AIM: Changing the Plan

This month, we bid a fond AIM farewell to our colleague, Shelley. She will continue to blog at My Journey to Fit, and we wish her the best in all her endeavors, particularly as she trains for the Houston Half-Marathon.

We’ve also decided to post AIM quarterly rather than monthly. Our next post will appear November 3.

Nothing doesn’t change, and forward is rarely a straight line. In my ongoing journey of weight loss and maintenance, not only does my body continue to change, so does my mind.

I discontinued my Weight Watchers membership about 2 years ago, but the knowledge I acquired from being a WW online member for 5 years was invaluable.  Weight Watchers taught me about portion control, and helped me see and understand my eating patterns. While I’ve gained some weight back, I’ve not forgotten the lessons I learned, some engrained so deeply they’ve become rote.

I’m also learning new things about nutrition – and myself – every day. I’ve let go of that death grip I had on food, and have adopted a balanced and more moderate approach to food, even viewing food as part of the societal mechanism by which we relate to one another. These are things I now welcome to ponder, all the while I’m free to continue to reject that which does not “feel” right (eating highly processed foods, for example, or meat).

My body reminds me every day that it is aging changing. It requires a different kind of care than even 8 years ago, and I’ve incorporated the same kind of mindfulness I have with food into the care of my body. For instance, it takes about 15 minutes after I get out of bed in the morning to move somewhat deftly, and by deftly I mean limping less. I have this habit of grimacing and not breathing when I hobble walk from the bedroom to the bathroom and down the stairs. Noticing the grimace and noticing I’m not breathing is like noticing when I reach for more than one piece of chocolate or a second scoop of potatoes. Remembering to breathe is as kind to my body as remembering that my plan for the day is to only have one piece of chocolate or to control my serving of potatoes (or tuna or milk or cheese or whatever).

Successful weight loss – as I’ve said a million times on this blog – is not over when you reach goal. If your mind doesn’t change, and your perceptions and beliefs about food stay the same as always, your body cannot change. At the same time, if you don’t change your mind about your body, and love and accept it at any weight, with all its sags or bags or fleshy parts, your body cannot change. Or perhaps it will change, but what good is change if you aren’t willing to accept the results, right?

I know several people – me included – who found maintaining a low-end weight difficult, both physically and emotionally. I was afraid to change and yet I was miserable. Changing to a more moderate approach to food was NOT easy. Not one bit. But it was necessary, and I’ve been happier maintaining my body at a higher weight.

How do you decide when it’s time to change up your own routine or way of thinking? What have been some specific changes you’ve made to align your dietary needs with your emotional and physical needs?
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AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in

Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

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AIM: Food: It’s All In A Day

If you’re reading this in the morning and thinking, ‘Hmmm…what do I want for breakfast?’ click on over to Shelley’s breakfast contribution to our AIM progressive meal day. If it’s lunchtime, check out what Cammy has cooking.

If it’s mid-day or dinner time, welcome to my contribution: appetizer and a veggie main meal. (There will be links to Lori and Debby a little later.)

I’m not a summer cook. I don’t know how to grill and I don’t want to learn. (However, I do know my way around a marinade or sauce in case BF is in the mood to grill, which he’s really good at.) I also hate heating the oven on sultry days, mostly because I’m too cheap to put on the air conditioner just to make something to eat. So in the summer, I prefer to eat fresh and out of a can (i.e. canned black beans or canned tuna on a salad). The crockpot’s a godsend, too, and I have no problem with a little stove-top cooking.

So, if yinz came to my house for appetizers, I would serve this hummus:

Sun-Dried Tomato and Curry Hummus

This is loosely based on a Weight Watchers recipe (Roasted Red Pepper Hummus). I wasn’t crazy about the original, so I “made it my own,” (somewhere, Paula Abdul is clapping for me).

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained (reserve the drained liquid)
4-5 sun-dried tomato halves (not the kind in oil)
3-4 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled
2 T tahini
3 T lemon juice
1/3 C Greek yogurt
¼ t pepper
¼ to ½ t salt
1 t curry powder (I use a combo of hot and mild)
½ t cumin
½ t coriander

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process for a minute. Add a little of the reserved liquid (or if you forgot to save it, like I’ve done before, use vegetable or chicken broth or water) and process for another few minutes. Check for consistency and add more liquid if you want. Process for about 3-5 minutes, or until desired consistency.

