Happy Easter, Peeps

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I am grateful this morning that my teenager still likes egg hunts and Easter baskets. She has two friends who are like family here today so I made baskets for them as well. Three fun baskets, with minimal candy. There are Peeps, but they don’t count. Not one of us will eat them, they are more of a running joke. Each basket has a very small chocolate bunny, a couple of small packages of Welch’s fruit snacks and a pack of Hi-chews. The boy gets a small box of Harry Potter Bertie Botts in his. The rest is just fun silly stuff: Lush bath bombs. Lotion and body spray. Stuffed bunnies. Plus a street guide for Eli since she just got her drivers permit and I insist that she learns to read a map and know the layout of the city, not just rely on stupid Google Maps.The guy gets little Lego kits, a Star Wars mini collectible.

No M&Ms. No Hershey’s kisses or mini-candy bars or any loose candy that I will eat mindlessly.

This is the third holiday in a row that I didn’t buy bags of seasonal candy. No Kisses wrapped in Thanksgiving colors. No red and green M&Ms to put out in a little dish, you know, for other people at Christmas. And I’ll give myself a “most improved” award for Halloween because I bought candy that afternoon, ate a few mini bars, tracked the calories, and threw away the leftovers the next morning. That’s right: I didn’t send the extras to the troops, or leave it out for the “Halloween Witch” (apparently she’ll take your candy and leave you cash or gift cards—I admire the mom that thought of this). I didn’t take it to our orthodontist, who weighs your candy and give you so much per pound. Nope.  I just trashed it.

So let’s review: I, who used to steal money from my mother’s purse and walk to the convenience store and buy Hershey’s chocolate bars with almonds and hide them in my sock drawer… I  have limited or eschewed bags of candy holiday after holiday.

I am sure Target, who tracks our purchases in a way that would make the NSA blush, is perplexed: I NEVER roamed those aisles without swinging down candy lane. Putting Hershey’s Kisses (I seem to have had a long, tawdry affair with that brand) in my basket was not just a holiday thing, but a weekly occurrence. I kept them in my desk drawer (see how I matured? Not my sock drawer, my desk drawer!) and never did paperwork without them. Never. I cannot remember the last time I bought them. Ate them. It has been that long.

So when I beat myself up and feel exasperated about my slow progress, I need to remember this. This is a big, big deal for me. It really is an Easter miracle.

Oh, and here is another miracle. The girls found a way to make chocolate cupcakes completely unappealing to me. They made a “unicorn-throwing-up-confetti” cupcake-cake for a birthday we are celebrating today. It is hilarious, it makes me so happy, and will make the recipient howl I am sure, but I’m good with skipping this. Real good.

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(I’m) Back

Down 43.8 pounds so far

Did you miss me? I missed me. I have been pitiful of late, and am in the process of turning around my pity party.

A few weeks ago I was at the gym, working on the Hack Squat machine, with my trainer Thayne right by my side, and I felt something pull in my lower back. Something hurt. Felt off. So I babied it, took Advil, used a heating pad, but as the day progressed I stiffened up, was in terrible pain, walked like  Quasimodo, hunched over to try and find the exact gait that would lead to the least pain. And it just went down hill from there. After 3 days of pain and self-pity I went to quick care, got an x-ray, and learned the good news: no fracture or obvious injury. And the bad news: evidence of degenerative arthritis in my lower back. So I went right into solution mode. Just kidding. I started eating.

Eventually I was taking prednisone, muscle relaxers and prescription strength Advil. My weight and my eating became wildly erratic.

I was whining to my friends Karen and Sue about this turn of events, and my reaction to it. I was saying: I went right into “poor me” mode.

And Karen said: “You’re good at it.”

She said it gently, matter-of-factly, as someone who gets me and knows my flaws and loves me anyway. I didn’t feel judged, I felt understood. Yep. I am good at going right into “poor me.” Which is gross, in the face of all the abundance in my life, but there it is. Poor me.

