April 29, 2018

My Plan to Get Back to My Goal Weight

... AGAIN.

Man, when I look over the last nine years of my weight graph, there are SO many ups and downs. It really does resemble a roller coaster. The first part is the biggest drop, followed by several smaller ones. Thankfully, I haven't even come close to gaining it all back.

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the gains and losses made a lot of sense. Usually, I'll have one or two hypomanic episodes a year and one or two depressive episodes a year (mostly, it's one and one). My weight has become pretty predictable based on my moods what episode I'm in.

Right now, I feel like I'm in a "mixed state" of bipolar--that is when you have both symptoms of mania and symptoms of depression going on at the same time. It's extremely frustrating, and if it continues, I might have to change up my meds. I see my psychiatrist in May, so we'll talk about it then.

Anyway, I really want to get my weight back down to my "happy" weight range (which is about 130-135). My "magic number" is 133. This morning, my weight was at 147.4, so I'm 14.4 pounds over my goal.

Each time I think I've finally hit a peak and I'm going to stop gaining or start losing again, and stop feeling depressed, it just doesn't happen. So, I'm going to try to make it happen by using the same things I've done before that have helped.

Here is my basic plan:


Count calories. Ugh, I have a love/hate relationship with counting anything. I am guaranteed to lose weight when I count, but it gets to be tedious. All last year, I didn't count a single calorie, and I did really well! I thought I'd be able to live that way forever. But once I started feeling depressed, it's like my body stopped helping me out by telling me when to eat and when not to.

I wrote a whole post about how I used calorie counting to get back to my goal weight, and that is basically what I'm going to do again. Instead of My Fitness Pal, I'm using the Fat Secret app. I like Fat Secret much better.

Like last time (2015), I'm not aiming for a particular calorie goal. I'm going to eat what I feel is a "reasonable" amount of the food that I want most and see what that works out to. Back then, over the course of 15 weeks, it averaged out to 1568 per day--some days I ate much more and some days I ate less. It just depended on what my body was telling me that day.

And like last time, I'm going to have a high-calorie day once a week (NOT a cheat day). I don't believe in "cheat days", because it makes it sound like you're doing something wrong. To me, a high-calorie day involves eating the same VOLUME of food, but choosing more calorically dense foods.

For example, I might order pizza for dinner, which is about 1,000 calories (as opposed to the usual 500 or so I'd eat normally). The volume of food I eat remains the same, but the calories are higher. On those days, I usually end up eating about 2,500 to 3,500 calories.

I feel my best and lose weight my best when I'm eating four times per day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bedtime treat. People always ask, "Don't you get hungry between meals?" and the short answer is yes. I do get hungry, but I'm not starving. And I think hunger is good! I want to feel hungry when it's time to eat a meal, because the food tastes so much better.

Binge Eating

As far as binge eating, I'm not sure that I've had a true "binge" in a long time. A very long time. I've certainly overeaten to the point where I'm very full, but I don't think the binge definition applied to those situations.

However, I've been revisiting the old Brain Over Binge mentality anyway, to avoid overeating. Brain Over Binge now has a free podcast that explains the whole concept. The podcasts are short, and I listen to 2-3 episodes over a period of 30-minute runs (I listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed). Of course, the book goes into more depth, and I highly recommend it. There is now a recovery guide to go along with it, which I haven't checked out yet--but I will probably buy one to see what it's all about.

In a nutshell: I'm going to be counting calories again, much in the same way that I did in 2015-2016. For all the details, you can check out this post: How I Calorie Counted My Way Back to Goal Weight.


Just like with my weight loss, my running (and exercise in general) has had plenty of ups and downs over the years. I have trained long and slow for marathons, I have trained hard and fast for a 10K PR, and I've done everything in-between. I've been injured and taken time off, I've been injured and stupidly NOT taken time off, I took almost a full year off of running just because I was burnt out on it. I've run for fun, and I've run to burn calories. Hell, I ran in a documentary!

I've even been known to run for cookies ;)

Currently, I'm at the point of running for fitness. Not to be in tip-top shape like I was after 10K training, but to stay healthy and mostly-fit as I approach my 40's(!).

For the last two weeks, I've been running for 30 minutes a day (Monday through Friday). That's IT. I don't even reach three miles in that amount of time! All but one of the runs has been on the treadmill, because when running for just 30 minutes, I honestly kind of like the treadmill. I put on a podcast (I'll share in another post what I've been listening to) and run at an easy 5.0-5.1 mph pace until I reach 30 minutes.

I am thoroughly enjoying this way of exercising right now. It all started with a conversation with my good childhood friend, Lance, when he came over a few weeks ago. He recently became a dad, and his schedule changed quite a bit.

When we were kids, his (affectionate) nickname was "Chubs" because he was, well, chubby. (Looking back, that was a terrible nickname--but because his friends were the ones saying it, and he laughed about it, we thought it was okay.)

As he got older, he slimmed out quite a bit--and he admitted it wasn't in a healthy way for a while. He wasn't diagnosed with an eating disorder, but from what he described, I believe he was anorexic. But now he is at a good weight for his height (still on the slim side, for sure, but in a healthy range). And yes, I got his permission to post about this.

