Like Climbing Dog Mountain

“Fitness is a tool I use to build confidence. If somebody thinks, I’m weak, I’m fat, I’m lazy, that’s their reality. I can have them run a mile or do 20 push-ups, and then they’re like, ‘oh, my God, if I’m capable of this, what else can I do?’”
—Jillian Michaels interview, by Amy Spencer,
Redbook, October 2011 (Jillian is the former trainer from The Biggest Loser)

“How much further?” I asked, gasping for breath. My feet felt like lead.

“It’s just around the next bend,” my friend replied.

We made it around the next bend, then the next, then the next.

“Are we almost there?” I asked again, practically begging.

“Almost,” he replied, smiling over his shoulder.

We plodded on. I thought about the car keys in my pocket. The good novel in my daypack. I could so easily turn around, head back down the trail, and wait for my friends to complete the hike without me.

The knowledge that I could flake out at any time somehow kept me from quitting.

Other than my muscles screaming in protest and my lungs burning from desperately sucking in air, I was having a good time. Two years ago, serendipity placed me there on Dog Mountain in Washington state with my sister Teri and long-time friends Rob and Kim. I had warned them ahead of time that I was completely out of shape, and the only exercise I’d been doing back home in southern California was water aerobics. They didn’t mind. They said they’d take it slow and stop whenever I needed to.

Early that morning, I should have known I was in over my head after we parked the car, donned our daypacks, and walked uphill to the restrooms near the trailhead.  I was already gasping for breath.

It was 3.8 miles to the top of the mountain. The hike was rated strenuous/difficult. The elevation gain was 2,850 feet. My desire to spend time with these three much-loved people outweighed my trepidation.

The trail was quiet and peaceful. As we walked among regal Douglas fir trees, the Columbia River winked at us through the branches. At almost every switchback, I stopped to catch my breath while my three companions waited patiently. They chatted comfortably while I concentrated on trying to get oxygen into my body.

With their patience and support, I stuck it out all the way to the top of the mountain. This was the view that awaited us. Breathtaking. Worth every gasping breath up that trail. It was a perfect, sunny day in May. Wildflowers carpeted the alpine meadow. The Columbia River in all its glory was laid out before us. The summits of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens peeked at us from among the lesser mountains of the Cascade Range.

It was a memorable, life-affirming day. Besides having a grand adventure with old friends, I learned that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. I didn’t quit. The sense of accomplishment was incredible.

I love Jillian’s comment: “Fitness is a tool I use to build confidence.…if I’m capable of this, what else can I do?”

I am about 30% toward my goal of losing 95 pounds. As I mentioned in Baggy Pants are Big Fat Liars, I have been slighly tempted to stay where I’m at right now, even though there are clues of much greater things ahead. I feel so much better than I did 30 pounds ago. I feel fantastic. But I haven’t reached my summit. Not even close. What a loss it would be if I were to flake out now. I can do this.

To give myself a tangible goal to work toward, I’m planning another hike up Dog Mountain next May with these friends. I will be lighter and much more fit. I will conquer that mountain in a whole new way.

Tell me about your Dog Mountain. Have you accomplished something you never imagined yourself capable of doing?


The Land of the Fat Me: Why I Stayed There So Long

“You are right where I am when I would start the compromise route, then it always came back on in double time. Hang in there. Look where you are going, and don’t forget the why. It is like making a new friend. The old one is comfortable and familiar but not someone you like to truly hang out with because they are kind of a drag on you, so to speak. Life does have bumps in the road. Its just what we do with the bumps that matter.”
(Pulled from an encouraging email I received from my wise older sister in response to my last post, Baggy Pants are Big Fat Liars)

It took me 14 years to gain 70 pounds. It was a long, slow change, which gave me plenty of time to get comfortable and familiar with myself in the Land of the Fat Me.

How does a person get so comfortable and content living in a fat body?

