Monday, January 24, 2011

Locked in with Leslie

Alternate title: Snowed in with my refrigerator. Seriously, enough with the wintery weather already! On December 23rd, the family piled into our aging van and headed to Virginia for the Christmas holiday. We'd been anticipating the trip for some time, and since Wade and I spent the whole week prior to departure nursing sick children, we both just felt thankful to be leaving according to schedule.

While I was looking forward to getting out of town and enjoying a change of pace, I had a plan in place to ensure that my training would stay on track. True to those plans, I dutifully set out on the afternoon of the 24th and walked 5.5 miles. It was COLD, but not to cold for Nordic-track woman. My pace kept me toasty, and I had great optimism that I could get a vacation in, and my mileage too. Enter blizzard.

Shortly after the wrapping paper had settled on Christmas day, the flakes began to fall. All the next day, the snow fell with a fury. When we ventured out with the children to “play,” I couldn't see the end of the street 0.3 miles away. The next day, the sky was a clear, icy blue; but the sun couldn't beat off the freezing temperatures, and we were hemmed in by 13 inches of snow. We didn't leave the house for three days, and the roads still weren't great when we headed home on New Year's Day. That first walk was the only walk I got all week.

Upon returning to South Carolina, despite being unable to walk, I felt very refreshed and ready to get back on track. I walked four days that first week back and also did a day of cross-training. I planned to carry the New Year's good start into the next week. Monday brought eight more inches of snow and a week of impossible cold. Thursday, we finally saw Walmart. My sanity was slipping. I had done 17 miles of in-home walking with Leslie.

So do you know Leslie? I'm talking about Leslie Sansone—the brilliant creator of the in-home walking system. She is great . . . in measured doses. And then that laugh starts to get to you. And you start to imagine that her fellow walkers look annoyed at her comments. And you start to feel that her jokes should have been written out of the script. And you start to feel that LESLIE should have been written out of the script. And you start to imagine reaching into the TV screen with your bare hands and . . .

Well, you understand. I know you understand if you know Leslie. Then there's that other personality—the very charismatic personality with the swinging door and the inside light. The personality full of food that, if you just tossed it into the microwave and heated it, would perhaps make you feel less cold every time you looked out the window and saw all that blasted white stuff. I honestly don't know how people live up north without getting fat. I think I would eat all winter long, just to stay warm, like a bear getting ready to hibernate!

Fortuitously, the snow has melted and absolutely none is in the current 10 day forecast. I am hopeful that we are done seeing the white stuff fly, because I've only got four weeks left until my Myrtle Beach half, and I don't want another week of Leslie's walking asylum. I'm also in the throes of my final fund-raisers, so I really don't need life to be any more complicated than it absolutely has to be. REALLY, this whole marathon and raise-funds-for-a-good-cause-experience, has been positive overall; BUT, the next time I act interested in such an (ad)venture, would my friends kindly beat me up! Or at the very least, chain me to the television with Leslie until I come to my senses . . .

The Marathon That Is My Marathon

Ha! Didn't I warn you there was a part two? An extenuation of the roller-coaster that is my life?! So yes, it's almost the end of January, and Wade finally (repeat for emphasis: FINALLY) made it to his physical last Friday. I will save all the gory details for the official report now filed in Raleigh, North Carolina. Suffice it to say, it has not been the Pelham Road Recruiting Office's finest hour. But I digress . . .

As December began, a couple of things happened. First of all, Wade's chances of active duty enlistment seemed to fade. Six weeks later, it's all a possibility again. What a ride.

The second bit of excitement was subtle, yet effectual. I developed either IT band syndrome (tendon that runs from the knee to outer thigh) or common runner's knee. I am still not entirely sure which. December 3rd, I was doing a simple six mile run, and by the end of the third mile, I was running through excruciating pain in my left knee. Typical of me, I pushed through the pain, but as I gimped down the track steps to my car, it was clear to me that I was done running for the week. Early the next week, I visited the chiropractor. Sure enough, my femur was out of place, so I got a painful relocation for my trouble and gave the knee a rest for most of the week.

