Sunday, July 3, 2011

That's All I've Got

I'm surprised every time I pass a mirror and see a thin person there. I'm waiting to hop on the scale one day and I've gained it all back. Hit me upside the head if I do, but I'm thinking I won't. My strategy worked. I didn't diet, I just ate a whole lot less. And I ate real food…you know, not manufactured food like diet frozen meals or 100-calorie bites of nothing. It's made it easy to keep the weight off. I haven't had to change a thing.

Okay, so I was a little obsessed with exercising last summer. But I blame that on the bikini dare. Any middle-aged woman who's had babies would do the same thing. I still exercise four or five times a week. I can't say I ever want to do it, but you can endure anything for 20 to 45 minutes. And the results are more than worth it.

If you've had the same struggles with trying to lose weight and keep it off, don't give up. If I can do it, you can too. You can learn to eat until you're full and then quit. It is possible to get to the place where eating "normal" is your norm. Don't take your advice from someone who is overweight on how to lose weight. Instead, watch someone who has never had a weight problem and do what they do. I bet they eat cheesecake whenever they want. I do, and I don't feel guilty about it one bit. Some days I eat a lot more than other days. But that's okay. I'm hungrier some days. Other days, I don't eat as much.

My girls were the ones who encouraged me to start a blog. They said I had funny Facebook posts but writing paragraphs for my status updates was not cool. I thought it would be narcissistic to write a blog about myself. But then again I'm narcissistic, so why not? Really, I just wanted share my story to give others hope.

If you've kept up with my blog, I hope you've had some good laughs at my expense. I don't mind. I've laughed myself silly writing my goofy stories. Funniest thing, they're all true. My family would tell you I've spent way too much time blogging. I'd have to agree. This is my last post. I'm going to have to find a new hobby.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's Just Like Having a Baby

Sometimes I think exercise, particularly running, is like going through childbirth without the benefit of pain meds or epidurals. Which by the way is how I delivered all of my babies--without so much as an aspirin. I had been talked into this the first time I was pregnant. It was the 80s and the thing then was natural childbirth. The lady in the birthing class told us that labor wasn't really painful, it was just a little pressure. What a crock. When I was dilated to nine centimeters and moaning with my eyes rolled back, I wanted to find that lady and put some pressure right around her scrawny little neck.

After having Paige

Knowing the truth the next time I went into labor, I decided I would go for as long as I could take it and then ask for "something" to take the edge off. Well, this didn't happen. I always arrived at the hospital in the advance stages of labor and it was too late to give me an epidural or even a stick of gum. I mistakenly thought that with each baby, it should get easier. It doesn't. But it does go quicker. Thus, the stories of delivering babies in the car. 

My mother said that you forget the pain after you have a baby. She lied. I didn't forget the pain. It quickly came back to me each time I had my next baby. But I'd do it all over again without hesitation (and which I actually did--three more times). If we had been independently wealthy, I would have gone onto having ten more. I loved having babies that much. Of course, having teenagers later is a great form of birth control.

Running is a lot like having a baby. I never forget the pain before I start running or working out. It's hard. But isn't anything that's worthwhile in life hard work?  Delivering a baby, getting through college, getting up in the morning to go to work, having a good marriage.  The easy way out is to be a slug. Sit on the couch, munching on chips and salsa and watching Netflix. But then what are you left with? Indigestion and regret.

Besides reliving the childbirth experience, I have a few other strategies to keep me going when I want to stop during my run. I pretend that I'm running from terrorists. And if I quit they'll push me down and pull out all my fingernails. I also do a lot of self talk. I tell myself to make it to the next telephone pole then I'll quit. When I make it that far, I say I can't quit until I count to 100. Sometimes I quit anyway and when I do, I tell myself to knock it off and quit being a baby. Jacci, you can do this. Finish it.  And I do.

I can say I never regret the run (or working out) when I'm done--no matter how hard it was. Even if I don't forget the pain, it's worth looking and feeling better, fitting into a size 6, having energy, and being able to sleep at night.
Childbirth was worth this. Amber's college graduation, 2011.
P.S. In the 90s the thinking changed about going through childbirth without pain relief intervention. My friends say that as soon as they got the epidural they didn't feel a thing except for just a little pressure. Darn that birthing instructor.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nosing Out Ethel

Signing up to do our first race was LaDonna's idea. We found one: The Rochester Women's Track Club Four-Mile Run--two laps around Silver Lake. LaDonna was pumped. I was dubious. We hadn't been running for all that long, and I still sucked air after two blocks.

