January 18, 2018

Weight Loss Wednesday: A Candid Discussion of Excess Skin (post weight loss)

When I had my lower body lift in 2011, I was thrilled with the results of my surgery.

The excess skin was very uncomfortable and I felt so discouraged that I would have to live that way for the rest of my life. I hated the fact that I "ruined" my body with so many years of overeating.

When Caitlin was here recently, we had a conversation about our excess skin (something that many people who have lost a lot of weight tend to have in common). We both said we wished more than anything that we could go back in time and take care of ourselves.

When we were overeating, we never thought about the long term consequences. One you've been overweight as long as we were, some of the damage is permanent. (Of course, there are people whose skin snaps back with no problems, but from my experience, that is not the norm.)

A lot of it depends on factors like how long one was overweight, just how much excess weight that person carried, how quickly the weight was gained, how quickly the weight was lost, etc.

I remember being very young (probably junior high school?) when I first noticed stretch marks. They were light red streaks on my upper arms, and I had no idea what they were. I was hanging out with a friend, and she noticed them. I told her I had no clue what it was, and she said that it was no big deal--she had them on her inner thighs.

I came to the conclusion that everybody had those "things', and I didn't think much of it. Within the next couple of years, I learned that they were stretch marks, and that they were undesirable. I immediately became embarrassed that my body betrayed me like that. Why did I get stretch marks, when none of my other friends had them (well, other than the one who showed me the ones on her thighs)?

When I was 16, I went on a trip to Washington D.C. with several people from my junior class. I met a boy there who I really liked, and after a fun day exploring the city, he kissed me when we got back to the hotel. We were sitting on some steps, talking, when he noticed my arm.

He asked what had happened, and I quickly thought up a lie--I told him that I had gotten boiling water spilled on me years ago. He accepted that answer, and I felt embarrassed. I knew that one day, he'd figure out what stretch marks are, and he'd know that the girl he kissed in Washington D.C. had them on her upper arms.

I became self-conscious of my arms after that, and I covered my them whenever possible. I started getting them on my inner thighs, too. At the time, I still didn't know that they were being caused from weight gain. I was so worried that they'd just keep "growing" everywhere.

They became really bad in college. I started getting them on my hips, sides, and abdomen. These ones were bright red, and thicker than the ones on my arms and thighs. I had gained quite a bit of weight my freshman year of college--from what I recall, I think I went from about 180 to 205 pounds.

When I got pregnant, I gained weight very quickly, and my stretch marks became even worse. With Eli, I gained 90 pounds! The stretch marks on my abdomen went all the way up to my rib cage.

A few years later, when I finally got my act together and started losing the weight, the stretch marks got smaller and more faded, but they were still very noticeable. When gaining weight like I did, the skin literally stretches until it can't anymore, and it pulls too far--causing the skin to thin out in just that stretch mark line.

The best analogy I can think of is one of those nylon hair ties. They have elastic in them, and they are covered with a stretchy fabric. For those of you that wear them, you know that when they get stretched too far, the elastic inside can break, leaving a small spot that is thinner than the rest of it and has lost it's elasticity.

That's what stretch marks are like--the skin gets to the point of stretching until there is no elasticity left. That's what I meant when I said I'd "ruined" my body--no amount of weight loss, exercising, expensive creams, etc, will remove the marks, because that skin has been damaged.

Anyway, on to my point of excess skin. Skin is very elastic, when you think about it. It can accommodate people up to 1,000 pounds or more. But, not without causing permanent damage.

When you blow up a balloon really big, and then let it deflate, it doesn't return to its original size or tight shape. If you blow up a balloon and leave it like that for several days, and then deflate it, it looks even worse. That's the best way I can describe excess skin. It used to be full, and then when it "deflates", the skin is still the same size it was when it was stretched--but since the inside of your body is much smaller, the skin hangs there, looking kind of "baggy".

This can cause all sorts of problems, and not just cosmetic ones. The "apron" of skin over someone's abdomen, for example, can cause rashes and yeast infections in that fold. Running was difficult before my skin removal surgery on my abdomen--my skin would bounce up and down, which was painful. (Think about running without a bra--that's what it felt like on my abdomen.)

My solution was to wear very tight spandex bottoms to hold my skin in place. That certainly helped with the bouncing; but then, by having my skin pressed together in a fold, and sweating from the run, I got chafing and rashes. By running, I was trying to do something good for my body, but I just couldn't win. (Again, I felt terrible that I "ruined" my body, and there was no going back.)

This photo was before I had the skin removal on my abdomen. You can see how I had to tuck in the skin to fit into very tight spandex to hold it in place.

I've gotten several comments and emails about how I don't look like I have loose skin. Well, flattering camera angles and clothing can hide that. But catch me from the right angle, or God forbid, naked, you will avert your eyes and not mention it again. Hahaha!

You may notice that I never run in shorts. The photo below was the only time I tried, and I asked Jerry to take a video, because I was curious if the skin on my thighs looked as bad as it felt. This is to show that there are certain angles that are more flattering than others, which is why people who read my blog may think I don't have loose skin. Of course I'm going to show the more flattering pictures on my blog!

So, to keep the blog honest and real, I'm showing you a comparison of an unflattering pic versus a more flattering one. (These are poor quality because they are screen shots of a video.)

(By the way, I never photoshop pictures of myself to make myself look better. I do use it sometimes to make goofy photos like the header of this post, though! But I want to be "real", so what you see is what you get.)

After I lost 125 pounds, people were naturally very curious about my weight loss. I was asked questions all the time--by friends, family, acquaintances, and even total strangers. When I was losing weight, I never imagined that talking about loose skin would be as painful as it was.

The first question I was asked was, "How did you lose the weight?" and the second was, "Do you have lots of loose (saggy/baggy/deflated/you name it) skin now?" I hate this question with a passion. Unfortunately, people asked me this ALL the time.

I spent the majority of my life (about 25 years) feeling incredibly self-conscious about my body. I was teased in school for being fat. I hated having people look at me, and I always assumed people were thinking about how fat I was. I hated myself; I hated my looks.

Fast forward to age 28, when I had lost 125 pounds. I felt amazing and I loved the way I looked--until I started getting e-mail after e-mail asking me if I have loose skin.

YES, I have loose skin. NO, it's not pretty. Do I need reminding of how grotesque it is day after day? No. (I've had people tell me that they don't want to lose weight because excess skin is gross. Gee, thanks!)

I know that when people ask me this question, they aren't calling me ugly, or saying I look gross--they are just asking out of curiosity. I get it. I was curious before I lost the weight, too.

But please keep in mind that it's a very sensitive question for someone like me who spent the majority of my life being self-conscious. That's why it irritates me so much when a complete stranger asks me about saggy skin when we've never even had a conversation before. If a friend asks, I have no problem talking about my loose skin--because that person cares more about me than about my weight loss and all the flaws on my body.

When the first thing someone asks me after learning of my weight loss is if I have loose skin, it's like saying that all the hard work I did doesn't matter; that losing 125 pounds means nothing if I have loose skin; that I might as well not have lost the weight since my skin is saggy now.

I so badly want to put to rest all of the bad thoughts I have about my body and learn to truly love my body--but it's hard to do so when people remind me that I have "gross saggy skin".

This photo is after I'd lost 118 pounds. You can see how loose the skin is on my upper arms--"bat wings", as people like to refer to this problem area. (Stephanie was setting up her camera to get a photo of the two of us together, and she told me to "look like you're putting your arm around me". Hahaha! I like to tell people it's my imaginary friend ;) )

I hate that when I wave to someone, my loose skin is about half a second behind my arm, hahaha.

All of that said, YES--I have saggy upper arms, saggy inner thighs, deflated boobs (which were never big to begin with), a saggy butt, and a stomach that looked like a deflated balloon (I had the abdominal skin removed in 2011, which I'll share about below).

This is a picture of the skin on my inner thigh. I was lying on my right side (hip on left, knee to the right, so the skin was sagging down). I took this picture to "prove it" (that I had loose skin) a few years ago, but now I realize how stupid that is--I have nothing to prove to anyone! Still, here it is. The picture is a little disorienting, because I was lying on my side in bed, with my other leg tucked underneath, so that you could see the saggy skin.

I was terrified at the thought of having surgery. However, when I broke my jaw in 2010, and surgery was inevitable to fix my jaw, I wasn't afraid of it anymore. (I'm sure the IV of dilaudid helped! hahaha.) I decided to schedule a consult with a plastic surgeon. I'd had no idea at the time, but she told me that my insurance would likely cover a large portion of the surgery. I was shocked.

After some stuff to work out with the insurance company, I scheduled my appointment for pre-op; and then for surgery on November 14, 2011. My surgeon said I would have fantastic results--1) Because I was at a "normal" weight and I wasn't doing the surgery to try to be smaller or lose weight; 2) Because I'd kept the weight off for over a year; and 3) I was running a lot, and in good shape underneath the skin.

Needless to say, I am THRILLED with the results of the surgery, even five years later (I wrote an update of the surgery with current pictures here).

Believe it or not, I could button and zip those jeans before surgery. It just took a lot of stuffing my skin into them. It felt different than trying to wear jeans that were too small.

Over the last several years, I've noticed more and more the toll that the excess skin has taken on my upper arms and my inner thighs. I really don't want surgery for these. But they are hindering things that I'm afraid will only get worse over time.

I will write more about this later, because this post is already long enough. Recently, though, I contacted my plastic surgeon to ask about having a consult. I have in no way made a decision to have more surgery (and I'm thinking that I probably will decide not to--the recovery for legs is terrible, from what a few of my friends who have had the surgery told me).

The consult will only be to see my doctor thinks it's a good option for me, based on the issues I'm having.

If I do choose to go through with surgery, I would likely plan for next winter (maybe November or December) so that my healing time won't be so miserable. We don't tend to do much in the winter months.

I want to make sure my weight stays pretty stable this year, too. I'd like to stay under 144, which is at the top of a normal BMI range for me. (Also, our debt will be paid off and we will be able to save up for the surgery.) Jerry is super supportive of me getting it--he's been mentioning it for a few years now, when he hears me complain about the skin for various reasons.)

Anyway, this turned into a very long-winded post! If anyone has questions about loose skin, I'd be happy to open up and answer them here. (If they are too personal, I will say so, but for the most part, I'm pretty candid about it now. So, ask away!)

January 15, 2018

Getting in Shape for a Half

I feel like I have not had anything worth writing about lately! Running has been on my mind a lot, and I have several drafts of posts about it... but I don't want to bombard my blog with them all at once.

Speaking of running, though, today was Day 1 to start the next 13 weeks of half-marathon training. Funnily enough, it was a rest day, hahaha. So, I did very well! I even enjoyed it ;)

I'm going to be following my First Timer's Half-Marathon Plan. While I am clearly not a first timer, it's been a long time since I've run a half. I walked the Indy Mini in 2017, and I walked-ran the Detroit Free Press International Half in 2015. But the last half that I actually ran was the Santa Hustle Half in December 2014 with my brother. A little over three years ago! Crazy, right?

That race was terrible, because it was when I got my stress fracture that caused me so many problems in 2015. I stupidly refused to rest long enough to let it heal, and running was miserable for the entire year.

Then, in late 2015, I focused on speed instead of distance, with a goal to PR my 10K. After that race in April 2016, I was just burnt out. I didn't want to run long distances anymore, but I also didn't want to focus on speed. I couldn't think of any goals that excited me, so I really had no drive or motivation to run.

In 2017, I finally decided to focus on my mental health, doing what makes me happy. And running was not making me happy, so I quit for... what, 10 months?

Now, in 2018, I feel ready (excited, even) to pick it back up and set some goals. My first goal is to run the Martian Half in April. I have no time goal--I can be slow as molasses for all I care--but I want to be able to run the whole distance.

And, since it's been so long since I've run that distance, I chose to do the beginner plan. I will be running four days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Tuesdays are for speed work (it's very minimal speed work, mainly just for variety); Wednesdays and Fridays are easy runs; and Sundays are for long runs.

Several people have asked if I'm going to do heart rate training again (the 80/20 method I used to PR my 10K). I don't think I'm going to do that, at least not for the first month or so. Right now, I just want to focus on making running a priority again, and getting in the habit of running four days a week. I have no idea what my heart rate is going to be when I run at an easy pace, but I plan to run at a VERY easy pace, so hopefully it will fall into the range I'd like anyway.

I'll likely be doing a lot of my runs on the treadmill. The roads here in the neighborhoods are terrible! There is a very thick layer of ice across the road, topped with about an inch and a half of snow. The main roads are better, but the shoulders aren't clear, so it's not very safe.

Also, I'm excited to get some use out of the new treadmill!

The kids and I took Joey for a walk around the neighborhood tonight, and the boys had a blast sliding on the ice. I nearly fell and broke my neck several times; it didn't help that Joey was dragging me along with his leash! Actually, he saved me from one slip, when I started to go down backwards. He pulled forward on his leash, and I was able to upright myself. The last thing I need is to get injured before I even start training for the half!

The weather has been really crazy for the last month or so. It went from being SUPER cold (single digits) to being rather warm (40 degrees). There have been a couple of incidents on the lake because of it. Last week, a man was riding a four-wheeler on the ice when the ice broke and he went under. The conditions were too dangerous for a rescue attempt (and now, tragically, a body recovery).

Just a few days later, there were several fishermen who were standing on the ice when it broke and took them out farther into the lake (they were still on top of the ice, but they were on a large section of it that was drifting outward). Thankfully, they were able to be rescued by helicopter.

Anyway, I'm still hopeful that we'll have a mild winter--so far it's not looking good. I'm grateful to have a treadmill to train on! I'm curious how tomorrow's "speed" work will go ;)


January 11, 2018

What It's Like to Have a Boudoir Photoshoot (a guest post)

A couple of years ago, I decided to have a boudoir photoshoot.

My sister had had one done, and her photos were AMAZING. I saw a Groupon for it, and (probably after a couple glasses of wine) bought the Groupon and made the appointment. I ended up upgrading it and having a full shoot, and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had.

I never felt so pretty, confident, and sexy as I did that day. I went in there shy and self-conscious, but I left feeling like a supermodel. After that, I told everyone I knew that they needed to do it--not for a man, but for themselves. (You can read about my experience here, and see a few of my photos here.)

Can you believe this is actually ME?! I couldn't. Hahaha

My friend Caitlin was going through a rough time with her self confidence, and a couple of weeks before her most recent visit out here (from Boston), I had the idea for her to have a boudoir shoot with the photographer who did mine (Catherine Kellie Studios). Caitlin was very hesitant and was SURE that it wasn't going to help her confidence. Her weight was up a little, and she wasn't feeling her best. (Caitlin is my friend who lost over 240 pounds--you can read her weight loss story here.)

I told her that if she didn't love every second of it, I would pay her back for the session, so it would cost her nothing. That's how sure I was that she would be thrilled with the experience.

To spoil the ending, she loved it so much that she wanted to tell everyone (just like I did!) how empowering it is. She went into the shoot thinking she would hate it, and left there wanting to tell everyone she knew that they should do it too. Haha!

So, she wrote a guest post about the experience, and even wanted to share a few modest photos. I hope you enjoy her post :)

When Katie first approached me with the idea that I should do a boudoir photoshoot with the woman who did hers, the phenomenal Catherine Kellie, my immediate reaction was hell no! First off, I have put on seven pounds, and even if it doesn’t seem like a huge difference, I can see and feel the gain.

Having my weight up for a while has made me feel bad about myself, so why on earth would I want to be photographed in my underwear?! After initially losing all the weight, I was always able to keep my weight stable within 1-2 pounds, and if it went above that I took it off right away.

Secondly, growing up, my family was fairly conservative and I couldn’t imagine stripping and posing in my underwear in front of a stranger. But Katie convinced me I should do it and I would feel incredible about myself after. Long story short, she was right!

The photographer, Catherine, sent out a great deal of information beforehand so I knew what to expect. She had me list favorite my favorite music so that the whole time I could relax to music that I enjoyed.

She had me list areas of my body that I liked and the areas that I was less than pleased with. Although I was skeptical and did not think I would enjoy the experience, I was starting to look forward to it after receiving all of the information from Catherine. I think knowing exactly what to expect and having so much communication made a huge difference.

I was spending Thanksgiving with my boyfriend's family in Michigan and then staying a couple extra days so I could hang out with Katie. I picked out my favorite lingerie to bring with me. Katie and I also went shopping so I could pick up some shoes. While we were there, I found a bustier that I just had to buy.

We also stopped at Dunhams so I could pick up something for a sportier look. I tried to sneak my Red Sox jersey to Michigan but couldn't find a way to keep it hidden (I did not tell my boyfriend about the shoot)! Shopping was fun--but the whole time, I was sure that I was making a mistake, wasting money, and would hate the photos.

The morning of the shoot I was so nervous; Katie and I had decided the night before that we would  get up and go for a run in the morning. The run helped me mentally, even though I knew a last minute 5K would do nothing to change my appearance. I always feel better after a run and it was so much fun running and chatting; normally I am a solo runner.

After a long drive and a bit of confusion with the directions (haha) we arrived at the studio. I was extremely nervous but both Catherine and the stylist, Kelsey, immediately put me at ease. It was a lot of fun having my hair and makeup done.

I do not normally wear much make up or make a big fuss with my hair so it was wonderful being pampered and made up. I was relieved to see that the makeup was not too heavy. Kelsey was wonderful and asked what look I preferred and would be comfortable with.

Catherine explained what would go on, went over my lingerie, and pretty soon it was time for me to change. Katie hung out with me as I was being made up, which helped calm my nerves, but then she left for the actual shoot.

At first I felt awkward and uncomfortable--I was never one to change in front of other women in the locker room or at races. Living in a body I despised and was ashamed of for so long made it very hard for me to let go and relax.

I know my body bears the signs and scars of losing a large amount of weight and I felt self conscious about those. Catherine assured me that I looked fantastic and that I should just have fun and indulge in my femininity and sexuality.

The first outfit I chose was the most modest so it was a good one to start with. After a couple of test shots I could feel myself loosening up and having fun. Catherine knew exactly how to pose me and assured me that although some of the poses felt odd and awkward, they would look fantastic.

The whole time she was telling me I looked great; or, if something was not quite right, how I should change position. When she showed me a couple test shots, I was blown away! I could not believe that was me on the camera! After seeing those I felt so pretty and feminine that I embraced the whole experience.

Before long, I was actually having fun. Kelsey did an amazing job with my hair and makeup and stayed through most of the shoot to touch me up as needed. They both put me at ease and made me feel wonderful about myself. Catherine gave genuine compliments and made me feel empowered.

I'd been so afraid to do the shoot because I'd felt bad about putting extra weight on, but the experience made me feel fantastic about myself and gave me more confidence in how I looked.

After leaving the shoot, I felt so much better about my appearance and I saw myself in a different light. I have never been a girly girl, worn much makeup, or taken extra time and care with how I looked. I figured it wasn’t worth the effort because I was living in a body I had "ruined" and would never look as good as people who had never been overweight.

After the shoot, I lost the feeling that I was not worth the time and effort, and that I could never look as good as “normal” girls. I would have loved to go out with Katie that night with my hair and makeup all done up, but unfortunately, I had to fly home that night.

As amazing as I felt during the shoot, I was sure that none of my photos would come out good and I would hate them all. As I am not local, Catherine and I did a Skype call about a week later. I was excited but nervous. She started with a video she had made of my photos and I was blown away.

I had no idea that I could look like that--that I could like how I looked and feel sexy and beautiful. I absolutely loved the majority of the photos--there were some I just liked, but there was not a single one I hated. And when I started to nitpick areas I did not like, I was able to take a step back and stop myself from being hypercritical.

After losing so much weight--despite the fact it has been seven years--I still do not always see myself as I am. I am still in the habit of thinking clothing will be too small or thinking that I would just look better if I could take off a little more weight.

After the shoot, I began to look at myself in a different light and see that all the work and effort was worth it and although my body is far from perfect, I looked beautiful just as I was. I was starting to feel a bit vain because I could not get over how much I loved the photos of myself.

I did the shoot so I could surprise my boyfriend for Christmas but I never expected to love the pictures for myself. I feel more confident with my appearance, more feminine, and empowered.

After Katie did her shoot and recommended all women do it, no matter how they feel about themselves, I could still never imagine doing one. There are still parts of my body I don’t like and can’t change, so I figured I would only feel bad about how I looked in the photos. The whole experience was the exact opposite--although I still do not love certain areas of my body, I can see that I can be sexy, alluring, and pretty.

The whole shoot was a real eye-opener, and I agree--every woman should do a shoot and do it for herself. Don’t do it to give pictures to a significant other; do it for yourself so you can feel empowered and amazing about yourself.

So you can see yourself through someone else's eyes and know that you are beautiful just the way you are.

I am already looking forward to doing another one in the future. While the package was pricier than I expected, it is worth every last penny. When I am beating myself up for how I look or my weight being up a little, I can look at my photos and remember that no one is perfect--I can be feminine and beautiful and own my sexuality.

I can understand why many women would say that doing a boudoir shoot isn't worth it for them or they won't like the experience or how they look. All I can say is keep an open mind and remember you are not obligated to buy any of the pictures.

Had I hated every photo I would have been out $149 (and the money I spent on the extra clothing). The photo shoot itself was worth every penny--I actually felt like a real model (especially holding some of the poses - that is hard work!)

I wish every woman was able to feel that good about herself, even just for an afternoon. I am the last person I could ever imagine to do a boudoir shoot, let alone love the experience and photos.  Katie was right--and I hope anyone considering it goes for it and has an amazing experience!

January 10, 2018

My Running Plans for 2018

It has been SO COLD here in Michigan lately. All last week, the temp was in the single digits with the windchill being 20-something below 0.

It's hard to believe I used to run in those temps. I just can't bring myself to do it now! A couple of days ago, the temp got up to 41, so the snow started melting. Then the temps dropped again, and it all froze solid.

This morning, I was going out to my car, and as I stepped off of the last step on my porch, my foot slipped on the ice and I went down HARD. I landed on the concrete (covered with about 1/4 inch of ice) right on my hip, ribs, and shoulder. I nearly hit my head on the porch railing.

I am way too old for this. My body is so sore right now! And I'm sure I'm going to have some nasty bruises.

In other news, our new treadmill was delivered yesterday!

If you missed it, Jerry and I decided to get a treadmill to help us get back into running. After looking at a billion reviews (it was seriously the most frustrating task I've ever had), I settled on the ProForm Pro 2000.

It was delivered in an ENORMOUS box. I was so excited to put it together! I absolutely love putting things together, whatever they may be--furniture, electronics, toys, whatever. I got to work right away. I only had an hour before I had to leave for a psych appointment, so I got as much done as I could before I left.

I went to my psychiatrist's office, and there was a long wait in the waiting room. As I was sitting there, I realized that I had a piece of tape with some cardboard on my leg (from unpacking the treadmill). Then I noticed there were several more pieces! I had been sitting in the waiting room all that time with little pieces of tape and cardboard stuck all over me.

It was hilarious. I reenacted the story for Jerry when I got home.

Putting the treadmill together wasn't too bad! The instructions were clear, and the parts were labeled really well. It took a few hours, but when it was done, I felt so accomplished!

Eli trying it out

I walked on it for a few minutes to test it out, but I didn't run on it until this morning. My training (I'll write about this below) starts on Monday, but I figured I'd get in a few short runs before then. The treadmill has a tablet holder, so I was able to watch a show while I ran. I started Band of Brothers, but I'm not crazy about it, so I may have to find something else.

I wore my Garmin 620 with the GPS turned off, and the result was very, very close to what the treadmill read. I was impressed.

I will write more of a review of the treadmill once I've had a chance to use it for a while, but so far, I really like it. The speed changes really quickly, which is nice--I will really appreciate that during speed work intervals. There is a decline option, which I've never had on a treadmill before--you can run at a grade of up to 12%, and then a downhill grade of -3%.

Today, I just wanted to test out where my "easy" pace is. I mostly ran between 5.6 and 5.8 mph. My one complaint is that you cannot switch from miles per hour to minutes per mile, which is kind of annoying (and surprising! Runners like to know those things). But, since my Garmin is so accurate, I can just glance at that to know the minutes per mile.

I finished three miles, and I felt great!

So, about my running plans for this year...

My first big goal is to train for the Martian Half-Marathon. Jerry is going to do it with me, which is pretty exciting. The only half we've done together was the Detroit International Half, and because of my injury, we ran/walked it. We had SO much fun, though!

I actually just bought the pictures from the race as part of a Christmas present for Jerry. The pics are from October 2015. I love them! This one is my favorite:

I think training for a half together will be fun. Jerry's only done two--this Detroit one, and Indy in 2015. My sister is signed up for the Martian Half as well (actually, she's the one who asked me to do it), so it'll be a good time.

Our training starts on Monday. We are going to do the "First Timer's Half Marathon Plan" that I wrote recently. It's four days a week, and about as simple as I could make it for a beginner. I'm clearly not a beginner runner, but considering I ran less than 200 miles last year, I'm basically back to beginner status.

And honestly, I kind of love that! I don't feel any pressure to go fast. I don't have a time goal for the race (it would be nice to run a sub-12:00 pace, but I won't be upset if it's slower). Each increase in my long run will feel like a big accomplishment. My first long run is four miles, and I'm actually a little nervous about that. How weird is that?!

So, training for the half goes from January 15 through April 17. That training is going to be my sole focus as far as running goes. I'm not doing any 5K's or 10K's or anything during training.

I'm hesitant to make plans beyond the Martian Half, because I don't want to get burnt out like I did last year. However, I will need to have some sort of plan in place so that I don't have that huge letdown of "what's next?".

I was thinking that I may make a list similar to my Summer Running Checklist and work on that for the rest of the year. Those things are silly and fun, without any pressure, but they will give me tasks to focus on. As you know, I love lists ;)

Right now, I'll just take it one step, one week, one run at a time. And honestly, I'm looking forward to seeing my progress!

(By the way, I will start doing my regular Wednesday Weigh-ins again next week. The holidays threw me off. I was 141 a few days ago, so I'd really like to get that back down to the low 130's--and since I'll be starting my race training, it's the perfect time to work on it!)

January 7, 2018

My Best Advice for Those With Weight Loss Goals in the New Year

I hesitate to even write this post, because I am currently eight pounds over my goal weight.

However, in the new year of 2009, I was over 250 pounds, and I haven't seen anywhere near that number since. Depending on how you define success, I've been "successfully" maintaining a weight loss of 100-130 pounds for the last 7 years.

My weight has gone up and down by as much as 30 or so pounds through the years, and I've gotten a lot of criticism for that (considering I write about it on the internet). Despite the weight fluctuations, I do still see myself as a successful weight loss story, though. In 2009, I weighed 253 pounds. Today, I weigh 141.

Since I started losing weight, I've gone through NINE New Year's Days.

Prior to my weight loss, I always had the New Year's Resolution to lose weight.

Every. Single. Year.

I never got past the first week of January on my new diet--no matter what diet it was.

Since then, I have learned a lot about losing, gaining, maintaining, fluctuating weight. I was so tired of always having the same goddamn goal every year, and it's refreshing not to have that redundant "New Year's Resolution" anymore. But I do remember that feeling of hope every January 1st--the feeling that THIS was going to be the time!

Anyway, after that very long intro, I thought I'd write a few bits of advice coming from my own experience. First, I always think it's important to recognize that everybody is different. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. These are things that I found helpful, but maybe they won't mean anything to you! It's okay. I'm not trying to tell you what to do.

Here are the things I've learned and I hope that they may help others not get so frustrated with the weight loss goal this year...

  Don't make any changes you're not willing to live with for the rest of your life. I've said it a million times, and I still swear by this "rule". If you don't want to run for two hours on the treadmill every day for the rest of your life, then don't do it now. If you don't want to give up dessert for the rest of your life, don't do it now.

A friend of mine asked me (way back in 2007-ish) if I would audition for The Biggest Loser with her. I told her no; I didn't want to do that, because working out for eight hours a day while living off of salad and grilled chicken was a miserable way to live. If you've watched the show, you see just how much they work out. And if you follow up with those contestants years later, you can also see that most of them have gained their weight back.

I believe that it's because they couldn't maintain that lifestyle forever. I feel like it's common sense that we should do now what we plan to do forever in order to make those changes last.

  Make the single change that has the largest impact. Chances are, you know what is keeping you from your weight loss goals. Maybe it's snacking from the vending machine all day, eating for emotional reasons, or late night binge eating. Think about whatever habit you have that is the most significant for keeping you from losing the weight.

Then make a plan to change that habit. Just that habit! There is no need to change anything else yet. For me, it was the binge eating. I could follow a diet all day long, but then at night, I would eat everything in the pantry. So, I knew that if I could just eliminate the binge eating, I would make a significant impact on my weight.

I didn't start exercising, and I didn't eliminate food groups, or anything crazy like that. I just did my best not to binge eat. (Here is a series on binge eating that goes into a lot of detail on how I changed the habit).

I measured out my portions and I stuck to it. I hated doing it at times, when all I wanted to do was stuff my face, but I was grateful not to be doing some of the ridiculous diets I'd done in the past: The 6-Week Body Makeover, Slim Fast, and even the Master Cleanse (literally consuming nothing but water with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for 10 days!). When choosing between a ridiculous fad diet and simply eating less food, it's really a no-brainer.

When you choose to change a habit that has the biggest impact, you see results quickly and without having to change your entire lifestyle at one time. (Here is a post I wrote that explains how to do just that.)

  Don't give up when you break one of the "rules" you set for yourself. It's so easy to say, "Well, I already screwed up, so I might as well just wait until next January 1st." Or Monday. Or whenever. Having a clean slate, like on January 1st, is a great thing--until we make a mistake from one of our goals, and then we decide that we'll just have to try again another time. I think that's the biggest problem with New Year's Resolutions... you only get one chance per year to make them right!

We ALWAYS make mistakes. It's inevitable. So, my advice is to plan for it and don't let it derail your goals. We get a fresh start every single minute of every single day, so there is no reason we have to wait until the new year.

I remember what it was like in the beginning, when I had well over 100 pounds to lose. It's completely overwhelming, and there is a feeling of dread. "Is this really what my life is going to be forever?"

When I started, my first focus was to quit binge eating. And to quit one habit, you have to replace it with an alternative, right?

  So, I started knitting (and crocheting). Instead of eating in the evenings, I busted out the knitting needles and went to town. I chose complicated patterns so that I would have to focus intently on them. Finding a distraction is the best way to get through the first few weeks or months of changing old habits.

Showing Eli how to crochet

  Keep things simple. The more complicated our diet or weight loss plans, the more we try to focus on them, and the easier it is to give up. My only goal was to stop binge eating--very simple (not to be confused with "easy")--so I didn't have to remember all sorts of complicated rules. Before I was actually successful at losing the weight, I always made things complicated with a lot of rules. Now, I really believe that focusing on one change at a time is the way to go.

  Customize your plan for YOUR lifestyle. I prefer to eat on a schedule, for example, rather than just whenever I feel like it. So, I have never done well with "intuitive eating", where you just eat when you're hungry and stop when you're satisfied. There is nothing wrong with eating on a schedule, so if it helps me, then I'm all for it.

  Don't feel like you have to follow all of the rules of whatever plan you are following. Make it fit into YOUR lifestyle. If you know that you bowl on Tuesday nights with your girlfriends, and you always have a drink or two with them, then just write that into your plan. If that is important to you, then you can keep doing it, regardless of what the "rules" say.

When I was losing weight, I wrote my own rules. A lot of popular diet plans suggest such a small amount of food that I could never live on. So, I changed my calorie amount to one that was easier for me. We can write our own rules! Then we just adjust them as needed.

  The main thing I want to stress on this post is that I know January is usually the time for ambitious diets, and I discourage that. God knows I tried that, year after year after year, and it never worked. It wasn't until I made simple changes that I was willing to do for the rest of my life that I finally made progress. Trying to drastically change our habits all at once is probably the main reason we tend to fail. If we just focus on one change at a time, we'll be much more apt to follow through.

When I was finally able to lose the weight, it was because I was consistent and persistent. I stopped switching plans every week (following low-carb one week, then Weight Watchers the next, etc.). I decided what I was WILLING to do for the rest of my life, and I worked that into my lifestyle. I still have lots of times where I "screw up", but that's where the persistency comes in. I just keep on trying. As many times as it takes.

Right now, I'm feeling like I'm in a bit of a slump, because the scale is going up. But this is normal for me. For the last eight years, my weight has gone up and down. But I know that if I persist and keep trying, I can reverse the gain, just as I always have. It's still scary to me--wondering if I'll gain back all the weight I lost--but with each week, month, or year that goes by, I feel a little more confident that I won't ever be 253-pound Katie again.

I wrote a post a couple of years ago called "Get it over with!" about procrastinating losing the weight, when we could just get it over with in a matter of months instead of decades. My friend Andrea introduced that thought to me, and it's such a simple idea, I couldn't believe I'd never looked at it that way before. This is something I need to keep in mind right now! ;)

January 4, 2018

EIGHT Beginner Training Plans to Run Your First 5K

As I've mentioned several times, when I first started running in 2010, I literally could not run even 500 feet. A mile sounded completely impossible. And a 5K? How on earth did people do that?!

I tried the Couch to 5K plan a few times, and I just couldn't get past week 3. Week 4 was too big of a jump in distance for me. Also, I despised running intervals. The Couch to 5K plan has you run for a period, then walk, then run, then walk, over and over again. I found myself dreading hearing that beep on my watch, signaling me to start running.

So, I started doing my own thing. I ran as far as I could manage, and then I walked until I'd reached 30 minutes total. The next time, I ran a little farther than the first, and then walked the rest of the workout.

I only had one running segment, and I simply increased it each time I ran (three times per week). After the running segment, I would walk until the workout totaled 30 minutes. So, the running portion was increasing and the walking portion was decreasing, little by little. And eventually, I ran the entire 30 minutes.

After that, I continued to increase my distance until I'd reached 5K. (You can read my running story here.)

I wrote out a plan for all of this, to be able to go from "couch potato" to running for 30 minutes. But I didn't have a specific 5K plan for beginners, and several people have requested that I write one.

Instead, I wrote eight. Haha! They are all very similar, but they have several options to choose from: 3 days per week or 4 days per week; the number of weeks in the training plan; and running by time or running by distance. (I recommend using time spent running, but some people prefer to measure by distance; so, I included four of each.)

Some of the plans are short, and some are long. Some increase time/distance more quickly than others.

There are eight different plans for one common goal: to go from non-runner to runner.

Here, you can click on the link below any of the pics for a PDF copy of the plans. I think the plans are pretty self explanatory, but here are a few tips:

1) I know it's redundant, but make sure your doctor okays the plan.

2) Running is going to be hard. If it was easy, there wouldn't be training plans to go from non-runner to runner. Expect it to be difficult, but I promise you that it will get easier.

3) Run as slowly as possible. You may feel like you can walk faster than your running pace, but building up distance is the top priority. You will naturally get faster as you build up your distance, and you can always work on your speed later. At this point, running slowly will allow you to complete the workout.

4) When choosing the plans that are measured by time spent running, rather than distance, the number of weeks in the plan will vary by individual. Some people will get in more distance during the time spent running than others, so they may finish the plan earlier.

These posts may help as well:

Tips for running (and training for) your first 5K
50 Running Tips
How to Become a Runner
Running Lingo (running terms you may hear or read, and what they mean)

First, these are the plans that are measured by mileage. The first few weeks of each measures the running portion in duration (time), because it is such a short distance; but then it switches over to distance.

Measured in mileage
3 days per week
9 weeks in length

Measured in mileage
3 days per week
14 weeks in length

Measured in mileage
4 days per week
9 weeks in length

Measured in mileage
4 days per week
12 weeks in length

Next, these are the plans that are written in duration, so it schedules minutes instead of miles. It's just a matter of personal preference.

Measured in duration (minutes)
3 days per week
About 8-9 weeks in length

Measured in duration (minutes)
3 days per week
About 16-17 weeks in length

Measured in duration (minutes)
4 days per week
About 7-9 weeks in length

Measured in duration (minutes)
4 days per week
About 15-18 weeks in length

I hope these are helpful! I'd love to know your thoughts, as always, if you choose to use one of the plans. Let me know how your race goes! :)


January 1, 2018

Goals for 2018

I am a goal setter. I always have been, and probably always will be.

I am a list maker. I have books full of lists that I've written, most of them "to do" lists or "goals" lists.

I love thinking about things I would like to change, improve, or accomplish and then making a plan on how to go about doing it. One of the most helpful and motivating things I did during my weight loss was to track my accomplishments in lists. Losing 125 pounds was one of the most challenging things I've ever done (if not the most challenging) and taking it one small goal at a time helped a lot.

Anyway, the most exciting goal setting day of the year (for me, anyway) is January 1st. There is something about the clean slate of a new year that gives me the urge to make a goal list--whether it's just three big goals or a hundred mini goals.

First, a look back at the goals I set on January 1, 2017:

1) Read more books.

I failed at this one. I just don't enjoy reading, unless the book REALLY sucks me in from the beginning. I believe I only completed reading two books this year. I started several more, but didn't finish them for various reasons.

I read two memoirs, both by the same author: "Manic" and "The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar". Both of them were (obviously) about bipolar disorder, and were fantastic reads. I love memoirs!

I also got about halfway through "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown. The book was fantastic, but very overwhelming for me--I felt like I wanted to highlight every single sentence, and I had to read each sentence about six times to let it fully sink in. It was this book, though, that gave me the courage to "come out" about my bipolar diagnosis on my blog. Someday, I'd like to read a little more of it.

2) Spend more quality time with the kids.

I definitely did good with this one. I was much more aware of my time with them, and I made it a point to spend extra time with them wherever I could.

After my bipolar diagnosis, I wanted to say yes to everything. I kind of felt like I was trying to make up for years of my mood shifts, and I wanted to give the kids good memories of me.

3) Record one second of video every day, with the 1 Second Everyday app.

Yes! I did this one, and I am SO glad that I did. I will post the final video here. I will warn you, it's long--one second every day (actually, mine are 1.5 seconds each) is 547.5 seconds, which equates to over 9 minutes. (Yet somehow, the video ended up being 10 minutes long... go figure).

So, here is 10 minutes of my 2017, with just 1.5 seconds of video each and every day:

Anyway, I love love love this app, and I'm going to continue to do this daily, with one modification: I'd like to get more video of people, and less of things/pets. I tend to use my pets when I'm stuck for a video that day.

(After several people asked about the app, I recorded a tutorial recently. There was an app update, so I don't know how helpful it will be now, but here is a link to it.)

Those were the three main goals that I had for 2017, and over all, I'm pretty happy with them.

Now, on to 2018 goals...

1. Read more books.

(Ha! I will try harder this year.) In order to reach this goal, I'm going to set a mini goal of reading for 10 minutes every day. I don't think 10 minutes is asking too much, and that will add up quickly. Maybe I'll finish five or six books instead of two. I have a Goodreads account, but I'm terrible about keeping up with it--so I'm going to make sure to keep track of my reading on Goodreads.

2. Get back to running regularly. 

This is something I really want to do, but I'm having trouble making myself do it. It's been SO cold in Michigan the last few weeks, and I just can't bring myself to run when it's 5 degrees outside. I really regret that we ever moved our treadmill to the garage, and then getting rid of it (it was old and rickety, and when it was in the garage, it was just collecting dust).

After debating about it for what feels like forever, and at Jerry's encouragement, we finally bought a new treadmill. It will be delivered on January 9th. I read treadmill reviews for days, and it was so frustrating trying to choose one! I had been looking on Craigslist for a long time, but nothing felt right. Finally, I suggested that we just buy a super cheap, used one and make do with it for a while, but Jerry said we should just get a good one because I will actually use it a lot.

So, we ended up getting the ProForm Pro 2000. Let's hope that it's a good choice! It was more than I wanted to spend on a treadmill, but Jerry is right--I will get a lot of use out of it, and it will make me much more motivated to run. Which brings me to my next goal...

3. Run a half-marathon.

This is a piggyback goal of the "running regularly" goal. I thought about this a lot, and I feel ready to train again. I do much better when I have a training schedule rather than just winging it; and when I first started running, the half-marathon was a huge goal for me. I didn't care much about my pace--my goal was to run the race that I had walked three times prior (the Indy Mini). I'd like to feel that sense of accomplishment again.

My sister is registered for the Martian Half in Dearborn. I've done this race before (it was actually the half where I set my PR of 1:52:07 in 2013). I've also run the 5K at this race with Brian and Nathan. And I've run the 10K two times. So, I've participated in this race four times. She asked if I would do it with her this year, and after giving it some thought, I decided it was a good idea.

Nathan, me, and Brian

The race is on April 14, which isn't exactly ideal because we will be on vacation a couple of weeks before that--during my longest training run. But I never used to let things like that get in the way of my goals, so I just need to make sure that determination gets me through. Maybe I can get a hotel with a fitness room, and do my run there. Or, I can map out a route near the hotel.

Jerry wants to do this race as well, so we'll both be training at the same time. This will be fun, because we can do some of our long runs together. I have no time goal, so I'm not worried about my pace. I would like to use this race as a gateway to regular running again, so I'm just going to make my training as enjoyable as possible.

I'm going to follow my First Timer's Half Marathon Training Plan that I just posted recently. I was actually writing that plan for myself when I decided to make it more generic and share it. I wanted it to be as simple as possible, but still enough training to get to the finish line and have a good race. Training starts on January 15, which is perfect--I can get started right away, and the treadmill will have arrived on the 9th.

I'm actually pretty excited to start training!

4. Pay off our debt.

We've been doing SO good on our zero sum budget. It's been seven months, and we are still going strong. Even after buying the treadmill, we had enough money to pay extra onto the credit card in December. I don't plan on making any changes to the budget, because what we're doing is working very well. I expect that we will get the credit card paid off in late spring. We aren't paying any interest, so we're not in a time crunch.

Those are the main things I want to work on this year. I still want to focus on mental health a lot, but I feel like I'm doing good with that right now. Always working on my weight--which I need to focus a little more on right now, because it's been steadily increasing for weeks.

Most of all, I think I just want to feel more in control--when I'm not running and I'm snacking too much, I feel out of control and lazy. Before we started our budget, I felt like our finances were out of control, and I had a ton of anxiety about it. I want to feel good! So, by cutting out the snacking and by following a training plan, (as well as continuing our budget), I am hoping to feel my best this spring!

Anyone else making goals for the new year? :)

December 31, 2017

Top 17 of 2017

This post has become somewhat of a tradition. I've done one each year since 2011. It's a nice way of looking back on the year, and focusing on the highlights--the things that I may have forgotten if not for writing this post.

Some of the items on the list are obvious, but others are subtle things that had an impact on me in some way. Here are links to my past years' lists:

My Top 11 of 2011
My Top 12 of 2012
My Top 13 of 2013
My Top 14 of 2014
My Top 15 of 2015
My Top 16 of 2016

And here we go... my Top 17 of 2017...

1. Becoming an aunt

This was definitely my most favorite part of 2017! Lucas Charles was born on March 8, 2017. Seeing him grow this year, and seeing my brother as a dad, has warmed my heart in ways I can't even describe. I fell in love with Luke the moment I saw him, and I am able to cherish and enjoy every moment I spend with him, because he grows too fast.

There is something different about being an aunt than a mom. I love both, but there is just something so special about being an aunt! Becky, my sister-in-law, absolutely amazes me as well--with Brian being a pilot, he's gone quite a bit, and Becky has been the best mom to Luke. I think Brian and Becky's parenting style (totally relaxed!) has helped Luke become very chill and happy.

2. Spending some quality time with Noah during the nightmare that was his "splinter"

What we thought was a simple splinter at first seemed to be no big deal. But once we realized just how serious everything was, and we had the whole fiasco with the emergency room experiences, this whole thing was a living nightmare. And when my doctor insisted that we take Noah to yet another ER (in Ann Arbor, a good 45 minutes away), during the biggest snow storm of the year, I was stressed to the max over all of it.

The drive to Ann Arbor with Noah took forever, because we were crawling at 25-35 mph on the expressway due to the snow. There were times where I couldn't see even 10 feet in front of the car. At one point, my car ran out of wiper fluid, and with all the salt from the roads winding up on my windshield, I couldn't see. We had to pull off the expressway to a gas station and buy some wiper fluid.

When we finally got to the ER, we spent all day in an exam room with doctors and nurses popping in and out. This is an odd choice for one item of my "Top 17" list, but the drive to and from the hospital, as well as sitting in the exam room for so long, meant I got to spend alone time with Noah (which is rare--he's "too cool" to hang out with his mom much). I have good feelings with thinking back on that day.

3. Hosting a meet-up for local From Fat to Finish Line members

After meeting some of the FFTFL members in San Diego earlier in the year, I really wanted to get more involved. So, I organized a meet-up to go for a 5K walk at the State Park, followed by breakfast at Cracker Barrel. These people were so kind, and I really enjoyed meeting them!

4. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder

This is a very odd choice as one of the "top" moments of 2017, but this diagnosis changed my life for the better in so many ways. I finally learned why I am the way I am; and best of all, I learned that there is a medication that can help me to be a stable version of myself. After starting the medication, I felt a million times better. I had just gone through the worst depressive episode of my life, and the change was huge.

While having bipolar disorder is embarrassing sometimes, and there is a huge stigma attached to it, I hope to bring more awareness to it. I have not only accepted the diagnosis, but I've embraced it. There are certain "bipolar parts" of me that I like, and now I know that there is a reason for my quirks. I've chosen to use humor to embrace the diagnosis, and that has made all the difference in how I've handled it.

