Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pinching Pennies on Plan

This weekend, we had just finished a trip to the grocery store, when my four-year-old son pointed to the gas cap on our van, and asked "Dad, do you put gas or money in there?" My husband and I exchanged glances, and I mumbled under my breath, "Just tell him gas or we'll be paying the big bucks to get the contents of his piggy bank siphoned out of the gas tank." Technically though, the answer was both gas AND money, and that got me thinking.

You all know why it took me so long to join Weight Watchers, as that was recently discussed; however, I think for a lot of people it has to do with money. There's that registration fee, and then the weekly or monthly cost. Let's put it into perspective though. If not Weight Watchers, than what? A gym membership? That's not free. Or maybe some miracle gizmo or pill off the shopping channel? In the long run, by the time you try something new every couple of months, because the last thing just didn't work, you probably would have paid less and weighed less on plan. And that pesky registration fee? Weight Watchers runs specials all the time that take care of that little problem.

The other thought that occurred to me, is that staying overweight for an extended period of time can lead to any number of health problems--diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholestorol, etc. Seeing a doctor isn't cheap. Even with good insurance, there are usually co-pays. And what about the medications, or God-forbid, trips to the emergency room or hospital stays? You definitely don't get those for $40.00 a month.

Still, budget issues are very real. You don't have to tell me that. Our bacon was severely trimmed when I stopped working the beginning of this month. First, I had to get past the temptation to drop out of the program to save money. No, I concluded quickly, the program is helping to keep me healthy, and I'm just going to look at it like a pill. I was fortunate not to have to take an anti-depressant after my health episode, but just as a side note, those things cost $25.00 a month to fill anyway.

Next, I had to reconcile myself to the fact that it was very possible to stay on plan with a diminished pantry; it just not might be as diverse and interesting for a while. I had to decide I was going to be happy with FULL and HEALTHY; albeit, not tremendously tasty. I suppose that's comparable to being happy just wearing your same old shoes for a while, even though they technically need to be replaced.

And yes, it is possible to be FULL if you concentrate on what you need (filling foods) and not necessarily what you might want. For instance, what about those five or more servings of vegetables and fruits we're supposed to have everyday. Fresh produce can get pricey. Well, try this. It's been my saving grace the last couple of weeks. Look for sales on canned fruits (light syrup or water) and vegetables. If you shop around, you can usually get a sale or generic brand for 50 to 70 cents a can. Those cans usually have about three 1/2 cup servings in them. Open three or four different items, put them in storage containers, and use them to round out your meals. The veggies especially are mostly 0 points for one serving, and they can help add substance to an otherwise cost effective--though perhaps not point effective--meal. Anotherwards, you can have 8 points worth of cheap pizza, a 1/2 cup of green beans, and a 1/2 cup of sweet corn, and still not be hungry in an hour.

In any case, don't look at a budget crisis as an impossible obstacle, but as a new opportunity to practice creative problem-solving. Hey, even if times get better, you may have learned some tricks that will save you pennies later on!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sarah Suess on Diets

While caught in the midst of my adipose arms,
I found myself victim to growing alarms--
For my feet had gone missing, as well as my toes,
So what was left walking, one just cannot know.
My chest was abreast with my belly and chin,
And where my thighs ended, my buns did begin--
Oh yes, I concluded, I must not rest quiet,
Now was the time to try out a diet.

So first I tried counting (they say it's the thing),
I counted the carbies in EV-ER-Y-THING!
I counted the fat grams in chips and blue cheese
And stayed far away from transfat disease.
I counted rogue calories just with a look
And shucks, if I couldn't, I had a handbook!
If it was a food here on God's green earth
I knew just precisely how much it was worth!

I lost ten and gained twenty on each of these diets,
So help, I concluded, I'd just have to BUY it.
Henceforth I was off the the GNC store,
To consider the supplements, smoothies and more,
And in months that followed, I went with my whims,
I tried diet patches; I tried Dexatrim;
I gambled with Stacker—a carb blocker too--
When you're desperate, there isn't much you won't do.

Then, since I was sampling all I could swallow,
It only made sense, liquid diets should follow.
Did you know with an adequate dose of Green Tea
You could lose umpteen inches and get on TV?
And Slim Fast they say, is the way to lose weight
If you won't gag on flavors that taste like fish bait.
And finally, finally—if you'll just try it--
You can lose half yourself on the lemonade diet!

