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.

2014 – The Year of Challenges

Every year, I make several New Year’s Resolutions, and every year I make little or no progress in attaining them. So this year, I decided to scrap the ideas of making resolutions and instead, choose a word or phrase that would embody what I want to accomplish this year. After a lot of consideration of words like create (as in, create new things), make (ie., make a difference), and accept (you know, accept the things I can’t change), I landed on challenge and I knew it was the right word for 2014.

The challenges I’m thinking of involve things like learning new quilting techniques and taking on more intricate projects. Challenge myself to make healthier choices, and to get to the gym. Once I do start back at the gym, the challenge will be to increase my work out levels. Challenge myself to get more organized, or to clear out the clutter. The point isn’t to make a specific set of goals, but to just strive for … well, I guess you’d call it continuous improvement. The idea is to continue to move forward in life, not rest on my laurels and be content with the way things are right now. I mean, I AM content with my life on the whole, and I’m not looking to shake up every detail in my life, but more to remember that without some self imposed challenges, I won’t get better at whatever it is I want to improve upon – my health, my quilting, my professional life – whatever I may decide I want to focus on during a given period.

Now, this might sound like a recipe for failure, or that I’ve got no goals, and that isn’t true. There will definitely be goals involved, but they will be smaller and more manageable than setting one big goal at the beginning of the year that I will likely forget by March. For example, in January, I am challenging myself to spend at least 15 minutes every day working on my free motion quilting skills. I am also challenging myself to rid the house of high calorie, low impact (well, low impact to everything but my ass) foods. Good bye cookies and cakes. Hello, fruits and yogurt. No specific weight loss goals in January, just a desire to do better with my eating and general health.

If I don’t make it to the gym for a couple of days, or I have a bad day or two of eating, I can challenge myself to get back on track. If my free motion quilting doesn’t look as good as I want it to, I can challenge myself to improve. One challenge I’ve already set for myself is to finish up by mid-year at least three of the UFO (unfinished object) quilts I have in my studio right now. I want to take on more complex quilting projects, too.

So, 2014 will be The Year of Challenges. I’m looking forward to taking on a variety of projects that will push me to step outside my comfort zone and allow me to expand my knowledge and skill set in the coming year!

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. 

There are two primary choices in life …

To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. ~Dr. Denis Waitley

We have become a nation of the “status quo” … in other words, we may complain about the things we don’t like – our political system, the homeless problem, the economy, our ever expanding waistlines – but most people don’t take responsibility for changing the things that they don’t like. I know that there are many people who think that they can make no impact to many of these situations, as they are “only one person.” But I think that people lose sight, myself included, of the fact that they absolutely have the ability to change themselves. Or maybe it’s that we don’t like to take responsibility for making changes, or that we’re unwilling to commit ourselves to making changes. Of course, you must know that I’m talking about weight loss and fitness.

I’ve heard people say that getting started is the most difficult part, but I disagree. I think starting is easy – I’ve started to make life-altering health changes 894,732 times. No, the most difficult part is sticking with the program you choose, and not letting yourself buy into the negative self-talk (as well as the negativity from others around you). And when you don’t see results immediately, it’s really easy to start taking on the “bro-science” advice on the internet – you know, all those meatheads out there who are more than willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong and how you can “fix” it. It isn’t that everybody is special and needs their own plan to make progress, but there really is not a one size fits all way to lose weight. The only constant is that the calories you burn must exceed the calories you take into your body. Beyond that, there are many ways to lose weight, exercise, and reach your fitness goals.

As of this morning, I am officially down 20 pounds from my original starting weight. But it took me far longer to get here than it strictly should have, because I lost sight of what I was doing, and the reasons why I was doing them. If I had stayed the course back in February when I went to the UK, I could possibly be 30 or even 40 pounds down from my original starting weight. For some people a simple calorie restriction is the key to weight loss. Personally, I have to have at least four days a week of moderate exercise – five is even better. I joined the gym eight days ago and I’ve been four times – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday (I took Thursday and Friday off because I could barely move after my personal training foray on Tuesday). I’ve kept an eye on the calories I’ve eaten and dropped four pounds in that time. I probably had a little help from a water pill the doctor prescribed for me during my physical on Thursday, but a lot of the loss is from the changes I’m making to my lifestyle.

I know a lot of people think that in order to lose weight, they need to seriously restrict their calorie intake but for me that’s not true. In fact, I eat a fairly good deal of calories (around 2200-2300 on days I work out; about 1950 on days I don’t), keeping my body fueled so that I can continue to do the work outs without crashing. No 1200 calorie days here! I really don’t know how people manage on that small an amount, and it absolutely kills me to see folks on the fitness boards who claim they can’t possibly eat 1200 calories  a day because it’s just too much and they aren’t hungry! /whine whine whimper whimper  I’m sorry but I call BS because it’s highly unlikely they gained 40, 50, 60 or 100+ pounds by eating 900 calories a day for an extended period. In order to keep the body going, you have to fuel it. Do you expect to drive 500 miles on a quarter of a tank of gas? No? Then why do you expect to work out, run a home, raise a family, and work on 900 calories a day??

I know that for some people with medical issues, it isn’t quite this easy, but I think that the number of legitimate medical issues that prevent weight loss are probably pretty small. I would be willing to bet that the biggest issue is that people aren’t honest with themselves. I know I wasn’t, because I was probably drinking half my calories in the form of Dr Pepper. Once I kicked the regular soda habit, the weight started coming off, and I wasn’t really hungry anymore because I could eat a pretty good amount of food. It was during the time that I wasn’t controlling my soda intake that I gained most of my weight, and it was during that time that I was at my most resistant to change. Once I dropped 150 calorie a can drinks, I saw that I could actually lose weight. I do still drink diet sodas, which have issues of their own, and I am working to drink fewer of them, but the reality is, without the empty calories, losing weight is easier, and I’m able to maintain a course of action.

So, now it’s time to ask yourself – what choice are you going to make? The one that will bring change to your life, where ever you need it, be that weight loss, difficult relationships, financial, etc? Or the one that will maintain the status quo, where you are never really happy but loathe to do something about it? I know which one I choose …

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.