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Life is like Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders was one of the board games I played when my age was a single-digit number, along with Sorry! and Candyland. While Candyland was a sugary, sweet fantasy world with candy cane forests and gumdrop mountains, Chutes and Ladders was more like reality because just when you thought you were ahead, life would knock you on your ass and you’d fall behind. For those unfamiliar with the rules, you’d roll the dice and then move your figure that many spaces forward. If the space you landed on had a ladder, you got to move up to the space the ladder pointed to. If you landed on a chute, you fell down to a previous space.

Last year, I felt like I’d landed on square 87 and slid down the long, long chute to square 24, and not just because those squares show the doofus who’s trying to sneak cookies from the cookie jar. Life was going pretty well. I was exercising and eating right and I’d gotten a shiny, new job and all was well with the world. Then I rolled the dice, landed on the “demon headache from hell” spot, and slowly slid, down, down, down to the “gain 40 pounds” spot. Ouch!

I’ve finally decided to do something about it, for real, and not just in a half-assed manner (no pun intended). There hasn’t been any single a-ha moment. I know people love those, but life rarely works like that. I’ve experienced growing displeasure with the numbers on the scale and my image in photographs. I’ve disliked buying larger pants and refuse to go up another size. I’ve been unhappy with my race times and the 1/2 size increase in my running shoes. I was featured in a Runner’s World article, which made me think that I should get back to a place where I can run an entire 5K, so I’m worthy of that article. I’ve looked at the calendar and realized I’m a little over a year away from 30, which is the age at which your metabolism starts to slow down, so if I want to lose weight it will only get harder the longer I wait. I recently talked to a friend who has lost 40 pounds and was very happy for her, but also thought, “I should lose 40 pounds too.” I generally don’t mind being a weight most people consider “fat” because it’s thinner than I’ve been for most of my life, but I have been moving towards a weight where my size does bother me, and I do care enough to actually do something about it. And, most importantly, the headache has been playing nice lately, and I’ve felt like I finally have the energy to accomplish things again.

All of this has culminated to make me say, “Ok, I have to lose weight, for real now, with actual goals and accountability and stuff.” I have tried exercising only 3 days a week and eating basically healthy except for the 20% of the time when I don’t. I’ve tried saying, “Eh, it’s just a pound. Who cares?” It has not been working. I wish it would work, but it doesn’t. Insert sad violin sounds here.

I have set a reasonable, yet measurable goal. I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year and another 30 pounds by the end of June next year. This amounts to losing about a pound a week, which is realistic and won’t make me crazy for a cheeseburger by week three. I’ve been tracking my food in SparkPeople, which is annoying, but helpful. On the first few days I would look at the screen sadly and say, “I’ve already eaten 1800 calories? For real?” I have spent many a night resentfully munching on carrots. Oh, vegetables, how you taunt me. I am challenging myself to exercise for 30 minutes a day, six days a week. It can be something simple, like walking, or it can be weights or Pilates or running, but I have to spend at least 30 minutes off of my ass. Again, this is reasonable, but not so much work that I’ll burn out.

I never stopped tracking my weight, so I’ll keep doing that. I’ll let you all know how it goes, even though I have no plans to weigh in here every week. As for how I feel about all this? Eh, it is what it is. I lost weight. I got sick. I gained weight. I got sorta better. Now I’ll lose weight again. I’m not mad at myself or overly happy about the whole thing. Mostly I just see a lot of work up ahead and feel like it’s time to get down to business. There’s no use in whining if you fall down a chute. You just pick up the dice and roll again. Lead me to the treadmill! I suppose I feel that way because, as I said before, although I am fat, I’m still thinner than I’ve been for most of my adult life. Things have been a lot worse than this.

