Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5: Oh, Weekend!

          Last weekend was surreal.  On Saturday the Lighten Up contestants gathered for photos, assessments, rules, and interviews.  I spent the remainder of the day trying to absorb the feeling of being a contestant who wouldn't really have much contact with the others.  It's not like we're living together, working out together, eating together.  (I do read and savor everyone's blogs daily – they make me feel less intimidated by the process, less alone.)  On Sunday I was exhausted from the built up tension of anticipation. 

          Today begins a weekend like all the others (I hesitate to write normal weekend, because around here, there's no such thing), which means I'm into my most challenging days of the week.  No school for my older kids and hopefully no office work for my husband mean that my routine is blown out of the water. 

          During weekends, I feel like I lose every lesson I know so well during the week.  I forget how to plan, how to eat, how to cook, how to track, how to motivate myself for exercise.  Everyone wants a piece of me on the weekends, and I want a piece of everyone.  There are extra weekend activities (church; meal planning & grocery shopping; always another load of laundry; extra toys, books, and what-not to pick up).  It doesn't all fall to me – my husband and kids are completely involved.  Still, it makes me a little dizzy.

          Because of the temptation to sweep Saturday & Sunday under the rug, I attend Weight Watchers meetings on Sunday or Monday.  Knowing there's a scale in my very near future helps me avoid full blown binges.  Thankfully my very supportive husband is a tremendous help, giving me time to workout (even when I feel too overwhelmed to walk out the door) and, if he's cooking dinner, prepares a lower sodium version of the meal for me.

          Weekends aren't easy, but they're part of life.  Life is filled with breaks in routine.  The trick is how we handle them.  The signature line on my email is "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain."  So I can't hide from the busy-ness of the weekend; I can't pretend that weekend calories don't count.  I have to learn to balance the time-out from the Everyday with the structure of improving my health.  I'm working on it.




Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4: Erised

February 4: Erised

             In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore discovers Harry staring into the Mirror of Erised (erised being desire spelled backwards).  The mirror "shows the deepest and most desperate desire of our hearts."  Dumbledore cautions Potter that "men have wasted away their time before it, not knowing if what they have seen is real or even possible."

            In my lengthy quest of losing more than one hundred pounds, the temptation to weigh myself daily and critique my body every chance I get is strong.  There was a time when I'd weigh myself not just daily, but several times a day!  I'd weigh myself when I awoke, before and after meals, after bathroom trips – you get the idea.  I allowed a single digit to control my emotions for days. 

            Little by little though, I absorbed the lesson that Weight Watchers and others proclaim: Throw away your scale; only weigh in weekly at the meeting.  I tried.  I remember one day I hid the scale under my youngest daughter's changing table.  A funny thing happened though.  She apparently (at age 2) recognized the scale and the amount of attention I paid it daily, and after she spotted the scale in its hiding place, she brought it to me!

            I hear that there are people who refuse to look in the mirror; they don't want to see their bodies.  I, on the other hand, went through a period of near obsession with my image in the mirror.  After every workout I'd check my reflection in hopes of seeing fewer lumps and less jiggle. 

            Just like Harry needed to be shaken from his stupor before the Mirror of Erised, so did I need help to recognize and break the paralyzing hold which the scale and the mirror held on me.  I cannot control the number on the scale; I cannot control my reflection in the mirror.  I can and must control my actions and my attitude.

            The scale is now sitting quietly in its normal spot , just in my line of vision as I type.  But I'm not tempted to get on it.  I don't need it.  The scale won't help me and neither will the mirror.  They'll provide feedback of my actions, but that's it.  Life's too fleeting and precious to be spent fretting over a number or an image.  In order to give myself the best chance of a long life, I need to be healthy.  Part of becoming healthy is shedding pounds, but the greater part is so much more.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3: A Work in Progress

I keep wishing that I could write about all the changes I've made since Lighten Up started.  I wish I would write about eating less and moving more. 

