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Thursday, February 27, 2014


This is a word that many people have used to describe me and my journey in the last few months as I've shared my story with more people.  First, to anyone who has used that word to describe me and my adventure, thank you.  I am so humbled and honored to be described that way no matter how weird it may be to hear that word and my name in the same sentence.  Second, I definitely didn't set out to be seen that way.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this would be a term used to described me.  Third, if my story tells you nothing else, go with this - it's possible to completely change your life yet not change who you are as a person.  It's possible to find people who believe in you.  As I said to a certain someone earlier this week, I'm proof of what can happen when people believe in you.  

With that, I think the word inspiration can mean so many different things to everyone.  According to the dictionary, Inspiration means 'something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create'.  I still can't completely comprehend that people think this definition describes me in any way, shape or form.  So, with that, here is what inspired me to start on my journey and what inspires me on a regular basis:

1.  My parents.  They have been married for almost 39 years, give everything they have to their friends and family, give back to the community in more ways than I could ever count and have never given up on me no matter how difficult of a teenager I may have been.  They inspire me to be a better person.
2.  My brother.  Seriously, I lucked out in the big brother department.  He's a pretty amazing guy.  He's an incredible husband and father, gave me one of my best friends in my sister-in-law and gave me two of the most precious people in my life - my nephew Cooper and my niece Chloe.  The way he lives his life on a daily basis is something that always inspires me to be a better person.  In addition to all of that, he initiated my meeting with Renee' and, in turn, helped me find one of the best friends I could have ever hoped to find in life.
3.  My sister.  Again, seriously, I lucked out in the little sister department as well.  She always makes me laugh and has been there through every single thing in my life.  She is an amazing wife and mother and always puts her family first.  She knew to kind of step back when I first started on this journey and let me find my own way (with some help).  She was there to listen when I needed her to (throughout my life) and still is.  I couldn't ask for a better best friend who's been my partner in crime for over 30 years now.  And, she gave me the other most precious person in my life - my niece Emma.
4.  My extended family.  A lot of people probably don't know how big my family actually is.  My mom is one of 6 kids and, therefore, I have many cousins, aunts and uncles who I love and admire.  They are all different people who have done amazing things with their lives.  My aunts and uncles have raised respectful, humble and wonderful kids who have turned into the greatest young adults ever.  We are all different people pursuing different dreams and we may not see each other much but they all inspire me to keep shooting for my dreams because I've been lucky enough to watch all of them achieve their goals and dreams.  
5.  My grandparents.  Although they are no longer physically here, all 4 of them inspire me on a daily basis.  I have pictures of them both at work and at school and, whenever I wonder about something, I think about how they would react to a certain situation or question.  I was lucky enough to have them all around for all of my childhood and into my adult life as well.  Knowing them, their history and their values shaped me into the person I have become and made me realize I want to be just like them.  My parents are the best parts of them.
6.  My co-workers.  They make me laugh and love my job on a daily basis.  They inspire me by showing me how much fun work can be while also putting their best out there every day for the students and families we work with.  It takes special people to work in the education field and I am blessed to be surrounded by people who are shining examples of why there is hope for the future.  
7.  Renee'.  I couldn't (and probably wouldn't) have done this without her guidance, friendship and inspiration.  She has taken so much time, had so much patience with me and lets me be myself.  However ridiculously weird I can be at times.  I am lucky enough to see how she lives her life on a regular basis, puts others first and so many more things I could never find the words to describe.  She's just an amazing person and I am blessed to call her my friend.
8.  My friends.  There's a few of you out there who have been with me through a lot of crap over the last few years and you've never given up on me.  You stuck with me through the bad times and inspired me by showing me what a real friend is.  Thank you.  You know who you are.
9.  Anyone who can do anything that requires balancing any body part on of those big colorful balls (aka, a physioball).  I hope that one day I can do just one push up while putting my hands on the sides of one.  Lofty goal, I know ;)
10.  And, finally, those of you who can cook.  So not my thing.  But, I learn every day and thanks for laughing with me along the way.

I'm sure there are a few things I've forgotten so there may be a part two to this entry at some point.  But, given that it didn't take me that long to come up with these ten, I would say they are probably the most important sources of inspiration for me.

If I really have inspired you to make a change, don't wait until tomorrow.  It's not something you want to put off.  Because when you make changes that alter your life for the better, you'll wonder why you waited so long.  But, you'll also realize that every day you've lived up until now has led you to the path you are currently on and about to embark on.  The unknown can be scary.  It can also be the most rewarding thing you make yourself go through.  And, if you are on the right path, pretty soon it won't be scary.  It will be full of rewards in so many forms I can't even list them all.

Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you even when you don't see it yourself.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Be a Light for Someone

I'm writing this entry, not to make anyone feel bad for me or to put blame on anyone.  I've had so many people amazed at how I've been able to completely change my life, outlook on the future and reflections of the past throughout the last year that this just kinda came out of my head tonight.  I've written a lot about how I've changed over the last 13 months.  I was in probably the deepest and darkest hole I could have ever imagined I'd find myself in.  Thankfully, with the love and support of my friends and family, I've been able to slowly climb to the top of that hole and see the sunshine again.  It's an amazing gift and feeling that is difficult for me to describe to anyone who asks about it.  But, here's what I relate it to in some respects - 

I work with teenagers every day.  I think there are many people out there who don't understand how much kids deal with on a daily basis.  Whether it's from peers, friends, significant others or even their families,  kids (and teenagers) are sponges waiting to absorb everything you put in their path.  With that, if you ever encounter someone who struggles with depression, figuring out who he/she is or just life in general, I'm here to tell you that just being there for that person will make all the difference in the world.  It may not seem like it at the time but, I promise, those people will look back on their lives and remember those who took time for them.  Those who took a moment to ask about their family.  Their friends.  Their hobbies.  Or just anything unique about them.  

