The Silver Lining to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Well, my weekend kind of sucked. Sorry. There it is. I spent most of it in a funk over some personal stuff and I really just wanted to eat all of the chocolate in Nashville, then get in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep.

I didn’t do any of those things.

Instead, I washed the windows in my house, washed existing curtains, hung some new ones, cooked a double batch of Jamaican Black Beans with Pineapple Chutney (from the Forks Over Knives cookbook), got rid of some junk, hung a new light, watched a couple of superhero movies and cooked a vat of tomatoes down to sauce. And, I rode my bike each day and did yoga or Tabatas, depending on what day it was. I stuck to my calendar and kept working towards my goals.

And that felt GREAT!

For some reason, I have felt really brittle the past couple of weeks. I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t know if it’s related to the changes in my diet, the changes in my activity, or maybe I’m approaching menopause. I don’t know. I just know that I’m taking my meds daily; but, I’ve still bitten my poor sister’s head off about three times. I’m struggling to get a handle on it.

Throughout the struggle, I’ve stayed away from my bad, old habits and that, frankly, feels pretty freakin’ awesome! I have been known to drown my sorrows in an Oreo Blast or a pint of Phish Food; but, so far, I’ve stayed away from the bad stuff. Honestly, my food diary and my little calendar on the fridge have been great helps in this. I can easily see what I’ve already eaten for the day, how many calories I have left for the day and I can quickly get the calorie count of whatever thing it is I am thinking of eating. I can also walk to the fridge, check out the calendar and see what tasks are marked off and what I still need to do. Having those physical reminders is proving to be really instrumental.

I’m choosing to see my brittle and/or decidedly cloudy mood as a test of my resolve to ditch my old, unhealthy habits and replace them with new, healthy ones. So far so good! And that’s a silver lining I’ll take any day of the week.

Building A Solid Fort(night)

First of all, let me say that I think American English really should include the word fortnight. It’s so much more succinct than two weeks. Anyway….

In our last visit, I told you that I had started to build some new, healthier habits. To date, I have ridden my stationary bike for 30 minutes on each of the last 16 days (fortnight plus four) – today being number 16 and I got it out of the way this morning. And, yes, I marked it off on the 21-day calendar that I have hanging on my fridge. That visual, while perhaps childish, is a really good motivator. I see it every time I walk into the kitchen. It reminds me to ride the bike on days when I haven’t done it yet and on days when I have, like today, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment to see all of those days marked off. I have five more days on this calendar and I will have completed the 21 days.

Even now, I can already see a MASSIVE change in my attitude! In the first few days, I hated it – like I started hating it 30 minutes before I even did it. I had to force myself to do it and I pretty much trash-talked myself into completing the 30 minutes. This morning, I had to encourage – not trash talk – myself only through two minutes of the highest intensity setting. (Have the bike set on Rolling Hills so the intensity changes from level 3 to level 5.) And yesterday! Let me tell you about yesterday. But, first, I have to start with last week.

Last week, the hot water knob in the shower was stuck; so, I had to fix it. Saturday, my computer showed no password box on the login screen. After a full day of trying all the fixes I found on the HP website and on YouTube, I had to reformat the thing. Monday, the dryer died. All of those things joined a thousand other stressors in my life resulting in a full-on anxiety attack at work yesterday. I called Dad to talk me through it, which was SO great I can’t even tell you. When I got home after work, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time – I did not respond to stress by eating.

As I’ve told you before, I’m a stress eater among other things. If I’m stressed, I take a lawn chair and a spoon to the Publix frozen food section and make myself at home. Okay, so I don’t actually do that, but I do hit the ice cream aisle pretty hard and I eat the whole pint at one sitting on my couch. Yesterday, I didn’t do that. When I got home, I did some chores then I rode the bike. And I felt better. I felt better because of the endorphins and because I won an enormous battle over my own bad habits. It felt truly fantastic.

I’m excited about this attitude change and I want to keep this momentum; so, I am making another 21-day calendar with the same habits I’ve worked on this month plus a couple of new ones. My first two weeks were solid with this cycle and I am feeling psyched about the rest of it. To be honest, I’m feeling kind of psyched about getting the next challenges started!