The day of the race it was 96-degrees with drenching humidity. I felt a little sick when we pulled up to the race site. There were women milling around like race horses at the starting block. They looked like real runners, hard-bodied and wearing color-coordinated  spandex and running shoes. We were wearing our husbands' gym shorts, baggy t-shirts and cross-trainers.

We stood in line to check in and get our race numbers and then joined the others to stretch. I didn't know too many stretches so I just did a few neck  rolls. An older woman was stretching her leg above her shoulder. The front of her t-shirt read 86-year-old bungee jumper. Her name was Ethel and she was now 87. I hoped that I could have her legs when I was her age. Heck, I wished I had her legs now.

Over the megaphone it was announced that it was time to begin. We walked up a short hill to the starting line. I saw there were a few men in the group. Must be husbands seeing their wives off. But then I noticed an outline of a bra under one of the husband's t-shirts. Oh, crap. They weren't husbands; they were women racers. I started to panic--we should have known. This was a track club, for crying out loud. These were elite runners. We were in serious trouble.

All 45 racers began to line up behind the starting line. LaDonna and I pushed our way to the front, figuring we'd take every advantage we could. I felt like I had to pee, but it was too late. It was time to do this. At the shot of the gun, I bolted. I ran faster than I ever had in my life. I was ahead of the pack. I felt like a track star. For 10 seconds. And then I started sucking air. The remainder of the race it was one woman after another passing me. My side started to ache, and I felt a painful pulse in my head. It was so stinking hot. This was all LaDonna's fault.

I counted off each step with This...Was...A...Big...Mistake. Don't...Ever...Listen...To...LaDonna...Again. Where was she anyway? I glanced back. She was keeping stride with Ethel. LaDonna didn't look so good. The other contenders started giving advice as they passed us. "Breathe in through your nose; out through your mouth. Drink at the next station. Only one more time around the lake." Are you kidding--another lap? I…Am…Going…To…Die…Today.

LaDonna was whimpering halfway into the second loop of the lake. "Jacci, I...gasp...can't I'm not kidding. I'm going to have to...gasp...quit.." I gasped back, "Oh, no you don't. You got me into this; you're finishing it. Besides, you don't have a choice. You still have to get around the lake to the van."

We shuffled side by side. Ethel was gaining on us at the last turn. Racers were at the finish line waiting for the three of us and cheering us on. "Come on, finish strong. You're almost there!" We pushed hard, nosing out Ethel at the end.  LaDonna collapsed on the curb, still whimpering. I started laughing uncontrollably. Delirium, I guess.

We had finished the race. And, we weren't last. I placed 43, LaDonna 44, and Ethel finished strong in 45th place. Since Ethel was the only one in her age category--80 and above--she got a trophy. LaDonna and I received cool purple participation t-shirts, proving that we were real runners.

Sadly, LaDonna moved away that summer. I did a few more races without her--a 5K and a 10K. I missed her, but Ethel was at each one. I talked LaDonna into doing a 10K in Wyoming, her new home state. She had a hard time adjusting to the high altitude. She told me the race was done and they were pulling up the stakes before she finished. But she made it back in time to hear the winners announced. Since she was the only woman in her age category, she went home with a nifty first-place trophy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Running Like a Mother

I like the idea of running except when I’m actually doing it. When people say they love running, they’re lying. No one loves running. When you’re running you hate it. But then when you’re done with this particular kind of hell it’s such a relief you feel better. It’s true. That’s why I run, to feel better. Well, that, and it's cool to call yourself a runner.

I've called myself a runner for the last 14 years. Even though at times I'd only run a block and walked five. But since I had run, it technically kept me in the class of  runner. When I meet someone who is training for their next marathon, I casually say that I'm a runner too. I mention I've done a few races (I don't mention they were 14 years ago). And then I quickly change the subject. After a long hiatus of hardly running at all, I've picked it up again this last year. I don't run fast. I don't run far. But I subscribe to Runner's World. So, yeah, I'm a runner.

LaDonna got me running. LaDonna and I met 16 years ago when we were pregnant with our last babies. She was selling Watkins. I bought vanilla from her. LaDonna suggested that I sell Watkins too so that I could be a stay-at-home mom. I considered it for like three minutes. LaDonna kept after me for three months, calling me every day to remind me of the benefits of selling Watkins. I never did become a Watkins salesperson. But LaDonna and I became best friends.

We were both trying to get in shape and lose the baby fat we had picked up with each pregnancy. LaDonna had just started running and thought it would be a good thing for me to do too. I didn’t want to. Running reminded me of doing the 600-yard dash in phys ed. It made me nauseous just thinking about it. But LaDonna can be convincing. And persistent. She pointed out that running gave the best burn in the shortest amount of time. That was appealing. It's hard to get in any exercise when you have little kids.