So, why am I telling you all of this?  Because I was one of those kids.  Don't get me wrong, I was (and still am) blessed with the most amazing family.  But, I definitely struggled to find my way and my place as a kid/teenager.  I still do as an adult!  I couldn't find anything I was good at.  Being that I am pretty quiet and can come across as closed off at times (although, to anyone who really knows me, that is about the most opposite phrase of anything people use to describe me), it was difficult to make good friends.  I wasn't the life of the party, I'm still not.  I just wanted to be friends with people I could be myself around.  As a teenager, that can be difficult to find.  Everyone wants to be part of something.  I always tried to fit in with sports.  Growing up in my family, I didn't know anything else.  I didn't have the confidence to be involved in things I would have been good at and that would have truly helped me figure myself out.  I really think the only way I survived high school was because I had a couple of adults that I really trusted and knew cared about me and believed in me.  I knew that if I ever needed anything, I could go to them and they wouldn't judge me.  In fact, they often tried to get me involved in different activities no matter how much I fought it.  Looking back on it, they could probably see how lost I was.  Even if I couldn't.

Fast forward over 15 years (wow, that makes me feel old...) and I can honestly say that these experiences have shaped me into who I am and how I live my life on a daily basis.  At the same time, as an adult, the people who have always been there for me and those who are recent additions to my life have showed me just how much influence having positive people to be around on a regular basis can make all the difference.  I wake up each day and go to bed each day happy.  That never used to happen.  And even those who are recent additions feel like they've been a part of my life forever.  In my mind, those are the people who are meant to be in my life and will always be there. 

There are so many factors that go into making someone into who they are meant to be.  I can honestly say, for me, knowing there are people in my life who care about me, enjoy being around me and want the best for me has made all the difference in the world I find myself in on a daily basis.  I can look back on my past and not focus on the negativity I used to be so consumed by on a regular basis.  I can pull out the positive pieces and know that the lessons I learned were things I needed to figure out.  Maybe it just took me a little longer than the average person.  I'm okay with that.  It all happens in time.  

Find one person you can be a light for.  I love doing that on a regular basis.  Even if the person doesn't see it now, they will.  And they will thank you for it in more ways than you will ever know.  I do.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Life Is Like A Camera...

When I first made the decision that I was going to change my life, I had no idea how much change needed to happen.  It's kind of strange to me that so many of the people that I am around on a daily basis have trouble imagining me the way I was a year ago because they didn't know me.  There's just a couple of friends and, of course, my family that look at me and just can't believe the person I've become.  In a long overdue conversation with my cousin, it was so fun to hear that even though we don't see each other much, she could even see through texts, this blog and facebook posts how happy I am.  She has definitely been there for me when I've been at my lowest points (trust me, there have been a lot of them) and I love that she is so excited for me as I continue to live this new life I am creating for myself every day.  

People ask me all the time, 'How does it feel?'.  The best answer I can come up with is one word - UNBELIEVABLE.  If you haven't experienced significant struggles in your life at one time or another, I'm not sure I can describe what it feels like when the weight of the world feels like it is finally lifted off of your shoulders.  Do I still have concerns, problems and times where I struggle?  Absolutely.  It's what makes me human.  But, I think the biggest difference for me now when describing "how it feels" is it feels like I am finally free.  I am in control of myself, my emotions and everything else in my life.  I honestly can't describe what that feels like.  For so long I always felt like I was spinning in circles without ever finding a place to land.  Now, I don't have that struggle.  And that has made a world of difference in so many other aspects of my life.

Sometimes I have difficulty looking back at my life and realizing how much time I spent being so unhappy. For anyone who knows me, you know I love pictures in more ways than I could ever describe.  They capture moments that we tend to forget and allow us to reflect back on things we've long forgotten when we see the images or people again.  So, when I saw this quote, it kinda spoke to me.  

Focus on what's important - 
I've decided that I can't focus on what I can't change.  That includes the past.  Instead, I have to, and I want to, focus on what's important in my life.  The short list includes my family, the amazing friendships I've rediscovered or been lucky enough to find in the last year, doing my best at my job every day, enjoying being active and healthy, finding ways to improve every day and so much more that I can't think of off the top of my head.  

Capture the good times - 
For me, so much of this revolves around a camera or another way of documenting important events in my life.  This blog is a great example.  I have a scary ability to recall things.  I remember things no one has business remembering.  With that memory, I try every day to focus on all the good times in my life.  The amount of time I get to spend with my family, friendships that just continue to be more fun as every day goes by, the job I am lucky enough to do every day, every time I'm successful making something new to eat and, of course, when I find York peppermint patties in the shape of hearts and Easter eggs at the store.  Hey, it's the simple things, right?

Develop from the negatives - 
Wow, I have done more of this in the last year than I could have ever imagined!  I have Renee' to thank for that even though I'm not allowed to say thank you :)  When we first met, I was so focused on everything that was bad in my life. I couldn't find anything positive about myself.  When she told me my heart is my best asset, I'll be honest, I smiled and it made me feel good but I wasn't sure what would make her think or say that.  But, as I slowly started to climb out of the deep dark hole I was in, I began to see that I am an amazing person.  Every day I see how much all of those negative experiences and people have taught me throughout my life.  They are a part of who I am, inside and out.  And they've taught me more lessons than I ever thought I would learn as an adult.  And, although I still have days or moments where I struggle with my self-esteem and confidence, knowing that there are people in my life who are there to catch me if I start to fall gives me the confidence I need to start every day on a positive note and bring happiness to others.

Unlike the person I was a year ago, I am so willing to give things another shot.  Actually, I'm willing to try them for the first time, well, once I get used to the idea....It's the only way life will get better.  So, if things don't work out the first time, give it another shot.  You never know what you might find.  I found happiness, friendships and so much more.  And I discover more and more every day.  Take a chance.  You won't regret it.  I don't.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Learning To Not Focus on the Scale

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.