While he was at his thinnest, I was at my heaviest-at-the-time in college:

So now, he eats healthy foods--not too much or too little, and he avoids sweets as much as possible by simply not buying them. I had the hardest time comprehending this--he has a huge sweet tooth just like me, and I never would have guessed that!

See? Two peas in a pod, eating frosting.

And as for exercise, he said that he goes to the gym before work (at 5:00 am!) to do 30 minutes of cardio--whatever he feels like doing that day. Maybe the treadmill, the elliptical, the bike, whatever. It's so very simple! I realized that as close as Lance and I were, we never really had a conversation about his story.

I love this picture from when we were two! We recreate it occasionally; the second photo was obviously from my wedding.

I was very inspired while listening to this (and asking him a trillion questions--"But HOW do you not buy sweets?!"). The simplicity of just eating without putting too much thought into everything and exercising 30 minutes Monday through Friday sounded really appealing to me. Jerry thought the same thing, so we started calling it "The Lance Diet", hahaha. He doesn't count calories, but I think I need to do it, at least for a while, until I re-learn what portions my body feels best with.


To stay accountable, I'd like to get back to posting my Wednesday Weigh-ins again. It was really discouraging, because the scale was just going up and up and I stopped weighing myself much at all. I would also like to keep up with my bullet journal as a tracker, because I find it so fun to work on! It's definitely more of a hobby than a chore for me, so the bullet journal will help. I'll share some of my pages here, if that interests anyone.

Some of the goals in my habit tracker are to work toward my 40 Goals Before I Turn 40 Years Old list.


I'm still trying to avoid drinking as much as possible, but I'm not at the point of quitting completely. Logically, I KNOW that it's best to quit--alcohol basically counteracts my mood stabilizer, which can send me into hypomania or depression very easily. Basically, anything that alters one's mood can do that--including caffeine!

The alcohol has been a challenge, because it's such a social thing. I have no problem when I'm just at home doing my usual things, but going out with friends or having friends over here makes me want to be like them and enjoy a few drinks. On Saturday, for example, I'm having a couple of friends and their families over for Cinco de Mayo, and of course I want to make margaritas!

So, my plan is to work on cutting back more and more, until I drink only on very special/rare occasions or even get to the point where I can quit completely.

Mental Health

Because my mental health plays a large role in my weight loss/gain/loss/gain, I am going to continue my journey toward being my happiest self. I want to do the things that make my happy, make the decisions that are best for ME (and my family), and not worry about what others think or have to say about it.

Ever since I had that breakthrough in therapy about a year ago, I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from me. I don't have to try to be someone I'm not, pretend to enjoy things that I don't, do things I don't want to do, etc., just to please other people. I am comfortable speaking my mind, even if it causes conflict.

This has greatly reduced my anxiety, which has reduced/eliminated my binge eating.


Finally, I want to blog more. I always feel good when I write, but lately, I just haven't felt like I've had much to write about. I included a suggestions form on my blog, which can be found here, so if there is something you want me to write about or a burning question you don't mind my answering on the blog, please feel free! I won't use your name.

Actually, I've done a ton of revamping on my blog recently; so, if you find yourself bored, you can always peruse the tabs at the top of the blog.

To sum it all up, my plan to get back to my goal weight is:

  • Count calories without a particular calorie goal in mind
  • Eat four times per day, what I consider a "modest" portion
  • Eat what I want most (listen to my body)
  • Run 30 minutes a day on the treadmill (aim for 5 times a week, but I'd settle for 3-4 times)
  • Stay accountable by posting weigh-ins again
  • Limiting/avoiding alcohol
  • Blog more frequently

And there you have it! Let's hope that sometime in the next 2-3 months, I'll see my goal weight again.

April 24, 2018

TUTORIAL: How to Draw Outlines in Your Bullet Journal

The last time I posted a photo of my bullet journal page that shows the map of the United States (where I color in the states that I've visited), I had several people ask me how to do it. I promised a tutorial, and since I was going to put it in a new book anyways, I took some photos to explain. It's very easy!

No, I didn't draw it freehand--I wish I was that good! I used the same technique that I used when I painted the sign for John and Ric's house. You basically just make your own carbon paper with a pencil...

First, print out a map outline of the United States. I used this one, and printed it at 100% size. You can adjust the size based on the size of your journal.

Then, turn it over and using a pencil, shade the entire back of the map, like this:

When you shade in the whole back, turn it back over so that the map is facing up. Carefully set it on your journal in the spot that you want the map outline.

I use a few tiny pieces of scotch tape to hold it in place (you don't have to do that, but it keeps the paper from shifting while you're outlining).

Once you have the map where you want it, use a ballpoint pen to trace the entire map.

I stupidly used a black pen over black printer ink, so you can't see very well what you've already traced--I would use a different color pen so you can be sure to trace the whole thing. I missed a few lines, which was annoying to have to fix later.

You want to press firmly with the pen, so you may want to place some paper under the journal page you're working on so it doesn't indent the pages underneath. You don't have to press super hard, though--it'll transfer pretty easily as long as you shaded in the back of the paper well.

Once you've traced the entire map with the pen, carefully remove the printed map, and you should see an outline from the graphite of the pencil. Then, just use your marker to trace over the graphite!

See? Super easy.

