Monday, December 19, 2011
Today is my three month SparkPeople Anniversary - and coincidentally, it is also the day that I am exactly 20 pounds down from my weight when I started this journey. This in itself makes me do a crazy happy dance around the house as I've been trying to lose this weight for the last 5 years very unsuccessfully... in fact, during most of that time I've just continued to gain more or go a few pounds down only to gain it all back.
But now the tides have turned! I am giddy, have far more energy, and - will wonders never cease - I want to jump on my rebounder and dance/bounce to fun, upbeat music! Yes, I want to exercise...Who knew this could happen?
I am so thrilled that this morning I went to assist my parents with some yoga and then my 77 year old mother and I traded on and off practicing with my pixie hoop! (for those of you not "in the know" it's an adult sized, weighted, hula hoop.) My mom can do 40 turns in a row... Wow!! But what shocked me, the girl who a few months ago could hardly do 10 rotations hit an all time high of -- are you ready? -- 210 hoop rotations!! TWO HUNDRED AND TEN!
My world is changing.
My body is changing.
I am HAPPY.
And today, I admitted openly that I've been trying to lose weight. I mean, my boyfriend knew, as did our house-mate. So did my mother and a few of my friends. But I finally took the plunge and posted the following comment on my very public Facebook page: "Michelle is officially down 20 pounds. Woot!" That's it. Seven little words. And what followed was close to an avalanche of congratulations. Come on people, it's just 20 pounds... It's not like I found the cure for cancer... but really, I've come to realize how BIG this is and how CHALLENGING it is to accomplish! And I was even more proud to tell them that I did it through SparkPeople, and did it the old fashioned way by eating well and moving instead of doing some silly fad diet or costly miracle shake.
Less than 24 hours on facebook, my tiny little comment has received 56 "likes" and 22 comments. And I cannot tell you how much that support means to me. I'm overwhelmed.
Five of these people followed my referral link and are now members of Spark. WOW! And on top of it, I won a Spread the Spark award today. Just icing on the cake, I tell you...
I still have a long way to go but the first milestone has been not only passed but has been vaulted over. I have about 50 more pounds to go until I reach my goal. But it's not just a pipe dream anymore... right now, I know it's just a matter of time before I celebrate again and let everyone know that I did it! Because, in a way, I already have. I'm here, active, and living the Spark every day. I have over 70 SparkFriends now and a community I can come to for fun, for support and for life. Thank you to all of you who have made this place and especially my journey so far, so incredible.
I believe in you all. You're all amazing stars!
Happy holiday wishes to you all, may you achieve and surpass every one of your dreams.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
There are days that I admit that I worry about things I have no control over. There are days that I wish I could just sit back and let life unfold and roll with the punches. I already live a high stress life but am trying day by day to work toward something better. I love my job but... I love my bf but... I love my family but... I love myself but... there is - always - a but. The reasons behind them constantly change. What matters though is getting through the day with as positive an attitude as possible and trying to find happiness and strength for the future.
Sometimes, though we are not strong enough. Some turn to alcohol, some to cigarettes, some to drugs, some to other, more harmful methods of coping. And most of us here, we turn, or have turned, to food. Six plus years of impossibly high levels stress made me seek comfort. Comfort turned out to manifest in 70 extra pounds which, of course, made my job harder, my health worse, my relationship more strained, my self confidence fall, and the guilt impossible. So when all came to a head, I took the hard road, and set off to make a difference. I've tried so many times and failed. I know how to succeed... I'd done it once before. But the hard road is exactly that. Hard. So much easier to give in, give up or simply be apathetic. But I knew that things wouldn't get better by themselves.
I've been a part of SparkPeople (officially) for years. But never did anything more than read the articles. Obviously that didn't make me more motivated, though it did educate me immensely. Three months ago, I actually started using the tools provided here. And in those three months, despite even higher stress levels, a month of business travel, and a backlog of work, I've lost 16 pounds.
This week, I gained three back.
This week, I had an ultrasound of a large egg-sized mass around/in/on my thyroid. An egg-sized mass that I didn't know existed until I dropped those 16 pounds. Which of course is a bittersweet paradox: it's good that I lost the 16 pounds to realize that I have the mass so something can be done about it (hopefully so) but bad that the mass actually exists. They couldn't tell much from the ultrasound so I am waiting for a referral from my doctor to have a biopsy done. I know there is no sense in worrying about something I can't do anything about right now but it's so hard not to seek some sort of comfort or fill the fear with food. It's illogical, I know. I know that food won't make it better. I know that all I can do is stay positive and wait for the unknown to be known so I can deal with it better then. But for all the logic, the hard work, and the knowledge, I ended up falling down the rabbit hole again and having an affair... with a tin of my mother's christmas cookies.
