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I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ack! I can't believe it's the last third of March already - heck - the last fourth - and I haven't posted since forever. I promise you - it's because life has been so full of Other Stuff. Time for reflection and writing had to be traded for budget hearings, technology upgrades, public functions, parental duty, face to face friend time, family visits - in short - life has just been too full of action to be contemplative. Or perhaps I should say - too full to write about my contemplative life, which is the most important part of my life and actually my favorite.

I remember one year asking a cousin I hadn't seen in a few months how she was.

"Oh. I'm busier than I've ever been." she cried.

"Really? What has been happening?" I asked her.

"Nothing important but you see, I gave myself a diary for Christmas this year and now I have to do something every day so I can write about it."

After I'd shoved my shocked and dropped jaw back up I gasped in reply ... "I've kept diaries for years and all I ever write about is my feelings!"

Two good southern girls who couldn't be more different. After all the doing comes the thinking and only after that am I likely to write about it. But I did want to share something that has happened recently - something that may have been the sharp tool I was looking for to puncture the balloon of a weight loss plateau.

For months now I've been playing with about 4 pounds - you all know the way it goes - two weeks of serious tracking and you drop those lbs and then a weekend jaunt away and then a sudden call to duty that keeps you in a car, driving home late after missing dinner when only the fast food places are open. then clawing back down from the 3 lb weight gain. Averaged out over 3 months it comes to a plateau. But a few weeks ago I stumbled upon Bookworm27S' blog
where she has been chronicling ( and photographing ) her experiments with foods she was afraid to eat. She's lost a substantial amount of weight but now she was afraid of sweet deserts so she decided to really examine what these foods tasted like by portioning them into 50 calorie chunks, selecting only one piece and concentrating on what she was experiencing as she ate it.

The idea is both clever and wise. It is clever because it tricks her fearful emotions just long enough to find out if there really is something to be afraid of and it is wise because, from the safe zone of portion control, she can take the time to discover if she even likes this forbidden food. Mostly she has found that she doesn't really care for highly processed, sugar laden food - good for her and a great example for us all.

But it was those photographs of small bites that triggered a switch-flicking moment inside me. Portion control is my bugbear. Often I eat beyond the point where something tastes good because I'm talking or I'm in a hurry or because there's still some left. Even a dyed in the wool ENFP like me gets some joy out of completion - especially when I can put my plate directly in the dishwasher without having to store leftovers first.

Yet - the logical part of my little Virgo soul asks "Why eat what you don't want? Why eat what doesn't even taste interesting?"

I decided to cut up my food like I would for a toddler. Not just deserts, but all food is given the bite-sized treatment. Hamburgers on bread flats are quartered. Cookies are broken into 2 or 3 pieces. Each bite is given my undivided attention. Utensils are downed between 'servings'. And the moment the food is no longer interesting - I just stop. I'm going slowly enough that I don't careen into the Whole Thing before I realize that it no longer tastes good. Of course, if that last bite is still as much fun to eat as the first was I go ahead and eat it, but like Bookworm27S - more often than not I don't eat that last bite. I'm just not interested.

A triumphant moment happened Thursday night when I was dining with friends in a restaurant where I did not cut up all my food right away. I ordered a beef patty ("chopped steak" it's called around here) It was delicious - that first bite swam with flavor. The next two bites were pretty good too. But as I put a bite into my mouth, my brain suddenly said "Hon - that just has no more flavor". It didn't taste bad. It just had no more flavor. My taste buds were done for the night. I didn't eat any more.

What a liberating moment. I wondered if that is how all those 'naturally slim' people eat - paying attention to what the food tastes like and only eating the good tasting stuff. Well. Maybe not - but I like to think that's how it's done - and I like to think that's how I'll do it from now on.

so. Thanks, Bookworm27S. What would we do without our sparkfriends?

