Fat Fridays: Fixing the Roadblocks

Today (Thursday) has not been a great day for the diet. In fact, the last three days haven’t been great. A lot of fast food. This morning I had run out of my lite greek yogurt cups. I ate the last of my blueberries and then looked in the fridge again. There was not much there and none of it looked good. I poured myself a bowl of cereal. My first cereal in a really long time. Last night someone dropped off pizza at our house. I thought I would go and cook myself some lentils and rice. Didn’t happen. I was really busy and then I was super hungry so I grabbed some pizza. 

That has kind of been how the days have been going. I’m super busy and there is not-so-healthy food available and so I eat it. 

I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it today. But, as I tried to explain what was going on to my trainer, I got some clarity on what’s going on….

This week has been crazy. It’s the first full week of having all my kids home from school, and that’s following a vacation and then immediately having all my big kids head off to camp which meant I was managing all the little kids on my own for five days. I have written down a new family schedule, but now, by sheer force of will, I have to get all my kids onto this new schedule. And that takes a lot of will power. At the same time I am trying to get my house in order after the vacation and having a week with no older children home to help. And also get my house summer-proofed (organizing my activity drawer for rainy days, organizing books and math puzzles and workbooks for keeping our school skills honed during the summer, organizing all our legos and building blocks and art supplies for bored kids). 

You would think I would have already been prepared for summer to come. After all, it’s no surprise. But, alas, I was so focused on just finishing up this crazy school year that I did not give a lot of thought to summer. Also, we have a foster child who does not handle a “go-with-the-flow” lifestyle, which my other kids are more adept at. We are finding out, loud and clear, that our house needs a strong routine/schedule NOW in order to help her function better. And so this week has seen me extremely busy and slightly panicked as I have been trying to establish order as quickly as possible. 

Grocery shopping and meal prep and cooking healthy dinners have been low on the priority list. 

So, I’ve learned something important about myself. I have to have a routine/schedule or I can’t function as a mom of many kids . 

I have been working hard on fixing that and I’m actually pretty hopeful that by this coming Monday morning, I’ll have the most important things in place and I can be back on schedule. 

It was really helpful to talk to my trainer and put things in perspective. Ok. There is a roadblock. Let’s make a plan to fix the problem and then move on. 

Fat Fridays: Vacations and Diets

I went on a vacation last week. We were gone for five days. I talked to my trainer ahead of time and we talked about things I could do to stay on track with my diet and exercise, but in the end I told her that my main goal was to simply not gain weight while I was gone. And I am happy to say that I accomplished that goal. But it was hard. 

One of the problems was that all the grownups on the trip were tired and weary and cooking was not a top priority. We did a lot of pizza, hotdogs and sandwiches. Cereal. It was a vacation after all. Cooking healthy meals is not exactly what you feel like doing when you are relaxing. I think the other problem is that our family, and the other family we were vacationing with, had all just finished a very long, hard school year. So we were especially tired. 

In order to make up for not eating super healthy I decided I would get more movement in. I made sure I was getting my 10,000 steps a day. I went on walks, bike rides, went swimming…In fact, on the day we went to the beach I got over 20,000 steps! Three miles of that was walking barefoot in a wet swimsuit down the beach. Not something I recommend for overweight people. I’m still recovering from rub burns. I think I was a little obsessive about getting exercise. I got up early (not on purpose, my inner clock was still set to “gettting-kids-to-school” time) and then I would find a private place and do the workout my trainer had set for me. Then I would take a walk in the neighborhood where we were staying. If I didn’t have all my steps at the end of the day, I took another walk. But it worked. Five days of eating pizza and hotdogs and sandwiches and one trip to an icecream place where I indulged in chocolate icecream with all kinds of chocolatey toppings, and I managed to not gain any weight. 

Of course, I didn’t lose any weight either. But the good news is, since I’ve come home, I’ve doubled down on the healthy eating and exercise and have already dropped two pounds in three days. And, after all the indulgence, the healthy food tastes really good. 

I keep having to remind myself that my diet and exercise are not a short-term thing that I’ll just do until I reach my goal. This has to be a complete lifestyle change. Which means that it has to fit with all areas of my life, including vacations. So, I am feeling a bit more confident about the future as I have now tackled staying-healthy-while-on-vacation and have passed the test. 

