Progress report: Weigh to go, a way to go

A little less of me to love. At the Iron Bird Cafe after my doctor's visit.

God, I’m such a loser …

Wait up — let me finish before you get all “Why are you getting down on yourself?”

Just wanted to get your attention — and succeeded …

So, last Tuesday I went back to the doctor handling my hormone therapy for my three-month injection and a general checkup.

And for the first time in a long time, I can truly say I’m making progress — and I’m not talking about my transition, either, though that’s coming along nicely, too. For the first time in a decade, I’m losing weight in bunches.

And people are noticing.

I still have quite a way to go, but dayyyy-ummm! For the moment, I’m feeling great. I’m as happy as I’ve been … probably in my whole life.

Well, aside from the nagging unemployment thing, which has done a number on me. But that’s another post.

For someone who doesn’t own a scale, because I don’t want to obsess about what I weigh, I sure remember certain numbers:

  • I was 168 pounds when I graduated college in 1983. (God, I wish I had been able to come out back then — I was a pretty, skinny young thing and I could’ve rocked all those cool clothes and shoes back in the day …)
  • I was around 174 my first summer out of school and stayed around there a couple of years.
  • By the end of 1988, my metabolism started slowing down after about five years of a desk job. I had crept up to 190. (Shortly after that I started losing my hair — talk about double traumas …)
  • The last time I was under 200 pounds was 1990. That was during my flirtation with Slim Fast — or, as the gifted comic Rob Bartlett of the Imus crew once put it: One delicious shake for breakfast, another for lunch … AND EAT LIKE A FUCKING PIG FOR DINNER!!!
  • I was about 220 when I started working at the New Haven Register in the fall of 1992.
  • In early 1996, after a couple of bad breakups with two absolutely crazy girls (these were three-week things, not any of my long-term relationships; the short ones always floored me because the dumping came out of nowhere), and the ensuing blows to a nearly nonexistent self-esteem, I was over 230.
  • By early 2000, after lots of depression binging and perhaps a bit past the start of my sleep apnea, I ballooned in a year’s time from the low 240s to 276. I went on an exercise/diet/supplement regimen at my gym and got down to 241 in three months. But then I plateaued, I couldn’t crack 240, and frustration and depression set in; by year’s end, I had gained all of it back and then some.
  • When I moved to Fresno in March 2004, there was a scale in my bathroom at the LaQuinta Inn on Tulare Avenue where I stayed my first three days; I clocked in at 283.
  • By 2006, the sleep apnea was raging full-on and I inched uncontrollably toward 300. Even with watching what I ate and going to an eating disorder clinic, I kept creeping up the scale. My waist, 32 inches when I left college, was heading past 50 to its absolute worst of 52.
  • In May 2007, I was at the full brunt of the effects of the sleep apnea. My general practitioner at the time weighed me at 316. I’m estimating that at my worst, shortly before I began my apnea treatment, that June 11, I had reached 320. My all-time high; my all-time low.
  • By year’s end, as my body righted itself — and stopped producing all that cortisol, which stores fat, as a defense mechanism — I was down to 282. I plateaued again, though.

Then the layoff in March of 2009. Lots of binge eating, especially in six weeks of absolute hell between mid-September and early November. Then it was home to Connecticut for eight weeks over the next four months. That included Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, a New Year’s Eve party and my folks’ 50th anniversary party, lots of friends treating me to restaurants, and me buying cookies and candy to keep me company on my downtime.

When I first saw the doctor who’s handling my hormone treatment, on March 6, I was back to up 309. I was not happy — mortified, actually — and she wasn’t too thrilled, either. And to boot, my cholesterol was high.

She decided not to start me on the hormones until I got the weight and cholesterol under control. I went back to healthy eating, broke out the bicycle and started on a cholesterol med. At the end of April, I was down to 283. She and I were both astounded.

