An Awakening

This morning, I came to a realization – I’m not happy. My marriage is good – better than it ever has been, I think, so that isn’t the problem. It’s my business. My weight. My house. I feel like it’s all pretty much spun out of control. When I look around me and see that my house is a wreck, my business isn’t where I want it to be, and as a result, I’ve gained weight … well, it’s time to change pretty much everything except the husband. Him I plan to keep for a very, very long time. I guess you could say he’s just stuck with me.

Before I took a shower this morning, I did the dreaded deed – I stepped on the scale. As I stood there staring at that horrible number, it dawned on me that I’m not happy with most aspects of my life. Only my marriage and family bring me any joy right now; the rest of it just drags on me and makes me feel depressed. I realized that if things don’t start to change, and soon, I’m going to be in some pretty serious trouble. And I also realized that not being accountable is not going to help, either. So, this is my confession, my new beginning, if you will, because today things have to start changing. Today, I have to take control of my life once again and stop screwing around.

I know I’ve said this before; we all have, haven’t we? At some point we hit a wall and we think, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! But this is seriously ridiculous. I am stunned and embarrassed by my weight right now. I would DIE if anyone walked in to my house at this point, and my business … well, yet another weekend of lackluster sales isn’t making me want to run out and sign up for more shows. So, here is my very basic beginning plan for each one in turn.

My weight – first of all, my biggest issue is night time snacking and eating the crappiest of foods. Before I sat down to write this, I threw a Lean Cuisine frozen meal in the microwave – not the best choice, I thought, but better than anything I could have pulled together for myself from a fridge full of left overs that need to be thrown out and a pantry full of things that I probably shouldn’t eat at all. When I took the meal out of the microwave, this is what it looked like …

Believe it or not, overall the taste wasn’t terrible. I added a little Tony Chacerie’s to give it a little more flavor, but after eating it, I was still hungry. I looked at the calorie count – 170 calories. Wait, what? Only 170 calories, and this is supposed to be a FULL meal?!?! Are you freakin’ KIDDING me?? I could eat TEN of these and not even get in the number of calories I can eat in an average day (according to the iPhone app Lose It!), but it would provide me with more than two days’ worth of sodium. And I’d probably still be hungry. So I added a Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt, and I will probably find myself digging around for something else after that, because according to the Lose It! app, I should be eating about 2,000 calories just to lose weight (yeah, I have quite a bit of weight to lose so I get more than the “standard” 1,200 calories that many diet plans seem to think women should live on).

Today’s weight loss goal – go grocery shopping and do some food prep for this week.

My house – Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Honestly, the downstairs isn’t so bad, but upstairs, my bedroom is the place where everything that otherwise doesn’t have a home lands. And it houses a good bit of my business inventory. It isn’t very peaceful or restful, but it IS big. It’s time to do some spring cleaning all over the house, though. I tried to do the FlyLady thing recently, but it was 12 or more emails a day, most of them trying to sell me something. It just about drove me insane. I do like the basic premise, however – focus on one area of the house each week, at first getting to the point where it’s presentable, then doing deeper cleaning as you go along, while maintaining the presentable part. This week, it’s going to be tricky, because we have a show mid-week (this is the first time I’ve ever had a show that wasn’t on a weekend), but my focus spot is going to be the studio. I chose the studio for two reasons – it’s the very first thing people see when they walk in to my house, and it will require the least amount of deep cleaning. Most of the focus will be on clutter, and that’s something I can handle easily. Also, as a “bonus” Chris and I will spend a fair amount of time on getting all the laundry caught up.

This week’s house goal – declutter the studio and get all the laundry caught up

My business – This is the one that’s most difficult for me, because I’m not sure what to do to fix the issue. I’m not sure I CAN fix the issue, because I’m not positive it’s my issue to fix. I’ve been in business for a year now, and sales are lackluster. I thought it was my product, but now I don’t think that’s it, because after talking to several vendors over the last few months, everyone seems to be experiencing the same results, even at shows that were once very good. I don’t know if the problem is that people are getting away from handcrafted items, or if it’s that people just aren’t spending money, but the only booths that seem to have a lot of people looking and buying are those who are selling clothing, jewelry and/or other accessories. I didn’t keep a blow by blow record of sales by the woman across from us this weekend, but I think her weekend was much better than mine (she was selling “boutique” clothing). The couple to the right of us were selling a variety of things – jewelry, purses, and other trinkets – and they seemed to stay fairly busy, though I’m not sure what kind of sales they saw. We did ok ourselves, but not, “I can live on this” ok. We did, “Well, this is nice extra pocket money if I don’t reinvest every penny” ok. And my online and Etsy stores aren’t exactly on fire, either. We also paid for a motel for one night for this show, further eating in to my profits.

