Friday, December 14, 2012
I had my one month anniversary on Spark People yesterday. I didn't realize it had only been such a short time, so much has changed in my life.
I had been so disillusioned by other diet attempts that for a couple of years I had pretty much given up. I thought I would be obese for the rest of my -- undoubtedly abbreviated -- life. Like many of the other people in my family, I expected to die of heart disease or stroke at a relatively young age. At my weight, I knew I wasn't far away from diabetes either.
My weight ballooned over those years and I knew I was the most unhealthy I had ever been. As my introduction said, I got winded just walking around the supermarket. I had, and still have, back and knee problems, the beginnings of painful arthritis in my hands, and I was experiencing a variety of other health problems, including hypertension.
A month later, I am amazed at how much better I feel, both mentally and physically. My knees no longer hurt every time I stand up and I can fit comfortably in movie theater seats again.
I had bought a nice pair of black pants that fit me for about ten seconds before I outgrew them and are still as good as new. Now I can wear them comfortably once again. I am less fatigued and more mentally sharp than I had been feeling in years. And most importantly, I feel like I will succeed in my quest for a healthier me.
I think, like any addict, I had to hit rock bottom before I could begin to claw my way out of the terrible abyss I had created for myself. And while I know it could have gotten much worse, I think the life-threatening consequences of my lifelong bad habits were just around the corner.
Spark People has made me feel like I am not alone in my quest to be a healthier me. I love the motivational and wellness articles that help keep me on track. And speaking of tracking, I live by the nutrition and workout trackers. I started out following the suggested menus, or substituting in similar foods, but because of several different health issues, I am transitioning over into more of a vegan diet. I would say I am close to a vegetarian diet now and working my way over to vegan. I don't think I will be perfect in that goal, and really don't want to be, but eating largely from the grains, legumes and vegetable categories has really helped so far in reducing the maddening diet itch I mentioned in my last post.
I believe it was fated that I type "free weight loss programs" into the search engine and, after all these years of searching, finally find something that so far has has the ideal mix of resource to help me.
I am discovering how many great and healthful meals I can make without meat and dairy and still get a good amount of protein and other nutrients.
I am also exercising daily and feeling the benefits of that through more endurance and less joint pain.
I believe it was fate that led my to type "free weight loss programs" into a search engine a month ago in a depressed fit of desperation. It led me to a new and inspiring world of opportunity.
In other words, I feel more optimistic about my chances of success than I have in years. I know I have a very long road ahead, but with the tools Spark People has given me, I believe I will eventually be able to reach my destination of better health. I am already on my way there.
Now I am off to my workout.
Sunday, December 09, 2012
I have an inexplicable itching problem. I have had it for several years now and there is no clear reason for it. No one food seems to cause it. It happens more often at night, but not always. It happens most often after dinner, but sometimes not.
I have rosacea, but the itching is more often on my back arms and worst on my chest and neck. One sign that it is starting is that my body seems to exude a sticky substance in some of the areas where I itch the worst. It can be tortuous.
The past couple of times I have tried to lose weight I have found that the itching gets much worse. The first time it happened I had gone on a juice fast, eating a large proportion of fruits. I couldn't imagine why foods so healthful could produce such a maddening reaction. I have always been a fruit eater, although not in as great a quantity. And I hadn't experienced any negative reactions from any kind of fruit before.
This time I am having the same problem, though not quite to the extreme I had experienced with the juice fast. Still, it is terribly distracting and interferes with my ability to sleep and relax. When you look at how much more balanced my diet is now, it just doesn't make sense. And I have read on this website that other people also experience unexplained itching while dieting. From what I have read, they don't seem to have any better explanation than I have.
I began to think it might have something to do with my rosacea and started doing some research on the subject. Natural remedies rely a lot on diet modification and that is where I found a possible explanation for such an impossible problem.
One of the sites I visited suggested that a highly acidic diet can aggravate rosacea, which can include the symptoms of itching and flushed skin, matching my problem fairly closely. My diet includes a much higher level of fruit and of wheat products than I would typically eat, both more on the acidic side. What if this imbalance is to blame? It makes more sense than any other explanation have considered.
I am not ready to give up on losing weight yet, but I have to do something to address this problem. So I am going to reduce my fruit and wheat intake in favor of more alkaline vegetables and other whole grains and legumes. It is a grand experiment that I hope will provide the answer to a maddening problem.
I will let you know how it goes. And if you have any other ideas, I would love to hear about them.
Monday, December 03, 2012
Yesterday, my husband said, "You seem to be doing better on this diet than some of the others."
It's true, I don't seem to be having the kind of anxiety I have felt with other diets. I have been on a lot of diets: cabbage soup diet, food combining, Weight Watchers and most recently juice fasting, even a few methods I made up myself, even the Pepsi and Baby Ruth bar diet a friend of mine made up a long time ago.
My husband has watched me try and fail and try again. He knows how much I have desperately wanted to feel better in my own body. He is always supportive of what I do. He says he loves me as I am, but wants me to be happy. Lately, though, I think he has begun to be silently skeptical, much the way I had been feeling. He would never say so, but he was probably feeling the same way I had been half the time. Another diet. Another failure.
Oh, I would always lose weight, don't get me wrong. Forty pounds the last time, but then something would derail me. The tedium of the food, a stressful week at work, something would get in the way and I would start a spiral into worse and worse eating habits. I would end up gaining what I lost and then some back again.