Fat Fridays: Angel or Devil?

I am late posting this today. I’m going to blame that on a really fuzzy brain. Last night I went to bed with the thought that I would write my blog first thing in the morning. Then this morning I puttered around the house aimlessly, not thinking about blogs at all. Then, when I set myself to a task, I suddenly remembered I hadn’t written. I will write as soon as I am done with this task! Except I forgot again. I’ve done this three times today. So, here I am at last. 🙂

Yesterday I saw this sappy meme that ended with this: “Focus on your own voice. It’s the only one that matters.” And I thought it was ironic that I was reading this because my thoughts this week have been how my inner-voice is one of my worst enemies. 

The kids are eating a dessert. My inner-voice says, Go ahead and have some! You deserve it! 

I think about whether I should stop and get some fast food after a long stressful day. My inner-voice reminds me that cooking a healthy meal is going to take a long time, and maybe I will have to wash some dishes first before I can even cook. And does healthy food really taste that good? Don’t we deserve a break? 

This past Wednesday I went to the park to jog. I was supposed to walk two minutes and then jog two minutes for a total of thirty minutes. I jogged the first two minutes. My inner-voice spoke up. Why are we doing this? 

I jogged the next two minutes. My inner voice got louder. This is not fun. You should just walk. Walking is still exercise.

I jogged the next two minutes. My inner voice was yelling by now. This hurts! You are tired today! You don’t have the energy to do this! Just walk. Noone cares if you walk. You should only run if you Really Really want to. And you don’t want to. 

Fortunately, I’ve got two voices in my head. And every day I have to decide which one I’m going to listen to. 

The other voice said, ignore that. You can do this. You are not a quitter. You only have to run two minutes at a time. You have given birth to ten children: You can run for two minutes. You are not a quitter. Keep going. It’s going to be done soon. You’ll feel really good if you don’t quit. 

And in the end I just started chanting in my head, I am not a quitter, I am not a quitter! And I finished the full thirty minutes. And I felt good about finishing. 

Remember those cartoons where the person has a mini-angel on one shoulder, and mini devil on the other? It’s a pretty accurate picture of our two voices that are constantly talking to us. 

When it comes to weight loss and exercise and lifestyle changes, that devil and angel voice get into some pretty fierce fights. It’s a daily battle to figure out which one I’m going to listen to. 

Fat Fridays: Fast Food

This week I have been thinking about fast food. When I was a kid, growing up in the 80s, our family did not eat out very often. Rarely. I remember going to Mcdonalds for my birthday, because that was a special treat. I think our family treated restaurants as an opportunity to eat food we wouldn’t normally get, like Mexican or Asian food. I do remember an occasional trip to Pizza Hut, but wasn’t a normal thing. A treat. 

I spent eight years of my growing up in Haiti where fast food, at that time, was not an option except in the capital city, and we rarely went there. Then, we moved to bush Alaska for my last two years of high school. Again, there weren’t any of the traditional fast food restaurants. There were mom-and-pop restaurants that served hamburgers and french fries for a hefty price, but I don’t know if I ever ate a hamburger and fries while I lived there, or even a pizza. What we did eat was Chinese food. We ate out a little more, still not a lot, and I always got Mongolian Beef. (I was not an adventurous eater, I found one thing I liked and then stuck with it.) When I went to college in Southern California, I didn’t drive and so I only visited the fast food that was in walking distance, a Taco Bell and a little Chinese Restaurant. I did not have a lot of spending money. Two dollars and some change got me two little tacos at Taco Bell that did not fill me up. But, two dollars and twenty-five cents at the Chinese restaurant got me a huge serving of Fried rice and a huge serving of sweet and sour pork. I went for the Chinese. It became my Friday night treat. After two years of college I spent another year overseas where, again, fast food was not available, or I didn’t have a lot of extra money to be spending on it. 

So, it wasn’t until I was married that fast food even became an option. I remember driving around with my husband one day, and he suggested we stop in at Mcdonalds for some food. And I remember feeling this shock, like, wait, we can just go there whenever we want? At the time I was pregnant with our first, and we were taking birthing classes at the hospital. It became our ritual to stop at Mcdonalds afterwards for cheeseburgers, fries, and my favorite, Hi-C Orange Soda. 

