, I used to vlog back in college, so this isn’t an entirely new medium for me, but, in any case… this is just a very short entry to say “hey…if you’ve ever wondered what I sound like…now you can know…”

The channel is going to be quite similar to this blog. I want to be open and honest about my previous weight loss journey, eating disorder recovery, intuitive eating, mental health, and fitness journey. I’m always open to suggestions on what to film; there are a few little videos up right now. I’ll post one below! Side note: right now, I am just filming with my phone until I decide if this is something I see myself doing long-term. Right now, I’m just dipping my toe into this new hobby.

Keep Your Diet Away From My Holidays

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I’ve been reflecting a lot about past holidays. I remember sitting in Weight Watchers meetings around this time of year hearing the leaders talk about how to portion out your plate and comparing the different Points values for each of the traditional side dishes. If I remember correctly, Weight Watchers even had an interactive web page where you could build a Thanksgiving plate of food and see how many Points you would be using. Most of us hoarded our “extra weekly points” for this meal, and there was a lot of anxiety over leftovers as well.

I also remember always worrying about what my family would think of however I might look that year. I’ve been a lot of shapes and sizes, and I almost never look the same from one Thanksgiving to the next (and this year is no exception). I’d change outfits a half a dozen times trying to find the right combination of flattering and comfortable.

During my binge eating days, I remember sneaking a lot of food during and around the meal when I thought people were not looking. I remember eating until I was in pain and then doing it again and again with leftovers in the days that would follow Thanksgiving. I felt out of control around those leftovers and, to this day, Thanksgiving leftovers cause me a lot of anxiety, which is why I have always tried to “forget” my leftovers box when we leave my mother’s house (hi, mom! I know you’re reading…)

During my restrictive days, I have some pretty dark memories of how I handled the food during holidays – the details of which I’m too ashamed to share. There was also one Thanksgiving during which I used veganism to avoid eating pretty much anything. Instead, I brought along my own box of “safe” foods so that I could at least appear to be eating something.

Reflecting back on all of these holiday memories really makes me sad: why are so many of my holiday memories about food and weight anxieties? I LOVE the holidays…or, at least, I thought I did.

This Thanksgiving is going to be different. This Thanksgiving, I will not be tracking my food or calories; I will not be weighing or measuring my food; I won’t even be weighing myself. There’s not a single food I will avoid; in fact, if the little voice in my head says to avoid a certain food, I’m challenging myself to eat the thing its telling me not to eat — even if it’s just one bite.

This Thanksgiving, I will not starve all day to “reserve calories” for this one meal. I will eat when I am hungry, and I will eat until I am full. I will trust my body AND my hunger to guide me in how much I should consume. This is the challenge my nutritionist and I have agreed upon: I am to follow my hunger so that we can see what happens. So far, nothing catastrophic.

This Thanksgiving, I will happily and, with gratitude, take those leftovers home and actually eat them. Yes, even the stuffing and pecan pie.

And, when Christmas comes, I will have Christmas cookies, Christmas brunch, Christmas Eve AND Christmas dinners. I might eat past fullness — overeat, you might say. I might gain a little weight. The world will not end.

I’m talking as if this is all easy; it isn’t. But, I’m setting the intention anyways. I’m tired of worrying about calories during the holidays (and every other day too); I’m tired of centering my life around food and body shape. I thought that my life would no longer be all about food when I finally got thinner, but the opposite was actually true.

Food, diets, weightloss, “lifestyle changes” to be thinner, eating disorders, whatever you want to call it…have robbed me of enough time. They are not welcome at my holiday celebrations this year.

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TL;DR – 3-Week Check-In

Fair warning: if you’re looking for a short, inspirational post, this one isn’t it. This is the down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty details of the past 3 weeks. This is the ugly underbelly. A TL;DR post that I have not put my “writer’s cap” on to turn into prose.

It has been 22 days since I last tracked a calorie, a carb, a gram of fat, or even a gram of sugar. I have to confess, it has not been 22 days since I last stepped on a scale: between doctors appointments and starting a program at a new gym, I have been on the scale a couple of times. But, you know what? It’s not quite as powerful as it was a few weeks ago. (It’s going to take a long time to totally escape its grip.) I wanted to come back here and share both the highs and lows — as well as the intense psychological battles — from the last 3 weeks.

Let’s start with the lows from the past few weeks and get those out of the way.