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SHEILA1505 3/24/2012 8:25AM

    Yes - I've read that Experiment series - it's very interesting and seems to be working. Will I do it? Maybe - it's probably time that I changed my game somewhat


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BESSHAILE 3/24/2012 8:20AM

    MSLZZY - You are a sweet emoticon

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MSLZZY 3/24/2012 7:38AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
Checking it out right now!

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A 12 in 12 update for March

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I bet I am not the only one who is pondering the resolutions, thoughts, plans, hopes, ideas she had last January as she contemplated the richness that is a whole new year. Those of us who like NYRs don't tend to drift away from them till sometime in February or March. I know I can tell you everything that happened in just about every January of my life, since journaling and diary writing have long been a part of my January rush of Improvement. Mays and Junes are a lot foggier.

Last January, as I thought about the numerical significance of twenty twelve I decided to add 12 tiny (I hoped) habits to my daily routine - small additions that I might already be doing sporadically to which I would give special attention. Nothing monumental because I just wanted - and still want - to tweak the system a little. In January it was easy to stick to my resolution. I wanted to journal my eating every day - and I did! The happiest thing about that was that my weight slid down to the lowest it's been in years. Not yet at my goal but at least looking at it.

Alas, in February, a month that was a little rocky, it crept back up. Not far. Only 4 lbs, but I'm here and I'm back and I am journalling again. I will get to goal.

In February I added prayer to my daily routine and while I did not achieve a perfect score, I still made time to consciously pray more days than I forgot to. I found that if I want to go into that quiet deep place, give thanks, accept love and ask for help every day, I really have to do it first thing in the morning. It's not that I can't carve out the time and quiet space to do that later in the day - I did. I do - and it's an amazingly productive thing to do on a workday afternoon ... to turn the lights off in my office, lower my chair and sit quietly for 5 or 10 minutes. But far too often I become totally distracted by all the rest of the world and forget.

Prayer is an important element in my sanity and my productivity. It's also something that I have done since I was fairly young. I had no formal religion till I was a teen and honestly, by that time I'd already created my own plan for spirituality. Happily, it folded into the formal Catholic Girls School practice neatly enough to go undetected. It's difficult for me to write about how important prayer is for me, not because I can't find the words, but because it touches something so very deep inside - and a public blog like this tends to have only so much information in it - and usually it's information about the physical side of life.

It's the very fact that prayer is so very important to me that I decided to give it more attention from now on. Of course I pray when I think I need to. I pray when I think I'm in trouble or when I need help. But that's just the point. It's all about I, I, I. It's all about my ego and its thoughts. It's about thinking and I know, absolutely, that thought is just part of the picture. I need to honor prayer's rich and sterling qualities when I am not in trouble: the giving thanks part of prayer; the joyful accepting of a love that is beyond the physical world, though still connected to it; the petitioning for help not just when I can't solve my problems, but asking for it just to live better, more connectedly, more kindly, more wisely. It is a way of taking my ego out of things and uniting with something bigger than I am.

Well, what do you know. I did write about prayer - at least a little.

And now here it is March and this time I chose to add something more mundane to my daily routine. This month I am concentrating on drinking at least 6 glasses of water every day. It may sound silly to have to make a habit out of drinking water, after all, doesn't one drink when one is thirsty? Alas - drinking water is something I also forget to do. I like water. I have delicious tap water both at home and at work. I feel better when I drink water. I look better when I drink water. I also forget to drink water. A day will go by and I'll realize I haven't had any water all day. It's almost scary. But it's something that can be rectified by just scheduling "water breaks".

And now you know the status of my 12 in 12.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JLITT62 3/9/2012 7:32AM

    I think drinking water is a wonderful goal!

I, too, have prayed from the time I wa young. I like to pray in the morning - I have a variety of devotionals on my kindle I use every day - and I recite the shema (praise the lord, the lord is one) before going to sleep each night. That way I'm not just asking for help!