Day after day I blather on in my blog about this or that.  But I can't help it.  That's where I am in my journey.  I've been gaining knowledge about nutrition and fitness for years and am finally in a place where I am practicing persistence and consistency.

I continue to track what I eat, to stay hydrated, and to motivate and challenge myself.

Where's the excitement in that?

It's an internal excitement.  It's a growing realization.

Every single one of us is capable of change.  I won't glibly offer that "If I can do it, anyone can do it."  That's not fair; it makes the struggle sound easy. 

Transformation isn't easy.  For me it's a puzzle with funny-shaped pieces of introspection, courage, practice, humility, and willingness.  It's framed in desire and stands on a table of mind, body, and spirit. 

There's no box with a picture on it to make assembling the puzzle simpler.  It's about looking at the pieces, seeing what's on them and how they fit in with the other pieces.  It's not easy, but it's absolutely possible.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 2: Frosting

Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  I swam, I shoveled snow, I biked, and I lifted weights.

Then yesterday afternoon I was smacked in the face with why I applied to be a contestant in Lighten Up.  Gathering ingredients for dinner, I came across an open tub of frosting in the fridge and I instantly wanted it.  My toolbox opened up and I said aloud to myself, "You're in a contest!"  I didn't touch the frosting, but the encounter set me to wanting something sweet for the rest of the day.  I ended up drinking an unplanned glass of chocolate milk (Ovaltine in skim) before dinner. 

In hindsight, I think I was looking for relief from the insecurity I feel in knowing that the contestants' pictures and stories will be in the paper this Sunday.  Also, I had encountered a person who drips negativity.  Months ago I had made an effort to remove myself from this person's circle, but we unexpectedly crossed paths yesterday.  Sure enough, I was showered with passive aggressiveness.  I removed myself from the situation as quickly as I could, but the damage was done.  (Being a better writer than speaker, I've never been able to tell this person to back off.)

Then in the evening when I was tired but trying to stay awake to see the end of The Biggest Loser, I had a cup of chai and munched a handful of animal crackers.

All in all, skim milk-based drinks aren't bad.  The problem is that I consumed them after having my trigger set.  I was tired and saw a food-like substance (the frosting), which once upon a time I might have lit into with a spoon and no turning back. 

The frosting will be gone by this weekend, either used for its intended purpose or thrown away by me.

I've come a long way in my fight against using food for the wrong reasons.  I (have convinced myself that I) prefer fruit to cookies, and I actually do prefer homemade popcorn to processed snacks.  On good days I can convince myself that I like drinking water (I'd much prefer to drink skim milk).

Temptation will always exist; if it weren't the frosting (which we normally don't have in the house – please don't lecture me about it), it would have been something else.  It wasn't about the frosting.  It was about using food as a comforter.  I had used a lifeline and phoned a friend to discuss the day's encounter, but didn't hear back till after I had drunk the chocolate milk. 

I'm not beating myself up over yesterday – I still have plenty of WW points (and earned plenty of activity points) available to me.

It's not about perfection, it's about persistence.  And part of my persistence has to be strengthening my ability to use tools for their intended purpose: food is fuel for the body.  Period.  People and prayer are for the spirit.

Exercise goes both ways, so I'll put on my weighted gloves and get to it. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1: My Toolbox

I promise this won't be another soul-searching piece, "instead of all that high faluting mumbo jumbo" as Gil complained in Anne of Green Gables.  This is a nuts & bolts account of how what's been helping me to drop some pounds already and will help me to work off eighty to one hundred more pounds.


Supporters         In the nuts & bolts of my toolbox, I've learned to rely on the nuts: family and friends to whom I can say anything and of whom I can ask anything.  They not only tolerate me (though sometimes that's the best they can do – I can be annoying… I mean an acquired taste), they help me bask in success, work through emotional baggage, set new challenges, and inspire and teach me with their stories.  I have the most supportive husband & kids you can imagine, and a host of people I'd make wear Team Karin shirts if they'd stand still long enough.  J


Weight Watchers            Nope, this isn't a paid endorsement – it's an honest one.  From WW I've learned how, why, how much, and what to eat.  No pre-packaged meals, no pills or snake oil, no forbidden foods. 