This is really good right away or after a few hours in the fridge. It’s got a nice bite, especially if you add some hot curry kick. I serve it with baked pita chips and veggies.

If you were moving on to Lori’s for a meat-based main meal option, click here to see what she has cooking. If you’re staying at my house after the hummus, I would serve a vegetarian meal.

There are a million vegetarian options I could choose from, but paprikash is one I haven’t made in a long time. While it is somewhat time intensive due to all the chopping, it’s one I love making for other people, mostly because not many of my friends know what to do with paprika other than sprinkle a little on top of deviled eggs. Paprika is one of those under-appreciated spices in the white-bread world.

Vegetables Paprikash
(From the book “1001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes” by Sue Spitler)
4 servings

2 C thinly sliced cabbage
1 C each: sliced onion or leeks, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, and celery
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ C sliced mushrooms
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 T olive oil
3 T flour
1-2 T paprika (I use 2-3 T, including a mixture of hot and sweet paprika. You can use straight up regular Hungarian paprika as well)
¾ C vegetable broth
½ C sour cream (regular, reduced-fat, or fat-free…I’ve used all three with great success)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté vegetables in oil in large skillet until tender, 5-8 minutes. Stir in the flour and paprika; cook, stirring 1-2 minutes. Stir in broth and heat to boiling; boil, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream; season to taste. Serve over whole wheat egg noodles or a bed of lettuce, or roll in a wrap or stuff in a pita.

Now it’s time to head over to Debby’s for a little dessert.

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AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

AIM: The Organized (Or Not) Approach

It is 7:09 a.m. on Monday, June 2, 2014. It is the first Monday of the month, the day we publish our monthly AIM post. We chose this month’s theme more than three weeks ago to avoid deadline panic. And so, as with most things that I need to do in the future, I thought, ‘I’ll get on that…someday.’

Today is “someday” and I’m just now getting my thoughts on the screen. For three weeks, I’ve bounced a few thoughts around. Even wrote a few of them on a restaurant napkin and an index card. Yet here I am, 51 minutes to my 8 a.m. deadline and I’m thinking feverishly about how to organize this blog post about organization.

While I do some of my best work on deadline, I don’t live my best life that way. Indecision, procrastination, distraction, and no accountability postponed my decision to lose weight the last time, and are always looming threats to maintenance. Organized, I am a force to be reckoned with. Disorganized, and I don’t think the most clearly, and I don’t always make the best decisions.

That’s not to say everything in my life needs to be organized to be successful. Flying by the seat of my pants can sometimes illicit the most insight, coax creativity, or be the best fun ever. Some of my best days start with the conversation: “What do you want to do today?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do today?” But when it comes to weight loss and maintenance, the disorganized “someday” approach derails me, mostly because I’m looking for an excuse to avoid that which seems unpleasant or difficult. Saying “no” to the white bread and butter the waiter brings to the table seems easy enough, but sometimes it is difficult, and so in “someday” mode, saying “yes” propels responsibility and culpability into the future. When I’m organized and consciously aware of my plan, I live in the moment and not in “someday.” Ergo, I make better decisions.

I won’t bore you with lists and details of how I organize my food plan or workout plan except to say I’m less likely to say, “Screw it. Let’s order pizza” when my pantry and refrigerator are well stocked.
I’m more interested in sharing this side note about organization: You need to be willing to forgive yourself if you don’t always stick to your plan. Like today, I’m well aware that this blog could have been written weeks ago, but beating myself up for it isn’t going to get it written any faster or better, just as beating ourselves up for eating off plan or skipping a workout isn’t going to help us lose weight any faster or better.

“Someday” is today. May you live it conscientiously and without fear or dread of what you eat, how you move, or how you think about yourself.
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AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

Boom. Done

My fortune cookie last week

I’m not a very good painter. (As in painter of walls and furniture.) I’ve had ambition to paint, but never enough to get me through an entire project, or at least, an entire project done well.

