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.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You Can Get Yourself to Behave!

A follower posted a comment that he/she needed to learn how to feel full. (See Feeding the Threshing Crew.) I haven't really explained how I learned this and haven't completely given credit where credit is due.

I borrowed the line "getting yourself to behave rather than the food" from Gwen Shamblin, author of The Weigh Down Diet. Her book is a faith-based approach to weight loss. Disclaimer though: I read her book three times and gained five pounds with each reading. This was for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that she advised to eat dessert first if that's what you want. I took that literally and ate dessert and never got around to the meal.

I don't buy everything she says. But she does have some very valid points that stuck with me. One is that you can relearn how to eat and no longer be obsessed. You can learn to make yourself behave instead of the food. That's what I finally started doing these last two years.

Here's what worked for me. When I first started, I'd quit even when I felt even just a little bit satisfied. And, then I ran. Well, got as far away from the food as I could. My husband eats incredibly slowly. In fact, slower than anyone I know. He methodically takes each bite, chews, swallows, wipes his mouth with his napkin, puts down his fork, picks up his fork, and then starts the process all over again. A little frustrating when you're on a timeline and you can't speed him up. Also,that much time sitting at the table while he goes through this process is dangerous.

So, now when I eat with him and whoever else is at the table, when I feel I've had enough, I don't go for seconds. If there is any left on my plate, I ask if anyone wants it. If noone does, I get up from the table and start to pack up the leftovers for lunches the next day.

We have an open kitchen so I'm not rude; I still converse with everyone. Of course, I first ask if anyone want seconds before I start packing it all away. I start doing the dishes. If my husband is still not done, I excuse myself and go on my merry way. (Now, this may be rude but understand I've been in the kitchen for two hours at this point.)

Try eating until just a little satisfied and then stopping. If you are overweight and eat until you're completely full you will probably not lose weight. You will learn what full is. If you want to know the truth (maybe you don't), you will have to experience hunger for awhile before your body adjusts to eating less.

For the first six weeks when I started to eat less, I about wanted to gnaw my arm off. Here's the good news though (besides that I still have my arm): I became less hungry the closer I got to my goal weight. The reason you'll be ravenous at first is you've been eating to maintain a mother-load weight. Once you get to where you want to be, you eat less to maintain a smaller body and your body won't be protesting, "Feed me, feed me!! I have extra rolls here I want to keep!" Just like a Volkswagon Beetle requires a lot less gas than a big SUV, so a small body requires less food. (That's my own analogy; I think it's pretty clever.)

At first you will feel deprived. Get over it. Tell yourself you will get to eat again. At the next meal.

Check out the excerpt from Shamblin's book. Google: Getting the food to behave Gwen Shamblin. The excerpt gives you her best ideas. I don't like her website too much. Sorry, but I can't completely trust someone with that twangy of a voice and that big of hair.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Feeding the Threshing Crew

Recently I saw an old black-and-white home movie my dad had made in the 50s. It was of the threshing crew on my Grandpa O'Hara's farm. Threshing was the process of putting up the harvest. Very labor-intensive work, it was a community event, family helping family, and neighbors helping neighbors.

What amazed me was that my grandpa and the men helping him were all startingly thin. Their bib overalls hung on their sinewy frames. Even the kids running around outside were stick-thin skinny. It is shocking because if you take a look around wherever you are right now, at your work place, your school, maybe even with your family, the norm is chunky if not really overweight. The norm then was thin.

This wasn't for lack of food. What is legend about threshing season were the meals the women folk prepared for the crew. They spared nothing: pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, garden vegetables in sauces, butter rolls, and all kinds of homemade pies with real whipped cream.

The people who were consuming these wonderful meals were amazingly thin. And stayed thin. True, I saw that my grandma and the other women were a little bit plump from staying in the kitchen, but none were obese, not by a long-shot. Just grandmotherly huggable.

They weren't following the plans that make the food behave. They ate whatever they wanted without thinking of calories, carbs, or fat grams. Undeniably, they worked hard and burned it off. But, I suspect that they didn't overstuff either. They couldn't. They wouldn't have been able to waddle out to sweat in the field without getting sick. I've found that hard exercise keeps your appetite in check.

We are eating low-calorie, low-carb, and low-fat. Diet pop, sugar substitutes and 100-calorie bites of nothing. Little frozen meals that don't taste great and have a weird chemical aftertaste but which have less than 300 calories. Diets like Atkins that cut out whole food groups. I'd rather eat real food.

