Me and My Dog NOT on a Diet (Or How I Stopped Dieting and Learned to Love My Body)

Riva in MotionIf you know me at all, you know I’m a dog lover. We currently have four in our pack, including my sweet Pit Bull rescue, Riva. She’s an amazing pup – loving, smart and just a bit submissive, which is awesome, as it makes it easy for us to regulate her behavior around the other dogs.

Six or seven months ago, my husband took her to the vet for her annual exam and vaccinations. As he put her on the scale, he was shocked to see she had gained close to 40 pounds. We distinctly remember her starting weight, as she came in at 66.6 at her first appointment, just a few days after we picked her up from the shelter. At her last visit, she was 103 pounds, up 37 pounds. Yikes.

According to my husband, the vet looked a bit shocked, too. Then he left the room for a moment, returning with a tiny little cup. “Use this and feed her one cup a day,” he said.

This thimble-sized device is actually a true “cup,” though we just can’t imagine it’s enough food for our 100+ pound dog. Though we’ve continued to feed her less than she used to eat, in spite of our fears that she was “starving.”

At first, I watched Riva’s waistline and didn’t see any difference. “Poor pup,” I thought, “She’s just like me. We’re feeding her less and she’s still not losing any weight.”

That feeling lasted for several months, until just recently. In the last week or so, I’ve noticed that our big girl is getting her waist back. There’s a small, but obvious, indentation.

Hmmm … I guess it does work. It just takes a really long time and you have to stay the course. That’s something I’ve never been great at doing, though watching my Riva lose a few is inspiring me to get back to my effort, after a short hiatus, during which I “tried” to exercise and eat right “most of the time.” (I also had an injured shoulder, though that shouldn’t have affected my exercise schedule as much as it did.)

That effort (or lack thereof) didn’t do me any good. No pounds lost. Not any fitter or healthier. To get back on track, I made a promise to my MasterMinds girlfriends that I will take on one behavioral change a month for the next year.

First step? Make the list. What 12 changes could I make that would have me losing 40 pounds over the course of the next year. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

December: Take LoseH8NotW8 program. Exercise for – at least – 20 minutes every day.

January:  Meditate for 20 minutes every day.

February:  Drink more water every day. I’ll shoot for 8 cups a day and see what happens. If I land at 4 or 6, it will still be a greater volume than I’m consuming now.

March:  Cut down on my carbs. I will keep a very close eye on my intake of white potatoes, bread and sweets with the goal of minimizing, though not depriving myself.

April:  Do yoga for 20 minutes 3x a week.

May:  Journal for 20 minutes 3x a week.

June:  Eat an extra serving of green veggies every day.

July: Draw 3x a week.

August: Walk 10,000 steps every day, without fail.

September: Do push-ups every day.

October:  Add weight training 3x a week.

November: Annual review – look at what happened in last 12 months.

Of course, I will mix it up here and there. For example, today, I’m feeling puffy and icky because I’ve been eating so much sugar. I’ve told my husband – for accountability – that I’m going to take on three days of minimal sugar to see if it helps me get rid of that feeling.

I’ll keep you posted on how things go.

Can We Really Stop the Beauty Madness?

Stop the Beauty MadnessA few years ago, I realized something that I was doing surprised and angered me. When I met young girls with their parents, I would ooh and ahh over them, like everyone else, though there was something I unknowingly did that contributed to the ongoing beauty struggle that women everywhere endure.

I was telling little girls, “You’re so cute!” or complimenting their clothes. With boys, I vary rarely commented their looks, unless they were very small. I usually asked them about school. Geez.

As someone who struggles with self worth based on my weight and my looks, it was a rude awakening. Seriously? Is that the value I personally saw in little girls? Absolutely not.

It had me thinking of how deeply ingrained this looks-based approach to girls and women is in our culture. Apparently, it’s so deep we don’t even notice it.

Since then, I’ve changed my approach. When I meet a new little girl, I say hello and ask her about school or her interests or what she wants to be when she grows up. I may even say she looks like she’s carrying some serious “girl power.” No more comments on looks. Ever.

We are so much more than how we look. When I came across the “Stop the Beauty Madness” campaign, it made so much sense to me.  It’s an effort to call attention to how ridiculous it is that women are constantly judged based on their looks and size.