Yes, it's not the end of the world. I am three pounds heavier from butter cookies and facing a medical situation that may be as simple as removing a benign mass or fighting a more challenging battle. I had a weak few days where I let go of control and let my fear, emotions and old habits get the better of me. But honestly, the control I do have right now is still powerful. It is changing what I can - what's right in front of me. I have to let go of the stress and fear and not try to eat everything in sight when I'm just seeking to feel "full" but not am hungry. In the immortal words of Dorothy Fields, "Nothing's impossible, I have found; for when my chin is on the ground. I pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again." www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa2io_4uiRo
Should you have any good wishes, positive energy, white light, prayers, etc, to spare, please feel free to send them my way. Having support helps with the unknown fear that taunts me... And it just may also help keep the cookies at bay.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Last week I was in Mexico capturing a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort (for those of you who don't know, I am a wedding photographer). I was also at a resort three weeks ago for another wedding in Jamaica and will be at one next week in the Dominican Republic. For those of you who have travelled, I'm sure you know that all-inclusives can be anyone's nemesis: buffets that are pretty much open 24/7, a number of bars within reach, and just in case you can't squash that late night pang and are too lazy to leave the room, there's always room service.
In Jamaica, I was very careful with my food choices. I obviously didn't want to undo all the good that I had done over the previous month since I joined SparkPeople, and I spent a fair amount of time carefully tracking the food (and drink) that I did partake in. I lost track at the end due to a very busy schedule but then picked up the tracking as soon as I got home again. Coming home to cool weather from the heat and the humidity of the tropics always forces my body to carry a fair (or not so fair, really) amount of water-weight but luckily that disappeared over the next few days. I am not naive enough to think that I will actually lose weight while I'm away (I do have a penchant for trying new foods and spoiling myself a bit), but I do hope that I will be able to recover quickly from any weight -- water or otherwise -- that I do put on during that time.
This past Saturday, I arrived back from Mexico having not tracked my food for pretty much the entire week. It wasn't for a lack of trying at the beginning, but the food served at the buffet at the resort didn't fit into most of the options on the food tracker (a lot of traditional Mexican fare that I honestly had no idea what the ingredients were) so it got to be a bit frustrating and I gave up tracking for the week. I did however notice that when I didn't make the wisest choices on food, I was eating substantially smaller portions and when there was fresh food that was appetizing, I consumed a bit more.
Is my body learning?
Upon my arrival home, I stepped on the scale and only weighed 4 pounds over when I left. Those 4 pounds have pretty much disappeared over the last 3 days so I know that it was really only residual water weight that my body is now letting go of. So in essence, I didn't really gain anything while I was gone which truly is a remarkable feat for me.
I am home for only 6 days in between trips this time. Yesterday, I plugged in my breakfast as usual into the tracker and then set out on my day. But I didn't keep tracking online as I usually do at the end of each meal... I waited until this morning to reflect on my food choices yesterday and was surprised to find that I was right within my limit on not only my calories but on my protein/fat/carb count as well! So I'm curious... if I actually eat what my body wants this week, will I be over or under my allotted intake levels?
So I'm going to be running an experiment on myself for the remainder of this week... I will be tracking my food only the day after I consume it so I don't have an idea where I stand throughout the day and how many more calories I "have left" to consume in a given day. I'm curious to see if over the last two months of strictly calculating my food, if my body is actually beginning to understand and crave what it needs instead of just what it wants. It would be very nice to, one day, not need the food tracking tool any longer and trust in my body to make the smart choices. So let's see what happens! I have 3 days left before I leave again -- hopefully too small a time to do any major damage in this experiment -- but also hopefully long enough to see if I am actually integrating all of the knowledge and practice that I've accumulated so far.
What do you think? If you gave up on your food tracker for a few days, would you fare well or would old habits take hold?
Thursday, November 03, 2011
I am an avid cook, perhaps even an aspiring chef. So when I moved into my home six years ago, my boyfriend was kind enough to one day surprise me by building me a pantry in my kitchen so I could keep my kitchen stocked and at the ready for whatever inspiration may hit.
(please forgive my incredibly messy cookbook shelf!)
I am a farmer's market shopper and buy many of my bulk/dry items at Costco so I very rarely stock up at the Grocery Store. In fact, I make it there usually only once every 4-6 months which means that I have not been back since I began my SparkPeople journey. This week, I realized my pantry was missing a lot of staples that I use so I decided yesterday to make a list from my regular favourites as well as from consulting my favourite low-fat-cookbook-girls and restock. (The girls: Ontario born and fabulous fun food mavens - Janet & Greta Podleski www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Looneys
063156-item.html?ikwid=looneyspoons&ikwsec=Home - sorry Chef Meg, I haven't bought the SparkPeople cookbook yet but will hopefully be checking it out soon!)
Oh Lord. The grocery store.