I can see the potential in a worn piece of furniture. I can imagine what a room would look like in a different color. But usually that’s where my motivation ends.

Until this week. This week, I did the one thing I never bothered doing before any other painting project:

I learned how.

My niece is moving in for the summer. I have a spare room and a spare bed, and instead of hauling her dresser out here from Minnesota, I told her I’d get one.

I looked at new dressers in my price range (read: cheap) and I was pretty sure if I bought one, we’d be making s’mores over the fire we’d make with it by the end of summer. So I sent out an email to friends and local family members to keep an eye out for a used dresser. Jim’s mom called and said a friend of hers was moving to Florida and was getting rid of all her furniture. Perfect! For $20, I got a 5-drawer 1950s-style chest of drawers, and man, was it ugly! BUT…I saw its potential. A little paint…

I can’t find the photo I took of the entire dresser, but you get some idea of its ugliness.

The blessing and curse of dating a carpenter is that I can’t fake my lack of carpentry knowledge. The blessing is that I can plead ignorance (or actually BE ignorant) when it comes to things I know I can’t or don’t want to do, like fix the exhaust fan in the bathroom. It’s a curse when I think I can do something and I screw it up.

In my mind, the dresser project was going to go this way: Pick a main color and an accent color, buy a brush, throw down a drip cloth and paint. Boom, done.

In Jim’s mind, the dresser project was going to go this way: Ask the guy at the paint store what he recommended I do to the dresser to get it ready for the paint. Sandpaper? What? Huh? Ask the guy at the paint store to recommend the right kind of primer. Primer? Ask the guy at the paint store to recommend the right kind of base paint. You mean there’s more than one kind? Buy a block of medium sandpaper. Buy a 4-inch roller and a couple of pads. Go home. Remove handles of the dresser. Scuff dresser. Prime dresser. Wait at least four hours. Those are the instructions where? On the can? Paint dresser. Wait another four hours. This will take forEVER! Paint dresser again. Next day (next day?), prepare area for accent color by taping the edges of the bevels. Paint accent color. Wait four hours. Paint accent color again. Dry overnight before reassembling. Boom, done.

Asking questions and painting things slowly and deliberately was new to me. Painting was supposed to be easy, something we all innately know how to do, right? Gee, hmm…maybe that’s why my painting projects never turn out the way I envisioned.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

The reason so many of us don’t lose weight or don’t keep it off is that we never took the time to learn how. It should be easy, right? You stop eating so much, you move around a little more. Boom. Done.

But it’s not that easy. There’s way more to it than that. And it starts by asking the right questions, both of ourselves and of others who know what they’re talking about.

However, knowledge only enhances ambition. You can be excited you bought the right paint, feel smart that you bought the right roller and pat yourself on the back for selecting the right drop cloth, but the dresser won’t paint itself.

Boom/done doesn’t happen in successful weight loss and maintenance. Success is an every day commitment to patience, ambition, and learning how.

I’m a day away from boom/done

 

AIM: Is Vanity Fair?

Sometimes I’m this kind of vain: “You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte” (You’re So Vain by Carly Simon). Although, in my defense, when I check my look in the mirror, it’s usually done less as prideful admiration than straight-up concern about looking like a goober. Either way, it’s driven by vanity.

In more ways, though, I am this kind of vain: “Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or, having it, is satisfied?” (from Vanity Fair by William Thackeray)

Vanity as “If only…”.

There’s inner vanity “If only…” (“If only I was __________” – thinner, prettier, less grey, smarter, wittier…) and outward vanity “If only…” (“If only people would ____________” – listen to me,  think like me, do as I say…).

Inner vanity example #1: Jim and I were trying on sunglasses at Costco last weekend. I usually wear aviator-style. I put on a pair and asked Jim what he thought. He said he didn’t like aviators.

“I wear them all the time,” I protested. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Because you like them and that’s what matters,” he said.

I was indignant. I think aviators look good on me! I’ve been told they look good on me! What else doesn’t he like about me?

