Small Treats Help Stave Off Big Splurges

This blog is is about a lot of things. From trying to make peace with aging and my changing, post-50 body to trying to lose weight and get healthier and stronger, I have a lot of goals for the next few years. While the weight loss hasn’t come (yet), I have hope. I’m currently focused on addressing the underlying emotional issues behind my weight and have hope that I’ll be able to release these extra pounds more easily once I’ve got it figured out.CoffeeMate Creamer Pic  Obviously, I consume more calories than I burn, so it seems simple, right? It’s sooooo not. The older I get, the more I realize that there are reasons that my body and brain don’t really want to lose weight. As I dig into the emotional issues and begin to exercise again, after a hiatus caused by an injury, I’m taking on small challenges along the way.

Lately, I’ve been reducing my cravings for sweet treats with a doctored up cup of coffee. I’m fortunate that our office offers a ton of different high-end coffees, plus, several options for flavored cream. Rather than running down to the store in our building’s lobby to grab a 200-calorie treat these days, I’ve been grabbing a quick cup of coffee with flavored cream and it satisfies my craving with significantly fewer calories.

My favorite flavored creamer is CoffeeMate and I LOVE their new Girl Scout Cookie flavors. If you haven’t tried them and you like the Girl Scout Thin Mints or Samoas, you’re in luck! I got to try them at the BlogHer conference this past summer and they’ve captured the flavors perfectly! And at 35 calories per tablespoon (or 70 calories for one cup of afternoon coffee, if you like two tablespoons like I do), they’re a much better option than the cookies themselves.

What do you think? What’s your favorite low-calorie sweet treat?

In the interests of full disclosure, I received free product samples, in return for this review. All opinions expressed are mine. And yes, these creamers are fantastic!

 

The Blessing of the Frogs

LJV and the Frog PrinceYou sometimes hear people describe themselves as a “dog person” or a “cat person.” While I love dogs and cats and just about every other kind of animal, when it really comes down to it, I’m a frog person. I’ve always had a thing for frogs, though it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve figured out where it originated and how to use it to my advantage.

Some of my fondest memories involve wandering through the neighborhood when I was four and five years old, digging around through the mud and muck and dead leaves to find frogs and toads in our neighbors’ window wells. I’d put them in my white baby buggy with the lace sun shade, which was usually full of dirt and water, and take them home, always very proud of my catch for the day. My favorite stuffed animal was a frog prince with a yellow felt crown.

When my parents got divorced – I was just about to start first grade – we moved into an apartment with a concrete patio that overlooked some woods. Late at night, I’d sneak out of my bedroom to peek at the tiny tree frogs that would come up on the porch to catch the bugs that were drawn to the porch light.

When I look back on those years, I don’t have any recollection of how hard it must have been missing my father. I was daddy’s girl, though all I really remember are the frogs and toads.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was in my 40s, that I rediscovered my affinity for amphibians and bought myself a White’s Tree Frog. As we walked out of the pet store, I surprised myself by naming him “Buddy” immediately, instantly recalling that it was what I had called my frog and toad friends as a child. “Hey, little buddy,” I’d say to them, kissing their heads. (Yes, I’ve literally kissed a lot of frogs and toads in my lifetime.) It brought tears to my eyes as we got into the car and the memories came flooding back. I had a frog! Yay for me! I felt like a five year old with no cares in the world.

Over the last seven years, with Buddy in his tank in our dining room, I’ve immersed myself in fond memories of my childhood.

Pond FrogThroughout my living space, there are frogs. Antique cast iron frog door stops, vintage Chinese snuff bottles adorned with frogs, paintings of frogs, three-legged money frogs (to help with our financial chi, of course!), a stylized frog lamp…the list goes on. We’ve even dug a small pond in our backyard, where we’ve grown a few bullfrogs from tadpoles. They warm my heart and I’m drawn to them like some people are drawn to puppies. Just looking at them brings me joy.

Fortunately, my husband is a patient and compassionate man. He tolerates my frog fetish well. In fact, it’s allowed him to bring to light his affection for steam trains. Starting with coffee mugs and antique toy train sets, he’s bringing them back, enjoying the love he has had for them since he was a boy. Between the two of us, we’re surrounded by things we love that make us feel happy. And it is good.

What about you? Do you have any symbols of your childhood memories that make you feel happy? 

