Category Archives: Weight loss

sharing my journey towards healthier choices

Exercise used to be a dirty word

Exercise used to be a dirty word for me.  I hated it.  I hated to sweat.  I hated to be sore.  I hated everything about the idea of purposely putting yourself through that.

Then I started losing weight.  Then I plateaued.  Then I discovered Zumba and Hip Hop Abs.  Then I started to actually enjoy exercise.  Well, not all exercise.  Just those two.  But I find myself actually looking forward to Thursday nights and Saturday mornings, when my classes meet.  I even go when I don’t really feel like going (because, deep down, I really want to go).

Last weekend, I wasn’t able to go to the Saturday class due to being out of town, and I definitely missed it.  So I was determined not to miss again if I could help it.  This past week, though, I have been fighting a bad sinus infection, which has left me somewhat sleep deprived.  I have also been really busy at work, bowling practice has started up, and Thursday (when I only took a small sandwich and a handful of grapes for lunch), I was exhausted and hungry when I was driving from the bowling alley to the community center where Zumba is held.  It would have been so easy to make a quick turn and just head home instead.  I thought about it.  But then I thought about how much better I would feel about myself if I pushed through and went to class.  So I went.  And I was glad I did.

This morning, I was still tired when I got up to feed the menagerie (our dogs and cats can’t seem to understand the concept of the weekend being for sleeping in).  I did actually go back to sleep for a while.  When I woke up at 8:30, it was tempting to close my eyes again, but then I would have missed Zumba.  So I didn’t – I got up, got dressed, and got my butt there on time.

I haven’t been giving it my all these past 2 classes – my body just won’t respond right now – but I am still proud of myself for being there at all.  And I know it is helping – at my weigh in this week, I had my lowest “official” weight so far.  I am now down 48.4 pounds since January.  Although my home scale did (for a couple of days) show me at -50, officially, I’m not there yet.  (When I weigh myself at home, I am usually just about to get in the shower… at the WW meeting, I have clothes and shoes on!)  I am quickly running out of clothes again – time to purge the closet and make a run to the thrift store for another size change.

When I hit the next milestone, you’ll know… you’ll probably hear the cheer wherever you are!

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Where did the summer go?

This summer has been a busy one.  I took on a part time job at my church, filling in as the office admin when they had an unexpected opening.  Originally, I was just helping out until they found a replacement, but I am going to continue doing part of the job – writing the newsletter, preparing the weekly order of service and announcement bulletin, and monitoring email and voice mail – for a while.  I won’t be able to spend any time in the office, as I did this summer, because of course, I have a full-time job teaching.  In fact, I go back to work this coming week.  We start early here in the South!  But a fellow church member and I have worked out a way to share the responsibilities of the admin position, so it should all work out pretty well.

I did manage to get out of town a couple of times this summer.  For the first time in over 18 years, Jeanne and I went away for more than a weekend without seeing family members.  We usually work our trips around visiting my brother or her sisters, or they involve traveling to a neutral location WITH family members.  This time, we took a road trip that wasn’t to Wisconsin!  We saw some friends for a couple of days and then moved on to explore a new city.  We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast, visited several museums and other tourist attractions, and ate in recommended restaurants.  We were gone a total of 5 nights, but it felt longer.

5 days after getting home, I was re-packed and on my way to the airport for a trip to the east coast to visit my Dad.  I flew into a small regional airport, rented a car, and drove the hour and a half to where he is being cared for.  When we moved him there in November, he was in the secure unit for Alzheimer and dementia patients.  In March, he was moved into the Skilled Nursing unit, where he now lives.  I was able to see him for 4 days, most of which were good days, when he knew me by name.  It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to when he thinks I am someone else – usually one of his sisters, Pat.  The part that hurts is when I have to say goodbye, not knowing when I will get the chance to see him again.

It would take me at least 16-18 hours to drive from my house to Delaware, and the cost of flying just keeps going up, which makes it difficult to travel that way often.  Even flying involves changing planes and the better part of a day each way, so it’s hard to find enough time during the school year.