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MSLZZY 3/8/2012 5:17PM

    You are still trying and yes, it takes time and effort
to form a habit. Even the smallest and simplest habit
is worthy of merit. Just keep it up and you'll get
better each day. HUGS!

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SHEILA1505 3/8/2012 1:18PM

    It's a work in progress Bess - and you are making progress.
I say my "daily gratitudes" on my walk to the gym - there's a long series, broken down into spiritual, physical, emotional, family, friends, homeland and adopted land, material comforts and esoteric stuff - it's for the early morning but I have a reminder on my phone to do it later if necessary


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12 in 12 - the February Addition plus lingering thoughts about buffet restaurants

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Even before February arrived I began to think about which of my 12 good habits I wanted to add to my day and something kept leaping out saying "Pick me! Pick me!" Then, at my check-up, my doctor took me off blood pressure medicines and handed me a sheet of paper that listed the things that help keep bp low and I was surprised to see that, after weight loss, meditation was the best thing I could do to keep my pressure healthy. Meditation! Which is, to me, the same activity as prayer.

Which was #12 on my list of 12 - here it is from that January post:

"12. Pray. Take a little time to step deep into myself, deliberately, and touch base with what's really important. "

And though I have always done this - often, for long stretches at a time I have only done it 'as needed'. As if one doesn't need this all the time. In fact, with prayer (or meditation or whatever name you are more comfortable using) all the other things I want in my life will come much easier and stay much longer. So Wednesday I began with a quiet 30 minutes in the dimly lit living room all alone in the soft quietness. I don't always have a chance to do this in the morning before I go to work, since some mornings around here are very noisy or very busy. But on those days, the moment I get to the library I tell my staff I am not to be interrupted for 15 minutes, go into the library meeting room and have my quiet soft prayer time. My goodness - what a difference that makes to my day. I can't believe how productive I can be following that quiet 15 minutes - and the effect lasts all day. As the evening approaches, though - I often find I need a prayer boost - just before I go home or once I'm there. And since there are no rules about limiting my prayer time - I can get that extra kick of joy and calm and love to carry me through the evening.

So. It's a joy. It's fun. It's beneficial. It's better than chocolate!

And towards the end of the quiet prayer interesting insights often bubble up to the surface. Insights like what else I may have learned during the buffet restaurant buffet my diet took 2 weekends ago? Understand, I didn't beat myself up about it but I did do some deeper digging - because I promise you - I will find myself in buffet restaurant again and I'd like some armor.

As I mined that situation for nuggets of wisdom I suddenly realized that ... it is okay for me to pay the buffet price - in this case $31 - and have only a bowl of soup. I remember the moment when I thought "I can't just pay $31 for a bowl of soup" and the immediate thought to follow was "I'll just have to eat the whole buffet". WRONG. Of course, it would have also been okay to ask if there was a cheaper option - a salad bar only option or a menu I might have ordered from, but if there had been no choice in the matter - it is alright for me to buy a $31 bowl of soup. That's what I'd really wanted to have and I was under no obligation to justify the purchase price by eating food I didn't even want.

And no - I am not going to make a habit of eating expensive soup - but I needed to understand that under particular circumstances ... I am worth it. The soup may not be worth it - but I am.

And so are you. emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WEDDWT 2/9/2012 7:35PM

    "I can't just pay $31 for a bowl of soup" and the immediate thought to follow was "I'll just have to eat the whole buffet".
Funny. I use the same kinda thinkin'. We ARE worth it to not eat more than we really want!

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SHEILA1505 2/9/2012 2:27PM

    Yes, ain't dark chocolate grand?!

Glad you are finding your quiet time

PS I must try to remember that I don't have to eat all the buffet offerings when I go away soon :( Always a problem - and what a waste of all the pre-trip hard work!

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MSLZZY 2/9/2012 10:26AM

    So much wisdom here! I'll have that bowl of soup now!
So glad bp meds are a thing of the past. Keep meditating!