Inner vanity example #2: During the same Costco trip, a woman was hawking “healthy” pizzas. I tried a sample and picked up the package to look at the ingredients list. Before I could read it, she said, “Do you follow Weight Watchers points?” I looked at her curiously. Is she calling me fat? “A whole pie is only six points!” she added.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said and set down the package. I walked back to my cart, seething with mind-numbing self-consciousness.

Sensitive much? Absolutely. That’s what happens when my inner vanity “If only…” takes over. I make myself a victim of dissatisfaction when I forget I am OK just the way I am, something I forget quite often.

Outward vanity “If only…” is something I call Soap Box Mind. We not only preach our certainties, but we reject any possibility that someone else’s certainties are also right.

Perhaps no other realm – outside religious or political arenas – are people more sure of the answers than weight loss. The Paleos, the vegans, the vegetarians, the no-carb, the low-carb, the non-fat, the DASHers, the pill pushers, the surgeons, the smoothie makers, the “Eat This Not That’ers, the butter eaters, the don’t eat after 8ers…

We cross the line from genuine to vain when we preach our path as the only path.

I sometimes adopt a bit of leeway as to my position about the how-tos of weight loss and maintenance. I read extensively about what works for other people, and I espouse that which is logically and nutritionally sound, even if it’s outside my way of doing things.

But there are times when outer vanity “If only…” prevents me from thinking outside the box; when someone else’s definition of eating healthy contrasts with mine, and I get all, “But…but…my way is better!” I realize this is an area for self-improvement.

Everyday vanity isn’t as extreme as checking ourselves out in the mirror as we gavotte. It’s more covert. It’s learned and lodged deep inside our psyches. We fuss about our clothes, our hair, our weight. We aren’t satisfied when we have our “desire.” It is vanity that causes us to search for that which we think will make us happy.

How would things be different if you had _____? Would you be happier? More satisfied? My guess is that you can be OK just the way you are, right now.

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” ― Fred Rogers
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AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

Own It!

Jim and I had coffee at Starbucks a few weeks ago with our friends Dave and Peg. The manager came around with samples of Starbucks’ new bakery items…chocolate croissants, berry something or others, coffee cake…you know what I mean. The guys dug in, but Peg and I refused them. I said to Peg that I’ve gained a few pounds since meeting Jim, to which Jim said, “I may have had a hand in that.”

While I appreciate Jim’s willingness to shoulder some of the responsibility, absolutely no one but me decides what I eat. He’s off the hook.

I introduced Jim as “Steve” in my blog post, “Food is Like Brylcreem: A Little Dab Will Do Ya,” in February 2013. Jim is a capital “F” Foodie. He’s a great cook and loves to go out for dinner. He understands my desire to eat clean and doesn’t push food on me. But his way of life has influenced me, and what I’ve seen happen in 15 months is exactly what Shelley described yesterday in her post, “Getting Back to Basics”: “I have slowly let other things become more of the norm instead of the exception…”

While writing this post, I noticed how often I wanted to use the words “blame” and “fault.” I’d originally written, “Jim was willing to take part of the blame, but it was my fault.” Ew! Where’s the loving kindness in that? Nowhere, that’s where.  Losing and maintaining weight takes determination and vigilance. Absolutely. But it also takes a kind approach to disappointment. Not blaming, shaming and faulting.

Have I let more food exceptions become the norm? Yes. Am I disappointed with some of my choices? Yes. But I’ve been disappointed in some choices my children have made over the years and I still love them. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 50 years it’s that I respond more positively to identifying a feeling as disappointment than I do blame and fault. Blaming someone else takes the responsibility off of me, and blaming myself is punishment. I cannot grow or learn from either of those reactions. Disappointment, on the other hand, allows for self-examination and spurs me to do better, to make amends.

Our friends’ and family’s food behaviors can have sway in our lives. But our friends and family are not responsible for our choices.

Jim is an adventurous foodie, and if I choose to eat something he offers, that’s solely my decision. Now, whether I’m listening to my inner voice at the time…that, too, is up to me. Like last night’s pound cake incident (while watching the Pens game…Go Pens!):

Jim: “Want some?”
Inner Voice: “You’ve been on track all day! Atta girl! Keep it up!”
Me: “No, thank you!”
Jim: “Oh, man! Did you see that shot?”

My decision to not eat pound cake had no impact on Jim’s life.