We started running together several times a week, with LaDonna instructing me how not to clench my jaw and my fists. "Remember, hold your fingertips together like you're holding a potato chip."

When we had been running/shuffling for a full month, LaDonna said we should do a race. A month didn't seem like much training, but we had worked up to four miles. Actually only one time, but we were proud of ourselves. We were no longer just the frumpy moms with vans. We were athletes.

We were ready to compete. We thought. We found a race to do. And met our competition, an 87-year-old bungee jumper.

Next time: Nosing Out Ethel

LaDonna and me two years ago

LaDonna and I live over 2,000 miles apart now. But we're still best friends.
And we're running again. Pictures taken this year.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mom's a Maniac.... The Intervention

"Mom, I'm worried about you. You've taken this too far," my daughter told me. She and Landon had ambushed me and sat me down on the couch. What too far? "All your working out. You're out of control. And then you brag on Facebook.You're a maniac."

I was? I didn't think so. I started to laugh. "Amber, you guys were the ones who were always pushing me to do something instead of just complaining about my weight."  In fact, Paige, becoming so frustrated with hearing me complain, had told me she was going to start using reverse psychology. To motivate me, she said that I couldn't do it and to quit trying.  (She's a psych major now, by the way, and takes full credit for my finally losing weight.)

I tried to defend myself. "Amber, it's just that I'm so surprised that I lost the weight and got in shape. I still can't believe it. I can't help talking about it."

Amber spoke patiently to me, as if talking to a child. "Mom, we've always been supportive of you. We know what you've done, and we're all proud of you. You look great, but you're acting like you're all that. I'm afraid you're going to embarrass yourself and not have any friends left. And what's up with you posing all the time?" (She didn't know I was practicing for the bikini picture on the beach.) Then the final kicker, "You're becoming like Kate Gosselin and you're going to forget about your kids."

Oh, please.  I responded, "You kids are in high school and college, for crying out loud. You don't need me to take care of you. You just don't like it that I'm not making dessert for you before bed anymore. Besides you're all leaving and I need a hobby. Working out is my hobby." 

I would have dismissed Amber's comments, but I took notice when Landon joined in, "Mom, you need to let the compliments come to you instead of complimenting yourself."  Landon, like his father--and for that matter, all men I know--wisely stays neutral on women's issues, the number one being weight. Growing up surrounded by women--his mom, sisters and their friends--he learned early on to stay out of girl drama.

So the fact that he was piping in at all, must mean that there was something to what Amber was saying. I was a little embarrassed. Was I a maniac? And was that really so bad?

Future posts: My girls said that they've been listening to me say that I have just two more posts for the last month. I've already written six more. Paige: "Admit it, Mom, you're not going to be able to quit. You'll be doing more posts." She's right. I have a few more stories to tell. I can't help it. I'm a maniac.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Bluff Run. Sassy Pants Gets in Trouble

Riding tandem with Rachel
  I had gone from fat and sassy to sassy pants. I figured that if I could get into a bikini I could do just about anything. Maybe it was the endorphins kicking in, but I was getting a little obsessed.  I was either working out, running or riding bike. Or posting on Facebook about my latest bike ride adventures. No one else was glutton enough to join me on these expeditions except for my 16-year-old niece, Rachel. But Rachel wasn't always available so I rode alone. People were starting to think I was crazy. I was.

I got in trouble with my family when I took off late on a Sunday afternoon to ride bike to Elba and climb the fire tower. I told my husband I was going for a ride and then hopped on my three-speed granny bike. I didn't prepare very well. The trip was 35 miles round trip, not counting the climb to the tower. The ride back was an extreme hill lasting forever. The day was hot and humid. I had a bottle of water and my cell. I thought I was covered.

Spying the fire tower
Elba's in the river valley and surrounded by bluffs. I started down the long hill to the valley. As I picked up speed, I wondered what would happen if a tire blew or I wiped out. Pretty sure I would break my neck. Briefly, I envisioned myself in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I wondered if my kids would take care of me. I made a mental note to buy a bike helmet. By the time I got to Elba, my water was gone and my cell didn't get any reception. I started up the hill to the fire tower.

A hike to get to the tower is a workout in itself. A hike up the tower after riding a three-speed 18 miles on a 90-degree day is cause for a coronary. Pulling myself up each step, I felt parched, shaky and seeing little pricks of lights. From the top of the tower the view was breathtaking. Of course, that might have been because I was gasping for air at that point. I took pictures of the valley below. And then I took a picture of myself. I looked terrible.