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JLITT62 2/9/2012 8:01AM

    First off, in my book, NOTHING is better thsn chocolate. And kudos for getting off your mess - obviously you're doing SOMETHING right.

I meditate almost daily, but it's usually only 5 minutes at a time. 30? Holy moly!

Buffets are not a good value for me. I might eat more than normal, but I don't stuff myself. Doesn't matter what I paid - that isn't worth it.

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Fall down 7 times, get up 8 - lessons from the National Skating Competition

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

First the bitter - then the better.

No. I don't plan to fill today's post with cliches and truisms but these two mantras? I'm holding on to them tightly because I need 'em. The bitter is that I way (way way) overate this weekend and I paid the price for it with a gain that wiped out the entire month of January's gentle valid losses. 3 lbs down and 3 lbs up. Worse than that - it took 3 weeks to go down 3 lbs and one weekend to gain it back. I am not happy to admit this - in fact it's really really hard to admit it. I'm not proud. I'm not excited. I'm not delighted.

I am also not defeated.

And for some of that particular win I must thank the girls who competed last Saturday night in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship. All evening I watched them go out on the ice in their lovely costumes, cheered on by their coaches, family, fans, and do incredible acrobatic feats while balancing on thin blades of metal. More than half of them slipped and fell too, and in nanoseconds they were back up on their skates and twirling into a leap and turn as if the tumble had never happened. It was the most amazing thing to watch - these graceful powerful athletes going down and popping back up. Had only one of them fallen I might have just thought "oh poor thing" and forgotten about it - but maybe 4 or 5 of them went down and then up - enough times to make me think there was a lesson in it for me. A lesson about failure and winning and stumbling - because these 9 women are all winners. Maybe not the top winner but you tell me if you'd say "no thank you" to the offer of being good enough to compete in the U.S. Nationals. In anything!

Yeah. I thought so.

This month has been a particularly challenging month for me at work. Fun, mind you, but challenging, scary, taking me so far out of my comfort zone I almost quake every morning - but so exciting I can't wait to get to work either. As often happens when my work life gets very demanding, my personal life shifted too - again - all to the good - but not all to the easy. And Somebody, who is retired and who had just enjoyed 2 weeks of my undivided attention, began to push for a continuation of that same attention, just when I was in need of quiet weekends of down time to recharge the batteries. The plea for me to spend more time evolved into a suggestion to run off to the beach for the weekend and I agreed. Beaches are my idea Shangri La - any time, any season, I am good for a trip to the beach.

But once I yielded to one bit of pressure it was easy to yield to more - especially food pressures. I don't really think I endure an unusual amount of family pressure to overeat - but there is some - and it was in full force this weekend. "It's a vacation" (huh? really? 2 days?) "I want to eat at the seafood buffet" (oh gawd - temptation hell!)

I need say no more - you know what happened.

As I lay in bed Saturday watching those girls leap and twirl and spin and fall and get up and leap again I began to process their example and make it my own. Granted, the girls who fell didn't take the top prizes. But each one was a winner in my eyes. And I'm not in a competition. I'm just trying to be the best, the healthiest, I can be. I may have exceeded my caloric limit for the week - maybe even for two weeks - but that doesn't mean I couldn't bounce back up and skate on. I did so on Monday - and the damage wasn't as bad as it could have been. I could have gained back more than I'd lost. But I have looked at the fall of last weekend long enough. I realize I did not explain my needs well enough to Somebody to make him understand that I really want to weigh less. Who knows. Maybe that can't be done. But what I know I can do is to say "NO" next time I'm put under pressure to do the companion dining thing. And even if we get into a struggle about it - I also know that my Somebody really does want good things for me. It's not deliberate sabotage - it's deliberate juvenile delinquency. Beaches make him feel like a teenager but they aren't going to make me eat like one! LOL

So. I am on my guard. I'm taking that lesson away with me. Thanks, U. S. National skaters.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FAERY_FACE 2/3/2012 1:56AM

    Love your attitude Bess. Good luck with making your intentions about weight loss very clear. And job well done on keeping on getting up. That's what this journey is all about. emoticon

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SHEILA1505 2/1/2012 7:25AM

Glad you enjoyed the weekend - and the skating
Good luck this week :)

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MSLZZY 2/1/2012 7:07AM

    What a positive way at looking at it. Your attitude
will carry you through this and you will be better
and stronger. Give Somebody a hug and know that
he cares. Me, too! HUGS!

