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Middle Age: Embrace It

Jenatalmost49

As my 49th birthday looms, I am proud to say I embrace each birthday! My weight loss journey has shown me who I can be and being a happy “middle-aged” woman is who I am! I’m thankful to be a mom, wife, runner, and writer as I continue my Down the Scale life!

“So, is it a big birthday?”

“They’re all big birthdays now.”

That was my response to someone asking about my upcoming birthday.  I said it with a laugh because even though for the past ten years I’ve joked that all my birthdays are big, I embrace each one.  Yes, even the big 49 this year. The last year of my 40s. The last birthday before the big 5-0. When you’ve spent most of your adult life as an obese, unhealthy person, you don’t take for granted the birthdays that come along, no matter what the number.

As kids, I think most of us thought that our 40s were when we would be really old. We would be ancient.  My 40s came and I didn’t think that at all! Even before my weight loss surgery when I was 44, I still felt young.  It could have been the my children I was running after or the frequent trips to Disney World, but I didn’t feel old. At least my mind didn’t feel that way, but my body did.  It was hard to keep up with my family and friends when I was 100 pounds heavier.

My world opened up after I lost weight, both physically and mentally.  I’m a runner now. I love walking instead of just sitting around. With each birthday, I become stronger physically.  I tried ice skating again after a 20 year gap. At age 47 I ran my first half-marathon! And at age 49 I’m training for my second.  These actions were never part of my plans for when I grew old.

The physical changes as I age are amazing, but I think it’s my outlook on life that surprises me the most.  I remember being so scared when I graduated from college. I had no clue what I was going to do with my life besides move across the country to San Francisco.  I look back now and see how brave I was, but I felt insecure and unsure of myself for most of my 20s.

I was starting to get braver in my 30s after marriage and eventually children.  When you become a parent, you have no choice but to buckle up and get things done.  For some of us, that strength comes at a price. I put my mental and physically health on the back burner just trying to get through the day, then the week, then the years.  

My 40s were my renewal. My mid-forties were my rebirth.   A cross-country move and the resulting personal issues took their toll.  I was almost 300 pounds at age 43. It took an honest friend and my ever-supportive husband to help me realize I needed to change and more importantly, that I could change.  As a middle-aged woman, I began my weight loss journey which turned out to be a journey about physical and mental health to my surprise.

So here I am looking forward to 49!  I feel like I’m coming into my own person again.  It could be that I have more time now that my children are getting older.  Seeing them grow into independent people is exciting although they still seem to need me to find where they put their clean socks. With their increasing independence, it’s giving my husband and I more time together. While mom will always be an important role, I’m relearning that there are other parts of who I am that can share the space.

This includes spending more time with my hubby that doesn’t alway involve the children or are child-centric activities.  As our children grow and spend more time with their friends, we can spend time with our friends or by ourselves. I think we’ve gone out more in our late 40s than we did in our early 30s.  We joke with the kids that we’re they’re in college, we’re downsizing to a tiny house and they’ll have to camp in the yard when they visit. We all laugh about it, but it’s really only 8 years away…and we’ll be a very young 57 when that happens!

And I’m using my new independence to define “what I do for a living.”  My 20s became the start of a fun and interesting career in the retail industry.  I went from being an administrative assistant to a buyer to a project manager running an e-commerce website until I “retired” when I had my babies and became a stay-at-home mom.  My late 40s have been me trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. It wasn’t until last year that I finally started calling myself a writer. I’ve been writing this blog for almost five years now, but I was still insecure about calling myself a writer.  And when I started working on my novel, I still didn’t say I was a writer. It took my ever-supportive husband drilling it into my head that if I didn’t believe I was a writer, no one else would. So here I am, calling myself a writer.

And this writer is telling you that getting old is not as scary as you might think.  Sure I have more wrinkles and more and more gray hairs seem to sprout up, but I will gladly take them.  Every decade is full of challenges and struggles, but now I can see that each problem, each disappointment, got me to where I am today.  I don’t believe in regret; not worth the time or effort in my humble opinion. There will always be some difficulty in life, but how I deal with it and move on from it makes all the difference.  

