Weight Loss Edition

At a holiday party last month, an acquaintance I had not seen in months asked, “Have you lost weight?” When I replied that, yes, I had, she asked with a fair amount of trepidation, “…on purpose?”

She thought maybe I was sick.

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I’m not sick but I did lose a lot of weight last year. On purpose. It’s really the only resolution that I managed to stick. Though, like any good resolution, I waited until around March to really make an effort.

I get asked about my weight loss often. And, the initial query is inevitably followed by questions about how I lost weight. The questions never bother me although, I fear my response is always kind of a letdown. “Diet and exercise,” I reply. I think people always expect me to say I went Keto or started Whole30. I don’t know what those things are but I don’t think I’m allowed to have Little Debbie snack cakes on either of them so they were never really an option for me.

So, in case you, like me, find yourself over forty and wanting to make some changes, here is how I managed to lose weight.

(And, I should note, I feel qualified to share my approach since I managed to survive the two months between Halloween and New Year’s Day without gaining any weight. In fact, I continued to lose weight. That, my friends, is a holiday miracle. Helped in no small part by a terrible stomach bug that snaked its way through our entire family two days after Christmas lingering for more than ten days but WHATEVER. The dehydration was worth it because it cancelled out all of the Christmas ham.)

Step 1: I stopped eating all of the food.

I’ve never been that into fast food (though I strongly believe an Original Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A with a single packet of mayonnaise and three pickles is one of the ways our creator shows their love for us). And, I’ve never been the type to, say, hide a shoebox in my closet filled with candy bars (although if you do this, please invite me over and I will bring Butterfingers as a contribution). My issue has never been consuming too much fast food or too many sweets or eating too much fancy cheese. It’s just been eating too much food all around.

I love food. I love it so much. I love to make good food. I love to buy good food. I love to eat good food other people make. Food is fantastic and good food is such a lovely part of life. But, I consistently ate too much good food.

Losing weight for me involved being more conscious of what and how much I was consuming. That was the key. I started tracking everything I ate. And, look, I know. I KNOW. Tracking what you eat can be laborious. But, I use an app on my phone and after months and months of logging everything on my plate or in my bowl, it’s become second nature.

I don’t place any restrictions on the type of food I eat. I just keep track of it ALL. And, I have a REALISTIC daily calorie goal that I try to hit but I also don’t stress too much if I don’t hit that mark.

The side benefit of tracking the food I eat – of being more aware of what I’m consuming – is that I’ve naturally moved towards healthier food choices and more moderate portion sizes. I can navigate a dinner out with friends or a potluck at a neighbor’s house without overindulging or eating, say, all of the pie and none of the grilled vegetables.

That’s a big deal since one cannot subsist on Little Debbie snack cakes alone.

Step 2: I started moving more.

Even though I would rather be doing literally anything else, I started exercising daily – or almost daily.

Integrating consistent exercise into the routine of an indoor cat was a challenge but I managed to do it by, surprisingly, heading outdoors. Turns out, I loathe every piece of indoor exercise equipment we have sitting in our basement. Daily hikes outside have been the thing that has kept me motivated and kept me exercising. I don’t like the extreme cold or the extreme heat but I do like moving and how it makes me feel and so, most every day, I go for a hike.

And now, to absolutely everyone’s surprise, most of all my own, I’ve taken up running. At one point, last fall, I went out for my daily hike and the weather had turned cold so I figured the quickest way to warm up would be to just start running. Then, I didn’t stop. I’ve been running ever since. The thing about running, besides the fact that it absolutely trashes your knees, is that it also trashes your feet. Running is amazing but also terrible but also THE BEST but also the worst and ZOMG, do you want to talk about running because I think Bob is tired of talking about running with me.

Look, exercising is time consuming. There’s the stretching beforehand, the stretching afterwards, the extra care I have to take nightly with my old lady feet, the precious minutes I spend worrying about the pain I’m having in that one knee. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve had to ignore to make time for the entire process of daily exercise. But, I’ve always ignored household chores anyway. Exercise has given me a legitimate excuse.

Moving more for weight loss just means finding your “thing.” And, that thing may change over time. As we head into the long, dark, seemingly endless months of January and February, I know I’ll find it difficult to head out in the cold. I would much rather be warm, underneath bed covers, watching BBC mysteries and eating Little Debbie snack cakes. As a result, Bob is trying to get me to go swimming with him but I think we should go running instead.

tenor-3I recently found a picture of my sixteen-year-old self, lounging by a pool, wearing a bikini. I can barely remember ever having skin that… smooth. When did it become so unsmooth? Everything is more… ripply now.

My body has changed in incredible and irrevocable ways over the past couple of decades, most notably growing three children. It continues to amaze and horrify me regularly. I’ll never have that same bikini body again. But, I haven’t regretted the time I’ve spent this past year taking better care of the body I have now.

I feel so much better. So much more like, “me.”

And, weight loss works better with a support system. So, if you want to go for a walk or a run or need encouragement or want to be friends on MyFitnessPal, let me know. We can do this! We ARE doing this! We can help each other!

I will bring Little Debbie snack cakes because it’s all about balance.

 

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Thirteen

As of 5:22 this morning, I am the parent of a teenager.

That went fast.

I keep a set of pictures in my wallet. They’re of my children. One wallet-sized picture of each of them from every school year. I’m not even really sure when or why I started keeping them like that. No one seems too interested in school pictures anymore. I casually asked Henry if he wanted a set of this year’s photos to trade with his friends and by his absolutely bewildered reaction, I’m assuming students no longer do this. Just another industry killed by millennials or Facebook, I’m guessing they’ll say. But, on a moment’s notice, I can make the march of time tangible by pulling out the thin stack of photographs from my wallet, laying them all in a row, and marveling at how my kids have changed through the years.