But if drinking stuff just isn't for you
You can eat cheese and sausage and get skinny too.
Dr. Atkins you see, before he dropped dead,
Promoted ketosis, moving weight loss ahead.
While psyching those fat cells right out of their stores
Cholesterol partied and started some wars
The kidney stones rallied; and cancer cells cheered,
But hey, I lost weight, so it can't be too weird.

Three months later; however, I gained it all back,
I had to admit, I was all out of whack
So I went on vacation to get out of the trench
I flew out of country and tried eating French.
For you see, there's no place quite like Paris to dine,
And they all stay skinny just drinking red wine.
Antioxidants practically flee from the tables!
At least, that's the rumor from localized fables.

From France I flew to South Beach like a goose
Where I balanced protein with liberal cous-cous,
You really should try it now, if you can fly it--
The New South Beach Mediterranian diet.
For here's a great balance of old and of new,
You can even have pasta and bread past Phase 2!
But oh, did I mention, you have to be rich,
To stay stocked in ricotta and omega-3 fish.

So tired was I of the shopping and cooking
I saw Nutri-system and found myself booking.
I pulled out my Mastercard, sealing my fate
But wouldn't it ROCK; they'd FED-EX me my plate!
That chick on the TV said she was size two,
So surely this gig would be my answer too
But after 12 weeks (and my free week. Whoopee),
I wasn't a two, nor was likely to be.

Oh forget all these diets, and programs, and gimmicks,
I'll go to Gold's gym and I'll run and I'll kick
And I'll sit-up and push-up and jump-up and knee-up
And eat a good dinner and responsibly throw-up.
On alternate weeks, there's bananas and rice,
I've heard special K and grapefruits are nice,
And it may seem extreme, but I've thought about marrying
My trainer, who's also a strict vegetarian.

So I've gone to extremes! Oh what can I say?
Hear me when I tell you, it's just not the way.
I can say with relief, inner me is now out
But a diet's just not what the journey's about.
Learn from moderation; stay active; stay whole;
Don't eat but the portion that's there in your bowl.
For health is a lifestyle, a way you must be,
Where health is a choice—a choice made by ME.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Credit Where Credit is Due

Very rarely do I sit down to blog and have little or no idea what I'm going to blog about, but today is one of those days. I am just determined that July is not going to turn into another month of me having very little to say, because there is so much going on right now. Today's blog is simply going to have to be a little bit of stream-of-consciousness.

This weekend, the kids and I took a road trip with some friends, to surprise a friend in Virginia. We are in her wedding in a few weeks, but she and the groom had two showers this weekend, and we thought it might be fun to show up unannounced. It was an excellent surprise, and overall, I did great with points. I stayed active even though I was out of town, and I saved my flex points for the wedding showers. I even took my own lettuce along.

My downfall came on the trip home, when I hadn't been able to pack food as carefully, and we were on the road for 12 hours, and we were left at the mercy of gas stations for nurishment. Yes, pretty sure I used all of this week's flex points on Monday. Add that to the arrival of my monthly friend, and the scale was not kind at Tuesday morning's weigh in.

However, the scale was also not cruel in the outrageous degree. I had only gained 1.2 pounds, and I'm fairly sure after standing on the scale this morning, that it's gone already. The victory over the last month has really been in maintaining. I have had health problems. I have had major life changes. The life changes are far from over. And yes, now my little girl is passing through some difficult times and she needs her mommy. Still, at my June 21st weigh in, I weighed exactly the same as I did yesterday. Sometimes the biggest victories are in the moments when the waves of life hit you in quick succession, yet they don't push you back.

I can't take personal credit here. In fact, I think it's time to hark back to one of my earliest blogs, in which I invoked the help of Almighty God in my journey to lose this weight. Let's give credit, where credit is due. To put it in the words of one of my favorite old hymns, "Jesus led me all the way." Now people may roll their eyes here, and say, now what does faith have to do with the size of your hips? Everything.

Weight loss is a journey that starts on the inside and shows up on the outside. In Hebrews, we read "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Somehow, I don't think the writer was make a direct reference to the universal pool of dieters who were and would be throughout all time; however, the general principal definitely applies. Faith is the inward force that, heavenly directed, addresses the thoughts of the mind and the attitudes of the heart, that then express themselves in tangible actions.

