Fabric Dyeing!

A while back, I began to realize that I’ve gotten away from my own quilting style, but I wasn’t really sure why. I set about trying to figure out what has happened to make me change the way I choose fabrics, and after a couple of trips to some local quilt shops (LQS) I understood what was happening. In short, I’m less than pleased with the current selection of fabrics. That’s not to say I don’t like any of the fabrics – I did see some that I really liked. The problem is more, trying to come up with fabrics to go with the ones that I like; it just wasn’t happening for me. So I decided to get creative. Enter, fabric dye!

I’ve been messing around with a few colors that came in a kit from Dharma Trading Company, as well as some Procion dyes I picked up from a local art store, and I have to admit that I’m pretty happy with these preliminary test runs. In almost every case, I was able to get beautiful, vibrant colors with a minimum of fuss.

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These will end up in a quilt at some point – they are my “test subjects.” 🙂 And now, I think I’m totally hooked on fabric dyeing …

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That moment when it all clicks

Are you familiar with that moment in time, where everything suddenly makes sense and you begin to understand what once was just a haze of smoke? I think a lot of people experience this sort of epiphany moment – whether it’s a new job, a new baby, a new relationship, an old relationship, or their health. I think that for Chris, it was that moment when he found out he was diabetic, and that he could control how he felt through diet and exercise. Once he got out of the hospital, and began to feel better, I could see that things were different for him. The same thing happened to my dad – when he found out he was diabetic, he stopped at the supermarket on the way home from the doctor’s office (he wasn’t feeling bad at all, I don’t think; it was through routine bloodwork that he found out he was diabetic), picked up diet soda to replace his one regular soda every night, and boom! He dropped quite a bit of weight and went on with his life. I always thought that it was because of the life-threatening disease that both of the men in my life with diabetes made such quick and wholesale changes to their lifestyles, and maybe it was. But I didn’t have that sort of wake up call to make everything click for me … and I was very fortunate that it didn’t take something like that for me to wake up.

I’ve always thought it was really difficult to lose weight, and to a large degree, it was. But the reason why it was so difficult for me to lose weight was because I sabotaged myself without even realizing it. I love sodas – and I know they aren’t good for you, so I don’t even need to hear about the “science” as to why I shouldn’t drink them. It really is my one true vice; I’ve never smoked, I don’t drink regularly and I’ve never tried any sort of drug for recreational use – legal or illegal. But once I switched from regular to diet drinks and I noticed a weight loss as a result, something clicked for me. But it still wasn’t exactly what I needed to light a fire under me, and kick start my weight loss efforts, though it did push me in that direction.

To date, I’ve lost 16 pounds, and I’m happy about that. But today, I took my body measurements for the second time (the first time was on November 30, 2012). I really thought that I hadn’t lost much in the way of inches because I haven’t been doing any sort of workout, except for a little walking and stair climbing. However, I know that it’s good for my mental image to measure myself and see if I’m losing inches. I was happy to find that I have lost more than five inches in the last six and a half weeks. In fact, I was surprised to find out that I’d lost more than five inches in that time frame, particularly since I’m only measuring my neck, bust, waist, hips and right thigh (I don’t know why I haven’t measured my left thigh, but I haven’t measured my arms because I am not Wonder Woman LOL).

Combined with the weight loss, the realization that sodium is NOT my friend, and the knowledge that small changes can have a big impact (sodas as the case in point there), my epiphany moment came today, when I realized … I absolutely CAN lose weight, and it’s not all that difficult to do it. I’m not downplaying the mental and sometimes physical challenges that come with weight loss, but … once you get your head in the right place, weight loss can be easier than you think. My problem in the past has always been that my head wasn’t in the right place, but now that it is, it’s like a whole new world has opened up to me. A world that is offering me the opportunity to have the body I should have …

What I’ve learned in the last few months is this – if you ever need motivation to do anything, whether it’s change careers or lose weight, the motivation cannot come from somewhere outside your being – it has to come from within. I was inspired by my success with removing regular sodas from my diet to put forth a little more effort. I was motivated by the subsequent weight loss to begin looking at ways I could increase my chances for success, which led to cutting down on sodium in my diet. When I noticed that I am constantly having to turn my wedding ring around because it keeps sliding, and when I put on a pair of pants yesterday that had previously fit well but were a little lose, I took my measurements and compared them to where I was six weeks ago and found that I’m down at least five inches. This has inspired me to keep going, and to add some more serious exercise goals to my plan. I’ll let you know how that goes, but if it’s anything like what’s happened to me over the last three months or so … I’ll be looking for new ways to kick it up a notch in just a few weeks.

