A Christmas cold, thoughts on John Forsythe, and taking action in 2012!

Bachelor Father TV Show 1957-1962

I spent the final week of 2011 sick, laying in bed or sprawled on the couch, loaded up on Nyquil or Dayquil. Started feeling crummy on Christmas Day. There’s nothing like being having a super nasty cold/flu combo to make me appreciate my health. Thank you, Lord. Exercise and eating right staved off my annual fall cold, but the bug finally caught me.

So… I just don’t feel like analyzing the year that has just passed. I don’t feel like making any hollow New Year’s resolutions.  Just want to keep on, keeping on…

I discovered Antenna TV during my sick sojourn on the sofa. I especially liked Bachelor Father, a sitcom that aired from 1957 to 1962, about a man named Bentley Gregg who adopts his teenage niece after her parents are killed in a car accident. It’s like a super clean, totally unpolitically correct version of Two and a Half Men. John Forsythe plays the uncle. What a voice! And he’s such a smokin’ hot studmuffin! It’s fun just looking at and listening to him. He had a long TV career, including major roles in Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty. He died in 2010 at age 92.

During one episode, Bentley’s 13-year-old niece wants to go out on her first date. Bentley discusses this with another father and he laments about “kids these days. They’re growing up so much faster than we did.”  The show aired during the early years of my parents’ long marriage. They’d had four of their seven kids by the time the show ended.  Simpler times back then. More marriages stayed intact, for better or for worse.  Comedy was clean. Sure, women didn’t have the choices they have today; the civil rights movement was just beginning, and yet…  I feel a bit nostalgic for a time in which I never lived.

2012 is upon us now. My 19-year-old nephew can barely sit at a table with us for two minutes before he’s pulling out his smartphone to text or listen to music or play games. He cannot tolerate boredom or silence for any amount of time. Fortunately, his girlfriend takes his phone away from him when they’re together. Smart girl.

As for resolutions… None of those here. Just actions. Actions that will be documented on this blog as I press toward my goal—a journey that I began last July.  Looking forward to reading about your actions too this year! 🙂

Happy New Year!

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Origins of my lifelong struggle with weight

I’ve been struggling to answer a question my sister asked me over a month ago:

How does the journey seem to you?  How are you making yourself ready to be that size?  It seems like you almost have to go back to the age you were at that weight last and emotionally work through what has happened in your life since then, sort it out and put it in its place as the adult you are now—kinda like your body’s time clock of life.

The question has prompted me to explore the origins of my lifelong struggle with weight. My perception of myself has always been that of an overweight girl. How can I get myself to believe otherwise, to let my head catch up with my body?

As I delve into the past, I don’t want to have a victim mentality where I blame others for my choices. These are only possible reasons and influences for my struggles. Any blame for my excessive weight lies squarely on my shoulders: I have been the one who has put the food in my mouth. And sat on the sofa. Me alone.

Generational issues with weight: It started before I was even born…

Circa 1946: Mom and her little sister

My dear sweet Mom, God rest her soul, was probably the biggest influence on my attitude toward food and body image.

My Mom was eight years older than her little sister. Mom had to take care of her a lot, especially while their parents, who were heavy drinkers, went out and partied. Her mother and sister were thin, stylish and beautiful, while my Mom was stocky, sturdy and plain (only in her family’s eyes; I see photos of her growing up and think she was adorable).  She always felt like the oaf in the room who could never measure up.

Several years ago, my sister found a bunch of letters written to my Mom from my Grandma. My Mom was 19 years old and living with several girlfriends, just before she met and married my Dad at age 20. In those letters my Mom was nagged constantly about her weight:

  • 9/9/1954You must peel off a few more pounds and don’t forget to take your vitamins.”
  • 10/20/1954 “Now kiddo, you’re going to get bawled out, but good. If you don’t take of twenty pounds by Thanksgiving, we’re not taking you and Carol home with us. Now I mean it. Daddy was very disappointed when he saw you hefty again. Quit worrying about your job and you’ll not eat sweets.”
  • 11/15/1954 “Hi skinny! I hope. Are the pills working? They should, but be careful.”
  • 12/13/1954 “It was nice to see you even if it was for only a few minutes. You’re looking marvelous and we are so happy you’re not fat anymore. How are the pills holding out? I just hope you don’t always have to take them.”