I’ve been at this online weight-loss blogging thing for almost nine years. One of the things I hear the most from people who read my blog is the angst they feel about other people’s food behaviors, either in the form of “pushing” food on them or not accepting their decision to improve their food choices. Food as a form of psychological pressure. I know much has been written about this issue, but really…it comes down to individual choice. My food choices are not responsible for someone else’s happiness. Nor is any resulting weight gain or weight loss or weight neutrality a result of something someone else has done, said, made or offered.

Yikes! I sound so militant. But then…losing weight and maintaining weight takes a bit of militancy. Militancy based in loving kindness for one’s own body. It’s yours! The only one you’ll ever have! Own it.

Disappointment happens. Let go of the blame and shame and fault.

And don’t let anyone tell you what you should eat.

AIM: Are We There Yet?

Continuing our “Ask Us (Almost) Anything” series, this month we’re answering this question from Diane: “How did you know when to transition to maintenance from loss mode? Was it a number or a size or something else? Did you struggle to not want to ‘lose a little more’?”

I declared goal on a cloudy March day in 2007. I was at my doctor’s office for a routine checkup. I weighed 138 pounds. I said to my doctor, “So, do you suppose I’m done?” She said, “I think you can stop now.” No fanfare, no confetti, no fireworks, no angels flying around the room singing “Hallelujah.” Just me, my doctor and my medical file in which my doctor wrote, “Lost 158 pounds in two years, two months and 12 days.”

I walked out of the her office no longer a person losing weight, but a person maintaining weight. I got in my car, sat there for a moment, and thought, ‘Now what?’

My original goal weight in January 2005 was 150 pounds only because my doctor and I picked a number that sounded reasonable. When you’re sitting at nearly 300 pounds, your goal weight is the least of your concerns.

So I got to 150. I looked at my body and knew immediately I wasn’t “there” yet. So I changed my goal to a waist size – 32 inches. I got there in January 2007 and still didn’t feel done yet. I knew there was a more toned body in me somewhere.

When I got to 140 pounds, I felt like the body I was hoping for was emerging. My lower stomach and hips were getting stronger, carrying less fat, and they were getting flat, despite the fact that I’d had two children and was morbidly obese for several years. What I thought was loose skin turned out to be fat because much of the “flap” was gone. That amused me in so many ways. I can’t count the number of people who’ve asked me about loose skin, particularly people who haven’t lost a pound. My reply is always the same: you simply DO NOT KNOW what you will look like until you reach your goal. Deal with skin then if you want to, but remember, loose skin won’t kill you. Obesity could.

Anyway…goal. 138 pounds. I was still a member of Weight Watchers online and at goal, you are allowed a few more daily points. Believe me, I ate them(!) and yet, I continued to lose weight. By the time I taped the “Oprah” show in October 2007, I was 132 pounds…and obsessed with losing more. More, more, MORE!

In preparing to write this AIM post, I sifted through my blog entries from December 2007 and found this:

“Overall, I’m feeling good and slowly accepting my body at goal. I still can’t say the words ‘I am thin’ out loud because all my life I’ve either been told by others or I told myself that I had a few pounds (at least) to lose. It will take some time for me to really embrace the whole ‘thin’ thing.

I realized the other day that while I’m only 17 pounds lighter than last Christmas, I’m two to three clothing sizes smaller. I’m a little excited that my size 6 Levis are bagging and I might, just might, fit into a size 4. That is so surreal. I remember thinking three years ago how happy I’d be to get back into a size 12. Then when I got to a 12, I started thinking, ‘What if I go just a little smaller?’ And then at size 8, I thought, ‘One more size. Let’s see if I can do one more size.’ I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be a size 6, let alone a 4 in anything.”

By summer 2008, I was vacillating between 125-128 pounds and I remember thinking that maybe I’d try to reach 120, despite the fact that I was cold all the time and the people closest to me – the ones I trusted the most – told me I was getting too thin. I won’t say I had an eating disorder. It was that I couldn’t let go of that weight-loss mentality. I hadn’t embraced maintenance, even though I said I did. That didn’t happen until 2010, when I had knee surgery and my marriage fell apart and my focus was no longer entirely on my weight.

