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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dear Fitnesspal ....

Yep, I'm apologizing to my app. I could blame our friend James and his fine European chocolates and licorice. Or my refrigerator stocked with Corona. Instead, I'll just say sorry and try to do better.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pardon My Grammar --The Scale Don't Lie!

A couple of weeks ago I weighed myself for the first time in nearly 10 years. Not as high as I had feared, nor as low as I hoped. I decided on a goal weight, just a few pounds away. Then I enjoyed a several day-long birthday celebration with much indulging. Lost a half pound. Was pretty good for a week, lost another pound. Each time I weighed myself, the number was lower. Until yesterday.

I decided that every three to four days would be a good weigh-in schedule. Yesterday was a fourth day and OMG! I gained nearly 2 pounds!!! Must be a mistake. Step off, check to see if I had any clothes or rapper-style heavy gold chains on (nope), step back on. Same. I gained. I thought back to the days when my husband  would suffer a small gain. I would make light of it and call him a fat-ass or suggest he was simply retaining water. Funny stuff until it happened to me.

Coincidentally, my BodyStep instructor shared a fable this morning. 
A girl dedicated herself to fitness. By spring, she is in good shape, visiting the gym regularly. In June, she can wear a bikini and all is good with the world. She takes the Fourth of July week off to celebrate. Then the rest of July since she had worked so hard. In August, she decided to enjoy what was left of summer. Then September came (it always does) and she had to put on jeans. Moral of the story: If you are going to skip workouts in the summer, don't lose your yoga pants, you'll need them in September when your jeans don't fit.

I don't want to be that girl. I am so glad I have starting weighing in. Like my bank account balance, the scale don't lie. I am paying the price for living large (ha ha). 2 pounds isn't the end of the world but 2 will turn to 4, will turn to 6. Today I savored grilled chicken and veggies for dinner. I'm back on track and it's good.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Next Big Challenge: Think SMALL

We are often encouraged to think big. Dream big. Bigger is better. Go big or go home. Yes, big is good. My next challenge is an exercise in the opposite. I am going to think SMALL.

You are probably thinking, "What you talkin' about, Willis?" People don't generally associate me with small ideas. But my big ideas are out of control. Perhaps a better phrase than "thinking small" is actually "narrowing my focus". Like a laser. Precise and accurate. Minimal energy for maximum payout. I am going into laser mode.

I have started already without labeling it. My wardrobe is efficient without waste. Organized and functional. Choosing an outfit is nearly stress-free because everything in the closet is good, yet there is not so much as to overwhelm. My food intake is as effective. Power up with nutritious, yet delicious foods. We have less stuff in general. Less clutter, more room to relax. Now I will empty the clutter from my brain. Well, I will give it the good old college try.

People that know me, even sort of know me, know my brain is like an idea factory. I am not bragging here, it's a fact. Brilliant ideas spout from me all the time. If I had a full time staff of worker-bees that implemented theses ideas, I would be a billionaire. But there is just me. My priority is my family so all my energy goes there first. Then to our extended family and friends. Our home. Then to people I hardly know. I implement my ideas when I am finished with the priorities. Lately, I have realized that my reaction to stress (now that I am not buying everything in sight) is to try to implement more ideas, seeking out some success and steady income. When I laid it out, I counted 2 blogs, a dozen or so products, freelance design work, many hours spent planning parties and developing a way to teach the world how to make their own board games. I am tired just reading it. 

The Bye Buy challenge was a life-changer. As I have said before, I am compiling the experience into a book that could really help others learn the lessons that I have learned. My laser-like focus will now be on completing that book. Posting recipes online will wait. Craft ideas will stay in the vault. Parties will be planned only for the people I really love. I am giving myself until August 31 to complete the book. Not a whole, big year. A smaller, more focused 74 days.

Compared to other things I have done, this could seem a small challenge. Completing this book and getting it in the right hands is a big, big challenge, one I think I can complete only with a laser focus. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Buy Buy Clothes: Things We Can't Control and Those We Can

Sadly, we are mourning the loss of another family member, our fifth close relative in less than two years. My brother-in-law, Bob, passed at just 66 years old. He was a good guy with a big heart. This is one of those things I had no control over. Certain health issues, accidents, acts of God, weather, other people's choices ... some things are out of my reach.

Today I want to focus on the positive, those things I can control. I can control how I nurture relationships. How I treat family. I can choose what I eat and how much and how I care for my body. I can control what I spend. I can choose how I will spend my time. As always, requirements must be met, nutritionally and financially. Beyond the requirements, I can choose.

There is much in this life we can not control but there is much that we can. Just as I learned that a life spent shopping is a life seeking what I do NOT have, I will continue to focus on the things I can control instead of those that I can not.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bye Buy Crazy: Me at 52

Happy Birthday to me! Today I am 52. On one hand, that's a little scary. Where did the years go? On the other hand, I have great hope. It's not too late to make my life everything I want it to be. You've heard it, 50 is the new 40, the new 30 ... Today, 52 is the new 21, acting like a grown-up. Taking control, making conscious choices, challenging myself to meet goals and then ENJOYING it. No more hamster wheel. 52 is not a "milestone" birthday, no special cards are available. It's a milestone for me, though, for 52 is the age I say "Bye Buy Crazy."

Taking stock.
Today I take an honest look at my present self. 

The good stuff:
* I am physically stronger than I ever remember being. Once fearful of the gym, I now enjoy my thrice weekly weight training workouts. My arms now sport these lovely little bulges called muscles. Are there people at the gym stronger and better looking? Oh, yes. Much. But I am better than ever and that's good.
* I am 3 pounds from my goal weight. Yep, a pound less than my monumental weigh in. Once I reach it, I will just enjoy it for a while. Old me would obsessively go for more, more, more. New me: Set a goal. Reach it. Enjoy it.
* I buy a fraction of what I used to. Still not quite where I should be, but closer. 

The "needs to improve" department:
* I am not immune to temptation. Whether fashion, food or a vacation, my emotional side still threatens to overtake the practical side. I'll fight on, battle by battle.
* I figure I have about the worst case of attention deficit disorder ever. (oh look! something sparkly!) My attention has been spread over so many projects that I am effective at practically zero. Starting today, I am weeding out the ideas. No more posting recipes and crafts. No mailbox decorations. No sewing projects and tutorials. I am focusing on the lessons learned from the Bye Buy challenge and getting my message out there. It has changed my life and I know I can help, or even just support others.
* I am making a giant effort to rein in the spending even more. Not by focusing on the negative and just saying no, no, no. I will look to the positive and know what I have and make the choices about what to do with it.

I am looking at myself at 52 but I wish I would have realized all this sooner. If you are younger, you don't have to wait. Older? Still time.

Best case, I am about half way through life. Probably a bit more than half way. The idea of retirement is looming. At this point, I can coast or seek out the uphills. I can float or I can swim to the far away buoy. I can bask or I can explore. I think there's a lot left in me. I'm not ready to coast. Today, I am 52 and I'll bet dollars to donuts, the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bye Buy: What Can You REALLY Afford?

I recently saw a beautiful outfit at the store. Tropical print silky shorts with a silky t-shirt. Right on trend, really cool style, available in my new smaller size. I would look good. I would FEEL good. Can I afford it?

There's a million dollar question. The outfit was $50. I did not have $50 in my pocket. But ...