The next Monday, I tried to run again and didn't make it a half mile. My saving grace? I could still walk—FAST. For some reason, power walking didn't bother my knee at all, and I could still clock a twelve minute mile at the track by transforming myself into Nordic-track woman. I simply now had a decision to make about my mind set. What was my attitude going to be? I could still finish this half-marathon; I would just have to finish it walking. After putting in more than 150 training miles, this was more than a little disappointing, but it was still FINISHING.

I'm finding that a lot of the lessons of my marathon seem to translate into real life. This whole situation with the military has morphed into something we really didn't expect, but we still control the decision about what our attitude will be as we meet each new challenge. My husband and I agree that we have never felt so blind going into a New Year, as we have felt this year. We have no idea whether things will work out with the military or not. If it doesn't, we don't know what the alternate plan will be. We don't know if we'll be here, or if we'll move. We're also learning to care for a child with epilepsy.

Newsflash: Life is a marathon. It's an endurance race. It's planning, so you're strong to meet what's not planned head-on. It's being faithful in the little things, so the long days don't catch you totally off guard. It's forgetting to be disgusted that you had to get up early, because you're caught up in the beauty of the sunrise. It's laughing when you lose track of what lap you're on. It's asking your coaches for help when the obstacles seem to great. It's trusting God when you're absolutely at a loss. It's being human, or else, you just don't qualify.

The Best Laid Plans of Moms, Marathoners, and Military Wives

How ironic it is that one of the great consistencies in our lives, is CHANGE. Yes, with great reliability we can always expect change to come. I have waited almost four months to make this post, mostly because I kept waiting for plans to finalize before I made my report; however, as I am STILL waiting for all the details to settle into something solid, and as the events of the last three months have had great effect on some of my choices, I will just go ahead and attempt to describe the mayhem.

About the time I signed up to run in the Walt Disney World marathon, my husband walked into a Navy Recruiter's office and started the enlistment process. The economy has been hard on so many families, and in our situation, my hard working hubby had finished his degree only to find that jobs were hard to come by. Though I was sick over the thought of my husband being away for any extended period of time, I was extremely proud of him for being so willing to do whatever it took to take care of us and meet upcoming school bill obligations.

I expected the process to move quickly; in fact, I wondered if we would spend Christmas without him, and in the months of October, fund-raisers and training kept my mind occupied and my stresses constructively vented. By November however, we started to realize that our destiny as a military family was not to be a speedy one. Paperwork had been finished (or so we thought), but there always seemed to be a missing document, or a line they'd forgotten to have us sign, or a schedule snafu. Wade's physical had been scheduled and rescheduled at least four times.

Sigh. It was a time for me--the mom, the marathoner, and the future military wife—to set priorities. Delays meant that Wade would be with us for Christmas, and for this gift, I was ever so thankful. However, my training schedule was getting much more demanding, and fund-raising was intense. I'd already moved my event from the January Walt Disney Race, to the February Myrtle Beach Race. As I looked over the adjusted training schedule, I knew that if Wade went to boot camp after the New Year, the time involved in the weekly and weekend runs would propose a two fold problem. First of all, I would be functioning as a single parent for a while. I would have to get a sitter four times a week just to train. More importantly, if daddy was going to be away, my children would need their MOM.

With these situations on the horizon, I switched to the Myrtle Beach half-marathon after Thanksgiving. Though I felt a bit disappointed, I also had an amazing sense of accomplishment. The previous weekend, I had run ten miles! My life was so different than it had been a year ago, and granted, my life probably will be drastically different a year from now; but because I have taken control of something in my life that used to be such a wild card (my weight), I can be sure of one thing. Wherever this military momma is one year from now, she's gonna look good standing next to that uniformed man!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weight Watcher Woes

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I did something very brave. I thought it would be the bravest thing I did all day. I threw away the last two slices of the pecan pie. First, I was having one slice everyday; Sunday I had graduated to two. Yes, the pie had to go, and it was o.k. if I didn't finish every last piece. Indeed, I was very brave.