For over a year now I've been so focused on the number on the scale.  Don't get me wrong, I've worked on other stuff too.  More than I could ever list.  But, whether I want to admit it, my main focus was the weight loss.  After all, all of this started because I wanted to lose weight and feel better about myself.  Throughout the last year, I've looked forward to Thursday mornings.  I was excited to see the number change.  For me, it was weekly motivation to keep going.  It's how I could see the progress I was making.  Once I started to see it in my clothes, I had double reinforcement :)

So, since Thanksgiving I think, okay, actually I know, (darn rainman memory) that I've lost 3 pounds.  Now, keep in mind that is in addition to losing 94 pounds since the end of January 2013.  So, I have nothing to be sad or upset about.  But, as the weeks have gone on and I haven't seen that number go down on a regular basis, I've struggled to not be frustrated.  I haven't struggled with sticking with this lifestyle change.  It's just who I am now.  Never thought I'd see the day that I'd say that.... :)  I really don't see myself ever going away from the way I eat on a daily basis now.  But, I've struggled because I've had to find other things to celebrate about what I've been able to accomplish.  I felt like I was changing up my food (to an extent, we all know food is a bit of a challenge for me..) and trying to do different types of workouts and I still wasn't seeing any results.  My body apparently just likes to be stubborn.  But, I've started to figure out this is just an obstacle I have to overcome.  And I will.

So, here are some things I can think of off the top of my head that I've accomplished besides losing weight over the last 3 months:

1. I ran 3.1 miles on the treadmill in 34 minutes
2. I picked up two 20 lb dumbbells.  I didn't do anything with them...but still!
3. I've fit into smaller pants.
4. I did 3 normal push-ups (sort of)
5. I stood on a bosu ball (I call it a wobbly thing) and didn't fall.  And I held a dumbbell on it today!
6. I completed a "100 day" at boot camp.  100 reps of 10 different exercises.  And I get there late so I was really shocked that I finished.  And geez my arms were sore the next day!
7. On the same wobbly thing I was able to do what I think would be called a shuffle type of thing (although it was very slow)
8. I made soup - all by myself!!
9. I didn't break down and think the world was out to get me every time I had water issues in my house over the last couple of months (knock on wood, I'm good!)
10. Reading recipes and actually sorta understanding what they say!

Out of this frustration came the decision to take a week away from the gym.  You may have already read about all of that so I'll try to not repeat myself :)  

But, as I went through the week, I realized that, in more ways than one, I needed to stop focusing so much on what I see on the scale.  I told a couple people that I would get mad at myself because I would let the number get to me.  Those people (Renee' and Kristin) were the first ones to say - you're human - you're allowed to be frustrated.  I don't know why, but I think I needed to hear that so I didn't keep thinking I was going crazy.  I want to keep losing weight.  It's really important to me.  Plus, I am so close to hitting that 100 pounds lost mark that it's difficult to not focus on it.  But, I can't let it ruin an entire day for me when the number doesn't change.  So, I made a decision that, in addition to taking a week off from the gym, I would take a week off of weighing myself.  I felt good about the decision and am hopeful that it helps me reset my brain on what is truly important.

If you're wondering, the short list of what is really important in this journey (so far):

1. Being happier than I ever thought I could possibly be in every aspect of my life
2. Having more energy than I ever thought I would find.  
3. Finding physical and emotional strength
4. Being a little more social every day
5. Finding one of the best friends I could have ever asked for or thought I would find. 

Muscle weighs more than fat and I know I am building muscle.  I am so thankful every day for everything and everyone in my life.  I know the weight loss will happen in time.  Whenever my body decides it's ready to listen :) 

So now I get to start a new workout plan.  I have no idea what that will entail but I'm looking forward to it.  The last week and a half has been very refreshing for me.  I needed it in more ways than I realized.  

I know this adventure is ongoing and I seriously love it more and more every day.   And I think this quote describes another lesson I've learned recently - 

Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.

I'll keep going.  And I know I will accomplish all my goals in time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Week Away From the Gym - Part 4

So, it's the last two days of my week away from the gym.  I've actually enjoyed it although it's been a bit strange at times.  There really are times that I've thought to myself, what did I forget to do today?  Also, I've noticed that I feel a bit more lazy than I usually do.  But, I'm also not quite as hungry because I'm not burning as many calories, despite trying to stay somewhat active.  I've made myself stay busy enough that I haven't been able to get back into a habit of coming home from work and curling up on the couch.  I don't really think that would happen, but, with this weather, it would be so easy to do.  But, I don't want to go backwards.  And, I'm fairly certain Renee' would kick me in my butt if I did anything like that. 

So, why did I write all that?  Because I want anyone who reads this to know that, despite all the changes I've gone through over the last year, I still get it.  I always will.  My weight and issues with food are going to be lifelong struggles for me.  I understand why it's difficult to make yourself workout.  Why it's easy to get burnt out and just stop.  And, most of all, why it's easy to get frustrated with not seeing any progress and just say, forget it.  Nothing's going to work.  However, I am here to tell you that it is possible to start enjoying working out.  When you get burnt out on something, find something new to try.  Don't go full force on day one.  Make a small goal of exercising for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week to start with.  You'll eventually want to do more but this will get you moving and you'll start to see more benefits from that 20 minutes than you ever thought possible.  

Okay, so yesterday, I gave this yoga stuff a try.  Luckily, I have an amazing sister-in-law (friend) who was willing to go with me.  No way would I have gone by myself.  It was an interesting experience.  The room was so quiet when we walked in but we got to be right behind the instructor because we are both new to yoga.  Woohoo!  So, first of all, there's a lot of weird words that are said during a yoga class.  Second, I am still not anywhere close to being flexible enough for yoga.  But, it was different, I was able to do a little more than I thought I would and I enjoyed it.  I would try it again.  The people were really nice at the place we went.  If only it wasn't so expensive! 

