The Disappearing Chocolate Bar

Last Saturday, I purchased a lovely piece of chocolate. I carefully budgeted the calories for it. I knew that I could eat it without a speck of guilt, and I intended to just that. As the sun set, my husband and I sat, reading books on our Kindles in the dark on our boat.

I remembered the teat that awaited me. I went below to get my chocolate. I carefully divided it into small pieces to prevent me from eating it too quickly. I arranged them on a small plate along with some berries, and I returned to my reading.

As I read the thriller, I reached for a piece of chocolate and a berry. When the chocolate had melted in my mouth, I reached for another piece, and another. Before long, I reached for another piece of chocolate, only to find the plate was empty. I felt around on the bench seat where the plate sat empty, in case a piece or two had slid off unnoticed. When my tactile search turned up no chocolate, I reached for my iPhone to turn on the flashlight. I searched the bench and the floor, sure that there must still be 3-4 piece of missing chocolate. My search turned up nothing except some dead spiders that had escaped the vacuum.

As I resigned myself to the fact that the chocolate was truly gone, and that I had finished it, I was sad. I had eaten all of those decadent, highly anticipated morsels of good chocolate and had barely noticed it. Instead of being an enjoyable experience all on their own, they had merely melted into the background of the story I was engrossed in.

Mindless eating is one of the causes of our epidemic of obesity. From the time that our parents hand us a container of goldfish or cheerios to keep us quiet, we learn to consume food without even thinking about it.

Mike McIntyre of Cleveland’s WCPN aired a show this week on Mindful Eating. Dr. Susan Albers shared a five-point strategy to practice eating mindfully so that the food that we choose actually registers in our brain as having been consumed.

Albers shared the 5 Ss:
Sit down – Sitting down (preferably at a table – not your desk, the couch,or the car) makes eating more of a ritual. Removed from the influences that keep us from focusing on our meal, we are more likely to successfully practice mindful eating.

Slowly chew – You’ve heard it said that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. Many of today’s highly-processed foods are easy to swallow without chewing. Either they are soft, semi-liquid, or liquid like smoothies, pouches of applesauce, or macaroni and cheese, or they dissolve in our saliva as soon as they hit our mouth – like potato chips. By forcing ourselves to mindfully chew those foods rather than gulping them down, we can be more in the moment and eat mindfully.
Savor – When you eat mindfully, you can truly enjoy your food. I enjoyed the piece or two of chocolate that I remember eating. I savored them. Until I got into the book and began to consume them mindlessly, I really savored them. Had I not been expecting more pieces of chocolate because I failed to savor them all, I quite likely could have been satisfied with less.

Another piece of advice was to “eat like a chef.” Iron Chef and Cleveland native Michael Symon is famous for including bacon and fat in many of his dishes. Chef Symon is in great shape. Although he eats some decadent food, he doesn’t stuff himself with it. Many chefs eat just a bite or two of those spectacularly rich foods and walk away. Having savored that first bite, they can push themselves away from the table satisfied with the experience.

Simplify your environment – I overate last night. I’m usually very good about weighing and measuring virtually everything. Last night, however, I simply grabbed a bag of snacks and brought them to the computer room with me. As I took a handful of cashews, I promised myself it would be the last. Soon, however, I found my hand back in the bag.

Similarly, there is an open bag of potato chips left over from a meeting in my kitchen right now. As I went to the kitchen to pour a glass of water, I spotted the chips and my mouth started watering. Although they weren’t in today’s plan, I weighed out exactly one ounce. Although an ounce of chips won’t make or break my diet, had I put the chips away, I wouldn’t have craved them at all.

If you’re going to have your trigger foods in the house at all, do yourself a favor and put them where they are out of sight!

Smile between each bite. Albers suggested that smiling between each bite gives you a pause – time to consider how full you are before you take that next bite. That pause also helps to extend meal time so that you experience satiety.

Mindless eating is a big problem for me. I’m going to put these suggestions into play as I learn to be more mindful about not just eating, but regarding life in general.

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The Secret Ingredient to Major Life Changes

My invisible (online) friends are awesome.  We know the painful secrets we don’t tell the people in our real lives.  We lament the difficulties of dieting in our secret facebook group.  We have supported each other through divorces and miscarriages, puppies and empty nests.

This week I saw one of them post in our secret group reserved just for motivating each other on our fitness journeys.  It read,

You keep getting smaller and I keep getting bigger.  I hate myself

Eureka!  That’s the problem!