I don't do sugar-free, and I really don't pay attention to how much cholesterol or calories are in a thing. I figure if you want half the fat or half the calories, just take half a serving. I eat generally healthy, lots of fruits and vegetables, and very little processed food. Pretty much what God put on the earth for us to eat. I'm not a vegetarian, I'm not a health food fanatic either, and I don't worry much about whether something's organic.

I now eat the way you see kids eat, before we mess them up. Or like people who have been thin their whole lives. I eat until I'm full, and then I stop. That's it. Sorry if that's disappointing, but that's the secret. It's the only thing that really makes sense to me. I don't obsess about food or write in a stupid food journal. I can't tell you how freeing that is.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An End to Impulsive Grazing

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the timing couldn't have been better. After the embarrassing bathroom incident (see post, my workplace decided to do a 12-week Biggest Loser competition. I was hesitant to join at first. Our work's last competition had been called "ten weeks, ten pounds, ten bucks." I not only lost my ten bucks but gained ten pounds in ten weeks.

But with the Biggest Loser we'd be weighing in weekly. The accountability might be good. I mean it worked with Nurse Marsha. I'd starve myself the day prior to weighing in. She scared me and I didn't want to risk her disapproval.

My latest strategy had been to weigh with Linda, a coworker, every Monday. Linda's numbers on the scale inched down. Mine went back and forth a half pound each week. Linda enthusiastically congratulated me when I lost the half pound. When I gained the half pound back the next week, she'd remind me that I was really tall (which I wasn't buying because she was practically my height and weighed 40 pounds less). After two months of this, Linda had lost two pounds, and I had a net loss of exactly zero. We started to avoid each other on Mondays, and eventually the whole thing was dropped.

Now it was Thanksgiving. I signed up to do Biggest Loser hoping just to contain the damage through the holidays. I started by loosely following an eating plan that was on my work's website for healthy living. Even though the plan was fairly generous in the amount of food allowed, I quickly realized it was not nearly as generous as what I had been serving up for myself. I upped the plan's protein to help curb my hunger. But I still wanted to gnaw my arm off.

I thought that if I generally ate less, I should be able to lose. I admitted I was fooling myself when I didn't lose anything the first three weeks. The problem was my impulsive grazing. I'd walk by a plate of cookies at work, and all of a sudden one would somehow make it to my mouth. Before when this would happen, I'd think that I had blown it and would proceed to have my head in the feed trough the rest of the day.

It suddenly occurred to me that just because I had taken a bite, there was no rule I had to finish it. I started giving the rest away. But when I kept handing my half-eaten desserts to my brother at a potluck, he accused me of trying to make everyone else obese. He had a point, so I started to save whatever I was eating for later or just smoosh it up into an unappetizing ball and throw it away. The main thing was to get away from the food (or get the food away from me) as soon as I started overeating. This one strategy helped me overcome my compulsive snacking. Eventually, my appetite began to curb and I became less tempted to overeat.

I made it through the competition and lost eight pounds. A victory in itself. I never expected to win, so was surprised when it was announced I was third runner up. The work group decided to do another round, this time doubling the amount of money chipped in. I realized that the winnings would help pay for some badly needed clothes. I was starting to get droopy drawers. I was feeling more confident, not so hungry. I thought I might have a chance.

Next time: It Almost Comes to Blows

P.S. Somewhere along the way I lost my huge appetite, and I no longer feel the need to gnaw my arm off. I do still give my desserts to my brother, Bill.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Blame Nurse Marsha

I have to admit that Grandma was right all along. She told me if I wanted to lose weight I should just put smaller amounts on my plate and not take seconds. And, she added, stay out of her candy drawer. If I had taken Grandma's advice and never started my first diet, there's a good chance I wouldn't have had a weight problem. My demise was meeting Nurse Marsha.

I didn't go on a structured diet until the summer after my first year of college. I had gained the freshman 10 and was bent on getting down to my goal weight. I was hardly overweight, but I had heard that a five-foot woman should weigh 100 pounds; add five pounds for every inch after that. I was 5 foot 7-1/4 inches. I did the math. My ideal weight was 137, and I weighed 153.