Because in the Land of the Fat Me, there are all kinds of benefits of being fat, both hidden and obvious.

As the Land of the Fat Me slips further into the distance, I’m thinking about why it was such a nice place to live, and why I stayed there for so long. As I stumble along on this long journey toward The Land of the Fit Me, my hope is that this list will keep me aware of the temptations of the old place so I can resist its allure…

  • Being fat means you never have to be careful about what you eat.
  • Being fat means you have an activity to stave off boredom.
  • Being fat saves time and alleviates immediate, short-term stress. Instead of figuring out what to make for dinner after work, it’s easier to eat out, get take out, or go through the drive-thru.
  • Being fat means you get to be spoiled and lazy. You don’t have to go grocery shopping, cook, do dishes, or clean the kitchen. You don’t have to get up off the couch.
  • Being fat means you can justify your actions. “I deserve it. I worked hard all day.”
  • Being fat eliminates all guilt when you choose unhealthy food. “I’m fat anyway; a piece of cheesecake won’t make any difference.”
  • Being fat means you have a way to instantly feel good. If you feel bad, just eat something scrumptious and naughty. Never mind that you’ll feel worse later.
  • Being fat means you ignore the junk food consequences of indigestion, flatulence, diarrhea, and weight gain.
  • Being fat allows you to participate full throttle in events that revolve around food.
  • Being fat makes you part of a club. You’re fat, and you like food, too? Let’s enjoy food together! And you don’t have to worry about what the other person is thinking.
  • Being fat makes you a non-threatening friend. If you’re the fatter one, it makes your friend feel more attractive.
  • Being fat tests the boundaries of your spouse’s love for you. Is it really unconditional love? Will you love me even if…? Yes. He will. (I’m a lucky, lucky girl. My husband married me when I was at my heaviest.)
  • Being fat insulates you from unwanted attention from the opposite sex.
  • Being fat makes you invisible.
  • Being fat makes you safe.
  • Being fat is easier because others expect less from you.
  • Being fat is like having a passionate love affair with food…  But without the awareness that you love food more than food loves you, and that food has all of the control in the relationship.

Quite a few bloggers have weighed in on the topic (pun intended)—though, not from the same point of view as me. I want to get rid of the fat. They seem to enjoy their fat. Pretty interesting, and sometimes disturbing…

The Advantages of Being Fat

What are the benefits of being fat?

The Benefits of Being the Fat Chick – Part One

Being Fat is Awesome!
This is a truly, deeply disturbing bunch of comments. I knew there were folks like this, but it just seems like something has to be broken inside their brains.

Have I missed any of the benefits of being fat?  Let me know…

Baggy Pants are Big Fat Liars

I love this ad from Kaiser Permanente – Find Your Motivation. It’s hitting me right where I’m at right now.

I’m not sure where my steely resolve has gone. Last week, I ate perfectly on plan only one complete day. One day!

I kept sabotaging myself all week, eating off plan here and there, culminating into a classic blunder on Friday afternoon. There were two birthdays at work. Two different cakes. I had a small slice of both, but felt sick afterwards. It. Was. Not. Worth. It. BTW, I’m a major whiney-butt when I go off track. I bitch and moan and drive everyone crazy. Not a pretty sight.

I did make it to the gym 4 out of those 7 days, despite losing my workout partner temporarily—my husband—due to a bad cold. The workouts felt fantastic. And on Saturday, I played basketball with my nineteen-year-old nephew on leave from the Army. It was a total blast—something I could not have done a couple of months ago!

Friday morning I weighed in at Lindora. I was at the exact same weight I was eight days prior: 197 lbs. My PMA (positive mental attitude) was shouting—you didn’t gain! That’s good!  But the realistic, pessimist part of me whispered: you failed. Several times over, you failed. Why do you bother trying. You can’t do this.

So I’m trying to figure out what’s going on inside my head.

