September 18, 2018

A New Incentive System for Cross Country

Today, I'm taking a rest day. I am SOOOO sore!

I didn't realize it'd been so long since I last wrote, because I have been working non-stop on the house project we have going on.

I thought we were just about ready to prime the ceiling and walls, but then something else came up. As we were prepping the ceiling and walls, I thought more and more about removing the trim from around the windows, from where the wall meets the ceiling, and along the floor. It's very cheap, I don't love it, and I figured that if we are ever going to remove or replace it, now is the time to do it.

Being a manufactured home, a lot of the building materials are definitely not meant to least forever. I had been planning to paint all of the trim while leaving it on the walls, but once I peeked behind it, I decided to remove it.

I removed the trim around the ceiling, and it was a little shocking at first, but basically what I expected. The trim was used to cover the gap between the walls and ceiling (rather than finishing the seams). The gap was jagged and unsightly (Jerry said it looked like the builders had cut the drywall with a butterknife--hahaha).

I thought about replacing the trim, but since I've been doing so much with drywall on the ceiling, I felt confident that I could tape and mud the gap. Yesterday, I spent 7-1/2 hours doing just that! It wasn't hard, but it was very tedious. I only used one coat of mud, and I'll need to do at least one more (maybe two) before it'll be ready to sand and prime. I'll post photos when I'm done.

So, that little detour set us back a little, but Jerry and I both really like the way the ceiling looks without the molding--and we haven't even painted yet. On our "to do" list now:

Prime and paint walls and ceilings
Prime and paint kitchen cabinets
Replace flooring
Replace or paint window trim

Interestingly, I don't feel overwhelmed. I'm actually really excited about doing this, and I enjoy working on it! I'm super sore, but that just reminds me that I've been working so hard.

Which is why I'm using today to catch up on everything I've neglected--laundry, my blog, grocery shopping, etc--while working on the ceiling and walls. I guess it's not exactly a "rest" day, but it feels like it.

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, and I keep forgetting about it. I'm coaching cross country again this year, and I wanted to think up some way to motivate the kids to want to run during practice and give their running some effort. You wouldn't believe how many kids don't want to run at cross country practice!

I got this idea when I was going through my jewelry box and came across my old Weight Watchers charms. I have charms earned from losing 25 pounds, 50 pounds, 75 pounds, and 100 pounds; a charm for reaching goal weight; a charm for hitting Lifetime membership; and a charm for an exercise challenge. Even though they were literally just silly little tokens to represent my hard work, it was exciting to get them!

So, I thought it would be a good system for the kids in cross country as well. I bought some little charms from the jewelry section at a craft store. Then I made a bunch of keychains out of denim (I needed something fast and easy and cheap, so I used the seams from old jeans). When describing this incentive to the kids, I called the charms "tokens" instead of "charms" so that the boys on the team wouldn't be turned off to the idea ;)

charm incentive

There are nine different colors of tokens, and each color represents a different achievement. Some of them are very elite, and some of them are easier, but all of them require effort. As the kids earn their first token, I give them the keychain with their token on it. And then if they earn more through the season, they can add to it.

charm incentives

Pink - First girl from our team to finish each race
Blue - First boy from our team to finish each race
Dark green - Run a mile under 9:00 minutes
Light green - Run a mile under 8:00 minutes
Black - Winning team of a relay race we will have at practice
Purple - Accumulate 25 miles at practice throughout the season
Lime green - Beat your own time trial time (the kids run a one-mile time trial in the first practice; then again at the end of the season, so they can see how much they improved)
Mauve - Beat the individualized goal that Coach Katie and Coach Renee set for you
Gold - Accumulate 30 miles at practice through the season

The whole purpose is to make the tokens difficult enough to earn that they will be a big deal. Nobody will be able to earn every single color (like not everyone in Weight Watchers is going to lose 50, 75, or 100 pounds), so the tokens are more elite than a participation award. That makes them more desirable; and, therefore, the kids will work harder to get them.

The faster kids have their sights on the tokens that represent speed, while the other kids are working on building up their mileage and improving their own times. The age group that we coach is perfect for a system like this (we coach 3rd through 5th graders).

And speaking of which, I have to head out now for our first race of the season!

September 14, 2018

DIY Textured Ceiling Removal Update and Jerry's Birthday Surprise

Today is Jerry's birthday! He's 38. I simply cannot believe it. When did we get this old?! We feel so much younger than we did in our early 20's.

We celebrated his birthday on Wednesday, because he was off work and we didn't have anything else going on. By "celebrate", I don't mean anything fancy. We just had really good sandwiches from Erie Bread Co., something we haven't gotten in a long time. I had the 13-8-on-9 sandwich (I have no idea how it got that name). It was as amazing as I remember.

13-8-on-9 from Erie Bread Co.

After that, we gave him a couple of birthday gifts--"the kids" gave him an external hard drive for his computer (something he's been wanting) and I gave him a pair of boxer briefs (whenever I see fun boxer briefs I buy a pair and give them to him as a little surprise gift here and there--kind of like giving a girl flowers, haha).

THEN, I did something that I've been dreading for our entire relationship--I watched Star Wars for the first time ever. And... I dressed up like Princess Leia when I told him what we'd be doing! Soooo cheesy, but I knew he'd be thrilled to watch the movie with me, and the fact that I dressed like Princess Leia (complete with the wig and white boots) made his day. I would post a picture, but I was not feeling particularly good about myself in that costume. I felt like every single pound I've gained recently was visible.

Anyway, I hated the movie. I really wanted to like it! But it's totally not my kind of movie. Jerry was very happy that I finally watched it, though.

Now, about our DIY popcorn ceiling removal...

It wasn't actually popcorn ceiling, but a texture that is called "stomped". It looked like this:

stomped ceiling texture

We have been working on removing it for what feels like months! But it's only been a couple of weeks. At the same time, we decided to paint the kitchen because the kitchen needs new flooring (nightmare!) and now this whole thing has turned into a DIY kitchen renovation.

First, we sprayed sections of the ceiling with water, and then used a putty knife (I always call it a scraper, so I just looked it up, and it's actually called a putty knife) to slide along the ceiling. The texture fell right off! But it was a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) mess.

After we scraped it (accidentally making little nicks here and there that we'd have to fill later) we went through and scraped it all again to make sure we got it down to the drywall. We wanted it to be as even as possible, obviously.

After that, we patched up the little nicks. And then the real work... I went through and re-mudded each drywall joint with joint compound to level it all out. If you've never done that, it takes some serious skill. And I'm not saying that I have the skill! It's honestly like an art. I have so much respect for people who can do it well.

I got better at it after each joint that I did. The first ones were thick and a little sloppy... but by the last ones, I barely had to use any compound so they would need very little sanding. I designated Jerry as the sander, initially, because that seemed like the worst job of all ;)

sanding the ceiling

After I did the joints (twice, because the ones where we took down the walls in the kitchen were very uneven, and they needed 2-3 coats), it was time to sand. And that's what I've been doing for the last three days--mudding and sanding. I really want it to look good when I'm done (because I've been doing 90% of the work; if it turns out horrible, it'll be my fault).

I felt like Darth Vader in this mask. It was so hard to breathe!

sanding the ceilings

I feel like my arms should be as toned as Jillian Michaels'.

They're not.

Today, I pulled the backsplash off of the kitchen walls. (It's ugly--it was just a block of laminate countertop that is pretty standard in manufactured homes.)

formica backsplash

laminate backsplash removal

It literally took me about four hours to do this little job! It was glued to the countertop AND stapled from underneath. The glue was ridiculously strong. And now I have to figure out how to get rid of the staples--we're going to install a new backsplash after we paint everything.

formica countertop staples

By "everything", I mean: the ceiling in the kitchen, living room, and dining room; the trim in all those rooms; the walls in each room; the kitchen cupboards; and the dining table. Crazy, right?! We also need to install new flooring in the kitchen (we have some water damage from the furnace that we recently replaced). Since we're doing the flooring in the kitchen, we're going to do the living room and dining room as well (they are all connected--it's very open--so it would be odd to do just one room).

Did I mention this is a huge project?

This afternoon, I bought the primer for the ceiling and walls. I'm hoping we can get the sanding done and get ALL of the dust cleaned out by Monday so we can prime. I haven't decided on the colors we're going to use for everything, but I really like green and yellow for the kitchen. I was picturing lemons and limes, and today I came across these tiles on Pinterest, and these colors are exactly what I had in mind! I just don't know what color to put where. I'm terrible at these decisions. I have no sense of style.

yellow and green tiles

Anyway, that's where we're at now! I learned that drywall dust makes the BEST dry shampoo. And that bruises can form bruises on top of bruises (my shins are bruised from pressing against the rungs on the ladder when sanding). Also, this ceiling project is a really good workout!

September 11, 2018

First speed work in... two years?

It seems that going to bed early has made quite the difference in getting me up and running (literally) in the mornings. Today, I dressed in my running clothes again when I woke up, and decided I'd run after dropping the kids off at school. I think that running before I return home in the mornings will be helpful. When I was regularly running 4-6 days a week, it was always in the mornings.

Last night, I really didn't want to go to bed--it was hard making myself go to bed by 10:45. My target is 10:30, but I was really caught up in a book, so I pushed it a bit. I'd started reading "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. This is one of my favorite books I've ever read--which is surprising, because it's about 1,000 pages long and I'm a super slow reader. 

While I loved The Pillars of the Earth, I found the sequel, "World Without End", to be even better. It was over 1,000 pages and I finished it in about two weeks--which is insanely fast for me. I couldn't put it down! Anyway, it's been a while since I read them, so I decided to start them again. 

This morning, I took the kids to school and then stopped at the State Park again. I decided to do run/walk intervals today. I hesitate to call it "speed work" because I'm certainly not speedy right now, but I think adding intervals will help with my calorie burn.

When I was training for the 10K, I think it was the combination of super slow, easy running + intervals + tempo (an 80/20 ratio of easy to hard work) that helped me to drop weight. After I was at my goal of 133, I continued to drop weight fairly easily without much effort--and I'm pretty certain it was the change in my training method (along with calorie counting). 

I set my Garmin for 8 intervals of 2 minutes hard, with 1 minute walking in between. I started with a 5-minute warm-up jog at an easy pace. When I started the first interval, it felt so odd (running with a hard effort). I definitely felt a little rusty, and I wasn't sure if I could even continue. I didn't pay any attention to my pace--I just kept going and hoping that I could actually finish the interval.

It was the longest two minutes EVER.

When the Garmin beeped for me to start walking, I was so relieved. Only to find out that it was the shortest minute EVER.

Beep. Start running hard again. Wondering how two minutes could possibly feel so long. Beep. Walk.

After the fourth interval, I knew there was no way I could do eight. I don't know what I was thinking! I would never have a beginner start with eight, and that's pretty much what I am--a beginner (again). So, I chose to shoot for six. 

Interestingly, after my sixth interval and the one minute walk, I was exactly back at my car. I hadn't planned that, and I had taken a route I'd never done before (hoping it would be 2.5 miles or so). It ended up being two miles, but that was perfect for the six intervals (plus warm-up). 

I was pretty surprised when I checked out my pace from the run. I assumed I'd been running "hard" at a 9:30-10:00/mi pace (considering my "easy" pace run was about 12:00 yesterday). But I managed to run four of the intervals at a sub-9:00 pace, so I was pretty happy with that. Three of them were the exact same pace (8:48)--I couldn't time it like that again if I tried. 

Running at a hard pace like that made me feel really good afterward. I always used to love that feeling after a hard run--like I had really pushed myself, making my muscles tired and a little achy the rest of the day. 

Jerry's birthday is on Friday, but he is going to be working, so we're going to celebrate it tomorrow. I have something fun planned, but Jerry's been reading my blog lately, so I will have to write about it afterward ;) 

September 10, 2018

A New Fall Routine

Wow. Jerry and I were completely overwhelmed with the kind responses to my last post. He was really glad I wrote it and said it motivated him to start working on a guest post. He really appreciates all of the kind comments and support! Thank you. Sincerely.

Last week, I was working on getting into a good routine with the kids now that they are back in school. Now that I have that down, I want to get in a good routine myself. Starting with getting to bed at a decent hour. Last night, I went to bed at 10:45--which is very early compared to what I'm used to! All summer, I was staying up until 2:00-3:00.

When I woke up this morning, I didn't feel as tired as I usually do (what a surprise, right?). It wasn't a huge chore to get out of bed.

Another thing I want to add to my routine is running--I know that it will help my anxiety if I just make myself do it. So, this morning, I dressed in running clothes and decided that I would stop and run after dropping Noah off at school.

It was raining outside, but I used to love running in the rain, so I wasn't going to use that as a reason not to run. Also, the weather is FINALLY cooling off! Last week, we had a couple of days when the temperature was in the 90's--it was insane. It was so hot and humid that we had two days in a row with a heat advisory. I brought a spray bottle to cross country practice and sprayed the kids down after each lap they ran. They loved it!

As I type this, I'm wearing jeans and a hoodie. It's 58 degrees.

Yesterday, the weather just felt like good running weather--so, I started thinking that it's time I get running again. I put it off so much during the summer because it was so hot and humid; also, I was super tired all the time from staying up so late (it was a bad habit I developed and just couldn't get out of). I think going to bed earlier and getting enough sleep will help with all sorts of things from my running motivation to my anxiety.

After dropping Noah off, I debated where to run. I wanted to go run a dirt/gravel path at a park near the college, but with it raining, I knew the path would be muddy. So, I decided to just go to "old faithful"--the State Park. There is a loop that is 1.5 miles, so I figured I'd run that for 30 minutes (circle it once, and then add an out-and-back to hit 30 minutes).

My main focus was to go slow enough to keep my heart rate as low as I could. My pace was slow (12:00/mile), but the run certainly didn't feel easy. Still, though, I felt glad to be out there doing it. I knew it would put me in a better mood for the day, and it would help me to stay on track with calorie counting.

Run at State Park

I was trying to keep my hat from putting a shadow over my eyes for this photo, and I just ended up looking jolly. Haha!

Only a few minutes into the run, I looked up and startled by a deer that was super close to me (relatively close, I should say--most of the time, deer run away as soon as they spot me; this deer was totally chill with me being just across the road. I stopped to pull my phone out of my FlipBelt and take a picture of the deer.


Just after I saw that one, I saw another deer, eating berries from a tree. Again, I was super close, but she just kept eating.


The whole time I was running, I was listening to that audiobook I wrote about ("Born A Crime" by Trevor Noah). I was planning to only listen to it while I was driving Noah to and from school, but I got really caught up in it. I listened to it for several hours while I was working on the ceilings in my house (it's still a huge mess--we are now ready to sand) and then today during my run, I noticed there was only about 15 minutes left to the book. I finished it on my way home from the park. It was SO good!

And, now I'm a fan of audiobooks ;) I have one more that I had gotten for free from the trial membership of Audible on Amazon. I don't even remember what book it is. But I think the main reason I liked "Born A Crime" was because of Trevor Noah's very entertaining reading of it. I think the narrator can make a huge difference in how engrossing the audiobook can be.

Anyway, my run was slow (12:00/mile), my heart rate was higher than I'd like (150 bpm), but I managed to do 30 minutes in the drizzling rain and I felt great afterward. It actually made a big difference in my mood today.

I'm not going to start making challenges and plans and all of that to get back to running (I seem to jinx myself when I get carried away). But I definitely would like to make an effort to run in the mornings after taking Noah to school. There is no reason not to!

After my run, I went grocery shopping. I was feeling good about the run, and decided to get some of my old favorites from when I was calorie counting and feeling my best. I used to eat a Larabar and drink a cup of tea with cream and sugar every single morning for breakfast. I loved that simple routine; getting the kids ready for school, packing lunches, and then sitting down with my Larabar and tea for 30 minutes or so before we'd have to leave for school.

Interestingly, I haven't been very much into sweets lately. So weird, right?! It's like when I suddenly had an aversion to peanut butter in 2016 (I still don't really love it or seek it out). I do still like desserts, but I'll usually choose chips or something like that when I want a snack in the evenings. I have no idea why this happened (just like the peanut butter thing) but I'm not complaining ;)

Anyway, I'll leave you with this oh-so-flattering picture of Estelle--always staying classy.

classy cat

September 09, 2018

A very personal post that I've been questioning writing for 10 months

The last 10 months or so have really taken a toll on me. I've been wanting to write about it, and I had the go-ahead to do it, but I questioned whether I wanted to or not. I know how cruel people can be on the internet, which is what prevented me from writing about this before; but I also know how kind people can be, so I am counting on that to outweigh the negative.

The whole thing started last December. (It actually started before that, but I didn't really take notice of it until December when it became very apparent.)

It was early December, and Jerry and I were sitting in the living room with the kids. I forget what we were chatting about, but the topic of Christmas came up. Jerry is obsessed with Christmas--he LOVES it. He always wants to go all-out at Christmastime, and I am the total opposite. I'm a grinch. I think Christmas is stressful and pretentious, and I would avoid it completely if not for Jerry. It's even become a joke between us every year.

Anyway, we started talking about Christmas and Jerry started to talk and then he got choked up. He sounded bitter as he said something about Christmas not meaning anything to any of us. I was in shock. Jerry NEVER gets upset with us--even when he legitimately deserves to--so to see him actually have tears in his eyes about it felt surreal.

That was when I knew something was wrong. At the time, I didn't want to believe it; but in retrospect, when my stomach just sank. I knew that Jerry was experiencing depression.

It broke my heart. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to make it better and seem like it never happened. I wanted him to be back to the normal, happy-go-lucky, carefree, super FUN guy that he always had been.

I decided at that moment that I would do anything it took to make Christmas special for Jerry. As much as I disliked Christmas, I planned to make a big deal about it for him. As you may remember, I planned a surprise date for him--going to Somerset Collection (a mall) to have family photos with Santa.

He LOVED that, thank God. I also wanted to make a big deal about decorating our Christmas tree. When Jerry had a night off, I planned for our family to decorate the tree. I told Jerry to get the lights that he wanted, and he had gotten the lights the week before. On the day we were going to decorate the tree, I asked Jerry if he had checked the lights to make sure they worked.

He plugged in all four boxes. One of them didn't work.

Jerry was super upset. It was one thing that really triggered him.

He called Wal-Mart, where he had bought them, and they were out of stock of these particular lights. He became very upset, and actually cried and went into the bedroom (SO unlike him!!). I felt horrible. The kids were stunned.

I decided I was going to go out and find these particular lights that he wanted. It was 8PM. I told the kids what I was doing, and Noah asked to come with me. He felt really bad for Jerry. I tried to think outside the box--what is a store that people don't typically go to for Christmas lights?

I chose Lowe's. Noah and I walked into Lowe's, and wouldn't you know it, there was ONE BOX of those lights on the shelf. I plugged them in to make sure they worked, and then we bought the box and went home. Jerry was so grateful, and said it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for him.

We made a big production of decorating the tree as a family while playing Christmas music (Jerry's obsession, starting on Thanksgiving) and making the whole thing important to him. He was so grateful!

It was that night that I really knew things were serious. He wasn't just messing around; he was depressed.

Ever since then, I've been doing my best to help Jerry deal with depression. He'd never had an episode of depression in his life; this was completely new to him, as well as to me.

I was so used to Jerry taking care of me during my depressive episodes, and when he was showing obvious signs of depression, I was taken aback. I knew what to do, but it scared the hell out of me. He'd always been my rock, my "constant"... I knew that no matter what I was feeling or going through, he would still be the same old Jerry (happy, carefree, and funny).

It's now 10 months later, and I'm still going through it. Jerry has been trying to write a guest post for my blog, but he has no idea how to write it. He told me a long time ago that I could write about this, but I just didn't feel like it was the right time. Recently, he really wanted to make it known--because I am such an advocate for education on mental health/illness, he wanted his story to be told.

I won't share his story, because I'd love for him to do that one day. But I'm writing my side of it because it just feels like the right time. Depression can literally hit ANYONE at ANY time. Jerry never showed any signs of it before.

Remember when I mentioned that Jerry went to the emergency room from work one night? He was having symptoms that he believed was a heart attack; but it turned out to be anxiety related, and he was having a panic attack. It was awful to watch him go through that. After the testing they did in the ER, we knew he was okay; but his symptoms were alarming to me.

I am desperate to make it better. I don't want him feeling that way. I know how horrible depression feels, and when he talks to me about it, I feel like I would give anything at all to make him feel better. I've been encouraging him to reach out to his friends and to make plans with people.

There have been a couple more incidents that have happened since Christmas, and each time, it makes me worry. I am so glad that I was able to get diagnosed with bipolar and start the correct medications before all of this happened with Jerry. But I also feel the guilt and I always question myself about whether I caused this somehow.

I'm so glad that our relationship is as strong as it is--otherwise, we may not have been able to handle all of this. With my bipolar and his depression, it sounds like a huge recipe for disaster. But we have managed to make it work in a positive way. We been honest with the kids, and they have been awesome. They were in just as much shock as I was last Christmas regarding the Christmas lights. That's why Noah decided to go with me to find the lights for Jerry.

Jerry and I went to see my therapist together, hoping that it would help us to learn how to help each other. He didn't want to talk to me when he was feeling depressed (because he didn't want to upset me), and I didn't want to talk to him when I was depressed (for the same reason)--we were too worried about making each other worry. So, my therapist helped us to understand how to talk to each other about it. And then, we read The 5 Love Languages, which helped more than I can even describe. I can't recommend that book enough! (Here is a review that I wrote about it)

Jerry really just wants people to know that depression can happen to anybody at anytime. He agrees that it's super important to validate one's feelings, no matter what. He plans to write a guest post about all of this. In the meantime, though, I wanted to share my feelings about it...

I am scared to death that he won't feel better. I am desperate to make him feel better. I would give just about anything for him to feel happy! I feel like I can handle my own depressive episodes, because I'm used to it; but seeing him go through it is the worst.

I've wanted to write about this frequently, especially when I've been feeling down and I feel the need to explain.

A few days ago, a boy that Noah went to school with in preschool and elementary school died by suicide. Noah just started 9th grade--he has his whole life in front of him. When I heard of this boy who took his own life (just before starting 9th grade) I was completely heartbroken. His family was not secretive about it being a suicide, which I think is fantastic. People need to talk about it more.

Jerry doesn't feel suicidal (thank God) but his feelings affect the whole family. It hurts to see him upset for any reason at all.

Anyway, Jerry may be sharing a personal post about all of this himself soon, but in the meantime, he said it was okay for me to write about it. Depression can appear out of nowhere and hit just about anyone. Jerry was always super carefree and happy, and this was a huge shock to me.

I feel relieved to write about this, because I can better explain what is going on and why I'm feeling the way I do in certain circumstances. Jerry is the most amazing husband, and I want to see him get the support he needs. Since his family and friends view him as the exact opposite of someone who is depressed, he needs people that understand; people that will treat him well despite the circumstances.

I know that you will all be kind, so thank you very much for understanding. Jerry is such a great guy--he deserves to feel the love and understanding from all who know him.

I hope everyone has a great rest of the weekend!

September 06, 2018

Weight Loss Update: Julie's 100-Pound Weight Loss, 3 Years Later

Today, I have a guest post from Julie. A few years ago, she shared a bit about her weight loss for the 100th Motivational Monday post (20 people who had lost 100+ pounds). I always love to hear from people who have been working at maintenance for a while, and I'm excited to share her update with you! Here is what's been going on with her, and her weight maintenance, for the last three years. 

I am so excited to be writing this update for you on my weight loss journey. Not for the reasons that you might be thinking, however.

Since writing the first story about my 100 pound weight loss for Katie’s blog three years ago, I have struggled to keep the weight off! Yep, people, the struggle is real. However, losing that 100 pounds has changed my life so dramatically that sometimes I still have to pinch myself because I can’t believe that I am living this life.

After losing 100 pounds in 16 months, I did pretty good at keeping my weight at or around 140 pounds for a solid three years. I was running five days a week and entering a lot of road races. I went from 5K's to 10K's, and eventually signed up for my first half marathon.

I was enjoying my new body! I started a fashion Pinterest board and began to buy beautiful new clothes. The day that I was finally able to shop at Ann Taylor Loft and White House Black Market was magical. Being able to pick out clothes that I wanted to wear instead just buying whatever fit me was a game changer. I was feeling so good about my life!

Then, my weight crept up to about 147 pounds 2016. However, it wasn’t so bad. I still felt great! I was still running 4-5 days a week and I began lifting weights three days a week, working with a trainer. I was feeling very strong.

I turned 50 that year and never felt better. I felt better at 50 than I did at 40, for sure! The year that I turned 50, I decided to check an item off my bucket list by walking the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is a 500 mile walk across Spain!

I started my walk in June in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, and reached Santiago, Spain 31 days later. For me, it was a spiritual journey that changed my life in so many ways, but that’s a story for another time. I know, however, that I would not have been able to complete that pilgrimage if I had still weighed 243 pounds.

And, by the way, when you are walking 13 to 20 miles a day, you can pretty much eat whatever you want and NOT GAIN WEIGHT. I ate ice cream every day! Sometimes more than one. Funny, though, other pilgrims were losing dramatic amounts of weight, but nope--not me. On the bright side, I didn’t track my eating for 35 days and I didn’t gain any weight! That was a new concept for me.

In 2017, I began to slowly gain more weight and I was weighing in consistently at about 153 pounds. I was trying to get that 10 pounds off, but nothing seemed to be working. I continued to run and lift weights, so I was still feeling strong--pretty good, actually. But the weight was just not coming off. Since I still felt so good, I guess maybe I wasn’t trying too hard to lose it!

Weekends have always been so hard for me. I love to have good meals with my family, which usually include beer or wine, and I just haven’t been willing to give that up. I was still signing up for road races and by this time, a few of my friends had taken up running, too. We made it a goal to sign up and run at least one road race per month.

In 2017, I also decided to start a 5K road race here in the town that I live in, San Juan Bautista, with the proceeds benefiting the students of San Juan School (where I teach 3rd grade). Thankfully, the race was very successful! (We actually had our 2nd Annual Fiesta Fun Run this past May. We included a 5K, 10K, and 1 Mile Fun Run and doubled our participants!)

Then came 2018--the year I decided to run my first full marathon. Yikes!

The training was much more intense than I thought it would be. It was hard to get all my runs in and and continue to work full time. I was always exhausted and I got sick three times during the winter and spring.

During my marathon training, I decided to take a break from weight lifting. I just didn’t have enough time (or energy!) in my day. My appetite amped up right along with my mileage. I was always hungry. So I started eating more and was not able to stay within my daily Weight Watchers points goal and earn my blue dots (which are earned by eating within a certain healthy range every day).

It was frustrating but I needed the calories! I was still weighing in at about 153, not gaining weight but not losing either. (Don’t most people lose weight when they train for a marathon? Ugh!).

I finally ran my first marathon on April 28, 2018. It was the Big Sur International Marathon and the route was majestic! But it was SO. FREAKIN’. HARD. There was hill after hill after hill!

For a brief moment during the marathon at mile 21, I thought that I might not make it to the finish line. Yep! I hit that proverbial wall. But, I pulled up my big girl panties, prayed a couple of “Our Father’s” and “Hail Mary’s”, and was able to shuffle my way across the finish line. I earned that coveted medal!

Needless to say, I stopped running the next day. At first, it was just for recovery. I kept telling myself that you’re not supposed to run for three weeks after a marathon, right? And remember, I was no longer lifting weights either. So, basically, I wasn’t doing anything. But, I was still eating. A lot! I still had a huge appetite.

You know what happens when you don’t exercise but you still eat like you are, right? You gain weight, people! And that’s just what I did. The scale crept up to 163 pounds. YIKES!!

Now that it is summer and I am on vacation (the benefit of being a school teacher), I have gotten back into running and weight training. For the past month, I have been running 4-5 days a week as I train for a half marathon in September.

I’ll being running The Giant Race, which is a half that I love and have run for the past 3 years. It’s in San Francisco and the finish line is on the Giant’s home field at AT&T Park. It’s so fun and I am totally motivated to train for it!

I’m also back to weight training at the gym three days a week. I missed weight training and I like the way I feel when I am doing it consistently. I feel strong and I love the way my body looks when I more muscular. It’s not perfect, my body. Never has been and never will be.

But after losing 100 pounds, weight training is the one thing that has made me feel more confident about the way my body looks. The muscles help fill up the loose skin, kind of.

I have been working very hard at eating to lose weight. The scale is going down slowly. I am at 159 pounds right now. Though every day is a struggle, I am not going to give up! I will never give up at this weight loss thing. My weight may go up a little and down a little; it’s the ebb and flow of life. But I will always work at being healthy and strong and living my best life!

Julie Castaneda-Hicks lives in San Juan Bautista, California, with her husband of 28 years, Micheal Hicks. She is the mother of two adult children, Ashley, who is 25 years old, and Zachary, who is 23 years old. She has been teaching at her local elementary school for 25 years, where she currently teaches 3rd grade.

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