Please join me in sharing their images on your social channels. And let’s all give a bit more thought to how we talk to young girls. Every small change we make to how we talk about beauty and value to our girls and women makes a difference.

 

 

Can’t Unsee It – The Downside of Social Media

medium_166216003Back in the day, just a decade or so ago, the video we saw was controlled by news media or corporations or some such entities. We saw what they showed us and it was relatively tame.

If your family had a video recorder, you used it to make fun family videos or document vacations and day-to-day happenings.

Fast forward and everyone has cameras, so we see all kinds of crazy stuff that they produce themselves from cat videos, people falling down and silly singing and dancing. That’s led to people recording politicians saying and doing stupid things, which began influencing our political system on a grass roots level. Awesome, right?

Fast forward a bit more and now anything and everything that can be recorded is put on social media. Over the last few weeks, I’ve inadvertently seen some extremely horrifying videos – including people being beaten and a person committing suicide in a subway station. Not purposefully, mind you, but by clicking on what others share. Things that cannot be unseen. Things that make me wish there really was such a thing as eye bleach. Not so awesome.

I have since decided that anyone who shares something that I wish I hadn’t seen will be immediately released from my social media sphere. Unfriend, unlike, unwhatever. If I don’t keep my own “bubble” from becoming toxic, I’m not looking out for myself and my psyche.

What about you? Have you noticed an influx of horrible videos and images on your social feeds? 

photo credit: SuperFantastic via photopin cc

It’s Berry Season – Make the Most of It!

I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer network campaign for Reddi-wip. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with Reddi-wip and do not earn a commission or percent of sales.

I love the sweet berries of summer, so much so that I eat them all year, keeping a bag of frozen berries on hand for a snack during the winter months. And since strawberries are in season in Michigan this time of year, we’re definitely eating more of them.

Keeping berries fresh for more than a day or so after you buy them can be a challenge, though I found an excellent suggestion in last week’s Detroit Free Press newspaper. To keep your strawberries from molding in the fridge, a reader advised that you put a paper towel in the lid of the berry container and store it upside down in the fridge. (If you try it, let me know if it works! Ours don’t last more than a day or two because we eat them so quickly.)

reddiwipSince I’m always concerned about keeping calories down and thus, rarely make dessert, I searched for a low-calorie Strawberry Shortcake recipe to make for my husband and me during a lovely summer Saturday night of barbecuing and dancing on our deck. (You can find a lot of summer dessert recipes on the Reddi-wip website here: Seasonal Recipes from Redd-wip.)

The recipe I made has only has about 225 calories per serving, including the 15 calories I added using Reddi-wip to top it off. (One of the reasons I prefer Reddi-whip is that it looks and tastes really good since it’s made with real dairy cream, not hydrogenated oils like so many whipped dessert toppings. I hate the thought of eating hydrogenated oils. Yuck.)

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe:
Ingredients
2 1/3 c. gluten-free Bisquick mix
1/2 c. skim milk
3 tbsp. Truvia
3 tbsp. butter, melted
3 eggs
4 c. sliced strawberries
Reddi-wip topping

Instructions:

Slice the strawberries and put them in a bowl with 1 tbsp. of Truvia. Set them aside and let them rest and “juice out” for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix the rest of the ingredients and separate into 12 servings. Pat them on parchment paper into small mounds about four inches wide and bake for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack. Serve each cake by topping with strawberries and 2 tbsp. of Reddi-wip and enjoy!

Besides promoting the wonderful flavors and light calorie impact of berry desserts, Reddi-wip is running a sweepstakes! All you have to do is share, tweet or tag a photo on social media with #BerryJoyfulSweeps and you’ll be entered to win a trip for two to the California Strawberry Festival or weekly prizes like free cans of Reddi-wip. Click on the image below for the details. (Or click here: #BerryJoyfulSweeps)

reddi-wip-sweeps

Sometimes the Best Advice is to Simply “Stay the Course”

FailureThere was a commercial campaign focused on encouraging people to quit smoking a few years back, which used the slogan, “Don’t quit quitting.” Lately, I’ve been reminding myself to do something similar – Don’t quit. Stay the course!

Don’t quit developing healthy habits because I had dessert.

Don’t quit taking my daily walks just because I skipped a day.

Don’t quit drinking more water every day because I got distracted and missed one day.