I let my attitude get really shitty. But I’ve already started turning it around. I think what helped more than anything was unraveling in plain sight, instead of hiding. I tracked every morsel that I ate. I ate in front of my family, who were supportive but alarmed, instead of stuffing myself in secret. I talked to supportive friends about what was going on. I didn’t blog here, but I journaled. I never went completely unconscious about what I was doing, and that willingness to look at my negative thoughts and behaviors helped me put on the breaks so much faster. I’d call that a type of success, for me.

That success might seem puny to someone who say, is young and fit, an athlete trying to shave a fraction of a second off of a sprint. It’s not like I think I’ll never say “poor me” anymore, but maybe next time I can shorten the time that I stay there, and then shorten the time after that. And the less time I spend feeling sorry for myself the more I feel optimistic, the more I feel energized, the more I search for solutions, the less I feel like I have to eat over it. Which is awesome. So my weight is going back down. Overall I am up about 5 pounds but now I see that an just a small road block, nothing insurmountable. I know what to do to get it back off and keep progressing.

In the middle of all of this I had three friends die. In less than a month. And a hand full of friends of late have been battling serious ailments. It’s heartbreaking and a little scary; harder and harder to stay in denial about my own mortality and aging. But what are my options?  Poor me? Or straightening my spine, literally and metaphorically and finding the gumption to take the best care of myself that I can as I grow older. My back still isn’t 100 percent, but today is my last day on steroids, and I am done with the muscle relaxers and super strength Advil. I am stretching and walking. I am going to try Pilates for the first time, and may go back to Curvy Yoga.

Chipping away at a chronic, lifelong battle with obesity is pretty damn flinty.  I see now that I shaved a fraction of a second off of the time I spent in “poor me” mode and am lumbering my way back to what has worked: Eating at a (small to moderate) calorie deficit and tracking everything I eat. Being more active – not as much (yet) as a few weeks ago, but moving my body nonetheless. But most of all getting back to savoring slow and steady progress, and not giving up on me.

 

 

Oh. Now I Get It.

16.4 mile bike ride this week
16.4 mile bike ride this week!

down 47.8 pounds so far

Struggle Struggle Struggle, Surrender. Struggle Struggle Struggle, Surrender. That is my process. But that’s OK. My old process was Struggle Struggle Struggle, Quit.

I’m good with Surrender.

Here’s what I mean. I have struggled really all of my life with weight. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t overweight, unless it was the few times I had lost some weight and was quickly gaining it back. Think about that. My whole life I have been gaining or losing weight, never just maintaining. So one of my struggles has been:

Oh. My. God.

I haven’t lost any weight since October. But then I got it: My weight has stayed the same. I didn’t gain back what I lost, plus extra weight on top of that. You might not get what a big deal that is, unless you have been through this yourself. I really had to surrender to the notion that for various reasons my weight has been staying the same, and accept that as a blessing instead of a curse. Surrender to the reality of my situation instead of giving up and eating like I used to and gaining all of my weight back. Quitting.

I struggled through the holidays. Struggled with working through my resistance to change. I struggled but didn’t quit, I surrendered to what I needed to do and kept moving forward.

So the last few weeks I have been thinking: I got this. I am tracking all of my food, my head is in the game, I am pushing back against the resistance, I am exercising, I am asking for help, I am eating at home more, prepping meals more often, slipping up less, staying within my calorie range more often… and the scale isn’t budging. And the struggle has been mighty: Much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Heather has the patience of Job; she has listened to me rail against my fate for quite a while now.

Karen and Sue are my sounding-boards, sisters, reality-checkers, cheerleaders, fellow travelers. I have blown up their in-boxes with whining, meandering, poor-me missives for weeks. This isn’t fair… I am trying so hard… blah blah blah.

No one is making me change my life. It is a choice. I like how I am living my life now so much more than I did nearly 50 pounds ago.

Struggle. Struggle. Struggle.

And then:

Surrender.

So. I need to lower my calories again. Obvious, I am sure, to everyone else, but kind of an A-Ha! moment for me.

So by that I mean really eat within the parameters I set for myself, quit going over a bit here and a bit there.  I am going to try to average 200 calories a day less. I think that will make a difference, but since I track everything pretty consistently: my calories consumed, how much I exercise, my weight, I should know in a couple of weeks if that will make a difference. I will say this: I would rather stay at exactly the weight I am now that go on a crazy, super-low calorie starvation diet. Seriously.

