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).

Starting Work on a Wardrobe

Last night I made a muslin fitting for a pair of pants I’m going to make myself. I am fairly pleased with the fit, though I’ll make a couple of minor adjustments. However, I did realize when I was working on the muslin fitting that it’s a bit of a waste of time, because I truly do use a thin muslin for the fitting piece. If I were to use a cotton piece of fabric instead, I could wear the fitting piece around the house – the fit wouldn’t have to be perfect – particularly since this particular fabric suggested cotton as one of the fabrics that could be used. Since I regularly buy Kona cottons by the bolt, I should be able to find something in my closet that will work for future fittings where I want to use cotton.

Anyway, I should be able to get the pants made today, as they are very simple, elastic waist with no pockets. After that is done, I’m going to try my hand at making a shirt with a zipper down the back. I’ve never actually made anything with a zipper before, so this should be interesting. Of course, I’ll need to do a fitting for that one as well, and since it is also made of cotton, I am planning to use a bit of my Kona cotton to make it. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get two shirts out of this deal! I’m thinking about using some of my PFD (prepared for dying) fabric so that if it comes out well, I can dye it to suit whatever I decide I want it to be. Of course, in that case, I should probably wash the fabric in hot water first, so that there is less chance of shrinkage should I dye the finished piece later (one of the steps in dyeing fabric is to rinse in hot water until the water runs clear).

Also on the sewing front, in just three weeks I’ll be able to get a new sewing machine, which will do embroidery. I am planning to buy myself some t-shirts for the summer (really, buying t-shirts is generally much cheaper than making them yourself) and do some embroidery on them to spruce them up a bit. I thought I had a moth problem in my closet a few months ago, but the other day I realized that the only affected clothing are my t-shirts and all at the bottom – none of my other natural fiber clothing has holes! I think that the problem isn’t moths, but rather my jeans! I have noticed that the closure of my jeans pokes out and I think that’s what’s killing my t-shirts. Of course, this means that nearly all my t-shirts are pretty well ruined now, and I’m not really happy about that, because I practically live in the things when I’m not at the office (and sometimes even then). I think that wearing an undershirt will solve the problem, but usually I tuck in undershirts … so THAT means the only way to stop the damage is to tuck in my t-shirts. I CAN tuck them in, but I never do because … well, I’m fat. And fat girls don’t look good with tucked-in shirts, but we don’t look that hot with 10 little holes in the bottom of our shirts either. So I guess this is just one more reason I need to lose weight. /sigh We’ll add that to the way I look and feel about myself, the potential health problems, and the fact that clothing is so much more expensive when you’re overweight.

Anyway, I’m hoping this is the start of a new phase in my sewing experience – clothing. I guess maybe it’s more of a revival since I have done some garment sewing in the past? I’ve never done a lot of garment sewing like my mom did, but it’s time. Stick around and see if I a) can lose some weight; and b) actually make some decent clothing.

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.

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.