Okay, there's $50 in the bank. Good to go, proceed to the register. But ...
Are the bills all paid? Well, no. I guess I could skim from the grocery money. But ...

I don't even know what I've spent in groceries this month. The outfit is so cute, though. Looks like it's worth more than the $50 it costs. We could eat less. Couldn't we? Maybe. Not really fair to my family but surely they would see how cute I am. And, I haven't gotten anything new in more than a month! Plus, I'm thinner (I think I said that already). Maybe I'll just charge it. I deserve it, right?

This is an example of the insane train of thought that I deal with still. I am better, way better since the Bye Buy challenge but there is room for improvement. My husband made a flippant remark recently that resonated. He noted that we have been so successful with the Fitness Pal app for our diets, we should have something like "Spending Pal."

The reason Fitness Pal works for us is that we are in control. We have an allotted amount of calories. We can spend those calories on a donut or a giant bowl of lettuce. Eat too many calories, we gain weight. Simple, black and white logic. I need to employ that same logic to buying stuff. We have a set amount of money to spend every month. Like food, we have to satisfy basic requirements. We decide what to do with the leftover, if there even is leftover. A donut makes me feel happy but the calories could take me over my spending limit. Then, the donut is gone, I'm still hungry, maybe more hungry because of the sugar rush, and I have no calories left. This outfit would be the donut of clothing purchases.

Every basic spending primer will tell you to make a budget and stick to it. Allow for the basics then add extras as you can afford. Most people don't actually live this way. Low prices for cheap goods, genius marketing techniques and widely available credit have turned us into a national of insatiable consumers. 

Last October I realized that a life spent shopping, whether you call it "retail therapy" or "bargain hunting", is a life spent focused on what you do NOT have. I have to focus on what I DO have. Now that I can, according to my own rules, buy clothing, shoes and accessories again I have to change the way I think. I also came to the realization that we have the wonderful ability as humans to make choices. We can choose to spend or save, buy or not. Work more or work less. Be with someone because we want to, or not be with them because we can choose. Make your best decision then live with it.

Going forward, we will make conscious decisions about what we buy and how much we spend. No more of how cute we look as the determining factor. How much money have we decided to spend on clothes this month (or quarter or year)? What is the real ramification of spending this $50?  If I buy this outfit, will it satisfy a need or be a donut? A donut is delicious, tempting. Empty. But don't I deserve a donut? Actually, I don't deserve to to filled with empty calories. I deserve delicious, nutritious food. In reasonable portions. I deserve a balanced budget. Besides, nobody looks that cute in an outfit they can't really afford. 

The Joy of Unsubscribing

How many of your daily emails are advertisements? I get lots. I have gotten into a habit of opening my email in the morning, checking off 15 or so selections and sending them to the trash. Unless something catches my eye ...

Bealls of Florida is having a 50% off sale? Costco has a special offer JUST for me? There is a limited time to (fill in the blank). These emails come to me because I have either consciously asked for them or I didn't ask not to receive them when making an online purchase. I have found that many stores, like Kohls, ask for your email address at the register now. What these advertisements are is another form of temptation. I buy so much less than I used to but I am not yet immune to temptation. Certain images go right past my brain into my deep, deep psyche and send out shock waves of desire. I can look like Beyonce in that dress from H&M for just $19.95? 

Today, I decided to feel the joy of the unsubscribe. So far, I have said hasta la vista to Costco. Adios H&M. So long, Groupon. Ciao Southwest Airlines. Later, Kohls. My inbox will be light as a feather. I feel lighter already.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Facing the Numbers: I Finally Weighed In

I have a very unhealthy fear of the scale. I believe it started when a checkup with our family doctor at age 13 revealed a weight of 180 pounds. I was shocked. He didn't say anything, no one did. But I felt the shame and since that day, I can't look at a scale without instant anxiety.

There were times when being weighed was not an option. When I was pregnant, like all women, I was monitored closely. There have been periods (very few) when I was quite thin so I did weigh myself regularly. For most of my life, though, if there was any way out of being weighed, I did it. I admit that I even neglected to get regular physicals for fear of the scale, which is the stupidest thing I can imagine. I finally found a doctor whose staff looked the other way when I closed my eyes at the scale.

When my husband and I finally got serious about getting into shape this year, he weighed himself every day counting tenths of pounds. I assured him that I could tell simply by the way my clothes fit if I was on track. My daughter even had an idea for a scale that would track progress without revealing actual pounds, which was the most brilliant thing I could think of. Except just facing the numbers.

Again, I looked to the lessons of the Bye Buy challenge. What would be the worst thing that would happen? My weight would be for my eyes only but if the number was stenciled on my shirt, would anyone see me differently? Would I feel better in my jeans? Worse? What good could come from weighing in? It might be good if I find a comfortable goal weight and can check it every few days to ensure it stays. Again I recognize fear. What if I regain? I will stand a better chance of keeping it in check if I go up a few pounds as opposed to a pants size. After weighing (ha ha) the options, I stepped on the scale. I would actually look at the numbers for the first time in almost 10 years.

If you thought I would reveal that number, you would be mistaken! That will likely take years worth of soul searching! But now I know it. And, like everything else, once I know it, I can't un-know it. Unless I slip off that nasty scale and hit my head ...

The number was not as high as I feared, nor as low as I hoped. But I know where I stand. I can realistically monitor myself and decide when a slice of cake is okay. When an extra jog is in order. I have chosen a goal weight at which I will attempt to stay a few pounds from either way. My goal weight is 4 pounds away. Hopefully I will be there in July. Hopefully I'll stay there. (cue sound of screeching brakes ...) I can choose to do it. I will.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finally! New, STYLISH Golf Shoes!

I have been in and out of golf retirement for years now. For the past three years I have been nudged out of retirement for golf outings. For a few outings per year, I didn't feel the need to invest in lots of golf gear and a golfer-chic wardrobe. During the Bye Buy year I felt the pain in a severe way. I had no golf clothes (none that fit, anyway) and my shoes were hideous. Here was the set-up:

  • Wearing the correct outfit (if I had one) and a coordinating golf glove, grab the needed club, a cool colored tee and your ball and head to the tee box. 
  • Place your ball on the cool colored tee.
  • Stand the correct distance from the ball with arms extended.
  • Address the ball (hi there you cute little thing!)
  • Screeeeeching halt as I glimpse my ├╝ber-hideous golf shoes. Complete distraction as the super-sized, chalky white, butt-ugly boats stare back at me.
  • Completely lose concentration and wiff.
  • Return to golf cart, head hanging low wondering why in the world I ever chose those hideous shoes.
Golf was not fun during that year.

During the Bye Buy year I contemplated future purchases, things I REALLY wanted and needed. One thing high on my list was a new pair of golf shoes. I even did some preparatory window shopping only to find that golf shoes, in general, are ugly. What would I do? Find the least ugly pair?