I’ve also been looking for a job, with no results. I don’t want to abandon the business, but I thought if I could find a job, I could continue the business on the side. So far, no luck finding a job, and many of the jobs I do see are part time. It’s crazy; I really don’t understand it. At this point, I’m ready to apply for part time bookkeeper jobs and try to get clients to hire me on a 1099 basis, so I can have several at once. I was looking through jobs last weekend and there wasn’t a ton of stuff out there, and then it hit me – I don’t recall seeing any jobs listed with any of the O&G majors, and only a few with the indies. There are a lot of medical jobs – for which I am not trained. There are retail jobs – which don’t pay much, are part time, and would interfere with my show schedule. And there were some accounting jobs, which require an accounting degree, preferably a master’s degree and a CPA (even when it’s clear the job doesn’t need a CPA; they’re doing that because these companies know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of young people out there with a CPA who are desperate to find a job and will work for enough to pay back the crushing student loan debt they accumulated over those years).

I went to a business seminar last year, but frankly I’ve forgotten a fair amount of what I learned, so …

This week’s business goal – Go to the show on Wednesday, and read through the course materials from last year’s seminar. Continue to look for a job.

And there you have it – a week’s plan in writing. I am also making notes in my calendar to help me stay the course for the week. I will try to remember to report back here periodically, because I want to keep track of how things are going. If I were more disciplined, I would do a daily post to keep track of what’s going on and how things are going, because that’s really the only way to remain accountable to myself. Maybe I’ll try doing that … but it probably won’t happen (I may be trying to turn over some new leaves, but I’m also realistic).

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On the subject of health and diet …

So I haven’t mentioned health and diet in the last few weeks because frankly, I haven’t really cared. I was taking some medication that kept me from losing weight, and all that did was discourage me. I was working myself into the ground, tracking food and exercising, and seeing no results. I stopped obsessing about it, and fortunately for me, I didn’t gain any real weight (I’ve fluctuated four pounds up and down but no permanent gain). Now I need to get serious again. Ugh.

The plan is simple … I don’t want to get to the same level of obsession because it was driving me nuts, so I’m going to, on Sunday every week, portion out lunch and breakfast, and have it ready to eat whether I’m at home or at the office. Dinner I am just going to manage portion sizes. Cut back on sweets and such between meals, and try to get in some form of exercise at least three times a week; four is better.

My only concern is the exercise bit. I really need to exercise to lose weight but my knee has been giving me hell lately, so strenuous work outs aren’t going to happen any time soon. In fact, even walking can be quite painful, so I might need to turn to the pool and the bike to get me through this period. My knee has given me trouble off and on for the last 25-ish years, so I’m sure I can work through it, but I don’t want to exacerbate whatever’s wrong with it, so I need to be cognizant of my limitations. This also means that many leg exercises might need to be modified or otherwise abandoned for the time being. I don’t think the problem is serious, though, and that with time, there should be less trouble with it.

My main reason for posting this is so that I once again I am publicly accountable for this aspect of my life. If I think people might have an interest, or if someone may ask about it, I feel like maybe I’ll stick to the plan more and post about it. It may become a regular Monday feature; we’ll see.

The one sure thing is this – if I’m not at least somewhat focused on losing weight, I won’t ever do it. I am encouraged that I was able to maintain within four pounds the weight I hit back in April before I started having trouble. If I can maintain like that once I lose the weight for good, I should be fine. And plateaus, starts and stops, are all inevitable when trying to lose weight – I mean, the holidays aren’t THAT far away, and I know that I will indulge then. If I can at least maintain my weight during those times, I will be happy.

April progress, May goals

I know that April isn’t over yet, and there’s a possibility that I will lose a little more weight before Wednesday, but I figured this was as good a time as any for a recap of what’s happened this month in the weight loss department. It was actually a pretty busy month, after almost two months of complete inactivity. Where to begin? 

This month, I saw a gain and a loss, primarily due to the fact that I completely lost sight of my goals after going to London in February. Yep, I lost two months of progress after that trip, and hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I make such a trip, as soon as I get back home, I need to pick up where I left off and move on toward my goals. Anyway, I posted a gain of nearly three pounds at the first of the month (and it was higher than that at one point, but I think it was mostly water weight), but as of today, I’m down a net of 2.1 pounds. That means that I’ve lost a total of 21 pounds since I first started trying to lose weight. 

I also joined the gym and have been going to work out at least four days a week. On the days I’m not working out, I’m trying to make sure I move a fair bit by cleaning house, walking around the farmer’s market or the mall, or otherwise keeping my butt off the furniture. My work outs are really starting to take form, with a warm up of 20 minutes or so of cardio followed by either an upper or lower body work out. I alternate between the two, working each muscle set to fatigue. In the month of April, I lost 2.4 inches from my neck, waist, hips and bust. That makes me even happier than the weight loss, to be honest, because that means the results will start to be noticeable soon. Personally, I don’t see much of a difference in the way I look so far, and I’m looking forward to a time when I can see the difference. 

