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.

 

 

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? 

 

 

 

What Do You Do When You’re the Only One in Your House that Needs to Lose Weight?

One of my biggest challenges, when it comes to healthy eating, is that I have two men in my household (my husband and my son) who both get to eat whatever they’d like with impunity. My 15 year old son, in fact, is bordering on underweight. If I cook low-cal meals for the two of them, they’ll mutiny and the household will be overtaken by pizza, frozen lasagna and ice cream.

Plus, since I believe in the value of family meals, I come home after my day at the office and cook dinner. While I always look for healthy recipes and typically use fresh ingredients, I can’t necessarily feed them the same low-cal menu items that I need to eat to lose weight (or these days, to even avoid weight gain!) So, when I’m “on” and taking exquisite care of myself, reducing calories and carbs (which isn’t as frequently as I’d like), I cook one meal for them and something completely different for me.

It’s so much easier to simply grab a grocery store heat-and-eat meal for me, or simply fry a quick lean burger and slice up an apple. Unfortunately, when I take either approach, I usually have to sacrifice quality and taste. Basically, it’s a pain in the butt, bores me to tears, and I don’t do it often these days. Fortunately, that’s where Diet-to-Go can help.

If you’ve read this blog over the past year, you know about my affinity for Diet-to-Go. It’s a diet delivery meal plan that offers convenient, easy healthy (low cal or low carb) meals, delivered to your door.  I’ve ordered quite a few weeks of their meals and whenever I follow it, I easily lose a few pounds. Plus, they’ve somehow managed to create delicious entrees in microwavable portions. Easy-peasy and great for those of us who are busy and “don’t have time” to eat well. (Or have other family members that aren’t into a low-fat, low-cal or low-carb eating plan.)

I’m so happy to share that they’re running a sweepstakes to help you with your weight loss resolutions in the new year. You can learn the details (and all the official stuff) here: 1,000 Meal Giveaway Sweepstakes
Or you can simply enter here:


Diet-to-Go is also hosting a twitter chat on “The Anti-New Year’s Resolution: Using Common-Sense to Make Lifelong, Lasting Changes Towards Health.” (We all know by now that it’s not about a diet or quick-fix. It’s about a lifestyle change!) The event will take place on Tuesday, January 7 at 9pm EST. The giveaways are awesome, including a Fitbit Flex Wristband or Fitbit scale, and three guests will win a week of free meals. If you log on to Twitter and follow @diettogo, you can join in.

What about you? How do you manage losing weight when you have other family members who don’t have to worry about how they eat? 

Taking Baby Steps Toward Self Love

This past week, I’ve made a decision that I’ve been considering for a few years. I’m so very very tired of being the “big girl,” yet no matter what “diet program” I’ve tried, the pounds always come back.

Last week, I agreed to take on Laura Fenamore’s 12-week Body Image Mastery course. Laura calls her work, “One Pinky,” saying that when you learn ”to love what you see in the mirror…(you can) unlock the secret to healthy weight.” I almost didn’t sign up, as I’d spent money on weight loss programs so very many times in the past, which ended up wasted when the effort ended.

The thought behind self love as the key for weight loss is that if you love yourself, you’ll be compelled to take better care of your body. Since I enjoy <sarcastic> frequent bouts of extremely negative self talk, I figured the worst that could happen is I stop hating on myself, even if I don’t lose a pound. Seems like it’s well worth the investment.

Then, this morning, I came across this lovely little video, initiated by the brand folks at Special K. I love how it puts our body shaming self talk out there for the world to see. I’m ready to give it up. How about you?

What about you? Do you “fat talk” yourself? Do you think it would be easier to lose weight if you loved yourself instead? 

Getting My Butt in Gear, or Those Times When Motivation Just Shows Up

Clock GearsThis weekend, I decided to start working out again. After a few decades of steady workouts like kickboxing, step aerobics and yoga four to five times a week, I have been forced, for almost the last year, to “take it easy.” In the process, I gained an additional fifteen pounds. Ugh.

Fortunately, a few months ago, I finally found a physical therapy practice that was able to turn around my chronic piriformis muscle problem and I’ve been almost pain-free for over a month. The physical therapists at the Michigan Institute of Human Performance seemed to know exactly what I needed and within three weeks, I have no pain in my backside. (No real pain anyway, there will always be “butt pains” in life, though, right?) I feel ready to ease back into working out, beyond the (almost) daily walk that I’ve been able to do for the past three months.