I definitely noticed a decline in his ability to understand his surroundings as well as to communicate.  But he still looks at the paper – I am not sure he understands what he is reading, though.  One day, he had a folded paper napkin in his pocket.  He took it out, unfolded it, and held it in two hands like a newspaper, turning it over and over like he was turning the pages of the Post.  I guess some habits will stick with him until the end!

For now, he also still smiles at me, letting me know, even if he can’t come up with my name, that I am a familiar face.  One of the activities directors even commented on the fact that he seems happier when I am there.  I certainly was happy to see him!  I even got to watch him “bowl” one day – they set up plastic pins and angle the wheelchairs so that the residents have a half-way decent chance of hitting them with the plastic ball.  Dad seemed to enjoy himself and even clapped for the other residents when they took their turns.

As my school year gets underway and I get busy with the daily tasks of teaching and coaching, I will treasure the memories I made this summer, and look forward to finding time to get back to Delaware.  I would love to see Dad “bowling” again!

While I spent time with Dad each day, I also found time to connect with some friends who were in the area.  I spent about an hour visiting a friend from high school who was vacationing with her family, and had 2 meals with friends from college who arranged to visit their vacation home that weekend, knowing I would be in town.  It was great to catch up with them!  I also made time to attend a Zumba class at a local Curves – I was going to miss both of my weekly classes, so it was good to work in some physical activity.

The last 2 weeks of my summer break from school were mostly spent out of town, which had the drawback of making the summer seem even shorter, but I wouldn’t have missed either trip.  Now to buckle down and get some planning done before the students return on Monday!  I also plan to get back to doing a better job of tracking my food and making progress with Weight Watchers.  The summer has been full of ups and downs in that part of my life and I really want to get back on track.

I had set a goal at the beginning of the summer, and have fallen a little short.  I am not going to beat myself up over that, or sabotage my efforts by giving up, though.  I am going to set a new goal, and do everything I can to reach it.  My next birthday is in about 6 weeks, so my updated goal is to lose 12 pounds by then.  I’ll keep you posted!

Turning Lemons into (Sugar-free) Lemonade

Last week, I suffered a significant set-back in my weight loss journey.  I had the largest single gain at my weekly weigh in since I began Weight Watchers in January of this year.  In the past, something like that would have completely derailed my efforts.  I used to have a lot of negative self-talk, and a 3.6 lb gain would have caused my thought process to go something like “well, I obviously can’t lose weight.  I must be failure at this, so why even bother trying?”

This time around, things are different.  Instead of giving up, I took the setback as a challenge.  I looked at the habits I was falling back into and made a conscience decision to get back “on the wagon”.  First, I bought a digital scale (to replace the analog one I had been using).

This is not my *actual* weight!

I figured it would be more precise and I wouldn’t be able to fudge what I was seeing.  Second, and probably most important, I went back to charting what I was eating, even on the days that I ate too much, and deliberately chose fruit as snack food rather than chips.  And third, I went to exercise class twice this past week. Each time I go, I seem to be getting more out of it, since I am getting better at following the moves of the instructor.  I even added hand weights for added toning!

All of these changes – to my food intake, my activity level, and my attitude – paid off! Today, I recorded a weekly loss of… wait for it… 7.6 pounds!  As of right now, I have lost 20% (yes, 1/5) of my starting weight.  Almost 48 pounds total.  When I got to thinking about how much trouble I have carrying a 40 lb bag of dog food from the car into the house, and that I used to carry more than that around with me EVERYWHERE I went, I really can understand why I am feeling so good these days.

Look at how long my neck looks!

I know my body has changed – I have had to give away most of my clothing because it just hangs on me (skirts and pants have literally fallen off me) – but I haven’t really been able to see it in the mirror.   The condition of having a distorted body image – perceiving oneself as fatter or thinner than one really is – is known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  To some extent, I think I have some issues with this.  Even after losing 30, 35, 40 pounds, I would still look in the mirror and see the same (fat) person I had always seen.   I had a hard time believing that I looked any better, even though I was wearing smaller sizes and people were telling me how good I looked.