To answer some other questions about my bullet journal...

I'm not super into the bullet journaling stuff like some people are--people make AMAZING pages (just search Pinterest, and you'll be floored!). So, I don't have all the fancy tools that people use. My materials consist of: markers, colored pencils, a regular old #2 pencil, an eraser, a ruler, a stencil for circles (always hard to freehand), and White-Out (for all the mistakes! haha).

As for the specifics (Amazon affiliate links):

(And no, I have no idea how to pronounce the brands of the journal or the markers!)

April 23, 2018

My "40 Goals by 40 Years Old" List

As you all know by now, I love to make lists. Especially lists of goals! Having bipolar disorder, I make lots of goals and lots of lists when I am hypomanic, and then I rarely end up checking them all off. I still like to make them, though.

In 2009, I wrote a "30 by 30" list--30 goals to accomplish by the time I turned 30 years old. On that list, I included what was a seemingly impossible goal: to enter a 5K race and RUN it.

At the time, I hadn't even run a single step! I had barely started losing weight. But I threw that on there, because it sounded like it would make a good goal for a list like that. I never really expected to complete it, because bipolar.

Anyway, I told my friend Renee about the list, and she asked to see it. She saw my 5K goal, and then for my birthday, she gave me a card saying she wanted to help me with that goal (she's always been a runner) so to pick a race and she'd do it with me. I would have felt embarrassed to say no--it was on my list, after all--so we chose a race.

And thus began my journey into running. Runs for Cookies wouldn't exist if not for that 30x30 list, so it was a pretty good list!

Lately, I've been dealing with mild depression, and I decided to try to focus on things to take my mind off of it. I've also been working on things in my bullet journal, so I had the idea to create a 40 by 40 list and make a bullet journal structured entirely around it. My list, and then each goal will have a page devoted to accomplishing the goals.

I'm currently 36 years and 3 months old, so I have 3-3/4 years to accomplish these. (Seriously, when on earth did I get closer to 40 than 30?! I feel like I should still be 25.) I tried to keep these from being crazy ambitious (like traveling the world) because honestly, that's not going to happen in the next four years. I feel like this list is do-able.

There are some goals that are immediate, one-off things that can be accomplished in a day. There are some that need planning, and some that need money, so those won't be as easy. Then there are some that are cumulative, and will take close to 4 years to complete.

  1. Watch all of Tom Hanks' movies*
  2. Read 40 books**
  3. Pay off debt
  4. Visit the 48 contiguous United States***
  5. Read the Bible cover to cover
  6. Get back to goal weight (133)
  7. Go to a concert (I've never been to one!)
  8. Learn a new skill
  9. Watch Star Wars with Jerry****
  10. Handwrite a letter to each of 10 friends
  11. Write letters to Noah and Eli
  12. Watch a documentary to understand something I don't know much about
  13. See a movie at a drive-in movie theater
  14. Complete a saved project on Pinterest
  15. Have my dad teach me to change the oil in my car
  16. Knit something
  17. Crochet something
  18. Leave a very large tip for a server having a bad day
  19. Create a vision board
  20. Build a bat house
  21. Write Jerry a love letter
  22. Read a classic novel
  23. Cook a recipe with ingredients I've never heard of
  24. Make a time capsule with the family
  25. Go fruit picking
  26. Attend a murder mystery dinner
  27. Take a class of any sort
  28. Take each of the kids on a "date"--just the two of us
  29. Do an "Escape the Room" challenge
  30. Try Thai food
  31. Read a book out loud with the family
  32. Grow a vegetable or herb
  33. Learn about (and start) and investment account
  34. Go on a road trip
  35. Go camping
  36. Go to a state fair
  37. Develop one life-changing habit
  38. Commit to a 30-day challenge
  39. Travel abroad
  40. See an orca in its natural habitat

*Tom Hanks is my very favorite actor, and I've already seen lots of his movies. So for this goal, I'm going to start from scratch and watch all of them (some again) before I turn 40. I'll color these in as I watch them. (I cannot get my photos to come out clearly when I resize them, and I'm tired of trying--so I apologize that they are blurry)

**Reading 40 books doesn't sound like much for this time period, but I haven't even read 40 books in the last 10 years--so this is a challenge. I was going to fill in 40 titles, but I guarantee you I will change my mind at least 40 times in the next few years, so I will fill them in (and color them) as I read them. (I am currently reading Catcher in the Rye--might as well knock off "Read a classic novel"  from the list--but I haven't read Born to Run. I only put it on there because I am going to force myself to get through that book if it takes me 3-3/4 years to do it!)

***I am already counting the states I've been to--I don't have to visit them a second time. Again, coloring these in as I visit them. I included Alaska and Hawaii on here, just in case; but I don't really have the desire to go to Hawaii, and the expense would be too much just to check it off my list. Alaska is one place that I am dying to go, but it is unlikely in the next four years.

****Jerry is a HUGE Star Wars nerd, but I have never watched a single Star Wars movie. I am determined to make myself sit through one. Just for him.

April 19, 2018

The Pressure is Off!

Wow, I started writing this on Sunday, and just haven't had the time to finish it!

