Saturday, April 16, 2011

“M” Is for the Pivotal Moments

I have discovered that my weight loss successes as well as my failures really come down to moments. Every day is made of dozens of these moments. How I face them determines the outcome.

Should I go through the drive-thru at the bank or park the car and walk inside? Should I put an extra spoonful of rice on my plate when no one is looking or skip it? Should I exercise for ten more minutes or call it a day? These and so many other choices come at me throughout the moments of my day.

Each one of these moments presents an opportunity for me to change my life. Every time I make the right choice, I am rewarded with self-respect and perhaps eventually weight loss. When I miss those opportunities, I am sometimes filled with self-loathing and perhaps punished with weight gain.

Sometimes I am able to recognize the hidden challenges in these moments and sometimes I am not. And even when I recognize the moment for what it is, I am weak and give in to it. Those are my moments of failure and I know it.

My challenge as I go forward is to do better in those moments my own human weakness threatens to drag me down. This seems such a somber post but as I think about this, I am convinced it is the key to making changes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

K Is for Kill the Cravings

I have talked about being a foodaholic in a previous post. Not only do I enjoy food, I sometimes find myself craving food even when I know I should not be hungry. I know these feelings occur for me when I am bored or anxious. Knowing the cause is a great first step but it is only the first step to battling the cravings.
You don’t want to wait until you’re in the middle of a craving crisis to realize you are unprepared to deal with it. If you know you have triggers and they are unavoidable, say, stress, for example, you need to be prepared. None of us can completely eliminate stress. We can be prepared for it. I know I tend to crave chocolate and chips when I’m in one of those frames of mind. I am keeping some 100 calorie packs of cookies in the pantry for when the carb-demons come calling.
I am not likely to reach for celery sticks when my brain is screaming CHOCOLATE!  Having something around that will satisfy the yearning without undermining your diet is the smart approach.
In a side note, I have recently started a low-carb diet and have experienced a radical reduction in eating impulses. I will keep you posted as to how this goes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

J Is for Junk Food

Junk food. The term is supposed credited to Michael Jacobson, director of the American Center for Science in the Public Interest who supposedly coined the phrase in 1972. It represents foods that provide little to no nutritional value or empty calories. You know – the ones we love to consume and then struggle to burn off.
Like everyone else, I love junk food. Potato chips, Snickers bars, ice cream of almost any flavor. I grew up on them. Not that we had them in the house all the time because we didn’t but that only added to the mystique. They were regarded as treats and therefore desirable. Somehow the message I got was that they were good but we couldn’t afford them all the time. Not that they bad for me so moderation was called for. Somewhere along the way this got internalized as once I could somehow afford these “treats” it was okay to eat them.
Having them in the freezer or pantry was somehow tied to status. I was earning enough money that I could afford to keep indulgent foods around. Even that wasn’t so bad except that never having learned moderation I was unable to keep them around. Whole bags of chips, packages of cookies and cartons of ice cream could disappear in record time and there often was no one else around to point the finger at but myself.
Once I realized that I was over-indulging, I tried to limit their presence in the home. Naturally I needed to still have these things for the family, I told myself. After all they weren’t the ones with health issues and food addictions. I was. Why should they suffer?
But I couldn’t stay away from whatever treats I brought home. I’d wait until the kids were in bed and I’d sit down with my bowl of ice cream, sometimes followed by a half bag of chips and indulge away. I felt ashamed and guilty the moment the last morsel was gone. I’d resolve to do better and for a while I would. But the kids would ask for something and not wanting to be a “bad” mommy, I’d get it. I’d tell myself I wouldn’t give in and sneak their treats but I knew I was lying to myself.
Knowing how I got to this point helps but I still find myself struggling with cravings for junk food. I am making better choices but I’ve decided to handle junk food differently now. I try not to keep it in the house. I don’t deprive my kids but we’ve talked about nutrition and health and what happened to me. If they want ice cream or chips, we get them when we eat out. We work moderation into the discussion and thought they are still treats, we don’t tie it into our financial budget but rather our health budget. Hopefully I can steer my kids away from the mistakes I made and I can grow stronger about resisting them while I develop better eating habits.

“I” Is for Keep It Interesting

Weight loss and maintenance is lifelong endeavor. It is for me anyway. I never had a weight problem until after my second child and then it worsened after the third. He is now 13 and I’m even bigger than I was then. So I’m pretty sure the rest of my life will be spent in losing it and working to maintain a healthy weight.