But then I backslid. Lots of bags of Smarties, or at least bulk bags of the cheap Winco equivalent, Sassy Sours, as I sat at this here desk.

When I returned to her on May 25, I was back up to 289. She wasn’t happy with me and I certainly wasn’t happy, either. Plus, as I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t happy with her treatment of me as a human being, either. She was pleased enough with my cholesterol numbers, though, that she started me on the hormones. But she admonished me to get rid of the weight, as it would all land in my midsection as my body changed shape and redistributed the fat. I did explain that I was doing some depression noshing, and she paused as if in understanding.

But no arguments with her on the weight front. Doc or no doc, though, I most definitely wanted to lose the weight. Badly. For good. I didn’t come all this way in my life to be a fat chick. I didn’t want to begin my second adolescence as a middle-age housewife, subjected to a life of stretchy polyester slacks and shapeless tops.

I was shocked that I had shot up over 300 again over the winter. I wanted to be under 200. There’s no way I could be the skinny thing I was in my school days again — after all, my shoulders filled out in the late ’80s — but I figured 200 was a nice and doable number.

If I put my heart into it.

I asked myself the question every athlete or aspiring performer hears at one point or another:

How badly do you want it?

Well, I plunged headlong into this change in life — and lifestyle — and wasn’t planning on looking back.

I’ve been doing three things differently.

The first?

The bike riding.

Well, actually, I’ve been doing it all along to some degree or another. But unless something’s physically wrong with me, I’m on my trusty Diamondback Wildwood nearly every day — usually four or five times a week, 10 to 15 miles at a clip.

I often ride it to do errands. The post office is on the other side of downtown from where I live, a little under four miles. It’s nothing to get on the bike and ride over to mail out bills. My bank is a bit farther, about six or seven miles; when I want to deposit a check, I’ll make a trip of it. There are some days when I don’t use the car now, a good thing since the Celica is 18, 19 years old and has 244,000 on the odometer, and I don’t know how much longer it’ll hold up.

The only things holding me back from riding more have been the Fresno air and the freakish byproducts of middle age.

The San Joaquin Valley’s air quality is usually shit — right up there neck-and-neck with L.A. for the country’s worst. It’s what happens when you’re in a valley between big two mountain ranges, the heat is brutal and the ensuing heat inversion traps tons of dust from farms, car emissions and cowshit. Plus, throw in 13 months of growing seasons a year and all the pollen that comes with it. There are days when I’m practically asthmatic, and I’ll try slugging it out and only get three or four miles before my lungs do a chokehold on me.

And there are the odd things I’ve done in my sleep. (OK, go ahead — get all the juvenile jokes out of the way now. This is your time.) Three Saturdays ago, I slightly twisted my right ankle somehow; I tried the ankle once or twice during the week and realized it wasn’t a smart thing. And then, once I got that squared away, I hyperextended my left knee in my sleep the next weekend. I have no clue what the hell I’m kicking, but that’s just downright weird. And keeps me off the bike on days when I really want — need — to ride. Anyway, that’s all for bike riding for now.

The second?

Watching what I eat a bit more — and watching it go into my mouth a lot less.

My usual breakfast is cereal — usually one of the Kashi shredded-wheat cereals, such as Island Vanilla or Autumn Wheat — with nonfat milk. When I can find some in decent shape, not rotting in the pack already, I’ll buy blueberries as toppers; they’re my favorites and — OK health fiends, all together now, on three — they’re rich in antioxidants. And afterward, I’ll usually have a banana.

Most days, I don’t have lunch. I’ll get an iced coffee somewhere along the way, or lately, if I go to the Iron Bird Cafe, the coffee shop that opened just north of downtown in March, even iced tea instead. I always drink iced tea unsweetened, but when I have iced coffee I always want to dump some milk and sugar in the mix, and if I’m at Revue, I’ll pour in some cocoa powder as well.

As for dinner? I’ve discovered the wide world of portion control. I’ve also discovered the joy of Fresh & Easy.