I’ve noticed a change in the past few weeks, not a physical one, but one inside my head. I feel like I’m in a different mindset now. Some of it comes from the fact that I’m exercising every day, and every time I run or lift weights I’m reminding myself that I have this goal I want to achieve. The exercise also gives me a bit of a buzz, which I think helps keep the headache down too. So even if I didn’t care about being fat, I’d have incentive to run so I wouldn’t be in as much pain. I might still be a slow runner and I might be lifting piddly-dinky lil’ weights, but I know if I keep at it I’ll move ahead on the game board. I’ll cross my fingers that I land on the ladders this time, and not the chutes.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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gknee • October 12, 2009 at 9:28 am

thanks for the monday inspiration and love the chutes and ladders analogy! I’ve been resting on the laurels of past weightloss as well–but the reality is that I can’t do that either. I’m with ya sister!!


Tara • October 12, 2009 at 9:32 am

I love Spark People! I added you as a friend, if that’s ok?

Congratulations on beating back the headache enough to be able to focus on other things. I know how hard that must have been.


Rhonda • October 12, 2009 at 9:39 am

Good for you! I love how you are acting first and the mind set is following. That is what a person is supposed to do- and here you are living proof it works.

Now…….. how do I do that myself? oh duh- just like you- just do it.


Carolyn Ekins • October 12, 2009 at 9:41 am

Hi- I have been reading your fitness posts recently as this is something I’d like to work towards as the weight comes off…I think you have an amazing level of fitness! Something to aspire to!

What sort of exercise were you able to do when you initially started losing weight?

BTW Best of luck with budging those last few lbs- looking forward to reading your updates

C xx


PastaQueen • October 12, 2009 at 9:44 am

@Carolyn Ekins – I started out just walking. I think I did that for a year before I was able to slowly insert running intervals. Then I got into Pilates and weight lifting.


Christine • October 12, 2009 at 9:54 am

Good luck with the new plan!

I know it sucks to be doing it again after all you’ve achieved and all you’ve been through since then, but at least this time round you know what works and you won’t have to figure it out from scratch!


Sarah • October 12, 2009 at 9:59 am

Great plan! That’s my strategy too, finding something I can live with. Really, I think it’s the only thing that will work in the long run.

I read your book not long ago and it really inspired me to try running, which I’m really loving! So thanks for that (and the awesome book too) and good luck to you. :-)


Helen • October 12, 2009 at 10:01 am

Every person has their own limits and it sounds like you’ve finally found yours. I have to admit when I saw the RW snippet I thought, “Not sure I’d want to have to live up to that” and I’ve been running for several years. Good luck to you as you, once again, figure it all out.


Patsy • October 12, 2009 at 10:10 am

Well done for tackling this as soon as you have…

I used to weigh 420lbs. I lost 245lbs during 2001/2002 to get down to 175 (I’m 6 foot tall) which I realise now was WAY too skinny, only to gain back 175 of those pounds (at least 80 of them gained during my fairly recent pregnancy). I think I took the weightloss for granted and didn’t tackle the regain in nearly enough time. However, I’m grabbing the bull by the horns and really going for it again! I’ve already lost over 40lbs and have another 108 to go before I hit my new goal of 200lbs. And I really mean to keep it off this time! I think I’ll stay there for a while and let my weight settle before deciding whether I want to lose a little more.

Good luck in achieving your (very realistic) goals!

Patsy :o)


Cindy • October 12, 2009 at 10:25 am

I almost hate to respond because I am in the same place you are with about the same re-gain. The difference is how I see my gain vs. how you see yours (and even how I see yours!). You are fine and you see that you are still far better off than you were before. Intellectually I can tell myself that gaining 40 pounds isn’t as bad as it could be—that I am still 100 pounds lighter than I was at the beginning. But… and this is a BIG but… I feel HUGE! I feel like a total failure and I disgust myself… and then I hate myself for being so self-critical… and then I eat. Its not good. I want to take inspiration from you and make progress again, but most importantly, I want to feel better, physically and emotionally. This isn’t easy, but you are demonstrating that it isn’t impossible either. Thank you.