Plodding Along, Changing Habits On the Way

My Weight Doesnt Get to DecideThey say “Slow and steady wins the race,” and that seems to be my motto for now. A few weeks ago, I posted about walking every day, since I was struggling with my PITA injury. (PITA = Pain in the Ass, aka “piriformis syndrome,” an issue with a muscle in the rear end that when it acts up, causes severe muscle cramping and pain.)

So far, so good. By using my FitBit, I’ve managed to increase my average daily steps from 3,000 to 4,500 to 8,000 to 10,000. I feel stronger and have managed to honor this commitment about 90% of the time. (Awesome, right?)

Coupled with drinking more water, paying more attention to what I eat, ingesting less sugar/more protein, and going to three regular physical therapy appointments every week, in hopes of resolving my PITA, I’m on a strong and steady path. Not only am I changing some bad habits that impact me physically, I’m also – slowly and surely – evolving my mindset. I’ve not stood in front of the mirror and criticized myself harshly for being “fat” in at least a few weeks. My self-flagellation has been reduced to a minimum, quite an accomplishment, considering that it was previously a daily habit.

In the morning before work, I get dressed, I take a quick peek in the mirror and I move on. I look “good enough.” Not perfect, though who is? I look good enough for who I am: a 50 year old, somewhat overweight woman who struggles with an extra 40 pounds, who is working on getting physically healthier. My weight doesn’t determine my value and it doesn’t get to decide how happy I get to be. I am on a path and if I stay on it, I KNOW good things will come.

And to reinforce this approach, I saw a story on Good Morning America that really resonated with me. Tory Johnson, the contributor who does the “Deals and Steals” segment, has written a book, entitled “The Shift.” On GMA, she shared how she lost 60 pounds in the last year and a half with a consistent approach that had her losing less than a pound a week. Tory mentioned that, in the past, she’d give up when it didn’t happen fast enough, and that it wasn’t until she kept at it, persistently, that the weight came off. You can see the GMA story here: Tory Johnson Makes “The Shift” 

Thank you, Tory, I think I may just be on the right track.

What about you? What small changes are you making that will contribute to your health over time? 

Walking is the New P90

LJVSince December, I’ve been suffering from piriformis syndrome, a condition that can be roughly described as an ongoing pain in the ass. Basically, the piriformis is a muscle that runs across your rear end, from the outer hip. It’s hard to believe that this little muscle can send you to the ER in an ambulance, though that’s exactly how it started for me in December. After x-rays and an MRI to rule out other causes, I was diagnosed with an unruly butt muscle.

Since then, my piriformis has decided that it likes to cramp continually, one side or the other, causing me continual early morning pain. It’s not fun, though with muscle relaxants and pain killers, I’m able to get it under control most days. Then, fortunately, as the day goes on, it warms up and feels better.

It’s put a huge damper on my exercise program, as every time I feel like I’m back to something resembling normal and can get back to P90 or even yoga, it flares up again. This past week, I’ve decided to go back to basics and just walk for 30 minutes every day. It’s something I can do consistently, it doesn’t seem to cause a flare up and it’s a great way to clear my mind every morning.

It helps that I have my FitBit, too, as I can gauge my activity by steps and stairs. It also helps me realize how few calories a woman my age and weight burns when we’re not active. Yikes!

Sometimes, going back to basics is the best way to get back on track.

What about you? What exercise helps you maintain a consistent level of activity? 

 

Taming My Squirrely Brain

large__4053123799My brain can be so squirrely sometimes. (Is squirrely really a word? I’m not sure.)

I keep telling myself that I can lose weight with a few minor adjustments. In reality, it’s going to take lots and lots of minor adjustments. So far, I’m consistently exercising more, drinking more water or iced herbal tea, and eating more mindfully. Letting go of snacks between meals, unless it’s an apple or something else healthy. Avoiding the donuts and bagels in the kitchen at work. No more snacks on the couch while watching TV. No cream in my coffee. No more donuts on Sunday morning. Reducing gluten-based foods and white carbs.

And the weight’s not coming off. I lose a few pounds, then a few pounds come back. Then I lose a few more. Then they boomerang back and apply themselves to my belly.

My squirrely brain wants to give up. It keeps telling me, “See? You’re stuck. You can’t lose any weight, unless you torture yourself and starve yourself and make yourself miserable. Might as well give up.”

In the past, I’ve lost between 20 and 30 pounds at a time, though it’s always been through that eat-very-little, feel hungry all the time and punish myself kind of way. Then I go back to my normal self and the pounds come back.

Since I’m focused on losing these stubborn pounds in a healthy and sustainable way, I will continue to make changes and keep adding healthy habits. Go take a rest, squirrely brain. I’ve got this one.