I had about given up on finding something that really worked, but I was desperate. My ankles were swelling constantly, my feet and knees were in pain any time I was standing upright and I felt like I couldn't even walk a block anymore. My weight had gone up too high to measure on the bathroom scale but I knew I was in uncharted and very dangerous territory.
I didn't know where to turn. I was disillusioned, but knew this time it was a matter of life and death, although I wasn't expecting any better results than I had experienced before.
I began looking for something different, so I googled "free diet plans." The first one on the list was something I had never heard of before: SparkPeople.com. I clicked on the link with a lot of skepticism. Was this some scam? Was it a crash diet or something that claimed to be free but really required me to buy special food or equipment or some kind of subscription?
I was particularly looking for something that would have meal plans and tracking, but was flexible enough that I wouldn't have to go out shopping every day. Sure enough, I had all the food I needed to get started without even going to the store, and if I didn't have exactly what the menu said, I had a workable substitute. It was perfect for me.
Then I started exploring some of the other aspects of the website. The motivational articles have been particularly important as I have continued to try to keep my weight in check. They helped me identify my own particular dieting pitfalls: being a slave to the scale, letting myself get derailed by the least little transgression, and being overly critical of myself.
I am learning to think of myself in kinder terms and to define my success by means other than pounds, but it takes time to make those kinds of mental changes. For example, when I misread the scale at my gym and realized I was actually ten pounds heavier than I had thought, I was devastated and angry with myself. It felt like such a giant step backward. I spent almost an entire day criticizing myself for being so careless and stupid. (This after teaching my daughter that stupid was a dirty and cruel world and should never be applied to anyone.) At the end of the day, I felt so bad about myself that I binged on potato chips.
The next day I woke up with the same thoughts in my head -- until I remembered a couple of lessons from the motivational articles: let it go and be kind to yourself. Since then, I have worked hard to take those lessons to heart. It is not always easy, but it seems to be working.
I regularly remind myself how much better I feel. I admire the way the little muscles in my arms are getting bigger and how the waists of my pants are getting looser. I like that I am sleeping better. I like that I don't get winded just thinking about going for a walk. And I like that I am a lot less stiff and sore thanks to regular exercise. Oh, and by the way, I have lost some weight, too.
I know that I have only been following the SparkPeople plan for a few weeks, but usually about now I would be starting to feel discouraged and anxious, maybe a little desperate. I don't feel that way this time. Instead, I feel encouraged. This diet feels right and I don't feel like I am about to come apart at the seams. I may slip up once and a while, in fact I expect I will. But that doesn't mean I am a failure. It just means I'm human. I deserve to treat myself with the same level of kindness I would use with anyone else.
It is important that I be realistic about what I am trying to accomplish and how I meet the challenges ahead.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
My husband and I are particularly good at spending money. Without a budget system in place, we would quickly and easily spend on the latest impulse gadget, music, books and apps from the iTunes Store, a cute shirt or any other trivial thing that comes along. Our impulse control could be much better.
So we give ourselves allowances for discretionary spending from every paycheck. It is about $100 every two weeks, which should be plenty to play around with. My strategy is to save about half for my next big purchase, whatever that may be.
Until about two weeks ago, though, I was having a tough time putting that savings away. My money just seemed to sift through my fingers faster than I could hide it away.
Until about two weeks ago, which is when I joined Spark People. That is also when I quit spending my discretionary fund on fast food. The cost adds up, especially these days, when costs have been rising and wages have not. A value meal (super sized, of course) ran close to $8. Not spending all that money on something that wasn't good for me has directly helped my bottom line -- a lot! I didn't realize how many times a week I defaulted to lunch from the drive- thru.
Now I have all that money to myself and I am saving it for the next splurge. A new camera? A nice weekend getaway for my husband and I?
I have also realized some other benefits: a shrinking belly, less swelling in my ankles and fingers from reduced salt intake, a better appreciation of moderate portions and a falling number on the scale.
I am realizing that eating fast food all the time came at an even higher cost than I realized. Now I am richer in both wealth and health.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Sometimes I think I am part otter. I think I could live my entire life In the water. When I was young, i used to look forward every summer to romping every day in the city pool. So when it came time to get back on a regular exercise program, water aerobics seemed the best answer.
I'm not a big fan of sweating. When I work out on land I tend to get red-faced and swell up like a puffer fish -- yuck. I also tend to wheeze and gasp from having to carry all my weight around. In the water I work my muscles to a pleasant feeling of fatigue without getting short-breathed, sweaty or puffy.
I have been working out daily for the past four weeks and I can really feel the difference. I'm no longer short of breath all the time and I have worked out a good share of my aches and pains. When I first started, my workout took all of my energy and I was exhausted every day. But I worked through that and now have more energy. I am losing weight and starting to see more muscle definition.
But probably the best side effect is a reduction in stress. I have a job that can be very high- pressure, so being a little more relaxed at work makes a world of difference and makes me feel more equipped to deal with the pressures and problems that come along.
The water is the one place where I always feel graceful and strong. I'm glad to have found it again. It's funny, even though I look forward to spending time there every day, I still feel like every day that I go to work out is a personal triumph and worthy of a special pat on the back. I look forward to the day when it's just what I do, nothing more, nothing less. Because then I will know I have a habit to last a lifetime.
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