I’m going to let you in on the secret ingredient for successfully making a major change in your life.  I’m not going to charge you a million dollars – not a red cent.  I’m going to give you the gift of the knowledge that took me 48 years to learn.

Are you ready?

[drumroll]

You cannot make lasting, drastic changes in your life when you hate yourself.  You must love yourself.  That is the secret.

Think about it!  If you hate someone, the energy you spend on that person is not utilized to build them up or make them better.  Hatred, loathing, and disrespect for someone lead to destruction. Hatred causes us to focus in the wrong way.

In order to lose 100+ pounds, I have had to make some major life changes.  Some have required a lot of time.  Others have required a lot of money.  Still others have required me to put my feelings above someone else’s.

To lose weight and get healthy, I have devoted hundreds of hours to running and working out.  Those are hours I could have used many other ways.  To make that kind of time, I had to put myself first.  I had to learn to say no to other things.  If I hated myself, it would be far easier to convince myself that I’m not worth the time away from my family that it takes to be active.

I have had to change the way that I eat.   I love myself enough to cook whole foods from scratch – another 8 to 10 hours per week (not including grocery shopping).  I cook according to my food plan – not according to my family’s food preferences.  They are welcome to add or subtract from my menu, but I don’t cook what I can’t eat.  I love myself enough to ensure that the food in my house is healthy and wholesome.  If I hated myself, I could continue to sabotage myself by buying processed and prepared foods.  Buying whole foods is often more expensive than buying junk.  I love myself to spend the extra money to buy the food that I need.

I love myself enough to risk hurting someone’s feelings when they offer me food that isn’t on my meal plan.

I love myself enough to spend the money to buy proper equipment to avoid injury while I run.  I economize in other areas of my life in order to afford good running shoes, a GPS watch and fees for races.

This is the third time in my life that I have lost 100 pounds.  The difference this time is that I love myself.  I don’t hate my body.  I don’t hate my loose skin or my stretch marks.  I love the person I am.  I love the person I am becoming, and I value the lessons that I learned through being morbidly obese.

The secret ingredient to successfully making a major change is love.  You must love yourself enough to put in the work to achieve the goal.

Everyone’s Faster in Canada

I could hardly wait to get to the track last night.  My husband bought me an early birthday gift – a “real” (purple) running watch.  I spent a few minutes selecting the functions that I wanted to display on the watch face, then I put on my bright coral and red shoes, a wild orange shirt and my black headband emblazoned in bright yellow with “Suck it Up Buttercup.”  I was ready to tear up the pavement.

My husband was heading that direction anyway, so he dropped me off at the high school track a half mile from my house.  I carefully propped my neon blue water bottle where I could get to it, then I adjusted my teal and black headphones, started my music, and adjusted my hot pink phone band (yes, I was a very colorful sight).

I did my warm-up lap around the track, and then I pushed the RUN button on my new toy.  As I began my first “fast” interval, I was amazed – my colorful watch and new shoes had enabled me to shave a lot of time off of my previous record.  I was puzzled.  Was the Nike app that inaccurate?  Was MapMyRun telling me I was a turtle when I am really a (very fluffy) cheetah?

The laps and miles flew by.  I got faster and faster.  Woo Hoo!  I’m flying, I’m flyyyyying.  My hour ended and I ran home, feeling victorious.  I downed a big glass of water and plugged  my watch into the computer cradle, ready to review the full set of stats for my miraculous run.

I synced the watch with the app and pulled up the session, only to see that I had run it at my typical pace, after all.  It only felt fast.  I scratched my head – why did it tell me that I could run like the wind while I was on the track, only to tell me that I’m still only slightly faster than a turtle wading through peanut butter at home.

I looked at my shiny toy again, and realized that my results were displayed in metric.  Maybe I should move to Canada. I like the way my stats read in metric.  I’m “faster” in metric.  My weight is a smaller number in metric.  Oh – and there’s that free healthcare thing.

I’d miss my dog, though.   He’d be faster in Canada too, though, eh?

The Destructive Power of Anger

I try very hard not to hold a grudge.  I know how much energy it wastes.  Worse yet, while I’m wasting energy and feeling miserable, the person on the other end of the grudge is blissfully unaware of it.  Someone dear to me once told me, “don’t let someone take up space in your head without paying the rent.”  I’ve remembered that and try to live by it.