Am I the world’s greatest maintainer? Not by a long shot. In fact, I’m back in weight-loss mode. Only this time, it’s not with the same fervent veracity with which I lost weight the last time, the “Get it off NOW” approach.

I’m convinced that maintaining any weight loss takes years to figure out, and often, many of us gain some or all of our lost weight back in the process of trying to figure out what maintenance path is best for us. I’ll say one thing, though, losing that freaking obsession with gaining weight has been a godsend, despite the pain and heartache I went through to get there. I don’t always like what I see in the mirror, but there’s a quieter, gentler person looking back this time. I know I have what it takes to lose and and to maintain, even if I choose to maintain where I am right now, this second.
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AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

Numbers Revisited

244, 136, 92, 90, 120/72, 27.5

The numbers are in from my latest blood work: overall cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“happy” cholesterol), triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and BMI.

For comparison, the recommended numbers for most people are:

  • Overall cholesterol
  • LDL
  • HDL >60 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides
  • Blood pressure 120/80
  • BMI 25 or less

Compared to when I wrote about this before (See “Lady in Red, Do You Know Your Numbers?”), my HDL still has a slight edge over LDL, but not as much as it did. Triglycerides are hanging in there, but the overall number is up, higher than it’s been in a long while. Years. Many years.

Higher-than-normal cholesterol levels are in my genetics. A few of my thin and not-so-thin kin need medication to control it. But I know my levels can be controlled through diet and exercise. I can’t use genetics as an excuse. Or menopause. Or daylight savings.

Refuse to Regain’s Barbara Berkeley recently posted a blog about how weight gain isn’t a simple ratio of too many calories consumed to too few calories burned. She wrote: “Weight gain appears to be much more related to the specific ways in which our individual bodies dispose of (or store) the foods we eat.”  

This is most definitely true for me. I don’t process a piece of cake the way my boyfriend does. I can’t look at Thanksgiving stuffing without gaining five pounds. The same is true for cholesterol. The foods I eat and how my body processes them directly impacts not only my scale number, but my lipid battery numbers. Cholesterol follows my scale number like a dance partner – from my heaviest weight (300+) to my goal weight (138) to my lowest weight (125) to the weight I am now (165).

All of my numbers improve when I eat: 7-9 servings of fruits and veggies (mostly veggies) a day; beans and legumes several times a week; one or two daily servings of reduced-fat dairy; eggs (mostly egg whites); grains such as brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, and oats; a serving or two a week of soy products such as edamame or tofu; and five or six servings a week of nuts, like almonds and walnuts. Oh…and green tea every day. I also like a bit of seafood now and then: white fish, tuna, scallops, mussels, shrimp and canned salmon.

I know “low-fat” diets aren’t in anymore, but when I eat fatty foods, including olive oil and the new darling of the nutrition world, full-fat dairy, I feel queasy and really full. I hate that full feeling. It makes me tired. Slows me down. Fat isn’t my thing. Neither is sugar or white flour. But clearly I’ve been consuming them to varying degrees since my last blood draw, damn any full and queasy feeling. I knowingly (and regretfully) increased my white flour and sugar consumption, and, no doubt, saturated fat tagged along. Thus an embarrassingly high overall cholesterol number (and a rising BMI…ugh…).

That’s what got me on the weight-loss band wagon nearly 10 years ago. My numbers. They were abysmal (triglycerides were 300!) and you KNOW I wasn’t exercising one bit.

A scale number doesn’t scare me half as much as a cholesterol number, but knowing I can control both through what I eat and how I move is like opening a window on a beautiful spring day. There is hope in change, in eating right, in moving, and there is power in having the key to success. I know what works for me. I have documented proof.

But my digestive system isn’t your digestive system. We each need to find the foods that work best for our overall health and well-being.

WebMD has a spiffy little quiz to give you a quick “back of the envelope” primer on cholesterol. And the Mayo Clinic offers these “Top 5 Foods” to eat to help lower your cholesterol.

Do you know what your numbers are? If not, don’t be afraid! Knowledge is power, and armed with your numbers, you can carve out a diet that works for you to keep your arteries free flowing.

