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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Some Thoughts On My Recent Hospital Stay

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Four days in the hospital is approximately three days too many. The first day, you’re all, HECK YEAH, I can watch this TBS marathon of “Friends” from the comfort of this Craftmatic adjustable bed while this lovely lady from food service delivers me french toast that I neither had to prepare nor have to clean up. Then, day two arrives and everything is terrible until the minute you are discharged.

If your first IV gets kinked, a nurse will place a second IV. If your second IV is infiltrated, your hand will swell up like a baseball glove and a nurse will place a third IV. If your third IV blows within just a few hours, they will call a nurse from the intensive care unit’s special “IV Team” to place a fourth IV. When it is all over, you will be able to rattle off your IV stats like a sports analysis: four IVs placed out of six attempts.

If there are no beds in the regular recovery section of the hospital, they will place you in the cardiac care wing which, demographically, skews a little older. They will choose your roommate carefully with a nurse explaining that they found a patient for you to bunk with that was, “a little closer in age.” That patient will turn out to be… 60. Also, when your kids visit you, their glowing youth and vibrant health will ensure they are treated like Golden Retriever therapy puppies by everyone in the halls and they will, therefore, be hugged extensively by strangers.

You will discover, tragically, that narcotic pain relievers do not sit well with you thus shattering any dreams of a narcotic-fueled life of crime on the run because you would have to pause to vomit every 30 minutes and the police would surely catch up to you.

The very minute you start to think, hmm, our health care flexible spending account still has a balance in September. That’s pretty remarkable. CONTACTS FOR EVERYONE THIS YEAR! That very minute – the very minute! – when you think of all of the things you’re going to buy with your extra FSA money – NAME BRAND CHARACTER BANDAIDS – is the exact moment when your appendix will burst or your kid breaks an arm or your diverticulitis flares up.

You’ll start to resent everyone that can just… walk around on their own. Logically, you know that the person in the hall wearing regular shoes instead of non-slippy socks isn’t, like, showing off or anything but it still feels like they kind of are. You’ll start to mutter to yourself, “I bet that lady over there doesn’t have a headache.” Or, “That dude over there doesn’t look nauseated.” The ability of others to exist without crippling pain will bring a not insignificant amount of irritation. ESPECIALLY when your 60-year-old roommate gets discharged before you and she is wearing regular clothes and no amount of french toast can make up for that kind of jealousy.

You will be given so many different IV antibiotics that you begin to get to know each of them. Not by name but by how they make you feel when they’re administered. The one shrouded in brown because it shouldn’t be exposed to light is especially terrible. You suspect the one in brown is responsible for your super duper heightened sense of smell which, by the way, is just the absolute worst superpower to have. Especially in the hospital. It’s almost like you can smell the very molecules in the air around you. Your new super smell capabilities means you will accuse your husband repeatedly of having very bad breath which will give him a little bit of a complex. He does not, in fact, have very bad breath and you will apologize profusely for the false accusation once you are home and off of the IV antibiotics and no longer able to smell each atom of matter that surrounds you.

The nurses will be amazing and their kindness for your condition will make you weepy and when they finally send you home, you will be a little sad that no one brings you french toast anymore.

A Little Light

A few weeks ago, I picked up Charlie and Millie from summer camp and surprised them with lunch in town at our favorite burger place. Charlie loves a good cheeseburger and Millie could beat grown men in a french fry eating competition and also this made for one fewer meal I had to prepare at home so we were all pretty jazzed to be there.

This restaurant happens to be super small so when we entered, we headed straight to the counter to put in our order before finding a table. We found ourselves behind a young man placing a large takeout order. He was hot and sweaty and dirty and had obviously been working outside and appeared to be taking food to the rest of his crew.

After paying for our burgers and fries, I thought it best for the kids to wash up because who knows what they do at summer camp but it probably should come off of their hands before lunch so we headed to the bathroom. Upon returning to the little dining room, we were greeted by what could only be described as a mustard explosion. We stopped in our tracks and kind of did that cartoonish double-blink with our eyes. On one side of the restaurant, mustard was everywhere. On a couple of the tables, on the walls, the chairs, the floor. Bright, yellow mustard painted all over the place. And, all over the shirt and jeans and hands of the young man with the takeout order who we were behind in line when we arrived and who was obviously the point of origin for the mustard detonation.

In the short time we were in the bathroom, this customer’s order had come up and he had obviously attempted to add some ketchup and mustard to the burgers in the bag before heading out the door. At this restaurant, both of those condiments are in big red and yellow plastic squeeze bottles. I don’t know if the lid to the mustard wasn’t on tight or maybe, since the restaurant had just opened for the day, the temperature change from the cold refrigerator storage and the super warm dining room caused some sort of volatile buildup in the bottle which led to the explosion? I’m not sure but my CSI splatter analysis suggests the latter. It must have been absolutely spectacular.

What was even more spectacular is that no one was helping the young man clean it all up. He had grabbed a couple of napkins and was futilely trying to wipe the mustard from his pants but he mostly just looked overwhelmed and embarrassed. Two of the six tables in the restaurant were occupied – one with parents and their teenage children and another larger family with a few adults and lots of young kids. It was, without a doubt, impossible to not notice what had happened which made it so surprising to me that no one was moving a muscle to assist. Everyone had witnessed it and then just… continued on. Like nothing had happened.

I assigned Charlie and Millie to an open table that wasn’t dusted in mustard and went to help, interrupting the lady at the counter to ask for some paper towels and then returning to start wiping up the tables and the chairs and the floor while the young man looked at me and tried to explain that he had no idea what had just happened. I reassured him it was all okay and after several minutes, we had made some good progress. An employee eventually emerged to help. We all worked together a little bit longer and had most of it wiped up in short order. When we went to throw the mustard-covered paper towels in the garbage, the young man looked at me, smiled, and said, “I’m going to smell like mustard all day now.” I laughed and offered to hold the door open for him as he left with his tray of drinks and paper bag filled with burgers and fries and most likely, too much mustard.

Then, our order came up and the kids and I devoured our food, talked about how crazy that mustard thing was, and left in search of ice cream.

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So much going on in this world right now makes me feel completely and utterly helpless. Not hopeless. I haven’t lost hope. But, it feels like there isn’t enough helping going on anymore. I think that’s what brings me the greatest despair. The lack of genuine compassion for one another. Sometimes, it feels like no one has the space or the patience to just be kind.

I can donate my time and I can donate my money and I can speak passionately and I can listen empathetically and I can educate myself and I can advocate for others and I can rearrange our entire November vacation to be home in time to vote at our local precinct in the mid-term elections because I’m a little leery of absentee voting and it just seems better to be there on that day to vote in person, right?

I can do all of those things. And, I can show my children how to be helpers. How to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How to imagine a situation – a life – that is different than their own. How to see a need and then fill it. How to clean up mustard with sub-par, non-absorbent, eco-friendly paper towels.

In the tiniest, seemingly inconsequential of ways and in the biggest, most significant of ways, helping others, compassion for others, kindness for others, matters.