What about you? Do you struggle to stay on track when the pounds don’t come off quickly? 

photo credit: Tomi Tapio via photopin cc

 

Pushing Through Midlife Aches and Pains

Who could resist this guy?

Who could resist this guy?

My husband and I are both in our early 50s – he’s 51 and I just turned 50 in May – and we’re both amazed at the aches and pains we experience these days.

He just finished three solid days of yard work. Weeding, mowing, and spreading mulch have left him moaning and groaning in pain at every turn. I’ve been getting back into P90 and suffering the same issues. It’s actually somewhat entertaining when we get in or out of the car. “Ugh,” he’ll say. “Ouch,” I’ll add.

We’re hoping that we’ve simply been overdoing it lately and that our joints and muscles will catch up to us in the next few weeks.

I’ve also been reading more about exercise and how it can actually strengthen our telomeres, the “end caps” of our chromosomes that can cause the detrimental effects of aging as they deteriorate. So, I will continue to exercise and allow my poor body to catch up with me as I push it past its comfort level.

These days, I’m trying a combination of walking, climbing the stairs at the office and P90, which includes some yoga and weights for strength training.

I’m sticking with the P90 program for several reasons. The trainer, Tony Horton, is a bit of a goof so it’s not too serious. He encourages you to work out at your level and not to overdo it. Plus, it covers all the basics – weight, cardio, push-ups, sit-ups and yoga.

Hoping that I can keep my telomeres long and healthy!

A Post-Father’s Day Contemplation

On Father’s Day, my social media accounts are always flooded with pictures of men who are lauded for their support of their children – what they taught them, their jokes, their constant strength, always being there. And while I’m happy for those who celebrate, I also wonder why I had to miss that type of connection with a “dad” as a child.

I actually had two “fathers.” My biological father, who left our family when I was five, and my stepfather, who was an ongoing presence, though he sexually abused me when I was eight and was the root of the constant destructive chaos that overshadowed any happy moments I had as a child.

I tracked down my biological father, Gary, more than once over the years. When I was in my early twenties, I had a year or so of visits and phone calls. Then a few phone calls in my thirties, and five years of once-in-a-while emails or phone calls in my late forties. Strange, though, how I never felt like I was getting the connection I really wanted. While we talked about the whats and whys of his disappearing act, he always seemed so removed from any emotional expression. The conversations were never any deeper than those I have with the cashier at the grocery store, as she’s scanning my groceries. It was unfulfilling and empty. And somehow, I always always always hoped for more. Emotionally, I wanted to have a loving relationship with my father, even though intellectually, I knew it would never happen.

My stepfather Tommy, on the other hand, joined our family when I was in first grade. I remember that I loved him at first, and that I asked him if I could call him “Daddy.” I was so happy when he said yes. A few weeks later, he and my mother got in a fight and he told me I wasn’t allowed to call him that anymore. By the time I turned eight, he was coming into my bedroom at night. It was a confusing, shameful time and when it was discovered, a huge fight erupted and he moved out, though just for a short time. When he came back, my sister and I were vigilant in our attempts to stave off any nighttime “visits.” When it almost happened again when I was twelve, I told. He was arrested and we went to court. I was so ashamed that I minimized what had happened and the case was dropped. (I’m sure the lawyer asking me what I was wearing probably didn’t help my feelings that it was all my fault.) This sick man was a part of my life until I moved in with an aunt at fifteen.

Last month, both of these fathers died, within three days of each other. It was a very strange time. I felt sad for a short while, though overall, I somehow feel safer.

Has this lack of any father figure played a part in my relationships with men? Absolutely. My early relationships were yearning crushes on men who weren’t as interested in me as I was in them. I felt a gaping hole where there should have been self-love and self-care.

Did the sexual abuse play a part in my ongoing weight issue? Yep. If I’m the chubby girl, I won’t get inappropriate attention from men.

Fortunately, I’ve married a man who is able to give me the unconditional love I never had from a father figure as a child. A month after the deaths of the two men who should have been positive influences in my life, I have an interesting sense of finality that actually feels pretty good. It’s finally time to move on.

What about you? What has your experience with fathers been like? 

Trying the FitBit

fitbitFor my birthday – yes, it was the big 5-0 – I asked my husband for a FitBit One. It’s a tiny little electronic device that helps you track your movement, including the number of steps you take throughout the course of your day and how you sleep. It comes with an account on the FitBit website and it synchs wirelessly through your computer or iPhone.