Today, though, something clicked.  I looked at my self and realized my stomach is flatter, my arms are more toned, and I have a neck! When did all that happen?  Now I am even more excited to stick with the program.

Imagine how good I’ll feel – physically AND emotionally – when I hit 50 lbs!  I plan to make it  happen by this time next week.  And then, who knows?!  I’ll have to set a new goal.  But my confidence has returned – I know I can get back on track any time I feel myself slipping.  I am NOT a failure.  I am taking the lemon I was given last week and making (sugar-free) lemonade out of it.  I finally believe I will succeed at this.  I already weigh less than I have for most of my adult life.  And I am determined to reach each and every goal I set for myself – I can do it!  As my Weight Watchers leader gets us to say each week:
I’m smart!  I’m funny!  I’m pretty!  I’m Chrystal!  And darn proud of myself, too!

Setting a new (mini)goal

Back in January, I started Weight Watchers with a goal in mind.  I wanted to be at a certain weight when I went to my 30th high school reunion in early May.  I had 38 pounds to lose and 17 weeks to get there. For those 4 months, I was diligent about following the program, making healthy choices and tracking what I ate. Imagine my surprise when I met my goal almost 3 weeks early!  By the time I left for my trip, my total loss was at 40.2 lbs.

Here is a photo from last summer and one from the reunion this year.

Before

After

I know that with any weight-loss effort, there are going to be plateaus.  So the first few weeks after my reunion, it didn’t concern me too much that I was hovering around the same weight – some weeks down a fraction, some weeks up a fraction, but basically maintaining.  The problem was I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet.  That goal was supposed to be an intermediate step – ultimately, I wanted to lose a total of 80 lbs, so I was only ½ way there.

I had told myself that when school got out, I would start an exercise regimen that would include Zumba at least once a week, plus walking and/or swimming at a friend’s pool.  Telling myself that and making myself do it were two different things.  I found lots of excuses during the early part of the summer –  mostly that I was too busy with projects around the house and at church (where I was filling in as secretary for the summer) – and only started going to an abs class in mid-June.  I have since added a Zumba class as well, but the triple digit heat that we had for over a week meant I just wasn’t motivated to go walking.

Adding the exercise has been a good thing, but I have gotten lazy about tracking my food.  I also did a lot of rationalizing with myself – I was burning calories, so it shouldn’t matter that much what I ate or whether I wrote it down.  Unfortunately, it did matter.  I soon realized that it was true what they said – Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt!  For a few weeks, I continued to lose a little bit – two tenths of a pound or so each week.  But it caught up with me this week. I gained 3.6 pounds.  The good news is that I still have a total over 40 lbs.  The bad news is that I am nowhere near where I wanted to be for the beginning of school.

I have 4 weeks left before going back to work.  I have a new goal.  Well, a mini-goal.  And a plan.  I want to lose 10 pounds in the next month, and I am going to do that by getting back to the basics of the program, tracking my food better, and adding some sort of exercise (walking, swimming, or just dancing around my house to the ipod for an hour) so that I am doing something 3 times a week.

And when I reach that goal, I am going to set another mini-goal.  I am going to have to break this whole process down into baby steps, or I will get overwhelmed and fall off the wagon again.

So I am making a new start.  I am going to learn from this setback (like the Weight Watchers leader told us at the meeting yesterday) and figure out what to do differently in the days and weeks and months to come.

I know that I will continue to have good days and bad days, but I have to live up to the commitment that I made to myself – to be honest about what I eat, and to make healthy choices as often as possible.  I know that I won’t be perfect.  As long as I keep trying, though, I can be happy about where I am.  It’s when I am not trying that I start to feel like a failure.  And I don’t want to feel like that.  It just isn’t productive.  I know I am already a success for having lost 40+ pounds – I just don’t want to lose that feeling by giving up on the process.

This is my 100th post on this blog!  In the coming weeks and months, I hope to share more success stories here at The Spirit Within.  Thanks for following this journey!