I know that is what happens on Weight Watchers, by the way. As your weight drops you go down in the number of points you get to eat every day. I don’t remember anyone talking about how you deal with that psychologically, but for me it was always hard.

Heather pointed out that when I started this odyssey I couldn’t have imagined that I would be eating the way I am now.  Hardly ever have candy? Drink only a few glasses of wine a week? Not eat whatever I want whenever the urge strikes? All of these things would have been unthinkable just a year ago. Well, maybe not unthinkable. I might have thought about these things and thought: Well. That’s it. My life is gonna suck and I am gonna be miserable. But that is SO not how I feel now. I feel great. Empowered. I hardly ever feel actual hunger. I gradually surrendered to this way of eating. And I can take the next step, whatever that needs to be. Just a tweak in what has already been working, a gradual change in my plan and perspective. Surrendering to doing what it takes, instead of wishing things were different.

Oh. Now I get it. I don’t have to imagine how my food plan will look this time next year, I just need to accept what I need to do right now and keep doing the work. I am going to surrender to that concept and see what happens.


Update: I actually started writing this post, and started changing my eating plan last Monday, and guess what? I am down 2.6 pounds this week. A greater loss than typical for me, and I don’t expect that kind of results every week, but I will take it!

 

The Arsenic Hour

IMG_5363There is a concept in parenting called the arsenic hour. Even if you have never heard of it if you think about it for a minute I bet you can guess when it is. When everyone arrives home after work, a parent is trying to get dinner on the table, the kids are tired, fussy, want attention and food, and everyone is just miserable. I’ve also seen it refer to a baby’s uncanny ability to melt down right when the parents are the most tired and frazzled, again, usually right before dinner. Like arsenic, it can poison the evening.

I have an internal arsenic hour, and yep, it is right before dinner. I am: Tired. Hungry. Fussy. Frantic even. My willpower and problem-solving skills are at their lowest point in the day. If I don’t have a plan, more often than not I am screwed. Pizza starts its siren song, not even because I am overly fond of pizza, but because the local pizza joint is fast, and the greasy food slides right down without much thought or effort on my part. If I am especially tired or blue, wine starts calling my name, too. And if I pour a glass of wine while I am trying to figure out how to feed myself and my family that evening? Oh, yeah. It seldom goes well.

I am figuring out that the time to combat the arsenic hour is NOT at 6:30 p.m. Too late. I have to start much earlier in the day.

I have to plan ahead. Just like I did when my daughter was a baby. I remember a time or two thinking: Well, yeah, she’s a wee bit over due for her nap, or a feeding, but I can just run into Target and quickly grab what I need. How often did that backfire? I had a wailing baby in my cart, and what seemed like a million judging eyes on me in the aisle. So I seldom did that. Because I knew it didn’t work, knew it wasn’t good for my baby or me, knew the value of planning and scheduling and routine.

But at night sometimes I am a big, cranky baby. I just can’t pull it together to make a good choice sometimes. I can’t even get mad at myself or judge myself for that. Well, I could, but that gets me no where. Look, we are all born with some challenge, right? I was born with a deficit of willpower, and a desire to eat when I have a bad day. I can rail at the gods about that. OR thank my lucky stars that this is my big challenge right now, one that I can overcome and DO something about.

So I have a big, late afternoon snack, and I have a plan for dinner, meaning the food is already at home and at least partially prepped. Once again, Heather at HSM has helped me take a look at my behavior, and craft a plan I can live with. Having chicken already cooked, veggies washed and ready to go, a salad at the ready (even if it is just my beloved  salad-in-a-bag), is almost the nicest thing imaginable at 5:30 p.m.

The snack is really more like a fourth meal. I’ll have a big salad with chicken. Or a big apple with some cheese. A Grande Nonfat Latte and a Quest bar. A half of a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Half a turkey sandwich. Almonds or Triscuits and string cheese. NOT a pointless, empty-calorie- laden “100 Calorie Pack.” Those things leave me hungry and bitter, desperately wanting more.