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  1. I am still pretty fixated on weight. I find myself looking in the mirror more and trying to guess if I’m losing, maintaining, or gaining. I also had to come face-to-face with the reality that a part of me still wants to lose weight (and it feels like it always will).
  2. I have struggled with urges to go more extreme in my food limitations:
    • Contemplation of switching to keto with the sole purpose of losing more weight
    • Pushing myself to just ignore hunger between meals (despite my early proclamation that the point of this was not to lose weight and not to be hungry)
    • Feeling food anxiety (as if some foods are “not safe to consume – ever”)
  3. I have struggled with tons of doubt and shame. I’ve certainly come right up against “maybe this is bad for me…maybe I should just quit this and go back to tracking…” A lot of people have implied that that’s what I should do. (Or, at least, a lot of people have implied that what I’m doing is unhealthy – but, then, so was what I was doing before this…nobody has yet to tell me what exactly they think I “should” be doing.)
  4. I’ve officially been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Again. Let me tell you more about that…

So, I’m not doing this alone. I am in therapy. Actually, I’m in a couple different kinds of therapy: individual and group therapy. My group therapists are eating disorder specialists; my individual therapist is not. Because of points 1-3 above, I decided to have an individual consult with one of my group therapists about what I am doing. That therapist has confirmed the eating disorder diagnosis I was given at my highest weight: ED-NOS (eating disorder – not otherwise specified; that means my ED doesn’t take any one shape).

It was really hard for me to hear that. Doing this — especially the discomfort other people have expressed about my eating choices — has really made me feel like I’m wearing a scarlet letter (or…scarlet letters: “ED”). It really feels like once you’re labeled with an ED, then that’s all anyone can see. Any change in my weight, eating patterns, any measure of control I might choose to take all seem to send up red flags of “is this ED behavior?”

I also don’t feel like I’ll ever really be allowed to feel proud about losing 100 pounds, because the last half of it was lost due to an eating disorder. Just saying that straight up: I feel shame about my weight loss – not pride (and, sometimes, I feel like that’s what others think I should feel about it). And, I feel shame about the health decisions I’m making now – not because I think I’m doing anything wrong, but because so many people seem so uncomfortable with them.

But, not my therapists. Let me make that clear to anyone who sees those “lows” above and is sitting there thinking “Uh, yeah… what you’re doing probably IS your eating disorder.” My therapists disagree. I disagree. And, next week, I’ll also be seeing a nutritionist to work out where to go from here.

Just because I have bad days – just because I have days when I am not happy or when I am struggling with disordered or unhealthy thoughts and urges does not mean that all of my behavior and decisions are disordered. As my therapist pointed out, the key here is that my eyes are wide open about what’s going on, and I am talking about all of these things that are coming up. That is not what an active eating disorder looks like: EDs thrive on secrecy and silence.

This feels like a good time to switch over to all the positive things that have come up in the last three weeks.

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  1. I have rediscovered my love and talent for cooking. When I was tracking calories and macros, I shied away from cooking, because it was so tedious to try and calculate the nutritional information (and the portion sizes that fit that nutritional information) for everything I made. Now that I’m not tracking or relying on macros, I feel free to just cook!
  2. I don’t have to weigh and measure anything. Ever. I can cook a recipe and just feed my family without trying to make sure I know the exact amount of food that’s left over so that I can accurately calculate my nutrition later. I thought this was going to be a difficult piece for me, but it’s not… it is a huge weight off my shoulders to just be free to cook and eat without doing a bunch of math.
  3. My body’s signals are, indeed, becoming more clear. Even just a week ago, I would’ve ranted and raged at you that it was impossible to learn your body’s signals eating this way because my body wasn’t giving me the signals I was used to. I was experiencing a LOT of digestive upset (because vegetables), and that really impacted my ability to know if I was hungry or not. But, in week 3, everything calmed down. My digestive upset is gone, and my body is telling me when I’m satiated in a way it never has before.
  4. My mood is absolutely improved. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t had bad days – I have had horribly irritable days! But, it’s not as often as it was, and I feel much more in control of it. I am less “snappy,” less irritable, I have more patience and, I believe, even a little less anxiety overall. One caveat, though: my insomnia actually got worse, especially in the first week. I feel like that’s evened out now, though. I would not say I am sleeping better; but, I’m no longer sleeping worse.
  5. I joined a gym! Not just any gym, though — I’ve joined a small local gym that focuses exclusively on personal training. I’ve started strength training for the first time ever! I’ve always avoided strength training because of what it tends to do to the scale; removing the scale means focusing on other goals… like not being squished when doing bench presses ūüėČ
  6. And, fine, I will tell you what I’ve seen on the scale those couple of times when I had to step on: initially, a small 1.5-pound loss, after which I gained about half a pound back. But, you know what… that’s really, really ok with me. In fact, it’s awesome. It means I’ve gone 3 weeks without tracking my food (in fact, I’ve piled my plates HIGH — if you care to see, you can follow me on instagram @saladflambe), and I’ve not gained a bunch of weight.

    It means that there’s another way to live, and I am so excited about that.

