Monthly Archives: January 2015

My Happy Surroundings

Here I am with my writing practice inspirations:  my journal and coffee!

Here I am with my writing practice inspirations: my journal and coffee!

This past weekend I went to a writing seminar. Not only was I inspired to create a writing practice, I was reminded that I had already created a weight loss practice. It’s this routine that I developed after my gastric sleeve surgery that is keeping me healthy and happy.

The writing instructor shared many helpful and insightful writing information, but one hint he shared really struck home. He mentioned he liked to keep one of his favorite books on his desk when he writes. His favorite author inspires him. Sometimes he reads from the book to get ideas, but not to copy. It reminds him of different aspects of writing such as structure, word choice, etc. Surrounding himself with his inspirations and influences keeps him writing.

As he told this story, I realized I am already doing this with my weight loss journey. Since my surgery, I made the conscious effort to make my surroundings healthy. I believe it is one of the biggest reasons for my success. What are these positive things I surround myself with? The first is food. Out with the bad, in with the good. Soda, junk food, fatty food had to go.

No, I’m not an angel by any means. As I write, a pan of chocolate drizzled rice crispy treats are in my kitchen. They are leftovers from the ones my daughter took to a school event. Am I going to have one today? You bet! It’s a treat, not a regular food choice. The rest of the my food choices today will be healthy, especially when I know that large amounts of sugar make me ill. I am surrounded by better food so that what I choose now is what I truly want.

Exercise is another positive aspect of my life. When I don’t move, I am cranky. Trust me, I know I am. Even if I’m just walking my kids to school I am a happier woman. Now running is a passion. I’m still a solo runner, although I am getting closer to running, and hopefully chatting as I run, with friends. I really enjoyed the 5K races I completed. Even though I’m not running and talking with people during the race, I am inspired being with people who are putting themselves out there. Whether these people are competitive runners or determined walkers, they give me a sense of affirmative energy that I love. This is one of the reasons I signed up for another 5K race less than a month after my last race. When you find something that makes you happy, you keep reaching for it.

This leads me to the third thing that makes my surroundings healthy: choosing positive people to keep in my life. Naturally, I can’t control who I am in contact with 100% of the time. I have learned it’s OK to keep my interactions with negative people to a minimum when possible. I am a firm believer that positivity breeds positivity. When I’m with people who are interested in me, who encourage and support me, and see the light and humor in life, I feel better about myself. Hopefully I offer the same to my family and friends. I don’t believe a person needs to be perky and positive all the time, but if your first thoughts are always negative, how can you let in positivity? I continue to struggle with anxiety and depression and I know I always will since life is full of family drama, financial issues and just plain old unhappiness. I feel like I handle these struggles quicker and better because I have a positive, strong network in place to help me in my continuing weight loss journey.

I will take my writing instructor’s advice to surround my writing environment with things that inspire me. For me this means a cup of coffee, my journal and stacks of books that I love and ones I want to read. To lose weight and maintain my mental and physical health, I surround myself with good food, exercise and positive people. I plan to apply my positive weight loss environment method to my writing practice and hopefully other areas of my life. I look forward to a successful writing practice and healthy lifestyle as I continue to preserve my happy surroundings!

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I am a Runner

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I enjoyed running the Hot Chocolate 5K Race, but also enjoyed the treats at the end!  Can’t wait for my next race!

Naming this week’s blog post, “I am a Runner” is making me a little uneasy. Since I am not a natural athlete and regular exercise was never a part of my past, it feels strange to declare myself a runner. I am a runner even if I doubt it. I think declaring it publicly will help me realize it is true.

As a child and teen, I hated sports. I was always overweight and uncoordinated. I dreaded P.E. in school. Since I was bad at physical activities and I had to change in front of my peers in the locker room, P.E. was the ultimate nightmare. P.E. didn’t end with college unfortunately. I tried tennis and quit before I failed the course. Thank goodness for aerobic classes where I could hide my awkward self in the back.

As an adult I tried again to find a physical activity I would enjoy. I joined the YMCA with all the other moms. The treadmill was tiresome. I did the “Total Body Conditioning” class and struggled through each session. I used my second pregnancy as an excuse to quit. The Y turned into a place I took my kids for sports, not a place for me to exercise.

I did have a brief period of exercise enjoyment when I bid on a personal trainer for a fundraiser. I didn’t think I would win it, but I did. The ever-supportive husband and I worked with a great trainer for a few months. I can’t say I loved the strength training routines, but I survived. I did however enjoy the spin classes she made us go to at the Y. I was surrounded by toned and athletic people, but it was OK that I was fat and slow. When the instructor yelled to turn it up to ten, it didn’t matter that my ten was someone’s two.