Don’t quit trying get healthier and slimmer just because I haven’t lost more than a few pounds.

Don’t give up on developing a healthier lifestyle. Don’t start a “diet.” Diets don’t work for me and I end up simply gaining the weight back, with a few extras for good measure.

I’ve lost a few pounds, and that’s something to appreciate. I will lose more, if I STAY THE COURSE.

UPDATE: As of 5/18, I’ve lost the five pounds I committed to a month or so ago. It’s working! 

This BeliefNet article validates my approach, so I’ll keep looking at resources like this one, to keep keeping on:

BeliefNet “Stay the Course” Article

What about you? Do you get defeated when the weight won’t come off quickly enough and give up? What helps keep you focused on healthy living over quick weight loss? 

 

 

 

Setting Incremental Goals – Aiming for a Five Pound Loss

Slave to the ScaleI’m tired. Tired of getting on the scale. Tired of seeing the same numbers every time I do. Tired of feeling fat. Tired of feeling pain when I exercise. Just plain fricking tired of this whole “fat” thing.

Now what? I started this blog a year and a half ago with the goal of losing forty pounds in six months, yet here I sit, so many months later, at the same weight, give or take a pound depending on what day it is and what I’ve eaten/drank/done/not done the day before. Ugh.

Soooo….now what? I’ve decided to start with five pounds. Just five pounds to see what it takes to do and so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I’m consistently thinking about how to live healthier and I continue to address my body image concerns, though I’m obviously not giving weight loss enough consistent effort to make a dent in the number on the scale.

This week, the value of setting incremental goals has gotten my attention. Apparently, the feeling of success from losing a small amount of weight – like five pounds – can give you the inspiration you need to keep going. At my height (5′ 1″), even five pounds can make a difference in how my jeans fit. Plus it feels good, perhaps good enough to inspire me to continue to my end goal.

For this effort, I’m committing to the following:

  • Walk/do my prescribed physical therapy exercises every day this week
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day
  • Skip sugar-laden foods, focus on lean protein and veggies/fruits
  • Don’t eat anything after 7pm

That’s it. Easy-peasy, right? I’ll let you know how it goes.

photo credit: Christi Nielsen via photopin cc

Happy Is Important – Here’s Why

Smiley LogsOne of my blogger girlfriends started a thread on social last week asking, “How important is it to be happy?” I immediately responded with a resounding “VERY!” Then I watched as others gave their answers. Some people said that contentment was more important than happiness, while others said that being happy was somewhere on their list, though not at the top.

March 20 was the “International Day of Happiness” so the topic seemed to be on everybody’s minds last week. It’s also been seeping into global consciousness for the last few years. From Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project (and the follow-up Happier at Home) to an article in Forbes a few weeks ago entitled Why the World Needs a Happiness Campaign to Live Better, it’s a hot media topic.

And of course, there’s Pherrel’s “Happy” video, which has been watched over 453 MILLION times. Yeah, I think we’re all seeking a little more happiness.

If you look at the definition of happiness, it covers an entire spectrum of positive emotions, including contentment, joy, cheerfulness and delight. I’d throw optimism in there, too, as when I’m feeling optimistic, I’m happy.

As someone who spent my early adulthood in a constant state of pessimistic angst – just ask my college roommates…no, it’s probably best not to – I got in on this trend decades ago. I wanted to be happy, dammit, but I didn’t know how. Years later – years filled with therapy, support groups and self-help books – and I can honestly say I spend 95% of my time being “happy.”

Why is it important to be happy? Because we’re only here for a short while and we might as well enjoy it. Because happy people are healthier and live longer. Because happy people are more fortunate. (Seriously, look it up – it’s true!) And because happy simply feels good. 

The general gunk and chaos of life can get in the way, though one of the advantages of being 50 is that I’m finally able to get back to a positive place quickly with my own unique set of happiness enhancers. I read material like Gretchen Rubin’s books and magazines like “The Intelligent Optimist.” I hang out with my family and my frogs, felines and canines. I surround myself with symbols of happiness like toys, hearts and peace signs. Fortunately, I’m usually able to turn things around pretty quickly. I KNOW – in my bones – that happy is important.

What about you? Is being happy important to you? What do you find makes you feel happy? 

 

Watching Out for Hidden Vipers

viperShe was a viper with a charming persona and a great big smile. And somehow I had no idea that she saw a target on my back.