Help in the Middle Of Nowhere

Smicksburg  is one of the smallest incorporated boroughs in Pennsylvania. Population: 46. Forty-six “English,” that is. Surrounding the borough is a community of roughly 800 Amish.

If you live in western PA for more than 5 minutes, you grow used to seeing the Amish walking down the road, riding in their buggies, grocery shopping, working on construction sites, or manning vegetable or bakery stands at farm markets, even in the heart of Pittsburgh.

So I was in Smicksburg with the Irishman the other day, buying a birthday gift for my daughter (Smicksburg is known for its quaint shops and killer fudge). Driving the back roads home, we came across this pay phone in…quite literally…the middle of nowhere.

What seems random and a throw-back to 1982, this pay phone is a lifeline for the Amish community. It connects those in need of emergency assistance with the people who can help. It just seems out of place to those of us with cell phones and Wi-Fi.
There continue to be times in my weight-loss and weight-maintenance journey when I need help in the middle of what seems like nowhere. Those times when I feel shame or guilt or self-loathing. You know, the stuff you don’t want anyone to know about. I know I’m in the middle of nowhere when food seems like the answer or I can’t get past a plateau or I need help accepting my body as it is right now or when I just need someone to say, “Lynn, I believe in you” when I don’t.

I’m making this photo my screen saver to remind me that I am not alone. All I have to do is “call,” and my friends and community will be there. My mediation and exercise will sustain me.

What reminders do you keep handy to help you remember that you are not alone when you feel stranded in the middle of nowhere?

AIM: The Last Straw

In our ongoing quest to keep open the dialogue of weight maintenance, AIM opened a new forum a few months ago, “Ask Us (Almost) Anything,” for you to share ideas or questions you’d like us to address in future posts. Last month we talked about grocery shopping. This month, on our one-year AIM anniversary, we wanted to address the question that takes us back all the way to the beginning: “What was your ‘last straw’ moment, or your kick in the butt, or whatever it was that finally made you say ‘I just have to do this!'”

Some of you know my “last straw” story. I wrote about it in “One Thing,” and I’ve discussed it in several interviews over the years. In 2004, I had thought carefully over the course of several months about whether to lose weight or to accept my body at 300 pounds and forget about it. But it was a photograph of my daughter and me in December 2004 at her 20th birthday dinner that opened my eyes to the broader aspect of weight and self-acceptance.

When I reread “One Thing” this week in preparation for this post, I read it with a 9-year perspective. A lot has happened since that fate-filled photo was taken. In nine years, I’ve lost weight (perhaps too much) and I’ve gained some back. But what was true then is still true today: true love transcends weight.

Transcendence Part One: The people I most admire are those who love themselves. Period. They don’t use the words “if only…” or “despite…” or “but…” when speaking about themselves. What I learned in my months-long journey to my decision to lose weight was that if I wasn’t my own best friend, the person I loved most in this world, then I couldn’t lose weight and keep it off because I would be doing it for some other reason or person besides me. If I was going to take my body down that scale, my heart had to be the captain of the weight-loss ship.

Transcendence Part Two: The other folks I most admire are those who love others unconditionally. Like those who love themselves unconditionally, the people who love others unconditionally also don’t use the words “if only…” or “despite” or “but…” when speaking of the people they love. The last straw, that moment I started understanding the impact of weight on my life, was when I understood that my children loved me no matter what I looked like.

Here’s what I wrote: “At first glance I did the usual, ‘How could you let yourself get that big?’ self-flagellating ritual. Then something caught my eye. Something bigger than my third chin. Cassie had placed her cheek next to mine and she was beaming. She was happy because she was with her mother on her birthday. Not her morbidly obese mother, her ill-dressed mother, her isolated, guarded, self-loathing mother – those were my descriptors. Cassie loved me just the way I was.”

Goodness knows I’m not perfect, and it seems I’m always learning the lessons of loving myself and allowing others to love me, but the teaching had to start somewhere. And for me, it started with  that photo, the mother of all “Aha!” moments.

Do you have a “last straw” moment? And are you committed to loving yourself…JUST AS YOU ARE? Share a comment with us here.

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AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet