It Gets Easier

Yesterday, I successfully completed my second 21-day cycle and I feel SO good about it! Like a kindergartner’s finger-painting, my chart is on my refrigerator with all the boxes checked. 🙂

During the Great Reduction, I rewarded myself for every five pounds lost. Each five pounds got me a movie rental. Each ten pounds got me a trip to the theater and each 20 pounds got me a pretty accessory like a scarf or pair of earrings. This time, I’ve decided to reward myself based on my 21-day cycles rather than the pounds. If I stay true to the cycles, the weight loss will come; but, it’s the consistency I’m focusing on now.

In Cycle 1, I had to: 1. take my medicine daily, 2. make my bed daily, and 3. ride the stationary bike for 30 minutes daily. In Cycle 2, I had to do all those things and: 1. do my yoga disc (Peggy Cappy’s Yoga For the Rest of Us) on alternating days, 3. drink a gallon of water daily and 3. do Tabatas on alternating days. I had Tabata 1 and Tabata 2, and I alternated between them. In Cycle 3, I will do all of the preceding things and: 1. exercise my lower abs on yoga days, and 2. do a series of planks on Tabata days. Today is Cycle 3, Day 1 (C3D1), so it’s: bed, med, bike, yoga, and lower abs. Yoga days are my biggest time commitment because the disc is an hour long. However, the process is truly relaxing to me; so, I don’t mind giving up an hour of TV to stretch, focus, and balance.

As I began this campaign (and make no mistake, it’s a campaign – one battle after another), I was talking with a friend who has never had a weight problem, much less been obese. I mentioned shaving getting easier and she looked at me with this really puzzled look as if to say, “How can shaving be hard?” Well, when you have a tire around your middle, bending over is hard. For the obese, lots of easy tasks aren’t so easy: shaving legs, tying shoes, putting on pants (not just the zipping and buttoning, but standing to put them on), some aspects of personal hygiene (Amazon sells this to help those who really can’t reach), climbing ladders, picking things up off the floor, getting up off the floor, and myriad other things. Tasks that require bending can be difficult even without a huge spare tire around the middle because visceral fat gets in the way. And since that is one of the first places I lose weight, bending tasks became easier almost immediately.

Last week, my friend Sean commented that it looked like my weight loss had sped up. I wish! But, I believe that the reality is that while I was losing weight initially, it was coming from around my organs; so, it wasn’t noticeable. Once the weight had reduced sufficiently around my heart, lungs, and liver, my body shifted to my face, neck and abdomen. I’m not losing weight any faster, it’s just that now others can see it. While I won’t deny that it’s a rush for others to see the difference and comment on it, that rush paled next to the one I got when I was able to balance well enough to put my pants on while standing. The yoga that I’m doing isn’t particularly strenuous, but it has already made a massive difference in my ability to balance and in how confident I feel on my kitchen step-ladder, in taking things up to the attic, and, yes, in balancing to put my pants on while standing.

I get it. If you’re young and/or in shape (or at least have never been obese), you’re probably thinking, “Hats and horns! You put your pants on all by yourself. Big deal.”  But, let me tell you, it was a big deal. These kinds of little achievements are worth gold to me. The thing is, you don’t gain 80 pounds overnight. It creeps up on you slowly; so, you lose the ability to do things slowly – so slowly, that you don’t notice that you have trouble doing tasks or can’t do them at all until you can’t. Then, one day, you wake up and realize that you can braid the hair on the outside of your ankles because you can’t reach there to shave. But, I’m proud to say that hair on my ankles is no longer braidable! More quickly than I lost the ability to reach them, I have regained it. It’s easier to get up off the floor. I am much more confident in my movements in general.

This campaign isn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many days I wanted to just blow off my bike ride (that’s the hardest activity and is the one most likely to cause a sneer), but I didn’t. There have been a couple of days when I dialed the difficulty down a little, but I still put in the time and worked up a sweat. I’ve made a commitment to myself that isn’t always easy to stick to…                                                                                                                                                                     …but it’s getting easier.

