I chose my college based on one thing:  Dr. Douglas Ubelaker.

I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist because it combined all my nerdy interests -- archaeology, osteology, population genetics, geology, crime scene analysis, and the pursuit of justice. It just so happened that not only is Dr. Ubelaker at the top of his field as well as the curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian, but he teaches at GWU.   

My application to GWU was the only college application I prepared.  I was accepted as an early decision student.  I couldn't wait to share the news with Dr. Ubelaker, with whom I had begun a correspondence my senior year in High School.  I developed a 5-year plan where, after the first three years, I would have a degree in Biological Anthropology, and after two more years, I would have a masters degree in forensic anthropology.  Or so I thought.

Standing in my way was Doc Rowley and Chemistry for Science Majors.  Okay, those weren't the obstacles, but rather a touch of dyscalculia and my TA's (teaching assistant who ran the lab sessions) thick accent (she was from Tobago).  For the first time in my life, my grade at the end of a semester was a C minus.  I was beside myself. 

Instead of getting a tutor, or applying myself harder (because I never had to work hard to understand things in HS), my first instinct was to quit.  I went to Doc Rowley (who was not just my professor, but the dean of the school of forensics at the time) and asked to withdraw.  He cited my perfect attendance to his class, my eagerness to participate, and my facility with the material.  We looked at my tests and it was obvious that it all came down to numbers.  He said "I know you know what you're talking about, but you need to quantify it."  We struck a deal that if I didn't pass the first test of the second semester, that he would grant me the withdrawal.  I got a D on that test.  I don't know if it was because I didn't try hard enough, or because I just wanted out of something I had no natural gift for.

When I went to him with the paperwork for the withdrawal he said to me "Come back any time.  I'll be here for you when you're ready."  My copy of the withdrawal slip is one of the few momentos I have kept from college.  A reminder to myself that someone believed in me more than I believed in myself.  In retrospect, I am very proud of that C (though it kept me from graduating summa cum laude) because it has come to represent struggle, not failure.  My failure was not getting the help when I needed it.  Pride got in the way.

I would go on to major in English, with minors in creative writing and biological anthropology (and had I taken some music theory classes, I would have had a minor in vocal performance).  My degree has served me well, especially in light of the surge in interest for forensics that shows like CSI and Bones has created (thus deflating the salaries of most lab monkeys).

So, you're wondering how this applies to weight loss and my blog in general?

Confession:  I have gained 11 lbs since the end of November. I'm now over the number I said that I would never go over.

Caveat:  I also haven't had a proper bowel movement thanks to Percocet in a few days, so that might just be artificially inflating the gain.  And yes, I've been drinking lots of water and getting fiber in my diet. 

Truth:  Even if 11 isn't the exact number, my behaviors have failed me.

(1) I'm not allowed to exercise at all until I have been cleared by my doctor/physical therapist.  I'm only allowed to walk, and I have a 30-45 minute window before my back/neck starts to hurt.

(2) As a class of drugs, steroids (in this case, Depo Medrol) are known to cause increased appetite and weight gain (among other things). Oh, it has been known to cause depression as well.

(3) I've been insatiable.  I know that is more a mental feeling than a physical one.  I've chosen to quiet the beast by giving it what it wants instead of doing the work of mindful eating.

(4) I've been making bad choices as well as not tracking what I eat.  My choices are based on whim, proximity, and availablility.

Game Plan:
(1) Think about getting a membership to the local YMCA -- they have a pool, go to rehab, negotiate pool privileges with doctork.

(2) The side effects aren't "get out of jail free" cards -- stop treating them like one.  They aren't justification or free passes.  I know the possible side effects.  I don't need to play into them.

(3) Start doing the math again.  Make logical and thoughtful choices based on what I know to be true versus letting my emotions run the show.

(4) Make better choices.  Plan better. 

(5) Learn the lessons from the story above:  (a) enlist help; (b) admit shortcomings; (c) realize that I haven't unlearned anything; (d) come back to it when I'm ready.

and most importantly...

(6) Don't give up without a fight.


If you can only walk 30-45 minutes at a time, and if you really want to commit to exercise, walk in the morning AND in the evening.

I've also been taking a drug with "weight gain" side effects. Since I started taking it about 18 months ago, I haven't lost a pound. I'll gain and lose but I haven't gone below the number I was when I started taking the drug. I totally understand the "get out of jail free" side of it. Don't let it get to you. Keep working hard. You CAN do this.


Kate: There are some days that i can double up on walking (and i do) and some days when my body tells me "no" (and I listen). It's hard in mornings and after work because I often need to ice my neck just to deal with pain. I can't bounce out of bed like I used to :(

I hate gaining/losing the same weight. But at the same time, my focus can't be on the scale, but the behaviors.

I hate seeing other friends in pain and going through this, but it's a huge comfort to know that there are people that understand the struggle.


BTW, regarding pool stuff - as a DC resident you've got free membership to the DC pools, including the VERY NICE Wilson pool in Tenleytown on the Red line, and Marie Reed pool in Adams Morgan (right next to the softball field near 18th and U).

If you get cleared to do something in the pool, let me know - I'm often pool-running at Marie Reed on Thursday mornings early.


Cris -- I'm very familiar with free access to the DC pools. I'm just thinking proximity/"where would i actually go" -- but if you're at Marie Reed... that's a thought.

Just call me Flipper.


Shoulda known you'd know all about it :D

Anyways, just ping me if you ever want to pool-run together on Thursday mornings at Marie Reed (Tuesdays are usually track for me). I usually do 40-60 minutes, plus possibly a bit of easy swimming.


I used to play kickball at Marie Reed :) I would often need use of their bathrooms :)

Once I get cleared from the doc/rehab, I'll let you know!


I believe in you. Just wanted to put that out there. And I know you can make it through this - stronger than before.

The pool is a great option once the doctor clears you. Deep water aerobics might be good as they help stretch you out and do a lot of muscle work. You can get a really good work out from that - so long as you try. That's where I really started my weight loss journey. It helped me to regain muscle and strengthen my knees.


Lovely Leslie: thank you for the vote of confidence. It's hard to feel confident about this injury becuase i know that inevitably it will bring me to my knees. That's just the course of degenerative disc disease and my own prognosis.

As for the pool, I'm a fish. I grew up on Long Island and with a swimming pool in my backyard. I'm very comfortable in the water. So more than just great exercise, it helps me relax. AND it justifies swimsuit shopping in January.


I'm surprised you weren't given pool priviledges. I would think that this would allow you to still work out with minimal pressure on your's not like you would go Iron Woman swimming on us (or would you)?

I am holding at a 45lbs weight loss ( for three months now) I understand the frustratuions of not having the number change. Focus on what you CAN change, not what you can't....and know you have friends who support you....whatever happens!


Anon --
I can do strokes that don't require me turning my head (i.e. backstroke) or lifting it out of the water (no breast stroke). Pretty soon I'll be able to do some pool walking.

I'm trying to focus on paying attention to and logging my food. That will help keep me motivated and "in the game."


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