I can see how my bespectacled kindergartner has become a bespectacled middle schooler. How he still, begrudgingly, after all of these years, agrees to wear the one collared shirt he owns on picture day. How he looks the same and yet so very different. How I think I can get a glimpse of what he’ll look like when another eight years pass. How I sometimes feel like I only know him in the present and have completely forgotten how he was in the past.

At thirteen, Henry has become a kind, interesting, funny, sporty, and (somewhat consistently) respectful adolescent.

I’ve found myself over the past several months asking other moms who have parented teenagers what the journey is like. I’m afraid I ask questions of them like I would the big cats caretaker at the zoo – a mix of earnest curiosity and inherit fear. The answers I receive are frequently mixed. For every, “It’s not so bad,” there’s a, “No comment.” One parent will speak fondly of the time while another just looks off into the distance, a little battle-weary. I’m always left with the impression that the teenage years are something to survive rather than relish.

And, we have many, many years of survival ahead of us. During a particularly challenging parenting moment a few weeks ago, when the dust from the frustration and the anger was settling all around us, I looked at Bob and said, “We have a full DECADE of parenting teenagers ahead of us. We didn’t really think this through when we decided to have three of them, did we?”

It’s strange to be beginning this journey. It makes me feel old in a way that turning forty never did. I’m old enough to have a teenager! I still remember being a teenager. It all feels like the start of something but also the end of something. Fun and exciting but also destined for frustration and heartbreak. But, that could describe every stage of parenting.

I suppose teenagers are just a different kind of difficult.

In A (Mini) Van Down By The River

Remember that one time? When I mentioned that my kids weren’t interested in extracurricular activities? Well, they changed their minds. All of my kids. Changed their minds. All at the same time. My kids are doing all of the activities now. There are no activities left because my kids are doing them all.

Henry recently decided that Sports is his thing. It wasn’t for a long time. Now, it is. Doesn’t really matter which kind. He will gamely try them all – in a row. This past fall, sensing our reluctance to let him play tackle football, he asked if he could join a flag football league organized through the city’s rec department. We agreed that it was a good way for him to try the sport while not risking a traumatic head injury so we signed him up. The teams were well organized, the coach was super nice, and Henry really seemed to enjoy himself. I liked seeing him participate and try new things.

That’s how we added flag football to the schedule.

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When flag football wrapped up, I was looking forward to a long winter of sitting on my sofa in front of the fire not having to drive anyone anywhere. Then, Henry asked if he could try basketball. I explained that I felt like we had already sported so much and basketball overlapped a little with flag football and are you SURE you’re up for that commitment and it gets dark at, like, 4:30 in the afternoon now and there are so many good things on Netflix have you seen all of the good things on Netflix and even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I could see my future and it did not involve my sofa.

That’s how we added basketball to the flag football.

Charlie wanted to participate in flag football this past fall because Henry wanted to participate in flag football this past fall. Why not, we thought. In for a penny, in for a pound! Charlie doesn’t share Henry’s passion for the more technical aspects of the game though and was mostly in it for the shenanigans. Namely, chasing the other players around on the field without grabbing anyone’s flag. Which, as Charlie’s coach was apt to point out, WAS NOT THE POINT OF THE GAME, CHARLIE.

Shortly after Charlie’s stint as troublemaking team member began, it became clear that sports was maybe not the right match for his skill set. Around that same time, Charlie found out that a bunch of his buddies were in Cub Scouts. Much like tackle football, we had some reservations. But, since Charlie basically spends all of his free time each weekend hiking, fishing, hunting, and carving those statues of bears out of tree trunks with a chainsaw in the garage, we thought, hmmm, some sort of outdoor-centric club might be just the ticket for this kid.

That’s how we added Cub Scouts to the basketball and to the flag football.

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Millie had talked about taking gymnastics classes with enthusiasm for awhile but we had always discouraged her from pursuing her dreams because it seemed like it would really add to our workload. I mean, at this point, we had gone from zero (0) activities to four (4) activities. Where would this fresh hell fit in? When we discovered her in the basement one afternoon, constructing her own balance beam out of half-empty paint cans and a discarded two by four, we decided we had better enroll her in some sort of tumbling program. We can still really play up her hardscrabble beginning with the paint cans though when she films her Olympic team intro video.

That’s how we added gymnastics to the Cub Scouts and to the basketball and to the flag football.

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I feel like I haven’t sat down since September. Unless you count sitting in my minivan as sitting. Then, I’ve sat a lot since September. In my minivan. While I wait for my kids to do their things. I wrote this entire essay on my laptop from the confines of the driver’s seat of my Honda Odyssey. I basically live here now. I’ve got blankets and canned goods and extra power ports. I just drive from one parking lot to another. If the weather were nicer, I’d set one of those pop-up canopies down and chat with other parents who are also waiting aimlessly in parking lots.

In fact, I had to drive Henry to a neighboring town for a practice this week and my friend happens to live close by and I thought to myself, I should tell my friend to meet me in the parking lot, where I’m sitting in my minivan and we could catch up. She also has three kids in activities and even though I bet you’re thinking it would be weird to hang out with your friend in their minivan, she would absolutely not think it was weird. She gets it. I was disappointed when I hadn’t thought to bring a little wine or maybe some snack cheese.

I suggested to Bob that we get one of those gas tanks installed on our property – like the ones they have on farms – so we don’t have to worry about where and when to fill up our car’s constantly empty tank but he didn’t think that was a wise use of money. Whatever. That idea has legs for sure.

I have no succinct way to wrap this up other than Henry is done with practice in about ten minutes and then I have to drive my minivan home and look longingly at my sofa on my way to bed. If you need me for any reason in the coming months, just come find my minivan. Basketball is done in February – I think.

Wait, what comes after basketball season?