Fresh & Easy is a huge supermarket chain (owned by the British conglomerate Tesco) in the guise of a small, green-themed (both color and environmentally), high-tech neighborhood grocery. It made its inroads into California by starting in the L.A. area four, five years ago, and just made its way up to the Central Valley in March, opening several stores in Fresno and Clovis. In a couple of months, it will hit the Bay Area.

One of the stores opened on Tulare and R streets — on the site of the late, lamented Hofbrau restaurant, where I had my first dinner as a Fresno resident, but more importantly, right along my regular bike route. That means I can stop in every day and pick up something fresh — and easy. And if I’m lucky, I can pick up some real bargains. There’s a bargain section that’s replenished about three times daily with food items, from meats to salads to ready-to-eat meals, that are at their expiration dates, and you can get them for up to half price.

My housemate Nancy was the one who turned me on to the store. And sometime in late June, early July, I stopped in around dinnertime on the tail end of a bike ride. Normally, that’s a big mistake. But not this time. I found their prepared meals, things such as mango chicken with rice, chicken masala with rice, jambalaya, chicken and shrimp pad thai. Plenty of ready-to-eat microwave bowls for four bucks. Maybe a salad for three bucks. Half that if it’s in the discount section. And since I have a hard time cooking for myself, and these take three, four minutes in the nuke — voila! Birth of a habit.

More often than not now, my dinner will be something from Fresh & Easy. I wouldn’t call my eating habits a diet, though. I still go out once or twice a week, especially on Wednesdays for pub quiz at Landmark. Once in a blue moon — say, once a week — I’ll hit the drive-thru at Jack in the Box for a Big Cheeseburger or mozzarella sticks and a medium iced tea. And I’ve cut back on my visits to the Chinese buffet for cheap sushi to once every three, four weeks instead of every week or two.

The only real snacking I do is I allow myself a pound of mozzarella, which I attack in dribs and drabs throughout the week. (And in New Haven Italian vernacular, by the way, it’s pronounced “mootzarell,” or “mootz” for short.) Sometimes I’ll come home late at night and cut up a few slices, and slice up a garlic clove to go with it. And to cut the burning potency a little, maybe I’ll drizzle it with a little ketchup. (But I do loves my garlic — it’s the staff of life …)

But I cut out the candy. I used to buy a bulk bag of Smarties or the Winco equivalent, Sassy Sours, every time I went to the store, and the whole damn bag, over a pound, would be gone in two days. It was an absentminded craving to sit on the mantel with all my other cravings through the years: potato chips, ice cream, candy.

And that leads me to …

The third?

The hormones themselves. They’ve cured me of most of what was depression-driven noshing.

One thing I noticed within a week of my first injections was that I was no longer craving candy. I was no longer wanting to absentmindedly sit there and pull rolls of Sassy Sours out of the bag and peel them and pop them in my mouth while I looked at the screen.

As I became more emotionally centered, the voice inside would tell me, “Nah — you don’t really need that.” And I listened to it. By the second week of June, I had stopped buying candy.

The cravings I’ve had since my days as a skinny college dweeb have finally been tamed to a whimper. I might have one cookie at a coffee shop at the midway point of my bike rides, or the aforementioned couple of late-night slices of mootz. But I seem to have conquered a huge demon thanks to the hormones.

It’s been pretty clear to me that the hormones have brought me a sense of emotional balance, a centering, I had never felt before. I still have my blah days, and with the stress of the unemployment and a couple of other things, my life can still be a sea of storms. But I’m not chronically depressed anymore. I’m not sure whether this is because the depression has gone away, or whether my body was having some long-term physiological craving for chemicals that were missing in my brain, but the mass munching is over.

And then, I noticed a wonderful thing happening, come late June.

My clothes started fitting a little looser. A tune-up helped, I’ll admit, but pedaling the bike in general got a whole lot easier. I started eating dinner earlier in the day and wasn’t feeling that empty come bedtime.