For the first time during my daring feat, I considered I might be in trouble. Hoping my cell would get reception, I called my husband. He couldn't hear me with the wind. I shouted, "I'm on top of the Elba fire tower. I'm heading home. I'll call you when I reach the top of the hill. If you don't hear from me, Come get me!" All he heard is "Come get me!"

Long story, but I finally made it home after several hours of riding back up the bluff. It was dark and I felt lucky to be alive. My husband had been searching for me on a different route. When I walked in the door, he wasn't amused. My kids rolled their eyes. Paige had friends over and asked me if I could make them brownies. "Paige, it's 9:30 at night and I almost died today of dehydration." Paige said, "Mom, you're no fun since you started exercising." Mother guilt. I made the brownies. Then took a shower. 

Next time: Mom's a Maniac: The Intervention
Riding home in the dark. Oops.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bikini Summer...the Last Hurrah

There's an expiration date on a woman's age for wearing a bikini.  I was certain I was near it or had surpassed it. I didn't set out to wear a bikini. Hardly. I was just hoping to drop a size so I could retire the jeans with the blown-out knee (see post, Diving for Pie).

I was now down 40 pounds and had gotten rid of the jeans and everything else in my closet. But I had kept my swimsuit. Like all women I know, I hated swimsuit shopping. That's probably why my swimsuit had the same number of years on it as my last teen-aged child. It was the tent variety--the kind that has a generous amount of material with steel-case underwire support and a skirt down to just above the knees.

Our family was going to California in July, and I could no longer avoid swimsuit shopping. I was going for a smaller tent, but Amber told me I should at least try a tankini. Surprisingly, it didn't look too bad. Amber said I looked great and that I should get a bikini.  What? No. Did she know what gray-haired middle-aged moms looked like in a bikini? It was unnatural. But Amber said that I could pull it off. I had good skin and just needed to work more on my abs.

I wouldn't have done it except a friend of mine challenged me that summer to wear a bikini. We both would do it. It would be good motivation to keep working out. We set a goal of putting a bikini picture of ourselves on Facebook by summer's end. I know, it sounds immature. I had a lapse in judgment because I was in midlife crisis mode. This would be the last hurrah before I entered old age, wearing sensible shoes and trimming hairs off my chin.  I was coming to the game late in life, but if I was ever going to wear a bikini it had to be now or never.

Yeesh. My hands began to sweat just thinking about posting a picture for all the world to see. I envisioned the front page of a tabloid where thighs are circled and the header reads, "Can you guess whose cellulite this is?" I'd wear the suit at Huntington Beach in California where no one would know me. I hoped. It would be a one-time event.

I found out they don't make bikinis with underwires. I bought a purple one and practiced my pose in the mirror. If I tied the straps really tight and put my hands on each side of my waist and pulled back, I could make it work. I briefly thought about using duct tape.

I started to work out hard core.  I continued the strength training, upping the abs. I rode my granny bike 15-20 miles a day. I did pushups and situps before bed. On my day off from working out, I ran. I was getting extreme and annoying my family. I wasn't the mom they knew, the one who said it was never too late for dessert and would whip a pan of brownies or a batch of cookies before bed.
Paige imitating the Mom Pose

I wore the bikini the first day at the beach. I was careful not to make any sudden movements. I got rope burn around my neck from the straps being so tight. But I got the picture taken. I stood in the middle of my daughters (who are young and do have washboard abs). They each put a hand at my waist and pulled. I posted the picture when I got home. It wasn't too bad for a gray-haired middle-aged mom. Sorry you don't get to see the full picture. Like I said, it was a one-time event.

Next time: Mom's a maniac. The Intervention.

P.S. There are real logistical problems with wearing a bikini at the beach. I lost the bottoms several times boogie boarding. I eventually put the tankini right over the top of the bikini. No one was the wiser.  Oh yeah, my friend never posted a picture, instead wrote "gottcha" on my Facebook wall after I posted mine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


 Best nine bucks I ever spent was on Jillian's 30-Day Shred. Say what you want, but Jillian Michaels gives you a kick-butt workout. She says frequently, "I promise you big results, so I have to deliver." She delivers all right, like a punch to the gut.

Before I started Jillian, I was walking on my breaks and doing flights of stairs in my building. It wasn't doing much for me, other than making me want to strip down when I came back to work all sweaty. Not so pleasant. I had to come up with something else, but in the middle of winter there aren't a lot of options.