My friend, Joy, was as obsessed as I was about getting thin. I saw an ad in the paper for The Weight Loss Clinic. It offered a discount if you signed up by June 15th and promised that you'd be skinny by summer's end. I called up Joy.

She was skeptical and worried about the cost. "Joy, how much would you pay to be skinny?" She said $75 tops. The next day we drove the 25 miles to sign up to get skinny. At The Clinic, we were greeted and then taken into a room, put on a scale, and weighed. Nurse Marsha would be our diet counselor. She asked me what I wanted to weigh. I said 137. She looked at a weight chart. "Hmmm, for your height you should weigh 123." Was she serious? She was. "See here look at the chart." The bottom number was 123. I told her I didn't think that it was possible for me to weigh that. She wrote 125 down as my goal.

Joy got the same question. Joy thought she should weigh about 130. Nurse Marsha wrote down 113. Joy said, "I've never weighed that even when I was sick and about dead." Marsha changed the goal to 116.

The Clinic charged for how many pounds you had to lose. Marsha said my cost was $280--two weeks' pay working on my dad's farm. Joy's was over $300. Joy leaned over and hissed, "See, I told you!" Marsha intercepted and asked, "Joy, how much do you really want to be thin?" We asked if they took payments.

Marsha put us on the "accelerated plan." (At 500-800 calories, it should have been called The Fast Track to Emaciation.) The Plan's pamplet detailed how much we could eat under each food group. Everything was low calorie, nonfat, sugar-free, and skinless. For the bread group, we could have melba toast. For vegetables, Marsha emphasized "no peas, no corn." Bananas and grapes were crossed out from the fruit group. Too many calories. Marsh gave us each a bottle of purple vitamins. I guess those were to fill in the gaps so our hair wouldn't fall out.

Marsha instructed us to measure and weigh our food. We were to come in daily to be weighed and to pee in a cup. Marsha would stick a piece of paper in it and look at the color. It was never clear what the color meant; I guess to see how close we were to death. We asked about exercise. Marsha said there was no need; we'd lose without moving. Joy and I signed up and then left to buy melba toast and a food scale.

I followed The Plan religiously. I didn't visit The Clinic every day though. My dad was already a bit steamed that I was driving 50 miles roundtrip, let alone spending what should have gone towards my college tuition. I spent the summer feeling hollow, dizzy and thinking about what I could do with plain yogurt and melba toast. But by summer's end, I was elated to have reached 137. I weighed that for exactly five minutes (and, incidentally, never since). Marsha wanted to sign me up again so that I could get to 125. I declined.

Joy gained. Marsha accused her of eating grapes, bananas, peas and corn. After a few weeks, Joy quit going and stopped making payments. The Clinic threatened to turn her into a collection agency. Joy's dad threatened to sue. The Clinic stopped harrassing her and went out of business.

The Plan set me up. Everyone says diets don't work--but they do, for a time. I was only successful in losing weight when I returned to The Plan, or a variation of it.

Over the years I did other plans: Weight Watchers, better than The Plan, it still had me thinking about food every single waking moment. Susan Powter's Stop the Insanity, which proclaimed that calories didn’t matter. "FAT IS WHAT MAKES YOU FAT!" bald, scary Susan screamed. Eat all you want as long as there's no fat. I gained 20 pounds eating whole pizzas without cheese. Other plans that eliminated entire food groups: Atkins which said carbs were the culprit. After three days on the Atkins, the inside of my mouth felt like it was coated with butter and I would have killed for an apple. I did South Beach; The Cleansing Diet (don't ask); The Cabbage Diet, which made me very--well, you know; and a bunch more.

I was done with any plan, program, or book telling me how to eat. Grandma was right. I just had to get a grip on my voracious appetite, eat real food (something that was alive at one time and not made in a lab somewhere), and work up a sweat every day. It took me awhile to get there, but I can honestly say food is no longer an issue for me. I don't count calories, keep track of fat grams or write in a food journal. I can pass up a woman's magazine claiming "Lose 24 pounds in 30 days!" And, I refuse to eat melba toast.

For those following my blog, I really am going to get around to explaining how I accomplished this. Check out my next post: Gnawing My Arm Off

P.S. Joy lost all of her weight shortly after that summer and hasn't gained it back, even after having three kids. No thanks to Nurse Marsha (who I seriously doubt was a nurse).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How did I get here?