Then, over this past weekend, the universe decided I needed to see three people who have “done it,” aka lost weight and kept it off for a significant amount of time and be reminded of the importance of exercise to the process.

First, we stopped by the pet store to replenish our cricket supply. (Frogs need them.) The woman behind the counter has worked there for several years, though we almost didn’t recognize her after she lost 30 pounds a few years back. This time, when we went in, I was struck by how great she looked and how it appears that she “got it” and been able to stay fit longterm. As we talked about a friend of hers who had appeared on local television news that morning with a giant African Bull Frog, she mentioned that she’d watched it at the gym that morning.

Then, we watched our favorite weekend television show and they did a segment on comedian and game show host Drew Carey. He talked about his weight loss, which he’s sustained for the last three years, and what had motivated him to get fit. When he’d been heavy, he’d felt tired all the time and had aches and pains that were a detriment to being active with his child. He changed his diet and took up running and now those aches and pains are gone.

And, finally, this morning, Tory Johnson showed up on our local morning news program. She’s lost 72 pounds and kept it off for a year. She’s incredibly motivating and happy, touting her new book, The Shift. She looks fantastic and gave a bunch of great eating tips, including reducing carbs and changing the way you think about food.

Those three stories have stuck in my mind as I start this week with a goal of amping up my workout routine. I’ve always felt better when I exercised, something I did for years before I was injured in December. Today, I’m committing to starting out with three full body workouts a week, in addition to my walking schedule. To make sure I don’t overdo it, I’m going to focus on yoga and a few other moderate level programs that I have on DVD at home. Sorry, P90, but you’re just too much for me right now.

Here’s to getting my butt back in shape – literally and figuratively!

What about you? What workouts do you enjoy?
photo credit: .sandhu via photopin cc

Familiar Routines Breed Contentment and Healthy Habits

Morning CoffeeI heard the line, “Listen, Lady! You don’t know anything about anything” on a bad television movie this evening, as I was flipping through the channels, searching for something to play in the background as I worked on my laptop. I had to stop and watch. The Lifetime Movie Network film, A Stranger at the Door, starred Linda Purl, and told a formulaic story of an abduction by her character’s long lost adopted son. I found it lovely in its lukewarm scripting, mediocre acting and non-existant character development.

I am drawn to bad Lifetime movies. They’re kind of like Cheese Whiz. Light and airy, kind of tasty, though they make you sick if you consume too much. There’s something comforting about them, too. You can pretty much predict what’s going to happen and the good guys will most likely win in the end. (Or at least they will if it’s a good bad movie.)

My husband and I took a walk tonight, during which he told me about what he would be doing after we got home. Letting the dogs out, putting them to bed, making tea for us to drink as we watched a bit of television, and getting lunches ready for the next day. It’s the same routine he runs through every weekday and it’s as comforting to him as my bad Lifetime movies are to me.

They say “familiarity breeds contempt,” but I don’t believe it. Not for a second. Research shows that familiarity and a routine can be beneficial for you both emotionally and physically. We live in a world full of chaos and unpredictability, so a routine that allows you to predict what will happen reduces stress and can make it easier to cope with day-to-day life. Routines can also help you stick to a plan for building healthy habits.

The familiar routines my husband and I have created include:

  • Family dinners at least 5 days a week
  • A half hour walk with the dog every evening, 6 days a week
  • Going to bed at the same time during the week
  • A half hour of reading for both of us before lights out
  • Morning coffee together at 6am to start the day
  • An over easy egg on Ezekiel bread for breakfast every morning on week days
  • Watching the program, CBS Sunday Morning, every Sunday as we wake up (It’s so very, very smart!)
  • My husband always winning at the shower Olympics, i.e. he always, without fail, takes a shower before me

My husband’s more attached to his routines than I am, though I completely appreciate his predictability. In this case, familiarity has bred more attraction and big happiness. And I think my guy is actually starting to like my bad Lifetime Movies.

What about you? What routines have you found help you in developing healthy habits? 

photo credit: javaturtle via photopin cc

Setting a Small Goal to Get Back on Track

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This is how I’m going to feel after I’ve lost 40 pounds!

Last week, I was clearing my computer desktop and came across a photo I had to send in for an online weight loss challenge in late May. The photo needed to show the number on the scale at the start of the challenge and include an item that you could then show yourself holding in a second photo. When I opened the photo last week, I was surprised that the number on the scale then and the number on the scale now are the same. Nope, I didn’t win the challenge, though at least I haven’t gained anything in the last four and a half months. (Sometimes you have to celebrate the teeny tiny wins, right?)

