August 30, 2017

TMI talk and Wednesday Weigh-in

Don't read this if you're eating... just a warning ;)

Ugh. I feel absolutely awful right now. I wrote half a post last night, but I was feeling terrible--cold sweats, bad nausea, and I was so lethargic I could barely keep my eyes open. I didn't think I was getting sick or anything, so I started wondering if it could be food poisoning; I hadn't eaten anything that could possibly have triggered that, so that wasn't right either. But at the time, I didn't care. I just wanted it to stop!

I decided to just go to bed without finishing the blog post, so I went into the bathroom to get ready for bed; and suddenly, I dashed for the toilet just in time to start vomiting. This really freaked me out--I can tell you that I have thrown up exactly three times since I was a child. I have a stomach like a ROCK. So, last night, I was convinced I was dying.

This is just a re-enactment photo for your entertainment. Because who
takes pictures when they're busy puking their guts out?!

Threw up a couple more times, then went to bed. My mouth was super dry, so I drank nearly all of the water from my water bottle. About half an hour later, I was hit with horrible nausea again, and puked three more times--definitely all of the water I just drank.

It was a miserable night, and I couldn't sleep for anything! When I got out of bed this morning, I was SO nauseous again. Thankfully, I didn't vomit any more, but I actually wished I would, because my stomach was begging for it. I had really bad chills, too. I sat on the couch and started going over in my head what could possibly have caused me to get this sick. And then it hit me--I started an antibiotic a few days ago.

Over the weekend, I was having bad symptoms of a UTI, and an at-home urinalysis was positive. So I called the doctor who was on-call and he phoned in a script for Bactrim. I only had to take two pills a day for three days; and last night, I took my fifth pill. Holy hell, I will never ever take it again! I would honestly rather have UTI symptoms than feel even half as bad as I did last night and this morning. I'm still feeling really crummy, but better than the first few hours I was awake.

I Googled Bactrim and nausea, and that confirmed what I had suspected: I was sure it was the Bactrim that caused the symptoms. There were SO many reviews from people saying that it made them super nauseous and even caused them to vomit (also headaches, chills, sweats, and insomnia). I usually take reviews with a grain of salt, because usually, the people who take the time to write them either had a very bad experience or a very good one--not a lot of gray area. Still, reading through them, I saw I wasn't the only one who experienced this reaction.

Unfortunately, I had to take Eli to an appointment today. Not just a quick appointment, either--he needed an ultrasound, which was at 10:45; an x-ray; and then the appointment with the doctor at 1:00 (FYI, he is fine--nothing to worry about). The drive is about an hour, so we had to leave at around 9:30, and I figured we wouldn't get home until at least 3:00.  I took a Zofran for the nausea, which worked only a little, and then took Eli to his appointment.

We were done with the ultrasound and x-ray by 11:30, so we had an hour and half until his appointment with the doctor. I went to the check in desk and asked if there were any cancellations or anything, and the receptionist said that the doctor was booked, but if we wanted to wait in the lobby, then they may call us in if it worked out (a no-show or a shorter-than-planned appointment with someone else). Thankfully, I brought a book and Eli had games on his phone, so we settled in.

Literally about two minutes after we sat down, the medical assistant called for Elijah. I looked around the room, waiting for another kid named Elijah to stand up, but it was actually MY Elijah. I was shocked--but it was awesome we didn't have to wait! They had time to fit us in immediately. The appointment went well, and we were out of there. We stopped for frozen yogurt on the way home, and we got home by 1:30.

I'm still feeling terrible--headache and nausea--but I'm hoping that since I took my last dose of the antibiotic this morning (before I figured out it was the antibiotic that was causing me to be so sick), I'll start feeling better.

Anyway, that was just a very long way of saying that Bactrim made me feel like crap and I'm miserable. Haha.

But I did manage to do my Wednesday Weigh-in this morning:

I don't remember what my weight was last week, but I think it was close to this. It's kind of funny that my weight has been within such a tight range for a couple of months now that the numbers blur together for me--I don't know that I've ever gone this long while maintaining such a small range (131-134). Let's hope it stays this way.

Dinners were very simple this week. We used up a lot of our grocery budget for the month when we went out to dinner with the kids for Jerry's and my anniversary, so this week has been grilled cheese and tomato soup, scrambled eggs and toast, or cold cereal for dinner. Haha! But we've found the budgeting pretty fun, and who doesn't love grilled cheese for dinner?!

I'm going to try and post a recap of how our budget went this month, and how much we could apply toward debt. I find that I actually look forward to the end of the month so that I can calculate everything and pay down the credit cards. I think we may be able to pay off one of them next month!

August 26, 2017

Oh, baby! (and Wednesday Weigh-in)

I write this post on about one hour of sleep...

It's been a baby-filled 28 hours. Brian and Becky have some friends visiting from out of town, and they decided to go to Detroit yesterday evening. They went to the Lions pre-season game and spent the night downtown. They'd asked Jerry and I to watch Luke overnight--and of course, we were thrilled! 

I haven't really taken care of a baby (at least overnight) since Eli was an infant, and that was 11 years ago. I don't even really remember much about the first year! But now, feeling like my kids grew up way too fast, I wish I'd taken more time to appreciate all the little things that I took for granted--even getting up in the middle of the night when the baby is ready to eat.

Becky dropped Luke off in the early afternoon, and I was so excited to spend the day with him. Eli loves babies, and Luke was pretty drawn to him. They sat on the floor together and Eli kept making him laugh by throwing tennis balls for Joey to retrieve.

I probably have 50 pictures of Luke's funny faces, but I'll spare you and just post three.

As you can tell, he doesn't drool at all.

Meanwhile, Jerry was power washing the deck--and holy cow, I cannot believe the difference. This is totally embarrassing to even post, because it shows just how bad the deck had gotten! We haven't stained it in YEARS, and I thought it just looked bad because it was old. Well, once Jerry started power washing, I realized that it looked so bad because it was neglected...

power wash

Shocking, right?

It was a gorgeous day outside, so we packed up all of Luke's stuff (for a baby, they sure do take up a lot of space! The carseat, the stroller, the diaper bag...) and we went to the State Park. Eli brought his fishing pole, so we found a spot for him to fish. I walked Luke around the small loop, and then we sat and watched Eli fish for a while.

It actually felt like fall yesterday! We wore long sleeves, and I was still a little cold. It makes me so excited for fall to get here.

When we got home, I cooked dinner, and then we were ready to chill for the evening. This was Luke's first overnight away from his mom, and I could tell he missed her. I was trying to give him a bottle, and whenever he saw my face, he started crying (that was the first I'd ever seen him cry!). Finally, I pulled up a video of Becky on my phone, and I played that for him. He stopped crying instantly, and started drinking his bottle. When the video stopped, he cried again; then I played the video again, and he was enchanted.

So, I basically just played the video on a loop while he drank his bottle, and it worked like a charm. I thought it was so funny that the video is what it took to satisfy him. He fell asleep at around 10:00, and I stayed up to watch an episode of The Walking Dead with Eli. I just recently let him start watching it, and he loves it--so we watch a little together each day.

When I went to bed, I couldn't sleep for anything. Lucas was in his pack and play at the foot of the bed, but I was constantly on edge, waiting for him to wake up (ridiculous, I know, but I'm not used to having babies spend the night). I never did fall asleep, and then at 2:00, he was ready to eat. Jerry told me that he wanted to get up with him (haha! That's how much we miss having babies) so he fed Luke while I unsuccessfully tried to fall asleep.

He was up again at 3:15, and then again at 4:15--and at 4:15, he was ready to start the day. He was upset until I turned on the light, and then he gave me a huge smile. So, we laid on the bed and played with his toys (and had another bottle) until about 7:30, when he fell asleep again. I took a quick shower and packed up some of his things for when Becky came to get him.

He was so happy all morning! He fell asleep while I was holding him just before Becky arrived. I didn't even move him--he just laid on my chest for an hour. I love baby cuddles!

After he left, I had about 20 minutes to get ready to go to a baby shower. My good childhood friend, Lance, is going to be a dad in November. I hadn't seen him in a long time, so I was excited to go to the shower and see him (and visit with my old neighbors/relatives--Lance and I grew up on the same block, so we know a lot of the same people).

The shower was really nice! I sat with my mom and three women from my old neighborhood, and it was fun to share old stories. On the shower invitation, Lance and his wife requested books instead of cards (which I think a lot of people do now) and my mom suggested I give Lance a book that he'd given me when I was about seven years old--The Jolly Postman.

When we were young, our moms (Lance's; Sarah's--my friend who lives in Arizona; and mine) would have a book exchange at Christmastime. There were six of us kids that would get together with our moms at a restaurant and exchange books (we drew names each year). Lance drew my name one year, and gave me The Jolly Postman.

It became my FAVORITE book for years. It was unique because it was a book with envelopes that had letters inside of them, and you could pull the letters out to read throughout the book. Anyway, my mom saved the book, and it was in the attic all this time. So, she gave it to me to give to Lance, and I wrote a note on the inside cover explaining to the baby that his daddy gave me the book nearly 30 years ago, and it was my favorite book.

Lance's mom gave him a gift from his (deceased) grandmother--a sweater that she had knitted for Lance when he was just two years old! It was in perfect condition, and it was gorgeous. When he was little, he always wore knitted sweaters, and I only learned today that they were knitted by his grandmother.

If you're curious about the apron, he and his dad were the "kitchen staff" for the shower--serving food and drinks and all that ;)

Anyway, the shower was super fun and I loved getting to see Lance for the first time in a couple of years. Usually, we get together at Christmas, but we didn't do it last year for some reason. Childhood friends are the best. And babies are the best. Despite my lack of sleep, it's been a great 28 hours or so. :)

I just realized that I missed posting my Wednesday Weigh-in this week. Now that cross country has started, and I'm getting the kids ready to go back to school, the days are flying by.

I was at 133.6 on Wednesday--still inside of that 131-134 range I've been in for two months(?) now. I feel like I've had to work a little harder at it recently, but that might just be because I've been more conscious of my weight. Each day that goes by where I don't run, I get a little more nervous about keeping the weight off.

For months, I didn't think about the numbers at ALL, and I really didn't care. Now, I still don't care much about what the actual number is (I'd like to stay below 145, but that's the extent of my goal); but I always have that nagging voice in my head about gaining 20, 30, 40 pounds back.

I measured my body fat on Wednesday when I weighed in, and it was 22.7%. I thought that was up a couple of percentage points from being at goal before, but I just now went back and looked--on this post from 2015, at 133 pounds, my body fat was 22.7%. The exact same!

So, I think I might just be a little paranoid because I'm not running. I'm still being pretty active on a day-to-day basis, but I haven't been doing exercise for the sake of exercise, and it has made me more conscious of my weight/body fat. I'm very happy that I've been able to maintain this weight without counting calories or points or anything else. My biggest hope is that I can continue to do so!


August 22, 2017

Gone swimming

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a swimmer. I know how to swim, but I just don't enjoy it--feeling wet and cold after getting out of the pool, or unsure of what's under the water in a lake. I wish I liked it more! But I hadn't been swimming since I went with Andrea, and I think that was probably in December?

Anyway, I happened to swim not once, but twice last weekend. On Friday, Becky (my sister-in-law) and Luke (my nephew, who is five months old) met my mom and me at the Rec center to go swimming. I was actually really looking forward to it, because I was excited to see Luke swim! My sister bought him an odd-looking flotation device for infants (it's basically a float ring that goes around their neck).

I hate buying bathing suits, and the one that I had for a while was getting SO worn and kind of baggy; so, last year, I bought a new one online, identical to the old one, in the same size. My weight was up last year, and when I did try it on, I discovered it was too small. The old one was so worn that it accommodated my weight gain, but the new one was, well, new. I tucked it in my drawer and hoped that I'd be able to wear it this summer (in the chance that I did go swimming).

Anyway, all of this is just to say that it fits! I was able to wear it to the pool, and it fit me well. And funnily enough, Becky was actually wearing the same suit! hahaha.

Luke was adorable in the water. The water was really cold, so I thought he would start crying immediately, but he was totally content. I don't think I've ever even seen him cry--he gets a little fussy when he wants to eat, but that's it. Brian and Becky are super laid back, though, and I think that Luke is taking cues from them.

I walked around the pool with him for a while, and then Becky put the float on him. I was cracking up, because it looks so uncomfortable, but Luke really loves it. He was kicking his legs, making razzing noises with his tongue, and then he just floated on his back like he was relaxing on the beach with a drink or something.

(Note that this is not just a regular inner tube. It's made especially for babies, and the inner part of the ring is designed to keep them from slipping through.)

We were in the pool for an hour and a half, and Luke enjoyed every moment of it. I was shocked! It was so fun to play with him in the pool.

On Saturday, I drove up to Chelsea (about an hour's drive) to have tea with Emily (a blog reader that I met last year and have become friends with). She was in town to see her boyfriend, and it was on the way to where I was going to meet up with friends for the day. A lot has happened since the last time we got together (March?), so it was great to catch up.

From Chelsea, it was only about another 20 minutes to get to my friends' Eric and Maris's cottage. Eric's parents own a cottage (which is actually a pretty large house) on a lake, and every year, Eric and Maris invite all of our high school friends to go and hang out for the weekend. Jerry and I weren't able to stay the weekend, but we spent the day on Saturday.

Shortly after we got there, we all went out on the pontoon boat. I didn't wear my bathing suit because I didn't plan on swimming; but after a few hours, I really had to go to the bathroom, so I decided to put my suit on while I was in the house. The pontoon boat was anchored, so my friend Paul used a stand-up paddle board to row me in to the shore. I have terrible balance, so I didn't even attempt to stand up (although one day I would really like to try it!). I was so sure I was going to tip us over, but we managed to get to the shore.

I changed into my suit, and when we got back to the boat, I got in the water. It was surprisingly warm, and I stayed in for a while until my fingers started to get wrinkled. It was quite a sight to see everyone in the lake with their floats ;)

I felt a little awkward because I was the only one not drinking, but I'm starting to get used to that now. I didn't completely quit, but I could count on one hand the number of drinks I've had in the last 4-5 months. Now, I just prefer not to--which is odd to me! Even after one drink, I could feel my heart racing, my anxiety get sky high, and I would feel puffy/bloated. I'm not sure if that's typical, or if it has something to do with my medication; but regardless, I hated that feeling enough to choose not to drink. It has saved a lot of calories and a lot of money, so I'm happy about that :)

Now that I think about it, I saw a lot of friends in the last few days. Aside from Emily and my high school friends, I went for a walk with Andrea yesterday morning. I hadn't seen her in a long time, and we got to catch up. And yesterday evening, I met my friend Jenni for frozen yogurt. (We finally got a Menchies nearby! We used to have to drive 45 minutes to get self-serve frozen yogurt.)

It's been a fun-filled week :)

August 19, 2017

Fed Up with Being Fat!

Fed up. Quite literally, actually.

It was exactly eight years ago that I was completely fed up with being obese and miserable in my own body.

I hated waking up every day with a plan to lose the weight, and then caving before I even made it through dinner (or lunch... or breakfast...).

I hated feeling out of breath all the time, even when I was just talking on the phone or blow drying my hair.

I hated shopping, because it just reminded me of how big I was and that I would never be able to wear cute clothes.

I hated getting on the scale when I went to the doctor's office, knowing that the doctor would give me the same talk that I'd heard a thousand times before.

I hated that I couldn't be active with my boys.

I hated going to bed so full after a binge that I was in pain and swore I would never do it again.

I hated that I never felt worthy of doing my hair or make-up, and that I felt like there was no point to try to make myself look nice.

I hated that every single food decision was a battle.

I hated that I always lost the battle.

I hated that I could never get comfortable and that I would have to shift positions every minute to keep my limbs from falling asleep.

I hated that I avoided the camera at all costs and that there are so few pictures of me from that time.

I hated that I thought about food more than I thought about anything else.

I hated weighing more than my husband.

I hated that I couldn't cross my legs.

I hated struggling to tie my shoes, and eventually asking Jerry to help me.

I hated feeling like people were judging me for my weight every time I went in public.

I hated overhearing fat jokes about me, especially from a cousin at a family Christmas party.

Most of all, I hated myself for not having control of my own body and taking the initiative to lose the weight and be healthy.

All of these things finally reached a peak on August 19, 2009, and I was just done. Fed up! I made a very simple plan--to measure out and keep track of portions so that I didn't eat too much. That was it-- I didn't vow to change the foods I ate, or exercise (something I also hated), or anything else. The only change I was going to make was one I could live with: eat less food. I tried to make it as easy as possible.

It ended up being far from easy, but it worked. I dropped weight every week, and I was still eating my favorite foods. I made up my own rules as I went, modifying things to fit into my lifestyle.

Eight years ago, if you had asked me what I thought my life would be like in eight years, I would have said that it would be very much like it was that day, and all the days leading up to it. I never would have guessed that I would be where I am today!

It's kind of overwhelming to think of all the things that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't lost the weight. I wrote a list of the highlights since losing the weight, and it's just a small fraction of the impact my weight loss has had on my life. I also wrote a list of 100 things that changed after I lost 100 pounds. In addition to the all of the things that have happened, my weight loss played a part in meeting some of my very best friends.

One day, I tried to think of the actual magnitude of my weight loss. In just a small example: I lost the weight; I started writing Runs for Cookies; I formed a Ragnar Relay team made up of several of my blog readers who had lost an average of 100 pounds each; one of them was a filmmaker; she and her partner made a documentary about our team; the documentary and the team inspired people to start their own weight loss/running journeys; the Facebook group now has over 25,000 people; if any of those people inspired others (they certainly have!) then those people were affected as well. It's basically this huge snowball effect, and it's kind of mind-blowing.

All because I was fed up one day.

I was fed up enough that I made a small change by eating less food. And that change turned into more changes, which then had enormous impacts on myself and others.

I love that I am confident in myself.

I love not worrying about finding cute clothes in my size.

I love that I don't think about food all day.

I love that I feel sexy for my husband.

I love that I set a good example for my kids.

I love being able to run, bike, hike, swim, play, jump, stretch, and bend over.

I love not worrying about whether I will fit on an amusement park ride.

I love that I know what it feels like to be obese, and I have empathy for others.

I love being in photographs and not deleting them if they aren't flattering.

I love that my size doesn't hold me back from doing things I want to do.

I love that I am physically comfortable in my body.

I love not worrying about people judging me for my weight.

I love that my weight no longer stops me from being myself.

August 17, 2017

Leaving food on the plate

Thank you all for the anniversary wishes! It's hard to believe it's been 14 years; but on the other hand, I can't really remember what life was like before Jerry. It feels like we've always been together.

Runs for Cookies

Yesterday, we had our first cross country practice. There are only two weeks until school starts! Renee and I are coaching third through sixth grade again. The sixth graders can choose to be on our team or on the more competitive middle school team (sixth through eighth grade). Eli wanted to be on our team again, which makes me happy.

I've been curious how Eli's running would go since he completed physical therapy and started wearing orthotics. The reason we even brought him to the orthopedist was because his ankles were always hurting him when he did physical activity (especially running). I also noticed that his gait was odd when running.

He went to physical therapy twice a week for about six weeks, and the measurements that the PT took improved quite a bit in that time. He has been feeling much better, but hadn't tried running yet. I was really hoping that he would be able to run without any difficulty; last year, he wanted to run more, but his ankles hurt all the time.

Anyway, we met at the high school track yesterday instead of the place that we have always had practice before. At the first practice, we always do a time trial--a one-mile run as fast as they are able. We like to see how fast they can complete a mile on Day 1 so that we can compare it to the end of the season when we'll do another time trial. Our goal is for everyone to improve their own times.

We have a great group of kids again this year--a lot of kids returned from last year, but we had several new faces, too. I blew the whistle to start the time trial, and the kids were off. My biggest concern was actually Eli--I was just hoping more than anything that he didn't have problems with his ankles after all he'd been through to correct the problem. He seemed to be doing really well!

I was super impressed with the kids' times. Usually, there are a lot of 11-12:00 minute milers on the first day; but yesterday, they all ran under 10:00! They are going to get pretty speedy throughout the season.

I was mostly shocked by Eli--he finished in 8:40! That was his fastest mile EVER, and he hasn't run at all since our last cross country season. He didn't have any pain at all, and I noticed his gait is much better. I can't believe what a huge difference the physical therapy made.

One of the dads of the kids on my team was actually a high school teacher of mine, as well as the DJ at Jerry's and my wedding. I chatted with him yesterday, and reminded him that the weekend of the blackout was when he DJ'ed for our wedding. Like me, he cannot believe it's been 14 years.

I did remember to do my Wednesday Weigh-in, even though I could have sworn all day long that it was Friday.

Another week of successfully maintaining my weight. It seems my body really likes this weight range of 131-134. I'm thinking that this is my body's "set point" (basically the weight that my body wants to be and functions best at). I'm excited that maintenance is going so well right now! I'm still very cautious about getting too excited, because I've been here before, and I know how easy it is to gain it back.

Somehow, I feel like this time is different. I'm finally not bouncing between mania and depression, so my emotional eating has stopped. I have energy and I've been staying busy, so I'm not eating out of boredom. The strangest thing to me is that I'm maintaining without counting calories or points, or anything else. I'm just developing good habits (which I'll write an example of below).

Today, to celebrate our anniversary, we decided to take the kids out to dinner. We planned all month for it, in order to stick to our budget, and we ate cheap meals for the last two weeks to be able to squeeze in a restaurant meal this month. I literally hadn't eaten a restaurant meal (even fast food) since May. I don't know if I've ever gone that long in my life without dining out (or at least ordering pizza)!

We went to Amigos, a Mexican restaurant that Jerry and I used to go to all the time when we were dating. I ordered flautas, which is what I've always gotten there, and they were absolutely delicious--the best they've ever tasted.

Amigos Flautas

I noticed something during dinner that I thought was worth mentioning here. There are three flautas, and after eating two and a half, I realized that the last one just didn't taste as good as the first. The first bite that I took was AMAZING. The second flauta was still very good. And halfway through the third, I realized that I was just eating it because it was there, but it didn't really taste like much.

It hit me that it's that same feeling I get when I eat at home and I stop midway through. It's not that I feel "full"; but when I've had enough, the food stops tasting as good. So, I stop eating it. In the past, I would have finished it just because it was there and leaving a few bites wasn't going to make a big difference in calories anyway.

When I was in Oregon, I ate out at least twice a day, but I didn't gain weight. I stopped eating when the food stopped tasting as good as the first few bites. I always wondered how people could leave food on their plates and not obsess over eating more. Now that I've realized that the food doesn't taste as good, it's so much easier to leave some on my plate. (I'd read about this in books about intuitive eating, but it has finally clicked for me.)

Later, when we got home, my stomach was not happy with me. Ugh, after not eating restaurant food for so long, my body just wasn't tolerating it. I had a stomachache all evening, and it kind of turned me off to wanting to eat out instead of cooking. My hands feel very puffy, too, from all the sodium I'm sure I consumed. It was worth it for a once-in-a-while meal, though--well, at least the first flauta was! ;)

I'm going to try to start paying attention to some other changes that I've made or habits that I've formed and write about it next week. I'm actually curious myself!

August 16, 2017

My Favorite Happy/Sad/Funny Moments of Marriage

Today, Jerry and I have been married for 14 years. It feels like it just flew by; but on the other hand, I can't really remember what it was like before. We've been together for over 18 years now--more than half my life! When I was young, and even a teen, I remember some of my cousins celebrating 10-year wedding anniversaries, and I thought that was such a long time.

On August 16, 2003, I couldn't even imagine what Jerry and I would be like 10 years down the road; but I never worried about it. On the day of our wedding, I was terrified of the wedding itself; but there was never a question in my mind that I was doing the right thing. While the wedding was an introvert's nightmare, the marriage didn't scare me at all.

As corny as it is, I thought I'd write 14 of my favorite memories of Jerry and me in honor of our 14th wedding anniversary. Jerry is the master of corniness, so he will actually really love this post ;)  (For our anniversary this year, he wrote me a list of 52 reasons why he loves me--good thing I didn't do a "14 Reasons Why I Love You" list.)

Here goes... 14 Favorite Memories of Us...

1. Comfort

When I was pregnant with Noah--not far along, just a couple of months--I went to the bathroom and noticed that I was spotting a little. My mom had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy, and I was so upset that the same was happening to me. The doctor's office was closed, and there wasn't anything they would have been able to do anyway, since I was just a couple of months along.

I was really worried and upset, and just didn't want to do anything. Jerry had no idea what to do either, and to make me feel better, he decided to make dinner. Jerry is FAR from being a chef--he is the type that can somehow manage to burn water. He didn't even ask me any questions; he just picked a recipe from one of the three cookbooks we had at the time, and tried to follow it.

It was a casserole of chicken, egg noodles, and a creamy, cheesy sauce. He dished each of us up a bowl of it, and told me it was "Jerry's Chicken Casserole Surprise". I asked him what the surprise part was, and he responded, "I don't know, I thought that all casseroles are called 'something-something-surprise.'"

At the time, I couldn't really eat it. I was just too worried about the baby, and I picked at the casserole. I can remember it so well, sitting at the table with Jerry after having cried for a couple of hours, and feeling the love from him. He had no idea how to help me, but he tried by making a casserole.

Thankfully, nothing was wrong with my pregnancy, and Noah was born the following July, very healthy. A couple of times since then, when my depression was at its worst, Jerry pulled that recipe out and cooked dinner. It is the ultimate comfort food to me.

2. New Parents

When we brought Noah home from the hospital, Jerry had a week off of work. He had been working the night shift, so he was used to staying up all night; which was very convenient for me, because he could take care of Noah during the night and I could actually get some sleep. Anyway, when it was time for Jerry to go back to work, we realized at the same time that Noah had slept in our arms the entire week! Since one of us was always awake, we were always holding him. We exchanged a look that basically said, "What now?" Thankfully, Noah was able to sleep in a crib ;)

3. Which way are the pumpkins? 

One October after we'd had a stupid argument over something I don't remember, we were driving in silence when we came to an intersection where you could either turn right or turn left. There was a sign directly ahead of us that said, "Pumpkins" with an arrow on it to show which way to turn.

But the sign was hung upside-down (when it was right side up, the arrow pointed right; upside down, the arrow pointed left. We didn't know if it being upside down was deliberate). I said, "Which way do you think the pumpkins are?" and we both burst out laughing. We laughed so hard that we were wheezing and gasping for breath. Ever since then, whenever we get to that intersection, one of us asks which way to the pumpkins.

4. The Forehead Game

We used to play a game in college using Post-It notes, and we called it the "Forehead Game". We would secretly write a famous/infamous/celebrity person's name down on a Post-It, and then stick it on someone else's forehead (after having a few drinks, of course!). Once we all had names on our foreheads, we took turns asking yes or no questions to figure out who we were.

I was always terrible at that game, because I don't know anything about celebrities. I am the absolute worst with names, too--I can watch an entire series of a show and not be able to name the main characters, let alone the actors. One time, I was asking questions for what felt like a hundred years, and everyone else had already guessed theirs. I was getting impatient and mad at Jerry for picking something so hard for me to guess; and finally, I just grabbed the Post-It off of my forehead and looked... "Eric Estrada". Then, I shouted some words at the top of my lungs that my friends still tease me about to this day:


Hahaha, I still think Jerry purposely picked someone that he knew I wouldn't know. He wasn't allowed to write my Post-It for the forehead game after that ;)

5. Milkshake Cravings

When I was pregnant with Eli, I craved milkshakes like crazy (in other words, I was my normal self). Jerry and I were on our way home from the movies, and drove though McDonald's to get milkshakes. We each ordered a large, and they were enormous.

When we got close to home, Jerry set his shake down in the cup holder and said, "Man! How fat does someone have to be to finish an entire large milkshake from McDonald's?!" And right as he said that, my straw started making that loud gurgling noise at the bottom of my cup as I finished off the shake. My kids love this story ;) What can I say? My stomach is bottomless when it comes to ice cream.

6. Easy Racing

Run/walking the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon with Jerry in 2015 was one of the funnest times we've ever had together. We took it very easy, running and walking whenever we wanted (no set intervals). We people-watched, read funny signs, talked and laughed, and even took a shot of bourbon on the course together. It was so much fun!

7. Impromptu Road Trip

Driving up to Cadillac, Michigan for a short weekend trip in July 2016 was one of the best times we've had as a couple. I made a fun playlist for the car, and we sang along loudly to old school music. We'd left at around 8:00 pm (I was going through a very rough period with my depression, and we had decided to cancel the trip the day before. Then, the following evening, I changed my mind and we headed up there. We arrived at 11:00 pm, and then we had a blast the following day. One of my favorite trips!

8. It's blinking!

When I was barely pregnant with Noah (actually, I think it was a follow up after the spotting I'd had), I went to my OB's office for an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay. Jerry came with me, and the doctor turned on the ultrasound. He said everything looked fine.

Jerry was looking at the screen, and said, "Ohmygod, I can see it! Look! There's it's eye! It's blinking!" My doctor turned his head a little because he was clearly trying not to laugh--the only thing on the ultrasound that was visible was a small black area that was shaped like a grape. The doctor said it was the "egg sac" and you couldn't see the baby yet. Jerry thought the sac was the baby's eye. It was adorable and hilarious at the same time!

9. A Big Kid

When my kids were little, I went to a splash fountain with a friend so that our kids could play in the water. Jerry stopped by there after work to say hi, and the kids were excited to see him. Without hesitation, he jumped into the fountain, fully clothed, and laid down on his back. He got totally soaked! The kids thought it was hilarious. In that moment, I remember thinking how lucky the kids are to have such a fun, carefree dad.

10. Master of the Obvious

A couple of years after we moved into our house, we needed a cable guy to come fix some problem we were having with the TV. When he walked into the living room, he gestured toward the TV and said, "Is that your TV?" We thought that was such a funny question--obviously it was our TV! Now, whenever one of us asks the other an obvious question, we reply sarcastically, "Is that your TV?"

11. Caretaker

After I broke my jaw, Jerry took a couple of weeks off work to take care of me. I was on so many medications that I couldn't do much other than lie around. And I was not an easy patient! I couldn't have solid foods, so he would make smoothies for me several times a day. He kept a chart of my medications and made sure I took them on time (even my meds had to be crushed up and mixed with water, because I couldn't get a single solid thing past my teeth!). I loved being taken care of--I'm usually the worrier and the one doing everything for others, so it was nice not to have to worry about anything at all.

12. Splitting Hostas

Just recently, Jerry and I tried splitting the hostas in our landscaping--something we'd never done before. I posted a video about it when it happened. That morning was the hardest I've ever laughed in my entire life. I'm not exaggerating. Both of us lost our breath several times from laughing.

13. Pissed Biscuits

Jerry went to the store to get some biscuits so that we could make a bubble-up casserole for dinner. I was very specific about what to buy, because he's notorious for coming home with the wrong thing. He didn't see them on the shelf, so he had to ask an employee. The brand that I'd told him to get was Kroger's "Pssst!" brand. That is the most awkward word to say! He asked, "Do you have any Pssst biscuits?" Only he pronounced it, "pissed", hahaha. Now we ask each other for the "pissed" biscuits.

14. Senior Photoshoot

We went to the Metropark one day to go for a walk, and Jerry had the idea to take photos that looked like the really corny senior pictures poses. It was hilarious! We were belly laughing the whole time, and we got some really fun pictures.

So, there you have it. Fourteen of my favorite memories with Jerry to celebrate 14 years of marriage :)  This photo below is one of my very favorite pictures of us!

August 14, 2017

My Wedding Weekend (The Blackout of 2003)

Recently, when I was going through a big box full of mementos, I came across some stuff from Jerry's and my wedding. I know I've written about this before, but I think about it every year on this day.

On the afternoon of Thursday, August 14, 2003, I was at home working on the centerpieces for the wedding reception. It was a nice day outside, so I was very surprised when the power went out. I didn't think much of it, though, because that tends to happen now and then, and it comes back in within 10 minutes.

Well, we waited all afternoon, and still, there was no power. Jerry called and said that he and Lance, his best man, picked up their tuxes; and then on the way home, the power went out. All of the traffic lights on their way home (about 40 minutes) were out. That's when we knew it was kind of a big deal. But I still had no idea just how big it was.

Eventually, we learned that it was actually a HUGE deal--50 million people had no power! If you lived in the northeast area of the United States, you likely didn't have electricity that weekend 14 years ago. I can't even imagine what NYC would have been like, or any of the major cities. I was just in little old Newport, Michigan, and it was a very big deal.

Blackout of 2003
I saved the newspapers from that Friday

I started to worry a little about the wedding. What was a wedding with no DJ, no food, no air conditioning in August, no lights in the chapel or reception hall... the list goes on. Our rehearsal was Thursday evening, the day that the power went out. The wedding party and my family went to the chapel, and it was so humid in there without air conditioning! We went through the rehearsal quickly, because everyone was ready to get out of there.

We were supposed to go to a nice restaurant for our rehearsal dinner, but since everything shut down, we had to come up with an alternative. My mom ended up inviting everyone to her house for hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill. We ate by candlelight and sat outside. I still wasn't that nervous about not having power, because I was so sure it would come back on Friday.

This is actually the only picture I have from the rehearsal dinner!
This is my childhood friend Lance, who was the best man in our wedding.

But it didn't.

Friday evening, I was really starting to panic. My caterer was trying to think of an alternate plan, and I don't even remember what the DJ said. I think everyone (especially me) was just hoping that the power would come back on. I cried before I went to sleep that night, thinking that it was going to be a disaster. Everyone tried convincing me that it would be a beautiful candlelit ceremony, and that it would make a great story to tell my grandkids one day.

On Saturday morning, the power came back on! I was thrilled. The wedding went smoothly, and the reception was fantastic. Jerry spent the entire evening on the dance floor, while I did the responsible thing and made my rounds to mingle with the guests ;)  That is definitely our opposite personalities at work!

Look at us--we were just children! hahaha

Our opposite personalities have actually been really perfect for our marriage. We balance each other out very well. And on Wednesday, we'll celebrate 14 (mostly great) years of marriage!

runs for cookies
Now we're old, but we still act like the children we were when we got married ;)

August 13, 2017

Restitution and an underwear score

I'm just going to write this as a catch-up post. I spent so much time last week working on my blog (updating and organizing) that I just didn't feel like writing the last couple of days! I'm really happy with the changes, though--it's something that I've been procrastinating doing for a long time. If you want to check out the changes, you can just look through the tabs above each post on my blog. I basically answered all of the questions that I get via email by linking to the posts where I had written in-depth about each topic. I wanted it to be easier to find everything on my blog.

Anyway, this week wasn't too eventful, but I will try and catch up without dragging on like I usually do ;)

I left off when I wrote about Noah going for a bike ride with the neighbor boy, and the boy crashed his bike. His handlebar punctured his abdomen, and Noah called 911. I had no idea just how bad the injury was going to be!

It turned out that the handlebar went all the way through his skin and muscle, into his abdominal cavity; and on top of that serious injury, he broke his elbow. He had to have surgery to repair his abdomen. The whole thing is just so crazy! I'm thankful that Noah's phone was charged and that he actually made the call to 911 instead of waiting for an adult to do it. The neighbor boy is doing great!

Jerry was off work on Monday, so we had a "family day" and went to Elizabeth Park for a picnic (and so that Eli could fish--he's obsessed). Jerry and I went to Elizabeth Park frequently when we were dating. There is a bridge there that we especially loved (they have since built a new one because the old one was falling apart, unfortunately); I later found out that my mom had her wedding photos taken on that bridge!

We usually take the kids there a couple of times a year. This week, we had a picnic--Noah wanted to bring his new grill and cook hot dogs for us. I love just lying on a blanket and people watching at the park. It was pretty overcast, too, which is my favorite kind of weather. It was brighter than it looks in this picture, but I was glad not to be roasting in the sun.

Elizabeth Park Wyandotte Michigan

There was a family of six down by the water, all of them with fishing poles. Eli went down to fish as soon as we got there, and literally the second he dropped his line in the water, he got a fish. He's taking after my dad so much! My dad is a master fisherman--he's been fishing since he was very young, and he knows the lake like the back of his hand. He doesn't use gadgets or coordinates when fishing; it's just become so ingrained in him that he knows exactly where to go and how to catch what he wants. When people want to catch fish, they go with my dad. Eli has been going out with him probably four times a week all summer! He said he wants to be a charter fisherman one day.

fishing from paddle boat
Noah and Eli fishing in front of my parents' house

Anyway, I was up on the hill, watching Eli and the family in front of us, and I was amazed--Eli caught 30 fish in the short time we were there, reeling them in one after the other. The family caught about eight out of all six of them fishing! I told Eli he has good karma, because he's compassionate. He loves to fish, but he takes great care when removing the hook and letting them go. He doesn't even kill gobies, which all the fishermen do. (They are considered an invasive species.)

At the park last week

Also last week...

The boys were outside playing catch and I was drinking tea while sitting on the deck watching them, when we saw a little black kitten playing behind our house. I told the boys to get in the house, we are not going to pet that cat(!) knowing that I'm a sucker when it comes to stray cats. But naturally, the kids called him over, and started playing with him. He was soooo skinny; and being the sucker that I am, I brought him some food. He wolfed it down, and was purring like crazy.

kitten playing with string

The kids asked if we could keep him, and I said absolutely not. I am not willing to take in another cat, especially not a kitten--a kitten is a 15- to 20-year commitment! We went in the house and I closed the blinds so the kids would stop looking to see if he was still out there. Of course, he was back in the morning for more food; and of course, I gave it to him.

I don't think he belongs to anyone. If he does, they are clearly not taking care of him. He's loaded with fleas, and he feels like skin and bones.

kitten playing with feather

Update: (I actually started writing this post several days ago, so the above part about the cat needs to be updated). Remember the little boy who came to my house asking for water when he was locked out of his house? Well, I am pretty sure the cat belongs to his family.

There was a little girl who came over when I was feeding Chip Matthews the stray kitten, and she said that "it" was hers. Only she didn't know if it was a boy or girl (he's a boy) and she didn't have a name--she just kept calling him "kitty". I told her that he needs to go to a vet, because he's covered in fleas and he needs to get vaccinated; I said he needs food, because he is starving; and I said he needs to go inside the house, because there are coyotes and foxes right across the street that would love to get a hold of him.

She was quick to lie and said that they were taking him to the vet "today or tomorrow". I had just opened a can of food, so I told her that he really needed to eat now, and she left. While he was eating, I went to the store and bought some flea treatment, and put that him; then, I combed him with a flea comb to get rid of as many as I could.

He looked much better after I did that. Even if he does belong to that family, at least now he won't have fleas for about six weeks! We haven't seen him around for three days now. I just hope he's okay.

Remember the time, about two years ago, that I posted about someone breaking into our garage and stealing some random odd things--my iPod nano out of my car; a weed wacker; a gas can full of gas; and a hammer. A couple of days later, I posted that we discovered who did it (a bunch of teens who were having a bonfire--they stole things from several people's garages, and they threw everything into their fire!).

We filed a police report, and they said we may get a restitution check in the mail. The teens were all 17-18 years old, and I believe they went to jail for it (a few of the houses had attached garages, so the breaking in was a felony, because it's considered part of the house).

Anyway, we never did get the check in the mail, but we never really expected anything to come of it anyways. Then on Friday, lo and behold, a restitution check was in our mailbox! Two years and three months after the break in, the check was for $150, paid to the court by one of the teens. I was surprised, but the timing was great--because we need to get some things for the boys before school starts (school supplies, new socks and underwear, and a few other things). Since we're doing so well on our budget, I just thought of this check as extra money that we could use for the kids' school needs.

Yesterday, I went out to buy Noah and Eli new socks and underwear (one of the few things I won't buy at Salvation Army, hahaha). I hate buying these things because they are SO expensive! Even the cheapest boxer briefs work out to about $3 each, and I hate the fabric of them--it gets stretched out and saggy. I spent forever trying to figure out what to buy.

Finally, I picked some that were slightly better quality than the ones I hate. They were $14 for 3 pairs; I picked up three packages. On my way to the register, I noticed an end cap that had several packages of underwear on clearance. There were 10 packages, and all were a size small--exactly what I was looking for (thankfully, that's easy to find because most men aren't a size small).

They were originally marked $18 for three pairs, and they were much better quality than the ones I'd put in the cart--made of a soft, moisture-wicking fabric. They were marked down to $9! I was thrilled, and I ended up putting back the others and putting five of the clearanced packages in my cart.

On the way to the checkout, I saw a price scanner, and decided to scan them just to see if they might have been discounted any more. They scanned at $4.50! I was shocked. (I even looked them up on Amazon, and they were $18.)

So, I went back and bought the rest. Yes, that's a lot of underwear--but the kids just now went up a size, so I imagine they will be this size for a while. It was too good of a deal to pass up. Little things like that totally make my day! ;)

Today, Jerry is off work, and we made plans to have a fun day with the boys. Eli wants to fish (of course) so we're going to another nearby park where he can fish in a river.

When I went through a big cleaning and organizing phase a couple of months ago (which I'm still maintaining, by the way!), I came across Eli's birthday cards from about three years ago. When I was going to put them away, a $20 bill and a Toys R Us gift card fell out! I checked the rest of the cards and found more money. Haha! We had apparently forgotten about it being in there, and Eli never noticed. So, we are going to Toys R Us today as well to let him spend his gift card (finally!).

August 09, 2017

A surprising journal entry by the 2007-Katie

I haven't been keeping up to date lately on the blog. Every time I sit to work on my blog, I've been updating all of the pages and organizing things, but I haven't been writing anything new!

A picture of Jerry and me from the weekend. We took the kids on a picnic.

I remembered to do Wednesday Weigh-In... on Wednesday. Finally! It's been a few weeks since I actually did one on time. Today's weigh in:

I think that's about the same as last week. It tends to blend together now, because it's been staying so steady between 131 and 134 for weeks now. I feel like I'm really on a roll with maintenance. I don't even think much about it anymore. I am in such a routine that I just eat out of habit each day and it never really occurs to me to think about food otherwise. It's been great!

Being on our budget has helped SO much, too. I buy groceries on Fridays, and we don't run to the store for things during the week like we used to. We also don't eat out anymore, which has saved us a fortune in money and calories. We also just don't have lots of snacks lying around, because everything is budgeted out. I haven't binged in months, but it would be difficult (because of the budget), even if I wanted to!

While I've been organizing my blog, I've been going through some of my old journal posts from "Open Diary"--where I blogged from 2000-2011. I occasionally post snippets here and there from my old blog (it's no longer online, but I have a hard copy). A few days ago, I was looking for my Wednesday Weigh-ins from 2006-2009, and I came across a post that shocked me.

It's a little long, but I just have to share it. The date was July 5, 2007...
As I've mentioned, I've been seeing a therapist and psychiatrist for my depression (it has gotten pretty bad lately). Today, the psychiatrist gave me a diagnosis that shocked me--she said that she believes I'm bipolar. Just the word "bipolar" scares me. It never really crossed my mind before, but now that I've thought about it, it really makes perfect sense. I'm embarrassed about it though, so I don't really plan on telling anyone.
I remember when I was a kid, my next-door neighbor (a mid-50s man) was bipolar (or, "manic depressive" as it was called back then), and that was all the whole neighborhood knew about him. That was the explanation for him being "weird" and his grass never being cut, and him hating kids, and everything else. Which is stupid, I know that now, but that's why this diagnosis embarrasses me I guess. Anyways, it's not like I've changed--I'm the same today as I was yesterday. It's weird what hearing one little word does to you. 
My husband was pretty relieved to have an answer to this too--now at least we know what's wrong and maybe with the meds it'll get better. I have to go back in 2 weeks to follow-up and see how the medication is working. 
One of the things about this that occurred to me was my "dieting mojo"--that's what I always call it here, for lack of a better word. I've tried to describe it, and how you either have the mojo or you don't, etc etc. But I realize now that I was actually talking about a 'manic' phase (which makes me feel kind of stupid now, because I assumed everyone had 'mojo' phases for months at a time, haha). 
I go through these periods for months at a time where I feel like I'm on top of the world, including when it comes to losing weight. This last time (in Nov) I joined Curves, started Weight Watchers, flew through the holidays with no problem, and losing weight seemed so easy. Then in April, I went into depression, and I lost my "mojo"--not only was I not able to stay on track dieting, but I didn't even really have the desire to. I just didn't care. I'm speaking in past tense, but that's actually how I feel right now. 
So hopefully, with the help of the medication (which is supposed to regulate my moods), I'll be able to get in the swing of things and not crash at the end. I've had these phases (for what I now know is bipolar) for years--ever since I was a kid. So much more of my life is starting to make sense."

Isn't that crazy?! I mentioned that I was diagnosed before, but I don't remember anything about it. Actually, I thought that the psychiatrist I saw was a man, so my memory is terrible. That's one of the reasons I love blogging--it helps me out when my memory just isn't working.

Anyway, it sounds like I accepted that diagnosis. I do remember why I stopped those meds rather quickly, and I really regret it now. But someone who is pretty close to me (I don't want to mention names, because I don't want them to feel bad) said some things about the diagnosis that made me feel invalid. The person convinced me that the diagnosis was wrong, and I let that get to me. So, I quit the mood stabilizer before it even had a chance to work, and I went back on antidepressants. And I forgot all about it!

That was TEN YEARS AGO. I can't help but wonder about what my life would have been like if I'd stuck with the medication. Things might have been completely different. I'm not going to dwell on it, but it's still hard not to wonder. I just thought it was interesting that I happened to come across that journal entry now, at this point in my life.

Things are going very well with my current medication. I have been having some issues with anxiety, but my depression hasn't even been a minor issue since I started the new meds. I talked with my psychiatrist about my anxiety, but I don't want to start another medication if I can help it, so I'm going to wait longer and try some things I learned in therapy to help.

Aside from the anxiety, my mood has been great. I've been nervous that it's only temporary, and I really hope not! I feel good :)

August 09, 2017

Run Your Best 5K (Training Plan)

Want to run your fastest 5K? Well, I've written this plan just for you ;)

Click here for the plan PDF

This training plan assumes that you:

   Have already built a solid aerobic base of easy running;
   Can currently run 4-5 times per week, about 45 minutes at a time;
   Are uninjured and have your doctor’s clearance to run per the schedule.

My intention with this plan was for a goal of running a 5K under 30 minutes; but I’ve included other goal times and paces as well, because this plan will work for people with just about any goal from 22:00 to 45:00. The pacing guidelines are on the plan itself.

This plan is designed with an 80/20 ratio of easy running (80% or more of the TIME spent running) to moderate or hard running (20% or less) per WEEK. This is the ideal ratio for reaching your maximum potential as a runner. I highly recommend the book "80/20 Running" by Matt Fitzgerald to explain why that ratio works. Here on this schedule, I’ve done all the math for you, so if you follow the plan as written, you’ll hit that ideal ratio.

I spent a lot of time working on this plan, so I hope that you enjoy it! I tried to keep it neat and organized, but still easy to understand, so please feel free to ask questions if you don’t understand something.

August 08, 2017

Lose Weight Eating Only the Foods You Love

I've been doing a ton of updating on my blog recently (reorganizing everything) and I've come across some old posts that I'd forgotten about. This one from December 2011 in particular struck me--I thought, "Wow, that's a good post--why have I not shared that more?". I started it by answering the frequently asked question, "How many calories did you eat to lose the weight?"; but it explained so well the point I always try to make when giving advice to someone who asks about how I lost the weight: you don't have to eat foods you hate in order to lose weight.

The biggest change I made when I was successful at finally dropping the excess 100+ pounds in 2009-2010 was that I didn't force myself to eat salads, yogurt, and grilled fish every day. I chose to eat the foods I love and just eat smaller portions. When I first started, I had no idea if it was going to work in the grand scheme of things; but now I know.

So, I thought I'd revive this old post from 2011 :) Hopefully it's useful!

Something that a lot of people ask me is how many calories I ate while I was losing weight. I don't like answering this concretely, because what worked for me may be (and probably will be) different from other people. So please keep that in mind!

I decreased the calories a little as I lost, but it ROUGHLY breaks down to this: when I first started, I was eating probably about 1800 calories per day (I was counting Weight Watchers Points, not calories, so I can't say for sure). Then I cut back a little at a time, and when I reached a "normal" BMI, I was probably eating 1400-1600 per day.

On days that I ran, I would usually eat more--if I ran 6 miles, for example, I would eat about half of the calories I burned on top of my daily calories. So burning 600 calories would allow me to eat 300 + my daily calorie intake. (In Weight Watchers terms, this equated to eating all of the Activity Points I earned, on top of my daily Points target.)

SparkPeople suggested that I eat 1200-1550 calories per day, and I tried that; but I was starving and bitchy, and it led to binges. So I experimented for a while with different amounts until I found an amount that allowed me to be satisfied and not feel like I was totally deprived, but still allowed me to lose weight. You just have to experiment to see what is right for you. I was not willing to live on 1200 calories per day forever, so I didn't do it then. That's not much food, and doesn't allow for any indulgences; nobody wants to live that way!

A mistake that I think a lot of people make is to try eating 1200 calories a day, realize that it totally sucks, and then they quit. Instead of quitting, try eating 1600 calories a day and see if you lose weight; or 1800, or 1500...etc. I learned that the all-or-nothing mentality is what made me fail so many times in the past. I followed the plan 100% or not at all--and I would always fail. Once I started to make my own "rules", I learned what I could live with and be happy with.

I feel the same way about Weight Watchers Points. A lot of people think that they shouldn't eat their weekly points or their activity points, in hopes of losing weight faster. But usually what happens is they feel so deprived that they quit instead of just using their extra points (I did that many times in the past!). I would suggest using all the Points you're allowed and see how it works; at least then you won't feel like you're starving. Even if Weight Watchers recommends that you eat 29 points per day, there is nothing wrong with trying 35 points a day at first and see if you lose weight. You can adjust as needed.

If there is one thing that I learned while losing weight this time around, it's that there isn't a single plan out there that works for everybody. We have to pick and choose from our plan what we are willing to do--not just what we can do to lose the weight, but what we are willing to do forever.

There is no way that I am willing to commit to working out for an hour six days a week for the rest of my life--so I chose a number that worked for me. I committed to 30 minutes, three days per week (occasionally I do more, when I'm training for a race, but I've only committed to three days). Three is do-able for me. Six is not. We don't have to answer to anybody but ourselves.

As far as calories go, and what I ate to lose weight... I didn't eat anything that I didn't want to. There are so many different foods out there to choose from that there is no reason that you should force yourself to eat celery sticks and broiled fish (unless you really enjoy those foods, of course!). Even people who have dietary restrictions for medical reasons can choose the foods they love that fit into their guidelines.

For example, I don't like salad; but I do like roasted cauliflower. So I ate what I enjoyed (the cauliflower) and skipped the salad. I was still getting healthy vegetables; but it was food I liked, and not what I felt I "should" be eating.

Something else that I did as part of my daily routine (and still do) is to eat a dessert every single day. Not just fruit, or sugar-free Jello or something like that. I picked an indulgent dessert for about 300 calories, and I set aside those calories at the beginning of the day to make room for them. I ate fairly healthy all day long, trying to get a good variety of foods--only things I enjoyed--and then at night, I would indulge in my dessert that I had planned out ahead of time.

That dessert gave me something to look forward to all day while staying on track. That dessert made it so much easier to say 'no' to tempting foods during the day when I knew I was going to have an awesome treat that night. We don't have to eat only health foods to lose weight. We can work some junk food into our diets. Chances are, if you're anything like the obese me, you're eating a lot of junk food now as it is; so planning on one dessert would actually be cutting back. It was cutting back for me, anyway! ;)

Finally, in order to be successful while counting calories, it's important to be honest with ourselves. I highly recommend measuring or weighing out portions (I prefer to weigh). I can't stress this enough. It's so easy to guesstimate the amount of oatmeal or cereal or something we're going to eat; but when we take the time to measure/weigh it out, we are getting the exact amount that we are counting the calories for. As much of a pain in the ass as it sounds, I actually weighed out, on a food scale, everything that I ate.

Some people, however, aren't willing to weigh/measure food--and that's fine! Remember, I said we should only make changes that we're willing to make. Just try to make your best guess and be honest with yourself. You might lose weight a little slower than if you weighed/measured your food, but you'll still be making a conscious effort to eat less calories, and the weight will come off.

Losing weight is a ton of work. If someone expects it to be easy, they're going to have a much harder time. It takes a lot of time and dedication to weigh out portions, plan meals, and keep track of calories. Most people are so disappointed to hear that THIS is how I lost the weight--by putting in a lot of work! But if you're willing to do the work, then you'll definitely see the results.

For the past year, I've been experimenting with "intuitive eating" or "mindful eating" or "normal eating" in order to not have to count calories forever. It's been extremely difficult, but I'm learning a lot about myself and why I eat. I still believe that counting calories is the best way to lose weight at first--for at least 6 months to a year--to get used to smaller portions, having accountability, having structure, getting into a routine, etc.

Ultimately, I would love to be able to eat intuitively and maintain my goal weight though! However, I've accepted that this may not happen, and I'm okay with that.

I hope this is helpful for anyone who is thinking about counting calories. The most important things to remember are: 1) Only eat foods you truly like; 2) You don't have to follow someone else's guidelines--make up your own plan that works for you; and 3) You'll probably have to do some experimenting to see what works and what you can stick with for the long haul--but don't quit!

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