So, by trying to stay active, I made myself clean my house yesterday morning.  I admit, when I got home from yoga, I took a nap.  But, it wouldn't be Sunday without a nap on the couch, right?  I watched my niece and nephew last night and I always consider that to be pretty active.  But, I have to admit, my favorite part of the night was when my niece cuddled up beside me while watching a night-night show and, after I put her to bed, my nephew did the same.  Their innocence and how much I know they love me makes every moment I spend with them that much more special.

I took my nephew to Entertrainment Junction this morning for a couple of hours.  I wanted to take him and I figured running around with him for a couple of hours counted as being active.  We had a great time and, to this day, it still amazes me how much easier (and how much more fun) it is to run around with him after losing all of this weight.  Being healthy has so many more benefits than I ever thought possible.

So, in conclusion, a week ago I wasn't sure what this week would bring.  But, I am happy to say that I've enjoyed it and it's actually been refreshing.  I should have known there'd be a lesson in there somewhere.... ;) I have no idea if it will make any difference with the number I see on the scale in the next few weeks.  But, I won't give up on my goals and, if nothing else happens, that speaks volumes to me about the type of person I've become over the last year.  If I've learned anything, it's that it's okay to take a few days off at times.  Sometimes you need to take a step away from something to really see the benefits and keep enjoying it.  That includes exercise.  I can see why so many people talk about the importance of a rest day each week.  Now, while I haven't really done that throughout the last year, I would consider the walks I take to be kind of an active rest.  I'm still moving but not going full speed.  Just another reason why I can't wait for spring.  My 'rest day' can become my day to walk around and enjoy the fresh air!!

Tomorrow I start working out again.  Should be fun!  Or, maybe I should hold off on saying that til I see what I have to do.... Either way, I have a feeling there will be a decent amount of laughing at myself - Hey, when doesn't that happen?? :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Week Away From the Gym - Part 3

So, the last two days haven't been all that different with the exception of the exercise piece of my life.  But, that has become such a big part of my life in the last year, there have been moments where I say to myself, 'I feel like I forgot to do something'.  

Since I am supposed to be active still, yesterday I decided to go swimming for a little bit.  Of course the weather was trying to not cooperate, as more freaking snow started falling a little after lunch time.  Luckily it wasn't really sticking yet so I was still able to go to the Y.  If you've read this blog or know me, you know I have always loved the water.  My mom had me in the pool when I was 6 months old and I've been a fish ever since.  There is just something about the water that has always felt extremely calming to me.   I help with a special olympics swim team and I've taught swim lessons for a couple of years.  But, just like I do with other things, I got burnt out from being in the water.  In fact, up until yesterday, I don't think I've been in a pool since the summer.  Again, if you know me, you know that's pretty rare.  I just haven't had much of a desire to get in the pool.  In fact, I still don't have a big desire to jump in.  Number one, it's cold outside.  And, number 2, it's cold outside.  I swim in a warm water pool but still, who wants to jump in a pool when it's snowing??   I could have used the weather as an excuse and just gone home and curled up under a blanket.  But, I wanted to keep my end of our agreement and not "workout" but still be active. So, I packed up my swimsuit and all the junk I needed to swim and take a shower afterwards.  I just swam for a half hour.  I don't even know how many laps I swam.  But, it felt good and was relaxing.  I was so happy I took my chances with the weather and went.  Completely worth it.  The rest of the night I spent laying on the couch, watching the snow fall and catching up on some TV shows.  

So, I've had 4 days to try to come up with something to do today.  I had nothing.  Still don't.  So, I got my hair done and went out to run a bunch of errands.  At first I didn't really want to go walk around the mall.  But, as I finished my errands, I realized that if I went home I would just be laying on the couch doing absolutely nothing (and that is exactly what I'm doing right now).  So, I decided to give the mall a try.  I took some green tea with me and enjoyed just walking around for a half hour or so.  I gave in and bought a pair of pants but I actually needed them and found a good price.  The size that fit helped too :)  It felt good to walk around and just stretch my legs.  And, by doing that, I didn't feel guilty when I came home and plopped myself on the couch which is where I will probably stay for the remainder of the night.

Tomorrow, I try yoga... Oh lord, this is going to be interesting....  Renee' has taught me so many things but as I think about this yoga stuff for tomorrow, this one applies the best - 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  

Okay, if you say so....  Stay tuned for my description of this yoga adventure....

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Worth It - I Promise

I'll continue writing about my week away from the gym over the weekend but, for now, I felt like writing something else.  I saw these and thought they would bring something out of me.  We'll see... 

I'm not telling you it's going to be easy, I'm telling you it's going to be worth it.

I honestly think if Renee' would have said this to me a year ago, it would have still been a little difficult for me to believe.  But, when I look back on it now, this is exactly what she was saying to me in every email, every conversation and just all the interactions we had in those first few weeks of our friendship.  She pushed me to do things I didn't necessarily want to do but knew I needed to try.   I've had people say to me, 'how'd you do it?'.  Not just the food, but everything.  I just took it one meal at a time, one day at a time, one workout at a time, one new situation at time and of course, one recipe at a time.  Well, that last one might be a slight exaggeration.... probably more like half a recipe at a time ;)  And, I had more support than I ever thought I would find in my life.  I still do.

None of this has been easy for me.  But, it's been so much more fun than I ever thought it would be.  A large amount of that is because I've learned how to laugh at myself and I have someone to laugh with me.  Actually, a lot of someones.  As I've rediscovered happiness and ventured out of my comfort zone in more ways than I could possibly count, I stopped worrying about it being easy.  I just wanted to enjoy every experience I was lucky enough to have.

Has it been worth it?  In more ways than I could EVER describe.  I have the greatest friendship with Renee'.  It's so weird to me how someone I've only known for a year has become such an amazing friend.  She's pulled so much out of me, I can't even begin to list it all.  I've lost 97 pounds.  I have learned to love being active.  I got a new job and I've re-discovered my passion for what I am lucky enough to do on a daily basis.  I've started talking a little more in front of people.  And, yet, I still haven't figured out what to do with a garlic clove.  Just remembering Renee's reaction to that story is enough to make this worth it.  But, I am so excited there are so many more reasons!