Rather than great big goals that can seem overwhelming, for the next four weeks, I’m going to try to lose a total of five pounds. Just five. Only one and one quarter pounds a week. Seems doable, right?

Since the beginning of this blog, back in December of 2012, I’ve been looking at a goal of 40 pounds, which in hindsight, seemed way too difficult. It was easy to think “I can’t do this! It’s tooooo hard!”

While I’m disheartened that I’ve not lost even one pound, I will acknowledge myself for getting a handle on several bad health habits. I’ve made some great positive changes, including:

  • Increasing my daily activity – counting my steps using my FitBit tracker
  • Drinking more water every day
  • Walking for at least 30 minutes a day, sometimes 60
  • Feeling better about my body as it is
  • Working on shame issues
  • Reading articles and blogs focused on healthy living

Now it’s time to put some small measurable goals in place. In our customer service work, we tell our clients, “You get what you measure.” It’s time for me to set some small, attainable goals that I can measure.

Between now and November 15, I will lose five pounds. Five pounds and that’s it. I’ll report back then.

What about you? What kind of goals have you set for yourself? 

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A Gift from an Amazing Researcher: Vulnerability and Shame as Tools for Growth

GraffitiIf you’re a woman over 40, I’m willing to bet you’re intimately familiar with vulnerability and shame and you don’t like how they feel. You may hate them and you may even try to hide from them. For me, even looking over my shoulder to catch a glimpse can seem  too frightening.

I’ve been facing a lot of my feelings of shame of late and whoa, is it ever painful! My childhood and young adulthood were extremely challenging and I learned ways to function that were completely inappropriate. Looking back, I feel shame at some of my own actions. I also feel a much deeper shame for things that were done to me by people who should have been watching out for me. By facing it and staring it down, I’m making major progress in releasing it little by little.

If my story sounds familiar and rings true for you in even a small way, please take some time to listen to the TED talks by Brene Brown. Seriously, take some time NOW and go watch them. My favorite is about Listening to Shame and it’s so compelling that I wish it was a requirement for women everywhere. (And – BONUS – it’s totally entertaining.)

One of Brown’s main points is that vulnerability is actually courage in action. It’s not weakness and “it fuels our daily lives.” She states that to let ourselves be vulnerable is a gift to ourselves and others.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change,” she says. Describing herself as a vulnerability researcher (who focuses primarily on women), Brown is also well-versed on the topic of shame. Both shame and vulnerability can be catalysts for growth. In order to innovate and solve problems, you have to be willing to face failure, which is often the basis of shame. Shame tells you “you’re not good enough” and asks you “who do you think you are?” Facing it and admitting your failure requires vulnerability and allows others to say, “me, too.”

Brown describes out the “warm wash of shame” that is familiar to so many women. Our culture creates expectations for women that we can never meet, causing us to feel shame and separate from others and potentially never reach for what we really want. The good news? When we face shame and vulnerability, we can “dare greatly” and accomplish much.

My favorite quote from her talk is this one:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

What about you? Have you faced shame and vulnerability and come out stronger, more peaceful and happier on the other side? Tell me about it!

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When Your Body Armor Weighs Too Much

The only thing a number on a scale can tell you is that a body – created by circumstance and chemistry and nature itself – carries a certain amount of physical weight.

~ Ursula Adams

I love that quote, from my friend Ursula Adam’s “Pretty Pretty Bullshit” blog post a few months ago. (You can read the post here: “I call bullshit on… equating weight to value.”)

Body ArmorI’ve spent a lot of mental energy over the years trying to give up my shame around my body. No matter how much I’ve weighed, from 105 pounds to over 180, I’ve always thought I was “too fat” and felt shame about how I look. I’ve spent way too much time in front of the mirror, usually right before going off to work or to a special night out – telling myself that I was a “fat pig” who “looks awful” and shouldn’t leave the house looking like that.

I strongly believe that my weight issue stems from my traumatic childhood and sexual abuse in my teens. There’s a proven connection between childhood abuse and wearing excess weight as “body armor” to shield you from future mistreatment.

As I continue to bring my unhealthy beliefs about my weight and myself to light, exploring  and bringing an adult perspective to them, I know I will continue to get healthier physically and emotionally.

What about you? Do you think there are underlying issues that might be causing you to be overweight? 

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