Inspiration

Okay, I was just writing about how I’m looking for some new inspiration. Well, yesterday, I got it!!

I was having lunch with a friend and told her that I was thinking about having a belated celebration for my 40th birthday (which was last December). The holidays were just so busy, I couldn’t fit it in. But now it’s spring and the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming, and I am SO ready to be done with winter!! What better thing to do than have a party?! So my friend told me about how she celebrated her 40th, and I was immediately on board! I’m throwing myself a party. But not just any party. I’m throwing a prom night!! Funny thing is, I never went to prom (long story). So other than the versions I’ve seen on TV and in movies, I’m not even sure what that looks like! But I am super excited! I’m inviting friends and family from near and far. I don’t expect the ones from afar to make it, but then again, you never know! And since it’s prom, everybody better come all dolled up and ready to dance! As I was dancing tonight (have I mentioned that is my preferred form of exercise??), I was grinning from ear to ear, making a mental list of all the fun songs I want the DJ to play 🙂 This is going to be one super fun celebration! Oh yeah, and of course I’ll need a new dress! Now that is some pretty great inspiration to stay on track!!

My Food Plan

In a recent post, I talked about various strategies to get – or get back – on track. One of them was tracking my food. And that is my basic food plan. I am not on a diet where I restrict a list of foods. In fact, there are almost no “off limit” foods for me. So how does that work?

I started using the My Fitness Pal app (it’s the one I read about in Cooking Light, January 2014). It takes some effort, especially in the beginning. But the more you use it, the more it knows about the foods you eat, so they are easier to look up and enter. You can use the app on your phone or the website on your computer. I use both, depending on what I’m trying to do. I set up my goals by telling it some basic information: my current weight, my goal weight, how much weight I want to lose per week (I started with one pound per week and now have it set to half a pound per week), and my activity level. Then it comes up with target nutrition goals. I focus mainly on the calories but am also aware of fat and carbs, as those are of course the things I crave!

After that, I start logging. I am most successful at staying within my target if I plan most or all of my food the day before. Of course I still make adjustments throughout the day, depending on what happens or what I’m craving. But having an idea of what’s coming throughout the day helps stop me from mindless snacking.

As I said, I do not deprive myself of any foods. I’ve gone down that road enough times to know it does not work for me. If I say, for example, that I can’t eat chocolate, I become this crazy person who can’t stop thinking about food and ends up eating all kinds of other things that are really no better. I become so irritable and most unpleasant to be around! And wasn’t I just writing about how this is still supposed to be fun?! I may be trying to make changes in myself when it comes to my body and my health, but that doesn’t mean that my personality has to suffer (especially at the expense of the people around me!).

So instead of depriving myself, it’s all about portions and balance. I measure most of my food (unless it’s already pre-measured for me, like in those 100 calorie packs). I have to admit, the math geek in me actually enjoys measuring! And I have some fun playing the numbers game. It goes something like this: “I really want some chocolate. But I only have 50 calories to spend. Okay, so that’s about 2 dark chocolate Hershey Kisses.” I used to be the person who couldn’t have just one or two – I wanted a whole handful, if not the whole bag! But now I can be much more disciplined about it … most of the time 🙂 And I really savor those one or two little chocolates.

Of course, I do try to make healthy choices, too! That is sometimes a struggle for me. I use another app called Healthy Habit Tracker to try to eat enough fruits and vegetables and drink enough water each day. It’s amazing how a day can go by so quickly before I realize I haven’t had enough!

The balance comes from looking at my whole day. If I want to have some light ice cream at night (I’ve become hooked on Edy’s slow-churned mint chocolate chip!), then I can’t have a cookie earlier in the day. So maybe I’ll have that cookie the next day instead.

So I still eat cookies and ice cream and chips. We still have hamburgers and french fries. We still order pizza. And we still go out to eat. In fact, my husband and I have date night every Thursday! When I eat out, I look up the nutritional info online, if it’s available. That means eating at a lot of chain restaurants – at least in the beginning. But now that I’ve gotten a better sense of food, I feel more confident to eat at other restaurants, too. I just look up the food I want to eat on My Fitness Pal and choose one from the list that sounds about right. And when I know we’re going out at night, or ordering pizza, then it’s especially important for me to plan the day ahead of time!

What I really like about planning out the day like this and balancing my foods is that I really get to enjoy eating! It takes the guilt completely out of the equation, because I’ve already accounted for it. I can really dig in to that slice of cheese pizza. Or savor the creaminess of the mint ice cream and the richness of the dark chocolate chips. Yum!!