Fast forward to the present day. Fast food has become a convenience. The thing to get if I am in a rush and don’t have time to cook. Or, a way to give a special treat to the kids. We probably gets pizza once a week, and I make occasional runs to Mcdonalds, but not that often. My husband and I go out a couple times a month, our favorite kind of food we look for is Mexican and Thai. Since I started this new diet plan I have been trying to avoid fast food. 

This week I was out, I had plans to stop at a restaurant and get a big salad and sit and enjoy myself. Then, my plans changed, and I needed food quickly. I remembered getting salads at Mcdonalds in the past, so I got in a busy drive-thru lane and waited a really long time. When it was finally my turn to order, I found out that Mcdonalds no longer serves salads. (I guess it’s been a while since I’ve ordered a salad.) I was on the spot, hungry, but not wanting to blow my diet. I ended up getting a regular hamburger (250 calories) and a small fry (220 calories) and a diet coke. I ate, it tasted good, I was full, and I didn’t want any more. Victory! 

Then last night I had to run out with my son to handle a broken phone emergency. My husband was home, it was getting on supper time, so he ordered pizza. I came home, hungry, and there was yummy pizza. I got one slice of pepperoni, ate it, then went and got some tomatoes from the kitchen to finish off the meal. It tasted good, I was full and I didn’t want any more. Victory! 

I am so used to letting my cravings and appetite control what I eat, so this has been a big deal to me to see that I can eat the occasional fast food and keep it within a reasonable amount. Self-control. 

In the past, when I was trying to be healthy, I would just avoid all fast food, no matter what. And eventually, that method would fail. Because fast food is everywhere and it’s a part of our eating culture. And it tastes good and it’s very tempting. I still don’t plan on eating very much fast food, but it’s good to know that this is another situation that I can handle if I have to. 

Fat Fridays: Week 23 In Which I Climb Up On My Soapbox

I have been a bit at a loss at to what to write for this Friday. Since I’m trying to make an honest journal of this weight loss journey, I finally decided I would just have to stick to honesty. I promise that the following really does have to do with my weight loss journey!

 

I have always had a hard time when people make disparaging remarks about poor people. People on welfare. People on food stamps. People on government assistance. Homeless people. Everyone seems to know some lady on welfare who’s got a boatload of children and is just racking in the bucks, fancy phone, nails done perfectly, designer clothing. She is the person people always bring up when they are explaining why all this government assistance is actually just a big swindle. The poor people are living off our tax dollars and laughing behind our backs at our gullibility. For each one of you that has mentioned this woman before on your Face Book pages or blogs, or in conversation…What’s her name? Have you actually met this woman? Do you know her story? Or is she simply someone that is a friend of a friend of someone you met the other day who happened to mention knowing her. Maybe one of you actually does know her name, knows her story personally, and is disgusted at the way she has manipulated the system…but I’m going to guess that most of you don’t actually know this woman personally. I do not disagree with the notion that people take advantage of the system. It’s true. People are sinful and there is always going to be someone trying to get something for nothing. But these welfare systems are a lot more than those occasional individuals. It has been my experience that people who speak harshly against a group of people usually have no personal contact with that group and get all of their information second hand. It’s been my experience that when I get to know people personally, get to know their problems, their background, I have a lot more sympathy and compassion. So, today I want to share a story with you.

Over the last fifteen years we have had quite a few families and individuals that we have reached out to and tried to help. Many times we have had people living with us as they tried to get their feet under themselves. I’ve heard a lot of stories. I’ve gotten to know these people pretty well as we have done life together.  One woman in particular has been involved with our family for at least eight years now. She and her children have lived with our family on a couple different occasions. I haven’t seen a lot of her lately, as the last four years has been pretty stable for her. Then, about a month ago I got a call from her. She had been evicted. She was in the process of applying for government housing, but in the mean time she had nowhere else to go. Could I help?