The trick is to not let people know how really weird you are until it's too late for them to back out.

Renee' - This is the true story behind my being quiet around people I don't know.... I'm thinking you never would have guessed that I would become one of the most popular sources of entertainment for you on the day we met.  Hey - I don't think I would have predicted it!  I never knew what it felt like to find enjoyment in every little thing and that it was fun to make someone's day a little brighter with a random message about absolutely nothing.  Of course, that's not the only entertainment I provide.  

As you read this, just picture some of the stupidest questions about food you can possibly imagine and multiply the stupidity by 10.  That would be the kind of messages I send on a regular basis.  And she just goes with it.  Awesome friend doesn't really do it justice.  But I'm not allowed to say thank you so I'll go with the amazing friend description :) 

Smile and let everyone know that today, you're a lot stronger than you were yesterday.

If there is another quote out there that describes me in the last year, this is it.  I've learned to smile again.  In fact, several people ask me on a regular basis if I ever stop smiling.  Well, that just makes me smile even more.  But, to answer that question, yes, at times.  But it's so rare.  I'm just a happy person and I really do believe my smile shows how much stronger I've become.  A year ago, it would have been difficult to find me smiling on a regular basis.  Now, I can't imagine being any other way.  I love bringing happiness to the lives of others.  Even if I just do it by smiling at them, I've accomplished a goal of making the world a happier place.  I get stronger and happier every day.  Even if that cooking thing still makes me feel dumber than a box of rocks at times.  Because when I laugh at myself, I show my strength in more ways than I ever thought possible.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Week Away From the Gym - Part 2

Taking a break from the gym and working out has been interesting so far.  I'm in my 3rd day of my week away from the gym.  It's been fun and weird at the same time.  My days have been fairly normal.  Nothing about my eating has changed (maybe I should say not yet...).  I never know what's coming my way - but it's fun!  

Yesterday it felt so strange to not pack a bag to go to the gym after work.  I felt like I was breaking some kind of rule by not working out.  Much as I definitely haven't been giving 100% in the recent past, working out is so ingrained in me and my routine that I wasn't sure what to do with myself.  Wednesdays are usually the day I go run on the treadmill or, when it's nice out, at the park.  I came right home after work and changed my clothes.  Don't worry, I didn't put my pajamas on.  Even though I'm taking a break from the gym, I still have to (and I want to) be active.  So, I put some sweats on, bundled up and went out for walk.  I had to walk in the street because of all the snow but it was sunny, not windy and, since it's been -15 for most of the winter, the temperature of 32 actually felt warm to me.... Sad, I know.  But, the fresh air felt great.  It was a leisurely walk.  A route that usually takes me 30 to 35 minutes when I'm going at full speed took me around 45 minutes.  I got home at 430 and thought to myself, what do I do now?  I could be lazy and sit on the couch for the next 6 hours before going to bed.  Or, I could go to the grocery store. 

Everyone knows that grocery store is one of my least favorite places.  That's why I avoid it on the weekends.  Renee' had given me a cookbook to look through.  Sometimes, I think she does that strictly for her own amusement.  But, I don't care.  Because I spend so much time laughing at myself as I read recipes that have words and foods I've never heard of, it provides entertainment for me as well.  Surprisingly enough, I found a couple recipes that I understood (for the most part).  What I didn't understand was explained to me by my awesome friend and co-worker, Kira.  She even sent me a picture of what the jar of minced garlic looks like so I could buy that instead of those stupid garlic cloves.  By the way, even though I know what they are, I still have no idea what to do with them.... Yes, I'm an idiot.  And I'm kinda okay with it :)  But, I'm getting off track.  Since I wanted to make something different, and I had plenty of time, I decided I would do my grocery shopping Wednesday night.  I went to a different store and managed to find most of what I needed.  That's always an accomplishment for me.  Maybe someday I'll draw a map for other clueless people ... but by the time I do that they'll move everything around and confuse me again!!

Imagine my surprise when what I made wasn't all that difficult to cook and it actually turned out good!  It made 4 servings so I put a couple of them in the freezer so I would have dinner a couple of days next week.  I think I made pretty good use of my time.

I got to go to boot camp today which was fun.  I can hold two 20 lb weights.  I just can't do anything with them.  Maybe someday.  So, now, I'm not going to 'workout' until Tuesday.  Let's see how my body reacts to this.  I think I'm going to go swim a little bit tomorrow just to do something active but different and not too taxing.  

I convinced my sister-in-law to try a yoga class with me this weekend.  I have a feeling that may lead to quite the entertaining blog entry.  But, I'm looking forward to trying it.  And, I'm not going by myself which makes me much more comfortable.   Renee' knows better than to think I'd go by myself... But I knew I'd be in trouble (not really, but you know what I mean) if I didn't at least try it.  I don't think Zumba is going to happen... I do not have enough rhythm for that stuff!  

I will say, as strange as this has been so far, it's also felt good and been freeing.  I know I'll look forward to going back to the gym at some point but, by doing this, I am hoping I will be able to see that when you get burnt out, it's okay to take break.  That's when you should try something new and mix it up.  As I've said, I don't like new things or situations.  But, leave it to my awesome friend to push me and convince me to try something... I still don't know how she does that but, again, it all comes from trust.  Well, and knowing that I'll have some funny stories to tell....I hope there isn't a camera in the yoga place...

I think this quote describes this week for me - 

To achieve something you've never had before, you must do something you've never done before.

Stay tuned as my weeklong adventure continues...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Week Away From the Gym - Part 1

It's not much of a secret that I've been frustrated with my lack of weight loss over the last couple of months. Not frustrated with anyone, just my body.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am still so incredibly proud of myself that I've lost 97 pounds and I will never stop celebrating that.  At the same time, I have goals that I want to accomplish and I just feel like I'm in a bit of a rut.  In lots of ways.  Always doing the same thing when working out on my own and just kind of not having a lot of motivation to go to the gym and work out despite knowing all the benefits it has and how good I feel when I get done.  I still make myself go, but, if I'm being honest with myself, I would say I'm not always giving it 100%. 