The mind says, "But I'm a good, albeit round, person who DESERVES that brownie sundae."
Faith answers, "You are precious in My Sight, and it would please Me if you did not get heart disease and pass into eternity prematurely."
The heart says, "But I've had a terrible, no good, very bad day, and I really need three quarters of this pizza to FEEL BETTER."
Faith answers, "I made today, and I know all about it. Look to me for your emotional needs, and not that greasy wedge of cardboard!"

No doubt, I could fill pages with like conversations; however, nothing serves as a better testimony to the truth, than the actual TESTIMONIAL. I could not have lived through the last six months without knowing that I would not walk through a single step of my journey alone. On the mountain tops, when I reached yet another goal--either in my choices or on the scale, I looked out from the mountain top and rejoiced "I will lift my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help." And in the valleys when, due to circumstance or choice, nothing went as planned, I remembered "though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with His Hand!"

I thank God for the victory He has given me in weight loss, not only because of the weight loss, but because during this season of challenges (my own anxiety, my daughter's illness) the tremendous experiences of the last six months offer so much reassurance. HE IS ABLE! And I? As I know from Philippians, "I can do ALL THINGS through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Humble Enough to Be Rescued

"Humble Enough to be Rescued." This phrase is the one with which I was confronted when I started to argue with health professionals about their strong suggestions for me to make lifestyle changes after my recent nervous breakdown. “But, but, but,” I said, “But people are DEPENDING on me. I can't just drop everything because I'm having a health problem!” Yada. Yada. Yada. And that's when I was put squarely in my place. Just be humble enough to be rescued.

And it did take humility to accept where I was, to walk away from commitments, to let other people field jobs that I took pride in doing, and to admit that I HAD LIMITATIONS. The humility to be rescued? This was not my forte. As a damsel, if I happened to be locked in a tower with a dragon at the door, I had it under control. When the knight showed up, if I bothered to page him, I was bound to tell him to stand aside, because I had just a few good ideas about how to get this job done.

As a damsel of 32, it seems I still have quite a few things left to learn. I had more than a dragon at my door, I had a whole nest of them, and they seemed quite determined to stay. Some I could expel by choice; some I would have to patiently starve; some I would have to leave entirely to others. Again, in the midst of it all—the breakdown, my closing business, my gambit of emotions, my daughter suffering a seizure—I drew encouragement from my weight loss experience.

After all, isn't “humble enough to be rescued” exactly where I was the first time I walked into a Weight Watchers meeting? All on my own, I had tried it all. I had counted calories, fat grams, and carbs. I had taken pills, elixirs, and vitamins. I had done aerobics, strength training, and karate. I had prayed, addressed the heavens, and made deals with the evening star--all to no avail. In my mind, Weight Watchers was a last ditch effort for people who had failed in every other way. When I went to my first meeting, I was admitting defeat. And yes, I was asking to be rescued.

Well, so far the rescue has turned out pretty doggone good, since as of my Tuesday meeting, I am down 44.2 pounds, and I am very excited that in 2.8 more pounds, I will be 10 pounds from my lifetime goal, and in a position to apply as a Weight Watchers receptionist. I am starting to feel excited about the possibility of helping other people like I have been helped, and if you're out there reading, don't make the mistake I did. Weight Watchers is not a last ditch effort for people who have failed in every other way. What Weight Watchers can be, is the first ditch effort of people who don't want to have to fail in every other way.

So whether you're a duke or a damsel, and whatever your dragons may be, don't be afraid to be humble enough to be rescued. Join the human race. Truth is, everybody's been there or going there, and anyone who says otherwise is lying! And don't forget the upside to this adventure tale. The upside to being humble enough to be rescued, is that you have the opportunity to realize how many people in your life love you enough to come running when you call for help. Now there's a shot in the arm!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Masquerading as Wonder Woman

Sadly, despite all my good intentions for June, I hit an all time low when it came to blog entries, success and sanity. So readers, forgive me, it has been a month since my last blog-fession. I promise to try to do better in July. If I had to offer an excuse for June's absenteeism, I would say only this. I kept waiting for it all to turn funny. You've probably noticed by now, making hard things funny is how I deal. Well, weeks kept passing, and I still wasn't laughing. I'm still not.

