weight watchers

February 14 – Growth and love

“A good marriage is on which allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love.” – Pearl Buck

I am not the same person I was back in April of 1983, and for that, just about everyone I know is thankful. That skinny kid from Cleveland was very immature. He had notions of the world that just didn’t stand up to the test of time. He was cocky at times (despite the best efforts of his mother). He was overly-idealistic. He was aggressive and passionate, but prone to angry outbursts. He was certain that in just a few years he would rule the world, or at least whatever fiefdom he found himself in presently. It’s not that he was a bad person, he was just, well, not very seasoned.

I am very blessed with a loving wife who accepts me as I am, and still challenges me to be better. Even when I have been at the depths of depression, or the heights of obesity, she has accepted and loved me just as I was, while still helping me to become better. It seems like that last sentence is oxymoronic, but it isn’t. I believe it is the key to success in any relationship – especially in marriage.

Some years ago I was pondering what made my marriage work so well. We had been married for a logn time, and had seen our share of ups and downs, as any couple will. At the time, my mom was still alive and living in the house where I’d grown up. Next door the immigrant family had long-since build a grape trellis over their driveway, and the husband was known for making his own wine. I was in my mother’s yard with my kids and looking at the grapes hanging from the trellis in my neighbor’s yard, and it came to me. A good marriage is like a grape vine.

As I looked at the grapevine I could see some places where two vines seemed indistinguishable from one another. It looked as though they were so twisted together as to be one. In other places those vines were more spaced and had grown apart some, then further along they came back together again. I am no expert on grape growing, and it is possible that my understanding of those vines was flawed, but in that moment I hit upon a metaphor for married life.

There are times in any marriage when people are so close together as to be almost indistinguishable from one another. Their interests and activities are so intertwined that they become interchangeable. They might like the exact same books, TV shows, hobbies, Saturday activities, and so on. My wife and I have had times like that to be sure. Other times they might be a little more separated. While one is off reading true crime books, and building things in the garage, the other might be off exploring painting, and reading magazines on how to hone cooking skills. I suppose that for some, when these times of growing apart go too far, the marriage can suffer. Those that find success, as we’ve been fortunate to do, always seem to eventually grow back to one another.

Pearl Buck’s quote reminds me today that, in many respects, I am not the person I was when I got married. The same is true for my wife. If the success of our marriage was based only on exactly who we were and how we acted on that rainy Saturday, then we would have been doomed. Instead, we have learned to grow – together and apart – into the people, and the couple we are today.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day… Happy Valentine’s day to one and all today! May the hope and spark of love, both old and new, warm your February heart.

February 10 – Comforting routines and my weigh-in day

 

“Eating habits are like a mother tongue you learn as a child and never forget.” – Sandra Haber Ph.D.

In High School I took 3 years of Spanish, then I took another year in College. I got good grades, and could read, and even speak a bit in the language, but I was never to a point where I would have considered it a second language. Today and skills I had are lost to lack of use. I may catch the occasional word on a TV show now and again, but nothing worth talking about. My mother tongue is, and always will be English.

Today’s meditation in Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey discusses how the habits we learned in childhood can have an effect on our eating today. I grew up in the late 60s and 70s, and I was taught to eat everything on my plate. Dinner at my house was a predictable mix of foods. There was a mix of cooking styles that she used, and she had a handful of things she made often. If I were to point to one thing about my food habits growing up it would be that we had a routine.

One could guess the day of the week by what was on my plate at dinner. We had a pattern that repeated. We didn’t eat the same thing every week, but over the course of a month or two the pattern would emerge. My mother was a creature of habit. When she used something from the cupboard, that item went on the shopping list to be replaced for the next use. My breakfasts and lunches were no different. I would eat the same cereal, with a cup of hot chocolate every day. She would buy me something relatively healthy, like Raisin Bran, then allow me to sprinkle a spoonful of table sugar on it. For lunch, I would eat the same, nearly exact thing, for an entire school year. Some years it was PB&J, others it was a salami sandwich. Whatever it was, I had it every day.

I am still the same today. Just yesterday a coworker was telling me she was hungry. I asked if she’d had lunch yet, and she hadn’t and was heading to the cafeteria. I had eaten, and before I could tell her what I had, she said “Ham sandwich?” She was, of course, right. One thing that has helped me stay on track has been routine. There are about 10 different things I eat, in various combination, that account for 2/3 of all my meals.