You get the gist. It’s painful just transcribing it. Those are spirit wounding words. I could feel my Mom’s pain, knowing how she felt about herself back then. Our Mom never, ever, ever talked to us like that.

Check out this photo of my Mom at age 21, just after she had her first baby. And she felt fat.

My parents met at a dance, got engaged after one week, and married three months later.  They had seven kids. They were married for 52 years until my Mom died of Alzheimer’s in 2007.

My Dad dearly loved my Mom. However, about the same time my parents got married, my Dad’s brother married a cute, confident, petite woman with whom my Dad always compared my Mom. It was tough for Mom, going to family events and knowing my Dad wanted her to be more like his brother’s wife. It was a lifelong comparison in which my Mom always came up short.

Mom at her smallest size in many, many years, wearing her snazzy outfit and expressing her joie de vivre

Mom was always at war against her weight. In her 60’s, she finally found a diet that worked. At her new petite size, she was having a blast buying fun clothes and accessories. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004 at age 68, she was at her lightest weight in probably 40 years.

My family of origin.

I’m the youngest of seven. Mom and Dad had three girls, three boys, then me. By the time I was eight, my sisters had moved out of the house and it was just me and the boys.

Mom and me (age 9) on a family trip

For the majority of my childhood, my Mom stayed at home to take care of us. We were so, so blessed to have her. Mom was my confidant when I got home from school, listening to me talk about my day over milk and cookies or cheese and crackers.  When I was a teenager, Mom and I watched soap operas together in the summertime — a guilty pleasure. When my Dad drove up our long driveway, we’d scramble to turn off the TV and start cleaning or cooking, as if that’s what we’d been doing all day. We’d smile at each other. We were complicit in our deception.

Me at age 7 scarfing on lemon meringue pie. It was Thanksgiving, after all. 🙂

We were a dessert-after-dinner family, so there was always cake or cookies in the house. I remember one time, Mom made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and they were gone before I got to have one. From that point forward, I always made sure I ate plenty as soon as they were out of the oven — just in case I didn’t get any later.

For a couple of years Mom worked at a cookie factory called Grandma’s Cookies. She’d bring home cases of the stuff. My favorite: chocolate mint — those wafer cookies with mint on top, covered in fudge.  My brothers and I would constantly badger her to let us have some. My exasperated Mom finally gave up. She put 10 cookies in a baggy and told us that’s all we could have for the entire day. I remember waking up the next morning, excited about getting another bag of cookies. I’d often finish them by noon. But I’d find a way to sneak into the freezer or cupboard to get more.

I remember my Mom saying to me, “You’re always thinking about your gut.” It was true.

I recently found a diary I wrote at age 10, in 1980. There were clues there… Even at an early age, food redeemed a bad day.

Today I had a terrible day. Even though it’s Sunday, I had to go to the Andersons (they are old people from church) with mom and dad. I was wasting a lot of time there too. I was just sitting around. We did get to have caramel corn today. We stopped at Dairy Queen. I got a dilly bar.

Oh, those brothers.

I always thought I was fat. Always. Despite looking back on family pictures and seeing evidence to the contrary. My brothers never let me forget.

This kid (me, age 7) was not fat.

One brother called me Hemisphere because, “You’re not as big as the whole world, but you’re as big as half of it.” It was sort of an affectionate nickname, but painful nonetheless. When I would walk across the floor, my brothers would yell, “Boom, boom, boom” in sync with my steps.  In adulthood, they have all apologized to me for any damage they may have done to me as a kid. (No worries, brothers! I’m over it. Love you guys!). Just thinking back on things…

As far as I can recall, when I was little, my Dad wouldn’t comment directly to me about my weight. He would say things like, “Put your shoulders back,” or “Stand up straight.” He’d make indirect comments about fat people in general — a not-so-subtle way to get his message across. It wasn’t until we were adults that Dad really started making comments directly to my sisters and me about our weight.

Kids can be so mean…

Me posing at age 13

In school, I wasn’t a nerd but I wasn’t super popular either. I didn’t get picked on and I had plenty of friends.  I played soccer from the third grade all the way through high school, but that was only about four months a year. I also played basketball from fifth through ninth grade. Those sports are probably what kept me from being an obese child.