Losing weight SOUNDS so simple

And sometimes, it is. Seriously, the formula for weight loss isn’t all that earth shattering: Eat fewer calories than your body uses, and you will lose weight. It really is that simple. Except, of course, when it isn’t.

In the middle of December, I had lost a total of 15 pounds, and I was pretty happy about that. I was also pretty happy that I managed to maintain that weight throughout the holiday season, with the except of two pounds that would occasionally show up when I stepped on the scale. But it wasn’t a solid gain, as one day it would be there and the next day it would be gone. However, I never showed a loss of more than 15 pounds throughout the last two weeks of December. I didn’t sweat it, because I figured the weight would once again start to come off when I went back to my “normal” eating habits. Only, it didn’t.

I began to think that maybe I was doing something wrong. I went back through my food diary (I use the free and fabulous myfitnesspal.com to track everything from calories eaten to exercise), looking for the culprit. It didn’t take me long to find it – my sodium was through the roof, right in to the stratosphere. A typical “daily allowance” of sodium is about 2500 mg, but my food log showed that many days I ate double, and sometimes nearly triple, that amount. I was appalled, because about the only food I add salt to at the table is potatoes, and I don’t even track that, so I wasn’t sure where the sodium was coming from. Once again, my food log was helpful in identifying that most of the sodium was coming from packaged foods – everything from lunch meats (well, that’s no surprise really, is it?) to canned tomato sauce (what the heck?!). I decided it was time to take control of the sodium.

If you’ve ever tried to track your sodium, you will know just how difficult it is to cut back on it, particularly if you use any packaged foods. But over the course of the last three days I’ve started paying much more attention to the amount of sodium I’m consuming, and it’s paying off. Over two days, the scale went down by two pounds, but more importantly, my chronic headache is gone, which means that what I thought was hormones was more likely high blood pressure. That is really scary – I didn’t even recognize the headache as a potential warning sign that something serious is wrong. I will be getting that checked out, but now that I’m regulating the amount of sodium I’m eating, it may be that my blood pressure will level off.

Outside of the obvious health implications, my point is this – if you think you’re doing everything right to lose weight, but it’s not paying out for you, and barring any other medical problems, be sure you track your sodium levels for a while. If  you’d asked me a month ago if my sodium intake was too high, I would have said you were crazy, but honestly, I never took into account the sodium that’s used in so many prepared foods. Never would I have guessed that one cup of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce would have more than 400 mg of sodium lurking. Add some canned beans for chili, and you’re easily looking at over 800 mg of sodium for a couple of cups.

I have thought that people who refuse to buy anything that’s considered convenience foods are making life more difficult than it strictly needs to be, but they may be on to something here. I am on the verge, seriously, of starting to eat mostly fresh foods, because frankly, I’m becoming more and more convinced that convenience foods are playing a rather large role in the deterioration of our health. I doubt I’ll ever become really obsessive about it, but I am seriously considering not replacing much of the canned foods in our pantry as they are consumed. I am leaning more and more toward canning my own tomato sauces, and other vegetables, and freezing fresh foods, and cutting out things like prepared lunch meats and most canned goods. Is it extreme? Maybe. But it can’t be any more extreme than eating a half cup of corn that packs only 80 calories, but 240 mg of sodium, instead of the corn from a large fresh cob, with only 22 mg of sodium.

Eat more to lose more?

The fitness board I hang around on has this group of people who follow the “eat more to lose more” theory. I know it sounds a bit backwards from what we’ve always been taught, but I have to admit that I adhere to this theory myself, mostly because I find it to be completely true for me. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my adult years, and I’ve found what works best for me is to exercise regularly, eat well most days, and drink water. I think the drinking water thing is helpful because my sodium intake tends to be fairly high, and it’s something I’m working on. If I don’t exercise, I tend to stay at a stable weight, or gain weight, even if I seem to be getting the food part right. But what surprised me most in all my years of yo-yo dieting is this – if I eat too few calories, I may at first lose weight, but then the weight loss stalls and sometimes even goes the other way. If I eat more than the “standard” calorie intake of a dieting female – which is around 1200-1300 calories – I lose weight.