Keeping things interesting is the key. I am not one of those people who can eat a salad every single day. I cannot walk on the treadmill every day for exercise. I need variety; I need a little spice in my life. There are things I enjoy and I can eat a hamburger patty and side of green beans 3 or 4 times a week to keep up with my low-carb goals but I cannot eat it every day. If I try, I will start craving other flavors, other sensations and there I go off the path.

The same is true with exercise. I cannot spend 40 minutes or so everyday doing the same thing. I don’t have the room to set up the treadmill in front of the TV so I can watch something while I sweat. I have had to be creative when it comes to exercise. I tread once or twice a week. I try to spend an hour at least once a week doing heavy labor in support of my yard and garden. Once a week I attend a Zumba class which is the most grueling of all. The rest of the time, I indulge Wii games of the physical variety: Wii Fit Plus, Walk It Out and Personal Trainer. Together the combination seems to work for me. I feel my stamina and flexibility improving each week even if it doesn’t show up on the scale. People are always saying the scale isn’t the only way to judge progress and I’ve seen that myself.

I am working on getting my diet to the point where it has flexibility and diversity but is still manageable. This will be an ongoing challenge but, hey…it keeps things interesting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

“H” Is for Hope

Today is the 9th day of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge and my post is about hope. Over the course of the last 9 days, I have “met” some wonderful people, fellow journeyers, who while on different journeys, share a common thread. We all have hope.
Hope that maybe we will increase our readership by participating in this challenge. Hope that someone will find what we have to say relevant, useful or simply entertaining. We hope that our posts, and our comments, touch someone, maybe profoundly, maybe more than just one someone.
My own journey, taken with baby steps, is to find a fitter healthier me somewhere inside the larger-than-life person I’ve become. I have a wonderful support group, all writers, who lift me up when I am down, kick my butt when I need it and are there for me 24/7 as I travel tis arduous road. Now, thanks to this challenge, I have something more.
I have received many comments from total strangers who can relate with the challenges I’m facing. Others have offered support and ‘Atta-girls” while others have counseled me to seek deeper answers to my many issues.
It has shown me that there is a whole wide world of people still out there, ready to reach out and lift one another, willing to care, even for a few moments about someone else’s struggles. What an amazing gift that is. And we share it so easily with one another. It makes me tremble to think what we could do for the world if only everyone could let their inner spirit reach out to others.
Anyway, before I get all sentimental and mushy, I started this post with the intention of thanking those who have read and those who continue to read. You may not think so but you give me hope. Each one of you has bolstered my spirit, improved my attitude and in some cases given me cause for reflection. You know what they say, hope springs eternal. And with readers and friends like you, I find that to be very true.

Friday, April 8, 2011

“F” Is for Foodaholic – Count Me In

My name is Theresa and I am a foodaholic. I do not say that lightly or to make fun of anyone is any kind of 12-step or other self-help program. I have the greatest respect for anyone trying to take hold of their life and their issues. I say it because it is true. Food controls my life.
I think about food probably more than anything else all day long. As the cook in the family, it is my job to think about food. I cook all the meals, plan the shopping and purchase the food. I decide what we will eat, when we will eat it and how it will be cooked. I have to think about when I need to start preparing it so it will be ready at meal time. I need to gather the ingredients and tools to make sure I can prepare that meal.
As if that weren’t enough, I have animals to take care and food to provide for them. I have my 17-month-old granddaughter five nights a week and yep, I get to feed her too.
You would think with all this food thought, I would be sick to death of it. Nope. I often find myself counting the moments until I can eat my next meal. Not because I am especially hungry but because I enjoy it.
I love planning, shopping and preparing food (except for those trying, exhausting days we all have). I can’t wait to sink my teeth into whatever it is I have planned that day. Sometimes I have to fight with myself not to have seconds.
Ever drive by those houses that have so many yard ornaments you can barely see the house anymore? That’s me with food. Now, I’m not sitting in my office surrounded by food. No, but it’s in my head and I don’t know how to get it out. Those rare moments when I’m not thinking about it is the most likely time ne of the boys will poke their head in and ask what they can have for a snack. Or my husband will call on his way home from work and ask what’s for dinner and I’m right back to thinking about food.
If I have plans to meet with friends, I often find myself focusing on what I can have to eat instead of the get together itself. I am a foodaholic.
It is by being honest and accountable that I hope to change these and other bad habits I’ve developed over the years. Some of them just stump me as to how…

“G” Is for Groceries – Are They Doing Me In?