How had it come to this? That I was diving for pie, looking like I needed a girdle, and hunkering down behind a bathroom door? Yeesh. My life-long obsession with my weight was making me hungry. And, like the rest of overweight America, I had been trying to make the food behave instead of myself.

I tried to think of a time when I wasn't overeating or obsessing about my weight. It was all the way back to preschool. At that age, I didn't even know what fat was. I was just a regular, little kid playing outside and not wanting to come in for dinner. I would only eat until I was full and then stop. I remember the very first time I was able to finish eating an egg, or an apple, or an ice cream cone. I proudly told my mom that I had eaten the whole thing, and she praised me. I had been eating the whole thing and a whole lot more ever since.

I was in kindergarten when I first thought that I was fat. In fact, I remember the moment the idea first occurred to me. I was sitting next to a high school boy on the bus. His legs were skinny. I looked down at my bare legs (the dress code did not allow pants for girls--a dumb rule because dresses were super short in the late 60s). My legs looked bigger than the boy's. "My legs are fat," I thought. But I was far from fat. I was just sturdily built and a little tall for my age. I was jealous of the cute, little girls. They seemed like they got all the attention. The upside of being sturdy is I could beat boys at arm wrestling.

In fifth grade there was a push in our school (some sort of government mandate, I think) to put heavy kids on a weight-loss program. There weren't many overweight kids in the 70s. I was one of three girls in my grade to be chosen to go to the nurse's office each week to be weighed. Humiliating, really. I was a little confused about why I was in the fat group. I wasn't that big, I thought.

My first weigh-in I was less than 80 pounds, a normal weight for someone nearly five feet. The third week there was a substitute filling in for the nurse. She looked puzzled and asked me why I was in the program. I told her I didn't know. She looked at the weight chart and shook her head. "Jacci, you're normal weight. You shouldn't be here. Go back to class." I didn't have to go back to the program ever again. But it didn't matter, the damage had been done.

From that time on I had been obsessing about what I ate and my weight. When I was in high school I always thought I needed to lose 10 pounds. I vowed not to overeat every day. I'd make it to lunch and then overstuff until I went to bed. I worked hard, though, tossing haybales on the farm, so I burned off whatever I ate.

As an adult I was still fighting to lose weight. I'd have some success, but over the years I had been on the steady incline. Now I could no longer deny I had to lose more than just a few pounds. It was getting out of control. I was now in my late 40s. Did I really want to be dealing with this issue for the rest of my life? I wanted to get to the place where food or my weight were no longer an issue. I had to figure out a way that I could eat normally and maintain a reasonable weight. Bottom line: I needed to eat like I did when I was a little kid--just eat until I was full and then forget about it and go outside to play.

I was ready. I had to move more, eat less. It wasn't rocket science. (But then I figured those scientists who designed the rockets were probably fat, sitting behind a desk somewhere.)

Next post: I Blame Nurse Marsha

Monday, April 18, 2011

Looking like a fool with my pants on the ground

After the girdle suggestion, I made up my mind that I was going to lose weight and get in shape. But I didn't have a lot of confidence--how many times had I told myself this? Or lost a few and gained them back? Over the next year, I made another half-hearted attempt that stalled after a five-pound loss. It would take one more event that would spur me into high gear and permanent change.

I drink coffee and guzzle water throughout the day. I am lucky I don't get my pay docked for all my bathroom breaks. Down the hall is an employee's restroom, a women's one with several stalls. Stalls that easily lock, I might add. But sometimes to save time I use the single-person one which is closer but in a high-traffic area.

There had been a lot of complaints about this restroom. The toilet directly faced the door, an obvious problem when people got caught unawares. On the outside, adjacent to the door, was a silver square that said "press here." Once it was pressed, the door electronically opened. The door automatically shut on its own. There was no manual lock on the door. Once the door completely closed and latched, you locked it by pressing a big red button next to the toilet.

The whole procedure from the time the door opened and closed took 30 seconds. Pushing on the door, no matter how hard, did not make the door close any faster.

Guys would often get impatient and would begin to start their business, not realizing the door wasn't locked. And, yeah, you guessed it. Someone would hit the square button on the outside and the guy wouldn't be done. Which wasn't too bad since his back was to the door. Maybe because guys are used to peeing in front of strangers, it was no big deal. Usually the guy would just glance back and give a little nod. Or even nonchalantly say, "Hey, how's it going?" The whole thing presented quite a different scenario for a woman who was perched on the throne in all her glory.