At age 16, my legs were definitely getting thicker...

There were a handful of times when someone would comment on my weight — and about my butt, in particular. I remember those comments well because they were so painful.

1980, age 10. From my diary: “It’s getting harder and harder to like Stacey. She’s always being so mean. Today at basketball she goes, ‘You’ve got a big butt.’”

1982, age 12. On a trip to Victoria, Canada with my Mom and a sister, I was walking down the street by myself. An older boy I didn’t know hollered at me from a block away — a block away! He yelled, “You have a huge butt!”

1985, age 15. During a one-week summer soccer camp, I was only one of only two girls on an all-boy team. The team captain couldn’t see me standing behind a tall boy and asked my female teammate: “Where’s your fat friend?”

1987, age 17. Here’s a positive comment. : ) Going off to college, meeting new people, one girl asked me, “Are you an athlete?” I told her I played soccer. She said, “I thought so.”

Age 17, leaving home for college

1989, age 19. Going inner tubing down a river with a bunch of college friends. Behind me, a guy named Steve yells, “Jen!” I turn around. “What?” He says, “You have a big butt!” I tried keeping my butt under water after that.

So that brings us through the first two decades of the origins of my struggles with weight.

I’ll save the rest for another post…

Is this TMI? Too much info? Am I boring ya’all to tears?

Inspirational stuff…

A new discovery and a major time suck?  Pinterest.com.  It’s an online, visual pinboard where people share or tag the things they love in bunches categories. In creative/graphic designer/fine artist language, it’s a digital mood board.

One of my favorite categories is Fitness, where I discovered another very cool website: My Body Gallery. (It’s a pretty basic website. Navigation isn’t as good as it could be, and the advertising on the right side includes beautiful, skinny women modeling Nordstrom clothes!) But the site itself is a great place for a dose of reality: To see what other women look like who are at the same weight, size and shape that you are.

It is a place for women to post their true and accurate pictures. And for other women to see that the world is not a place of cookie cutters. We are all different in our body shape and size as well as our place in our journey to loving our bodies exactly as they are, not as we (or others) think they should be. It is a place for us to be kind to others and ourselves.

From Pinterest.com, here are a few of the images I’ve grabbed. I especially like the quote from Gwyneth Paltrow.

“The reason I can be 38 and have two kids and wear a bikini is because I work my (expletive) ass off. It’s not an accident, it’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes. It’s killing myself for an hour and a half five days a week, but what I get out of it is relative to what I put into it. That’s what I try to do with all areas of my life.” –Gwyneth Paltrow

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

“It will hurt. It will take time. It will require dedication. It will require willpower. You will need to make healthy decisions. It requires sacrifice. You will need to push your body to its max. There will be temptation. But, I promise you, when you reach your goal, it’s worth it.” – Unknown

“The voice inside your head who says you can’t do this is a liar.” – Unknown

Bargaining with myself.

Source: Pinterest.com

Until several days ago, I was holding steady at 190 pounds for four weeks. I know it wasn’t a plateau because of what I’ve been eating. I’ve been wearing a comfortable size 16 pants and size 14/16 or L sweaters and blouses (not XL or 1X). And working out makes me feel energetic, fit and firm.

I’ve been hearing these comments from people, which are actually greatly appreciated, but also give me a false sense of reality:

  • “There she is, the incredibly shrinking woman!”
  • “We have a new nickname for you! Skinny Bitch!” (This is a very, very friendly nickname from the girls at work, but “skinny” is definitely not apropos)
  • “You’re so tiny!” (Thanks, but sorry, “tiny” is not the proper adjective for a 5’1”, 190-pound woman)
  •  “Where did you disappear to?”
  • “You’re being so good.”
  • “You look great!”
  • “There’s no way you still have 58 pounds to lose. You’ll look gaunt!”

It’s such a mental battle. If I look and feel this good, and comments from others validates this, why do I need to keep going?

This is a crazy thought! I am nowhere near where I need to be.

And I’ve bargained with myself, thinking, as long as I’m maintaining, I’m doing okay. And this is true. I’ve been able to eat a variety of stuff completely off program without gaining. As long as I was “good” most of the time and working out at least a few times a week, I was able to maintain.

On the one hand, it’s good to learn how my body responds to certain amounts of food and exercise.

