Monthly Archives: July 2013

10 Things Thursday

July 25, 2013

220px-Some_Like_It_Hot_posterFirst of all, I wanted to say thank you for all of the insightful comments, shares, and all-around love about yesterday’s post. I cared a lot about it and I was so grateful to hear that so many of you have walked the same path I have.

Today I’m introducing something new. Every week I will be posting a list of 10 things that caught my eye or attention in some way. Imagine we are having an Internet lunch date. After ordering some version of a turkey sandwich (so predictable) I lean forward and say one of the following:

1. Let’s imagine a fantasy world where we can eat an entire tray of cookies for lunch and leave feeling fabulous. Now let’s make it a reality.

2. Let’s imagine ourselves as the sort of people who can take a man’s T-shirt and make something worthy of Anthropologie out of it. Then let’s remember what happened the last time we tried to sew something and head right back to #1. They’re impossible to mess up.

3. Let’s add to our already impressive list of adult skills (like fixing our AC and scheduling regular dentist appointments) by getting our finances under control. 

4. Noodles, schmoodles. Let’s make a mouth-watering lasagna with thinly sliced zucchini. And be called a genius by our hungry husband. (Yes, I am referring to our one collective husband.)

5. Let’s allow reality to slap us in the face. I knew there was something fishy about all those orange-skinned “After” photos.

Screen shot 2013-07-25 at 2.12.53 PM6. Let’s go to Target and let our baby try out all the cool baby gear. Also, let’s wash him with Baby Magic and spend the rest of the day smelling his head.

7. Let’s meet this girl. Her writing and story are oh so beautiful.

8. Let’s get our butts kicked by tiny ballerina athletes. And then go back the next day (and next) for more.

9. Let’s enjoy exaggeration at its finest. Lines from this blogger have made it into the Welch family vernacular.

10. Let’s take some time to re-watch our favorite movie.

 

*Ten Things Thursday is inspired by the ever inspiring Shutterbean.

What We’re Really Talking About When We Talk About Our Bodies

July 24, 2013

Half MarathonSo.

There was this one time about 7 years ago that I gained some weight. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough that I worried. It was the very first time it had ever happened to me and I decided it was a problem I needed to correct immediately. I signed up for a weight loss program and began a long year of tracking all the food I ate and weighing in weekly.

There were some good moments. For one, it was easy to lose weight. I lost about a pound and a half a week, and I felt like I’d accomplished something big when I reached my first goal. I learned more about nutrition, learned to cook a little, and felt pretty great about how I looked. I also started exercising regularly and started spending a lot of my free time doing active things, like hiking and yoga.

There were also some not so good moments. At a certain point my weight loss stalled, and regardless of what I did to try to regain the magic of my early weight loss days, the scale simply would not move.

wedding day danceAfter several months of redoubling my efforts a few things happened. One, I burned out. Two, I became pretty obsessed with everything weight related. What followed was several years of yo-yoing. I felt like I was doing everything I could to not gain weight, yet it just kept happening. At one point I was on a raw food diet–meaning I basically ate vegetable juice, salads, and sweet potatoes, and was still managing to gain weight. Those years were super painful. I wouldn’t say I ever got really big (at my highest I was about a size 12/14), but I definitely had a big problem in my head. I was obsessive about my weight and drastic in the things I did to try to change it, swinging from “I don’t care, I’ll eat whatever I want” (translation: I’m eating as a way to mask how painful this experience  is for me) to “If I don’t lose weight I will never be happy” (translation: I’m not eating as a way to mask how painful this experience is for me).  Neither position was healthy, and I went through some shaky times.

It took a couple of years and several doctors to clear things up. After a while I settled at a weight I felt fairly comfortable at and have been able to arrive at a healthier mental state. But I definitely have some residue left over from my weight loss experience. For one, I listen hard when people talk about their bodies. I feel like they are saying so much when they look in the mirror and say “Ugh. I hate my arms,” or “What happened to me? I used to be so toned.”

I’ve come to believe that the way we feel about our bodies tends to have nothing to do with reality. I have seen tiny women bemoan their chubby thighs the same way I’ve seen larger women do. I’ve seen people point to nonexistent lovehandles. I’ve seen women stand around talking about their worst features as if it was fun. I’ve also come to believe that having a thin, attractive body is not the fast track to happiness that so many of us believe it is. You can look great and be miserable. It’s all about perspective. If you aren’t happy you aren’t happy, regardless of what kind of body you are living in.

Angels LandingAlso, a lot of us take away everything else that we’re made up of and boil it down to one issue–fat or thin? We can be  intelligent, kind, creative, funny and sexy, and the only thing you think you are is fat. So what is it that we’re really saying when we say we want to be thin? Do we want to be loved? Special? Admired? Accepted? Cherished? Do we want to be happy? Comfortable in our own skin?