So, knowing all about the problem with this bathroom, I avoided using it. But on this day, I had gone to Starbucks and had been too busy to use the restroom since break. I was getting antsy, so I opted to use the public restroom. I punched the big, square button on the wall. The door slowly yawned open. I went in. I waited for the door to shut and heard it latch. I then pressed the red button, heard the click, pulled down my scrub pants, sat down, and...blessed relief. I then heard a familiar sound. Someone punched the outside button, and horror of horrors, the door began to open. Frantic, I thought "You gotta be kidding. I know I pressed the red button and heard it lock!"

They say it is amazing how many things run through your mind in an emergency. In my panic I considered my options, none of them good. Option 1: Be like a guy, nod, say wazzup, and carry on with my business. Maybe even give a little wave. One problem: the 30-second window when people would be filing by while I'm sitting on the john. Thirty seconds is a long time in a situation like this.

Option 2: Finish mid-stream and try to use the toilet paper. But imagine what that would look like. No, too horrible to imagine. I quickly dismissed Option 2.

Option 3: Cut my losses and yank up my drawers and flee. This seemed like the most reasonable bet.

The man begins to enter, sees me and freezes. He hastily backs out, apologizing profusely. He may know me, I think, but if I don't meet his eye he might not recognize me. Fat chance. I quickly yank up my pants. Or try to. Even though I've lost five pounds, they're still quite snug. Frantically, I fight to get them up but can't get them past my thighs. The door is still wide open.

I am directly in front of the door with my pants half down. Where can I go to hide? Nowhere is where. I do a kind of hop, duck waddle, skip to hide behind the door (which is still at a stand-still before taking its long journey home). There is another unfortunate fact about this bathroom. A full-length mirror is on the wall where you catch a startling view of yourself getting up off the stool and, in my present predicament, a full-on view for those walking by. I see myself in the mirror. I'm crouched behind the door with my big white bum exposed, pushing on the door to get it to move. The door isn't budging. Not one to normally say bad words, I urgently begin to cuss.

Finally, mercifully, the door closes. I take a deep breath. I again press the red button this time making sure it is locked, I go pee (which I didn't get to finish earlier). I wash my hands. But I don't leave. I take a long look at myself in the mirror. I begin to laugh. Hard. I know this is going to make a great story later. And, then I tell myself, "If I am ever, ever again caught with my pants down, I'm going to be so skinny that I can yank my pants all the way up to my chin."

And, that was the turning point. I began to eat like a normal person. And, I started exercising. I steadily lost one pound a week until I reached my goal. And, I'm happy to report, I've kept my pants on in public and haven't gone back.

Next time...I'll answer the question, "How did I get here?"

P.S. Turns out the red button had a short in it and didn't always work. I guess I took one for the team, because soon after my incident a manual door and lock were installed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Girdle Incident

We seem to console one another in our weight gain. When our friends say they're fat and need to go on a diet, we say, "Oh, you're not fat, you just need to firm up a little bit." Or, "You're just big-boned." That's what people told me. And what I told myself. "I'm tall and carry my weight well. I could be bigger." True enough. I could have been bigger. But I had gained 50 pounds since I got married, so I was well on my way to getting a lot bigger.

Looking at pictures of older female members of my extended family, I was gaining at the same rate as they did as they aged. You know, a few pounds with each child and year until you're "pleasingly plump" as my Aunt Betty would say. But I knew that once menopause hit, I would be beyond plump to downright fluffy.
Denial works well except when it doesn't. My husband and I were asked to host our niece's wedding. I needed to get a dress. I hadn't worn one in years. So, my mom and I decided to go shopping. I quickly realized that I was going to have to shop at the same stores my mom was looking for her grandma-of-the-bride dress. The thing about these stores is they are all about coverage. One of the stores had the name "barn" in it. I think that speaks for itself.

As I tried on a dozen dresses and faced the mirror, I was mortified. What the heck happened here? I looked like a fat, old lady. Finally, I found one that I thought didn't look too bad. When I came out of the dressing room, my mom took a long look, cocked her head and said, "Well...they do make body girdles." If my own mother thought I needed a body girdle, then I had really let myself go. I wasn't going to wear a girdle, for crying out loud. Where would all the fat go once I got one on? Up to my neck or down to my knees? I knew my wearing dress days were over. I bought pants (the same ones I'm wearing in my profile picture and which I'm happily swimming in).
It took a couple more humiliating experiences before I finally got serious and made real lifestyle changes to becoming healthy. But it wasn't until I got much thinner that I started wearing dresses again. I realize now, though, that no matter what weight you are, in your 40s you'll never look like you did in your 20s and 30s.