And then, come the start of August, my clothes were fitting a lot looser. I was down a dress size — it’s only 22 to 20,  but while it’s glacial to some, it was a revelation to me, an extremely positive sign. The size-22 Gloria Vanderbilt skinny-leg jeans I bought for a buck at a yard sale in early July were now quite loose in the waist, and the belt I was using to hold them up — the belt I’d been using with all my oversized boy clothes the past few years — could stand to use another hole punched right now.

Another sign is looking in the mirror and seeing a skinnier neck and only 1 1/2 chins (which I’ve learned to artfully hide by cocking my head in photos). Another was turning sideways in the mirror and looking a little less pregnant. And another biggie was being able to look down for the first time in years and see something girls aren’t supposed to see (tee hee).

Of course, the positive reinforcement from not just seeing, but feeling results feeds upon itself. And the positive things I’ve been hearing from friends have been overwhelming — the past three weeks, I’ve been getting a lot of “You lost a lot of weight” and “Look at you!” and “You look fantastic!” (And I do not get a swell head about all this, believe me; I’m just so digging hearing all these wonderful things for the first time in my life, and I know it’s a blessing and don’t take it lightly.) The paradox is that, every time I put on weight as I started packing pounds in the ’90s, people would tell me I looked like I lost weight. Go figure. But baby, as Southside Johnny once sang, this time it’s for real.

Despite being off the bike for most of two weeks before the doctor’s visit, I felt the weight either staying where it was or coming off bit by wee bit. And judging by the way I felt, I was starting to play guess-the-weight in my head for when I hit the scale once again. At my least optimistic, I was thinking about 258; at my most optimistic, mid-240s. Which made me caution myself not to be disappointed if I came in at a higher number than I imagined. After all, it is weight loss nonetheless.

Half of me was looking forward to the visit as I got on the freeway Tuesday afternoon; the other half wasn’t. That half was girding for another unpleasant interaction with my doc, who was not the most pleasant or encouraging of people in my previous visits. But oddly enough, I ran into the doc in public a week and a half before: on a Saturday night at Tokyo Garden watching my dear pal Blake Jones and his Trike Shop play. I was sitting with Blake’s wife, Lauri, and the doc walked by on the way to the loo, and we looked at each other with surprise. “You look great,” she said, and I thanked her. That was pretty much the extent of it. So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

They called me in. First stop: the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I stepped up.




Well, it felt like more than that. I was really hoping 250s. But still, it was 22 pounds in 13 weeks — and 42 pounds since March,  two weeks shy of six months — and I had to remind myself not to get hung up on the scale number.

Then, on to the exam room and time to come face-to-face with the doc. Unlike my previous visits, when I sat in the exam room for ages before she came in, it was only five minutes after I had my blood pressure taken (a very low but healthy 86/58). And instead of Doczilla, she was much more cordial this time.

Of course, we commiserated about Blake (she’s a big fan, too), and she asked me how the treatment was coming. I told her the hormones were doing the one thing I was hoping they’d do — giving me some emotional balance and some peace of mind, and that they were what has kept me off the cliff the past three months. She didn’t register any reaction one way or the other.

“So you lost a lot of weight,” she remarked.

“Well, it felt like a lot more than the scale says,” I told her. “I was hoping it would say somewhere in the 250s.”

“But you’re right on target,” she said. “You’ve lost almost two pounds a week. That’s all you want to lose. Once you get past two pounds a week, you start to burn lean muscle mass, and you don’t want to do that. Remember, it took you a long time to put on all that weight.”

She had me lie down on the table and felt my body for any undue swelling or any abdominal pains, which could possibly mean liver problems. No problems.

“I see you’re growing breasts,” she said, as she felt my chest. It doen’t feel like growth, though.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “They’re sensitive, but I’m not sure whether they’re the remnants of my man boobs or girl breasts.”