So does your weight just not matter? Of course it matters. If I’ve learned anything, its that ignoring your body doesn’t work. It’s what hauls you around on your grand adventures. It’s what gets you up in the morning and drives you to work.  It’s what looks back at you in the mirror.

Whenever I run into an issue that is causing me significant stress I like to give it the “End of Life Test.” And by that I mean that I imagine it is the end of my life and I am on my deathbed. Does the issue I’m so concerned with have any bearing in that moment? When it comes to weight, my personal answer is yes and no. No, I will not wish that I’d had thinner thighs or lived off of diet shakes so I could fit into a size 4. But yes, maybe I will wish that I’d taken better care of my body so I could do all the  things that matter: play with my kids, work hard, experience less stress.

So what if you have a long road to health ahead of you? So what if you’re behind in the game and need to make some big changes? You can do it–start today. And in the meantime, treat yourself like you treat your best friend. I’ll bet you don’t dwell for a second on her arms or hips or thighs. When you look at her, you see all those late night conversations and that time she did a Cher impression that made you laugh so hard you peed your pants, or the afternoon she brought you a grocery bag full of pizzas and ice cream and a tiny stuffed elephant because for a whole week you’d thought you were pregnant and when you found out you weren’t you were devastated. That’s what the people who love you see as well. Be one of those people who loves you.

first moments with SamI think we all know what we need to do. We know we need to exercise and eat well and say no to unhealthy foods more often than we say yes. But we also need to look in the mirror and say thank you. Thank you for making it possible for me to swim in a waterfall in Costa Rica and have my babies and dance like a ridiculous grasshopper at that summer wedding. Thank you. I’ll do better at taking care of you–but for today, just thank you.

You may have noticed the pictures scattered through this post. These are  pictures of important moments in my life over the last few years–the finish line of a half marathon, the pinnacle of a challenging hike, my first day with my baby, dancing on my wedding day. Those were moments that couldn’t have happened without my body and yet I don’t remember thinking much about it in those moments–so I’m taking the opportunity to say it: thank you. 

Why Diets Should Crawl into a Hole and Die (Plus, the plan I’ve chosen)

July 23, 2013

diet noteHere’s the thing about diets: They should really just crawl into a hole and die.

I know that’s harsh. But here’s why. You start out completely pumped. You clear out your cupboards. You go to Barnes & Noble and buy every book written by your latest diet’s guru. You spend a day feeling vastly superior to the people around you who are not following your enlightened diet of eating only foods that existed in the Elizabethean courts/Laura Ingalls Wilder plains/Southeast Asia.

You are committed. You are determined. You will succeed, damn it!

A few days go by. You’re crabby. You’re making your husband crabby. You get hungry and go to the cupboards only to realize you emptied them out a few days ago in preparation for your Sunshine and Air Diet. And then suddenly you remember: Don’t I have an old bag of M&Ms in the pocket of my winter coat?

Next thing you know you have ripped apart your coat closet and are devouring a bag of stale, low-quality candy that you normally would have turned your nose up at.

Then you feel guilty. But feeling guilty about letting yourself down sucks. So  you turn on your recent diet’s creator. Maybe you send a strongly worded email or post an anonymous Amazon.com review. And although posting comments such as

The diet was a complete joke and who applied the
author’s spray tan? An orangutan? 

make you giggle for a few seconds,  you still don’t feel that great about how you look and/or feel. So it’s back to Barnes & Noble. And the cycle continues.

Holy crap.

I never ever ever ever ever (x300) want to do that again. And believe, me, I’ve done it.

DietDiets don’t work. Neither do diets that try to hide themselves under the cloak of “This isn’t  a diet, it’s a lifestyle.” Seriously, you’re not unique with this line. 97% of all diet books start with that sentence. And if you’re making me do crazy stuff that requires insane willpower, then I’m sorry, but yes. You are a diet.

Also, willpower doesn’t work. We aren’t made to spew forth massive quantities of it–in fact, every will-power based decision we make dips into our (shallow) reserve of it. Check out this article, Why Willpower Fails Us. It’s fascinating.

So what is a new mother to do?

I’ve been thinking very hard about this, and through a combination of honest introspection, praying (really), research, and talking with my doc, I’ve come to the following conclusions about me and weight loss:

A. Trying to just “eat healthy” without any structure doesn’t work particularly well for me. It is too easy to justify healthyish foods and get off track.

B. Counting every calorie/point/gram whatever makes me feel obsessive, OCD, and all around miserable.

C. I need to be able to have treats, cook, and enjoy eating out without feeling panicked about “messing up.”

D. Exercise (and not just a leisurely stroll, but the sweaty kind) needs to happen often. Very often.

E. My plan needs to be something I can see myself doing long-term without feeling like I’ve sentenced myself to diet prison.

F. I need to work towards my best body now. Not my body at 18, or when I was a ballerina, or when I was making out with frat boys. Times moves forward people, trying to move backwards only make you unhappy. Also, you married that frat boy, so move on!