Recently, I bought my mother-of-the-bride dress and decided I needed a little "help." I went to Penneys and tried on the body girdles. Extreme torture. My shoulders got stuck in one, and I couldn't get it off. I had to have the lady helping me pull me free. I hadn't realized that I had gotten stuck in the leg when I slipped it over my head. She helped me try on some more. Perspiring and with hair standing on end, I squeezed into another one. She said that I looked "just lovely" when I put my dress on over it. But I couldn't breath, and I certainly couldn't bend to sit down. I'd have to stand or lie down through the entire wedding and reception.

I gave up on the girdle idea. My daughter has since told me that they are not called girdles. They are called body shapers and all of her friends wear them. So, as it turns out girdles or body shapers are actually for the very young and thin. I've decided to get another mother-of-the-bride dress. One with more coverage.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Diving for pie

I had to get honest with myself. I could no longer deny how much weight I had gained. And, how much I actually loved eating. It was one of the last of the last straws before I lost the weight and kept it off for good.

Paige and I had gone up for the weekend to visit Amber at college. We had picked out a restaurant in Dinky Town to have dinner. It had great reviews and was supposed to be this cool, trendy place, but it turned out to be a dismal dining experience--one for which I had spent way too much money. We left the restaurant disappointed and hungry.
As consolation, Paul (Amber's then boyfriend, now fiance) offered to take us to Perkins for dessert. Getting wired on endless cups of coffee, we girls gabbed while poor Paul had to endure our manic stories. When we finally decided to leave, I realized I had been talking so much that I hadn't touched my coconut cream pie (topped with a generous amount of whipped cream--my favorite). No way was I going to leave that baby behind especially since I had been so disappointed by the meal I had earlier. I asked for a to-go container.

It was a cold January night, and Paul went to warm up the car. After a few minutes we braved the cold and took off running towards the car. Bad idea. I hit a patch of ice in my Dansko clogs and went down hard. My only thought was to save the pie. I landed squarely on the styrofoam container, flattening it and the pie onto the parking lot. While I limped to the car, Amber and Paige laughed hysterically. As they related the story to Paul, his only question was, "Is the pie okay?"

Dropping Paul off at his house, I began driving away when I felt something warm on my knee. I reached down and realized I was bleeding. And that I had blown out the knee of my jeans. I started to laugh, then cry. I sobbed, "These are the only pair of jeans that fit! And I just ruined them by diving for a piece of pie!"

I vowed to lose the weight. Stubbornly I hung onto that pair of jeans, ripped knee and all. I wasn't going to buy any new ones until I dropped a size. I bribed Paige into taking a before picture of me in a two piece. The fading skid mark still shows on my knee in the picture. That was three years ago. It took a few more painful experiences (which I'll share in future posts) before I finally figured out how to lose the weight and keep it off. I've gotten in shape, dropped 40 pounds and gone from a size 16 to a size 6. Okay, one pair of jeans is a 6, but still. I've lost inches everywhere, including seven from my belly. I look a whole lot better, feel better and don't have the aches and pains that I had attributed to arthritis. The best, best part though has been that I've learned how not to be obsessed with food. I eat like a normal person. (Normal as in someone not overweight and who doesn't struggle with food issues.)

How did you lose the weight, I am often asked. The simple answer is I move more, eat less. I got brutally honest with myself before I could successfuly lose the weight. I had been eating like it was Thanksgiving every day. And, I realized at my age I would have to break a sweat daily if I was ever going to get in shape. I've maintained the weight loss for a year. I eat whatever I want. I don't follow a particular diet or do nonfat, sugar-free, low-carb, shakes, or pills. I don't write down calories or fat grams. And, no, I'm not anorexic or bulimic.

If you are in the same place that I was, despairing over your weight gain and your inability to stop it, follow my journey of how I got my body and life back. Don't give up! If I, a middle-aged mom whose mantra was "it's never too late for dessert," can do it, so can you!

P.S. Sorry, I'm not posting that before picture, just trust me when I say it's not attractive.