Despite the fact that I didn't run the half-marathon on Saturday like I'd planned (for 13 weeks!), I feel so good now that it's over. I had been putting SO much pressure on myself for months to be able to get back to the point of being able to run 13.1 miles.

Now that the race is done, I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. This training cycle (well, 10 weeks of it--my longest run was 11 miles) taught me quite a bit about my new mindset as I get back into running.

Because I hadn't run in almost a year before I started training for this race, I was basically a beginner again. And that was fun! However, there were also things that I didn't enjoy so much. I learned quite a bit about myself as a runner over the last 13 weeks:

1. I don't like long distances. "Long" is all relative, of course. I know the half-marathon distance is a popular race, but I just don't like those long runs. I have always loved the 10K distance, and from here on out, I think that will be my max distance. I'm not saying I'll never train for a half again (I've learned never to say never), but I certainly don't plan on it in the foreseeable future.

2. Training for a half is hard on my body. I have chronic pain in certain areas of my body, and running long distances flares it up.

3. I like to run at a super slow pace. I no longer mind seeing 11:00's and 12:00's in my mile splits, and I couldn't care less if I never see a PR again. I'm not embarrassed to share my running times, no matter what they may be. It's nice, not worrying about it!

4. I no longer have a desire to sign up for races. Races always sound like a fun idea, but then I feel so much pressure during training. I do it to myself, of course--but I simply can't help it. Then, the closer the race gets, the more anxiety I feel over the whole thing. And the night before the race is simply the worst! Stressing over what to wear, when to wake up, how much time to allow to drive and park, packet pick-up, etc.

5. I love the thought of running just for the health of it. My friend Lance was here last week, and he mentioned that he goes to the gym before work every day and does 30 minutes of cardio. That's it--very simple! I was thinking of trying it for a little bit--running for just 30 minutes a day at an easy pace and see what happens. The simplicity and the lack of pressure sound perfect to me!

6. Following a running schedule has it's positives and negatives. I like the schedule because I don't have to worry about distances and days per week--I just know when I have to do them based on the schedule. On the other hand, it causes the pressure that I hate so much. I find that I dread running more frequently when I am following a schedule. So, I think the simplicity of what I described above would be a nice compromise.

7. Running with Jerry is something that we finally have to bond over! Jerry and I have NOTHING in common--and that is not an exaggeration--so when we started running together for our long runs, it was nice to have something new to talk about and plan for. We had some great conversations during our long runs, which made them much more enjoyable. I'd like to continue to run with him occasionally, giving us something active to do together.

Overall, I'm so relieved that I don't feel the pressure of the race anymore. It has helped quite a bit with my mood, too! While I'm not back to "normal" (I'm still feeling the effects of depression and anxiety), I'm certainly starting to see things moving in the right direction.

Have a great weekend!

April 17, 2018

RECIPE: Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

I had a craving a few days ago for dried cranberries, so I converted my breakfast cookies recipe into Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Breakfast Bars--and they were delicious! I love the combination of cranberries and oranges. This makes an enormous batch (24 hearty bars), but they freeze really well. You can just pull one from the freezer and pop it in the microwave for about 10 seconds.

(Make sure you read the notes under the recipe regarding pan size/oven time.)

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Breakfast Bars


1 cup oat bran
2-3 navel oranges (enough for 3/4 cup fresh juice + 2 Tbsp. orange zest)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1-1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dates (or just use additional cranberries)


Preheat oven to 325 F. Grate the oranges until you have 2 Tbsp. orange zest. Squeeze the juice from the oranges until you have 3/4 cup fresh juice. Combine the oat bran and orange juice in a small bowl and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the applesauce, coconut oil, honey, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, and salt. In a separate bowl, sift the pastry flour, baking powder and baking soda together, then slowly add it to the mixer. Add the soaked oat bran, dry milk, oats, nuts, cranberries, and dates. Mix just to combine.

Line two 9x9 baking dishes with wax paper. Divide the batter between the two pans and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and the top is a light golden brown, approximately 30-40 minutes. (I baked one pan at a time in a countertop oven, and they took about 35 minutes each). 

Remove from the pan using the wax paper, and cut each batch into 12 rectangles. 


I have been using a countertop oven (like a toaster oven) for about nine months now, and I've learned I can bake just about anything in there that I would in my regular oven. I can't fit a 9x13 pan in the countertop oven, so I had to do these bars in two batches (using 9x9 pans). I think if you put it all in a 9x13 pan, the bars would be too thick. You could probably use a 9x13 AND a 9x9, for slightly thinner bars. Or for very flat bars, use two 9x13 pans. 

Alternatively, you could make these into cookies--dropping the batter by the tablespoon onto cookie trays and baking at 375 F for about 12-15 minutes. 

When making the bars, you want to bake at a lower temp (325) for a longer amount of time so that the center cooks through without burning the top. My first pan turned out a little too dark because I baked it at 375, so I made the temperature adjustment and it worked out well.

My point is, you may have to play around with the temperatures and times. Obviously, using a countertop oven is going to vary a little from a regular oven, as is a 9x13 pan versus a 9x9 pan. 

Hope you like them! My kids love these, which surprises me. 

April 14, 2018

My 2.5-mile Race Report (a.k.a. The Half That Didn't Happen)

Unfortunately, this isn't going to be the "I did it!" exciting race report I'd hoped. Just a forewarning.