Thankfully, Nike got the message (I'm pretty sure they were listening to me) and they introduced the Lunar Summer Lite Golf Shoes. Available in several cool colors, I was stopped in my tracks by

Sunburst/Bright Mango!!!
I sometimes choose my OPI nail polish by name alone and I would have selected these simply because of that name, but they are beautiful! My husband agreed that they would make an excellent birthday gift for me. I ordered them online and they arrived in a few days. Wow! I have some snappy shorts in nearly the same color. The shoes are super lightweight and comfortable. I gave them a go at the driving range last night. Here's the new setup:

  • Wearing the correct outfit (I do have one) and a coordinating golf glove, grab the needed club, a cool colored tee and your ball and head to the tee box. 
  • Place your ball on the cool colored tee.
  • Stand the correct distance from the ball with arms extended.
  • Address the ball (hey there!)
  • Screeeeeching halt as I glimpse my SUPER CUTE golf shoes. Smile. Tingle of satisfaction. Hey, I'll bet these would look fabulous with a lime green ...
  • Completely lose concentration and wiff.
I'll keep practicing!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bye Buy Clothes: Five Months Post-Challenge

Time flies! It's been 5 months since I completed the year-long Bye Buy challenge (NOT buying shoes, clothes or accessories for an entire year). As I noted at the end of the challenge, it can be easier to avoid something altogether as opposed to restraining yourself. Such is the case of dieting, we can't simply not eat: we are faced with food choices every day. I was so changed at the end of the challenge year, I furiously began putting the experience to paper in hopes of compiling a guide book. It didn't take long to realize that the challenge was one thing, what happens afterward is entirely different. Would I truly change for good? Or would this be like another failed diet attempt, successful in the short term until life sets in and I revert to my old ways.

So here I sit, 5 months later, happy to report that the changes that occurred during the challenge have stuck. Really. Not just saying this to sell a book. I do buy things, but nearly nearly like I used to. I am tempted but a little voice has stayed with me. A little voice that asks, in an oh-so-nice way, "Do you really need that? Will you wear it? Does it fit properly and is it well made? Can you afford it? Do you have a place to wear it?"
 9 times out of 10, the answer is no. I have plugged my ears a few times and sang "la la la" to quiet the voice. Then I return the items to the store. The voice and I have become friends. 

The Bye Buy year made me realize that we had too much stuff altogether. Part of the year was spent sorting an organizing my collections of dishes, candles, cooking utensils, knick knacks, party supplies, toys, games, and holiday items. I donated everything except what we really use. And, miracle of miracles, I didn't replace it all. We have so much less and we don't miss it at all. No one seems to mind if I used the same plates for entertaining. The decorations are not rotated. And my grandson seems to prefer a bucket of water, some sponges and some cups to the fancy new toys. 

Here's the bonus part-- the stuff I learned has translated into weight loss and fitness. Again--not even kidding. The patience I learned, the self control I learned and that little voice that I actually listen to has led to a slow but steady success. I learned that it takes months, not days to change habits. But the investment in time is so worth it. 

Did the Bye Buy challenge work? Yes. A million times, yes. Not just for clothes but for everything. Something has to be working if I can resist buying cute clothes for my smaller self!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mother Nature: Picking My Battles

One of the wisest bits of parenting advice I ever received was "pick your battles." Don't fight with your kids about everything, just the most important things. It true in the workplace and in marriage. It is also true when facing Mother Nature.

Sure, there is nothing to do but get out of her way should she summon a storm. Not all of her actions are as furious, though. While a formidable opponent, Mother Nature can be challenged, and I am learning to choose my challenges wisely.

We mow our grass and pull weeds. No dandelions in our yard! We edge and trim and work tirelessly towards an manicured lawn. Sorry Mother Nature. No wild oats here. Yet, this spring I have finally realized that Mother Nature strongly disagrees with much of my landscaping plan. I have been fighting for years to keep selected plants contained in certain areas. I can spend hours clearing a spot to allow my hostas and wood chips to shine and the very next day, pesky groundcover is making its way back in. It's partially my fault. Through the years I have planted and unplanted so many things, I scarcely remember. So, I throw in the proverbial towel. I give. Uncle. Grow whatever, wherever. I take no responsibility. And guess what. It looks beautiful. The many and various species are glorious when tumbled together, so much more interesting than anything I could have come up with. I have also stopped challenging Mother Nature regarding my vegetable garden. If she determines that the only things that will grow in there are tomatoes and kale, then we will savor tomatoes and kale.

Similarly, Mother Nature is waging quite the battle with my body. She pulls everything downward and I scramble to keep is up. She greys, I dye. She puts the kabash on my metabolism, I eat better and build muscle. I am trying to figure out how much to fight. My ever-increasing wrinkles annoy me to no end. I am using all sorts of topical remedies while my daughter (the aesthetician) continues to offer fillers and Botox. In the wrinkle department, I am not taking Mather Nature on just yet, but not ruling it out.

I may have most of the control over my yard, dear Mother, but I will be fighting for my body, skin and hair. And as I type this, it is thundering and lightening outside and I am a little scared.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

We Finally Lost the Weight: Her Story

There are two sides to every story, including the story of our weight loss. Last post, I shared how my husband has lost 30 pounds and now feels better than ever. I, too, am losing weight but my story is different.

I am over 50. I had convinced myself that due to age, being slender and fit would now be impossible. Oh- I tried. Believe me, I tried. Since my first go-round with a "liquid diet" at about age 15, I have never stopped dieting. A chubby kid and teen, I have never fully recovered from being a "fat kid". But if I tried really hard, I could keep my weight in check. Then I turned 48. My middle expanded by several inches, my upper arms inflated and my face puffed up like a yeast roll. It seemed like nothing would make a dent in my expansion.

During the Bye Buy year, I had to remain in strict control of my diet since larger clothes would not be an option. I actually finished the year smaller than when I started. And settled into my new, fuller-sized self.

Then my husband joined the Biggest Loser contest at work. As you know, men simply have to create a tiny thought bubble over their heads that reads "diet" and--poof! They lose 10 pounds. He got serious, employing his Fitness Pal app. He started spouting calorie counts, questioning portion sizes and inventorying the ingredients in my cooking. Calorie counts? I know them backwards and forwards. No one has to tell me how many calories are in a slice of cheese. He continuously encouraged me to join Fitness Pal. I refused on principal. I don't need no stinkin' Fitness Pal, I can count calories in my head! He lost more weight, I stayed the same. I See? What did I tell you? NOTHING works after 50.

As his weight loss approached 20 pounds and he was looking fine (the good fine), I began to worry that my hotter than ever husband would be embarrassed by his puffy wife. I toyed with the idea of Fitness Pal again, but the principal of it ... And then I found an alternative app, My Net Diary and in my opinion it is the same as Fitness Pal (but it's not Fitness Pal, hah!) Whoa. If you use the app correctly, you can't get away with anything. I've done Weight Watchers before but this was way easier than the "points" system. I programmed myself in to lose two pounds per week. And I did. Wait, what? Okay, maybe it will work for a week. But it kept working. Confession: I have a mortal fear of scales so I don't actually weigh myself but I know how my clothes fit. Yes, there were days when I felt a little hungry or deprived. Honestly, doing it with my husband made it mush easier because we wheeled and dealed snack and meal options like day traders. If I cut 100 calories from my lunch, I can have some popcorn tonight, what are you having for breakfast ...

There is one way, and one way only to lose weight. There is no magic combination or pill, not exclusion of food  groups. Eat less and exercise more. That's it. So we joined a gym last fall. I was very intimidated and recovering from a knee injury so I limited myself to walks on the treadmill while watching the gym television. My husband continuously encouraged me to try the weights. "No!" I said. I'll worry about muscles when I lose weight. And I can't lose weight, so there.