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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.

30-Day Check-In

Okay, so yesterday was my 30th day on this campaign to get back to a healthy weight. As of this morning, I lost 13.4 pounds during those first 30 days. And, yes, I’m all kinds of pumped about that! I have to remind myself, though, not to get wrapped around the axle of the numbers on the scale. While they are a way to quantify my progress, they are by no means the only way.

My goal is, of course, to lose fat; but, that doesn’t always mean losing weight. As I exercise more and weight train more, I will gain muscle. If I lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle, the scales aren’t going to reflect any difference, but my waistband certainly will! And that’s the real goal – getting back to a healthy size. I want to be strong and fit. I want to be able to ride a bike. I really want to be able to go for a run. (We’ll see if The Foot allows it.) I want to be able to swim a mile again. And, vainly, I want to feel good about how I look again.

I had gotten so big that a 13.4 pound weight loss isn’t really all that noticeable. I’ll probably have to lose another 10 before anyone but me can tell. Still, 13.4 is a great start and I’m really pleased with it.

What CAN I Do?

During my first 21-Day Good Habit cycle, twice I tried to get 10,000 steps into my day. My foot didn’t like it. It started burning and pinching in all the wrong places. I was really annoyed, let me tell you! Thousands of dollars and nearly two years of time spent trying to fix that foot and it still won’t let me walk any real distance. I was annoyed, disheartened, frustrated and downcast. I had to purposefully yank my attention away from those negative feelings. I’ve been down that self-pity path before and that way, there be dragons….and elastic waistbands.

I enjoy walking outside. It was the first exercise I did during The Great Reduction – I took my dogs, Trey and Ellie, for walks. They enjoyed it and so did I – the deer they tried to chase? Not so much. Still, it was great. Eventually, I was able to run for exercise and I really liked that. Because I concentrate on breathing in for three footfalls and out for three footfalls, it’s almost like meditation. I can’t do those now; so, I have a choice to make – do I pout about it and grab a pint of Phish Food? or do I figure out what I CAN do? Well, Wayne, I’m going to take what’s behind curtain number two. (Spoiler alert: I know what’s behind both curtains since I’ve chosen both of them before. The stuff behind curtain number one sucks.)

So, I didn’t try to walk for exercise anymore and my Fitbit is just going to have to get over it. I’m riding the stationary bike daily and working on my strength, flexibility, and balance through yoga and floor exercises done in a Tabata style. When I’ve completed this cycle, I up the intensity of those things to keep my muscles challenged. What I won’t do is pout because I can’t walk or run. Once I reach my goal weight and take pressure off my foot, perhaps it will heal and I’ll be able to enjoy those activities again – perhaps it won’t. I won’t know until I get there.

In the meantime, it’s a waste of my energy to think about the things I can’t do when there’s a whole world of things I can. That’s where I am focusing.

 

21 & Done….Maybe

Woooohoooo!!! I have successfully completed my first 21-Day Good Habit Cycle! On each of the 21 days, I took my meds, made my bed, and rode my stationary bike for 30 minutes. You might look at the first two things on the list and wonder why it is that a 50-year-old woman has to put them on a list to remember to do them daily. Let’s just say that there are parts of adulting that I don’t do well and those are two of them.

When I first started tracking my food intake and exercise, I went back to the app that worked so well for me during The Great Reduction – LoseIt. I stepped on my scales to get a starting weight and was astonished to get an Overload message indicating that I weighed over 330 pounds. Um. No. That’s not right. Rather than run out and buy new scales, I just entered a weight that I thought made sense – 230. Actually, I thought that might be a little high, but better high than low, right? Anyway, after six days of careful eating and tracking, I was at my dad’s and stepped on his scales. They registered 230 AFTER six days, which means that my underestimation wasn’t – under, that is.

I was so irritated with myself, frustrated, bummed, etc., that I seriously considered stopping at the Sonic that is between his house and mine to buy an Oreo Blast, you know, to make myself feel better and all. (I really like Oreo Blasts!) How could I have gained back nearly every ounce I lost?! After working so hard, how did I let myself get as big as a house again?! Well, I’ll tell you how I let it happen – by stopping at Sonic for an Oreo Blast every time I felt stressed!

So I didn’t stop.

After another five days, I weighed at my bosses’ house. Their scales showed a five pound loss. Hurray! Then I bought a set of scales. Those weighed me at 231 – a pound higher than I’d been at my dad’s. ARGH!!!!!

I had a decision to make – take the scales back and get a different brand or just go with them? When you boil it down, what are the scales for? They are to quantify progress, nothing more. Whether they are correct or incorrect at 231, the important thing for quantification is that I weigh under roughly the same conditions, using the same equipment each time. I elected to keep them and I put their measurement of 231 into LoseIt which then calculated a date when I should reach my goal weight – December 24 – a long way away.

Years ago, I lived in Latrobe, PA. When I would drive to visit my family in Starkville, MS, people would often remark about the difficulty of such a long drive; but, I never really thought of it as a long trip. Sure, altogether, it took me about 15 hours and 15 minutes to get from my house to my mother’s; but, I didn’t look at it that way. Rather than going from Latrobe to Starkville, I went from Latrobe to Charleston, WV. Then, I went from Charleston to Lexington, KY, then Lexington to Nashville, TN, Nashville to Birmingham, AL, and finally Birmingham to Starkville. In my mind, those trips were manageable and much easier to face than a giant road trip.

While December 24 is quite awhile from now, it’s an actual date on the calendar. I can circle it. I know when it is. It is December 24th, not someday, not sometime, not some vague future. It’s an actual date and I can work with that. Still, it’s a long way away and that leaves lots of room for discouragement. So, I’m breaking it up into 21-Day Good Habit Cycles – my waypoints like Charleston, Lexington, Nashville, etc. – and I get a non-food reward when I complete them. My first cycle is done. All the dates are checked of on my refrigerator calendar and I’m getting ready for my reward – my first pedicure. This morning, I put up a new calendar. Cycle 2. This one contains the three items from the first calendar and it adds two more.

Each day, I will drink a gallon of water (That sounds like a ton of water; but, it goes faster than you’d think. I have a liter water bottle. I will just drink four of those each day. ) and I will do either yoga or a Tabata depending on the day. On alternating days, I will do yoga. On the non-yoga days, I’ll do a beginner Tabata. Both of those activities will work on strengthening and toning my muscles.

This cycle will be more of a challenge, I believe; but, losing weight isn’t simple and I remember what it felt like to be fit. I want to feel that way again and this is the only way I know to successfully get there.

So. Here I go again!!

Tending to Bloom

I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. Growing up, I saw myself as a fat, smart, teacher’s kid whose social skills were somewhat lacking. I don’t know how others saw me, but I always saw myself as Less Than. Most of the time, I could just muddle along without what I believed was my weirdness and unattractiveness being called out in neon letters. Except on Valentine’s Day. That was the day when the pretty and popular girls got flowers, balloons, gifts, etc., from friends and/or boyfriends. I didn’t get those. To be fair, lots of girls didn’t get those things, but it didn’t hurt me that they didn’t get gifts. It hurt that I didn’t get them. I saw it as just one more way that my being Less Than was publicly noted.

Except one year.

That year, the student council sold carnations just like every other year – red, pink, and white. Red was for love, pink was for secret admirer, and white was for friends, I think. And just like every other year, there were girls walking around with bouquets of blooms and other girls with book bags – mine was blue, heavy, and the only thing I expected to carry all day. But, then, when a student council representative was delivering blooms to one of my classes, he had one for me! A pink one! I was convinced it was a mistake, frankly, but he said it wasn’t. Someone had bought a secret admirer flower for me.

All day, I felt like the Ugly Duckling that was suddenly a swan. I wondered who could have sent it, hoping it might this guy, afraid it might be that one. I spent the whole day feeling special. Like the flower in my hands, I bloomed.