You don’t hear from me in forever, I write three weeks, then I disappear again. I know. But, really, it’s just like me. Last time we talked, I was super excited that I had gone on a couple of walks with Ellie and that my foot felt fine. Progress!

Except that it wasn’t.

After the third walk, I began to experience significant pain again. Thankfully, no swelling, but I could not walk without limping, not even to just do normal things like walk around the house and maybe do something really crazy like go to the grocery store. I cannot walk a mile and a half without pain and that makes me want to just sit down in the middle of the floor and cry.

If you’ve known me long, you know that I have always said – with clear self-awareness – that I am no Caroline Ingalls. I would have been a horrible frontiersman. The Oregon Trail started in Missouri and ran about 2000 miles to either California or Oregon, depending on your paradise of choice. The average trip lasted four and a half to five months. Ummmmmm. I’m really more of a Boeing-type girl than a covered wagon one. I’d have probably been turning around at the Kansas state line. I just don’t have the patience for that. Zen? Not so much.

I’m more frustrated that I can even say at my injury. I have place to go, things to do, and people to see. I don’t have time for all of this nonsense. Yet, I cannot wish it better. Staying off of it completely didn’t heal it. Using it only sparingly hasn’t healed it. And my weight loss is going much slower than I’d like; so, I don’t have the confidence that even getting all the extra weight off is going to heal it.

Temptation is strong and I hear the sirens’ call from the frozen cashew milk. The Girl Scouts at the grocery store entrance are singing me straight into the rocks with their prepubescent calls of “Thin Mints! Tagalongs (kryptonite)!” I have been really having a hard time. Finally, yesterday, I bought myself a treat – a bouquet of flowers.

purple-bouquetKroger had bouquets containing lisianthus, one of my favorites. These blooms were deep purple and were paired with ornamental cabbage for a really striking arrangement – one that I find myself staring at, enjoying it tremendously, and not adding one calorie to my diet. I think I just added another weapon to my craving-fighting arsenal.

Now if I could just figure out something for this frustration…..


Spring Greens and the Emotional Eater

It’s 6 o’clock in the morning and I’m sharing a salad with one of my cats. Not from the same plate, mind you, that would be gross, but I’m taking leaves off and giving them to Wallace, pictured above, who has vegetarian leanings. Seriously, he will bug you to death if you have a salad or beans of any kind. He doesn’t care that salad is not a traditional breakfast food and, at this point, neither do I. You see, I’m fighting a battle this morning.

There’s a great deal going on in the larger world and in my smaller world that have me on edge. I’m tense. I’m frustrated. And, I’m a little angry. You know where feelings like that get you if you’re a woman like me? To the Dairy Queen drive-thru, that’s where. As an emotional eater, I head right for those calorie rich, nutrient poor foods. But, it’s 6 AM. Dairy Queen isn’t open and I don’t have any ice cream here; so, I just ate a giant plate of mixed spring greens, spinach, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and a little ranch dressing. I know that meal isn’t going to scratch my emotional craving itch. I’m just hoping that it will fill my stomach up enough to turn off the Feed Me Now switch.

That hasn’t happened yet.

I know that it takes awhile for my stomach to message my brain that it’s had enough. Since I know that, I’m going to wash my dishes and maybe read a little for the next few minutes to stall until the message gets delivered. If it’s not delivered in an hour, I’ll have a hot cup of tea and see if I can survive this episode without grabbing my keys and heading to Sonic for an Oreo Blast.

I saw this meme this morning:


That’s much easier said that done, Dolly; but, still sound advice, I think. And advice that I’ll follow as soon as I’m past feeling like I want to storm the freezer section with a spoon.

Having Dinner With Failure

This weekend, I had some friends over for dinner – that’s not the failure part.. Over Jamaican black beans on brown rice with tropical fruit chutney, roasted green beans and carrot flan cake (not on the diet), we had a wonderful time! The atmosphere was laid back and friendly. Since not all of the guests were acquainted, it was an easy environment to get to know each other. Dinner is a wonderful way to sit back, relax and let people tell you about themselves.

A friend of mine was once struggling with a rather profound failure in his life. The failure was the culmination of a series of bad decisions; but, my friend could not pinpoint the first one. He mentioned this struggle to his Rabbi who advised him to “have dinner with his failures” in order to discover that pivotal moment. I like that idea.

