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, http://jacci-clark.blogspot.com/2011/04/looking-like-fool-with-my-pants-on.html) 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.