Friday, April 27, 2012
It’s this time of the year again that all people who take care of a household dread: reorganizing closets and changing clothes according to season! Especially for a mom of young children, this can be a daunting task. Old clothes, clothes that don’t fit anymore, clothes that can be kept for the youngest children, outgrown clothes that can be given to other children, worn clothes that have to be thrown away, a bunch of clothes that needs sorting out! And, of course mom’s and dad’s clothes. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing the last few days.
Every year, this would be a really difficult time for me. And I don’t mean the amount of work that needs to be done, nor the time it takes, not even the tiredness it causes. I mean the feelings that would always arise after it. I would always stand in front of my open closet - which is tiny, by the way, because our apartment only has two small closets and I share one with my husband - and always come to the same conclusion: I have nothing to wear and it's my fault! The reason is that I had some clothes from previous years, from when I was thinner which I hadn’t gotten rid of because I always thought “Next summer I will have lost weight and it will fit me.” And the next summer I would say the same. And I would keep these clothes on one end of my closet so that I could see them daily and find motivation to try and lose weight! And the worst part is that every summer - or winter - they would take more space in my closet than the previous one! Simply because the number on the scale would go up and more clothes wouldn’t fit! The closet had become my number one enemy!
This year I started the task knowing that something had changed. I knew it from the first glance through my summer clothes. Lots of them were huge and I put them separately to give them away. But I first tried them all on! I even wore a dress with my daughter together! It was funny and we had a great time doing this. Then I started trying on some of my older clothes. Clothes that I hadn’t worn for years. When I finished putting them in my closet, the look of it was somewhat disappointing. Just a few clothes, most of them old as our budget has been tight and priority is always given to the children who outgrow theirs. Zero variety, few choices and combinations and mostly workout clothes. And I stood in front of it staring. With a huge smile on my face…
For the first time in years, everything that I have in my closet fits me! And I mean everything! There is no kept-for-when-I-lose-weight part of the closet. I don’t care if my clothes are old, I don’t care if I can’t go shopping for new, what I care about is that they fit! All of a sudden, the closet had become a friend!
And there’s something that made me even happier. There was this long summer dress that my husband had bought me as a gift during our first years of marriage – I don’t remember when exactly but it must be about 12 or 13 years ago. When I first tried it on back then, it was a little tight. But I didn’t take it back as it was the biggest size available and I really liked it. So, I thought I’d lose a few pounds and be able to wear it – the story of my life! I had never worn it until yesterday. I tried it on and it was loose! I can officially say I’m in the best shape of my life! With proof!
Now that I think about it, maybe the motivation of the closet worked after all. Maybe this part with the clothes that didn’t fit really motivated me to do something. It just took me about 13 years to do it the right way! Better late than never!
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
This morning, while I was reading blogs during my everyday SP “ritual”, I came across two blogs written by people who had gained all or some of the weight they had lost while following a certain type of diet. I’ve recently expressed my opinion on diets, so I won’t emphasize on that. What really broke my heart was that I could feel their disappointment, the need to quit on every kind of attempt for weight loss. If you’ve ever been there, you know how it feels to see the number on the scale going all the way up again. You’ve experienced the terrifying moment of standing in front of your closet and have nothing to wear because nothing fits you anymore. You’ve felt the accumulating guilt of letting yourself do all over again all the damage that you had worked so hard to repair. Nasty feelings!
Then, I thought of Sparkpeople’s start page. You know, the one that you get before you log in. Where you can see all those wonderful before and after pictures of SP members underlined with the number of pounds each one lost. Those are our motivators. We’ve visited their pages, read their stories and we’ve been inspired by them. Sometimes the pictures are really amazing. And the number of pounds sounds unbelievable. But is this number really the most important part of their stories?
The person who lost 30 pounds and the person who lost 100 pounds had to put in the same amount of effort and commitment in order to reach their goals. Sometimes, they even needed the same amount of time because we all know that the closer you are to your goal weight, the harder it gets. The big decision to start is not based on the number on the scale but it’s a matter of character, background and support one gets. So, the number of the pounds all these people have lost is irrelevant, in my humble opinion.
What if all those inspiring pictures were accompanied by something like this:
“Shannon, lost 20 lbs and has maintained her weight for 3 years!”