I have been thinking about groceries and the way I shop for them. While I am on a “diet”, my family is not. I have two healthy teenage boys who can eat gargantuan amounts of food and still ask what there is to eat. My husband has a healthy metabolism and while time and gravity are beginning to creep up on him, he is still in pretty good shape, in my humble opinion.
When I plan my grocery shopping list, I work from a menu plan for the month. It includes all the meals and snacks I think we’ll consume in the next 30 days. However, my whole family doesn’t need to eat the way I need to eat. I buy them the things they enjoy: cookies, snack mixes, the occasional bags of chips and so on.
When I get home and unpack it, there it is. All the stuff I don’t need to eat: cookies, snack mixes, bags of chips and so on. I can be good for a while. Even a long a while. But then, that moment of weakness hits – late in the evening, after a terribly long day when I’m tired and stressed and I know no one is looking. That’s when their food ends up in my mouth!
I don’t want to deprive my kids. They have so far developed good eating habits and can leave the stuff alone whereas I hear it calling to me from three rooms away. How do I provide for them and torture myself? Or how do I banish the naughty foods for me without depriving them?
Before you tell me to add more fruits and such, let me say this. We already have that. My family has no problem eating carrots, celery, broccoli and a myriad of fruits. Still, they sometimes want those foods which I find addictive and would like to avoid. If those foods aren’t in the house, I won’t eat them.
So I’m asking you dear friends and readers, how do you cope with this issue?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

“E” Is for Exercise

Exercise has been the bane of my existence. All my life, the “e” word was like a curse word to me. Never naturally athletic or coordinated, I was the last one picked for teams in gym class. I wasn’t even heavy as a child – that didn’t happen until my third child. Still, even in kindergarten, I had to be taught how to skip because it didn’t come easily to me.
That’s not to say that I didn’t play. I jumped rope, played hopscotch and chased others as we played tag every chance I got. It’s probably one of the reasons I did stay thin in my youth. Once I left childhood and its required daily P.E. behind, regular exercise was a thing of the past.
As I said in my “D” post, I have always loved dancing but it hasn’t always had a place in my life. Work, marriage, kids, divorce, then more work, another marriage and another kid left little room for dancing. If here was no dancing, there was no exercise.
For years that was ok. My busy schedule and youthful metabolism did their best to keep me reasonably thin, even if I thought I looked fat. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to weigh 140 or even 150 now! Sometime after I turned 40 though, my body said that’s enough. Weight doesn’t come off like it used to. In fact it seems to leap onto me from all directions when I’m not looking.
I have tried many diets in an effort to shed the weight and the one thing I’ve learned is that for me, I need to exercise. Anytime I have had even moderate success in weight loss, it has been the result of adding some kind of exercise. You have no idea how irritating I find this revelation. Have I mentioned that exercise and I don’t get along?
Knowing that exercise is imperative to my success, it is one of the things I have been working at this year. I have not yet reached some sort of obsessive devotion to it but I am becoming more committed. Those days when I don’t exercise, I can feel it. I feel sluggish and tired. And after adding physical activity to my life and making a concerted effort to gradually bump it week after week, I feel my endurance improving.
The only advice I can give to someone who, like me, despises regular exercise is to find something you love, employ variation so it doesn’t become boring and keep at it. In the long run, the benefits far out-”weigh” the disadvantages.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

“D” Is for Determination

The definition of determination is “a decision arrived at by thought and investigation,” according to How often have I said ‘I am determined to do this,’ with regards to my weight loss? Countless times. Sometimes it is a mantra I recite daily, hourly even.
Certainly I have investigated the situation. I have looked in the mirror. I have attempted to put on clothing that has become too snug. I have stepped on the dreaded scale and seen the proof. I have compared these oh-so-scientific findings to the charts and graphs that taunt me everywhere, telling me I am overweight. The handwriting is on the wall or the computer screen as the case may be.
I have thought about it. I have focused, mused and obsessed about it. At times, my struggle to find balance in my life, a balance that allows me to enjoy eating without depravation, has been my only thought. I guess by the dictionary definition, I am determined. So why have I not succeeded?
What this definition of determination does not include is commitment. We can realize there is a problem. We can do the research, the planning and even make the decision that “something has to be done.” Until we are committed, determination alone is not enough.
I am three-and-a-half months into the New Year and have only 9.6 meager pounds lost to show for myself. While I tell others that any weight loss is good, as a means of being encouraging, for me, I am dissatisfied. With 115 pounds to lose when I started this, I could have done more by now. So though I have been determined all along, it is time to examine my commitment to that determination.