And then I went to my Weight Watchers meeting. Now I admit, I was a little excited. For weeks, there had been a buzz about some updates to the program, and I was eager to know what was coming about. What I found, and what I did not expect was a revamp of the entire program. It was like being a new member--like starting over. Foods had different points values; the amount of points I could have was more (but not really, because all the food was worth more points). Despite it all, and despite some pre-meeting worry, I went home up-beat and determined to try.

Now before I launch into a diatribe of my misgivings, I feel it is important to emphasize that I tried the new Points Plus program for three weeks. Even though I had to look up and re-calculate everything, I tried and used the new program. I attended meetings. Rather than feeling supported, more and more I felt betrayed. To clarify, I did not feel betrayed by the leaders; all those ladies, I have grown to love and appreciate. I felt betrayed by the company itself. We TRUSTED Weight Watchers, and I feel they have taken advantage of that trust.

In addition, the change came at a very bad time. It was the Christmas rush for heaven's sake! I do not want to have to re-figure out a lifestyle (because it's NOT a diet) in the three weeks before Christmas. I have got enough to do! If you are sensing frustration, that's exactly was was boiling under the surface by the end of the third week, when stress over the new program and my third cookie baking day converged.

One dozen cookies later, I took responsibility for my own actions, and I also took my life back. I went back to the old program, and that is right where I have happily stayed for the last month. There have been bumps and struggles, yes. Christmas eating happened, and since I'm still training for an endurance event, I have to eat most of my activity points to stay strong, but at least I'm maintaining because I feel in control again.

I suppose if I was to put my finger on the one reason I'm truly upset over the changes at Weight Watchers, it all comes down to control. The old program really empowered the member to be in control of choices and environment. But nobody gave us an opportunity to choose or be a part of the changes at Weight Watchers. We all just had to act happy when it was "unveiled." New members used to be able to manage nicely on the entry level packet they received upon joining; whereas, now you have to lean HEAVILY on their "guides" and the points calculator. That is not CONTROL; that is DEPENDENCY. Dependency is a big problem you see with other weight loss programs, like Nutri-system or Slimfast. If a program won't work simply outside of its products; it does not give its members the independent ability to be successful.

And speaking of buying products, here we come upon a second problem, an ethical problem. People were not discouraged from buying old products before the change came about; in fact, these items were pushed out the doors in the guise of sales. Now with food items, there is no problem; however, with items such as old dining guides, cookbooks, and scales, there is absolutely a problem. Members should have been warned that these materials would not be valid in a matter of weeks, or either that, Weight Watchers should have offered to replace materials brought in for exchange, that had been purchased in the weeks before the change-over. Anything other than this, is a breach a trust.

Yes, I know that there is a lot of new "science" behind the new program, and actually, I do believe the new program will probably work just as well for new members as the old one did. However. Weight Watchers has overlooked the very important science of TRUST. I think it will take quite a while for old members of the Weight Watchers program to overlook the violation that took place in December 2010. I myself will probably return to the program eventually, to lose that last five pounds and maintenance, but for now, I'm going to do what the program taught me to do--be in control. Me and the old program are eloping.

Back with Cookie Cravers Anonymous

Somehow I didn't imagine myself back here again--back to that dark place inhabited by metal folding chairs, where shadowed faces are looking into mine as I confess: "Hi. My name's Sarah. And I'm STILL a cookie craver."

That's where I was last December, when almost every cold afternoon and evening involved cookies and hot cocoa, but I guess I really expected that with a year's presence of WW in my life, I wouldn't go back to being a CC. When it came time to do the Christmas baking this year, I found out differently.

Now, it is quite normal for me to do some moderate cookie baking at Christmas time, but having passed through a season of economic hardship, I had decided that I would do more baking than usual, so that I would have a little something to share with all of our family and friends. Consequently, I made a list of nine different types of cookies, and the Monday before Thanksgiving, I started working.