“No, they’re a woman’s. That’s glandular growth.”

We talked about some other things as well. I go to court Sept. 16 for my official, legal name change to Fran, after which I can go to DMV and get my get a new license with my “new” name, new pic and new gender. So the doc filled out the DMV form I need for the gender change on my license.

She told me that since my COBRA goes bye-bye in a couple days, leaving me without health insurance, she’s putting me on a sliding scale so I can afford to continue coming; many of her trans patients are unemployed, so that’s why she started the scale.

We talked about me looking at jobs back home in Connecticut; she said she doesn’t know if there are any doctors back there who deal with gender and hormones. (And so far, I’ve only seen one therapist listed in New Haven who handles gender matters.) And she told me to give her a heads-up if I get a job that sends me back to the other side of the country.

And before she left me to the nurse for my depo provera shot, for the first time since my initial visit, she left me with a hug. I got to see a different side of the doctor this last time. I really don’t know how to read her — whether I just lucked into three previous days where she was in a bad mood, or whether she was exercising her version of tough love on me, or she needed some proof that I’m serious about this whole trip. But I got to see a supportive side of her this time, and at a point where I’ve been a little on the emotionally fragile side.

So I quickly dispelled any negative thoughts I had about my scale number and embraced the fact that damn, I’ve lost 42 pounds in six months. If I keep up the pace, I’ll be down around 240 by Thanksgiving, a place I haven’t been in 10 years. And I’m over a third of the way to 200, which will be spectacular — and that’s “will,” not “would.” I know I have a long way to go, but physically, I feel pretty damn good right now.

The important thing is to not get all complacent about things. And I’m not. A heat wave kept me off the bike for three days (103 Tuesday, 110 Wednesday, 106 Thursday), but I was back out riding for about 13 miles Friday and 21 more Saturday. And while I’m pedaling harder and faster than before, I didn’t feel winded in the least.

Of course, all this means I’ll have to get a job pretty soon, because I’m gonna need a whole new wardrobe. (Not to mention electrolysis …)

But while the transition and the weight loss are coming along wonderfully, the rest of my life is a sea of storms right now. I don’t know how much more of this unemployment bullshit my soul can take.


7 Responses to “Progress report: Weigh to go, a way to go”

  1. Jackie Says:

    Go Franny!!

    I feel ya sister, I have been doing the elliptical machine 4 days a week. I have cut out alcohol and sweets. Im hoping to be 30-40 lbs lighter by next summer. Hang in there. You can do it!

    Oh and Congrats on the boobies 🙂

  2. franoramaworld Says:

    That was funny, honey …

    The elliptical machine rules. Long time ago, when I was at the Bee, I would go up to the fitness room at least four times a week and work the machine, often while watching “Jeopardy” or “Family Guy.” It was the same model elliptical I used to use at my gym back home. It’s a great, no-impact workout. But the bike is a more-than-decent substitute …

    Anyway, much luck with your weight loss, too …

  3. jmucci Says:

    Hey Fran….glad to hear things are going better for you. And that you’re happier. Have you thought about taking even a crappy job for now, just to get back out there in the working world? I’m still trying to hold out as long as I can too. My unemployment went back up, so I’m not in desperate need to get a job that asks the age-old question, “would you like fries with that?”

    Anyhow, congrats!

  4. Miriam Says:

    We should head to the mountains for a walk around a lake in a couple of weeks. I have to work this Saturday…

  5. Laurel Says:

    You look beautiful! Just be careful with that weight loss; when I rebound…it goes straight to my ass! 🙂

  6. Joe Says:

    Hey, Kid. Glad to hear the weight coming off. Keep up the good work. By eight bells, you’ll be down to two bills.

  7. I met my old lover on the aisle last night … « Franorama World Says:

    […] know, I get this whole long-winded post out of the way about how I’m starting to get my girlish figure after all these years, […]

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