For me, the fact that I thrive on routine is a leftover from my childhood that serves me well. Along the way I have improved on what I eat, and most importantly how much I eat. But, the routines still drive me.

Weigh-in

Today I weighed in at 245.6 pounds. That is a 3.2 pound increase from last Friday. I honestly don’t get what happened. I had 1 day where I was off track on my eating, but I didn’t consume 10,500 extra calories that day!  For the rest of the week I was on track. I did miss one work out as well. My wife wonders whether my, umm, movements might be in play. And, we did go to our favorite diner last night, so perhaps there was a bit of extra sodium in my system. My guess is it is a combination of all these factors. I am discouraged, but honestly not surprised.

For the week ahead I will continue to work on doing what I know works. Track food, increase exercise. I am in this for the long haul, so a single week isn’t the end of the world.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day..For me, routines are comforting. They allow me to enjoy my life, without having to spend too much time worrying about food decisions. When I follow them well, and watch my portions, I get the results I desire.

February 9 – Constant temptation

“Page one is a diet, page two is a chocolate cake,” – Kim Williams

The quote today, from Weight Watchers Success Every Day. 365 Meditations for Your Weight Loss Journey, is a reference to how many Women’s magazines are laid out. The meditation talks about how often a magazine will, in the same issue, tout the benefits of a new diet, while also running up the score on tasty desserts. This book was written in the 1990s, and quotes statistics about that era. I have no idea whether the phenomenon still exists in magazines, but the constant barrage of food advertising, both overt and subtle, still exists.

It seems like TV advertising is dominated by restaurants and other food choices. At my house we also end up watching a lot of food-based TV programming. The Food Network shows people making and eating food 24 hours a day. Sure, some of the dishes are diet friendly, but there are also plenty of cupcake wars, and shows like Chopped always include a dessert round, as though cramming a dessert after eating the rest of the goodies they have made should be a daily (half-hourly), thing. And, let’s not forget that Taco Bell came up with the idea of “4th meal” in their advertising. Perhaps that is just paying homage to those already curing their munchies with the garbage of that joint, I don’t know.

The fact is that here in the US we seem to live in a culture that is obsessed with food. So, if you are a person, like me, that tends to over eat when you don’t have a laser focus, you are under constant pressure. And, if you are trying to keep things under control, the temptations are everywhere.

At work I have a walking path inside my building. It is about 0.17 miles, and takes me past many people’s desks, as well as the café area. On that path, there are at least 8 bowls of candy that are put out by well-intentioned coworkers. Additionally, at least 3 days a week there is free food in the café, leftovers from one departmental activity or another. One coworker is known throughout the building for always having snacks at his desk. While he does keep bananas on display, they are surrounded by cookies and crackers. On Friday he walks the building with a giant box from the bakery, tempting people with his delicious treats. I am not kidding, he (and others who bring in donuts and bagels) is at least part of the reason that I choose to work from home on Friday!

To be clear, I don’t make excuses. The fact that the temptations exist is not the reason why I gained weight, and struggle to lose. I alone make the choice to eat. What I am saying is that when the temptations are constant and plentiful, staying the course becomes a battle of wills, which I do not always win.

On another note, today is Thursday, and I am writing this at about 5:30am. I should be in the shower right now, just home from a workout. But, I slept in. My sleepy head at 3:50am convinced me that I need to be sharp for the afternoon workshop I am facilitating today, and that a vigorous workout might make me tired. As I am sitting here actually awake, I know that is hogwash. I would have been fine. That workshop, and the work I need to do at work and home after, will mean that a trip to the gym won’t be happening. I have one good workout in so far this week. I will get one tomorrow before I weigh in, but that will leave me one behind my goal for the week.

Last week was a rock star week for weight loss. I am honestly nervous about what this week will bring. I will be happy to be even, after the Super Bowl and birthday party. We shall see.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…temptation is everywhere to indulge on food. It is up to me to find ways maintain my focus to reach my goals.

February 8 – I will never unconditionally love myself

“I truly believe that there are as many ways of loving as there are people in the world and as there are days in the life of those people.” – Mary S. Calderone

I am not sure which comes first – me starting to lose weight, or me starting to love myself. I do know that the two combined for a virtuous cycle in my life. The more that my health got under control, the more I liked who I was, and that fed my desire to lose more weight.