So this almost 49-year-old mom, wife, friend, family member, runner, and writer is proud of her age.  As trite as it sounds, growing old is a gift, especially if you do it as a healthy person. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished over the years, but more importantly I look forward to the upcoming decades as I continue my journey Down the Scale…

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2018:  The Back to Resolutions Year

Back to Running 2018

I survived my first run of 2018! It great felt to get back to running: a top resolution for the new year! Looking for to my recommitment to running and my weight loss journey!

 

For the past few years, I didn’t make any resolutions.  As I mentioned back in 2015, I decided not to make them as I always felt they set me up for failure.  I made re-commitments instead.  Now that it’s 2018 and I’m looking back, I don’t believe there is much difference between the words.  Sometimes you just need to change the words you use in your life to make things seem easier or different.  For me in 2018, it will be “The Back to Resolutions Year.”

So why the change of heart this year?  Well, I am embarrassed to admit it, but 2017 was a year without concrete personal goals.  Yes, I did accomplish many goals last year such as

  • Moving my family from one state to another and then to another town all in nine months.  There are so many smaller accomplishments under this list, but the fact that we’re happy and feel settled in our new hometown is all I need to say.
  • I learned that I can run without walking for over a mile at a time.  I finally got over my fear that I couldn’t run without stopping.  I still have a much to do, but the fact I can do it is thrilling.
  • I lived through an elimination diet and actually learned a few facts about nutrition that I use to this day.  I learned that almonds trigger an allergic reaction and that I can live with less sugar in food.  And I still make some of the recipes I learned that month.  Meatloaf is still my kids favorite recipe.
  • I started my first mystery novel.  This book has been floating around in my brain and heart for so many years, but in 2017 I finally started to put it down on paper.

Now that I’m writing down my accomplishments of 2017, I’m feeling pretty good!  While I’m happy with what I’ve done, there are goals I’ve slacked on.  These include:

  • I haven’t lost any weight this year.  And as much as I hate to write this, I know I have actually gained weight.  I don’t need a scale to tell me this. Tighter clothes, less exercise and a lack of desire to do it, and a general feel of “blah” are all I need to show me that my lack of focus have caused me to gain weight.
  • While I started off 2017 with a trainer and a dedicated workout schedule, once we moved to our second home, I gave up.  I ran occasionally and did a few weight workouts, but nothing like the serious schedule I followed in the beginning of the year.
  • My mystery novel is perhaps a third of the way done, but I could be farther along if I had set aside the time to work on it.

And now I’m depressed about the lack of accomplishments.  And that’s OK. I feel it’s important to be honest about the good as well as the bad going on in my life.  Honesty in my blog and in my day-to-day life is what has kept me going on my weight loss journey since 2013. Of course I’d rather share the positives than the negatives, but it wouldn’t make me an honest person.  I’m not looking or wanting to present myself as this perfect example of a gastric sleeve surgery patient and someone who has an easy time with food and living a consistent healthy lifestyle.  I am far from perfect.

Now that I’ve told you the good and bad of last year, what am I planning to do this year?  Yes, the part about resolutions.  Before I share my list of goals, I want to tell you one of the most important part of setting resolutions for me is PUTTING IT ON THE CALENDAR.

I’m not yelling at you, but I feel it’s an essential part of my 2018 plans.  I’ve learned that if I don’t put an activity on the calendar, I don’t take it seriously.  I put everything on the calendar for my kids and hubby.  I make sure everyone’s activities are noted so we don’t forget them.  Sure, I’ve put my appointments on the calendar, but not my exercise or writing time. It’s changing this year. Here are the resolutions on the calendar this year:

  • My running schedule is posted three days a week, every week until my half-marathon in July.  One thing I’ve really missed from living in California is running races on a regular basis.  Fortunately I have made wonderful friends in our new hometown who decided running a half-marathon this year would be a great idea!  I am thrilled to have a new running goal for this year, but also for the encouragement and support of local friends.  
  • My writing schedule is on the calendar for five days a week.  I had a hard time setting up that repeating event.  As a stay-at-home mom, I feel guilty setting this much time aside.  My amazing ever-supportive husband insisted I make the time to write though.  I always feel like I should be doing other things like laundry and dishes during my writing time, but I generally don’t produce my best writing when I multitask.  As I somewhat obsessive multitasker, this is one of the hardest goals to strive for this year.  