As it turned out, the flower was from my sister Chele, who was away at college. She and I share some of the same insecurities and she wanted me to feel special.

I’m not going to lie, at the time, I was 17 and little bummed that the flower was from my sister and not the guy I had a crush on. But, you know what? I can’t even remember who I had a crush on anymore, but my sister is still here.

For the most part, we are like chalk and cheese, my sister and I. We don’t look alike. We think differently. We have different priorities and tastes. We fought as children. We have fought as adults and we will likely fight again. But, she is my sister. When I needed to feel special, she did that for me.

For the last couple of years, my sister has been my roommate. The last time I lived with someone I hadn’t birthed was nearly 30 years ago. It takes some adjusting to live with another adult and, for the most part, I think that we have done a pretty good job. I believe that she is a gentler person than I am and that living with her makes me a nicer person. I have to be more aware of what I say and how I say it. I have to be more mindful of my thoughts and of the attitudes that I allow to take root in my mind.

Family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, marriages, all require work on the parts of every party involved. I have said it before and I truly believe it: relationship failures are never the fault of only one of the parties involved. We have to be honest with ourselves and own our own parts in the failures. For many years, I was careless with my relationship with my sister. I was careless in my words and in my attitudes, and I did a great deal of damage to our relationship. I am still working to repair that damage and to avoid doing further damage. We are our parents’ only surviving children and she is important to me. I try to show that in small things, but I could do better. All relationships need to be nurtured.

This Valentine’s Day, it is my goal to think less about how others see me or whether others love me. It is my goal, rather, to give love to them, to tend my relationships to help them bloom – in red, pink and in white.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Perma-Snoozed Pledges

All of you that have displayed mature judgement throughout your lives really need to stop reading now because I’m about to confess that I have failed to do that – sometimes in spectacular fashion.  Usually ethanol is involved (mmmmmm! Raspberry cosmos.)

For those of you that are with me in the Alternating Thursdays Chowderhead Club, you may be familiar with Porcelain Throne Pledges – “I swear I’ll never drink again!” You and I both  know that those pledges are as binding as those of Thomas Stanley to Richard III – valid only until Henry Tudor showed up. Mine were valid only until my Party Goblin did. (That’s what Iliza Shlesinger calls it and, frankly, I think that’s a perfect name for it. If you don’t know what a Party Goblin is, then you’re probably one of those people I told to stop reading in the first paragraph. But here’s a clip anyway: [profane language warning] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS8NdCtOrM8).

But, Porcelain Throne Pledges aren’t the only ones I don’t honor and My Party Goblin isn’t the only thing that breaks them – sometimes it’s the snooze button.

At the end of any particularly wasted day spent binge-watching Scott and Bailey or reading some formulaic mystery novel, I find myself in bed, pen and paper in hand, making a list of all the things I’m going to do the next day to make up for being such a slug. I go to sleep with a feeling of resolve knowing that I am going to atone for my sloth! (That bit should be read like a Shakespearean actor.) Then the alarm goes off. I can choose to get up and honor my resolve, or I can hit the snooze button and kill it.

Guess which one usually happens.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr Day. Dr. King had a great many wise things to say, one of which was, “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means keep moving.” Such simple advice; but, I’m struggling with it mightily these days. It’s not like I’m setting myself tasks like resolving world conflict or solving the mystery of disappearing socks. My lists include basic things like “clean the bathroom” or “take off the recycling.” These are not difficult tasks, but I can (and do) find a million reasons not to do them. My intentions and resolve are great; but, I kill them with the snooze button time after time.

Is it just me?

Listen, my Party Goblin is old – like Bette Davis old, like dusty mummy Valley of the Queens old – and she hasn’t been summoned in a very long time. She’s really not much a threat to me anymore, but, the snooze button – now, that is still a big problem. If you’ve found a way to consistently defeat it, please share your secrets with me. I could use a little help.