IF I have the snack. IF I plan. IF I prep. IF. Then I almost always stay within my calorie goals. The evening is more pleasant. I do not stand in the kitchen, feeling very very VERY sorry for myself that I have to cook, and I can’t have what I want, I am tired, poor me. That is pure arsenic to my weight loss efforts.

And seriously, to my soul.

I don’t want to do that to myself anymore. Just like the few disastrous ill-timed Target runs with my baby, I can’t say it will never happen (I am a slow learner) but I can tell you over the last year I have noticed that I have less and less arsenic hours.

I am learning my own personal formula for the antidote.

FEISTY

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down 46.2 pounds so far

So, about that last blog post… I think I really needed to write what I wrote last week, to see it in black and white. I tend to ruminate and obsess, and getting it out of my head and onto paper (well, on the screen) helped me start to focus on how to get unstuck. I can see I have a constant barrage of negative feedback from the voice in my head that really REALLY wants me to stay stuck, to keep the status-quo. Just writing about that invited me to more awareness, and when I can notice the voice, I can talk back to it, put it in its place. So thank you for indulging my pity party.

Because this week I feel like I am in a totally different place. And guess what? I lost a pound.

A few weeks ago Alyse at Write To Glow challenged us to pick a word for the new year. A challenge, a mantra, an intention, a guiding star. I spent a lot of time thinking about this, and finally came up with my word:

FEISTY.

I LOVE this word, but I am going to have to make it my own, since for some reason FEISTY often seems to be associated with women of small stature, or inexplicably, chihuahuas. If you met my rotten little cat Louie, you might call him FEISTY. See? The association can’t be helped.

But I am sticking with FEISTY.

I am going to need a fighting spirit going into this next year. I feel like at times I have lived my life placid as a cow, matronly even, the opposite of FEISTY. But in the past year I have seen myself changing, and I like my new energy.

So armed with my renewed fighting spirit I have begun talking back to the negative, damaging voice in my head.

That voice says: You’re too old to change. I respond: Hey, I have friends in their 70s and 80s that are doing pretty well all things considered, so it isn’t too late. My mom is 84 and my dad is 90 and they’re still kicking, so I might have some longevity genes going on. All I am guaranteed is today, anyway. And eating healthy and exercising makes me feel good and proud today.

And my old age will SUCK if I don’t keep progressing.

That voice says: I am too tired to cook, to go to the gym. I respond: If I do these things I will have more energy, and besides…this means I may need to let something go so that I have more time to take care of myself. This is my one precious life. Is looking at Facebook, or keep current with the laundry, or saying yes when I want to say no more important than MY life? Sure, work needs to be done, the kid needs to be tended, but other than that I can pick and choose how to manage my time.

That voice says: What the hell, I’ll just eat this one thing, it won’t matter. I respond: Yes, I can have that. But I will get to enjoy my new life sooner if I plan for this, instead of just scarfing it down compulsively.

The voice says: You screwed up…might as well just blow the rest of the day, and start again tomorrow. I respond: I deserve care right this minute, not tomorrow.

The voice in my head that might be the hardest to tackle is the one that says, “Oh, no! I’m feeling anxious! I better eat over it!” But I have a lifetime of experimenting with pushing down anxiety with food, and I know it doesn’t work, not in the long run. It just makes it worse, and I have better coping skills now, so that voice really just needs to be bitch-slapped.

I feel like this is my next challenge. That inner voice is so so afraid of change. I am figuring out what to say to her so I can keep progressing, keep making my life better, keep working on some self-discipline, not in a punishing way but in a consistent way.

I am capable of loving discipline. For example,  I have been disciplined in taking care of my daughter: I changed her diaper and fed her whether I felt like it or not. I drive her to school even when I would rather sleep. I take care of her when she is sick, even if it is scary or exhausting.

That sort of self-discipline is love. I deserve the same kind of love. From me.

I feel strong and determined right this minute. I wish I could bottle this feeling to drink up when I need it. But I know with awareness I can access it again and again. I am capable, even excited, about the inner work and habit changes that I will need to keep focusing on this year.