I feel like middle class America does not understand how difficult it is to be poor. There is a pervading attitude that poor people just walk up to a building and are instantly handed food stamps, assistance with childcare, housing, and anything else their hearts desire. It doesn’t work that way. Yes, there is government assistance, but it is not easy to get. It involves getting to appointments and usually transportation is very difficult. It involves filling out endless amounts of paperwork and providing papers like birth certificates and social security cards. And when you live in a state of homelessness, or are trying to escape abusive situations, it’s really hard to keep track of those important documents. And getting them replaced is quite a hassle.

So why don’t they just go get a job?? I hear that a lot. Are they too proud to work at McDonalds? No. Actually, the people I have gotten to know are not too proud to work at McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant. But did you know that most of these fast food restaurants will not hire full time? It’s all part time. And it is usually not a set schedule, you get moved around to what suits them best, not what suits you best. So. Part time hours at low wages. Not enough to live on. Yet, they are mocked for getting on food stamps. I am curious as to how many middle class people could sustain their lifestyle at $9 an hour? And you are only given 20 to 24 hours a week. My friend would really like to get into a family assistance program that could help with childcare, but they require that she works at least 25 hours, and her job at a well-known pizza franchise will only give her up to 24 hours of work a week. So, she needs another job. But she has three children. Someone has to watch them. School just got out, she can’t afford any kind of childcare. What should she do?

People ask, why doesn’t she get a better job? Get some higher education? Surely there are programs that would help her? Well, she is a product of the foster care system herself. She was living in a group home and got pregnant at sixteen. Since then she has devoted herself to taking care of her child, now children. She didn’t finish high school. In order to get her GED she would need to do some serious studying. She has tried off and on to pursue that, but you see, she still has to live. She still has children to take care of and house and feed and clothe. She has no family support system (remember: foster care, group home). Her short marriage to the father of her children was a disaster and while she now has a long-term boyfriend, he comes with baggage of his own: child support that he pays from a past marriage, bills and debts he has to pay on.

Well, she should get into public housing. Ok. She’s trying. She had an interview, she’s waiting to hear. But you see, there’s this little problem of her past utilities bill. She still has a big bill that hasn’t been paid. She can’t turn on new utilities until she takes care of this past bill. She has asked around at many different agencies who say they will help with this kind of thing. But, she doesn’t fit into any of their narrow parameters of assistance that they can offer. Her recent eviction was the final step in a financial downhill slide that was connected to a necessary job change (with a pay cut) and unexpected events coming up with her children that made her miss work. This family’s tenuous existence quickly snowballed into a crisis which left them homeless.

And here we are. Her family of five moved into my bedroom about two and half weeks ago. My husband and I moved upstairs and are sleeping on the floor of our little boy’s bedroom (which they think is awesome, mom and dad right there, available all night long!). I hung a sheet around my bed so I can have at least the semblance of privacy.

It’s been good and bad. We’ve lived together before. She was a nanny for my kids one summer when I was bedridden with morning sickness. She helped potty train one of my boys. She has been the one person I have no embarrassment hiring to help me clean my house because she’s lived with me. She knows how messy things can get, and she’s always been willing to pitch in and help. Neither of us have any qualms about parenting each other’s children. The negative side is mostly just a lack of privacy. And the tightrope walk of setting boundaries and sticking to them. Trying to know when to be compassionate and when to be hard-nosed.

What does this have to do with Fat Fridays? Well, you all. My diet has gone on hold. Pause. I’m the juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls up in the air. This particular ball kind of knocked a bunch of the other ones out of pattern. I’m back to sticking to the basics. God, husband, children… everything else is shifting around. I’ve felt quite a bit of guilt and condemnation about it. Way to go Esther, soon as things get tough you just quit. Mess up. Fail. But, I’m trying to stop listening to that voice and be realistic. This is hard. I’ve taken on a lot and I’m not superwoman. I’m not giving up. I’m not going to wallow in my lack of discipline. I’m still fighting to get back on track. But, I’m going to give myself grace as I figure this out.

For those of you wondering why on earth we did this, it kind of falls into Love your neighbor as yourself… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you… Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me… And once upon a time, my husband and I were homeless and we knocked on a friend’s door and they let us in.

Goals: do some journaling and thinking…Why do I always revert to bad eating habits when life gets crazy stressful? Especially since bad eating habits just make it harder to deal with the stress????

See you all next week.