Unfortunately our move cross-country put an end to my burgeoning exercise routine. For our first year in our new home I was depressed and instead of using my new walkable surroundings to my benefit, I ate my way around town. It wasn’t until my ever-supportive friend, N., suggested I try the Couch to 5K running program. Me, learn to run? At this time I weighed my all-time high of 283 pounds so the thought of running seemed ridiculous. N. offered to watch my kids so I didn’t have any excuse not to try. I had shoes and a babysitter so off I went. This was the beginning of my newfound love of running. I was slow as molasses, but I felt good. The Couch to 5K program and a gentle, but firm nudge from my friend started me down a new exercise path.

My running routine was interrupted a few times. After my gastric sleeve surgery, I took a break to recuperate, but I did walk until I could run again. Last May I had to stop running due to the pain of my abdominal hernia. About four weeks after my abdominal hernia repair and tummy tuck surgery, I started running again. It felt so good to be back!

One of the best rewards of my latest surgery was running a race on Thanksgiving. What turned out to be a five-mile race instead of three miles was just what a I needed to prove to me that I was a runner. As I wrote in my post, “Running Down the Scale”, I just told myself I had to finish. I did that and set a new PR (personal record) that I was proud of.

That brings me to one of the most important reasons I love running: it’s about my running pace and no one else’s pace. Sure, I don’t want to be the last person over the finish line, but if I am, that is OK. All I have to do is finish what I start. I strive to improve my pace, but not to beat anyone else’s. I may not be a fast runner, but I am a runner…just because I run.

The 5K Hot Chocolate Race I ran on Sunday really made me believe I should call myself a runner. I did this race with my 10-year-old son and his friend. Well, we started the race together, but after the first half mile, they were gone. At first I was annoyed and embarrassed. Didn’t they want to run with me? Ah, no, Jen, they’re two athletic kids who love to run and compete. Hanging out with the 45-year-old mom with a previous running pace of 13:22 wasn’t that exciting I’m sure.

It turned out to be good thing they ran at their pace, because I could then run at my pace and not kill myself keeping up with them. I put on my music and enjoyed the run. I walked some of it but I ran more than I thought I could. I finished with a PR (personal record) pace of 12:08.

The kids finished four minutes ahead of me, but we all enjoyed our chocolate treats together. No guilt for me when I indulged in hot chocolate and snacks! I earned it! And my gastric sleeve is my constant tool to keep me from overeating. I could eat a bit of the snacks, but nowhere near what I would have consumed in the past.

While I am already looking for another 5K race, I don’t believe racing makes me a runner. Just getting outside and running is what makes me a runner. This formerly uncoordinated and obese woman finally found her athletic grove. It took me over 40 years to find it, but it was well worth it. I think everyone can find some type of exercise to love. Whether it’s a group class, swimming or even walking, all you need to do is move. I am happy to call myself a runner, but more importantly I am happier to call myself a healthy woman.

The Year Without a Resolution

It’s that time of year when many people make a New Year’s resolution. This year I’m not one of those people. I made a conscious decision not to make any resolutions for 2015.

Yes, I'm the woman who is not making a New Year's resolution!  My weight loss journey still continues though!

Yes, I’m the woman who is not making a New Year’s resolution! My weight loss journey still continues though!

For someone on a weight loss journey I’m sure this seems strange. Isn’t setting goals part of the process? Don’t I need concrete goals to keep focused and motivated? Yes, these things were true when I started my journey after my gastric sleeve surgery. To become healthy I had to commit to eating properly, exercising and maintaing a positive mental outlook. These were my resolutions for my gastric sleeve surgery new year back in 2013.

So if I made those resolutions in the past, why wouldn’t I make them again? There is always room for improvement. I’m still five to ten pounds away from my original goal. I want a faster running pace. I could definitely deal with stress quicker and easier than I do. I could go on and on with new goals for this year.

Why not make them again for this year? The first reason is I don’t feel the need to make these same resolutions because there are now a part of my normal routine. Eating healthy is how I eat every day. OK, most of the time. No one is perfect. And for the safety of humanity, there are days I must have chocolate.

Exercising is now the rule than the exception. In the past, exercising was a chore.  Now running makes me happy! Walking and running are just part of my day-to-day activities. I am so glad that being active is easier, fun and just part of my life.

Maintaining a positive outlook is probably the most challenging resolution I made a year and a half ago. Stress, depression and anxiety all rear their ugly heads in my life. I think I handle them better now than I did before my weight loss journey began. The scale and my more frequent smile I believe are a testament to that.

My second reason for not making any 2015 resolutions is that I’m just plain tired of making them! I have set them for over 30 years. Since my pre-teens, I struggled with my weight and each new year brought a spark of hope and then a year’s worth of disappointment. I pressured myself each year and now I feel I deserve a break. Time to be patient and loving to myself!

Not making New Year’s resolutions doesn’t mean I’ve given up on losing weight or making physical and mental improvements. This just means I’m not going to pressure myself. I will still track my weight weekly and be aware of my chocolate consumption. If I find either or both go up, I will take action. I don’t want my weight loss journey to end, but I hope that by not pressuring myself I will learn to relax and enjoy my success and new lifestyle. I’m excited to see where this New Year takes me in my journey Down the Scale…