I’m feeling FEISTY.

Resistance and a possible cure

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45.2 pounds lost so far

I am stuck, rebelling, resistant.

Something happens at about this point. 40-50 pounds down, and then… what? I start saying, “the heck with it” (well, I say something filthier; my brain has quite the potty mouth) and I start eating “whatever I want.” I put that in quotes because although a piece of cake is nice, I don’t think food is REALLY what I want at all, at least not this time around. OK, it’s complicated… I do want the food, I DO. But I want the feeling that stuffing myself leads to even more.

I think menopause plays into this, and not so much in a negative way. I am entering into really, the last stage of my life. It is a long stage, to be sure, and I am just at the beginning, but this is my last time to take a stand for myself. To accomplish my hopes and dreams. And I am blocking myself from that. What happened to the momentum I had over the summer? I felt powerful, exhilarated. I put my needs first. I felt bad-ass. I thought about my goals, and what I could accomplish. It was so much more than just weight-loss related. I was taking care of me. I was contemplating going back to work. I was thinking of long-haul bike trips, and working up to running in a 5-K. I was writing every day, and feeling good about what I was creating.

What’s going on now feels awful. But familiar. I am worrying about the house. I am bickering with my husband about little things, but really, I am sick to death of negotiating everything. Even buying a stupid chair feels fraught because I just want to go pick out a chair, get what I want, and not negotiate with my sweet husband or dither over my decisions. I feel like a petulant child. Or a woman on the cusp of freedom. I am not sure who I am channeling when I say: I want to do what I want to do!!

My daughter is a great kid, but there is a reason women tend to breed earlier in life. I didn’t have her until I was 39 years old. Something is happening as she and I are both growing older. She needs more independence, but isn’t quite ready to launch. I am at the age where many women have sent their children off into the world and are re-negotiating this new phase of their life, and I am still negotiating with a teen-age girl who is testing her wings, and a husband who is confident and has strong opinions. I want to add that they are just being themselves, doing their thing, and they are lovely. I don’t for a minute think this is about them.

I think about my friends who don’t have kids, or who have always had a career outside the home, and I think they will think all of this is stupid, indeed. I sound like a housewife from the 50s. But since I have chosen to live my life like a 50s housewife to a certain extent, well, I am where I am.

So… what happens at 40-50 pounds down? I start feeling better, more free, more independent, not held back so much by my body. More worthy, maybe? And I choke. The change feels like too much. What will happen if I really change? How will it effect my family? What if I have to put myself out there and do the things I have only dreamed about? Isn’t it safer, easier, nicer to just hang out here at home, with the cat and the dog and my computer. And the refrigerator.

So here is where menopause works in my favor. I have always thought, naively, that I have the luxury of time. And I see now that I don’t. This is it. This is my one life. I have made a bargain with life so far to choose safety and security and stuffing down my feelings instead of true growth, and the risk it involves.

I don’t want to be overly dramatic.  Of course I have grown, of course I have made a contribution to my family and community, and challenged myself in some ways, yadda yadda yadda….

But a light switches on at about this point that says: You can more forward into unseen emotional territory, or you can retreat into what is familiar. Up until now I have chosen the safe and familiar.

I think this is the juicy stuff. This is what is going on deep down that keeps me trapped, but is also the key to freedom. It feels so deeply embarrassing to write about. I feel so childish. But I am noticing that as I write this I am crying, and sighing, and really feeling it in my body, instead of just my head. So I know that this is truth for me.

So, what is my next step? I am going to prep a healthy meal for tonight. I am going on a bike ride today. And I am going to write more about this. Sharing this keeps me honest, and I know you all have my back. You won’t let me forget that I am here, in this place, where I can change. I am changing. I am changing.

Stocking Stuffers

 

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I am sitting in my office on Christmas Eve, just ridiculously happy to be thinking about the past year, and the year to come. I have so much to be grateful for. This last blog of 2015 is a thank you to everyone who has helped me get this far. In no particular order (except I am saving Heather at Half Size Me for last) here are some sources of inspiration, guidance and support this last twelve months.