Maybe it’s my pants. My baggy, size 20 pants feel great, but they lie to me. They tell me I’ve arrived. That I’m smaller now. That I can relax. Sure, it’s great to remember that I used to fill those babies to capacity, but keeping them is giving me a false sense of victory and completion. It’s a great accomplishment to have dropped 28 lbs, but that’s only about 30% of the way toward my goal. It’s time to get rid of the baggy pants.

Losing weight is like being on a long journey. You get tired and take a break at a resting spot. It’s such a nice spot. You’ve come such a long way. But there’s so much further to go. You get tempted to stay there. Why keep going? This place isn’t so bad. It’s better than where I was. What if I can’t arrive at my final destination? I should just stay put.

It’s like the sirens in Homer’s Odyssey, luring sailors to the shoreline with beauty and song, only to try to shipwreck them on the rocks.

Losing weight is a serious mental game. It’s like being at war with yourself. And it is a war because when you really drill it down, it truly is a matter of life or death.

Do I choose health and life and physical activity? Or do I choose sickness and pain and the couch?

Duh. No brainer. Just lost my motivation for a tiny bit under the sofa.

(Note: I wrote this last weekend, but was a scaredy cat about posting it. I was dealing with feelings of failure, but didn’t want to expose it to ya’all. But isn’t that the whole point of having this blog? Sharing the achievements as well as the failures along this journey? So I’m sharing…)

Losing weight & being mindful during the holidays

“People think, it’s the holidays! And go nuts for about four months. But if you break it down, the holidays are only four days of the year: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas… and New Year’s. Allow yourself a few parties, but be mindful the rest of the time.”
—Jillian Michaels interview, by Amy Spencer, Redbook, October 2011 (Jillian is the former trainer from The Biggest Loser)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re talking about the holidays? Already? Yep. I swear they come earlier every year. For weeks, temporary Halloween costume stores have been sprouting all over southern California. Costco and other retailers have already been selling Christmas trees and decorations.

In past Octobers, sometimes my husband and I would buy a big bag of chocolate candy for the trick-or-treaters—none of that cheap, hard candy stuff. We would laugh and say, “It’s for the children.” Then we’d bust them open, stick them in the fridge and graze on them for weeks. Our favorite: mini Reese’s peanut butter cups.

I’m happy to say that I won’t miss the candy at all this year. It doesn’t even sound remotely appealing. Boy, is that a life change.

I loved Jillian’s reminder that “the holidays are only four days of the year.” It’s not carte blanche to go nuts.

Yes, it will be hard. Yes, all kinds of goodies will frequently be brought into the office over the next several months. The treats will smell good. They will look good. Others will be partaking and their eyes will be rolling back in ecstasy. It will feel just plain weird to not join in on the cultural tradition of pigging out like everyone else. Not participating in the fun separates you from people, just the tiniest bit. People in my world will be supportive, but I wonder if they will feel just a little bit sorry for me when I’m missing out on the pleasure of it all.

Following Jillian’s advice, I will allow myself a few parties. And my own intentional off-plan eating once a week. I will pace myself for those intentional moments. I will stay in control.

Doth I protest too much? Nope. Just psyching myself up for what’s coming.

What’s your strategy for staying on track during the holiday season?

For more… Check out Jillian Michaels’ 4 Months of Feel-Great Tips: October through January, on Redbook magazine’s website.

My Weight Loss Tool Box

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Soapy suds gushed from the under the door of my dishwasher, pouring across the kitchen floor. I shut it off immediately and tried to stem the flow with hastily grabbed towels. I almost cried. I love my dishwasher. My dishwasher is my friend. It was late. I went to bed. I’ll deal with it in the morning.

This morning I pulled the dishes out and washed them by hand. My husband is on day two of a nasty cold so I don’t want to bother him about fixing it until he feels better. My hands deep in a sink full of dishes and sudsy water, I thought about how important the dishwasher is as a tool in my weight loss journey.