I had been let go from a job I’d held for eleven years, due to “financial reasons.” (I actually believe that the decision was based on my political leanings, though that’s another blog post.) Within a few weeks, I’d been hired by the competitor and was feeling rather fortunate that I would be able to continue to support my family.

A few weeks after starting the new job, I was surprised to have my coworker, who also held a VP title, strike out at me about a client inquiry. We were a primary vendor for a few large corporations, which meant that our video materials were sometimes requested by the companies’ ad agencies to support their projects. I had gotten a call from a video producer that needed some video clips. “I called and left a message for (snake lady) yesterday, though no one has called me back.”

I went into (snake lady)’s office to see if she could help assist me with getting the needed materials together. “She said she’d left you a message,” I told her. “Did you get it?” As a newbie to the company, I was worried that perhaps messages were getting lost.

“I am very busy and I return client calls within 24 hours,” she snapped. (24 hours? In the video business, things move a whole lot quicker than that. A 2 hour turnaround on phone calls is considered TOOOO long.)

“Got it,” I told her. “If you need help, please feel free to pass those calls along to me. I’m always happy to take those kinds of things off your hands.”

She smiled her great big smile and brought out her insta-charm, which was magnetic and particularly appealing to the guys. “Thank you,” she beamed, before she filled me in on what I needed to do to meet the request.

Over time, there were several occasions like this one. I’d do something, she’d get angry and snipe at me. I’d fumble through it and we’d get things managed. I talked to the president and the owner of the company and asked if we could talk it over in a meeting. “Oh, no,” they’d respond. “Leave it alone. You’ll start World War III.”

Seriously? I was flummoxed. Why would this VP level staff member be allowed to act in any way she wanted, with impunity. Was it because she was prone to walk out of meetings in anger if things didn’t go her way? Or her magnetic charm, which she could turn on and off in seconds?

I began to understand that she wasn’t happy to have another strong woman on what she perceived as her turf. She’d been with the company for several years and I discovered that any other woman who held a position similar to mine had either quit or been fired within a year or so.

It wasn’t until several months later, as the relationship between us continued to deteriorate, that I found out she made fun of me to other people and complained to the owner about perceived weaknesses she thought I possessed. (And, yes, her complaints worked. The owner’s confidence in my abilities waned.) Within nine months of my hiring, I resigned, leaving that day.

“I thought you were a fighter,” the president of the company said, when I told him of my decision. “No, you misread me. I don’t like to fight. I like to collaborate,” I replied. I drove home crying tears of joy.

What was the key to snake lady’s success at this company? She was able to turn from full-on bitch mode to charming, magnetic warmth in seconds flat. It was truly amazing to watch. (Plus, she had an uncomfortably close relationship with the company owner, but again, that’s another blog post.)

What about you? Have you ever encountered a hidden viper? What happened?

photo credit: static416 via photopin cc

Pain Reliever Risks: Just Because It’s OTC Doesn’t Mean It’s Innocuous

I wrote this sponsored post as part of a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com, on behalf of the American Gastroentrological Association (AGA). I received payment for my participation. The story and the opinions are 100% mine. The facts were provided by the caring people at the AGA. 

At 5 weeks old, my son, my first and only baby, had to have surgery to correct a minor medical condition. He would be put under anesthesia and they would be cutting into his body. Sure, the doctors said it was “minor.” The surgeon did a hundred or more of these surgeries every year. “It’s really no big deal,” the nurses said. “He’ll be back to himself the next morning.”

Yes, it was minor TO THEM. To me, they were operating on my baby! To me, he seemed so incredibly delicate. In spite of the fact that he was a hearty eater, round and strong, I was extremely careful with him, as I felt like he might break. He was my first child and it took me a while to really understand that children are a whole lot stronger than they look when they first arrive on the planet. (That happened when I tripped over our Labrador and we both landed on the floor, but that’s another blog post.)

We took him to the hospital at 6am. The surgical area was designed for adults, so my son seemed even smaller and more fragile. Ninety minutes or so later and we were on our way home with written instructions to give him Infant Tylenol®  for the next few days, every 6 hours. Of course, I was worried about his pain level. He just got here for God’s sakes and we’re already cutting into him and causing him pain.