Last year I let my daughter get a personal trainer at the gym. Thayne is young and fun, and a perfect motivator for my daughter, but you know, too young to be MY trainer. Or so I thought. But I watched him work with folks all shapes and sizes and ages, and what I saw impressed me. Thayne is good-natured, helpful not to just his clients but to everyone at the gym, and has a great work ethic.  I decided to be brave and asked him to train me. It has turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in all of 2015. I have had trainers in the past who pushed me so hard and so fast that I just felt like a failure and gave up, reinforcing my belief that strength training is not for me. But Thayne is all about progression, getting stronger and more confident in what my body can do. I have little guns now, but more importantly I can get up off the floor with more ease, my back never hurts, and of course the weight training has helped me lose weight and tighten up. Thayne has never once made me feel bad about myself or my slow progress. I suspect for Thayne what he does is more than a job; it is a mission.

Alyse Sweeney at Write To Glow is my writing coach, friend, muse, and cheerleader. Her website is full of writing prompts, poetry and inspiration. She helped me know I had something to say; she helped me believe I could write, and that my own voice was good enough. I found the confidence to write this blog because of her. What a gift.

I have never met Tom Ross who writes Not Medicated Yet. But he is a hero of mine. He was diagnosed with type two diabetes in middle age and DID something about it: he lost weight and started exercising. He, in essence, reversed his diabetes without medication. If you are middle aged, severely overweight, and sedentary you’re just kind of a time-bomb when it comes to type two diabetes. I want to avoid that diagnosis, so I started reading Tom’s blog and taking control of my health. Tom is sly and funny; he loves to poke holes in poorly-designed and over-hyped research. He believes that your behaviors can change your health in ways that pills never could. A great resource and a lively read!  If you drop Tom a note he’ll respond. Did I mention he is a hero? I am sure he doesn’t think so, but he is.

I’ve mentioned my friend Steven Kalas of Human Matters here before. He is a writer, therapist and Episcopalian priest. Steven is my go-to guy for all things ecclesiastical. But Steven also treats me like a colleague, even though I haven’t seen clients in many years, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. I failed to mention last week that I learned the concept of “marriage as a mirror” from Steven. Having a friend with such a psychological point of view reminds me that I am not just changing on the outside, but on the inside, too. I highly recommend reading everything you can find that he has written. He makes you feel in awe of the privilege of being human.

Shelley at A Fifty-Something’s Weight Loss Journey writes about losing weight in midlife, and what caught my eye when I first read her blog was her willingness to ride a bike, even at the beginning of her weight loss journey. She inspired me to get a bike. She is no longer overweight– she is a runner and beautiful to boot! Her blog is fun and poignant, like going for a nice long walk and chat with a good friend.

I want to give a quick shout out to Jenna because I love her, and I have already written about dancing at Jazzercise. Ditto for Kelly, my fabulous Weight Watchers leader who helped me get started down this path, too.

How am I going to write about Heather at Half Size Me without getting all blubbery?  I am not exaggerating when I say Heather has changed my life. She lost 170 pounds 4 years ago and has maintained that loss!  Heather has over 200 podcast interviews with people who lost weight and kept it off, and they are all available right now for your listening pleasure.  She has the radical notion that your current lifestyle supports your current weight, and that by changing your behaviors, slowly and over time, you can lose weight and keep it off.  I joined her online community, and then found out that she was taking coaching clients! I talk with her every week, and check in via email in-between. I trust her because she has been there. There is nothing embarrassing I have told her about my struggles with food and weight that she hasn’t been though herself. Heather has helped me give up my all or nothing thinking about weight loss. She is practical, focused, and matter-of-fact. You can’t stump her. She is also warm, compassionate, patient and has a great laugh.  If I could wave a magic wand and make you click on the link and join the HSM community I would. Even though she is younger than me, I want to be Heather when I grow up.

Finally, Mac, Eli, Susan, Kate, Sue, Karen, Lisa, Theresa, Rhonda and so many other family members and friends have cheered me on. Even against the odds, they seem to have faith that I can do this, and it lifts my spirits when the going gets tough. Thank you all and Merry Christmas!