I found Jillian's Shred in February (2010). An intense 20-minute workout,  the DVD combines strength training, abs, and cardio exercise. There are three levels, all of which will kill you.

You wouldn't think that 20 minutes could feel like eternity. As I sucked air through my first couple of workouts, I thought a lot about eternity--eternity in hell. I imagined that hell would be doing this, but for all of eternity. And then I would have sobering thoughts about what hell would really be like, and I'd shudder. I didn't want to go there. Or my friends. Or even my enemies. This workout actually prompts this chain of thinking. So believe me when I say it's tough.

I admit it took me more than 30 days to get even the least bit shredded. I did level one the first month and moved onto another level each month. By the third month, I was seeing results and discovered that I had a decent set of pipes going on.

After mastering Shred, I swapped it for another Jillian DVD with my friend, Lisa. This one was 40 minutes and had a lot more weight training. I was still doing that one when I won the Biggest Loser at work.

I had kept my vow that I wouldn't buy new clothes until I had finished losing the weight. To celebrate, I went shopping with my daughters on Memorial Day.  I hadn't realized how much I had changed until I started trying on clothes--I was down four sizes. (No wonder I had droopy drawers.) When I finally came out of the dressing room wearing the right size, the stunned expressions on my daughters' faces said it all. Amber finally spoke. Mom, I am shocked.  You look hot!

I was more surprised than they were. I couldn't believe the transformation. And, I admit I cried a little.  I had come a long, long way from the day I went shopping with my mom and she suggested a body girdle.

After spending hundreds of dollars over the years on diet programs, special food, books on weight loss, and Slimfast, I had done it. Nine bucks is all it took.

Next time, finally (well, maybe, if I don't come up with another post): The Bikini and the Last Hurrah.

P.S. Maybe it took nine bucks to get in shape, but I've spent more than I ever have on clothes. I gave away all of my heavy clothes. I tossed the drawers.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oh, There You Are Peter!

It's a reality check when you see a picture of yourself when you're heavy. I don't have many pictures of myself at my heaviest. I pitched them. I did find a couple.

The picture on the left was taken in 2005. We were going out for Amber's Sweet 16. Mind you I had taken special care with my hair and makeup. Dave's mom, Joyce, had been with us for five weeks while Dave was recovering from surgery. Joyce is an excellent cook and fed us well. As you can see.

I  no longer looked like myself. When I looked in the mirror, it was What the heck happened here?  I had lost my face. My eyes were getting smaller. I racked it up to old age. In reality, it was that as my face got bigger,  my eyes got smaller.

As I kept on losing, I started to get my face back. It was like the movie Hook when one of the lost boys touches Peter's face and finally recognizes him and says, "Oh, there you are, Peter!"

P.S. The photo on the right was with my daughter Christmas 2010--after I had found my face.

Round Two: It Almost Comes to Blows

I joined the second round of Biggest Loser for the chance to win the cash for clothes. My clothes were getting loose. My strategy was to eat the way I needed to eat to maintain my goal weight. That way, when I got there, I wouldn't have to change a thing. I continued to lose at a steady one-pound-a-week clip. But I told myself I wasn't buying anything new until the end of the competition right before Memorial Day.

Normally, I'm not a competitive person. That changed when the winner of the first round gave me these fighting words: "I'm going to kick your butt." She said this right after I told her how good she looked. You know how you get that rush of adrenaline in the pit of your stomach when someone flips you off the on the highway? You don't? I guess you don't get flipped off on the highway. Anyway, that's what I felt. I didn't say anything, but I was thinking it. I'm going to kick your scrawny little butt. Bring it.

From that time on I was in the game. I didn't vary what I had been eating too much. I quit putting half-and-half in my coffee. When I craved dessert, I'd eat Dannon Natural Vanilla yogurt with some fruit. (I still buy quarts of the stuff every week. I sent them a letter hoping to be their spokesperson like Jared is for Subway. They sent me a form letter and two coupons.)

I also upped my exercise. Actually, I worked out like a maniac, doing Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred and putting hundreds of miles on my granny bike. Towards the end I was doing two-a-days.

Kim must have started to get desperate because she was shoving donuts under my nose the last weeks of the competition. I didn't cave. Funny thing, I wasn't even tempted.

I felt like Rocky Balboa when it was announced that I had won. I had lost a total of 30 pounds from my heaviest. It was time to go shopping.

Next time: I wasn't quite done yet.
P.S. Kim came in as a close second. She graciously congratulated me, and I thanked her for pushing me. She might have had it in the bag if she hadn't trash talked me.