As My Net Diary really began to reveal progress, I knew that kicking up the exercise would speed the process up even more. I started jogging at the gym. Very slow. Very, very slow but working on it. More progress. I eyed the weight machines. I really wanted to refuse (again, on principal) but gave it a shot. I was so weak, I could only lift the lightest possible weights, and that scared me.

Fear. What I used to consider a "healthy sense of self preservation" was fear. I was afraid to truly track my calories because, one, I was afraid to be hungry, and two, I was afraid it still wouldn't work rendering my permanently puffy. I was afraid that I would try to jog and tire out. That I would look like a silly, weak fool at the weight machines. I was afraid that my knee injury would flare up. I was afraid of being photographed for fear I would actually see how I looked. I was afraid of another long, chubby bathing suit summer. Afraid of being old. Afraid of failure. I was being ruled by fear.

Me? Stunted by fear? The girl who rode a bike down Pike's Peak? The girl who swam to the super-far away buoy in the ocean? THE GIRL WHO DIDN'T BUY CLOTHES FOR A WHOLE FLIPPING YEAR? Yep, that girl. 

I had to admit my fears then face them head on. And guess what. I'm down two full sizes. I am wearing a size I haven't seen in nearly 10 years. My recent vacation photos reveled what I expected, I still have work to do but I am making progress every week. Like a Bye Buy year, it's a long, slow, steady process to really change the way you live. I use my calorie tracking app every day but also enjoy treats now and then. Exercise has become part of the routine and although I don't love going to step class, I love the feeling of accomplishment afterwards.

Here are the things that have helped me:

  • I was inspired by my friend who worked to become very slender after the age of 50. She made me realize it was still possible. I was also inspired by another friend who lost 100 pounds on her own and has kept it off for 10 years. 
  • I am owning my progress. In the past, if someone complimented my progress, I would shrug it off. I could say, "oh, I'm just having fun chasing my grandson around." But that's not true, it's really hard work. So now I say, "Thank you! I've been working very hard at it."
  • My stubbornness is not always a good thing and I have had to let go of some pride to admit that  things like apps and weight-lifting are good.
  • Like my husband, I lose the big clothes as soon as I can leaving no room to return.
  • Working with my husband to change the pattern of our lives was so helpful. We encourage each other and are having fun with it.
  • We used to eat out once or twice a week because I would claim to be exhausted. I don't make good food choices eating out. Now we may go out one or twice a month and the money we save pays the gym membership. 
As I said, I am a work in progress. It took a year to change my evil buying ways. I suspect it will take a long time to cement this lifestyle. I don't really know how fit I can become but at least I am no longer afraid to find out.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We Finally Lost the Weight: His Story

This is a tale of weight loss, a true story. It's a love story (we love losing weight), we are a happily married couple. Like most stories, there are at least two sides and in our case, it's HIS and HERS. We are both (finally) enjoying success but our roads there were totally separate, although intertwined.
Here is HIS story:

Here's a story as old as time (in fact, there are probably hieroglyphs in Egypt on the subject): Weight gain as we age. Lower metabolism, blah, blah. Less muscle mass, blah, blah. My husband, while extraordinary for his age over 50+, was finding it increasingly difficult to keep his weight in check. I totally get it, it's the story of my life. But this is his story. We have tried almost every diet, Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, Cabbage Soup and the See Food (everything you see, you eat) diets. We have both enjoyed some limited time, varied level of success. And then the diet ended. The million dollar question: how to get the weight off and keep it off. The answer is different for everyone but most different as a man and a woman (Venus and Mars).

There is a word that sparks my husband's adrenalin (well, maybe more than one word ...): COMPETITION. Last December, my husband announced that his co-workers would begin a "Biggest Loser" type competition in January. It was to last 3 months and include a fee to join, weekly weigh-ins, penalties for weight gains and cash prizes in the end. It was a competition to be sure. There were mysterious donuts and chocolate bars left on desks and emails featuring all sorts of delectable food-porn photos. But it was also a community of sharing what was working. The best tool that they nearly all employed was: Fitness Pal.

This was the other thing my husband really got into--the high tech app. If you are unfamiliar, Fitness Pal is an app that determines how many calories you should eat per day to achieve the weight loss you aspire to. You input information about yourself and lifestyle. Each day, you input your weight and then log all foods eaten. You can store the nutritional value of things you eat often and there is a very cool (guys love this) camera to scan bar codes on products to gather the calorie count. There are graphs. My husband LOVES Fitness Pal. He never believed me when I told him those slices of cheese were not so innocent, but he believed Fitness Pal and suddenly, cheese was the devil. He was a little hungry in the beginning but quickly found filling, lower calorie options for meals and snacks. He still enjoys chocolate, only in smaller portions.

The obvious partner to diet is exercise, this is no great secret. I don't think we were alone in claiming that we had no time or energy to work out. We had both had short runs with fitness but nothing stuck like cuddling in on the sofa after dinner. We decided to join a gym together and go at least 3 times per week immediately following dinner. Especially in the winter, 7 p.m.-8 p.m. was kind of a "dead zone" at our house and we were drifting over to the television and vegging out. Turned out, this is the perfect time for us to work out. We encourage each other and drive together but do our own exercise once we we there. We wave and wink at each other in passing. My husband even found an app for choosing and tracking exercises (of course). 

Fast forward to mid-April. The office Biggest Loser competition was over and the 12 participants lost a total of 214 pounds. Several people not competing even lost weight. My husband lost nearly 30 pounds and came in third place, earning him a cash prize. He is maintaining that loss even with a vacation in the mix. He has better endurance and really nice muscles. Here's what worked for HIM:
  • Competition was the trigger. He hates to lose. If there is no office competition, websites like can provide a similar rewarding experience.
  • Cool, high-tech apps gave black and white facts.
  • Finding an exercise pattern that worked for his lifestyle, and doing it together.
  • The initial competition lasted 3 months. In the past, we barely got through 2 weeks. It took months to finally see and feel the results which led to real lifestyle changes. 
  • We discarded all of his larger clothes and replaced them with smaller. If he starts to gain weight, he will be faced with stretch pants, meggings or nakedness. 
In the nearly 25 years that we have been married, I have never known my husband so fit or thin, or dedicated to his own health. This was HIS story. In the next post, I'll share HER story ...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Fashion Star Dress from Macy's!

Woooo! My Fashion Star dress arrived from Macy's and it is beautiful! Here's the stock photo of it, I will take a picture of me wearing it when I lose my vacation puff.
I had no idea what to expect buying a dress featured on a reality television competition. Could an "as seen on TV" dress really live up to the quality of Macy's, Sax Fifth Avenue or Express or was I just buying into the hype? In my case, YES, it was really great! I feared that the fabric of this dress would be of the cheap, stretch, accentuate the bulges variety. On the contrary! It is more like a lightweight neoprene, clinging slightly to curves but in a very flattering way. The fit is true to size (although I love it when they run big ...) And, I have the cheap (if you call $99 cheap) thrill of knowing I am wearing a television dress. 