G. I want to settle at a weight/size that is easy and natural for me to maintain. In the past I’ve reached low weights that required heroic efforts to maintain, and it is so not worth it. It is also very demoralizing.

H. I want to lose my baby weight ASAP. According to my doctor, many women get stuck with the last 10 lbs. or so, and just keep adding on to it when they have more babies. She said that my body is in weight loss mode right now and that I should really go for it.

So my plan is (drumroll)

WEIGHT WATCHERS.

Wait, really? But that is totally a diet.

You’re right. And I’ve done Weight Watchers before, with mixed results. I’ll write about that first experience some other time (get excited, it involves a room full of middle aged women playing with puppets), but I have to say, it just feels right to me. I really think it can help me create habits that lead to a healthier lifestyle, and, it fits all of my requirements.

Weight Watchers has two plans, Points Plus, which is its most well-known plan and requires “tracking,” or counting points, and Simply Filling, which takes away most of the math and has you focus on the healthiest foods (and is the plan I have chosen). I have been trying this out for a couple weeks now and will be making my own tweaks to the plan, which I will describe soon (probably tomorrow). So far it has required effort, but nothing that feels like a fad diet of yore. In the meantime, here is my first online weigh in.

photo-36

I can’t figure out how to turn it the other way, so just go ahead and tilt your laptop on its side. There you go. When the Software Engineer/Frat Boy gets home I will ask him to fix it. It says 162.2 lbs, which means I am 7.2 lbs. away from pre-baby weight! Also, I seriously can’t believe I just posted my weight online. It’s all the fault of that vulnerability book!

In other news, Sam has developed a terrible case of Fake Cough. It’s pretty serious, so if you want to send us flowers or bring us a casserole we’d really appreciate it.

BAD CASE OF FAKE COUGH VIDEO

READER QUESTION: Have you tried any “fad” type diets? What happened when you did?

Losing the Baby Weight

July 21, 2013

Pregnancy has its perks. (You see? The amnesia is already kicking in.)

For one, I absolutely adored feeing unselfconscious about my body. I loved wearing maternity clothes, my typical problem area (belly) was something to be celebrated, and I loved putting the whole diet mentality on pause. No, I didn’t throw caution to the wind and eat peanut butter cups for breakfast (or at least not often), but I did let myself just be. It felt like a gift.

I was also surprised by how I felt about my body after Sam arrived. I went almost a week past my due date, and he and I got big. I don’t think any amount of cocoa butter would have saved me from the stretch marks caused by that little tank! (This picture stirs up some feelings of PTSD. Pregnant Jenna, you were completely justified in breaking down because you had to walk all the way across Target when you broke a pack of lightbulbs at the cash register.)

In the weeks after Sam was born I was surprised by how I felt about my body. I kept looking at myself in the mirror and instead of feeling upset about my stretch marks and random pooches I kept thinking: This is okay. I am okay. Pregnancy taught me that my body is for way more than my own self-absorption. Why critique something that let me bring this little guy into the world?

During my last trimester I made a conscious effort to avoid looking at the scale at my doctor’s office. I’ve struggled with body image issues in the past and I was worried that a high number would mess with my mind. I knew my doctor would tell me if there was a problem, and I just tried to stay reasonable with what I ate. But if I had to guess what I weighed just before Sam was born I’d go with about 190.

A lot of that came off fast. Sam alone was almost 9 pounds (hello, baby!), and I had several weeks of intense night sweats that drained out a lot of water weight.

But did I lose it all? Not quite. I had this glorious fantasy that every last ounce would melt off as a byproduct of maternal bliss, but alas, the image I had of motherhood pre-Sam only vaguely resembles reality.

Trying to lose weight feels scary to me, because dieting and I have a not so great past. You can read a little about it here. So I am approaching this new effort with caution. No, I don’t want to get stuck with extra weight, but going down the road of obsession and self loathing is absolutely not an option for me. (I don’t have time for that nonsense!)

What I really want is for a healthy lifestyle to become my second nature. I already eat pretty well and exercise often but I know I can bump up my efforts. I’d love to clear the plateau I’ve been on for the last few years and settle into my best weight (and perhaps a sexy pair of  jeans).Plus, I only get the one life, why not clear out this issue now and move on to bigger and better things?

I also want to be very clear about something–in no way do I believe that a person’s self worth is based on their appearance or size or anything external. There is already so much junk circulating in our society that sends that message and I do not want to contribute to that by writing about my personal journey. Life is about relationships, and learning, and finding happiness. It’s about growing and being kind and sharing what is uniquely you. It is not about being skinny and it never has been. But I have come to the conclusion that being healthy puts me in a better position to achieve all those things. So bring it on! (I will now step down off my soapbox.)

I’ll fill you in on the details of my plan tomorrow. The little tank is singing to himself in his crib and I have a feeling he needs a raspberry blown on his belly.