Ups and downs…

I knew, going into last Monday’s weigh-in, that the previous week had not been my best effort.  I had eaten way more than I should have, and exercised way less.  Fortunately, my “bad” eating habits are still better than they used to be, and I actually lost a little.  A very little.  0.6 lbs.  But as my sister-in-law put it, a loss is a loss is a loss.

I was still about 1.5 lbs from where I want to be, with just over 2 weeks left to get there.  Unfortunately, this past week was also a tough one.  I traveled with a group of students for 3 days, eating in hotel lobbies and mall food courts for much of that time.  These types of eating establishments do not cater to weight management plans.  Deep fried, greasy, carb-heavy menus make it difficult to make healthy choices.

But the internet is my best ally!  When I got the itinerary from the trip organizer, I googled (strange how that has become a verb) the malls, scoped out the choices at the food courts, and got nutritional information from the chains’ websites.  I made a list of places and menu items that would be good choices, packed healthy snacks, and vowed to do the best I could to stick to my plan.

Unfortunately, I deviated from my plan almost from the beginning.  Lunch on Day 1 was supposed to be a turkey burger without a bun.  We left Memphis at 6:15 am, the girls performed at a school in Little Rock, and then we headed to the mall.  By the time we got there, I was famished.  With 95 girls and 8 other chaperones scattering to the various eateries in the food court, I chose the place with the shortest line – Mandarin Express – and ordered more than I should have.  I knew it was too much food – although I tried to go with the healthiest options – but I ate it all anyway.

It might not have been too bad if I had been able to go walk it off, but we had to load up the bus and travel for another 6-7 hours.  The good news is that when we stopped for dinner, I was still full from dinner, so I got a sandwich to take to the hotel room.  I never did eat it, though.

The next morning, breakfast was available in the lobby of the hotel.  I had eggs and a bagel.  Probably should have skipped the bagel, but it was already on my plate when I spied the eggs, and I hate to waste food.

Lunch was again at a food court – I chose Mexican this time.  Should have tossed ½ of what I got, but again, I hate to waste food.  So I ate it all.  Dinner was early on day 2, so I wasn’t very hungry.  Stuck with an appetizer and sharing an entrée.  I didn’t make the healthiest choices that day, but at least I am doing a better job of listening to my body about when I am hungry and not just eating because the clock (or the itinerary) says it’s time.

Day 3 began better – I knew there were eggs on the buffet so went right for that.  Had 1 piece of wheat bread with them.  Then, remembering the assignment my Weight Watchers leader had given the group, I tried a new power food.  I have not eaten oatmeal since I was 11.  I had a traumatic experience at summer camp when I was forced to eat it, even though I didn’t like it.  I haven’t touched the stuff since then.  But my taste buds have changed as an adult, so I decided to buck up and try it.  I put a small amount – what my mother used to call a “no-thank-you helping” – in a bowl, added some nuts and a little brown sugar, and tasted it. 

My 11 year old self feels vindicated.  It was still yucky.  That may have been because it was pretty runny and was being served in a hotel lobby.  I may get brave and try it again, but I am not putting money on my liking it!

Lunch that day was again mall food – I splurged on a piece of pizza.  In my former life, I would have ordered 2, plus bread sticks and a soda, so I am proud of my restraint!  I even blotted the grease off before eating it.

Another change I have made, that I have not had too much trouble sticking to, is no carbonated soft drinks.  I can’t stand artificial sweetener, so won’t drink diet drinks.  I have pretty much only had tea (hot or cold) or water to drink since January.  (I did have a beer on St. Patrick’s Day – but I don’t think you can blame me for that!)

After I got home on Friday night, I was able to get back into my routine.  Over the weekend, I ate better and I even got more exercise than usual, since I participated in a 2.5 mile walk on Saturday.

Sunday afternoon, I did some exercises with free weights, and wasn’t really hungry for dinner, so just had some popcorn as a snack.  All in all, I am feeling pretty good about the week.  Weigh-in is less than 2 hours away.  Wish me luck!