Mental: A huge part of making WW work for me this time (I've joined more than once) is my commitment to being open, listening, and learning.  I alternate between two meetings: one leader reaches in and talks to my soul; the other helps me with the more everyday needs. 

Best quote: "Don't use your fork & spoon to dig your own grave." - Carole


Euclid YMCA      Last January as part of GoFit (free three-month membership), I became a member of the Euclid Family YMCA.  I started out by using the treadmill three times a week for thirty minutes.  Pretty soon I increased the number of days and intensity.  Then I started trying other equipment.  When I first tried the cross trainer I lasted seven minutes (note I didn't say only – seven minutes was a huge accomplishment for me!); yesterday I went for forty minutes and will do more than that next time.  The free membership has long since expired, but I continue to do cardio work five mornings a week and strength train two days a week.

Mental:  It starts with a little courage: putting one's imperfect body on a treadmill in a room with mirrors and people.  It takes determination to not quit.  It takes willingness to ask for advice.  It takes dedication.

Best quote: "Everyone's part of the club". – David (after I told him that though my hands were blistered from weightlifting, I didn't feel I could wear weightlifting gloves because I wasn't strong & cut like real weightlifters , like I wasn't part of the club.)


the sidewalk      In good weather I love to walk in my neighborhood, either by myself or with family or friends.  It's free of charge, the scenery is always changing, and it strengthens my sense of community.


pencil & paper  I track what I eat and I keep a journal.  Tracking didn't come naturally at first – I'd often track well at the beginning of the week, then slack off midweek.  Once I did some of the tough mental and emotional work, I found that tracking has become second nature.  It's made all the difference in the world.


DVDs                     I have a small collection (and Euclid Library has a large collection) of exercise DVDs.  When I want to try a new exercise, I'll often try a DVD at home first to see whether I want to pursue it.  Most recently: I'm trying a WW DVD called Punch.  It's an intro to kickboxing(!!!) and comes with pink  weighted gloves (which I put on backwards the first time).


Media                   Books, magazines, newspapers, The Biggest Loser (I learn a ton by watching their last chance workouts): I immerse myself in positive stories of inner strength. 


mp3 player         Though I can get through my cardio work without music, music makes the workouts much more enjoyable.   Look for a blog all about this in the days  ahead.


Please note what's not found in my toolbox:

The scale – I used to weigh myself several times a day.  Bad idea.  A good number gave me permission to eat more that day; a bad number gave me permission to throw in the towel and eat more that day.  I fight the fight to only weigh myself once a week (at WW), and now once a month for Lighten Up.


The mirror – A friend has challenged me to not look at myself in the mirror for an entire year.  I totally get the challenge and I'm up for it. I'm relying on Team Karin to let me know if I've got fuzzies on my shirt of a string hanging off my dress.



Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31: Six reasons I've smiled already

1.  The twinkling snow, the black velvet sky, and the silent trees were even more beautiful than usual this morning.
2.  Just when I was thinking how well I was doing in my workout, maybe making progress, I caught a glimpse of my arm fat flapping.
3.  There were some funny things on the gym's TV this morning: a picture of an owl (which I first thought was a skeleton) and some pro-bowl highlights.
4.  I worked for forty minutes and burned more than five hundred calories on the cross trainer this morning - a new record for me!
5.  The cold morning air felt amazingly refreshing after my workout (as opposed to bone-chilling before my workout).
6.  I have a place to come home to and a family to love.

January 31: I'm Up!

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a morning person.  I tend to awake before the alarm clock goes off, I think pretty clearly in the morning, and I relish that time that is mine. 

Truth be told, morning person is not always an easy role to play.  There are days when I'm so anxious about waking before the alarm clock blares that my body will wake up multiple times during the night.  {It's a leftover people-pleasing habit of mine: I don't want the alarm to wake my very-much-not-morning-person husband.  He wouldn't mind – he'd just go back to sleep.  But those of you who are natural people pleasers know the struggle.  It's a trait I'm working on overcoming, but that's for another time.}  This past night I awoke during the twelve o'clock hour, the three o'clock hour, and finally let myself out of bed at the four o'clock hour.  The gym opens at five thirty.