Now before you go getting all excited and stock up on chips & cookies, let me explain how this works for me. The first thing to note is that on a really good day, I will eat between 1800-2000 calories and most of those calories will be decent choices. A typical food list on a day like this would be an English muffin with three slices of bacon and a small serving of hash brown potatoes for breakfast, a sandwich wrap with low sodium ham, a salad, and a yogurt for lunch, and fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo and a sprinkle of cheese for dinner. I then fill in between breakfast and lunch with a handful of almonds, and between lunch and dinner with a banana and perhaps a light string cheese stick, and for dessert, I might have a Weight Watchers fudge ice cream bar (one of my “guilty pleasures”). And I exercise – for example, walking up nearly 30 flights of stairs. The food logs in just over 2000 calories, but all that stair walking burned nearly 400 calories, and I’m in a deficit for the day.

I could eat 1200-1500 calories a day and lose weight, at least for a while. But the truth is, I will be miserable doing it. I’m going to feel like I’m being deprived of my favorite foods, and then it’s going to send me on a binge that will last for days, if not weeks. That’s just the way I’m built, and I know it. When you KNOW something doesn’t work for you, why continue to try? As we all know, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting a different result. Simple common sense will tell you it’s just not possible.

But frankly, I still struggled with weight loss throughout my adult life, primarily because I never felt like I got enough to eat. You’d think that 2000 calories could satiate a girl, but apparently not. At least, not when 300 – 600 of those calories were going toward the consumption of Dr Pepper. Yep, I’ve been a Dr Pepper fiend for most of my adult life, and it ain’t pretty. In fact, I am fairly certain that my ever increasing Dr Pepper consumption was the driver for my weight gain over the last 15 years or so. I didn’t want to give it up, I wasn’t ready to give it up, and I couldn’t imagine going for the rest of my life without ever having a Dr Pepper again – in fact, I flat refused to consider it. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Back in 1999, I gave up sodas for over a year. I was doing really well, and felt pretty good about it, but I missed it. It was never far from my thoughts about how I would like to have just one more taste of a Coke or a Dr Pepper. I work in a highly stressful field and when things would get rough, I would crave soda. After more than a year soda free (and having survived the nightmare of a week-long withdrawal from caffeine), one day I cracked at work and popped open a Coke without even realizing what I was doing. And I drank it, and it was fabulous. I’d like to say that satisfied me and I didn’t drink another, but it would be 12 years before I would even consider setting aside sodas again.

In June 2012, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. It was pretty bad; he was in the hospital with blood sugar somewhere in the 500’s at the beginning, and we knew that a major contributing factor to his problem was regular sodas. Understand that he is a very large guy, and with good reason. But on that first day when he was admitted to the hospital with diabetes, he made immediate and permanent changes – the first being a switch to diet drinks from regular sodas. We’re both aware that sodas, even diet, are not really good for a person, but it was a first step. And even as he lay there in a hospital bed, so sick he could hardly sit up, I clung to my Dr Pepper. I just couldn’t give it up … could I?

In October, he persuaded me to give diet drinks a two week chance. I didn’t enjoy it … I wanted SO BADLY to drink a regular soda. They tasted bad, they were disgusting, and they gave me headaches (or so I thought). But at the end of two weeks, I had adjusted. I knew I had crossed the line when one day, I took a sip of a nice cold Diet Dr Pepper and thought, “Oh my gosh, that is sooooooo good!” And that is when something clicked for me. I didn’t try to “diet” or change my eating habits, but just the reduction of the calories from the regular sodas caused me to lose 15 pounds between the first of November and the end of December. I began to think that maybe I could lose weight, something that had seemed so impossible in the past.

Once the holidays were over, and January arrived, I made a commitment to be more proactive in my weight loss endeavors. But I was still only half-heartedly doing it. I think it was the sugar hang over from the holidays – I managed to mostly maintain my weight loss over the Christmas holidays (which for us, started on December 15th), although I fluctuated two pounds throughout (not so unusual though, right?). Now that the sugar is out of my system for the most part and my yogurt and fudge bar satisfy those cravings, I think I’m going to be ok. But last night, Chris and I started talking about taking a vacation in the fall. We haven’t made a final decision, but what struck me was this – if we do go on vacation, I don’t want to be tired when we’re checking out the local sites, and I don’t want my back to hurt the whole time either (chronic back pain has been my burden ever since I gained so much weight). Then I realized that I’m sick of the back pain, the shoulder pain, the aching knees, and all the other little aches and pains that I am fairly certain are exacerbated, if not caused by, the excess weight I’m carrying around. So I made a decision and set a goal.