As you can probably guess from my title, I did not run the half-marathon today. Thirteen weeks ago, I announced that I was going to run a comeback half, because I really felt ready to get back into running.

Training went really well for the first 10 weeks. I can honestly say that I enjoyed doing the long runs with Jerry. If not for him, it would have been a big struggle to get them done. We had a lot of fun together, and always felt so accomplished when we were done! (You can read my weekly reports here)

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm a bit of a mess right now. I am in a depressive episode of bipolar, and my anxiety has been acting up quite a bit as well. I've been stressed out and I feel a ton of pressure to turn things around, but I have such a hard time doing it. And the more time that passes, the more pressure I feel.

(Side note: Thank you SO MUCH, by the way, for all of the kind comments on my last post. I had full intentions of replying to each comment, but the irony is that I am lacking motivation to do anything right now. I hope to reply soon. But I really do appreciate all of the kindness. If not for you all, I don't know how I would get through things sometimes. You have been so helpful and so kind. Thank you.)

Anyway, I still planned to run today's half-marathon up until last night. The weather forecast had been looking bad for a while, but with Michigan weather, you never know until it's right on top of you. One day (yesterday) it can be sunny and 70, and the next day (today) it can be 35, pouring rain, with 20 mph winds.

This screen shot was two hours after the start of the race, so the weather wasn't even this good during the race itself.

When I signed up for this race, I had no intentions of setting a PR, or even hitting a certain time. I simply wanted to make running FUN again and enjoy it! My sister wanted someone to run this race with her, so I agreed that this would be my comeback race. Jerry signed up as well, and I could picture the three of us jogging the course, laughing, maybe taking some pictures, and just having fun.

As the weather forecast got worse (due to the midwest SNOW storm!) I started wondering how fun this was going to be. I had paid a lot of money for us to do the race (and the kids were signed up for the 5K), so I was pretty insistent that we were going to do it. My sister came into town yesterday, and as we talked about what to do, we looked at the forecast again and after a ton of deliberation, decided not to do the race.

It was a gamble. If it turned out to be a nice day, I was going to be bummed that we decided not to do it! When we got up this morning, though, I was very confident that we made the right decision. It's been raining all day, and not just drizzle, or scattered rain--it's raining pretty hard. There is a flood warning, and tonight we actually have a WINTER STORM WARNING... in April!

I know this sounds like a lot of excuses, and back in my running heyday, I would have rolled my eyes at the thought of a runner skipping a race due to weather. I ran a marathon when the heat index was over 100 degrees, for God's sake! But it wasn't fun. And since I want to have FUN running again, today's race would not have been the way to do that.

So, this is my long-winded way of explaining why I didn't do the race today. Instead, Jeanie (my sister) suggested that we do the "race" at the Rec center on the treadmills. I had to stop and think about what could possibly be worse--hypothermia while running outside? Or running for over two and a half hours on a treadmill?

However, I was somehow convinced that it might actually be enjoyable to have the three of us (Jeanie, Jerry, and me) running side by side at the gym. I figured that if I absolutely hated it, I could just quit early.

Last night, I downloaded a movie and a couple of TV shows to my iPad, as well as several podcast episodes that sounded interesting. The gym opened at 9:00 this morning. Jeanie was registered to run the 5K AND the half marathon (16.2 miles total), so she came over to my house to run 5K on my treadmill before we headed to the gym.

I read my race report of this race from 2013, and the breakfast I'd eaten that day looked SO good that I really wanted to eat it again today. So, I made it--oatmeal with strawberries and mini chocolate chips. (I was lucky that I had frozen strawberries on hand). (It was kind of eerie reading the race report--the same weather issues happened back then, too! The outcome was different, then, though.)

When we got to the Rec, I immediately didn't like the set up of the room or the treadmills themselves. At home, my treadmill has a nice holder for my iPad, so it's directly in my line of vision. The treadmills at the gym had a console that was very low, so I had to just set my iPad on that (which forced my head to look down while running, and that's not good running posture).

The room itself doesn't have any fans, and it's fairly small. I immediately worried about getting way too hot. The treadmill had a tiny little fan on it, but that is never enough (at home, I have a very strong floor fan that I use).

Side note:
Yesterday, I got another ear piercing--my tragus, which is that little nub in the front of your ear.

Eli wanted to get his ear lobes pierced, and I have been wanting to do my left tragus for a while; I was just waiting for the newer piercings in my right ear to heal first. So, after I picked him up from track practice yesterday, we had a mother-son bonding experience at the tattoo shop, hahahaha.

Anyway, the point of that is that I discovered I can't comfortably wear earbuds right now. Once my piercing heals, I think it'll be okay, but I didn't want to mess around with it too much and have my ear get inflamed. That was another bummer about running at the gym; at home, I can just turn the volume up loud and I don't need to wear earbuds.

I turned on a movie called Jungle, which was supposed to be pretty action packed and suspenseful--just what I needed for a 13.1 mile run on the treadmill! I had a hard time concentrating on it, though, because there were a bunch of high school guys on the machines behind me (I think it was a wrestling team or something). Their coach was yelling instructions for them to go faster, etc, and the room echoed his voice really loudly, so I couldn't hear my movie well.