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How a scrap of paper talks to me and one fabulous recipe

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I have tracked my eating faithfully now for 3 weeks. This means I get a reward - which is nice. In fact, the reward can be found here: a pedometer that generates a code every 10K steps. You can cash in the code for a reward.

Cool, huh?

But back to the talking paper. Because I can't believe how much difference writing - with a pencil - onto a small piece of paper - makes in the food choices I make. I am fully aware of the mnemonic effect of writing with pen or pencil. As a dyslexic child I became an utterly focused listener and an avid note taker. The notes might be illegible upon re-reading (my particular brain burp is to use all letters that are circles with tails, i.e. b d g p q - indiscriminately) but the act of writing helped imprint information into my brain. I did okay in school - and look at me now - I am Queen of All The Books - at least, in the minds of the 10K people who live in my community.

hmmm. sorry for being all over the place today - must be the moon in trine with Saturn and Mercury ...

So - about that talking paper - I am using the WW little hand-out tracker - it's about 3" x 5" or maybe even a little smaller and it has 7 pages in it. It's interesting how holding that paper in my hand, looking at the day's total as I contemplate what I will have next can really make me change my mind. "You've already eaten 3 slices of bread today - do you really want another?" it seems to ask me. "You've eaten your daily total of points - if you eat more now you won't have the extra points to celebrate your mother's birthday" it warns.

Sometimes I say "yes. I want more" and sometimes I think 'Oh. no. I don't really want more - at least, I want to lose weight more than I want to eat that ice cream". The little booklet doesn't scold. It doesn't point a finger in derision. It just asks me to think about it first - and that is really helping. Best of all - since I began tracking what I eat - I've lost that little frisson of anxiety that used to follow me around all day. "Did I over eat? Will this bite halt the weight loss? Oh la - I forgot about the popcorn we had with the movie last night". I don't wonder any more. I know. It's right there on the little piece of paper.

Nice, huh? A little nudge towards thoughtfulness, less low level stress and oh yeah! a weight loss. Right - the scale went down again this week. Plus a reward. how cool is that?

So - in an exuberant mood I want to share a recipe I got from the Jan/Feb issue of Weight Watcher's Magazine - because my gosh this was good and the left over was a perfect breakfast.

Pie-style Spanakopita

1 package frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup fat free ricotta cheese
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled reduced fat feta cheese
1/4 cup snipped fresh dill
1 large egg slightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
10 sheets of frozen phyllo dough thawed

preheat oven to 375
mix all but the dough together first
in a 6 cup casserole or a deep dish pie plate spray with cooking spray
layer 4 sheets of dough cris-crossing to cover bottom of the dish, spraying each sheet first
pull the edges of the dough up to form a rim around the dish
pour in the other stuff
spray each phyllo sheet and crumple loosely and put on top of mixture
bake for 30 minutes


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MSLZZY 1/27/2012 6:53AM

    That picture made my mouth water. Great little
tool with the talking paper. Have a great day.

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SHEILA1505 1/25/2012 8:25AM

    Fantastic, Bess!

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SHAROND52 1/25/2012 7:58AM

    Congrats on your progress! Great idea about the pedometer as a reward. Thanks for the recipe, it looks SOO good, I am looking forward to trying after I get over the cataract surgery tomorrow.


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DENRNAJ 1/25/2012 7:51AM

    very interesting information! thank you for sharing- I like that pedometer site- pretty good idea.

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