Woe is me! If I had only known that my lofty cookie list would extend one big baking day into THREE. On that first Monday, I got up at 6am, and started running the pre-cut sugar cookies through the oven. Those were the easy ones. While those were baking, I mixed up two other batters. By four that afternoon, I had sugar cookies in four darling designs, two recipes of chocolate chip cookies, two recipes of gingersnaps, and a pan of butterscotch blondies. I was done. Best of all, I had managed to eat only two cookies the entire day. Not too flabby (I mean shabby, subliminally). It might also be helpful to note, that my Weight Watchers meeting was the next day, and some secret place in me wanted to be able to report my almost demi-god resistance of that many cookies at close range. I had looked Medusa in the face, and not turned to stone.

Alas, Medusa's gaze must have had a delayed effect, and alas, I must be mortal; because after my Tuesday meeting, I went back to baking, and that's when I started over-sampling the goods. The valley of the shadow of baking chips and gloppy beaters was just too much for me! There was no place to turn where cookies were not cooling. Because my daughter was snitching cookies every time my back was turned, I'd been forced to surround the living room coffee table with the three foot high extendo yard, and put the cooling racks in the enclosure. So there they were, in the MIDDLE of everything.

Still, the baking was not concluded. Yet on my list were the peanut butter blossoms, the mint-chocolate chip cookies, the white chocolate lemon biscotti, and the mint-chocolate biscotti. With Thanksgiving only two days away, I decided to post-pone the final recipes until closer to Christmas. Yes, this seemed like a good plan. I was exhausted with baking anyway, and truthfully, rather disturbed at my lingering weakness for cookies. Have them in the house seemed an impossible temptation. I was right where I was a year before. I had to have one everyday with my cup of tea. Granted, most days I managed to keep it to ONE and not FOUR, but still, a habit was re-forming.

That habit, in conglomeration with left over pecan pie from Thanksgiving, ate away at my resolve in the days following the holiday. The cookies were calling me; the pie was guilting me. Poor, poor pecan pie. I was the only one eating him up. If I didn't eat him, who would? What a terrible waste . . . .

But wait, wasn't this exactly where I was a year ago? Eating leftover food off my children's plates because after all, children were starving in Africa? No problem though, I was going to my meeting on Tuesday morning, and I would just get right back on track.

And that's when Weight Watchers, the one place (outside of church) I had come to expect dependability and stability, threw me a huge curve ball. Sigh. Cookies anyone?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Well, on the weight loss front, the entire months of November and December were kind of a wash, and it all started with a bad case of Sinu-uptitis. I probably let myself get over tired in October. I was training four times a week, and I did three fund raisers. Whatever the cause may have been, the week after the Denny's fundraiser, I got a nasty head cold and sinus infection.

The first week of being under the weather, I was fairly reasonable about the whole thing. I was sick. I had to take some time off, rest, and medicate. I'd be back doing my thing the next week. But I wasn't. As I headed into the next week, I couldn't have run if I'd wanted to. My head felt like a bowling ball that was getting ready to roll away, and I was starting to get really up-tight about

ONE) being behind on my training schedule, and
TWO) laying around, wanting to eat more, and not being able to compensate for the extra with exercise.

Yep, it was a bad case of Sinu-uptitus.

And it came at such a bad time. With birthdays, Thanksgiving, and an anniversary looming on the horizon, I was not feeling my usual fortitude in relation to tracking well and sticking to my guns. Indeed, I was all geared up to eat happy (and happy is an emotion; you can eat emotionally just because you're happy). Though I did manage to maintain my weight during my bout of sinu-uptitus, I gained almost five pounds the next week.

What could I have done differently? Well, honestly, I'm really not sure. We all get worn out sometimes. We all get sick sometimes. Rarely are we able to control the timing of illness. We just have to start doing what is normal again when we feel better . . . if life lets us. Holidays, however, have a way of throwing a kink in normal; especially since normal is, after all, just a setting on the dryer. (haha.)