I have often joked that I would make a horrible spy. I don’t ask enough questions. I don’t probe people. Probing makes people defensive and they hide things. I believe that by letting people tell their own stories in their own time, I get a much more accurate picture of them than I would if I probed. I believe the same thing is true within my own mind. Over the years I’ve seen a number of therapists to puzzle through whatever issues were bothering me at the time. Therapy is putting my own self on the spot. It’s probing myself and, just like most people do when someone probes at them, my own mind can become defensive and lock me out. Once, my mind really pushed back to my probing when a therapy session resulted in a full-blown anxiety attack. By having dinner with my failures rather than probing at them, I don’t trigger that kind of defensive response. I slow down. I listen. And, often, I find that first bad decision.

I hadn’t gone from a non-smoking smoker back to a 2-pack a day smoker overnight. It had happened gradually – so gradually, that I had a hard time discovering where I went wrong. By having dinner with that smoking cessation failure, I pinpointed the initial lie I had told myself – my Gateway Lie of “I can have just one.” That lie started me down the road to being a smoker again. In a similar way, my dietary failure didn’t happen at that meal where I had Baconator, large fries, chocolate Frosty and a Diet Coke. I didn’t go from months of healthful choices directly to this greasy faced, carnivorous orgy. My diet gradually deteriorated. Like I had done with smoking cessation, I had to pinpoint My Gateway Lie. That lie was that I could eat processed foods and sugary treats as long as they were vegetarian and marketed as “healthy.”

During The Great Reduction, I shunned nearly all prepared and processed foods. I was still eating meat; but, I was watching my caloric intake closely. I dropped weight. Quickly. Eventually, I stopped eating meat simply because I could eat more volume in the form of plant foods. Then I learned about many of the health benefits of eating a whole-foods, planted-based diet. Eating all of that fresh food took a huge amount of time. It took planning. It took preparation. It took effort. Snagging an Amy’s vegetarian entree out of the freezer section and throwing it into the microwave for three minutes was WAY faster. Plus, it was vegan; so, it wasn’t that bad. And I could tell myself that I was just going to do that for this meal. I’d be back to eating healthfully next meal. On a PMSy day, I wanted ice cream. Frozen cashew milk is vegan and has fewer calories than ice cream. So I rationalized that choice, as well. Both of those prepared foods are better choices than some alternatives; however, they are not better choices than fresh, whole foods. And for me, they were the Gateway Lie – if it says “healthy” or “vegan” on the package, it is nearly as good as the fresh foods I had been preparing for myself.

Yeah, well, Sour Patch Kids and Oreos are vegan, too. I Oreoed myself right back into my fat pants….and beyond.

Prepared foods, regardless of whether they are marketed as “healthy,” have added sugar, fat, and/or sodium to improve either their flavor or their shelf life or both. For instance, a cup of Amy’s Hearty Rustic Italian Vegetable Soup has 680mg of salt – that’s nearly 1/3 of the Mayo Clinic identified upper limit RDA of 2300mg. I made a cauldron of vegetable soup last week, adding no salt, using lots of herbs instead; so, mine contained only the sodium naturally occurring in the vegetables. Amy’s is a lot faster and, while it isn’t just awful for you, mine is better.

Mine leads to success, which makes a much better dinner partner than failure.






The Whys Have It

Yesterday, I said that part of the reason I stopped caring about my health was that I lost sight of my Why. That’s not a terribly complicated statement or concept; but, lemme tell you, it was a tough one to figure out!

I have tried several times over the last two years to get my head back in the game and to get this weight back off. Each time I start out with guns blazing, taking no prisoners, and showing no mercy. Then I run into my boyfriends Ben and Jerry and all bets are off. (I know people whose weaknesses are wine or chocolate or pasta; but, mine really is ice cream. I’m six. I know. However, no one understands disappointment, boredom, depression, happiness, PMS or Wednesday quite like Ben and Jerry. For me, they are Lex Luthor and they make kryptonite by the pint.) I’m so easily distracted and my efforts so easily derailed. Why?

because-the-why-mattersBecause I lost my Why. Without a reason, a strong enough motivation, I wasn’t choosing the kinds of foods and activities I needed to choose.