When you’re eating healthy, you use a lot of dishes. Measuring spoons and cups. The tray on the food scale. Pots and pans. Blender. Plastic containers for weekday lunches. A dishwasher is a huge time-saving device with all this critical clutter.

When you’re eating unhealthy—fast food out of paper bags—there are no dishes. Just a lot of trash. Or when you’re eating out a lot, someone else is doing the dishes.

Losing weight is hard work.  And weight loss work requires certain tools, starting with…

A method. A plan.
My method is Lindora. There are lots of great programs out there: Weight Watchers. Slimgenics. Paleo. Body for Life from EAS. Websites like Spark People. Do some research. Find a plan that works for you. Don’t have surgery. You can do it the right way if you really, really want to. You got yourself into this mess. You can get yourself out. But you need a plan.

A way to measure your food so you won’t lie to yourself.
A lot of those dirty dishes I mentioned have to do with measurement gadgets. A huge key to weight loss success is heightened awareness of what you’re doing. If you guesstimate how much a cup of skim milk is without measuring it, you’ll always err on the side of too much. If you think one ounce of almonds is a handful, you’ll wind up eating two. Measure everything, stay within the boundaries of your program, and you will lose weight.

Food diary.
Another critical weight loss tool is a food diary. Write down everything you eat. Nothing formal. Scraps of paper. A small notebook in your pocket or hand bag. It’s like accountability to yourself. An honest food diary keeps you centered squarely in the world of what is real. I like this little notebook I got at WalMart for 50 cents. I especially like that it doesn’t have spiral binding.

Treats… I mean, protein supplements.
ZonePerfect Cashew Pretzel protein barMy favorites include ZonePerfect nutrition bars (Cashew Pretzel and Chocolate Mint) and Lindora’s protein drinks (Wildberry Passion) and nutrition bars (Peppermint Cocoa Crunch, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Chocolate). These keep me satisfied and happy on this long, long journey.

Treats… I mean, vitamins.
Vitafusion MultiVites – Gummy multi-vitamins for adults. I hate, hate, hate swallowing vitamins. For years, I refused to take them. My husband found this brand at Costco for me a few years ago. They’re like candy.

B-12 Sublingual – Just bought a bottle at my doctor’s office. Stuck a pill under my tongue this morning. Mm! Grape! I miss the B-12 shots I received while on the Lindora. B-12 helps increase your mood, metabolism and energy.

Sugar-free Metamucil Fiber Supplement. 1 teaspoon per day with 4 oz. of liquid. To help it go down better, I mix it with any flavor of Crystal Light. It’s like fake juice in the morning. Not bad.

Good tennies.
I love my Skechers Shape-Ups. I can just feel the rhythm and flow while I’m on the treadmill. I am in the zone.

Gym membership.
For years we had a room in the house set up with weight lifting and cardio equipment. We never used it. At home there are far too many distractions and reasons not to work out. Going to the gym is both a physical and mental separation. You can focus there. And the energy of people working out around you is contagious. In August we purchased a three-year LA Fitness membership – buy two, get the third year free. It’s called commitment.

Lindora recommends moderate exercise; at least 10,000 steps per day. This handy dandy Lindora Lean for Life pedometer (from 2002; no longer available through Lindora) helps me gauge how much I’m moving every day. It’s another way to be stay grounded in reality and to document my efforts.

A good laundry detergent.
Huh? What’s detergent got to do with losing weight? Recently we discovered that our usual laundry detergent was not removing the nasty, stinky sweat from our gym clothes. I thought I’d forgotten to add the detergent and re-washed our clothes with so-so results. A week later I was certain I added soap, but still pulled stinky clothes out of the dryer. Our sister-in-law told us she ran into the same issue with her two sons. She discovered Tide plus Febreze Freshness Sport. Perfect. I am happy to report we can now tolerate our own stink. : )

What are your must-have weight loss tools?