July 31, 2018

A Long Overdue Update on Our Get-Out-of-Debt Plan

It's been so long since I've really updated, I'll post a quick recap...

In June of 2017, Jerry and I had $14,500 of credit card debt. I honestly can't remember the last time we didn't have any debt! In retrospect, whenever I was going through a hypomanic episode, I would start random projects and spend a lot of money. (Very common for people with bipolar)

Once I was on my bipolar meds, I felt much more stable and I made a solid plan to pay off our debt and get our finances under control. Our income varies greatly from week to week and even month to month, and all of the traditional budgets I'd tried wouldn't work for us.

After looking around the internet, I found what was called a "Zero Sum Budget". I explained all of the details about it on that post, but here is the gist: We calculated exactly how much money we need each month to pay all of our bills + food + gas + medical + "extras"--and that is our "bare bones" budget. (We actually included our allowances in there, too.) That bare bones number is the exact amount we need in order to pay for all of those things.

So, we start each month with our "bare bones" amount--no more. We use that money to pay for all that we need during the month. Meanwhile, the money that we are earning through the month is accumulating to use for the following month's budget. Any money that we earn on TOP of the bare bones figure goes toward paying off the credit card debt.

Let's say that our bare bones budget is $3500, and we earn $4500. We set aside $3500 for the following month, and then we apply the extra $1000 to the debt. This post explains it better, with real figures.

Anyway, once I learned about this method, I thought it sounded perfect for us. I loved the idea of starting the month with all the money we'd need! I wouldn't have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck.

We (luckily) just so happened to start the budget right when we had an unusually high income month. It worked out perfectly because we had just enough money to start June with our bare bones budget. (When you're already in debt, it's hard to come up with a whole month's worth of money to start with).

The first thing I did was apply for a 0% interest credit card with no transfer fee. I was able to transfer our debt to the card and pay 0% interest for 18 months!

I also decided to take advantage of credit card rewards (it's at the bottom of this post)--this method isn't for everyone, because it can actually acquire a lot more debt if you're not disciplined. But it's the way we do things and it has worked out really well for us.

We started giving ourselves a monthly allowance (spending money for each Jerry, the kids, and me). Our allowance was for things that we wanted but that didn't fit into the budget. We can spend our allowance on anything we want, which makes it easier to stick with the budget. It has also made the kids learn to be wise with their money, since we aren't buying them things anymore (other than their needs, of course).

By having an allowance, we were no longer buying unnecessary items with our budgeted money. The budgeted money was ONLY for our bare bones stuff. Other things had to come from our allowances. (In the past, we didn't keep track of anything!)

Okay, so that was our basic debt repayment plan. In June 2017, looking at the number $14,500 made it seem impossible that we'd ever get it paid off.


As of this morning, we are now 100% credit debt-free!!!!

It took us 14 months to pay it off, and I am still in disbelief. I made the last payment this morning when my paycheck was deposited into the bank, and then I just sat back and waited for it to hit me. We don't have any credit card debt! The only things we owe money on now are the Jeep and the house. I never thought we'd get here.

I have to say, paying off this debt really wasn't painful. I didn't feel deprived, and I was much more thoughtful about how I wanted to spend my money (allowance). It would have been much harder if we didn't have an allowance to spend however we wanted. (Here is a post I wrote about the three things that had the biggest impact on saving our money)

There were several months where we went over our bare bones budget due to unexpected expenses that came up, but we kept it as minimal as possible. We never had a month where we spent more than we earned, though (i.e. accumulated more debt).

I definitely plan to continue to stick to our budget (which has basically become a way of life now). As you know, I love numbers, and doing the finances each month has been really fun for me! 🤓

Right now, I'm just in disbelief. What started out as a pipe dream just 14 months ago is now reality. WE DID IT!!!!

(Here is a list of the posts related to our debt pay-down)

July 30, 2018

8 Week Challenge: Week 1 Recap

Holy smokes! It's already been a week since I started doing my 8-week challenge. Some of this will probably be redundant, because I didn't know how often I'd be updating when I started doing this. (Also, I apologize that this is the longest post ever)

I'm following Hal Higdon's Novice 8K Training Plan, and my goal was to follow it right to the letter. I want to see if doing the cross training and strength training along with the running will help me not to just drop weight, but to feel better. Hopefully help my mood, and especially my back pain (which has been the worst it's ever been).

I chose this plan because it's not super difficult--especially after other plans I've done in the past (Hansons Marathon Method, training for my 10K PR, etc.). Because I've gotten so far behind on everything in general (gaining weight, losing 90% of my fitness, losing the ability to eat intuitively, emotions all over the place), I've been feeling really down about myself. I've lost my confidence and I've been dealing with major bipolar mood shifts.

Basically, I want to see if this plan will make me FEEL BETTER.

The plan starts on a Monday, and I started this on a Tuesday, so it was a little confusing until I just printed my own calendar (I shifted all the workouts over one day). Here was week one's plan:

Day 1: Stretch & strengthen
Day 2: 2-mile easy run
Day 3: 30 min cross training
Day 4: 2-mile easy run + stretch & strengthen
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: 30 min cross training
Day 7: 2-mile easy run

Day 1
I did the FitDeck BodyWeight cards (blindly choosing 8 exercises--2 from each of 4 categories--upper, lower, core, and full body). I'm sure nobody cares what exercises I did, but I'm going to list them here for future comparison purposes:
Pushups- 4 reps
Side Leg Lifts- 12 reps
Reverse Curls- 8 reps
Bear Crawl- 20 seconds
Belly Angels- 8 reps
Lunges- 6 reps (per leg)
Crunches- 10 reps
Squat Thrusts- 5 reps

Then I did 12 stretches with a 20 second hold for each stretch.

The workout doesn't look difficult, but for being as out of shape as I am, it was challenging! And I was sore the next day. However, I actually really enjoyed it. It was fun to do something different, and knowing it wasn't going to take me an hour or more to do it made me not dread it. In fact, I looked forward to the next session!

Day 2
I did a two-mile run, and was excited that Eli agreed to come with me! It was super hot outside, and I think that was a bit much for him. But he immediately went faster than I wanted to, and I didn't even want to try to catch up. But I pushed my pace a little to not fall super far behind.

The second mile, though, he was really struggling. He said that his back was hurting (I hope to God he doesn't have back issues like me), so he did a run/walk to finish. I just did a steady run, but tried to stay fairly close to him. We finished two miles, and we were both sweaty beasts afterward.

I forgot about this app (below) for running, and I like it so much better than Garmin Connect. The different colors on the route represent your pace (the key is in the top left corner). It also shows your fastest mile (not just "mile one", "mile two", etc... but on this one, for instance, our fast mile started at 4:04 (minutes into the run); and 0.36 miles. The time for that mile was 11:15. (It's between the purple markers)

You can see where all the brown is on the route, and that's where Eli was struggling.

It's totally nerdy, I know, but I love it! (ETA: Oops, I forgot to mention the name of the app. It's called Connect Stats, and it pulls the info right from Garmin Connect. I got the app a long time ago, so I don't know how available it is!)

Day 3
I was really glad that Higdon's plan doesn't require cross training to be very intense. He considers it a recovery workout, so it should be something easy--even walking! And that's what I chose to do. I took Joey for a walk to my parents house and let him play in the lake, and then walked home. I think it was about 35 minutes of walking time.

Day 4
This is where I got confused, and thought it was a rest day. So, I just took Day 4 as my rest day and then did the workout on Day 5 instead.

Day 5
This was a 2-mile easy run AND stretch and strengthen. I was kind of dreading this run for some reason, so to make it fun, I took Eli and his friend to the park to fish while I ran the perimeter (with Joey). I already explained this on the last post, so I won't get into it again.

But here is my nerdy run path anyway. Because Joey was WAY too excited to be in a new place with tons of people around, our fastest mile was from the very second I hit "start" on my Garmin (that's where all the light blue is). Between the running and the pulling on the leash (I was wearing the hand's free leash, but it has elastic, and I was literally afraid he'd break it because he was pulling so hard). He calmed down once we got past all the people, but he was still wanting to go faster than I'd have liked. He was thrilled to cool off in the pond when we were done.

As soon as I got home, I did the stretch and strengthen part of the workout. I did the same thing that I did on Day 1, only I used cards I hadn't used yet.

Again, for future comparison:
Staggered Push-Ups- 8 reps (4 of each)
Tripod Hold- 20 seconds per side
Calf raises- 10 per leg
Squats- 10 reps
Oblique Bridge- 20 seconds per side
Flutter kicks- 16 (8 per leg)
Half-Jumping Jacks- 30 reps
Crab Crawl- 20 seconds (holy cow, this was killer on my triceps!)

And then I did the 12 stretches for 20 seconds each.

Day 6
This was 30 minutes of cross training. I already knew that I wanted to ride my bike, and I planned to do it in the evening when it cooled off. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner (Jerry has been on a solo-vacation for a few days--a 1200 mile road trip!--so it's just been the kids and me for dinner), and I had a fun idea. I asked the kids if they'd want to ride their bikes with me to Subway, where we could eat and then ride home. They were super excited about it!

I was nervous about them riding on the busy roads, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to teach them the rules of the roads and right-of-ways and all that. It was a little stressful at a couple of spots, but most of the time, it went well. I had forgotten that it was about 5.5 miles to Subway, so it was 11 miles round trip. I think that's the farthest the kids had ever ridden before!