I need to lose 105 pounds from where I am right now. There, I said it. I am more than 100 pounds overweight. I’m sure that people who see me know that I have a lot of weight to lose, so I’m not sure who I’ve thought I was fooling when I would say I have “some” weight to lose. That is seriously a 13 year old! But you know, I’ve already lost a toddler, so losing a teen shouldn’t be difficult, should it? 😉

So, my ultimate goal is to lose 105 more pounds – that will be 120 pounds total. I don’t have a specific time frame for this goal, but it would be nice if I could get it done by the end of 2014. That’s a bit more than a pound a week, and I think it’s doable. My interim goal is to lose 50 of those pounds by the end of October. I would be THRILLED if I could lose 10 of those by March 18, when I will likely have to do a week of travel for work, and that should also be doable.

The fact that I need to lose enough weight to make a whole other person sort of freaks me out, I won’t lie. But now I have all of the tools, all of the knowledge, and the drive to make it happen. And it all started just because I took one small step and gave up regular soda.

Will Climb Stairs for Cardio

I have two basic challenges when it comes to losing weight – drinking enough water, and getting exercise in. It isn’t so much that I can’t get my hands on water, I just usually don’t drink enough of it. And when it comes to exercise, these days I can’t claim I don’t have time to do it – it’s more a logistical challenge than anything. Water I can conquer, but exercise …

For Christmas, my lovely husband gave me a Fitbit One. I had asked for it, and he gave it to me, but I think he expected it to be largely unused. I am happy to say that I have used it every single day, though twice I’ve forgotten to put it back on after taking a shower (both times, I went without it for a couple of hours before I noticed it missing), and once the battery died on me so I had to take it off mid-day to charge it for an hour. Other than that, I’ve worn it all over the house, all over town, to work and even at night (it tracks sleep as well as activity). I decided when I got it that I wanted to see just how active I am in a typical day, so I didn’t try to do anything “extra” from Christmas until now. that gave me a little more than two weeks in which I could identify activity patterns, and let me tell you … it’s an eye-opener.

A lot of people here believe that many people who set their activity levels to sedentary are probably underestimating how much movement they get in a typical day. I’m not one of those people – not one who thinks people underestimate their activity, nor one who actually does that. Much to the contrary, the Fitbit has shown me that I AM sedentary – which isn’t a surprise to me. I have a very stressful job as a desk jockey, and it often doesn’t allow for me to take long periods of time away to be more active. During an average weekday, I spend 19 hours being sedentary. NINETEEN HOURS. That is a LOT of time to sit on one’s ass. The rest of the day, I’m either “fairly active” or “lightly active”. Rare is the day I hit the “very active” level. And while the weekends are more active for me, where I spend an average of 7 hours as lightly or fairly active, that still means I’m spending 9 hours as sedentary. Now the reason for that is that many of my hobbies – quilting, sewing, reading, and processing photos in a digital darkroom – are also done while sitting down. But I have realized this is neither good for me, or helpful to my weight loss efforts, so I have decided to “step up” my activity levels.

But how? I don’t have a gym membership and while I could probably afford one, I don’t really want to join right now – new year joiners and all that. The weather is terrible – thunderstorms and such the last couple of days, so walking outside is out. So today, I woke up and decided that I wanted to go for the next step badge the Fitbit offers – 25 floors. I don’t always work in my office, some days I work at home. But today, I am in the office, and I decided that once an hour I would get up and go downstairs and walk back up at least three flights (there are five in this part of the building) then come back to my desk. This will give me a chance to get away from my desk at least once an hour, I will get in my cardio, and it makes sure I move fairly often.

I have 2 hours and 45 minutes left in my work day and I am currently at 16 floors done. I am totally psyched about this, because I thought I would crap out about halfway through the day, honestly. But I didn’t – I’ve kept going. I missed the 9 am hour, but walked twice in the 10 am hour, about 30 minutes apart. And when I went downstairs to grab a bottle of water, I came back up and did all five floors. For me, that’s a pretty big deal. I have knee problems, but it makes going down much worse than coming back up, and I have decided I won’t let that hold me back. I’ve got three more hours in which to walk up the stairs at work, and I’m hoping that gets me to 25, but if it doesn’t, I live in a two story house, so I can get the rest of them at home. I can do this, and I realized that I can do it daily.

Is my solution perfect? Probably not. But it’s working for me right now, and I can always add more stairs. I plan to add weights as well, because I love working out with weights (I’m not a newbie to exercise, just very out of practice), but today’s workout is cardio, and I’m pretty happy with it. 🙂