“Harry, lost 100 lbs and has not gained it back for 5 years!”
That’s the great accomplishment! Have those people managed to adopt a healthy way of living based on a balanced relationship with food? Did they never have to face the bad situations mentioned above after gaining some or all of it back? Are they still here to spread the spark and share their secrets? That would be real motivation. These stories would make the best advertisement for this wonderful online community!
My suggestion is that there should be a new kind of motivators voted for. The “Sparkpeople Golden Maintainers”. And I call them golden because they would be the brightest examples. We could vote for them but they would also be assessed according to their overall participation in the community, their years and anything else the SP experts would think is relevant. Those would be the people that could inspire and motivate hundreds of others to change their lives. Because we all know it. The real battle begins when you have to make sure those pounds remain “lost”. And that’s a lifetime battle!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Until a few months ago, when I thought about "dessert" my mind would be filled with images of cakes, cookies, ice cream, puddings and chocolate in every possible combination. Unfortunately - and I'm ashamed of that - my children have been raised to have the exact same attitude towards dessert. My frame of mind has changed and I want to change theirs, too.
So, yesterday, when my daughter asked for a slice of bread covered with chocolate praline, I had a different idea. Who needs fatty, sugary, highly-processed foods for dessert when nature gives us this:
Crispy pears and apples!
Fresh, sweet strawberries!
Juicy kiwi fruit!
And just a spoonful of a natural sweetener, such as maple syrup...
...and our fruit salad is ready!
I actually enjoyed this as my dinner but both my girls had some as dessert and they really liked it. And it was perfect for their sweet tooth, too!
I'm really trying hard to teach my family all about proper nutrition and clean eating. Even though we've never been junk food fans and have always eaten home-made dishes for most of our meals, I feel ashamed for having allowed generous amounts of sweets in the house. I'm slowly trying to change this, and even though it's hard, I'll keep trying. Wish me luck!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
When I woke up this morning, I had a different blog in my mind that I wanted to post. I was going to weigh-in and, almost sure of my weight gain, I was going to post my plan of how to get rid of the pounds I would have gained.
Last weekend was Easter for us and we were away, visiting my parents at our mountain village. We had been waiting for this trip for a long time. We were planning walks in the forests and visits to many places around. It was going to be a trip with lots of walking and exercise. But it was Easter, so cookies and treats and delicacies were in abundance!
Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side. It started raining on Friday that we left and only stopped for a day. I hadn’t seen so much rain before! I thought we were in a tropical forest! Of course our plans were destroyed. The rain was too much for us to go walking and the roads were getting really dangerous for driving. So, we were stuck in a small village house with not much to do. Our big fireplace became the most popular spot in the house and we spent most of the time in front of it playing board games, cards, reading and watching TV. Fun, rest and relaxation, I can’t complain about that! All wrapped up in generous servings of food…
The days before we left I had done lots of baking with the girls preparing things for Easter. This is what we traditionally make for Easter each year:
A kind of Easter cookies…
And “tsoureki”, something like sweet bread.
Of course, chocolate eggs are always present and popular gifts for children during Easter. It has always been a time of weight gain for me, just like Christmas. Last Christmas, I managed to keep it low with tracking and exercise. But this Easter I decided to try a little experiment. What if I stopped tracking completely? What if I let myself free to eat anything like I used to do in the past? Have I really managed to change my way of thinking when it comes to food? Will I still make the right choices and eat wisely? Will I control my portions? Will I keep the damage to a minimum?
I tried everything! There isn’t one single thing I didn’t eat! But I tried to control the portions. As for exercise, I only did a long walk through the woods on the day it wasn’t raining – all uphill! I wasn't feeling any significant change on my body but I was sure I had gained weight! That’s what used to happen every Easter! I would come back with at least 3 kilos more! So, inside me there was this fear of the scale I would have every year.
So, this morning I got on the scale and…
…I saw exactly the same number! No gain! The experiment had worked! I took a break from tracking just to test how consciously I can eat when not tracking. And I kept disaster at bay. I tried everything that I liked but the portions were limited. I didn’t feel deprived of anything but I didn’t eat until there was nothing else to eat, either! This is a victory beyond comparison to the scale numbers. It’s a healthy relationship with food! It’s a balanced way of eating!