Lyn • October 12, 2009 at 10:36 am

I’m in too. After spending a year re-gaining 30 pounds, I finally sat down and went, “eh, I better just do this.” Hopefully in a year we will BOTH be at our goal weights.


Sara • October 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Bravo on your new resolve, PQ.

I commend you for addressing the issue publicly, and I am encouraged by the growing number of people who are willing to affirm the reality of weight loss as being fleeting in nature and that for many of us the idea that we’ll ever definitively win against obesity is a pipe dream that’s been the downfall of many a weight loss journey.

The real victory is in the continued battle, in taking each hill as it comes and not buying into the false hope that it’s the last we’ll ever have to climb.

I’m rooting for you all the way.


Celeste • October 12, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Losing weight after 30 is difficult. That I can personally attest to. I read your blog as a way of encouraging myself to achieve. Thank you for your honesty.


Cindy Marsch • October 12, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Just found your site yesterday–thanks for the inspiration! :-) I hope you can be encouraged in your new program. For what it’s worth, I think the approach of drfuhrman.com might help you deal with the headaches. As a friend says, eating this way makes her “feel like a million bucks.” I’m just starting it myself . . .


moonduster (Becky) • October 12, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Good luck! You already know you can do this, and I know you will too!


shauna/dg • October 12, 2009 at 1:03 pm

In Australia this game is called Snakes and Ladders… I dunno if it’s because we’re such a savage bunch of folk or the fact we have so many nasty snakes around… but I loved this analogy. So accurate :) I just wanted to cheer you on and say how much I admire your philosophical, matter-of-fact approach to the situation… all the best to you!


Dolores • October 12, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Love your blog, read it everyday. Thanks for mentioning Spark People. I logged on a couple of years ago and was not impressed. BUT TODAY, well, all sorts of great tools. I will be using that huge site. Keep writing, you inspire me.


Quix • October 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I love sparkpeople, everyone has their “tricks” that helped them lose all the weight, SP was mine.

I feel the same way about today. I’ve been half assing it for the last few months and I’m about 4 lbs past my “oh shit” weight, and starting TODAY I am rededicating myself to finally get the rest of the weight off. Good luck to us both!


Tara • October 12, 2009 at 2:34 pm

@shauna/dg – It’s called Snakes and Ladders in Canada too.


Lee • October 12, 2009 at 2:47 pm

It really is not all gloom & doom after 30. I can attest to that! I’m turning 50 in a couple weeks and after losing 30 pounds I’ve been maintaining in my goal range at 129ish for a while now. I don’t look at food in terms of weight loss anymore but in terms of health/nutrition or top notch fuel for my body (I regularly ride my bike 30 miles or so).

I’m happy to read that your headaches have let up. You’re going to do this!

P.S. I hope to read your book soon.


cloudy • October 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Man, I used to love the Game SORRY! I am trying to lose 30 lbs by June, too. Let’s go for it.


Deb • October 12, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I love your honesty and your inspiration. I was never morbidly obese, but I was, looking back, fat. I was able to lose about 30 pounds at age 56, which was a good amount to deduct from my 5’2″ body. I’ve kept it off for over a year, and I will say this: Maintenance is a bitch. Thanks for helping me stay alert and aware to what the scale says and for inspiring me to Just Do It when I need to, which is pretty much every day. The exercise habit has actually been easier for me to maintain than the South Beach phase 3. Too much freedom. Anyway, I enjoy your blog immensely. I’m glad your headaches are better, you’re apparently enjoying self-employment, and you’re loving yourself enough to treat your body well. Rock on!


Rachel • October 12, 2009 at 5:24 pm

That’s the spirit, champ!


Good to hear this kind of energy in your ‘voice’. Love the analogy.


Marla • October 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Yup,snakes and ladders it’s called in Canada as Australia!