I think if anything, what I could have done a little better with Thanksgiving (and Christmas) is a little less giving up on the week, and a little more salvaging the day. What I mean is, I really reverted back to some bad dieter's habits. What used to happen went kind of like this:

Start diet Monday
Mess up on diet Wednesday
Scratch the rest of the week
Start diet Monday

When I started Weight Watchers, things improved a bit, and we progressed to this:

Start new week after Monday morning meeting
Have a bad start on Wednesday morning
Start again Thursday

Eventually, rather than throwing away the potential for an entire week, or an entire day, I learned to move on immediately to the next snack or meal. The days didn't have to be perfect--just consistent efforts. The Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, I let the old habits take over; and those habits stayed king of the hill until the next Monday night. Not good.

If I think about it, the line of reasoning that leads to this kind of eating, really doesn't make sense; though somehow it is given veracity in relationship to food. Think about it. How stupid would it be if you got pulled over for speeding on the way to work in the morning, and after you got a ticket, you pulled back onto the road and said, "Well, I messed up, I guess I may as well speed for the rest of the day and drive slower tomorrow!"

That really, REALLY makes NO sense! So. I guess the next time I see tasty occasions coming along on the heals of sinu-uptitus, I'd better get my head on straight and work on the anti-binge-otics right away. List those obstacles, make a plan, and feel good about what you eat--and what you don't!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Being Normal

Four days after my last post, I finally broke through the top of the BMI barrier. I weighed in at 147.6 pounds and officially entered the healthy weight category. That week, I got on my Wii balance board, and it glibly announced, "That's Normal!"

I've never had to deal with normalcy before, and honestly, I'm not sure quite what I'm supposed to do with it (other than do a dance that I'm pretty sure doesn't qualify as normal). For most of my adult life, I've shouted from the rooftops, that "normal" is just a setting on the dryer. I think this statement rings half true, and half compensation for all the other abnormalities in my life. To say that I've had my share of idiosyncrasies since adolescence, is an understatement.

In the tenth grade, I showed up for my first day of summer school wearing a self-selected dress that, for loudness of color, earned me the nickname "Miss Tahitian Treat" for the rest of the school year. I wore large mini-mousish bows; I had a propensity for mis-matched plaids; I penciled an entire Star Trek novel into a three ring binder (now aptly burned); and Spock was my hero.

After college, my wardrobe had improved, but I still earned my laurels in the unorthodox by teaching English classes outdoors, in cemeteries, at Starbucks, in the dark, in large slippers, and occasionally, incognito. I also walked the outskirts of the teacher's house property barefoot, reading Tennyson out loud. So yes, "normal" was just a setting on the dryer. It was not who I was, and not nearly as interesting.

Well, unfortunately for me, the time came when the fiction had to hit the fan. One cannot wear two plaids together, reading poetry in your bare feet in the south inevitably leads to fire ant incidents, Spock's ears are fake, and individuality is rarely truly appreciated. There was also nothing at all normal about the realization that at this time last year, I carried around the cumulative weight of both my children (57 pounds) ALL THE TIME! No wonder I hurt. No wonder I was exhausted.

No wonder "normal" finally feels like an o.k. way to be! My overall risk for diabetes and heart disease just diminished substantially. The journey to normal has been worth every past hurtle, and will be worth every future obstacle. I am excited to help others find their way to normal . . . well mostly. I just can't resist. Live long and prosper, ya'll.

I'm BAAAaaack!

My apologies to everyone for dropping off the face of the planet. I got hit with the proverbial meteor shower of events. Fundraising and training (still going on BTW) wore me out--not to mention my husband's b-day, my mom's b-day, Thanksgiving, my anniversary, cookie baking and other Christmas preparations!

Happy New Year! I have so much to write about that, rather than bemoan how behind I am, I will just whet your appetite for some of what's coming and move on to the good stuff. Soon to come are comments and digressions on cold weather blues, lurking cookie addictions, being more flexible than I ever wanted to be, how I almost-was-still-might-be-a-military-wife, the marathon that is my marathon, the blizzard that snowed me in with the refrigerator, a good whine about weight watchers, and finally, learning from some history.

Also, I intend to stretch myself this year and learn to add pictures, gadgets, and slideshows to this blog. My husband has promised to be my tutorial instructor. I can't wait to post pictures of the last year--what a dramatic change! I am profoundly grateful for this journey!