I don’t know if I’ll always be able to be this successful and I can’t be sure that I will manage to do the same every Christmas and every Easter that will follow. But right now I feel proud! And thankful to Sparkpeople for teaching me how to do it! And I’ll make sure to keep this memory alive. Because balance and moderation feels good! Soooo good! So much better than diets, deprivation and all kinds of food-related extremities. At least for me. That's how I want to live. That's the relationship with food I want my children to learn to have throughout their lives. And I hope I'll succeed.
Thursday, April 05, 2012
Do you remember when was the first time you heard of the word “Diet”? How old were you when you attempted to lose weight for the first time by trying a famous “diet” that many people had tried successfully? Can you count the number of “Diets” you have tried until now or have you lost count?
Let me answer those questions myself. I can’t remember how old I was when I learned about diets. What I do remember is my mother telling me constantly that I “had to go on a diet” and repeating this word every time I ate something that would “make me fat”! I remember going on my first diet when I was about 15. According to this magical way of eating, which many women had used and had lost tons of weight, I had to eat one different food every day but ONLY this food – the same for breakfast, lunch and dinner! So, it was chicken the first day, potatoes the second, fish the third and so on! And it was a monthly program. And if you haven’t freaked out yet by the unhealthiness and the insanity of this diet, let me give you one more detail: The last day’s menu was cake! Yes, you could eat cake for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner and for your in-between snacks!!! I’d be really interested in knowing what my blood sugar levels were at the end of this day!
I was 15 years old! I knew nothing about proper nutrition and healthy eating. And I don’t blame my mom for letting me do this and kindly preparing my separate meals – if you can call that meals! – every day. People of her generation didn’t know much about healthy eating, either.
And this was just the beginning! I went on experimenting with my health by trying various “diets” that I would come across. I lost count. My last attempt was in 2007, when I finally decided to ask an expert’s health. My endocrinologist, who is also an obesity expert, gave me balanced and healthy meals for each day of the week. Still, it was a diet. I had to eat something specific at every meal, I was allowed nothing that wasn’t included in the menu and, worst of all for my sweet tooth, I hadn’t eaten anything sweet - not even sugar in my coffee - for 8 months! When the “diet” came to an end and I went into “maintenance”, I felt so deprived that I wouldn’t say no to any temptation that I came into eye contact with! I had lost 17 kilos and “found” them again in less than 5 months!
The worst part is that throughout all those years I was never happy with the way I looked. I always thought I had to “go on a diet”! Until I found SP and read articles on “Lifestyle change”. I didn’t need proof that this was the right way. I already had proof that the other one was the wrong. In fact, I was the living proof!
I decided to write this blog because while reading other members’ blogs, I’ve come across the word “diet” many times and with many different meanings. People are ready to do many things to lose weight but sometimes they overdo it. I’ve read about people who starve themselves eating only 900 calories each day and others who spend three hours a day at the gym doing cardio! People who swear they will never lick the spoon again when they make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for their kids and others who are proud for not touching a single candy during Christmas holidays! I congratulate them for their determination and their willpower but I can’t help but wondering: For how long will you be able to do that? Are you planning to live like this for the rest of your life? And how balanced is such a way of living?
I don’t know if I can consider myself a successful SP member or if my own health journey has been done the right way but I have this advice to offer:
YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS A LIFESTYLE CHANGE! There’s no other way it can work! Depriving ourselves from every food that we love for a long time will only lead us to overindulge in it later on. Exhausting our bodies with much more hours of exercise than they can take will only make us hate exercise. The key is balance and moderation. Of course we’ll say yes to some food temptations. Each of us has one thing that we love, whether it’s cookies, chocolate or pizza. Why live a life without it? We just have to choose the time we’ll have it and the portion. And make sure that the rest of our meals are balanced. It’s all a matter of choice! We have to choose wisely the steps that we’ll follow in changing our bad habits. And we have to be PATIENT. The change will come gradually but in the meantime we will have learned how to keep it permanently.
So, what’s your choice? The fast, full-of-promises, exhausting for the mind and body way of losing weight OR the slow, done in short steps, teaching healthy habits, change of lifestyle that will lead you to a healthy, long and happy life?
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