It’s funny to think about, because it makes me a rather superficial judge of myself. At some level, I do judge myself by my appearance, and I do that in a way that if anyone did it to me, I’d probably be hurt. And in a way that if I did it to someone else, I’d be ashamed of myself. When I look at myself in the mirror, especially when I am sitting on the bed putting on my socks, I don’t like what I see. I can count every bulge and roll of fat, and it upsets me. Not because I desire to have ripped abs, and no body fat, but because what I see today is more than what I saw last summer. As much as anything, that image is driving me right now.

When I was a kid, one of my mother’s quips was “self-praise stinks”. She said that to make sure that I stayed humble, that I didn’t brag on my own accomplishments and set myself up to be cocky or arrogant. The idea she had for me was to just perform and do my best, and let others recognize the accomplishment. That is solid advice, and a good way to keep oneself in proper perspective. The problem for me is that I also interpreted it to mean “self-love stinks”, and that isn’t nearly as healthy of an attitude. There are probably 1,000 ways that my mind has been screwed by how I have let the opinions of others into my garden, but this one was a hard one to shake.

I will not ever be perfect, or even perfectly healthy – mentally or physically. I will always be a gloriously imperfect work in progress. Every day that I am diligent and intentional about my health is a day that my health gets better. Every day that I lose that focus is one where my health slips.

Today’s quote made me think about how much I really do love myself. At 55 years old, the words from my mother that I misunderstood still haunt me. I will probably never be one to be completely in love with myself just as I am. That ongoing discomfort will  either drive me to do better, or allow me to spiral downward. The choice is mine.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…I am not, and never will be perfect, nor will I ever be completely satisfied with who I am. Knowing those two things helps me to focus myself in the right direction.

February 7 – [Un]Common Sense

“[Common sense] is the best sense I know of.” Lord Chesterfield

Over the years I have encountered literally dozens of schemes for rapid weight loss. The grapefruit diet, the cabbage diet, and the Stillman diet come to mind. For that matter, so does the Atkins diet, and it’s cousin the South Beach diet. All of them promise rapid weight loss, and many of them deliver…for a very short time. There is a word for most of the people I have encountered who continually search for, and try out the newest fad, “miracle” diet. The word is obese.

Ask anyone who is reasonably bright whether anything in life worth achieving came easy. Ask them about things like College degrees, professional success, excellence at a hobby, musical proficiency, and so on, and just about everyone will tell you that their success was due to hard work. (save your story about some prodigy who picked something up and was instantly great. If that were you with weight loss, you wouldn’t be reading this blog) Many times they will be happy to tell you, with some pride, about their trials and errors along the way. It is widely, and very generally, accepted that success takes work. If you told someone they could be a violin virtuoso by taking a pill every day, or that they could earn their Ph.D. if they simply refrained from reading any books printed in paperback, they would call you a loony.

Success takes work. That is just pure common sense.

So, why do so many people believe that weight loss is easy? Why do they believe that if they just stop eating one kind of food, they will melt away? Why do they believe the snake oil salesmen (like Dr. Oz), who tell them that there are magic beans that will make them thin?

The truth is that losing weight takes work, and plenty of it. And I don’t just mean the work done at the gym. It takes work to plan and execute a balanced diet that has the right nutrition to fuel your body without having a surplus that gets stored as fat.

Lately I have been concerned about the Weight Watchers commercials on TV. Seeing Oprah Winfrey gleefully talking about how she eats “everything”, really makes me worry about whether the method I have dedicated myself to, and have found success with, is being misrepresented by a long-time yo yo dieter who now owns a portion of the company and stands to profit from people signing up, who expect dramatic, immediate, easy results.

Sure, I can eat any kind of food I want on Weight Watchers, and I do believe that is why it works so well for me. But, and this is the part I think is under-represented in the commercials, I have to consciously make trade offs in order for it to work. If I go to a Super Bowl party and enjoy the goodies, I better be prepared to either spend some days being very strict, or seeing the scale tic upwards.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. Weight loss is simple, but it is not easy.

Perhaps it is that people don’t want to face the reality in their life that their size and overall health are mostly of their own doing. When I weighed 350, it was easy for me to blame everyone but me. But, and I say this as literally as I possibly can, at no time in my life has anyone held a gun to my head and forced me to eat. Never! Not once! I willingly spent hours alone in my car in the back of fast food restaurant parking lots indulging in several days’ worth of food for lunch. I made excuses about why I drove off to Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, and so on rather than walking to the cafeteria and loading up on the salad bar. I convinced myself that the entire tube of Pringles I ate on the way home from work was cool. Along with the Peanut Buster Parfaits, and yes, the Kit Kats.