Shipping was free from Macy's and the dress arrived in about a week. I ordered it quickly and, as I suspected, the dress sold out over night (although I think they re-stocked). My one disappointment, as with almost all mail order, is that my highly anticipated dress came folded in a small square, stuffed into a plastic bag then crammed into a white plastic shipping bag. Somehow I have to get those square folds out of the dress before I wear it. 

Mail order retailers: listen up!!! Those of us that order online want the same experience as your best, in store shopping bag. Put the dress in a nice box with tissue or something!!! We shop online for convenience and price but we are still shopping, which is an emotional experience. I don't buy much post Bye Buy challenge so when I do, I would like it to feel special. So, Fashion Star, yes! Macy's, yes! Packing for mail order products: a big, fat fashion-don't.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flash Sales: Zulily, Wayfair, Groupon and the Likes ...

Post Bye Buy challenge, I consider myself a reformed shopoholic. As a reformed anything, the will almost always be triggers wooing you back to your old, evil ways. My triggers include things like clearances and sales, special events and special shopping opportunities like "flash sales". Flash sales generally refer to a one-day or very limited time offer. It feels like you are in on a big secret and you have to act quickly lest everyone find out about the amazing offer. Hesitate and it sells out. Flash sales are a gigantic, flashing red warning sign, spending spree waiting to happen to a reformed shopoholic. Yet, I subscribe to a few websites that offer daily flash sales. My first was Zulily

Zulily got my attention with eye-catching ads that showed up alongside my email. The items, usually clothing, were attractive and my feeling was that these waere an "insiders-only" offer. I, of course, wanted to be an insider. After signing up (it's free) I received a daily email with the limited time offers. Selection is limited to what is pictured, so the colors and styles are limited. After watching for a while, I finally made my first purchase of a casual cotton dress. Casual dresses are on my "need to re-stock" list. I was not familiar with the brand (Gretchen Scott Designs) but the style was nice and the fit appeared somewhat forgiving. The dress was priced at just $19.99 but I would have purchased it at a higher price. Shipping was $5.95 (but if you buy anything else from Zulily within a 24 hour period, that shipping is free).One complaint I had was the time it took for shipping. In this next-day world, waiting 2-3 weeks for a purchase can seem interminable (or in my case, you can forget you even ordered it and enjoy a great fun surprise when it arrives.) The dress was really cool, so much so that I found the Gretchen Scott website to see what else they had. Whoa, giant price increase on the regular site! My particular dress was not pictured so I am thinking that Zulily items may be close-outs or last season stuff (which is OK with me, sort of like TJ Maxx.) Brands run from the very familiar (Avia) to the obscure. Quality seems vary as well. For me, it's like browsing the mall without leaving the house, which is kind of nice. I recently purchased a bra from Zulily for my hard-to-fit daughter. After the very long wait, the bra arrived with oddly discolored spots. The quality of the fit or support did not appear to be affected but I would not purchase an item in a store that appeared dirty. During checkout at Zulily, you are informed that items are not returnable. I am generally too excited about my purchase at this point to turn back. In this case, I was unsure what to do about an item I was not satisfied with. I sent an email with photos of the bra to Zulily customer service but honestly, did not have high hopes. In just a few hours, I received a message with an apology and a refund. The nature of the limited-time sale meant there wasn't another to exchange for, but at least I got a refund. I have to say, I was genuinely surprised and delighted. Real customer service! Despite the long delivery wait, customer service response time is very fast.

Groupon is another of my favorite sites. They, too, offer special, limited time offers with great deals. The deals are based on locale so you will only find offers for your area. Customer service is good and refunds are available. Watch the fine print and don't lose the voucher Groupon sends, most retailers need that piece of paper. 

I consider Wayfair to be the Amazon of the home decorating world. Lots to choose from and they, too, offer daily deals. I was excited to find that the Coastal Living Magazine product collection is sold on Wayfair.

Groupon and Zulily also reward you for referring friends. This is nice, but try it out yourself before referring others (it's just the nice thing to do). 

SO--the pros: A little browsing for sales each day. Small enough in quantity that you won't take too much time (hopefully) but some variety. Check the policies, but there is still some good customer service out there.

The cons: The shipping time for Zulily was irksome. Be aware of return and refund policies. And, by all means, if you don't need or can't afford things, don't subscribe!

I think that pre-Bye Buy me would have gone crazy on flash sales. The new and improved me is more thoughtful, less panic-y and makes better decisions.  It is smart to save money where possible and there are some good deals out there. 
 Flash sales: proceed with caution and shop smart. Good deals can be had but like always, if it really seems to good to be true, it probably is. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Ordered a Fashion Star Dress from Macy's!

Fashion Star, the fashion design reality competition on NBC debuted during the Bye Buy year. Good news, bad news. I would have loved to have some of the designs offered but I knew I could be lured by buying events and roll quickly into frenzy mode. Now that I can buy again, I watch Fashion Star with a more critical eye. Good news, bad news, I watch Fashion Star every week but we generally watch it on OnDemand on Saturday and anything really good has sold out.

Good news, we were home last night. I was watching (quite intently) while my husband drifted in and out of the room. Design competitor Cassandra offered up a "day to night" dress and my jaw dropped. It was beautiful! I didn't realize that my husband had wandered in until I heard him say, "order it!" I uttered my typical decline. "I don't need it."
"Order it."
"It's probably expensive."
"Order it."
"I don't have anywhere to wear it."
"Order it. I'll take you out to dinner."
Fine. I logged on to Macy's and found the dress offered for $99.
I considered $99 a fair price for a decent dress. My size was available. I ordered. I have to say, it was thrilling! I actually ordered a Fashion Star dress!

According to the Macy's website, my dress should be her in 3-6 days. Shipping was free. I can't wait to see what the dress looks like in real life. I ordered my standard size and hope the fit is true. It looks black and ivory to me but the website calls it "black and tan". We will see. In any case, I ordered a Fashion Star dress! Stay tuned and I'll let you know exactly how it is!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Clothes: How Much Should You Spend?

Based on my last post and my new rule for restraint, I determined that I could buy one pair of ankle length pants. Only one pair, so boy-oh-boy, I chose those carefully! I must have tried on 30 pairs but decided on just one. When you only get one, it makes sense that you can spend a bit more, right?

Because of my crack-like addiction to clearance prices, I have tried to shop blind to prices. I have had many people who have followed my progress tell me that, yes! We should only buy expensive stuff, and thank you! That's not the point, exactly. We should only buy the RIGHT stuff. The old me would settle for $20 cropped jeans instead of even trying a $50, or even $100 pair. How much should jeans cost? How much should we spend?

Annual Budget:  I recently found a blurb in People Style Watch Magazine about spending guidelines. In the past, I have attempted "guesstimates" about how much should be spent on clothes but truthfully, if I went on a binge, I would just feed the family cereal for dinner for a week to make up for it. I never realized that there is a recommended clothing budget allowance and it was confirmed in this article. 4% of after-tax income. That's the recommended budget. If your salary is $30,000, your clothing budget is roughly $960 per year. Or $80 per month. IF you can afford 4% of your income and it's not eaten by rent, car payments or food. A family income of $80,000 may allow for a $2500 clothing budget ... for the whole family. The magazine suggested breaking the annual budget into seasons which I think is an excellent idea. It's no wonder I have a craving for bargain prices! One single fancy event can wreak havoc on a clothing budget.

