Fat Fridays: Tennis Shoes and Dogs

I had a thought this week as I was getting dressed. What shoes am I going to put on? I’ve got three pairs of shoes that I regularly wear. My tennis shoes, my sandals, and my flipflops. Tennis shoes means I am ready to move and ready to work. I’m ready to take a quick walk around the block when there’s a lull in the day or I’m feeling the stress build up. I’m ready to run up the stairs to get something I need, I’m ready to clean, go to the store, do a workout…whatever. Tennis shoes=movement. Then there’s my sandals. They are very practical but prettier. I wear those when I know I’m going out: to appointments, the store, visit someone, whatever. And then flipflops. Unless I’m heading to the lake, wearing flip flops means I’m having a “Non-day” as I call it. I have no plans to accomplish anything. I plan on moving in slow motion. Lounging around a lot. Settling on a couch with a book. 

So, it occured to me that in my job (staying home, taking care of a giant house filled with nine children) tennis shoes are really the best bet. If I already have tennis shoes on, I’m a lot more likely to make my 10,000 steps a day. I’m a lot more likely to engage in spontaneous running around. I’m a lot more likely to accomplish my goals. And yet, here I am, writing this, wearing my flipflops. Cause I’m tired and feeling lazy and wanting to start this day off slowly. I’ve promised myself that once I’m fully awake, I’ll put my tennis shoes on. It’s an interesting mind game I play with myself. 

Note to self: get up and put on your tennis shoes every morning. It will make the day better. 

In other news, I went running yesterday with my dog. That was an interesting experience. My trainer had put down to run two miles and then walk two miles. And I thought, hmm, it would be nice to find a trail where I could just run two miles down the trail and then walk back. I know these trails exist in my city, but I usually just go to the park down the road from me cause I like to stay close to home. So, I was heading out to my car to drive to the park and one of my kids said, Oh, I thought you were going to run to the park. And I had this lightbulb moment. Oh, yeah. That actually makes sense since the park is about two miles from my house. I have never run in my nieghborhood, probably the main reason being that I don’t look very impressive when I run and I’d rather not show off that image to all my neighbors. But, there is also safety to consider. I generally don’t head out into my nieghborhood solo. I always have my dog or a herd of children with me. And while I feel like I’ve got a lot of good nieghbors, we do have an unsavory element that drives around in this area. So, I didn’t feel comfortable just trotting off by myself. 

My husband suggested taking the dog with me. Hmm. Ok. I guess we could TRY it. My dog does not have a lot of training (not the dog’s fault). He’s well-behaved, knows a couple basic commands, which is all we need. But, he’s not the best when we go out walking. He pulls on the leash and wants to stop and sniff EVERYTHING. I didn’t know how he would do when I required him to keep moving, WITHOUT smelling the roses. 

At the beginning he did pretty well. The first half mile he seemed to be saying, FINALLY! You’re going at my pace! He trotted along cheerfully and I only had to pull him a couple times when he got sidetracked. But, as we continued, he got more and more interested in his surroundings and several times he yanked me off my stride because he had come to a full-stop to inspect something. But, he did better than I thought he would. And actually, I made my best time yet for two miles! Almost two minutes faster than my previous run! So, I’m hoping to do this more. 

Here’s to Tennis Shoes and Running Dogs!

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: Fatigue

I do not like being tired. I hate it. It feels like I have to do a task that requires 10 units, but I’ve only been given 4 units. And then what do you do? 

Fatigue is one of the leading reasons I started pursuing a better diet and exercise. I needed energy. Really bad. My poor diet messed with my blood sugar. I would eat too many carbs and then my blood sugar would spike and I would feel like I was about to pass out and I would have to lie down. My lack of exercise made climbing the stairs at my house a major event. I felt like I was dragging myself through each day. 