Renee' could tell I've been feeling frustrated about some stuff.  She can read me pretty well.  Actually really well.  So, we talked for awhile on Monday night and what she said made total sense to me, I just never would have thought of it on my own.  For over a year, I've been really consistent with working out.  Honestly, the only times I have ever taken a break is when I've been sick (even then I try to take just a day or two, depending on how my energy level is) or when I was on vacation last summer, even though I was still running around and being active.  When I really thought about it, I realized how much my body has cooperated with me over the last year and how it's probably finally saying, hold on, let's give it a rest.  So, Renee' and I decided that I would take the week off from the gym.  Weird, right?  I mean, after all, I'm still trying to lose weight and accomplish other fitness goals.  But, it made sense to me that maybe my body was telling me to rest.  And that, maybe, when I go back to working out next week, it will shock my body.  Since the boot camp workout is always different (and I really like it), I was still going to that on Tuesday and Thursday.  

What am I supposed to do on the other days?  This is where Renee' knows me even better than I know myself.... she said I had to make a plan on what I was going to do to be active over the next 7 days but not really "workout".  Oh goody - Can you sense my excitement?  Actually, deep down, I was excited but I am not the best at thinking outside the box.  I'm so not good at new and different stuff.  Or being creative (except when it comes to pictures and scrapbooking).  I like my little routine.  But, obviously, it wasn't getting me the results that I wanted so I sat down (actually, I was already sitting down...) and tried to think of some different things I could try.

I managed to come up with a couple of different things (that mostly included walking...told you, not creative).  I should have known better than to think I would get away with just that for seven days.  Plus, it's freezing here and all the sidewalks are covered with snow so we both knew I wouldn't be walking every day.... Of course she said I should try yoga.  I am not flexible enough for that.  But, I thought maybe I could try a DVD... She had something else in mind...She said I should go to a class.  Or try a Zumba class.  Huh?  I have to go somewhere?  I wasn't sure how I felt about that.... And, of course, she knows that about me.... 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my week long adventure.... :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Letting Go and Finding Me

It's not an easy journey to get to a place where you forgive people.  But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you.

I can speak from experience that this is true in so many ways.  Forgiveness is a powerful thing in this world.  It doesn't mean we forget what's happened to us.  It just means we've found a way to move on.  It took me awhile.  And I still have my moments where I look back on things, events or people and wonder, 'why me'?  But, I am happy to say it is completely possible to work your way through those moments and move on.  Now, those moments where I wonder why are few and far between.  To be honest, I don't really allow them to happen to me anymore.  When something crappy happens (which, I won't lie, still occurs), I get aggravated but I look for a solution.  I do my best to not let it affect me as a person or think the world is out to get me.  Because that is exactly where I used to go when things would happen.  Or when people were awful to me.  Forgiveness is an unbelievable gift to give yourself.  Without it, you won't be able to move on with your life.  I learned that the hard way.  But, it was the way I was meant to figure it all out.  Which leads me to this - 

You can never regret anything you do in life. You kind of have to learn the lesson from whatever the experience is and take it with you on your journey forward.

For such a long time, I never could figure out why I wasn't happy with my life.  Looking back, I think part of the reason is because I wasn't allowing myself to learn the lessons I needed to learn to move forward.  As I started to realize there were positive things I could take with me from every experience of my life, I started to move forward.  I stopped regretting being friends with people that maybe didn't turn out to be the best people to surround myself with.  Every relationship I've had in my life has taught me some sort of lesson that I am now so immensely grateful to have learned.  I stopped believing that the world was out to get me.  I figured out that every one has to go through different events in his/her life to truly come out on top and be the person he/she is supposed to become.  If you regret things, you'll never completely understand why the experiences have been a part of your life.  Take the lesson with you.  It will help you grow as a person in ways you could never have imagined.

The only journey is the one within.

I've been on quite the adventure of self-discovery over the last year.  You know what the best part is?  I've finally figured out that my journey is just beginning.  I have so many fun things to look forward to.  Because I've finally let go of my past and all the things that have brought me down, I can be genuinely happy every day.  I honestly can't even begin to tell you how much I've changed and discovered about myself in the last year.  If you ask my family, friends who knew me a year ago, etc., I think you would be in shock at how much one person can change in a year yet still remain true to who she's always been as a person.  The great parts of me just stand out more now than they ever did.  I hope.

The journey you go on from the time you are born makes you into the person you are.  It's those experiences you have that make your life and adventure unique.  No one (not even your mother - love you mom!), will be able to truly understand how certain events in your life have shaped into the person you've become.  But, it all happened for a reason.  You are exactly where you are supposed to be.  I know that now.  And I know I am in charge of my future.  I can't wait to see where it takes me!

Thank you for helping me find myself :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Trick - Exercise Edition!

Although I firmly believe that nutrition is at least 80% (if not more) of the so called "trick" to weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I also know that exercise is the rest of the equation and is so important in so many ways.  I've had a lot of people say to me, 'but I hate exercising', 'I don't have time to exercise', 'I can't afford to join a gym', etc.  So, here are some of my thoughts on those excuses (because, let's be honest, that's what they are....)

If you hate to exercise - 

I'm thinking you probably haven't tried everything that's out there.  Everyone is different.  We all enjoy different things.  Working out doesn't have to mean that you spend hours on the treadmill or the elliptical staring at the clock and watching the time slowly tick by (Yes, even I've done that at times).  There are so many kinds of classes out there that you can try.  There's spinning, zumba, aerobics, kickboxing, yoga, pilates, etc.  If you are willing to try different things, I am willing to bet you will find something you enjoy.  Plus, you might meet some new friends :)  Me - I like cardio at the gym for the most part.  I also change it up by enjoying boot camp twice a week and taking a fitness class offered through the school district I work for.  