Thank you SO much for your inspiring post.It really has provided a push to me to force myself to exercise again after all this time.

None of us are perfect,and I am sure you will have good and not so good days,but don’t ever forget you have helped some others along the way with your honest writing.

Thank you for being real and being you and HUMAN.

All the best and continued good health!


Deanna - The Unnatural Mother • October 12, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Sparkpeople is so annoying! I am sure you will nail your goals, you did lose 194 pounds!!!


Kelly • October 12, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Hi there PQ,

I read your book, which lead me to your blog. I am also just over a year til turning 30 (eek!) and relate to all your eighties references :) A couple of years ago I lost about 30 pounds and got in amazing shape. Then I started a new job where my coworkers are a bunch of chocoholics and gained it all back plus an additional 20. I am fed up and ready to lose it again, and this time keep it off. I think staring a blog like you did would really help me keep accountable. How do you get people to read when you’re just starting out? Or maybe there is something like diet-penpals to help people stay on track?… Thank you for being an inspiration and always so honest. P.S. I am running my first half-marathon next month!


Cynthia • October 12, 2009 at 7:45 pm

The important thing is to get where YOU are happy, whatever that size or number or fitness level is. Sounds like you are heading there!

I’ve done a lot of backsliding, I’m hoping to find the ladders and not the chutes this time around.


Kalyn • October 12, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Good for you, bravo. And I’m very happy to hear that the headache has calmed down a bit too.


Leigh Ann • October 12, 2009 at 8:47 pm

I know you can do it. I’m cheering for you. I would like to do the same. I lost 120 pounds six years ago…a couple of years later I gained back 40. I’ve been struggling with those 40 ever since. At the moment I’m 20 pounds down, but I’ve been having problems with focus. I do well for awhile, and then think, oh what the heck, I’m thinner than I was for lots of my life. As long as I’m healthy, I’ve never been much bothered by not being “thin” by the standards of many (I’ve always thought they can think what they like but it doesn’t affect my life in any meaningful way), but there are things about my present weight that are beginning to bug me. I hate not being as fit as I was. So I can identify when you said you never much cared about being a weight others might think of as “fat,” but that things about your current weight were starting to bother you. I think that is the catalyst for change, really. It has to be personal. I like your goals….they’re realistic and I feel inspired to pick up the exercise and pay more attention. Good luck, here’s wishing you success. And I hope your headaches go away or get better.


Mom Taxi Julie • October 12, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Yeahh!!! Good luck!!

I was talking to my dad the other day and my step mom ran a 1/2 marathon last weekend. She is 55. My dad ran a 5K and he’s 58. Me (35)? Dying after working out in the yard for 2 days. Kind of embarrassing!!


judi • October 12, 2009 at 10:13 pm

So happy to hear you’re feeling better and back on track. Your posts have always been so helpful to me on an oddly personal level. I hope that all your fans and admirers’ support is helpful to you in return.


Lesley • October 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Loads of luck with your venture. It’s not disimilar to mine so I hope we are both sucessful!!


Jen Stevens • October 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm

As part of my own Getting Back on Track effort, I’ve been rereading your archives and book (both of which are still a great read, in addition to being inspirational and so forth :) I guess this stuff never really ends…would that it would…..


Sarah M • October 13, 2009 at 2:26 pm

baloney-and hot dogs- and baloney again.

What about what’s inside you? Or are you just having a great time seeing your thoughts online? That’s kinda like talking to hear your own voice.

Grow up.


Clare • October 13, 2009 at 4:54 pm

I also live with chronic pain. While my story is not the same as yours, I watched my weight steadily increase for several years as I used food for my endorphin rush–takes a little of the edge off the pain, I’m guessing. Losing that weight was the best thing I did–I’ll always live with pain and I can’t control that … but I COULD take control of my weight, and that, in the end, was empowering! I’ll keep you in my thoughts.