So, I changed my diet, I started really keeping tabs on my carbs, trying to not go over 30grams per meal or snack. I started exercising and felt my endurance growing by leaps and bounds. I now started running up the steps at my house. I stopped taking naps every day. I started averaging about seven hours of sleep, instead of needing eight-plus. I started taking a handful of supplements, like B vitamins and Vitamin D.  And while I will never be accused of being the Energizer Bunny, I felt fine getting through my day. 

And then this past couple weeks happened. Last week I was on a stress-high from the recent gun-violence in my kids’ highschool and our community. Then this week that stress turned into depression. I have barely been able to get out of bed in time in the mornings. I do all my early morning stuff of getting kids off to school, getting young kids fed and settled in, and then I crash mid morning. Fall asleep. And though I don’t sleep too long, it takes me several hours afterwards to get myself up and functioning again. 

I’ve been rolling with it. Been sitting on the couch reading to my little boys instead of trying to tackle grammar and math lessons (I homeschool my six year old). I haven’t attempted to fold the six baskets of laundry, just made sure the kids grab something clean out every night for the next day. I haven’t tried to do any heavy-duty cleaning, just the basic daily tidy-up. My personal trainer is still sending me daily workouts, but twice I’ve traded in a tough workout for a long walk instead. And I’ve just been trying to be patient with myself. Depression is something I’ve fought before and I know it will pass. 

But, I have to say, I’ve been a bit surprised at the fatigue. I think, in the back of my mind, I always presumed that all my fatigue came directly from lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. I never thought a lot about stress and depression being a significant factor as well. But, I think it is. 

The big reminder I’ve had to give myself is, even though my diet and exercise aren’t giving me energy right now, it would be a hundred times worse if I went back to my old lifestyle. I am still nourishing my body in the way it needs, moving it the way it needs. Fatigue is not an excuse to stop. It’s a motivation to keep going. No reason to make this any worse than it already is. 

Fat Fridays: Climbing Back on the Wagon

If you’ve read my previous blog, you’ll know that I had a pretty rough week. On Monday there was a shooting in my daughter’s highschool and it was a very chaotic, stressful afternoon. It was also one of my younger daughter’s birthdays. Fortunately, we had a birthday party on the weekend, so she had been fully celebrated before Monday. I still wanted to make the day special for her and I had plans to make spaghetti for her and then serve the rest of the birthday cake left over from the party. I had made lentils at lunch time, and I was planning on eating lentils and vegetables for supper while everyone else had spaghetti. 

Then, just when school was going to be let out, craziness erupted. School lockdowns, police, sirens, helicopters… After finally getting all my kids home, I sat in my room, listening to the live news reports, scanning other news sites, fielding calls and texts from people who were worried about our family. 

In the middle of all this my husband suddenly asked, Do you want me to just order some pizza for supper? What? No! I’m supposed to make spaghetti. Then I looked at the time. It was already six o’clock and I hadn’t even started the meal. Oops. I pondered whether I had the energy to just do a speed-cooking session and make it happen anyway. No. I did not have the energy. Ok. Order pizza. 

When the pizza showed up I was in an I-don’t-care mode. I helped myself to two slices. They tasted great. I served up cake and served myself a piece too, though I did scrape off all the icing (just cause I’m not an icing fan, not because I was counting calories). The cake didn’t taste as good. In fact, the rest of the evening I felt full and bloated. Not the best feeling, but it didn’t stop me from grabbing one more piece of pizza later, when I stayed up late to watch a movie. 

So, the question is, what do you do the next day, when you’ve ditched your diet? That is always a dangerous time for me. I’ve broken the rules once, why can’t I break them again? Fortunately, I had some encouragement from my trainer and from my mom and it helped me get out of the anything-goes mentality and remember that my diet is still important to me, even when I am extremely stressed. 

The rest of this week has gone well as far as diet and exercise are concerned. I have been clinging to my exercise routines as a balm for my nerves and trying to make good choices with my food. 