If classes and cardio equipment aren't your thing, there are also tons of DVD's out there that you can buy and do in the privacy of your own home.  You can start at the beginning and work your way up.  So many people do this that now you'll find that the instructor of the video also gives you a modified version of the exercises they are doing.  There area so many different types out there that I would bet you'll find something you like to do.  Plus, if you have kids, you can get them involved in doing it with you.  I know my brother tells me that my nephew (who is only 5) likes to try to do different workout exercises with him at times.  (Wall sits are probably a lot easier when you're that young and have a ton of energy!).  So, while you create a healthy habit for yourself, you'll also be spending quality time with people you love and/or showing your family how being healthy is important in so many ways.

If you don't think you have time to exercise - 

Just commit to ten minutes a day to start off with.  You can get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning, right?  I'll be honest, that would be hard for me because I am not a morning person.  But I have the luxury of exercising after work.  I will say though, when I get to exercise in the morning, I have so much energy to start my day.  Just 10 minutes.  If you want to wait until after work, just make sure you don't sit down.  I go directly to the gym or workout right after work.  If I sit down, I know it will be hard for me to get moving again.  You'll be amazed at what taking a little time for yourself does for you as a person.  It will allow you to clear your head, have some "me" time and is just a great way to de-stress.  

If you can't afford to join a gym - 

Believe me, I get it.  But, don't let this keep you from exercising.  Do you have a computer or phone with internet access?  You would be amazed at all the workouts you can find on you tube.  What an easy way to work out in your basement.  If they require equipment, you can often find things around your house to use.  Or, go to a sporting goods store and buy a couple of different weights of dumbbells.  Often, you can do all the routines with some dumbbells.  

When you really want to change your life, you'll find a way to make it work.  I learned that lesson.  I was finally ready to stop throwing excuses out there and just go for it.  And, know what?  I feel like the best version of myself that I can ever remember.  

Nutrition puts healthy stuff in my body and allows me to keep moving so I can be fit, healthy and happy - The three keys to life in my opinion!

Nutrition + Fitness = THE TRICK :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What's the Trick? Part 2

So, I guess there is a second part to my thoughts on this question.  And probably even a third when it comes to exercise and fitness.  First, I thought I would give an example of what I mean by completely changing my lifestyle.  And my nutrition is definitely the largest piece of that change.  I mentioned in my previous entry that I have altered everything I put in my body.  Here's an example of what I used to eat vs. what I now eat in a day.  And, for anyone wondering, I don't remember the food from last year - I have a food journal that is electronic that I've kept all year and I looked back at it.

What a day used to look like for me:

Chocolate cheerios w/milk
small plain bagel w/peanut butter

Peanut Butter & Jelly 
goldfish crackers

Graham Crackers

Lean Cuisine meal
Salad (I piled it with cheese convincing myself that it was still healthy...)
Some kind of dessert (probably ice cream!)

Not the healthiest, right?  Hey, I thought I was doing great.    This list is actually from the first day I started trying to watch my food last January but about a week before I met with Renee' so I still had no clue what I was doing.

Now, this is what a typical day looks like for me - 

Scrambled egg w/a little shredded cheese
Green tea

String Cheese

Salad/w plenty of veggies, almonds and avocado (instead of cheese)
green tea & a couple york peppermint patties

KIND plus protein bar (before I workout)
Piece of fruit & a protein shake (after I workout)

Small piece of steak (last night was sirloin) grilled or baked (or chicken)
sweet potato w/spray butter
green tea & a couple pieces of dark chocolate

What a difference, right?  I try to not eat all the same stuff every day so my body doesn't get used to food.  But, I definitely get stuck in a rut and have to find new things to try.  I'm not very good at that but I'm working on it.  If you really looked at what I used to eat, you'd see that I didn't get much protein throughout the day which, now that I know more, helps me understand why I was always so hungry.  Also, my sodium levels were super high which would result in water retention.  Not to mention the dessert.... I probably went through a package and a half of oreos in a week.  Now, I can satisfy my sweet tooth with healthy options.  And, I get plenty of protein throughout the day.  Amazingly enough, by eating the right stuff, my sodium levels are now under control on an almost daily basis.  I drink tons of water which I think makes my skin look healthier.  

You'll also notice I eat often throughout the day.  Some days (like today) I feel like I never stop eating.  But, that means my body doesn't have the chance to get hungry and, therefore, I don't overeat.  I also don't starve myself.  In fact, I never could.  I love food way too much.  But I've learned to love healthy food just as much, if not more, than I used to love junk food.  It fills me up and doesn't make me feel lethargic.  In fact, the way I eat now gives me more energy than I ever thought I would have in my life.  

Getting your nutrition right is really the biggest "trick" there is, in my opinion.  I've been on so many different diets throughout my life.  I had always heard the term "lifestyle change" but never really bought into it.  Now, it's become a way of life for me.  It's why I felt comfortable giving away all of my clothes as they got too big.  I'm never going to let myself get back to that person because the junk food isn't worth it.

On another note, as I've mentioned before, the weight loss was a catalyst for all of my changes.  And of course I get excited about the way I look and feel about my body now.  But, for me, it's never been about being thin.  It's about being healthy and feeling good about myself, inside and out.  I love that I am building muscle now.  That I can lift more weight than I ever thought I would be able to.  That I can sort of do 3 normal pushups and, someday, maybe I'll be able to do more.  That I have the ability to laugh at myself.  I think the self-confidence I've found is the greatest gift I've ever been given.  Being healthy is an amazing feeling.  

Take a chance and make a change.  You won't regret it.  And you'll find you had "the trick" inside you all along.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's the Trick?

If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me this question in the last year, I could probably pay off a decent amount of my debt!

Well, here's the short answer - there isn't a trick.  Everything I have done and continue to do are extremely deliberate choices that are not temporary fixes.  