5. Hosting a blog reader meet-up in Indy

Having decided to do the Indy Mini again this year, I invited readers to come share the weekend with me. I wasn't sure if anyone would be interested, but there was a huge turnout. Some of these women even traveled quite a distance for the meet-up, and I felt honored that they did that. The women I spent the day or weekend with were fantastic--everybody was SO nice!

Jerry came with me, and he enjoyed getting to know some of the other husbands. We both had a very fun weekend getting to know and spend time with new friends.

6. Hiking in several places in Oregon

This was one of my most favorite trips of all time. I went to Oregon to visit my BFF, Thomas, in Portland (which has basically become my "home away from home"). I absolutely LOVE the Pacific Northwest! Considering this was my fifth(?) trip out there in the past few years, Thomas showed me some of Oregon that was very different from Portland. The places we hiked were very dry and desert-like, which was the polar opposite of lush green Portland.

While I definitely prefer the green (the trees are my favorite part of the PNW), it was very cool to see the side of Oregon that I didn't even know existed. The views were stunning.

7. Having the Detroit Zoo to ourselves after closing

Well, not necessarily to "ourselves", but to the company that Jerry works for. We got to have a catered dinner, and then walk around the zoo in the evening hours after they closed. It was so nice not to have to maneuver through crowds of people, and to spend time with the Jerry and the kids.

8. Family vacation over the Fourth of July at my sister's "Camp Fireside"

The whole family went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to my sister's property for the Fourth of July. We spent several days riding four wheelers, sitting around the campfire, playing Cornhole, and other fun things. I spent about 75% of my time hanging out with Luke ;)

9. Teaching Eli to cook while Noah was at camp

Noah went to church camp in the summer, and Eli chose not to go. I looked at day camp options, and he was interested in a cooking camp. I looked into it, but he would have been one of the oldest kids there, and I thought maybe it would be too easy for him. So, I told him that we would do our own little cooking class at home.

I let him choose several different things to make, each using a different technique so that he could learn a variety of skills. He loved it! And so did I. It was a great way to spend quality time with him, and we had some really yummy food. His favorite was this steak with sautéed summer squash and zucchini. It was probably the most delicious steak I've ever eaten. And I'm not even a fan of steak!

10. Digging out hostas with Jerry

Again, an odd choice for this list. But I have literally never laughed so hard in my entire life. We sucked at splitting the hostas (our first time trying to do it), and we couldn't stop laughing at what a terrible job we were doing. I couldn't even catch my breath, and I thought I was going to pass out. It was one of the funnest moments I've ever had with Jerry.

11. Going to the airshow with the family

Our next door neighbor gave us tickets to the airshow, so we thought it would be a fun family thing to do. While the airshow was just okay, we did share a lot of laughs. Particularly at the hideously ugly sunglasses we bought, because we'd forgotten our own.

12. Finally feeling free from the anxiety caused by social media/blog comments

I wrote a whole post about it (link above), but this was one of the very best parts of the last several years--not just 2017. Worrying about what other people think, and the comments that they make to me or about me was the source of a ton of anxiety that I carried around constantly. Once I had a breakthrough in therapy, as well as started my new bipolar meds, I was finally able to get rid of that anxiety. I no longer care at all what other people think of me, as long as I feel good about myself. This has opened up so many opportunities that I would have missed out on otherwise.

13. Jerry and I visiting Dan and Laurel in Seattle

On my trips to Portland, I've gone up to Seattle a couple of times now. Dan and Laurel are one of the most fun couples I know, and I was so excited for Jerry to meet them. We had a fantastic couple of days (starting with Laurel announcing that she's pregnant!). I'm already looking forward to visiting next year so that I can meet the baby :)

14. Visiting Thomas in Portland

From Seattle, Jerry and I drove back down to Portland to meet up with Thomas for a few days. Thomas planned lots of fun things for us to do, and he managed to choose things that would interest both Jerry and me (not an easy task). I was thrilled that Jerry finally got to see all the things I love about the Pacific Northwest.

15. A visit from Caitlin

I went to Boston in April to visit Caitlin (a blog reader who eventually turned into one of my best friends), which was tough not to include on this list (I had to narrow my list down from 52(!!) to 17.) I had so much fun with her while she was here, and the trip went by way too fast. One of the best parts was that I convinced her to do a boudoir photoshoot, and despite being very nervous and expecting to hate every minute of it, she LOVED it. She loved it so much that she wrote a guest post about it, which I will share soon.

16. Family photos with Santa

My kids had never gotten pictures with Santa before, and Jerry needed some cheering up, so I planned a surprise visit to Somerset Collection (an upscale mall) to have a photo session with Santa. We all had so much fun! We got some great photos out of it, too. We went to dinner afterward, and the whole afternoon/evening was a very fun way to spend time with the family.

17. Getting together with my childhood friends for the holidays

I have been friends with this group for well over 30 years. We try to get together every Christmas, but we missed the last two years. On Friday, they came to my house, and it was so fun getting to catch up with them. I even had photos printed of us from childhood, and it was fun looking through those and reminiscing.

The youngest of the group, Spence (Lance's younger brother--I've mentioned Lance several times on my blog), was diagnosed last month with stage 4 glioblastoma (brain cancer). I don't want to write about that now, because it was one of the biggest punches in the stomach I've ever felt; but spending time with these friends a few days ago meant more to me than ever before. I'm going to his house tonight for a New Year's Eve get together.

Considering the fact that I had to narrow down this list from 52 to 17, this year was clearly a very good year. Although it was off to a rocky start, this year ended up being one of the best ever!

Some fun facts for 2017:

I ran 146.85 miles this year. My lowest ever--by far. In September 2013, I actually ran 205 miles in a MONTH. There were two months this year that I didn't run a single mile. I don't regret any of it, though. I did what felt right for me at the time.

The food I consumed the most of was probably Mott's fruit snacks. I can't get enough of them, and I've been eating them every day for probably 10 months.

My most memorable meal was the Corn in a Cup I had in Indy. Not necessarily my very favorite meal, but certainly the most memorable. I saw a stand at the mall advertising "Corn in a Cup" and they were giving out samples. I was blown away at how good it was (corn with some seasonings). I was craving it all day, and when everyone else had pizza, I got Corn in a Cup, hahahaha.

My current favorite breakfast is some sort of sugar cereal (Cap'n Crunch is my favorite)
My current favorite TV Show is probably "The Good Doctor" or "This Is Us"
My current favorite evening treat is Mott's fruit snacks

What I am most looking forward to in 2018? Our family vacation to Boston!

Tomorrow, I'll write a post about my goals for 2018.

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