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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 DietBet.com 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 ...