A Red-Letter Day!

Anyone who has struggled with weight issues knows the cardinal rule about dressing.  Wear loose-fitting clothing, and never, never tuck your shirt in.  Above all else, camouflage your shape.  We tell ourselves that no one wants to see the rolls, the lumps, the puffiness.  If we hide our imperfections from ourselves others, then it is easy to pretend they aren’t there!

When I began this weight-loss journey, I made a promise to myself that I would be honest with myself.  One of the ways I do that is to track everything I eat – even the bad stuff.  Weight Watchers has an amazing online tool that lets me enter the food and the portion size, and it calculates how many “points” I have eaten.  I have a set number of points each day, with a cushion of a fixed number per week, and if I go over my daily total, I know that I have to cut back the next day or deal with a gain when I weigh in.  Since the beginning of the year, there have only been 3 weigh-ins that were higher than the week before.  This was not one of those weeks!  I lost 2 more pounds this week, so my total is now over 35 pounds!  I have three more weigh-ins before my reunion, and am hoping to lose at least 7 more by the time I go.

Clothes are definitely fitting differently – I have had to get rid of lots of things that were just too big, but I am able to wear things that have been sitting in drawers or hanging in the closet for years.  Shirts aren’t pulling across my bust and belly and pants are hanging longer around my ankles because they aren’t being filled out as much up top.   Jeans that I couldn’t zip up a couple of months ago need a belt to keep them up and blazers that felt like straight-jackets can now be buttoned with room to spare.

When I look at myself in the mirror, though, I don’t always see as much progress as I feel in my clothes.  Especially when I look before getting dressed.  I still see too much of me.  I see my gall bladder scar and realize my belly will never get flat because I have scar tissue underneath the incision.  I see my 47 year old breasts and realize they will never be perky.  And I see the extra skin under my arms and know that I still don’t feel comfortable going sleeveless.

Even though my partner tells me I look good, and friends have told me I look good, I don’t always see it for myself.  As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, “The bad stuff is easier to believe”.

So why is today a Red-Letter Day?  Because when I got dressed this morning, I tucked my t-shirt into my jeans.  I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I looked good that way.  My neck has really slimmed down, so with the v-neck of the shirt, it looked longer than usual.  I could see my waist and my pants weren’t too tight.  For the first time in a long time, I felt good about how I looked.  I felt pretty.

I added a belt (that now fits again), and went to work with my head held high.  I am looking forward to doing it again tomorrow!

Breaking the pattern of yo-yo dieting

My weight has been an issue for me since middle school.  I can remember having to get weighed in 7th grade PE class and being embarrassed by my classmates, who made fun of me for tipping the scale at 125 lbs.  

My mother, who I am sure felt she was doing the right thing, took me to the doctor to find out what was “wrong” – she was a nutritionist by profession, so she knew she was feeding me healthy food, and yet my weight continued to climb, even as my height stabilized at 5’2” (and a ½ – I take every bit I can when it comes to how tall I am).

I continued to gain weight throughout high school and college – what’s 5 pounds, here or there?  Except that it was 5 pounds every year – sometimes every 6 months.  So by the time I was a senior in college, I had gained 60 pounds since puberty.  I realized that I needed to make a change, so when Weight Watchers announced a group on campus, in my final semester I started making healthier choices and lost about 20 pounds.

I had every intention of sticking with it, but after graduation, with no job lined up past the summer camp I was scheduled to work at, I moved home.  I did line up a part time gig late in the summer, but without the support of a group and with the vast amount of free time I had on my hands, I ate my way back up to (and beyond) where I had been.

That seems to be my pattern – find a diet, stick with it for a bit and lose some weight.  When I stop, put it all, and then some, back on.

It happened again a few years later.  I was teaching full-time and living alone.  Junk food was easy, cheap, and tasty – all tempting to a low-paid new teacher.  I found myself weighing more than I ever had, and decided to try Weight Watchers again.  This time, I lost 25 pounds – just enough to get back to my graduation weight.  But the cost of the weekly meetings was too much for my budget, so I reverted back to habit and gained the weight again.