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Why Was I Fat?

Let’s go beyond literal answers to this question. Yes, I was overweight because I ate too much and moved too little; but, I eat less and move more now, and that’s how one fixes symptoms without ever fixing the root issue. Why was I fat?

It was safe.

When I was larger, I was less visible. Not because I was fat, but because I believed being big meant I didn’t deserve love, attention, or to be noticed by those more worthy than myself. I made myself less visible because I was fat and ashamed of it all the while convincing myself that my size was the reason that nobody wanted me. The truth is that many people tried to love and get close to me when I was fat, but I didn’t allow myself to receive it because of my¬†self hatred.

Being fat also made me an easy target for some people’s bullying. And, somehow, it seemed safer to be on the receiving end of that. If I was a target, then I was not a threat. If I was not a threat, maybe they would stop tearing me down. These were people who I wanted to love me but who were unable to do so because of their own issues, but I didn’t understand that at the time. All I knew was that I desperately wanted to be good enough for them, and that seemed to mean¬†losing weight. It seemed like the only thing I had to do to finally be good enough for them was to lose weight. But it was never enough. I would starve myself down 40 pounds, and they would push for 10 more. 10 more, and I would be good enough. But, I was starving, and I hated myself for still not being good enough. Inevitably, I would gain it back and remain a target. I was never allowed to stop being fat…even when I wasn’t fat.

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An assortment of theatre/drama photos from high school. Can you find me?!

I believed it was inevitable.

One side of my family has always struggled with weight; three people on that side of my family have had weight-loss surgery. In fact, when I joined Weight Watchers, I did so in order to prepare myself for weight-loss surgery. My mom had told me that Weight Watchers would “teach me how to eat,” which was a skill I would need after surgery.¬†I fully believed that surgery was going to be my path (and know¬†that it is a path that I do not judge – it¬†has worked wonders in my family members’ lives).

I was shocked when I began losing weight on Weight Watchers. I thought, like with everything else I tried, it would be unmaintainable. I thought that I would fail. I thought that I’d give up. That was my¬†real resignation: I believed that I would give up; I believed that I would fail. Attempting something while believing you will fail makes you about a hundred times more likely to¬†quit. I’d say I was about a month or more into the program before I started believing that it might be possible for me to do this.

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“That look” hahaha

I tried to fill the void with food.

This….this is probably the biggest reason I was overweight. I still struggle with this today.

For every happy memory, special person, and celebrated occasion in my life, there is a food. There’s my Nana’s mac and cheese, my grandmother’s doughy rolls, my ex-stepmom’s Moroccan stew, my dad’s meatloaf, my mom’s spaghetti. There’s the crab soup we ate at the beach, the cold watermelon we ate all summer that my dad taught me how to pick out, the sweet tomatoes with salt we pulled from my great grandmother’s garden. There’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the tang of ocean water still on my lips, there’s fried chicken before Santa shows up to pass out presents, there’s red velvet cake before we sing happy birthday. For everything, there is a food. My memories are tied to food. My emotions are tied to food.

I have a void inside of me. It comes from a desperate desire to be loved, to be good enough. Sometimes, I try to fill that void with food. I make and eat my Nana’s mac and cheese and, for a few moments, she’s alive again, and I am loved by her. I have my dad’s meatloaf and, for a little while, it’s a really special day during my childhood (he only made meatloaf on special days). I’m good enough in the past for those few short present moments. I re-create my ex-stepmom’s Moroccan stew and, for a time, that divorce never happened, and my family never fractured. I eat and eat, remember and feel, and I try to fill the void.

Only the void can’t be filled with food or memories. I can’t go back and make the people who didn’t love me in the past have loved me then. I can’t bring back my grandmother or my great grandmother; those goodbyes have been said for the final time. I can’t be a child again and get to experience all of the things I missed out on. I can’t go back; I can only go forward.

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So, how do I fill the void left by what I missed out on in the past? Not by trying to re-capture what’s gone, but by creating love now. By capturing the love around me today. Not through food but through the experience of love and those people who give it now. Through being fully present for today’s times of love, care, and being good enough. Slowly, piece by piece, the void is filled…as I let go of the old, worn-out pieces I’ve been trying to cram into it, set them aside to be valued for what they are, and allow new, solid, foundational pieces to fill the void. This will allow me to be filled by something much more permanent than food — by love.

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The “After” Myth

DURING

After.

It’s here.

In my first post, Before, 3 years ago, I said “I’m not to After yet, but I’m closer to After than to Before.”

I¬†now weigh 117 – 120 pounds (depending on the day), and standing at 5-foot 6-inches, that measurement means that After is very, very here. But, before you congratulate me, dear readers…if I have any…and dear friends and family who I know follow this blog… I have to come clean with you: I don’t feel like I’m at After. I’m terrified of being at After. And, I don’t like that After is here.