Cost Per Wearing:  The other side of the cost consideration is determining how much is too much to spend on any garment. Is $100 too much to spend on jeans? People Style Watch suggests a "cost per wearing" guideline of $2-$3 per wearing if your annual clothing budget in in the $1500-$3000 range.  If you buy the RIGHT jeans for you, they fit well and are made well, could you wear them 50 times? Would you? For a year, that's about 4 times per month.  So, if you keep your jeans for a year and wear them about 4 times per month AND can afford the $100 price tag, then, yes, $100 jeans a perfectly acceptable. If you are trying out a trend like high-waisted flairs then I suggest you re-think. Going forward, every time I purchase something I will be asking myself, will I wear this enough to account for $2 per wearing? Suddenly, spending $200 on an event gown that will be worn 2 or 3 times seems like a crazy idea.

The aforementioned article contained other excellent suggestions:

There is no such thing as clothing as an investment (!) Savings accounts are investments. Buying a home is an investment. Leather boots--not an investment. 

Buy basics and accessorize. 

Avoid event shopping. Frenzy mindset happens to the best of us.

Don't get caught up in brand names. I have mentioned before and still think that since so much of clothing is made outside our country, there is no longer the giant quality gap we could once count on if spending more. No matter where you shop, look closely at the fabric and construction. Surprisingly, Target has some items with the same or better construction than Macy's. Not always, but you just can't count on quality anymore. 

Dress for the waist up. This one is super-interesting! The article mentions "see-level", meaning wear good basic pants or skirts and draw the focus up. Bummer for a shoe fanatic like me, but really true.

Dang. By the time I am realistic about how much I need and how much I should spend, shopping is just not as fun as it was. Paying bills, however, way less painful. They say "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." How about "nothing looks as good as a zero balance credit card!"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Clothes: How much do you need and how much should you spend?

If you ask me how many clothes I want, I will tell you infinity. I'd like a new outfit every day, maybe a couple times a day. Not realistic. How many clothes do I need? I could get by with two outfits but that's no way to live. How much should I spend? That question is just all shades of grey. With spring in our midst and summer right around the corner, I am feeling the familiar pangs to fill my closet with clothes for my very favorite seasons. It's true, I could use a few things, but what things? And, (more important) where do I stop?

If you join something like Alcoholics Anonymous, the idea is that you will never drink alcohol again. All or nothing. If you join a diet in which all food is provided for you, you eat what you get and nothing more. During the Bye Buy year, no clothes, period. The problem comes when restraint is needed. My husband and I are on a calorie restricted diet so we can choose anything as long as we stay within the day's calorie count. It's in this spirit that I was searching for guidelines to determine how much clothing we really need, and how much we should spend.

I am going to break this up into two posts, this one about quantity, and the next about budget.

If you've been in the stores lately, you have probably seen that cropped, or ankle length pants are shown everywhere. And for good reason. I've been feeling like capri pants are, in the words of the great Tim Gunn, matronly. Ideally, pants should stop at the best part of your leg and generally mid-calf is not it. For most of us, a shapely ankle is a very flattering focus. So, of course, I need ankle length pants. Sadly, this can quickly turn in to an obsession. Left to my own devices, I would have 7 pairs, one for each day of the week. But do I need 7 pairs? No. 

To determine what you really need, start by taking a realistic view of your life. I work from home. If staying in, I will wear my workout clothes so I'm ready for the gym later. I go shopping about two times per week and will want to look a little better. On the weekends, we are pretty relaxed, perhaps going out one evening. I'll start with jeans, or pants. One nice pair for going out. One casual pair for shopping (cropped at the ankle?) Perhaps a work pair. That's three. The average woman has 8 pairs.

Maybe your lifestyle is different. Students may need more jeans. Someone with a casual job. But 7 pairs is one pair per weekday, and isn't that more than enough? Retailers would like you to think you need skinny, trouser, boyfriend, bootcut, flared, distressed, indigo, cropped--all styles in your collection. At at some point, all of those styles were in my closet. But I never wore them. I thought I needed them. Last year, I pulled out all of my jeans, tried them all on and asked myself honestly, will you go out in public in these? Answer no, in the donate pile. Do they fit? Answer no, in the donate pile. Then, over the next few months, pay attention to what you wear. The cream will float to the top and it becomes clear what you need. For me, three pairs of jeans.

Dresses. I LOVE dresses. When do I wear them? Realistically, two times per week. Even if I wear a dress twice a month, I still need 4. I have about 12. Same routine, which are the cutest, most versatile, most comfortable? Keep those and lose the rest. T-shirts--same deal. I need about 7 and I'll bet I have 20. If you don't edit your closet to what you NEED, you will end up with wasted closet space and items that could be worn by someone else. It's harder to keep a super-full closet organized. Give your clothes room to breathe!

During the Bye Buy year, I edited my closet down to 50%. There is still 50% of the remaining collection that I have not, and will not wear so another big cleanout is in order.Yet it's spring and the stores are bursting with fresh, bright colors and what's a girl to do? New rule.

Here's my new rule for restraint: Edit your closet down to what you really need. Fill in if you MUST. Then new purchases must replace something in your existing wardrobe. If I really, really want ankle jeans, a pair of my old jeans has to go. New dress in, old dress out. If you can't find something to get rid of, you probably don't need the new item, even if it is fabulous. I have found this spring that, like a craving for a cookie, my need for ankle pants will diminish if I just distract myself, as long as the distraction is not in the shoe department.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Basic Spring Shoes

During the Bye-Buy year, I made a list of the things I really needed so that those items would become a priority once I could shop again. One of the things I knew I would be hunting for is a pair of basic summer sandals. Something with a wedge and a platform, but not too heavy. Something feminine but not silly. Something that would compliment my existing wardrobe, not send me out into a shopping frenzy finding things to match. Probably something with brown leather straps, possibly black ...

Well, I found them! I was patient and careful and thoughtful. They were online so I looked and waited a day. Then went back and looked and waited a day. Then waited for a discount coupon. Then ordered. And, with my nose pressed to the front door every day, waited for the sight of one of my beloved delivery trucks. And today they came! I love them!!

I have been wearing them around the house all day. They match so many of my clothes, very neutral (well, neutral for me ...) I can not wait for it to be warm enough to wear these babies and I am so proud of myself for making a sound decision. Want to see?

Neutral, comfortable, versatile ... perfect!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pearl by Georgina Chapman at J.C. Penney: Beautiful Dress!!!

Who are you wearing? If you watch any red carpet interviews, you've probably heard of Georgina Chapman, co-founder of Marchesa. Georgina was also a judge on Project Runway All Stars and she was fabulous. Marchesa gowns are known for beautiful, feminine details and have been worn by Blake Lively, Cate Blanchett and even Katy Perry, to name just a few. Always a fan of the celebrity clothing line, I was super-excited when J.C. Penney announced they would be carrying a line called Pearl by Georgina Chapman. I know for sure that this would be the closest I would ever come to Marchesa. 