How many brands of brown beans can there be?? And what a phenomenal difference in nutritional information! My staple is usually the no-name maple brown beans. They have less calories and less sodium than the other "name brands" but upon closer inspection their list of ingredients includes such wonderful generic items as "spices", "artificial flavour" and "caramel colour". Heinz brand (which I ended up purchasing) is definitely higher in numbers on the nutritional label but offers specific spices like "mustard flour" and "onion powder" and contain "natural flavours".
I personally hate artificial anything so would tend to opt for a higher calorie option instead of consuming "non-natural foods", but how many people take the time to look or even read past the calorie count? There is no longer a quick trip to the grocery store for any of us who are trying to solve the puzzle of making the right choices...
So what do you look at when you choose your food? Do you always choose the lower calorie/sodium option? Or do you choose the foods with the most all-natural ingredients? Does lower calories actually equal healthier food?
And in case you're curious, here are the findings on the brown beans:
No Name Beans Made with Real Maple Syrup
per 1/2 cup serving
Total Calories: 145
Total Fat 0.5g
Saturated Fat 0.1g
Total Carbohydrate 28.5g
Dietary Fiber 5.5g
Ingredients: White Beans, Water, Sugar, Dextrose, Maple Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Spices, Artificial Flavour, Caramel Colour
Heinz Maple Style Beans with Pure Quebec Maple Syrup
per 1/2 cup serving
Total Calories: 160
Total Fat 0.5g
Saturated Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 31g
Dietary Fiber 6g
Ingredients: White Beans, Water, Sugar, Dextrose, Maple Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Natural Flavours, Mustard Flour, Onion Powder
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
So this past week I was in beautiful Jamaica at an all-inclusive resort with my clients. This was NOT a vacation for me but a work-trip for a destination wedding (I am a wedding photographer and specialize in destinations). I was trying to be so very careful for the first 4 days, tracking all of my food and keeping away from the pitfalls of all-inclusives - the desserts, snacking, fried foods and most of all, the alcohol. But I noticed that though I was being good to myself, I was actually being somewhat detrimental to my business.
It is not unusual for a destination wedding group to want me to celebrate with them. I become part of the clan and since they are all vacationing, partying, and soaking up the sun, they try to include me. For a photographer, this is an ideal situation as the friendlier and more part of the group you are, the more likely you will get better photos and become an integral part of the wedding entourage. Also, the more "fun" you are (as well as being professional - it's a delicate balance) the more likely you will get referrals and future bookings. To keep myself in the more "professional" aspect, I have developed a few rules which I stick to religiously:
1. Stay out of the sun until the wedding day. (I tend to hide in shady areas either working, prepping or relaxing before the day itself. One wayward sunburn and I can't do my job properly)
2. No drinking (or very little) before the wedding day, and eat as healthily as possible. (I need to be in top form for what usually turns out to be a 12+ hour day and cannot afford having an upset stomach, travellers diarrhea, being tired, dehydrated or having - god forbid - a hangover)
3. Be the perfect friend/travelling companion. Spend some time with all of the members of the group before the wedding. Don't play favourites. Be professional but friendly. Offer assistance or advice whenever possible. Be respectful and prepared at all times. Never, ever, get drunk. The better impression you can make, the more likely they will respond in kind or recommend you for future bookings. Above all else the more distant/serious/professional I seem after everything is over, the more distant everyone is towards me and that honestly tends to put a damper on receiving future business. Everyone respects me from being professional but they also want someone that they know that they can relax and have fun with.
Rules #1 & 2 allow me to be good to myself and give myself an excuse to not partake in the (sometimes excessive) partying, late nights and drinking that inevitably goes on during a wedding week. However, once the wedding and other photo sessions are over and we have a day or two left in the week, often I hear statements like "Oh good! You're done - you can come and party with us now!"
So here is the conundrum: A few drinks are fine as are a few late nights but once in that "party mode" it's hard to keep track of calories and temptation abounds. I try hard to drink things that are low in calories and often get the bartender to pour me ice water or club soda with a lime wedge on top to make it seem like I'm partaking when I'm not. Late nights, go along with late-night eating and my willpower is weakest after 10pm. It's so hard to say no to the nachos and cheese (or other fast food goodies) that are open in the 24-hour "sports bar" at the resort when there is nothing else open for healthier options. The easiest option for me would be to just not partake in the "extra-curricular" celebrations but if I want to continue my business being as busy (and fun - let's face it) as it is, that is not honestly an option.
Am I too hard on myself? I came back, waited a couple days for the water retention from the tropical heat to subside, stepped on the scale, and sighed. I don't honestly expect to drop weight while I'm away but it's so discouraging to gain. All in all, as of today (I came home late Saturday night) I'm only up 2.5 pounds so really, it's not horrible; the caution I expressed while I was there paid off. But it's still frustrating after working so hard over the past month to see the numbers rise instead of drop.
Anyone have any ideas how to keep with the atmosphere of celebration with the group without giving in to the temptations that seem to be around every turn?
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