I realized that I just wasn't having fun. And since my goal with getting back to running is making it fun, I wasn't accomplishing that at all. It seemed stupid for me to continue to run for 13.1 miles when I didn't enjoy it. So, I decided to run for 30 minutes for the cardio workout, and then I called it quits. I had been running at 5.0 mph, and only completed 2.5 miles total. Thankfully, we drove to the Rec center separately in case that happened, so I wished Jeanie and Jerry luck and then I headed home.

I felt like a failure, but again, my goal was to have fun. And that just wasn't happening. Jerry made it through 10 miles before his knee started bothering him and he quit. He was really disappointed, but I was super impressed with him for getting that far on a treadmill!

Jeanie simply blows my mind. She is a fucking ROCKSTAR when it comes to running on the 'mill! She did all 16.2 miles (as I knew she would--she regularly does her long runs on the treadmill).

Anyway, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On one hand, I know I made the right decision to skip the actual race (the rain + cold + wind would have been miserable). On the other hand, I am disappointed in myself for not getting in all 13.1 miles today as planned.

My goal was to have fun, so I failed at that--but most of that was out of my control. I'm sure if the weather had been nice and we ran the race together in Dearborn, I would have enjoyed it a lot! But the alternative option wasn't much better, so in that aspect, I feel like I made the right decision as well.

Where do I go from here? Well, I want to continue to run. What I don't want, though, is any pressure when it comes to running. I want to enjoy it! Just as last year was all about living my happiest life, I want to work on that again the best I can. I haven't figured out the details yet, but I'm thinking that I'd like to keep my running plan simple--maybe 30 minutes 4-5 times per week. I'd like to run at a very easy pace. It would be a great time to do heart rate training again (running at a low heart rate to improve my endurance). My most enjoyable runs are when I run at a low heart rate, so it would be a good solution.

The heart rate training was very helpful with my weight loss, too. So, maybe I can take off the 15 pounds that I've picked up, and actually enjoy myself while doing it. (Of course, it's going to take a dietary change to drop the weight, but the running does help me mentally as far as motivating me to eat better.)

Now that the race is over, I feel a giant sense of relief. I didn't finish it, obviously, but now it's not hanging over my head. Now I can return to focusing on what makes me happy. I've learned that I don't enjoy running more than about six miles at a time, so I'm thinking that I will stick with a 10K or shorter distance. I probably won't do any races (at least not in the foreseeable future). What sounds best to me right now is just no-pressure running for fitness and enjoyment (and feeling a sense of accomplishment, no matter what the distance or speed).

So, despite not finishing what I started 13 weeks ago, today wasn't a total bust. I learned what I want to get out of running, what I enjoy and don't enjoy, what makes me feel pressured and what makes me happy.

I hope I can use these discoveries to get back on the right track to physical (and mental!) wellness. Jerry is going to be starting his Insanity workouts on Monday, and the last time he did that, he got in the best shape of his life. It'd be nice to get back into shape with him, so I'm going to work on finding a FUN way to do so! :)

(Check out Jerry's pictures from when he did Insanity a few years ago. The picture on the left is at his goal weight, but on Day 1 of starting the Insanity workouts. The pic on the right is after completing the Insanity workout regimen. I believe his weight stayed the same, but you can clearly see that he built some serious definition in his muscles.)


April 11, 2018

The Big Fat Mess That Is My Life Right Now

I honestly don't even know where to begin. And at the same time, I really don't even know what to say.

I've been struggling in so many ways lately that I feel like I'm too far gone to fix it.

I mostly just feel very overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with all the things keeping me busy right now, of course; but also at all the things that I've dropped the ball on, and how badly I want to get back to the good place I was in last year.

Last year, I felt fantastic. After my bipolar diagnosis, I started the correct medication, and it worked wonders for me. I had a major breakthrough in therapy, which helped me to stop caring what other people think of me and to do what makes me happy.

And I was! I felt very happy, even though I had made some huge changes--like taking an indefinite hiatus from running, for example. My weight dropped down to my goal weight almost effortlessly, even without counting calories. I had quit drinking almost entirely, having a drink about once a month, which made me feel healthier. I was super productive with everything--my blog overhaul, getting my house cleaned and organized, and putting my life in order.

I'm not sure how/when/why it happened, but things have been changing over the last several months, and I feel like a big old mess right now.

I haven't been blogging much at all (other than the vacation posts I just did). Every time I think about writing, I feel anxious and stressed, so I just avoid it altogether. I've gotten very good at avoidance, which is only making me feel worse.

I haven't been doing a good job with the eating habits I'd developed last year, and I've fallen back into some of the old (bad) habits that will inevitably lead me to gain all the weight back if I don't take control over it. For example, I started drinking coffee with cream and sugar. I had completely given up coffee in 2011, and on the rare occasion I did have it, I would add a tiny bit of cream, but no sugar. Now, drinking coffee adds a couple hundred calories to my day!

My weight is inching very closely to 150--I went on vacation last week and gained 5 pounds, and hoped it would come off when I got home. Well, that didn't happen. A week later, and it's still there. At 148 pounds, I am now 15 pounds over my comfortable weight of 133.