Monday, April 4, 2011

“C” is for Criticism

Those of us who are overweight deal with criticism all the time. It is not always spoken out loud but it is felt none the less. We see it in the disdainful looks of others. We feel it from those around us when we are forced to sit in tight quarters such as on buses, in movie theaters or on airplanes. And we hear the whispered remarks that the whisperers don’t think we hear as we pass by.
Sometimes we hear it from friends and family who think a tough love approach might help us. In some cases, that might be true, but I’m guessing not many. Do you have a mother who says, “My goodness, I can’t believe how you’ve let yourself go,” as she hands you a piece of cake? What about a husband who thinks he’s funny when he makes jokes about other fat people but then tells you that you are beautiful just the way you are. Does he really think you believe that?
But the harshest criticism of all has to come from within. I am dumb. I am certainly not blind. I know what I look like, feel like. I know the things I say to myself when I catch my reflection in a department store window. My thoughts scream at me when I can’t keep up with my kids or when I start panting halfway up the stairs. Criticism, whether stated or implied, can be one of the cruelest forms of communication mankind can dole out, especially when we do it to ourselves.
Fortunately, I am working to overcome the self-criticism. I cannot control the actions or words of others but I can control my own. When I am disappointed with how I look, I remind myself that I am a work in progress. I am making strides, even if they are small, every day. I am good and loving person and above all I am not defined by weight or my shape.
I hope that you will remember to be less harsh with others and with yourself. Focus on their (and your) good points and achievements. Start today and work each day to be less critical and more supportive. Before long, you’ll find your step is a little lighter and you wear a smile a little more often.
This post is brought to by the letter “C” as part of the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Have a wonderful day

Saturday, April 2, 2011

“B” Is for Breaking Bad Habits

Bad habits are what made me fat, aren’t they? I didn’t exercise enough, I ate the wrong foods. I ate too much of the right foods. I ate to comfort myself. I ate to celebrate. I ate when I was depressed. I avoided really looking in the mirror so I wouldn’t have to see the thing I was becoming. I avoided the scale because I didn’t want its confirmation that I was doing all the wrong things. Bad habits.
My baby steps involve breaking these bad habits. I try to focus on one at a time but then I find one of the others creeps up on me like a stalker in the night and I fall prey to it. Sometimes I am confronted by all of them in one day and the struggle seems insurmountable. Still, here I am, trying to break my bad habits.
Most recently I have been focusing on adding exercise to my daily life. Sometimes this takes the form of doing vigorous yard work. Sometimes it is mind-numbing time spent on the treadmill. Other times it is spent playing active games using the Wii game console. Once a week I attend a Zumba class where I am encouraged y others like me trying to change their lives.
During my pre-fat days, yard work was something I enjoyed immensely. In recent years, the attempt has become a sore reminder of how far I have fallen. In my effort to change this habit though, I remind myself of how I will be able to enjoy this again, if I just keep at it. Finding the games, classes and activities I enjoy has made all the difference.
And as the weeks of the new year have steadily drifted by, the weight slips off in tiny little increments. The best news about focusing on the lack-of-exercise bad habit is that I can feel my energy and stamina return. Everyday activities are not as taxing and actually doing the exercise is less exhausting and more rewarding. Breaking my bad habits looks like the way to go.

Friday, April 1, 2011

“A” is for Asparagus, That’s Good Enough for Me

I am engaging in a writing challenge that kicks off today known as the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, which you can sign up for here. So today’s blog post is about asparagus.

As art of my plan to become fit, I’m always looking for ways to improve what I’m doing. I’ve always been pretty good about eating fruits and vegetables, even more so as I became an adult.

As a kid, my mom worked and when she got home, our veggies usually came out of a can: corn, peas, green beans and mixed vegetables. The rare exception was a fresh salad. Nothing against my mom, she did what most moms did back then but my sister and I were never properly introduced to the taste and health benefits of other vegetables like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus.

I only tried asparagus for the first time about five years ago. For me, it is an acquired taste. Overcooked, it is too soggy for my tastes and cooking it just right takes a little practice. I wondered what it is about asparagus that is so good for you. Here’s what I learned:

One serving of asparagus (5 spears) provides over 60 % of the recommended daily intake of folic acid (B9) which can reduce levels of an inflammatory substance called homocysteine which in high levels can lead to heart disease.

Asparagus has no fat, no cholesterol and low sodium. It contains the vitamins A, B6, C, K, and thiamine as well as beta carotene, potassium, zinc and fiber.

Potential health benefits include improved digestion because asparagus triggers the production of friendly flora; better moods because the vitamin C and folic acid are factors in the production of serotonin and dopamine which make us feel better; its diuretic properties improve kidney function which can reduce water retention, blood pressure and urinary tract infections.

So whether you like it drizzled with a little Hollandaise sauce or sprinkle with olive oil, some garlic and a dash of salt, asparagus is great vegetable to include in your healthy lifestyle. I’m having some tonight.

How do you like to prepare asparagus?

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