Typically, I am not a J.C. Penney shopper. It's not convenient to me and I was a little confused when they changed up the whole sale policy about a year ago. My curiosity about the Pearl line drove me to JCP to check it out. I had one more formal event to attend this season and could possibly use another dress. It's prom season in department stores so the dresses are prominently displayed. The first thing I noticed was that the details and quality of the Pearl dresses are much better than most of the dresses at JCP. The second thing was that most of the styles were too young for me. Then I noticed this dress:
First off, this picture doesn't do this dress justice. I tried it on and it was fabulous! All black sequins, it was subtle yet glamorous. The neckline is beautiful. My size fit true and like a glove. The best part, and what doesn't show well in the photo, is the bottom. The high-low area is a ruffle that has the most beautiful, flow-y, salsa feel. When you walk, it moves in a sexy way without being revealing. I loved this dress!

Another incredible gown was this one:
Not for me, but a real fantasy dress that would suit a wide age range. ($250)

So, did I get the black sequin dress? No. At $140, the price was good, and as I said, the quality and fit were great. The reason I decided not to buy it was that I have learned to buy things with some versatility. I may be wearing it again with the same crowd and, frankly, that dress is too memorable for my needs. I can not even believe I just wrote that. The pre-Bye Buy me would have scooped that dress up in a second. But the new me has better uses for $140 when I have dresses at home.

If you are in the market for a formal or cocktail dress, check out the Pearl line at JCP. In fact, if you haven't been to JCP in a while, I suggest you check that out, too. They've really cleaned the place up. It's neat and organized with many good brands and designers and rather nice to not have to worry if there is a sale. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Balls of March

It's March and you know what that means (well maybe you don't ...) it's Ball season! The first one, a Cirque du Soleil theme, was two weekends ago. We were invited to dress for the theme (!) or choose Black Tie. We've been working out but I still couldn't picture us in unitards, so we opted for Black Tie. In the past, a Black Tie event brought a mix of excitement and anxiety. I generally used these events to experiment with a new hairstyle, hair color or self tanning products which inevitably went way bad. I also spent a small fortune securing the perfect head to toe ensemble.

Last year, before I started the Bye Buy Challenge, I requested that my husband refuse any Ball invitations for the upcoming year. No problem, he assured me. Big problem, turned out. These functions are work-related so opting out is not always a possibility. In my No-Buy year, I was faced with not one, but TWO Black Tie events. Having to rely on my existing wardrobe was an enormous challenge but I was happy to report that both events went well, no one mentioned that I was re-wearing a dress and I don't think I ended up on a What Not To Wear list. Oh, I still experimented with new products and that always goes bad.

For this year's Cirque du Soleil event, I chose to forgo the opportunity to purchase a new gown (can you tell I have been watching the Bachelor?) and wear my own red halter gown that was fitting nicely (yay!). I wore shoes that I already owned. Accessories that I had. Home mani-pedi. I didn't spend a dime to prepare. I've got this! I didn't even start getting ready until just over an hour before scheduled departure. Then, I didn't have this after all. The Good Hair Gods apparently didn't feel I was putting enough effort into the day because my hair looked awful. An attempt at a "smoky eye" left me looking like I'd gone 3 rounds with Leila Ali. I had forgotten that this dress was a half-turn away from a wardrobe malfunction and I was supposed to alter it. My husband kept asking, "Are you ready now? Are you ready now? Are you ready now?" Arggggg! 

The event was nice but I didn't feel so special or pretty. I had gone from way over-preparing to adopting a laissez faire attitude that left me feeling poopy.

Take two. Our second event this year is Saturday. The theme is Miami Nights but we'll be going Black Tie again. I did spend too much time yesterday seeking the perfect gown at the right price and came home completely disheartened. Looking through my own gown collection, I found a wine colored satin strapless dress that I've had for a while. I slipped it on under my sweatshirt (and wearing white cotton socks) and asked my husband, "How do I look?" His expression belied his "great!" response but he assured me that without the sweatshirt, it would be nice. This dress fits (a feat in in itself, really) and I have shoes. But this weekend, I will take my time getting ready. Maybe even a real mani-pedi.

A Black Tie event, even if for work, is the chance to step out in your finest and live it up. There is always drinks and dancing and very good food. We are lucky to have the opportunity. Not "spend an entire month preparing" lucky, and not "throw yourself together" lucky. This week I will try to enjoy the preparation and embrace the chance at a beautiful evening out. It's only Tuesday, though, I'm sure I will come up with some new thing to try ...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Power Ranger Boots

My daughter made some deal with me and somehow I have the job of dropping off my grandson at preschool two days per week. I think she didn't want to see him cry, but it turns out he loves school and forgets I exist once we arrive. (cue groovy memory music) When my kids were in preschool, they were perfectly dressed every day. Holidays and themes were observed religiously. I was an outstanding volunteer mom. They always had exactly what was needed. They cried when I left. (end music) Today, I dropped my grandson off at preschool wearing my snow boots.

Oh, he has shoes. But he likes my boots. To him, they are Power Ranger boots. At just 2 1/2, this kid is obsessed with Power Rangers, he wants to be a Power Ranger. And Power Rangers wear boots. One afternoon, when I had started the third PR episode of the day, he was scrambling for weapons when he spied my snow boots at the front door. Since then, the minute he arrives here, the boots go on. He can't actually walk in them, they are a women's size 8, so he does what I call the "Power Ranger Shuffle." This morning, he insisted on wearing them to school. 

I would have NEVER let my kids wear my boots to preschool. What would people think? I would be a bad mom! Part of the change is definitely the grandma-thing. There is a lot less pressure being a grandma than a mom. Truthfully though, since the Bye Buy Challenge, my foremost thought is no longer "what will people think?" When my grandson was a baby, I would only take him out if he was dressed perfectly and coordinated with my outfit. Where is the fun in that??? I have let so much of that nonsense go. Today, I agreed, Power Ranger boots were perfect for school.

In the school hallway I watched him stop at the drinking fountain for a long drink, amazed that he can operate this monstrous contraption. "Good water" he said, then we continued to class. He shuffled in, hung up his coat and waved good-bye. I try hard not to have regrets about raising my kids, but I think it would have been nice if I hadn't been such a tight-a**.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Health Club Track Ettiquette

Warning: This post contains venting. If you are not in the mood to read venting, skip this one.

I don't use this blog platform to vent very often but today I must make an exception. I fear that if I don't let it out somewhere, I may pound someone. I have already shared that my husband and I joined a health club. It isn't cheap but we are really making good use of it and it's fun to go together. Something there has been getting under my skin. You probably think I am bugged about wardrobe choices at the club, which would make sense if you know me at all. Nope. If your there working out, I will ignore what you are wearing (not really but I won't say it publicly.)