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The tagline of my blog is “uncovering myself one pound at a time.” For most of this blog, I’ve spoken strongly about how my relationship with food and myself was what caused my weight¬†struggles. I stand by that. The thing is, the symptoms have resolved faster than I’ve been able to treat the deeper disease. I’ve lost the weight,¬†but¬†I’ve failed to uncover and learn to truly love myself in the process. Truthfully, I have no idea who I am without “needs to lose weight” being one of the primary parts of my identity.

This is why I have not been posting…because this blog is not about weight loss…it’s about life gain. I could not bear to post here about the beautiful things one can gain in life by learning to love yourself while, in the background, hating myself so hard while the weight melted off. Progressing on the outside while regressing internally. Because, that’s the truth, readers. The last stretch of this weight loss hasn’t been healthy OR happy: it’s been agony. It’s been sad. It’s been an exercise in mourning.

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I’ve gotten so good at putting on the happy face. At “smile, nod, yes, thank you, I have lost a lot. No, I’m not trying to lose any more; you don’t need to worry.” I’m very good at this script, but it’s been such a lie, readers. The truth is my body melted away, and I stared at myself in the mirror not understanding why I couldn’t love the skin I’m in. Why? I thought¬†After was the goal!

But I made a mistake.

A crucial mistake.

I forgot that the number on the scale is only a number. Only just a number. It’s not a before. It’s not an after. Getting that number to a certain set of digits¬†is¬†not¬†my¬†After.

I’m not at After. There is no After – happily ever or otherwise. There is only today. Just today –¬†During.

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I tell you this now not to discourage you but to hopefully prevent someone from making the mistake that I did and associating After with a number. I weigh 120 pounds and still struggle with my weight. Losing weight does not mean you no longer struggle with your weight; I wish I had truly understood that. I still struggle with food. I still struggle with me.

Looking at the picture I put first in this post, I have to pause. I look at me …¬†past vs. present. That is me. All of those pictures are of me. People say they do not recognize the girl in the other pictures. I’m here to say: that girl is me.

Don’t look at her as an abomination, because enough people, myself included, did that already.

Don’t congratulate me on no longer being her; I still am her. And doesn’t she deserve to¬†be?

Don’t tell me I look better; I don’t. I look different.

Don’t speak of her as if she is a poor, piteous person. She’s not.

She’s me.

She’s standing right here, and she is fucking strong.

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There. Is. No. After.

There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of weight loss because the rainbow has no end.

There is today. There is now. There is during. There is life.

I uncovered myself one pound at a time; now, I must REcover myself…I must DIScover myself. And that…that is the new goal. Not numbers. Not sizes. Not inches.

Me. I am the goal. Finding. Loving. Being.

Can anybody hear me?

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The Power of Acknowledgement

Forewarning: this is an oddly philosophical, floaty post. And, it has little to do with my currently plateau-ed weight loss journey. You have been warned ūüôā

You know that feeling you get when someone simply acknowledges your presence? Maybe it’s a stranger in a coffee shop who gives you a smile and a nod, or maybe it’s a friend who greets you after a long time apart. Maybe the act doesn’t even come from a human: I’ve seen dementia temporarily¬†cured and muteness lifted for a little while by the simple act of acknowledgement from a little dog in a nursing home ward. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself: when I am acknowledged, it feels like a nod to my existence. I feel like I am worthy, right then,¬†to be in the right place at the right time for whatever is right for that moment. The act of acknowledging and being acknowledged is a¬†profound and important one; at least, it’s that way for me.

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There was a time when I didn’t really feel I was worthy of being seen or acknowledged. I desperately wanted to be seen; but, I also wanted to be invisible. Self hatred and reliance on external sources to provide meaning to your life and definition to your sense of “self” will do that to you. This time in my life is in the past, and it is not where I am¬†anymore; nevertheless, it’s something I’ve been reminded of lately — the power of acknowledgement.

This week, I have found myself genuinely touched by moments when someone else acknowledges me…when they see me and take a moment to¬†say hello, smile, share a laugh, like a Facebook post, really any little thing. And, I have felt compelled to acknowledge others more — not just people I know, but also the people I encounter wherever I am in the moment. It’s important to know and make known when someone is seen because there are many people out there who feel invisible. Choosing to see someone in any given moment could, for all you know, give them a breath to get through the next moment. Even a simple act of connection can remind someone “you exist; I see you,” and I believe¬†that is an important message to send to those around you.

There’s little point to this post except to encourage you to make eye contact with someone today. Acknowledge someone. See someone you might not typically notice. Let’s all remind one another that we exist and are worthy to do so.