The funny thing about common sense is how truly un-common it can be.

I know there are some who find this blog on WordPress as they surf around looking for inspiration on weight loss and fitness. If you are one of those people, and you are looking for a fast fix, and you are still reading this far into this post, I beg you to stop lying to yourself, and to stop believing the lies others are telling you. Here are a few truths to consider (with apologies for repeating myself):

  • Weight loss takes work. Lots of it, and it is hard
  • You will have to deny yourself from indulging in everything, at the same levels that you did to get to your top weight.
  • Sometimes you will be hungry, and that is ok
  • Sometimes you will stumble along the way
  • But, and I say this with every drop of sincerity in my heart… you CAN do it!

Weight loss is hard, but it is worth it.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Everything achievement in life worth attaining takes diligent, intentional, consistent work. And, it is worth it!

February 6 -The Power of Sleep

“[Sleep is] the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Decker

This past week I read about a study done on High School students. The conclusion of the study was that when Districts start the day later for students in grades 9-12, their performance increases dramatically. By starting the day later, teens were more likely to get the amount of sleep they needed to maintain growth, and school performance. I had read about a similar study done about 20 years ago. Around that time I was teaching a class on Time Management for Busy Teens, and one of my themes was that they needed to sleep more to improve their performance, and be better able to manage the demands on their time. It was counter-intuitive to them because they thought that they needed to get by on less sleep in order to complete all that was on their plate.

In the early 2000s I worked for a director who took over a failing IT program. The program had a consistent record of missed deadlines, budget overruns, and unusually high error rates. Among the many changes he implemented was to cut back overtime. Not because he wanted people to work for free, but because he wanted them to work a reasonable day, then go home. He actually wanted them to work less hours. His theory was that the longer they worked, the less effective they became. He wasn’t dreaming this up on his own, there is actually a body of research to support that notion. Within months, thanks to all the measures he put in place, the program began performing well and meeting its objectives.

I have become good at listening to my body. When my body truly needs sleep, I get my sleep. It might mean that I miss a morning workout in favor of extra sleep, but I know in the long run it is worth it. What gets me frustrated is when I know that I have has sufficient sleep, but I still resist the workout. Those mornings I feel unaccomplished.

What I do know is that my body needs 6.5 to 7.5 hours of high-quality sleep on a consistent basis in order to maintain a high level of function. When I short-change that, I see the difference in all aspects of my life.

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday. I also attended a birthday party. I elected not to obsess about my food, or worry about counting food. I made smart choices along the way, but basically I relaxed and enjoyed the day. For the rest of this week I plan to stay within my daily points, and make sure I don’t dip into any of my weekly allotment. This morning (listening to my body), I slept in. My gym bag will be packed and in my car for a post-work workout.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…When I sleep well, I perform well. Last night I enjoyed restorative sleep that will fuel my day.

February 1 – Exercising my mind and body.

“Exercise alone provides psychological and physical benefits. However, if you also adopt a strategy that engages your mind while you exercise, you can get a whole host of psychological benefits fairly quickly.” – James Rippe M.D.

I always have something playing in my ear when I am at the gym. When my workouts were less intense than they are now, I would watch TV on my phone. I watched entire series of shows over the course of time including Dexter and 24. I found that the shows helped keep my mind occupied and kept me from focusing on the clock.

When I stepped up to more intense workouts, I substituted music for TV. Same effect, but I don’t have to concentrate quite so much.

I used to see people bring books or magazines to the gym while they were on the elliptical, treadmill or stationary bike. I was never one for reading because the constant bouncing made it hard for me to focus on the page.

My point in all this is that I have always been one to include other, mental activities when I work out. I am not here to say that watching TV, or listening to music has any inate specific psychological benefit, but maybe when it is done while exercising the combination helps relax the mind.

This morning I did 42 minutes of interval training. When I got home I did another 20 minutes of snow shoveling in my driveway. While I was at the gym I listened to music. It didn’t occur to me to do that while I was clearing and salting…maybe next time.

Now that the Holidays are over, and we are in the doldrums of winter, I have been getting back to daily reading. At any given time I am reading 2 or 3 books. I find that the 30 minutes I spend in my chair after work, and before dinner, unwinds my mind and allows me to reset.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…Keeping my mind and body occupied at the same time helps me have more effective workouts, and makes the time go by a little more enjoyably.