On the other hand, it’s like I’m acting like a little kid. Seeing how much I can get away with, without getting caught.  When I’ve weighed in this past month and discovered no change in my weight, I gave a huge sigh of relief. I deserved to gain.

At my last weigh in, I finally dropped 2 pounds. I’m now at 188 pounds.

The weird sick thought in my head? Cool. I earned 2 pounds. I have 2 pounds to play with. How easily I forget that my body is still in serious debt. There is no savings account here. I’m still 48-58 pounds away from my goal. (I’m waffling lately, trying to decide between a goal weight of 130 and 140 pounds.)

By way of example… On Thursday, I ate on program through lunch. Then that afternoon? I had a Starbucks tall, nonfat, extra hot, with whip Mocha with 3 Petite Vanilla Bean Scones. Later, I had 2 Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s at work. Deadly freakin’ good. When I got home, I had a bunch of New York Style garlic bagel crisps and lots of jack cheese (I didn’t measure or keep track) with a glass of white zinfandel. Then a salad with Romaine lettuce, carrots, cucumber, avocado, grated cheese, and olive oil and vinegar.

What is going on in my head? I just wanted to stuff my face. That was a relatively full on binge, spread out over about eight hours. It hadn’t been a bad day. There was nothing wrong. No emotional angst.  Just this driving urge to fill, fill, fill. This was definitely not a day of healthy, intentional, off-program moderation.

My sister called that evening while I was preparing dinner. She asked how the diet was going. I said I was holding steady and maintaining. Not perfect. Kinda off track today. I think she could hear something in my voice, because she said quietly,

“Jen, don’t stop. Please keep going. You’re really inspiring me, and you can’t quit now. That food you’re tempted to eat won’t go away; you don’t have to eat it right now. It’ll still be there later.”

Her timing for saying this to me couldn’t have been more perfect.

My husband and I made it to the gym that night, although the food I’d eaten made working out very uncomfortable. My digestive system wasn’t happy with me.  It was still a satisfying workout and I slept great. I was pleasantly sore the next day, and I did not repeat my choices from the day before.

Here’s me bargaining with myself…

I’m not in a hurry.  If I lose weight slowly, I’m more likely to maintain the loss. It’s a lifetime change, not a flash-in-the-pan diet.

I’m going to continue to work on maintenance or minor weight loss for the rest of the month.  I have three holiday-related lunches at work this coming week. I’ll be conscientious the rest of the time and keep getting my butt to the gym.

My body is getting used to eating more food without gaining. Lindora calls it the Metabolic Adjustment Phase to reset my set point weight. All part of the plan.

Then after Christmas, once I rev up my efforts, I’ll bust past this set point until I get to my goal weight. Then I’ll need to train my body to achieve a new and final set point weight. Maintenance will be the life-long, ongoing goal.

Am I giving myself excuses to mess up over the next few weeks? Perhaps. Am I lying to myself? Maybe. But I want to be as positive about this as possible. Beating myself up, shaming myself, etc. will just make me want to quit.

Bottom line is, I will not give up. A year from now, I’ll be at my goal and in maintenance for several months.

Want to get some serious exercise? Gather firewood!

Just some of our new stash of firewood. Makes me smile just looking at it. 🙂

My husband and I had an exhilarating, exhausting, fulfilling day yesterday hauling wood with our neighbor. And because we’re now in relatively decent shape, we survived to tell the tale.

In the wintertime, one of my favorite things to do is reading a book while sitting in front of the beautiful fireplace in our living room.  I don’t build a fire very often because we’ve been using Duraflame logs, which aren’t exactly cheap. Small bundles of real firewood are crazy expensive at the market. We haven’t made the effort figure out how to purchase larger amounts of firewood; I’ve only heard rumors that it’s possible. 🙂

About a month ago our next-door neighbor backed into his driveway with a huge load of firewood.  I experienced serious envy. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a load like that.

I grew up in the Oregon woods; the closest neighbor was about a mile away. Our home was heated with a wood-burning stove. One of our major chores was gathering firewood from the surrounding forest. Dad and my brothers would cut the trees down and trim off the branches, mostly Douglas fir and Alder. The logs would be cut into fireplace-size pieces and we’d throw them into the back of a trailer hitched to an old, orange Jeep. My Dad or brothers would expertly back the trailer next to the house, and we would unload the wood a few feet away from the front door. My Mom would always have beef stew or hot chocolate ready for us when we were all finished. In the spring, we’d have “burn” days to get rid of all the dead branches.