My first Why revolved around my son. I went for my annual Big Girl check-up, not feeling like anything was amiss other than that I was tired. At the time, I was working some 90 hours a week trying to get an internet start-up off the ground. Who wouldn’t be tired, right? You know how when you go to the doctor, they weigh you then take your blood pressure (tasks I have always believe were performed in the reverse of optimal order – of course my BP is going to be higher after I see my weight!)? Well, my BP was significantly higher than normal for me and the nurse practitioner would not let me leave until it came down. Hello. You have my attention.

At that moment, I realized that I had started down the road of permanent damage. I knew that I was approaching the time when I would either get healthy or get on a bunch of prescription drugs. With all of the heart-attacks dotting the landscape of my family history, I really began to take seriously the fact that I was headed for heart disease, which 25% of the time initially announces its presence with a fatal heart attack. In addition to the trees of heart attacks in my family landscape, there are quite a few shrubs of diabetes and some boulders of high blood pressure. My high BP that day put me in that landscape for the first time that I was aware of. I realized that if I was going to take charge of my health, I had to do it then since menopause was looming somewhere in the next decade for me. I knew it was time to act and I did. I got serious. I got it done. I got healthy.

Then I got cocky.

My Why was to be alive to see my son become a man, then perhaps a father. My Why involved meeting my potential grandchildren, baking cookies with them, riding bikes, reading stories and playing in the mud. When my son moved across the country, it became more difficult for me to keep my eyes on my Whys. I lost my focus, then I lost my way. (Understand that I’m not blaming my failure on my son for moving away. That would be absurd. I’m just giving a timeline for how and when I got lost.) Having good health for my own sake wasn’t a big enough Why. Sure my clothes were all too small, but I wasn’t sick or anything.

Until I was.

And that gave me my new Why that we’ll discuss tomorrow.

Eye Beam

I say it regularly because I believe it so strongly: maturing is just the process of figuring out what a schmuck you’ve been up to this point. Yeah. So I’ve been doing some, um, maturing lately.

On August 19, 2013, I published a piece called What If You Were Dying?  Take a second to give it a read. I had some good things to say. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

There are several things you need to know about that piece. First, the woman I’m sitting with in the photograph was my precious Aunt Jo. She died of lung cancer after having smoked for some 60-something years. She killed herself with tobacco. Second, all of the statistics I quoted in there are true (as far as any data used to prove a point can be true). Third, it was my opinion at the time that if you are deliberately doing something that is harming your health (whether it’s tobacco or Twinkies), you’re an idiot. And fourth, I’m an idiot.

plankeyeOver the last two years, I have regained at least 60 of the 94 pounds I lost. I say “at least” because, frankly, I’m too embarrassed and disgusted to get on the scales this morning and tell you exactly how many. At my thinnest, I was healthy and generally pain-free. Now, I feel lethargic and have been struggling with a foot and ankle injury for the past six months. I feel like garbage and guess whose fault that is.


The weight gain started after a medical procedure – a side-effect of which was weight gain. (Note, I did not ask my doctor about the side effects of the protocol. If I had known about the weight gain, I would not have continued with the procedure. Henceforth, I will ask about side effects and I strongly suggest that you do, too. How else will you make an informed decision about whether the benefits of the procedure outweigh its physical costs?) The fattening started there, but it certainly didn’t stop when the side-effects were no longer in play. By then, I’d fallen off the wagon hard and was making poor food choices, regardless of all the right marketing words on the labels – healthy, low-fat, sugar-free, organic. I was almost exclusively eating processed foods marketed as health foods. Then, I just reverted to eating processed foods of nearly every kind as long as they were vegetarian. Then I even threw that out the window and just started stuffing my face with anything I wanted until, ta-da! I reverted to a seriously overweight woman at risk for many obesity related diseases: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers and even arthritis.

I was in a great place physically and I let it go. No, I didn’t let it go. It’s more like I used my spoon still sticky with Phish Food to toss that good health and feelings of well-being and strength out the door. What an idiot! What a schmuck. Why would I do such a stupid thing? I think it’s because I lost track of my Why. Without my Why, I just didn’t care enough to get back to good health.

I reverted to one of the people I’d so smugly started to judge for making poor food choices. Now it’s time to mature, stop being such a schmuck, and get corn dog out of my mouth and the beam out of my eye.