So far these are the two new year’s resolutions I’ve put on the calendar.  I’m contemplating others like meal prep and cooking days; reading books; yoga; and other positive self-care activities.  I think it might be a bit overwhelming to put all of this on the calendar.  Can you imagine all the calendar alerts I would get in a day?!  

Instead I believe that by setting two of my most important and attainable goals, exercise and writing, it will naturally lead me to make other important goals a priority in my life.  So whether I call it a recommitment or resolution, I am thankful I have the support and encouragement of my family and friends to keep making positive and healthy living a priority.  I look forward to a healthy, happy year as I refocus on my goals so I can continue to go Down the Scale…

The Year Without a Turkey Trot

NoTurkeyTrot2017

I won’t add a Turkey Trot Race Bib to my collection this year. Dental surgery is keeping me from running this year, but it’s not keeping me from my journey to be the healthiest person I can be this year and in the future! This is just a blip on my Down the Scale journey!

“Oh, no, you can’t do that.”

Those words broke my heart this past Friday.  My dentist was following up after I had oral surgery that morning and those are the words he spoke when I asked if it was OK to run the 5K Turkey Trot this week.

While he explained why I couldn’t exercise this week, all I could think of was it would be the first Thanksgiving day run I didn’t do since 2012.  I did my first race even before I had gastric sleeve surgery.

After I hung up the phone and cried to my ever-supportive husband.  I moaned about how stupid I was to have the surgery so close to Thanksgiving.  Fortunately, as he does many times, he put everything back in perspective.  I had to have this surgery and between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there really wouldn’t have been a better time to have it.  And he was right and it was done so I had to move on.

My reaction surprised me though.  Yes, I’m definitely the type of person who doesn’t like to change  plans.  I am an admitted planner although I’m always up for spontaneous activities.  I do love traditions and I have run this race for years even if it’s in different cities.  No, it wasn’t losing the money on the entry fees.  Every Turkey Trot I’ve run as been for charity so I’m glad to support them even if I’m not running.  

Maybe it’s losing out on time with my son that was bothering me. The last few races, he has run them although with his friends.  Last year as we were new to the area , he ran with me though.  I loved sharing the run, although not the steady rain, with him.  

What I really think is bothering me, is that racing, particularly the Turkey Trot, is such an important part of the new healthy me.  It’s part of what defines the “Down the Scale Jen.”  And while I first did this race before my surgery, it was an important part of defining who I wanted to me after surgery.   I would be a healthy person.  I would be a runner.  I would be normal.

Now, I realize it seems silly that missing one race changes who I am.  I know it doesn’t.  I am still committed to my weight loss journey.  Well, it’s actually a healthy lifestyle journey.  My decision to lose weight in turn made me confront many emotional issues that lead to my unhealthy eating habits.  Exercise is a huge factor in keeping me focused on being a healthy person.  

So missing one race won’t change that. It’s disappointing, but as soon as my dentist tells me I can run again, I’ll get back to it.  Running is a part of me now.  Striving to be as healthy as I can be (albeit with a treat thrown in now and then), is who I am.  This bump in the road was a good reminder that I am still dedicated to my weight loss journey.  Although I won’t be running this month, I am still continuing to focus on being positive and healthy as I keep going Down the Scale….

Dress For Success: Warrior Clothing

 

IMG_7917

This view was my reward for running a mile this morning.  Putting on my “warrior clothes” and making the time to exercise is an important part of my continued success on my weight loss journey.  Keeping healthy physically and mentally should always be a priority!

As usual this morning, I came up with a ton of excuses not to run. You know, the usual list of chores like laundry, cleaning, paying bills, and putting the house back together after a busy week. There is always something, but today I ignored the list for a bit and put on my workout clothes. They’re also known as my warrior outfit. There is something about my sturdy black leggings, my “dri-fit” black running shirt covering my favorite industrial strength sports bra, and my Spanx-like underwear that makes me feel strong. Rounding out my outfit with my cheerful purple running shoes and comfy socks, I knew I was ready for my run.