As for thinking clearly in the morning, I'm not sure that's accurate.  I think that being awake but not necessarily alert straightaway forces my conscious and my unconscious to mingle near a fuzzy line, similar to a school dance where the girls congregate on one side of the gym while the boys huddle on the other side.  It's those brave people or thoughts that mingle close to the dividing line that are open to new lessons.  Any time I've been inspired to write, it's been in the early morning hours.

Being a mom and wife and daughter and daughter-in-law and freelance worker, there are precious few hours (let alone things) that I can call my own.  I don't begrudge anyone anything they ask of me: my hours, my shoulder to cry on, my lap to snuggle on, my ear to vent to, my van to haul stuff, my time.  But in naturally caring I occasionally fall off the wagon into people pleasing.  I lose myself to the needs and concerns of others.  In these early morning hours, only I am awake.  I can have a cup of tea or watch the television or read many pages undisturbed.  A lesson from my mom though: "Do unto others AS unto you, not better than you."  It's like being the airplane lesson: put on your oxygen mask first so that you can help others with theirs.

Instead of drinking tea or reading a book, I am wearing the clothes I laid out last night and I'm off to the gym.  Do I want to go?  No, not really today.  I'd like to go later in the day, but I don't have time later in the day.  And so much of my gaining or failing to lose weight has been making excuses: why I can't exercise, why I'll taste just a little.  Excuses are no longer part of my life.  Reasons yes, excuses no.    

So I'll pull on my boots and head into the dark early morning, and – after the initial shock of cold –will breathe in the precious air.  The air will fill my lungs and prepare them for the hard workout ahead.  The crisp air will awaken me.  And I will be thankful throughout the entire day that I get to experience the thrill of challenge, the daily routine, and the little bumps in the road.  I'm glad to be alive.  There'll be time for sleeping later (I've let it be known that when it's my turn to die, I request that my coffin be lined with flannel), but for now

 I have promises to keep. 

And miles to go before I sleep.

("Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening" -- Robert Frost)


Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 30: To the stranger

I was yanked out of sleep this morning by the need to write.  I awoke thinking of impressions that I had of the people I met yesterday and of the impression they may have had of me.
While I let those thoughts roll around my mind, I logged on and was happy to read the blogs of Barbara & Vivian.  I love that we're on this journey together, and though I couldn't figure out how to leave comments for them, with luck they'll read my blog, too, and know that they're already inspiring me and making me smile.
And when I got back to What Wanted To Be Written, I discovered that it was my version of a poem.  My poems don't rhyme, they don't have meter or structure.  My poems may not be even be poems at all.  But I like the look of them, each thought standing on its own, on a separate line, intentionally capitalized to my liking.

To my Stranger

I am fat,

I am lazy,

I am stupid,

I am weak,

I am greedy,

I am what I eat: junk,

And I am deserving of ridicule.


To my Known

I have lost weight (even a roll of belly fat!),

I work hard in ways seen and unseen,

I strive to listen and to learn,

I have been bruised and battered and have picked myself up again,

I have learned boundaries,

I enjoy plants, dairy, and the occasional meat (always consumed with a prayer of thanks to the life),

And I am human and deserving of love.


Of my Within

I am Flame that burns with eagerness to overcome Challenge.

I am Seed, tremulous and patient for light and water from without for the plant within.

I am Student, immersed in lessons beyond words.

I am Eyes that hold steady and set, watchful, hopeful, and determined.

I am Glutton for Life, for breath, for wind, for rain, for snow, for sunshine, for shade, for warmth, for strength, for support, for the hugs of my family, for every good and wonderful thing, for every resolved conflict, for every soul-strengthening moment of sorrow.

I am Nourished by kindred spirits, by strangers, by respect.

I am gloriously Imperfect, Alive to fail and to try again.