I haven't run in two and a half weeks. At all. My last run was the 11-miler that I did with Jerry a few days before we went on vacation. I had hoped to get in a couple of runs while on vacation, but that didn't happen. Then I planned to get right back to it when we got home; but that didn't happen, either.

I have no excuses not to do it; I just keep putting it off for "one more day". The half-marathon that I was training for (and hadn't missed a single training run for, until after the 11-miler!) is on Saturday, and I have no idea if I'm even going to do it. Considering I was having IT band issues before the 11-miler, it probably wouldn't be smart to run a half-marathon after three weeks of not running. But I feel like I should do it--I paid for it and I worked very hard at it for 10 weeks.

I've been in a depressed episode of bipolar for a while now, and the worst part about it currently is that it's so physically tiring. I feel drained all the time, and a complete lack of motivation to do anything. I never sleep well when I have depression (even though I'm extremely tired, I basically just toss and turn for several hours and call that "sleep").

My boys have started their spring sports (Noah is playing baseball, and Eli is running track) and it has kept me very busy--which I think is a good thing, because otherwise, I might be even less productive than I already am. But it still adds stress to my days.

Something I mentioned on my last series of posts about vacation is that I am dealing with poor body image right now. And that is a very nice, sugar-coated way of saying that I am disgusted with how I look. It sounds so vain, I know, but I can't help but pick apart my flaws and focus on them.

A few days ago, I decided to curl my hair (something I never do) and wear make-up (a rarity these days) in the hopes that I would feel better about myself. We were going out to lunch with a group of people, so it was a good time to put effort into my appearance.

While I was getting ready, I told Jerry that it felt like "polishing a turd" (one of our favorite expressions)... it was almost embarrassing to think that doing my hair and make-up was going to make me look nice. I just don't feel pretty right now, and I can't help but focus on the negative. And then when nobody noticed (or at least didn't say anything) about my appearance, I felt extremely insecure. It was the same feeling I always had when I was obese--are people looking at me with my hair and make-up done and thinking "Why does she even bother?"

(And please, I am not asking for compliments!)

I am also feeling a ton of pressure from something going on in my personal life right now, and it's not helping at all. As someone with bipolar disorder, feeling pressured (about anything) is extremely stressful. It's like my brain is incapable of making a decision (even something as simple as what I want to eat) and that just adds to the pressure.

I realize this is an extremely negative post, and I hate that I can't write something more positive right now, but I know that many of you appreciate my candor and honesty. Hopefully, I'll be writing some positive (and still honest!) posts soon.

I've been thinking about what I can do to make myself feel better right now, and there are a few things I've considered...

I think I'd like to count calories again, at least until I get used to the routine of smaller portions at specific times of the day. Because my eating has been so off lately, I don't feel like my body recognizes correct portions anymore. So, calorie counting will help me to get back to that point.

Running. I think the pressure of the upcoming half-marathon is causing me so much stress that I have just been avoiding thinking about it altogether. I have a plan for what I'm going to do after the half-marathon--I haven't written about it yet, but in a nutshell, I'm planning to do heart rate training to not only build a base, but to get back into good cardio shape as well. It's the long runs that I really dislike while training, so I think I'll max out my running at a 10K distance. And for the foreseeable future, I'm going to be totally fine staying at the mid- to back-of-the-pack. No PR's!

Get back into my daily cleaning routine. I never feel good when my house is messy, and even though I've been doing the necessary tasks, I miss how clean the house was when I was at my peak of happiness.

Take the time every day to do something I enjoy. Lately, I've been so busy taking care of everything/everybody else that I haven't been doing the pastimes that I find therapeutic, in a way--sewing, my bullet journal, reading books, etc.

Look for patterns in my emotions/activities/behaviors to see if I can find what makes me feel my best. I started using an app called Nomie 2 that I think will be helpful to track these things.

Anyways, I am sure I am missing things I could add, but I am so tired right now--it's after midnight, and I have to get up at 6:00 to get the kids ready for school. Again, I apologize for such a downer of a post. I am sure I will regret posting so many personal feelings in the morning, but if it's how I'm feeling this very moment, I might as well document it and get it over with. (Actually, writing and posting this will probably help me to feel better--lighter, in a way).

I keep nodding off as I write this, so I am not even going to check for spelling or grammar. Hopefully it all makes sense!

To end on a positive note, Luke (my nephew) got his first haircut today... how cute is he?!

April 08, 2018

Family Vacation Photos, Part 5: Portland, Maine

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4...

To recap:

We had quite a whirlwind trip! I have a trillion pictures, so rather than bombard you all with them in one post, I'll just post over the next few days with them. Since I haven't felt like writing much lately anyways, this will be a good way to ease back into (trying to) write regularly.

In a nutshell: Jerry, the kids, and I flew into Boston on Wednesday, and spent three nights there; we drove to Salem and spent one night there; then made a road trip south and back north and then south again, winding up in Portland, Maine. We flew out of Boston on Tuesday and are home now.

I have a ton of pictures from the trip, so I'll try to narrow it down to my favorites. I have to say, I'm very self-conscious about posting these pictures. It could be the depression making me feel bad about myself, but I feel fat and "exposed" in them, if that makes sense. I almost didn't post most of these for that reason, but one thing that I regret about being 250+ pounds was that I avoided pictures like the plague.