There are all those annoyingly clichéd sayings like “dress for success” and “dress for the job you want”, but they are true. When I put on my running clothes I know I’ve made a commitment to exercising whether it’s for 20 minutes or an hour. Even if I’m feeling lumpy and bumpy, exhausted and stressed, I have made a promise that I will do something that’s good for me.

Today’s run was my only other one during this second week of school for my kids, so I felt a bit rusty. I started the run by going downhill and while in some ways that felt like cheating, it helped me get in the mood. New music from the Foo Fighters inspired me to pick up the pace as I reached the bottom of the hill.

When I was getting dressed this morning, I told myself I just had to go one mile. Whether it was the help of going downhill, the new music or my warrior outfit, I did it without stopping like I did this winter with my trainer. Since I’ve moved, I don’t have a trainer, but now that I’m working out again, I keep what she taught me in my head. Not only did she teach me proper running form, she gave me the confidence to trust my body.

I gaged a mile from house to be along the water and when I heard the mile marker ding of my running program, I saw the beautiful water in front of me. The peaceful Pacific Northwest scenery greeted me as I walked onto the shoreline and checked my watch. While it wasn’t my fastest mile, it was a mile and I was happy with that. Completing what I set out to do was enough reward; pace and distance will come back in time.

So as silly as it may sound, putting on my workout clothes got me going this morning. I ran a great mile and walked uphill another mile and I took in the comfortable Fall weather as well as the peaceful scenery of my new hometown. Starting out the day in such a positive way is just what I needed. It was a good reminder that I can fit in exercise no matter what I need to do that day. It’s OK for the dishes and laundry to get done later. It reminds me that part of my job is to keep myself healthy and sane. If I’m not healthy, both physically and mentally, I’m no good to myself or anyone else.

Whether it’s a 15 minute walk or miles of running, it’s important for me to prioritize physical fitness in my life. Time to put on my warrior clothes as much as possible so I can keep happy and healthy and continue to go Down the Scale…

Time to Go for the Distance

First 5K 2017

Here I am enjoying my margarita at the end of my first 5K race of 2017. Running is one of the best results of gastric sleeve surgery! My weight loss journey continues with more runs this year.

When did I become a running snob? It was this past Saturday. Perhaps snob is too strong a word, but after running my first 5K race of the year, I learned that I actually take running more seriously than I thought. It’s just another one of the many surprises I’ve experienced in my four-year weight loss journey.

After last year’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I took a step back on running long distances. The mental and physical exhaustion from training was part of the reason. Lacking a new goal was another. I’m the type of woman who needs goals and I didn’t come up with a running goal for a while.

After a crazy year of moving and settling into a new state, in January I finally got serious about exercise again. To improve my running, I began working with a personal trainer. While my main goal was to increase my running pace, the focus was on building my strength and endurance through weights and speed drills. Yes, it is working! I’ve cut almost three minutes off my average pace and I can run for at least a mile without stopping. Success!

What I don’t feel successful with is my endurance. Yes, I can run for almost a mile whereas before I would do intervals as in run then walk, run than walk exclusively. I can run for a mile or so, but then at about mile one and a half, I start to slow down or go back to intervals. I know this is my brain playing tricks on me. I’m pretty sure I can run longer than that. It’s time to break through this mental barrier and run longer distances.

My plan was to do this at my first 5K of 2017. I should have known by the name “Margarita Madness 5K Run/Walk” that there wouldn’t be an emphasis on running. When I saw the lines of people buying margaritas before the race began, I mistakenly thought that as a sober runner I would fly through the course. I was wrong.

A few things kept me from running the whole race. Sure, I could blame the participants who were more concerned about spilling their drinks through the asphalt and trail course. I could point my finger at the people who were walking three or four across the path. I could blame the lack of racing etiquette: walkers on the right, runners to the left, and only pass on the left. I could use the surprising heat and sun as another reason.

Sure, these are all good excuses, but I know I’m fighting a mental game. My head still hasn’t grasped the fact that I can run longer. All the work I’ve put into strengthening my body and improving my pace needs to be put to good use. Time to go the distance. Time to believe in my training. Time to just do it.