The truth is, I've been masquerading as Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman finally crashed. The descent from the heavens totaled her wardrobe, and as it turns out, you can't replace red spandex just anywhere. Walmart certainly doesn't carry it. But seriously (SEE, here I am trying to be funny again), I have always been an extremely goal oriented person. In fact, I have been called the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” by some; however, an individual can only go great-guns for so long, before the body decides to put the breaks on.

That, all considered, is exactly what had happened to me on the Tuesday, June 8th, when I ended up in the Emergency Room with all the classic symptoms of a heart attack. I felt absolutely ridiculous when they sent me home with a clean bill of health and instructions to rest. I felt even more ridiculous when the Adavan that they gave me in the ER to help me rest, sent me to a different planet for the next 24 hours—a planet on which I probably could have purchased red spandex. According to my mother, I spoke Spanish to her all the way home.

And it didn't end there. My two year old daughter sat on my lap that night and fed me dinner. My son asked me what I was doing out of bed every time I emerged from the bedroom. I received replies to e-mails that I do not recall sending. I wept over the deaths of tiny insects. On Thursday, I returned to my usual schedule, but all was not well. My church sent me meals for two nights, which was a tremendous boon, as suddenly the construction of a simple salad seemed like rocket science. What was WRONG with me?!

Well, the truth was a whole lot harder to swallow than the Adavan had been. Fact one: I had experienced a nervous breakdown. Fact two: I had developed an anxiety related problem that was not going to disappear simply because I wanted too. Monday morning, I reported to the doctor for my ER mandated follow-up, and I left thinking, “well that was all very nice, but now I need some practical suggestions!” You see, though I was profoundly glad she did not want to medicate me just yet (and there's not a thing wrong with that), her primary three suggestions were 1) change professions, 2) take a vacation, and 3) get some regular counseling until you're through this.

YEAH RIGHT! But with another appointment scheduled in two weeks, and being a chronic people pleaser, I hired help for the following week and planned a stay-ca-tion. During that stay-ca-tion, I made an appointment to see her recommend counselor. Two out of three isn't bad. At least when I went back, it would look like I was being a good little mental case. By the time the Tuesday rolled around that I was scheduled to see the counselor, it had been two weeks since the ER, and I thought I was doing SOOOO much better. But then.

Then it all shattered again. As soon as I started to talk about it—watching six kids for the last years, keeping up with the house, a husband with a full-time job and in school full-time, financial strain, and all the many other things that I felt were spinning out of control—I just lost it. Suddenly, I was right back where I was two weeks ago. I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. My heart hammered my back bone. My hands were clammy. My arms were weak. My breath was short. My head was absolute static.

The counselors conclusion was excruciating for me. I would have to give up my child care business—MY KIDS. I could not continue doing what I was doing and expect to recover; in fact, his prognosis for me if I continued was grim. I would be in a state of shut-down by the end of July. I needed to make a change, and I needed to do it quickly. I can not express to you the feeling of failure that hung over me as I left his offer. I was failing my customers, failing my husband, failing my children. I couldn't quit. I just couldn't.

But I did. Partially, because I didn't have any strength left to fight, but also partially because I knew this. If I didn't get better, I would fail entirely—in mind and in body and in spirit. And if I failed in those ways, I really would fail the people that mattered most to me.

Well, as you can imagine, it's been a hard month for Wonder Woman. I'll be staying on the ground for a while, but everything has worked out, and I am gradually feeling ever so much better. I am starting to find the humor in things again—starting to feel a bit more myself. The changes have all been for the good, and what I know for sure now, is that I am NOT the only one who has passed through this valley. I hope that talking about it will help someone out there. I am learning to catch myself in the negative thought processes that cause my anxiety, and turn the tide for the good—and that's something I definitely want to talk more about in the weeks to come— the positive thoughts we need to stay afloat in the midst of our anxieties, be they job related, child related, spouse related, check-book related, or yeah. Food related.

But actually, here's a positive thought, and one that was a shining light through all these trials and tribulations. Through it all, the one thing I could say that I had not failed at was my weight loss. I still stuck to the plan. One week (the week of my birthday—that's another blog in the making) I even gained about four pounds, but I did not give up. During a time when everything seemed dark, I could hang on to that one thread of success. That was important.

So. A couple days ago when I was wandering around the mall with my daughter in the stroller, and I saw this great set of gold-wristlets that looked like they could definitely deflect a few bullets—be proud of Wonder Woman. She kept on walking.