I continued to yo-yo through the years, each time losing a little and gaining more.  I tried the South Beach diet a few years back, when I had reached my all-time high, and lost about 45 pounds over the course of a year.  It felt good, but once again, when I stopped paying attention to the guidelines of the program, I gained most of it back.

This time, I have caught myself before ending up higher than I was.  I have finally decided this is it.  My 2012 resolution is to get healthy.  I need to eat better, exercise more, and make healthy choices all around.

I realize that it isn’t going to be easy.  I am going to have to pay attention to what goes in my mouth for the rest of my life.  I am going to need to find support where I can, and work at avoiding those who would derail my efforts.  And I am going to have to get used to the idea of sweating.  That may be the hardest part for me!

And so my weight loss journey has begun – hopefully for good this time.  For the first 12 weeks of 2012, I had the support of a group of teachers who were all participating in the Weight Watchers’ “At Work” program.  It really helped to be part of a group – in those 12 weeks, I lost 30 pounds.  For the non-math types who may be reading this, that’s 2.5 pounds per week!  When that group folded (after the 12 week session was over), I knew I couldn’t go it alone.  So I have joined a regular Weight Watchers meeting on Monday evenings.  The leader there is very supportive and encouraging, and I know I am going to be able to stick this out.

I have goals.  Short term, mid-range, and long term.  I have a date in mind for my short term goal – the weekend of my 30th High School reunion.  That is 5 weeks from now.  I think I can make it!  No – I am sure I can.  After that, I will set a deadline for the next goal.  I know that, for it to work for me, I have to break it down into steps.  If I try to look at the big picture, I will get overwhelmed and will give up.  I am determined not to let that happen.

Each week, the WW leader ends the meeting with “Have a good week – I hope to see less of you next week.”  And so I will end this with “I hope less of me sees you next week.”

Brutal Honesty

A week ago tomorrow was Mom’s birthday.  She flew in that day so she could spend it with Dad and me.  My brother, Terry, flew in the next day to visit all of us.  Jeanne and I took Mom out to dinner on her actual birthday, and on Friday, we all had dinner with Dad at his Assisted Living residence.  Outside of the secure unit, there is a very nice dining room that is set up like a restaurant – with menus and daily specials.  We can take Dad out there any time we want – his meal is included in his monthly fees, and the staff has given us some coupons for complimentary meals for the rest of us.  Jeanne and I try to take him out there at least once every week or so.  Hopefully, this summer, I will be able to do more of that.

Friday afternoon, I went to visit after school.  Terry and Mom were already in Dad’s room, but it was too early for dinner, so we sat and hung out for a bit – watching TV, giving Dad the paper to “read”, and visiting.  Mom spent some time re-folding and re-hanging some of Dad’s clothes – generally straightening out his closet.  I was working on a crossword puzzle and Terry kept trying to engage Dad in conversation about what was in the paper.

All of a sudden, Dad looks up, sees me across the room, and says “So, Chrysti, what do you weigh these days?”  Those of you who know me know that this is somewhat of a sensitive issue for me – especially in front of my mother.  We all froze.  Terry and Mom tried to look as if they weren’t waiting for my reaction.  When I got my tongue back from the cat, I said, “Well, Dad, that is kind of a personal question.”  He said “Yep.”  I told him I thought I would keep that information to myself, and in the way that only Alzheimer’s patients can speak their mind, he asked “You’re not skinny, are you?”

We all started laughing – my brother, my mother, and even me.  I mean, how could I be offended?  He was just saying what came to mind.  His disease removes the filter that polite society puts on us.  And the truth of the matter is, I am not skinny.  I don’t think I have ever been skinny.  I don’t think Dad understood why we were laughing, but his next comment made me laugh so hard, tears started streaming down my face.  When I replied, “no, Dad, I am not skinny”, his response was “it looks like you might have overdone it a bit.”  Gotta love his brutal honesty. It may just be the motivation I need to shed some pounds!