I've lost weight before.  About 8 years ago I lost about 70 lbs.  I think I started around 240 pounds that time.  I exercised and cut back on my food.  But I never changed what went in my body.  And as I slowly went back to eating the way I always did, the pounds slowly crept back on.  As the years went on, I would yo yo diet and lose 10 or 20 pounds here and there but I would always put it back on (plus some).  Now, some of this is because of depression and using food as comfort.  However, the majority of it is because of what I was eating.  Yeah, I was cutting calories.  But, once I started to lose weight, I slowly started to "forget" to track little things that I had eaten.  And I wondered why I was gaining weight... duh!  But, obviously I wasn't completely ready to make a change.

In talking with my sister-in-law this weekend, it was interesting to me when she said how many people talk to her about me and want to know what I'm doing.  She tells them, she's just doing it right.  She's eating what she's supposed to eat, when she's supposed to eat it.  Kristin said many of them say, 'I wish I could do that'.  Trust me, I used to be one of those people.  I used to think I knew what I had to do to lose weight.  Cutting back.  Simple, right?  Well, turns out there is a whole lot more to it than that.  I've learned about nutrients, why eating certain foods is important, why eating at certain times of the day is important and so much other stuff I couldn't possibly list it all.  And I'm still learning.  The funny thing is that it's actually interesting to me now.  Eight years ago, I can't say it would have been.  18 months ago it wouldn't have been.  It has to be the right time to make a change.  No one can do it for you.  They can just be there to support you and push you when you need it.

For some people, while they still need to make a lifestyle change, it may not need to be as drastic as mine.  Just depends on who you are, what your goals are and what resources and information you have available to you.  I have a lot of things that work against me with weight loss.  I have always had a very slow metabolism, I have PCOS (of which one of the side effects is weight gain) and I have hypothyroidism (of which a major side effect is weight gain).  So, if I really wanted to lose weight (and I did and still do), my changes were going to be permanent and drastic.  But, it's worked.  And it hasn't been as difficult to get used to as I thought it would.  I still enjoy myself at parties.  Just this past weekend I had pizza for dinner while at my brother's house.  The difference now is that I don't take leftovers home, I ate salad with it, and I went right back to eating the way I eat every day the following day.  And it wasn't hard.  

Trust me, there are moments when I want to say, 'oh screw it, I'm getting a milkshake'.  But, then I look back at pictures.  I reread some of these blog entries about how I felt a year ago.  I look in the mirror and see the happiness shining through my eyes and my smile.  I realize it's not worth it.  Food might make me feel better for about 5 minutes.  But, in the end, it just makes me feel worse in so many areas of my life.  Instead, I turn on a funny show, or, when it's warm out, I go for a walk.  Amazing how much healthier those choices are and how they change my demeanor almost immediately.

I've made a complete lifestyle change.  If there is a trick, I guess that would be it.  And trust me - It's completely worth it in more ways than I could ever describe.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Last Year at This Time #3

Okay, so by this time last year, I had survived the first week of completely changing everything about my food.  Too bad I had eaten the same dinner 4 out of 5 nights... Remember, I can't cook and I hate the grocery store.  Plus recipes confuse the crap out of me.  Probably not the best combination when trying to learn how to eat healthy.  But, that's where the funny stories start to come in.  I've probably already told some of these but as I reflect on where I was a year ago, it's fun to relive them :)  You can thank my rainman memory for these stories....Normal people may not remember all of this....

Renee' had said that maybe we could get together over the weekend to talk about some next steps in my plan and stuff.  I was definitely willing but I still couldn't completely understand why she wanted to take time out of her weekend to help me.  Now, I realize that it's because we were building a friendship.  Took me awhile to completely trust that.  Not because I didn't trust her but, because of all my insecurities that related to pretty much everything about me as a person.  

If she'd only known what she was getting herself into...

So, we met at a coffee shop and I got there first.  I just sat down and played on my phone for a few minutes.  I remember when she got there she told me I looked happy.  That made me smile and kinda put me at ease.  After all, much as I trusted her, I still wasn't 100% comfortable.  Just takes me awhile.  Funny thing is, she already knew that, she just never told me she did (she's sneaky like that at times - but it's fun and good for me).  So, we talked for a few minutes but I don't remember exactly what about and then she started talking about food.  I'm sure my eyes got pretty wide right away.  She just looked at me and said, 'you have no idea what to do, right'.  I just nodded my head and smiled and kinda laughed at myself.  

As she started talking about different things I could make, she kept saying I would need something called a garlic clove.  I just smiled and nodded...I didn't have a clue...shocker, right?  I figured I could handle baking chicken.  But then she said something about a quesadilla and other stuff.  Man, I was so lost.  I knew I already seemed pretty dumb about food so I just kept listening and trying to understand what she was talking about.  Didn't take her long to catch on to the fact that I wasn't sure what she was saying.  (She's pretty smart like that).  That's when she got to test out her drawing skills... I had pictures of pots and pans, different kinds of ingredients and very specific directions on how to cook a couple of different things.  With the specific directions, I thought I could sorta figure it out.  Finding the ingredients would be a different story but I'll save that for another entry...

We got ready to leave after a couple of hours (I'm telling you, it did not feel like that long, at least to me.) That was just another clue (of many) to me that this was probably going to turn out to be so much more than I ever thought it would be.  She asked me if I wanted anything, I shook my head no (mostly because I had no clue what I would even order and I wasn't a coffee fan).  She convinced me to try green tea.  Ummm, yeah, no clue what that was... Took me a couple of tries to get the tea bag out....and I think I proceeded to take about 3 hours to drink it.  Definitely an acquired taste - But now I like it :)

Fast Forward a year...

It's Super Bowl Sunday and I actually made some soup all by myself and put a couple containers in the freezer so I don't have to eat it all this week.  I did a lot of other things too but this is quite a change from a year ago.  I might actually turn on the super bowl, I've eaten two meals already and get to have a snack soon and I already know what I'm making for dinner.  Oh, and there's no oreos in my house!

Hope everyone enjoys the game!  I'll have at least one more entry that reflects on last year - maybe more :)