Life is crazy. There are going to be moments where eating a careful diet just isn’t an option, either physically, or mentally. And for me, the part I have to work on, is getting back on track after swerving off for a moment. Part of what has also helped me this week is just remembering why I am doing this. Good blood sugar, energy, health, fitness. I especially need these things when I am going through a stressful moment in life. I just have to keep reminding myself. I forget so quickly. 

Fat Fridays: Cheerleaders

Today my exercise assignment from my trainer was to do some core exercises (crunches, planks etc) and then go and run/jog two miles. Already this week I have jog/walked twice, thirty minutes each time, but it was more walking than jogging and I didn’t have a distance I was aiming for, just a time frame. 

So, I did my core stuff and then headed for a nearby park that has a walking track loop. I have presumed that this loop is .25 miles. There aren’t any official signs that give you the exact distance, but it looks about the same size as other parks’ .25 mile walking tracks. 

Well, today I downloaded the “Map my Run” app and discovered that this loop is .27 miles. Not .25. And I just have to wonder…Why? Why would you do that? It would have been very simple to adjust the circle so it was only .25 miles! So, 8 laps around gave me a grand total of 2.1 miles, instead of 2. And when you are gasping for breath and flooding your brain with inspirational comments so that you will keep going, that .1 miles is a big deal! But I digress, back to my story…

So, I decided that I would run one lap, and then walk half a lap, then run a full lap, then walk half, etc, etc. This worked out pretty well for me as that half lap was just long enough to restore my breath and walk out some of the cramps in my legs. 

As I was gasping my way around the track, there was another woman walking in the opposite direction to me. She was an older black lady with brown circular glasses and a warm twinkle in her eye. The first time we passed, I nodded hello and smiled, she nodded back. The next time we passed, we made eye contact, but nothing else. Then the next time we passed we smiled again. (I live in the South. We interact with strangers. It’s kind of the expected thing to do.) We kept passing each other, and it didn’t take too long, I’m sure, for her to realize what a giant task this was for me to be jogging. The last time I passed her she grinned and said, “You’re doing great! Keep going!” I grinned and I felt my shoulders go back a bit and my legs got a bit stronger. It’s amazing what encouragement can do for a person. 

I was also encouraging myself the entire time. I had a little mantra going on in my head, in rhythm with my pounding feet and gasping breath, You can do it! You can do it! You can do it! Having a random stranger cheer me on was icing on the cake. 

I can’t imagine trying to do this weight loss journey without my cheering team. My family is my number one cheerleader. Of course, I kind of force them into it. Guess what! I lost 2 pounds!! Great mom! Good for you! I text my husband, Guess what! I just ran 2 miles! And then I expect him to say something positive and encouraging. I am shameless when it comes to eliciting positive comments from my family. But I need it, and they are willing to oblige. 

Any time we take on a hard task, it is significantly easier when there is a support team in the background, ready to cheer you and celebrate all your victories. I am thankful for all the encouragement that has come my way, and I hope that I can be an encouragement to others as they go on a weight loss journey too. So, just keep this in mind…You can do it! You’re doing great! I’m proud of you! 

Fat Fridays: Guess What I Did?!

So, you all will never guess what I did this week! This fat, middle-aged mom went jogging…Twice! My trainer had given me some kind of an exercise called Farkel (have you heard of it?). It was basically intervals of fast and slow. The first one was a total of 24 mins, 14 of those mins were fast, and the rest slow. The second time it was 30 mins and 15 of those mins were fast. In the past when she has written fast vs slow, I have speed walked, or gone a lot harder on the elliptical. But, I just suddenly had a thought, maybe I could jog? So, I tried. And survived 30 seconds of jogging. Then I survived 1 minute of jogging. Then I survived 2 minutes of jogging, and then, by that time I was determined to jog every time it called for “fast”. 

The first time I tried it we were at my parent’s house, out in the country, and all my kids were playing outside. I was determinedly jogging along and I glanced to the side and there was my four year old son, sitting by the path. His mouth was wide open in shock while he watched me. I was too out of breath to laugh. I managed to gasp out, “Mommy is exercising!” He stood up and announced that he could run too! And then he came and joined me, out-lapping me very easily. 