I clip mine onto my bra strap or put it in a pants pocket, depending on what I’m wearing. After using it for the last four days, I’m actually having fun tracking my food, my activity, my blood pressure and heart rate, and my sleep habits. (Surprise! I’ve never found tracking anything to be fun.)

These first few days, I’ve simply been tracking my normal eating and fitness habits. I’ll use it as a starting point for improvement over the next 90 days to see how it works.

I’m really pleased that my husband got one, too, and seems to be even more interested in using it than I am. We’re enjoying comparing our numbers and trying to figure out how the FitBit knows when we’ve gone up stairs. (Yes, I’ve tried to imitate walking up and down, which looks really goofy, though I can’t fool it.)

I’ll keep you posted on how the FitBit works, since this week, I will be using it to upgrade my activity and nutrition stats.

What about you? Have you ever used an electronic device to help improve your fitness efforts?

 

 

 

A Change in Focus: Let’s Get Real

LJV Get RealWhen I first started this blog, I was feeling enthusiastic and frightened at the same time.  I wanted to lose 40 pounds and I figured I could do it in six months, if I made a concentrated effort. I was excited about the accountability a blog would give me and about putting my efforts out in front of the world. I was six months out from my 50th birthday and afraid of getting older. I wanted to make a major life change in a very short time. I knew I could come up with 40 bad habits I needed to give up and I figured I’d throw that in there, too. I would drop 40 bad habits and 40 pounds before I turned 50. No problem!

Not so fast.

Right after I started this effort, I injured myself doing P90. Basically, I got a major pain in the ass, literally. My piriformis muscle decided to act up and I ended up in the ER twice, on some pretty heavy pain meds and muscle relaxants for three months, and unable to exercise, or even focus my thoughts very well. I’ve since recovered to about 85%. I’m grateful that it wasn’t a permanent injury and I can now go back to working out, though I must do it slowly and carefully.

Sure, I’ve made some positive changes. I’ve changed some habits – I drink more water and cleaned off the kitchen counter that’s been covered with paper for at least a year. I’m more organized with my tasks. I have more self-love and less self-loathing. I’ve lost 3 pounds. (Nowhere near the 40 I’d hoped to lose, though I’m not giving up. I just know that it will take me longer than six weeks to do.)

I turn 50 in three days and I’m here to tell you that – in my dropping 40 effort, as I originally envisioned it – I failed. Brilliantly! So, I’m starting over.

I’m going to refocus this blog and my future efforts to be more realistic. Moving forward, I’m going to put my effort toward dropping those 40 pounds and those 40 bad habits, as I let go of my 40s. As I practice becoming comfortable with my age. As I reach for, and achieve, the goals I’ve set for myself. And I will keep failing, as needed, until I get there.

 

 

In a Rut Rut Rut and Trying Something New

First meal on my first week of Diet to Go plan - Low Carb Option

First meal on my first week of Diet to Go plan? Breakfast – Low Carb Option. Great tasting, huge portion and visually appealing, too.

I love getting inspiration from people who do the cha-cha. Of course, I’m not the only one trying to lose weight and get fit that’s sharing my story on a blog. I came across “The Weight is Over” a few months ago on Facebook and she’s doing something similar. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following Wendy, the blogger, because she’s authentic and fun and HONEST.

Her post this week resonated deeply with me. She’s braver than I am and posts her true struggles and fallbacks (and actual weight!) on her blog. Yikes. AND she’s lost 35 pounds in her effort so far!

This week, Wendy posted about her “one step forward, two steps back” journey and made a commitment to get back on track. I’m going to follow her lead and own that what I’m doing hasn’t resulted in much weight loss. A few pounds, sure, though that’s it.

Yes, I’ve been exercising, drinking water, eating better, avoiding most carbs most of the time, though it’s not working. I’m eating better and exercising more. And the weight’s not coming off.

Fortunately, today I’ve gotten a gift that will help me jump-start my efforts. I’ve been selected to be a Diet to Go ambassador and my week of meals came yesterday! I’ve always wanted to try one of the meal services, figuring that perhaps I’m not gauging my portion sizes or selecting the right foods that work for me, and if I take those decisions out of my hands, I might be able to lose some poundage.

This week, I’ll be posting photos of my meals and information about the plan and hopefully, dropping at least a few pounds.

PLUS, I’m considering asking for a FitBit for Mother’s Day. I keep hearing that one of the keys to weight loss is tracking your intake and physical activity, though I’m SOOO resistant to it!

What about you? What are you trying that’s new? How’s it working?