Today is Global Running Day so it seems appropriate that I go out there and run the best run I can. I’m not planning on running any crazy distances, but I know I can run for more than a mile without stopping. That is my only goal. No, actually my other goals are to have fun and appreciate the fact that four years after gastric sleeve surgery, I am a runner. My plan today is to enjoy the unusual warm and sunny weather of the Pacific North West with a peaceful and positive run. Here’s to believing I can go the distance while I continue to go Down the Scale…

Really, No One is Watching

Getting ready for another work out session! I never thought I would wear a tank top to exercise in, but here I am almost four years after gastric sleeve surgery wearing one! Living a healthy lifestyle is the best change I made!

What is it about exercising in groups that makes me so self-conscious?  It’s not so much a problem in classes like spin where everyone is on their own bike so it doesn’t matter if you’re slow or uncoordinated.  Unless you fall off the bike or perhaps sing too loud to the music, no one cares or notices what you’re doing.  You’re not keeping anyone from advancing or slowing down the group when you’re in spin class.

Other exercise classes are a different story.  Or at least that was my preconceived notion before I did a boot camp class today.  Most of my fears and concerns were gone by the end of class.  First, I managed to do all the stations without passing out. I did however text a friend before class to remind her that she was in charge of picking out a good photo for my obituary should I die from either exertion or embarrassment.  Fortunately I did neither and I was once again reminded that exercising is about me, not anyone else.

Today’s class was my first group weight training class in about ten years. When my children were little, the YMCA was a godsend with its childcare so I tried out classes even though I was obese.  I was proud of myself for participating, albeit slowly and clumsily, until one fateful day.  A perky girl, who I could only think thought she was being helpful by cheerfully rushing up to me after class said, “Wow, good for you!  You’re doing this class.”  My dumbfounded and angry face must have given her the impression she should just back away slowly.  As if I didn’t say to myself every class, “It’s OK you’re the only fat mom in here, just keep trying.  No one cares.”  From that day on, every time I took that class I thought that people must feel sad for the fat chick in the class.  It was devastating, but I did keep going.

Here I am almost four years out from my gastric sleeve surgery and I must admit I’m still self-conscious about my body. Oh, I’m in the best shape of my adult life and I exercise regularly including running, but the “fat chick” in my head likes to make herself known from time to time.  My personal training sessions have boosted my confidence tremendously, but they will be ending soon.  I realized it was time to try out a group class to keep working on strength training.

I’m very lucky that my personal trainer also teaches the boot camp I did today.  I was reassured that she would make sure my form was good when she could.  When I walked into class I realized that it was made of women of all shapes, sizes, and athletic ability.  No, I wasn’t the skinniest woman in the room, but I fit in just fine.  But you know what?  It didn’t matter what I looked like or what I could do because no one cares!  Now, I don’t mean that in a malicious way as in people are uncaring, what I mean is that everyone is there to do their best.  It’s not a fashion show or a competition.  This boot camp was all about people doing their personal best.

Was I awkward, uncoordinated, and insecure?  You betcha!  I was also determined, strong, and proud.  Sure, my lunges were slow, but I rocked it on the TRX bands.  As I moved from station to station, I became more comfortable and relaxed.  In no time, the session was over and I did everything.  I assume everyone else did, but I didn’t notice.  This time was about me and what I could do.  And thankfully no one came up to me commenting about my abilities, weight or the fact I was even in the class.

But if someone had said something to me, I would have been irritated, but I would have brushed it off.  I am proud of what I can do and I am not focusing on my weaknesses when I exercise.  I’m working hard to be this way in all aspects of my life.  I’m taking one giant step, or rather lunge, forward to being positive mentally and physically!

Next time, you’re thinking of trying something new or even an activity you stopped doing due to insecurity, I hope you’ll do it.  One of the positive things that has come out of my weight loss journey is my confidence to try new and old things.  I want to live a life that is full of hope and happiness and how I get there is all up to me.  While no one might notice what I’m doing to get there, the results of living a healthy life are clear I think, especially as I continue to go Down the Scale…