I felt very accomplished and proud of myself afterwards. 

The second time, two days later, I went to the park and took my seven and six year old with me. Fortunately it was in the morning on a very cloudy day, so there were only two other people at the park. Adults sitting under the pavilion. I say this is lucky because I really didn’t want to jog in front of an audience. When I say that I am “jogging” I mean that I am making my body do jogging movements. I am actually going about as fast as a six year old can speed walk, as was shown to me on Wednesday. This time I had to go “fast” for 5 minutes, and I actually jogged an entire lap around the park (quarter mile). I have no idea why, but this has been a big boost to my confidence. I have been out of shape for so long, I really didn’t know if my body could do “fit” things properly every again. Now I am envisioning myself one day actually Running!

At the same time, my jeans that I’ve been wearing since the beginning of this journey, finally started being really loose. Women’s plus size pants accommodate a lot of pounds. Which is great when you are gaining weight. A little depressing when you are trying to lose it. But, this week, I finally tried the next size pants down and I was able to get into them. Still a bit too tight. Maybe another 5 pounds and they’ll be wearable? 

After all the confidence boosting I had this week, it was a bit of a let-down to find that I had only lost 1 pound. But, I am determined to not care. My fasting blood sugar was 100 this morning and I am planning on going on a hike this weekend with my family. I have lost a total of 19 pounds in 9 weeks, and I am feeling good about my accomplishments. 

Fat Fridays: Fighting Stress with Exercise

Good morning everyone. It is an early Friday morning here. My kids are just getting up, grabbing their breakfast, getting ready for a virtual day of school. We have been in-person this year, but have had to move to virtual occasionally for covid, weather, and now, this week, gun violence in our neighborhood that has been taking the lives of our school kids. On Tuesday, there was an incident of someone shooting a gun in the parking lot of our elementary school, while children were playing on the playground. On Wednesday, we learned that the fourth high school student in six weeks had died of gunshot wounds. On Thursday, my body kind of shut down from all the stress, and in between doing life: helping kids with virtual school, doing my daily exercise, preparing meals, I climbed into bed and just slept. I think I took three separate naps. All of  them interrupted, none of them long enough. But I just couldn’t stay awake. 

Last night I went out on date night with my husband and we took a long brisk walk in the woods. It was nice to get physically tired instead of just mentally. 

This is one thing I have found as I’ve done my new exercise and diet program, I am finding myself starting to crave physical exercise.  

I especially like walking. There is something very therapeutic about being outside, breathing fresh air, getting out of your house. 

Almost every day my trainer has me doing some kind of weight/body resistance kind of workout and then she gives me twenty to thirty minutes on the elliptical. Sometimes I go on the elliptical, but sometimes I just go walk outside. The elliptical gives a better workout, but walking outside is more rejuvenating. 

You know, 2020 was crazy for everyone. But, I had high hopes that 2021 was going to be a lot better. So far this year, I haven’t had a normal week yet. Each week has had something big and crazy in it. And the stress of that can really pull you down. So, I am very thankful for exercise and the role it has been playing to keep me sane. 

Fat Fridays: Growth Mindset

This week has been a challenge on the dieting front. My son’s birthday was Monday and he requested Elidio’s pizza (local, family owned, amazing pizza) and Dunkin Donuts. I had to drive to Dunkin Donuts in the morning, which was when I had time, get two dozen assorted donuts and then have them sit in my house all day until after supper, and then supervise handing out two donuts per person. At supper I had eaten a big salad and decided I was going to allow myself to eat one piece of pizza. But then ended up eating a little more. And then I started handing out donuts, and by the time everyone had picked what they wanted, there was this little plain, unfrosted, baked donut. And so I ate it. And then there was one more glazed donut. And I ate that. And then I was really full. 

And felt very guilty. 

Uggh. 