Last year, someone who I had to deal with on a regular basis did some things that made me angry, then they said some things that hurt my feelings.  The result wasn’t pretty.  To his great credit, he has extended an olive branch and tried to mend fences on several occasions.  Although I said the words, “I accept your apology,” the truth is that I never really let go of the incident.

I went to the gym this morning to run a couple of miles on the indoor track.  I set my app to remind me to run for two minutes then walk for 60 seconds.  My favorite playlist was playing, I felt “fast” (for me), and I was having a great run. The first half of the 2 mile run was great.  I thought about what I would do when I finished my workout.  I thought about the fun I had over the weekend.  I could feel the grin on my face.  People were smiling and waving.

Then, at 1.27 miles in (I happened to look at my running app), last year’s “incident” popped into my head.  As soon as I thought about that person and what had happened, I got frustrated.  I mentally told myself, “you must forgive him.”  I tried to just say the words, “I forgive,” and I couldn’t do it. I felt I wasn’t ready to forgive him.  I somehow NEEDED to continue to be angry with this person. I felt my mood continue to darken, and realized that I had begun to scowl instead of smiling.

I continued to argue mentally with myself for a few more minutes, and grudgingly thought, “I forgive you.”  I continued to run/walk and soon I began to think of possible ways to not mend fences with this person (fences keep people out), but instead to build bridges.   I felt the bounce return to my step and the smile come back to my face.

I finished my run, got back home, and I got curious.  I pulled up the chart of today’s run and scrolled the bar to 1.27 miles.  While I was filled with anger, I was slower.  You can see it clearly. I went from “green” peaks to only “yellow” peaks as soon as I began harboring resentment. Stewing on old hurts slowed me down. I was 37 second slower on mile 2 than on mile 1.

IMG_4709

I couldn’t ask for a clearer demonstration of the power that negativity / anger has over me.  It kills our joy, saps our strength and robs us what we are working to achieve.

Thankfully, I feel much better.  It’s my turn to extend the olive branch.  I will never again underestimate the destructive power of internalized anger.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I took back my life a little over a year ago.  I began exercising regularly, I improved my diet, I made a vow to try to focus on the positive instead of the negative, and my life has improved drastically as a result.  Although I am still quite overweight, my health and fitness have improved to the point that most of my limitations are gone.  It’s a great feeling.

As a part of the changes I joined a number of facebook groups filled with others who are facing or have faced similar challenges.  As a result, I see a lot of articles about “fat shaming,” “fit shaming,” and “fat acceptance.”

I’m not sure why we need all of these labels.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just get along?  No amount of fat shaming could make me lose weight.  It made me feel even worse about myself, which led to poor self esteem and misusing food as a comfort device.  fat acceptance isn’t terribly helpful either.  Someone telling me that they love me “just the way I am/was” still made me feel like a fat slob.  We don’t tell slim people “I love you despite your fitness.”

I’m encountering a new phenomenon online (not in my personal life yet) in which a once unhealthy individual is being shunned by friends after adopting a healthy lifestyle.  That’s “fit shaming.”  I don’t know whether the shunning is due to the individuals’ unpreparedness to face their own health issues or whether it’s because the newly fit person talks a lot about her new lifestyle (I know I’m certainly guilty) and the old friends can’t relate.

We’re all people.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  There are people in my life who are suffering from lifestyle-induced illnesses just as I was.  I accept them as people – not “fat” people.  There are people in my life who get tired of hearing about my runs and races and my new shoes, I’m sure.  I’m fortunate that they still talk to me anyway.

I feel accepted.  Most of the time I felt loved and accepted at 300+ pounds.  I don’t think people like me more or less because I’ve lost weight.  I’m not ashamed of where I am.  I’m not ashamed of where I was.  Every step of this journey teaches me more about myself and about others.

Fat or fit, gay or straight, black or white, we are worthy of love and acceptance.  Meet people where they’re at.  Leave the judgment for God.  Let’s all get along.

~Be~

It’s Not All About the Numbers

Today I rediscovered the joy of running.

One year ago today I bought my first “real” running shoes.  I was painfully slow, and filled with pain – both emotional and physical.  With each mile I ran, I found freedom.  For the first several months,all of my running was inside on the treadmill.  there I could run in the safety of home, with my television for entertainment, the air conditioning and ceiling fan for comfort, the bathroom mere steps away, and an unlimited supply of ice water whenever I wanted it.  I could run in shorts or pajamas.  I couldn’t imagine running outside.  That soon changed.