This month, I also joined a weight loss program at work, which provides a scale, a pedometer and one on one coaching. I’m really hoping it will keep me accountable to someone other than myself, and thus, keep me on track. In addition, I signed up for the Million Step Challenge at work – one million steps by the end of the year. So far, for this month, I have more than 130,000 steps, so I’m on track there as well. 

So, where does all of that leave me for May? 

  1. Lose at least five pounds in May. This one will be tricky because we have Memorial Day coming up and I totally love BBQ. That said, it’s just one day, so I need to be vigilant the rest of the month. 
  2. I’d like to see another 2 inches gone in May. I’m really sort of hoping for more, because I didn’t join the gym until the middle of April, and I’m hoping that consistent working out will give me the push I need here. 
  3. Track all of my food. This was also an April goal and while I didn’t do a great job at the first, I’ve gotten back into the swing of things and I’m weighing and measuring everything now. 
  4. Continue my push toward more whole foods and fewer convenience foods in my pantry. For us, the new normal is going to be “convenience foods” that we ourselves make. This weekend I’ve made homemade black bean soup that we’re canning. We’ve made our own tomato sauce and strawberry jam. This is going to become the way we eat all the time, because frankly, I think a big part of our problem is that we all eat too many processed foods. We’ll still buy some things – I’m not really interested in making my own cheese, though Chris mentioned he might try it – but canned foods are about to be history for us. 

All in all, I’m fairly pleased with my April progress. It could have been better, if I’d jumped back on the bandwagon sooner. And now I have an even bigger goal to watch – my daughter is getting married in November 2014, and I really want to be at my goal weight well before that time. 

It’s fine to celebrate success …

but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates

Before I went on my trip to London in February, I had made several changes to my eating habits and I was really flying high. “This isn’t so hard,” I told myself (and anyone who would listen). “I can do this, no problem!” And then the dreaded business travel came up and … I fell off the wagon. Big time, I fell off the wagon. It was so easy, I didn’t even realize I had fallen off.

I’m not a big fan of most of the food in London, so not over-eating there is easy enough for me. It’s when I got back from London, after not having logged any food for a week, that things got really difficult. I’d already fallen out of the habit of weighing and measuring everything in those seven short days, and when I got back to the States, it was like I gave myself a license to eat whatever, whenever, however I wanted. And now, eight weeks later, I’ve gained three pounds. I guess it could be LOTS worse than that, since I’ve heard of folks gaining that much in a week of unfettered eating, so don’t think I’m complaining about that, because really … I’m not.

What I AM doing here, is making myself accountable for the failure of the last eight weeks. This doesn’t mean that my entire program is a failure; what it means is, I need to get better about regulating what I eat even when I’m not at home, and even if it’s difficult to make the healthiest choices, I need to log them, even if I’m estimating how much of the food I’m actually eating. On the one hand, this may seem a little misleading, but for me, it’s more important to maintain those healthy habits of logging my food and exercise all the time, no matter what. This is an eye-opening lesson I have learned from the last several weeks, and one I need to embrace.

The second lesson of failure I need to embrace is that I MUST measure every single food item I eat, no matter whether I want to or not. Measuring my food out makes me accountable and opens my eyes to how much I’m eating, all the time.

The final lesson of failure I’m taking away from this experience is this – failure is not final. It’s not the end, nor is it the worst thing I could have done in the last seven weeks. Failure is just another opportunity to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try a different approach. That is perhaps the most important lesson of all for me. Even though I strayed for so many weeks, even though I sort of lost sight of my goals, and even though I don’t really have the enthusiasm to get back on the wagon, I’m going to do it anyway. Because as much as I don’t want to go back to being so regimented (it is totally outside of my nature to be regimented in any way), I know it’s the only way I’m going to be ultimately successful in the battle of the bulge.

So, where do I go from here? Well, a good start is to go back to myfitnesspal.com and start logging all of my food, good choices and bad, again. I’m not going to necessarily focus on what I’m eating nearly so much as just getting it written down every day. Then, when I have established that habit again, I will start to make better choices in what I eat. And then, I will start to exercise more frequently.

A word about the exercise thing – I’ve been really run down the last week, in large part because my body is fighting off an infection, and I just haven’t felt like doing much of anything. But hopefully, the antibiotics will take care of it and by the beginning of next week I should be back at full strength. Once I get back to that point, I will be in the gym, working out and weight lifting. I have a very weak left arm due to some surgery a few years ago and I need to strengthen it considerably. But my goal is to get back to lifting fairly heavy weights to burn fat and start sculpting muscle definition again. I know from past experience that when I work out, I just feel better. I will get back to that point, but it’s going to take some work to get there.

Celebrating success is important – I believe folks should definitely do that. But why not celebrate failures too? Because really, if you learn from those failures, you know what not to do next time, and isn’t that just as important as being successful?