The cardio portion of my workout is predominantly jogging (really trotting) on the track. I warm up, trot for 30 minutes then cool down with a few laps. I appreciate having access to an indoor track. Others, I think, take this for granted. The track is small, only 1/10 of a mile. I know exactly what a hamster feels like now. There's not a lot of room on this wire wheel of a track. This is what it looks like:
There are three lanes: walk, jog and pass. Very clearly labeled. Pretty straightforward. As a trotter, I generally stay in the jog lane. I am also a rule-follower by nature. This is not the case with my fellow gym members. In fact, most of them seem to observe no rules at all. On a typical day, here are things I observe on the track:
Buddies: As in that photo, people walk as a pair, or even as a threesome. Taking two and three lanes. So wrapped up in conversation that they are oblivious to the rest of us. They generally proceed at a leisurely pace and I want to scream "Walk at the mall!!! Go have a smoothie in the snack shop!" The threesomes will take the entire width of the track and don't seem to think a thing of it.
Phone-a-Friends: Yep--there are people that walk on the track talking on the phone. Just like distracted drivers, these walkers tend to drift lanes and, again, be oblivious to those around them. It boggles my mind that people share (loudly) personal conversations especially in tight quarters. 
Read and Walk: I am not making this up. Walking on the track reading a book. An actual book. Treadmill, I can understand a book. Track, no way. 
Wanderers: There are a few group fitness rooms that are near the track. Never fails, as soon as class lets out, the is a herd of tired patrons that wander on to the track and I have to dodge them to avoid a collision. I get it, you just worked hard- but open your eyes! Do you wander out into the street? 
Cross-trainers: This group is interesting. There must have been an article in a magazine somewhere that encouraged walkers to simultaneously engage in other actions like flapping arms, running backwards or lunge walking. I have seen it all. Do what you like if you can keep it in your lane. There was even a group class brought on to the track with medicine balls attempting some balance activity.  Have you every driven down the expressway with balling balls rolling about? Danger, Will Robinson.

I would love to sing at the top of my lungs while trotting, but I don't. Sometimes I would like to lie down on the track for a short nap, but I don't. I try to be considerate. All I ask, fellow gym-goers,  is that you please follow the clearly labeled rules. Until you see lanes called Blather Incessantly, Deep Meaningful Conversation and Free For All, just walk, jog or pass.

Sorry about all that, I feel better now.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nice Shoes!

I am of the opinion that if you are going to show up for a sport dressed head to toe in that sport's paraphernalia, you had better be good. Arrive at the bowling alley with an engraved ball, fancy bag, name on your shirt and support brace up to your armpit--I hope you can really bowl. Show up for tennis looking like you've just stepped off the pages of Sports Illustrated, I hope you've got game. Based on that, I am not qualified to fully gear up for any sport so I tend toward low key. 

Good news- I wore out my running shoes! A good opportunity to make a well thought out purchase, I set out with an open mind. After trying on about 20 pairs, I chose these:

Do these look low key to you?

I would normally pass these by because I am not a super-runner. I trot. People who trot should not wear neon colored running shoes. But of every pair I tried, these fit best, had the best support, had great online reviews and were on sale for a fair, not dirt cheap, price. Perhaps no one would notice ...

Wrong-o. I wore them around the house for a few days to break them in. "Nice shoes, mom," my daughter smirked. No matter. I made a good decision, they shoes felt great. I wore them to Kroger where I ran into a friend. "Nice shoes!" Was she making fun of me, too? I kept looking down at my neon covered feet. Are they cool? If I am going out in running shoes, I will also be wearing exercise pants, black, and my black jacket. Dressed in black, when the eye hits my shoes, it's a jolt. Not cool.

During our recent Vegas trip, I knew there would be lots of walking and I had hoped to work out so the running shoes were my footwear of choice. Plus, the neon would blend in on the streets of Vegas so no one would notice. "Nice shoes" a homeless person commented. "Nice shoes" from the tour ticket seller. From the guy in the Batman costume, the hostess at Margaritaville, and various passersby. "Nice shoes." I heard it dozens of times. In Vegas, people clamor to be noticed. Not me, I like to fly under the radar. In these shoes, though--I felt like a show pony. 

I have two choices. I can try to run faster and better to live up to my neon shoes or I can just go with it. I love these shoes (Asics Gel Lyte 33, by the way), so I think I just answer the next "nice shoes" with a cheerful, "Thanks!"

Friday, March 1, 2013

Vegas: The Land of Many Temptations

Vegas, baby! Sin City. What happens there, stays there and all that. For me, Vegas is the Land of Many Temptations. I just returned from 5 days in that land and I'm still trying to catch my breath.

My daughter had a work trip to Las Vegas and wanted a travel companion. I thought it would be a nice opportunity to show her the ropes of work travel and, heck, a getaway would be nice! I hadn't been to Vegas for almost 30 years but how much could it have changed? Turns out, quite a bit.

To put it nicely, Vegas is a giant circus of sights, sounds and sometimes, smells. At times it just felt like an assault on the senses. There is temptation at every turn. I had to be strong for both of us. Everything there is designed to part you from your money. And they are very, very good at it.

The casinos lure you with jingle-y, celebratory sounds and bright lights. My husband has a theory that Vegas knows who is a first timer. That person is rewarded with a series of small wins, drawing them in. My daughter was that person. $20 win here, $30 win there, she was convinced she has a sixth sense for picking slot machines. But Vegas always wins and I had to pull her away when the winning skidded to a stop. We both had to fight that temptation hard. 

And there's the food. Vegas has more restaurants than I could count, every variation of every cuisine. And the drinks! If you weren't carrying the foot-long cocktail cup down the street, well you just looked out of place.  Healthy options were tough to find, deep fried Oreos were not. I thought I would faint at the tower of warm mini donuts at our hotel buffet. Crispy and delicate, some drizzled in chocolate  others dusted in powdered sugar or cinnamon,  those donuts could have destroyed the last six weeks of super-fitness effort. We had to stay strong. 

The biggest temptation was the shopping. I could not believe the stores that line the lobbies of the fancy hotels! Like Rodeo Drive on steroids, everything is there from Christian Louboutin to Christian Dior. This was the good stuff. For months now I have been beating myself up for buying cheap, clearance stuff I really didn't want or need. Here was my chance to buy the good stuff.

The good stuff, it turns out, is beyond expensive. I was truly shocked by the price tags. Who affords this?  Here's the thing: there are so, so many designer stores in Vegas, it began to feel normal. Keep looking and suddenly $695 for a pair of shoes seems about right. Ahhh ... those Vegas tricksters were at it again. " Of course this is what we all buy. You definitely need this. We all do." Could we make it out of 5 days in Vegas without having to re-mortgage the house?

We did but it was really hard. Temptation abounds. By the last day, we were exhausted by it all. I think 5 days in Vegas is too long. A weekend, we both agreed, would be plenty. The longer you stay, the more the outrageous becomes normal. Vegas can wear you down. Even the promise of Girls, Girls, Girls Delivered to Your Door felt normal and that is just sad. In the end, my sins from Sin City were mostly calorie-laden. I have become stronger since the Bye Buy challenge and it's a really good thing.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spring Sandals in the Air!

I was feeling a little blue yesterday and found myself in DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse). Old habits die hard. I don't need any shoes at the moment but the pull is magnetic. And it's no wonder! The spring sandals are in ! The spring sandals are in! Here's just a sampling of what I found:
So beautiful! Each and every pair whispered, "Pick me!" or "Try me on!" or "I'll make you look sooo good!"
So here was the test: I was feeling a little down, spring sandals were calling me and I was sick and tired of being cold. Would post-Bye-Buy me stay strong or would I relapse?
Then I saw these:

See that price tag? 80% off $69.94. Crack. Could I resist? I tried them on and they fit perfectly! Comfortable, supportive. The brand: Tahari. These were good sandals. I went to the mirror. Were the front straps a little too wide? Probably not. The ankle strap was nice. But the front straps ...
Yes- the front straps were too wide. They looked just clunky enough that they were not exactly right for me, even at 80% off!

Success! Wooo! The new me is staying strong! Now, for a reward ... one of the other pairs of sandals?