As the weather became nicer, I decided to venture out to the local high school track.  I couldn’t believe how different it felt.  I hated every step that first trip.  The wind made it harder to run.  There were people there who might secretly (or not so secretly) make fun of me.  They were all faster than me.  They had nicer running clothes, too.

I posted on Facebook that I didn’t think I would ever really like running outside.  A friend commented that she wouldn’t be surprised if I changed my mind.  She was right.  I loved watching the scenery pass, and I loved the feeling of actually moving forward.  I enjoyed the sights and the sounds and the sensations.  Sometimes I ran with music, and sometimes I listened to the wind and the birds.

Soon I was running at the track on a regular basis.  I “branched” out and began running around town and on local trails.  As winter fell, I found I hated the treadmill.  I had fallen in love with running.

Although I tracked my pace and was delighted to watch it improve, I didn’t focus much on my pace.  That all changed when I signed up for my first half marathon.  I knew it was an ambitious undertaking.  I had started as a person who needed to lose fully one half of her body weight.  I couldn’t walk a mile without stopping.  The race I signed up for had a time limit.  I was slow (I still am).  Not only was I asking my body to move much farther than it ever had before, I was demanding that it do so at a particular rate of speed.

I began tracking my pace on every run.  I tend to get a little obsessive about certain things.  Soon I was running with three different apps open, each with a particular feature the others didn’t have.  The joy of running turned into anxiety about a slower than average day, or the fact that I hadn’t improved over the previous week.  I pushed my body harder and faster, and when the race came, I still couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I got swept.  It was terribly disappointing.

Upon my return to the gym, I downloaded more apps that did more things.  I put a sensor on my shoe and obsessed about whether or not the apps were properly calibrated for the indoor track.  I lost sight of the joy I had found and focused on the numbers as a measure of success.

It’s been a long, cold winter.  When the sun came out today, I went back to the high school track where I took that first outdoor run.  I turned on an app to track my pace, but I turned off the feedback about pace and distance.  I listened to music.  I ran “faster” for one minute, then “slower” for the next minute.  I didn’t stress about my pace.

When my run was finished, I looked at the stats.  My pace wasn’t half bad, but that wasn’t what was important.  I got out there.  I ran.  I burned calories.  I sang.  I had fun.  I remembered why I started this running business in the first place.

Ditch the Witch!

I wrote this several years ago (2012) at the beginning of one of my “practice starts” to my healthier lifestyle.

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There is this woman in my life – she makes things so hard

  • she never leaves me alone
  • she goes everywhere with me
  • she sleeps with my husband (that’s awkward!)
  • she makes me carry her up the stairs
  • she makes me carry her down the stairs
  • she shares my clothes
  • she eats my meals
She’s mean, too:
  • she won’t let me ice skate with my kids
  • she won’t let me ride a roller coaster at Cedar Point
  • she won’t let me do fun things with my husband

Every step I take, I carry her with me.

Letting the other woman into my life made sense at the time. She helped me hide from the people who might want to get too close.  She protected me from attention I couldn’t handle.  She helped me come up with excuses for why I couldn’t go for a walk or dance at a wedding.  She was my partner and co-conspirator (and made a wicked hot-fudge sundae, too!)

I weigh as much as two of the *real* me.

Every step I take is twice the work.

I’m going to ditch the witch!

She won’t go away all at once.   I’ll have to push her away ounce by ounce.  She knows she’s on her way out.  I’ve started packing her suitcase.  Most of the size 26 clothes are already in it.  She can have them.  I don’t need them.

I won’t send her away hungry.  The cupboard is full of processed foods with gluten and refined sugars.  She loves that stuff, so I’ll pack her a care package.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to run on the beach, ride roller coasters and chase kids and grandchildren.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to buy skinny clothes made for one person – not two.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I don’t need her anymore.

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Update:  her suitcase is getting pretty full.  She’s been given the eviction notice and she knows her time is limited.

I’ve added to the things I’m going to do when I ditch the witch

I’m going to run (and FINISH!) a half marathon.

I’m going to run up and down the stairs at the high school stadium

I’m going to zumba and kickbox and yoga and RUN her right out of my life.

I’m going to ditch the witch (3/4/2015)