I stuck to my plan though and recorded everything I ate and sent it to my trainer. And then we talked about it the next day. 

Whenever I mess up, my instant default thought pattern is, I’ve blown it, all is ruined now, despair, despair, despair. 

So, it was a little unnerving to have the trainer say stuff like, “Taking a break and eating pizza every once in a while is fine. How can you plan to have a treat in the future without over-doing it?” Like, she wanted me to actually just move on with life and try and learn for the next time…What kind of adulting is this??? 

It happened again today when I reported that last night, when meeting someone at a Mexican Restaurant, I ate more chips and salsa than I had originally planned on doing. Her attitude was, Ok, what strategies can we think of that will help you next time you are in the same situation? 

And I’m sitting over here telling my “failure and despair” voice to be quiet, cause I’m trying to hear this good advice someone is giving me. 

It occurred to me today that what my trainer is trying to do is inspire a Growth Mindset in me. 

I found this article that gave some good examples of what a growth mindset is. 

The example that stood out to me was:

Fixed Mindset: Failure is the limit of my abilities.

Growth Mindset: Failure is just an opportunity to grow.

I definitely struggle with this. I fail at something and instantly feel like it’s GAME OVER. Which is especially unhelpful when you are on a weight loss journey. Yes, I’ve messed up. That doesn’t mean that I just throw the diet out the window and go back to my unhealthy ways. Instead, I can study my failure, figure out what went wrong, and make strategies for how to do better. 

The next family birthday (which is actually this Saturday), I plan on cooking myself a special treat (I’m thinking baked green plantain with just a touch of spray olive oil and salt and maybe some grilled chicken) and then I am going to have canned peaches while everyone else eats cake. (I happen to think canned peaches are a treat.) Next time I end up at a Mexican Restaurant, I’m just going to ask the waitress/waiter to not bring out chips or, better yet, I’m going to avoid Mexican Restaurants until my self-control is stronger. 

So, hurray for my trainer and all the new things she is teaching me!

Fat Fridays: Fighting Stress

Emotional eating has always been a thing for me. It’s a source of comfort for every imaginable problem. Since I started this journey, about six weeks ago, I noticed that after the first couple weeks, food stopped having such a strong hold on me. I haven’t been tempted to grab something every time my mood swings. I think a big part of it is that I am losing weight, and I have a definite goal that I want to achieve this year, and that goal has been front and center in my mind. No, I don’t want to just eat whatever, whenever. I wouldn’t reach my goal if I do that!

This week has been a bit of a test. On Wednesday I received word that my father’s cousin had died, (someone I had made a connection with online and who often commented on my posts and engaged in conversation with me), and then that same evening I received word that a dear lady from our church (who had long been a source of encouragement to me) had also died, of covid. 

I admit, my first reaction was that I just wanted to binge eat. Forget this diet. I’m just going to make a bunch of food and eat it. Maybe I will feel better. But, by the grace of God, I walked past the fridge and went in my room and cried instead. Which is actually what I needed to do, instead of trying to stuff the emotions down with food. 

The next day I was pretty out of it. We’ve had a lot of death in our neighborhood due to gun violence and everything just seemed to be crushing me down. My trainer asked how things were going, and I mentioned briefly what was going on. She suggested that I use exercise as therapy, and later that day I went outside for a long brisk walk in the sunshine. It helped. 

In the past, I have always had this mentality that I can’t start a diet until my life calms down. Like, adding a diet and exercise to an already stressed out life would just send me over the brink. But this year I am realizing that the exercise and diet are actually tools to help deal with the stress. Bingeing on donuts does not help you deal with stress. Knowing that you are eating healthy DOES make you feel better though. Like, the world is falling apart, but at least I am taking care of my body! 

In other news, I woke up early this morning and took my fasting blood sugar and it was 96!! I haven’t had a reading below 100 in years. That also made me feel better. 

So, my takeaway for this week is diet and exercise aren’t causing me stress, they’re fighting stress.