Don’t Take It Personally

Back in what feels like a previous lifetime, I was a graduate student struggling to get my PhD. I always felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails. Every step of the process seemed so hard. I’m still somewhat mortified to recall the number of times I burst into tears when meeting with professors. (I’ve never been very good at taking criticism. Sounds like the topic for another post….) The thing that kept me going was that I loved teaching.

But then something changed. I met someone. In the blink of an eye, my life changed. Suddenly the entire focus of my life was no longer graduate school. I was giddy in love! (I’m happy to say I’ve been married to that same man for over seven years now!)

What changed for me professionally, though, was that I no longer took everything so personally. Because I had another focus in my life (a very positive, joyful one at that!), I wasn’t so deeply vested in my work. I still worked hard, and I did finish my degree. But the entire process shifted. When I stopped taking the critique so personally, I was not only happier, but I was much more able to actually hear the critique and make positive changes in my work. Would you believe I actually had to throw out two entire chapters of my dissertation?! All 80 pages! Months and months of work! But when I met with my advisor, and he told me that I should scrap the chapters and restructure the dissertation, I actually laughed! For one thing, I knew he was right. And as much as I wish I hadn’t had to go through all that work only to chuck it, my work was an awful lot stronger because of it.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I take what I consider to be my failures so very personally. I am so hard on myself.

It’s time to start taking this journey lighter. Yes, there are some dark days. Yes, there is some serious – and wonderful – emotional healing that I have done and continue to do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be lighthearted. I can laugh! I can even laugh at myself. I can laugh at myself when I go a little off track. I can laugh at myself when I catch myself being judgmental. I can smile at myself when I see myself in the mirror. I can smile at the food I am about to enjoy. I can smile while I’m enjoying my workout.

In other words, I get to choose. How am I going to feel in this moment? Am I going to be overly critical? Am I going to give up?

Or am I going to laugh it off? Am I going to take a deep breath and begin again? Am I going to go easy on myself?

Yes. It’s time to go easy on myself. And stop taking it all so personally!

Bump, Bump

On January 4, 2014 I had had enough. Seriously. I hit the wall, and I was DONE. Enough of the feeling of being overweight and all the negativity that came with it. Over the course of the year, I dropped 4 pant sizes. Woo hoo! I used my positivity as my main source of strength. Everything else stemmed from that. Eating better and exercising became much easier, because I was finally being kind to myself.

Just before the holidays, however, things began slowly drifting away from me. I became fearful. What if it doesn’t stick? What if I go back to the “old” me? I knew the holidays presented lots of yummy eating opportunities, and I didn’t want to miss out on them. I did pretty well, too. I enjoyed the foods of the season, mostly in moderation. And I was confident that after the holidays, I would get back on track.

Only that hasn’t happened. Mostly I get inspired one day, then find I’ve come down with yet another cold. I feel like we’ve hardly had more than one week at a time with a healthy family. Ugh. It’s wretched. Every time I get sick  –  or over-tired from taking care of the kids  –  I start eating. Not healthy foods either, of course. Why is it that we want to eat junk when we’re sick?? I know I’m not the only one.

Okay. So I get over a cold and think, “Great. Now I can get back on track again.” I start tracking my food again. I start exercising again. … And then I get sick again.

I don’t know how much weight I’ve put back on, but I know my pants are snug. The clothes I was fitting into last fall are snug this spring.

sigh

I’m now getting over a 3-week cold. Here we go again. I’ve been trying to track my food. Not doing so well with that. I’ve been exercising. (Although I have found out that I actually really like exercising! But I think that’s another post.)

Here’s the thing, though. I’m getting that feeling again. ENOUGH. I’M DONE. I do not like that image staring back at me in the mirror. I don’t like the way I feel in my clothes. I don’t like the way I feel, period. So what am I going to do about it? Time to get back to the things that worked last year. But also find some new sources of inspiration.

  • Track food – especially works when I plan the night before for the next day
  • Exercise (as I said, I can definitely do that!)

But those are the physical things. I really believe that the emotional work is what’s most important.

  • Be kind to myself
  • Say only positive things about my body and myself
  • Appreciate my body and all that it does for me
  • Go easy on myself if I have a less-than-perfect day

I also believe it’s important to take care of myself. Have time for myself and with my husband and my friends. Get a massage, go to the chiropractor, schedule health sessions with my acupuncturist. Talk to people who are uplifting. Laughter feels so good!

Ah yes – be light about all this!! It should feel good! It should be fun!

So this post is in essence my very own pep-talk. Let’s go! It’s spring! It’s time to feel fabulous again!!