Fortunately, I’m into knowing the details about my son’s care, so I checked the label. Hmmm…it listed a maximum dosage of less than I would be giving him if I followed the hospital’s instructions. Yikes. I called the pharmacist at our local drugstore and decided to follow the dosing instructions on the bottle, instead of the hospital’s orders.

Had I been taking this pain reliever myself, I know I would have been less careful in taking them. After all, they sell them at the grocery store. They’re over-the-counter (OTC) so they’ve got to be safe, right?

After putting my son to bed that evening, I went online and did a little digging on Infant Tylenol and discovered the dangers of overdosing. Yikes. Common OTC pain killer medicines aren’t as safe as some of us may assume. When used in excessive doses or in combination, the dangers include liver damage, stomach ulcers and other gastro health problems.

I learned three really important things that day:

It’s important to read and follow label and dosing instructions on any and all pain relievers.

Aches and Pains GraphicIt’s an excellent safety precaution to double-check with a professional before taking any medications. And it’s best NOT to assume that because a pain reliever is sold OTC at the corner store it’s “harmless.”

Now that I’m in my 50s – and my son is 15 – I’ve had some chronic pain that means I’m taking more pain relievers, either Acetaminophen or NSAIDs. Do I pay close attention to ensuring that I take a safe dosage? Sometimes. Other times, I’m running around with my hair on fire and grabbing something out of the medicine cabinet as I head out the door.

The American Gastroentrological Association (AGA) is committed to getting the word out about the importance of being mindful of our pain relief medications. If you’re taking them, pay attention to the instructions, avoid doubling up on more than one, and talk to a health care professional if you have any questions at all.

I’ll add this one to the list of bad habits I’m getting rid of – no more grabbing a few OTC pain pills without giving serious thought to the safety of doing so.

For more information, check out the AGA website here - Gut Check: Know Your Medicine - or this infographic:

Gut Check Infographic

Why Do We Imprison Our Mentally Ill?

medium_3109692508I read a story in the news the other day that was truly tragic. A young doctor, who had been plagued with mental health issues, has disappeared from a highway in Michigan. Gone without a trace.

Her family knew she was having some issues. She tweeted crazy things and had aggressively pursued the affections of a minister who wasn’t remotely interested, until he got a restraining order. She heard voices that told her to do things that weren’t safe or healthy. Her parents and her ex-husband tried to get help for her, though unfortunately, in our culture, mental health care in extreme cases like this isn’t compulsory. Her family and her ex-husband should have been able to press for care. A few months have gone by, and unfortunately, it’s likely that she’s living on the streets somewhere warm, in a paranoid and delusional state. Here’s hoping she surfaces before something horrible happens.

It brought to mind an old friend of mine from high school. We were very close throughout our 20s. Karin struggled with bipolar condition, which became activated when she was 29. I was present for her slow breakdown, watching her behave strangely. She became extremely angry because I “knew that she was the Virgin Mary” and didn’t tell her the news. Watching a close friend’s mental capacities decline was horrific.

I watched her family try – over and over again – to get her the help she needed. They’d have her committed after she did something dangerous, then once she was in the hospital, she’d get on medication and get released. A few weeks would go by, she’d feel better and  she’d stop taking it. The cycle repeated over and over. She became dangerous, as her mind’s crazy fantasies sometimes involved fighting with others over what she knew to be true. I was forced to let the friendship go for my own safety.

Fast forward twenty years and she attempted to friend me on Facebook a few months ago. Knowing that reconnecting might be risky, I ignored the request, though her profile was public and I helplessly watched her go through another breakdown on social media. She believed she was God and for days, she would post non-sensical posts about her career as a movie star and “beauty queen” whose relationships with Steven Spielberg and John Travolta had led to a movie being made about her high school class.

After a few weeks, she disappeared and her mug shot showed up online. In the photo, the terror in her eyes is palpable. It’s obvious that she’s frightened and, most likely, delusional. A search revealed that she’s in Florida and has been arrested several times over the last few years.

We’ve created a system wherein our mentally ill citizens don’t get the treatment they need. Families are helpless. Mental health care for extreme cases is insufficient and hardly covered by insurance. Our mentally ill citizens become homeless and end up in jail. Why does this happen and how can we change it? I wish I had even an inkling of an answer.

photo credit: Kevin Eddy via photopin cc