Steph • October 13, 2009 at 8:11 pm

@Sarah M – harsh much? Isn’t what you’re doing ‘talking to hear your own voice’? You’re right, someone needs to grow up, but it certainly isn’t PQ. Gah. Trolls like you irritate the bejeezus out of me. Would you say that to someone’s face? No? Then don’t say it on the internet. Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?


Heather • October 14, 2009 at 8:33 am

Was excited to see your picture in Runner’s World. I’ve done the up and down battle as well, I let myself get complacent after doing a couple of triathlons–I was entitled to eat more. After an injury and continued entitlement I am up 30 lbs and running is a real hassle. Working on week 3 of an attitude adjustment!


Donna • October 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Way to go, PQ!


Kate • October 14, 2009 at 3:44 pm

@Lee – I agree. I am over fifty and have been able to keep my weight in a normal range without starving myself for the past several years. I think age brings with it the wisdom to look at food more in a health/nutrition way and as long as you keep moving, like PQ, things are manageable.


Ang • October 15, 2009 at 12:02 am

I am glad I can follow your blog on your journey. I had lost about 85 lbs a couple of years ago and have slowly regained about 50. I was diagnosed with a very early stage of uterine cancer with is possibly made worse by the extra poundage. So, I signed up to run the Disneyland half marathon with an old roommate September 2010 and I plan to lose 50 lbs by then.

I feel like such a fake these days. I know deep down I am a healthy person. I love eating healthfully (really, I do, but something draws me back to the crap that doesn’t make me feel better and adds empty calories). And, I do love running (while hating it at the same time.) Time to be the real me. Hope you don’t mind serving as an inspiration!!


Sarah M • October 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Okay, I’m sorry. I was being awful, perfectly.

Actually, I think this is a pretty cool website. if I’d read all the comments, I’d realize that I was behaving awfully.

I’m just jealous. I’m over 300 lbs (5’11”), and having the devil of a time with it. I’m always in pain from my back, miserable about the way I look. I do work out every other day, it seems to worsen the pain. I don’t eat alot; my metabolism is just very slow, I suppose. I’l continue to read this blog; I like the writer’s wit and self-deprecating sense of humor. I guess I need to try it myself.

Again, sorry, folks.


origamifreak • October 17, 2009 at 7:24 am

@Kate & @Lee:

I agree that it’s possible over 30. I’m 43 and have lost over 150 lbs (from 335.6 down to 183.4) I’m on my way to 150 total or 25% body fat, whichever comes first.

In fact, I think it’s been EASIER to lose 100+ pounds this time around (I did it once in my 20s), because with age I’ve gained maturity and DISCIPLINE. (I’ve always lacked somewhat in the discipline department, LOL – and yes that is directly related to how I GOT to 335.6 in the first place!)

About keeping it off, the NWCR has published a nice lay-person level paper on the statistically significant factors involved in weight management after loss, which is helpful. In other papers they say that if you can keep the weight off for 5 years, your chances of keeping it off forever are greatly increased. Links and a summary, here: http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=2280263

So once I hit goal I’m starting a 60-month countdown, and will celebrate each month that I maintain. Because I am NOT doing this again. N O T.

Jeannette, what is your ID on Spark People? I’d love to follow your progress on there!


origamifreak • October 17, 2009 at 7:33 am

P.S. I grew up in the US calling that game “Snakes and Ladders.”


TRACI • November 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm

well this comment may make you mad but what i just read made me mad so we are even…i read your book and loved it, i started reading this and you are so inspiring and real but then i came across the weight watchers post! i know it is an old post but to me ,and im sure others like me, it is new since i just started reading all of this… i was disappointed that you would say such things about another diet plan when you havent tried it and believe me weight watchers works! its the same struggles you have faced yourself on south beach that makes a person gain weight back, or not lose. you yourself have gained weight back or “fallen off the wagon”, and to put it bluntly you are still not at “goal” weight so it seems to me south beach may not be the perfect plan either


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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