So, even though I'm not thrilled with how my body looks right now (I was up to 143--10 pounds over my goal weight--when we left for the trip. Today, I was up another 5 pounds from vacation weight. I'm hoping to take that off over the next week, since vacation weight is usually temporary water fluctuations, but it still makes me feel bad.)

We arrived in Portland, Maine on Sunday evening. The hotel I chose ended up being really nice--the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Portland. When I checked in, I asked the woman at the front desk if she happened to have any rooms that faced the ocean--she ended up putting us on the top floor with an ocean view! It was awesome. The lights were glistening off the water, and I immediately fell in love with it.  

Since it was dark outside, we stayed in the hotel room and watched a movie before going to bed. In the morning, we got ready to get some breakfast and head out. Here was the daytime view from our room:

Several people on Instagram told me that we should try The Holy Donut for breakfast, so I made it a point to do that before our plans for the day. We walked a couple of blocks to The Holy Donut, and we each ordered a doughnut for breakfast. They looked amazing, and tasted even better!

I got the dark chocolate sea salt doughnut; the kids each got the dark chocolate glazed; and Jerry ordered the maple bacon. We all LOVED them. (Thank you for the suggestion that we go there, Friends!)

In the morning, we walked across the street to catch the mailboat run at 10:00. The mailboat run is part of Casco Bay Line ferries--it's literally a boat that brings mail to and from the islands around Portland. Here is a map of the route:

While we waited for the departure, we took some photos. This was Jerry's way of getting us all into a picture, haha:

I love this photo of the four of us on the boat:

Despite the cold, we stayed in the bow pretty much the whole time. The views were amazing!

Noah took this photo of Jerry and me. Jerry wanted to do a "Titanic-style" pose, but I made him settle for a kiss instead ;) It was actually snowing!

At one of the stops, Jerry, Eli, and I got off of the boat. When we were walking back, we noticed Noah on the bow taking pictures of us, haha.

The mailboat was the PERFECT way to see some amazing views around Portland. I loved that it wasn't at all touristy (other than my family, there were only two other people that I believe were tourists). There were about 20 people total on the boat, and they appeared to be locals who used the boat as transportation.

Eli had been dying to fish in the ocean for years. When we went to Virginia Beach a couple of years ago, we planned to let him fish then... but of course, he couldn't fish in a tropical storm! So, for this trip, I told him that we would do whatever it took to get him to fish in the ocean.

We didn't have room in our bags to be able to get a fishing pole there with us, so we had to rent or buy one in Portland. After making about a thousand phone calls, I still couldn't find a shop that would rent a pole, and I only found one shop that sold them! I was so surprised. So, we walked several blocks to a supply shop, and Eli found a pole (we bought it).

We walked all over the city looking for live bait, until Jerry found a commercial fisherman who told us that Portland is all about commercial fishing and it's nearly impossible to find recreational fishing supplies. He was so kind to give us a couple of herring for Eli to tear off pieces of meat for bait.

I took Eli to the pier across from our hotel, and he was able to set up his pole and fish. FINALLY, he was fishing in the ocean! After about 15 minutes, he pulled up... something. We had no idea what it was! It was a blob-looking thing, and it was moving inside. We had never seen anything like it! We were pretty fascinated by it, but he put it back in the water and kept fishing.

He didn't have any luck catching more than that blob, but he said he was really excited about catching that--even more so than a fish--because it was so unusual. I didn't care what he caught, as long as he was able to finally fish in the ocean!

For our "Maine" event (ha) we had decided that we were going to eat lobster for dinner our last night in Portland. None of us had ever had lobster! I read a ton of reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor to pick a restaurant, and we settle on DiMillo's on the Water.

It ended up being a fun experience, just to say we did it, but Jerry, Noah, and I agreed that it was overrated and we wouldn't order it again. Eli really liked it, but said next time, he would get "lazy man's lobster" so that he wouldn't have to mess with the shells ;)

I actually ordered a seafood scampi, which had lobster, shrimp, and scallops. I wasn't impressed with the dish at all, unfortunately. (The service wasn't great, either--bummer.) But I had fun helping Eli with getting the meat out of his lobster.

The bill for the meal was insane--I could have bought two weeks worth of groceries for that amount! But I kept reminding myself that we were paying for the experience, and not so much the meal itself. We couldn't leave Portland, Maine without a lobster dinner.

We walked back to the hotel, each of us agreeing that we wished we had more time to spend in Portland. It was SUCH an amazing city--probably my second favorite out of the cities I've visited (after Portland, Oregon, of course!). I would most definitely like to go back in the summertime.

On Tuesday morning, we drove back down to Boston (about two hours) and returned our car at the airport, then had lunch before the flight home. My older brother, Brian, picked us up from the airport and drove us home, which was awesome; and my younger brother, Nathan, brought Joey to us! It was so nice not to have to go out anywhere after we got home.

Joey was completely wiped out after a whole week at Lucky Puppy, his doggy daycare. He slept from the second he got home, and the entire next day. I'm sure he had a blast playing with all the other dogs for a week.

It feels good to be home, and now I'm working on getting back to a routine in the hope that it helps me out of this depression. I'll try to write again soon!

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