So… seeing my neighbor’s load of wood made me feel nostalgic. My husband and I asked where he’d gotten it. He found out he could gather wood from our local mountains by harvesting fallen trees. He had to go to the Ranger Station to purchase a one-day Adventure Pass for $5 and a Personal FuelWood Permit for $20 (minimum price for 2 cords of wood).  There are a few rules to follow, but overall it’s pretty simple. You park on the side of the road and grab what you can.

Our neighbor had spent that entire day cutting and hauling wood by himself. My husband and I felt compelled to help him unload, so we grabbed our work gloves and make a quick job of it with him. He offered us a bunch of wood as thanks; we accepted reluctantly but gratefully.  I told him the next time he goes on a firewood run, I’d like to go with him.  He could tell I was serious. I was pretty enthusiastic.

We filled that trailer and truckbed up with firewood... wish I'd taken a photo of the load! This was one of the closest distances between the wood and the truck.

Sure enough, yesterday he took my husband and I up to the mountains to the same spot where he had found the wood last time. It was an adventure! After an hour-plus drive, we discovered there was snow on the ground and the access road was gated. We also didn’t have chains so we had to be cautious.  At an elevation of about 7,500 feet, it was about 22 degrees and slightly windy, but beautiful and sunny.

We parked on the side of the main road and scouted for fallen trees: pine, eucalyptus, and oak. Our neighbor had his chainsaw and went to work on the first log we found.

The smell of the chainsaw exhaust and freshly cut wood brought back such a familiar, comforting feeling… of working hard, of being out in the woods with my Dad and brothers. I never liked that chore when I was a kid. I was perplexed why I was feeling so nostalgic about it now.  They were the smells of home and familiarity, of working hard for our warmth and shelter. Of working hard together.

The easy-to-get-to wood—the “low hanging fruit”—had already been gathered by others, so we had to go higher and higher into the forest, creating a greater distance from the truck. We threw the pieces as far as we could, then carried them the rest of the way.  Some pieces were handled four or five times before they were finally thrown in the trailer.

My old hiking boots came in handy.

I didn’t mind because we were getting a great workout and we were also getting firewood for the winter ahead. I was so glad I’d pulled my old hiking boots out of the garage, although my feet were pretty soaked by the time we were done. (The boots fit me again! They would have been too small 5 months ago.)

After we had gathered as much as possible from that spot, we went hunting for another. We found an access road where someone had torn away the gate, so our neighbor braved the snow and drove his truck in.

There were several huge, fallen trees there—but they were across a wide gully and up a very steep hill.  Our neighbor said, “We’re here. Let’s just do it.” We hiked up the hill and our neighbor went to work on a log.

The photo doesn't show the depth of this gully, but getting the wood across it was a major hurdle.

Oh my goodness, it was a rough job. We were even further from the truck this time and had to throw the wood many, many times; it didn’t make sense to carry each piece one at a time all the way to the trailer. We just methodically worked away at it. There was a lot more snow, and my feet were frozen and painful. Then there was that deep gully. We threw all the pieces in, one at a time. Then I stood halfway up the other side of the gully while my husband lifted each piece to me. I carried the wood up the rest of the way and threw it in a pile.

By that time I was saying, “Honey, it would be worth every single penny to pay someone for a cord of wood. This sucks. But at least now we know what it takes.”

By the time we got back home and had unloaded all the wood—half to our backyard, half to our neighbor’s, I have a whole different view. The day had been hard, but fun. And immensely satisfying. We were completely, totally exhausted. Spent. We had left at 8 am and weren’t completely finished until 5 pm—with no meal breaks.

This morning, I feel like I did after my first few workouts at the gym. Every muscle is complaining, especially my shoulders and calves. Even my ribs hurt. My husband and I keep commenting on how we’d never have been able to do this before we started working out. Our neighbor would have had to carry us off that mountain.

It was a phenomenal workout.  And a great bonding experience with both my husband and our neighbor. And my fire this evening was luxuriously wonderful and well deserved. 🙂