At Subway, I planned to get a 6" Spicy Italian sub (my favorite!). The woman working there said that it was $4.70, and a footlong was $5--so I should get the foot long. Ugh! I knew that the 6" would be plenty of food, but I was swayed by the ridiculous price difference. I think that the 6" subs should be half the price of the footlong ones! (Yes, I could have taken half of it home, but I'm weird about that--it was toasted, and it had Italian dressing on it, so it would have been cold and soggy later.)

So we each got a footlong sub. I ate about 3/4 of mine. But it was one of the best that I'd ever had--she really stuffed the veggies in there! I get it with everything except for tomatoes and spinach. And always extra banana peppers!

The ride home was faster, because we had a bit of a tailwind. The kids LOVED riding our bikes there to eat, and they asked if, next time, we could ride our bikes to the ice cream shop ;)

Day 7
Today's workout was just a 2-mile run. I spent the whole morning and into the afternoon working on a drawing. (On my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list, I included "learn a new skill". On a whim, a bought a book about learning to draw, so I worked on that today. I was pretty impressed with my drawing when I was done! But I'll share that tomorrow. This post is long enough already.)

After I finished the drawing, I was surprised at how much time had past. So, I decided to get my running clothes on and head out before I could even procrastinate. I just did a very simple out and back. I listened to a new podcast, and actually didn't even think about my pace at ALL. It wasn't until I stopped my Garmin that I saw my pace was faster than I expected.

My fastest mile started right at the turnaround point. I was probably subconsciously trying to get home sooner ;)

Whew! That was a lot of recap! As far as my diet goes, I haven't been doing great. My plan was to count calories, but I am still having a really hard time transitioning back to doing that. My emotions are still out of whack, and emotional eating gets the best of me sometimes. If I can cut back on the emotional eating this week, hopefully I'll see some good progress next week and I'll post a weigh-in.

For now, I'm just going to keep trying! But in the meantime, I'm still following the Higdon plan. Seven weeks to go!

July 28, 2018

Week 1, Day 5

I'm not really sure what to title these posts! I'd like to update on how things are going with the 8-week challenge pretty frequently, so I think the time reference is helpful, but you would think I'd come up with something a little more creative ;)

As I mentioned, yesterday turned into a rest day, and I moved the workout to today (I'll write about that below, but first...) yesterday, Eli finally decided he wanted a hair cut. In December of last year, he really wanted to dye his hair blue, so I took him to the salon as part of a Christmas present, where he got a cool hair cut and hair that was the bluest you could imagine.

Since then, the blue color faded until it was gone, so it was just bleach-blonde. He didn't want to cut it until his roots were long enough to cut all of the blonde off. It was looking very unkempt and he wore a hat on it every day while it grew out.

Well, it grew and it grew and it grew.

And it was finally long enough to cut the blonde off and still have hair long enough to style. So, I took him to a fun, trendy salon that is just for men--the decor is a little edgy, which is Eli's style, and they have TV's everywhere with sports and other guy stuff playing, they have a cooler full of free beer (and pop) and it's basically just targeted toward men. I figured they would give him a good haircut that he'd like.

I was suuuuper nervous, though, because Eli is clearly very into his hair, and he would be very upset if the cut was too short. The stylist took a long time with him, which I appreciated, and it ended up looking awesome! Eli is THRILLED with it (whew!) and now he looks about 16 years old, haha. (He's 12). Speaking of, he's only half an inch shorter than I am now!

I'm so glad that he likes it! I think it looks awesome.

Anyway, today was another good day with my 8-week challenge. I woke up wishing that I had just done the workout yesterday as it was originally scheduled, because I really didn't want to do it today. But after lunch, I had the idea to take Eli to a park that has a two-mile path around the perimeter, and a large pond in the center. I figured Eli could fish while I ran (he's always asking me to take him somewhere to go fishing).

Noah had no interest in going, but Joey looked so sad that we were going somewhere without him--so naturally, I brought him along. And we picked up Eli's friend so they could fish together. When we got there, the boys rushed over to the pond; I hadn't even gotten Joey leashed before Eli yelled that he caught a bluegill!

I hooked Joey to the hands-free leash, and immediately regretted bringing him with me. It was a park we rarely go to, and there were tons of people there today (someone was having a reunion). Joey was naturally super excited, and pulled in every direction so hard I thought my spine would snap. We were going so much faster than I would have liked, and the first mile was very rough.

Taking a selfie mid-run is difficult enough, but trying to get Joey in it, too? I'm surprised this turned out as clear as it did! Too bad Joey's head wasn't in it. 

Finally, though, we were out past all the people, so there wasn't much excitement for him, and he calmed down. He was still going kind of fast and pulling me along, but I just wanted it over with at that point. When we got back to the pond (we'd done two miles at a 10:56 average pace), I unleashed him so he could run in. He played and cooled off in the water, and then we sat in the shade and watched the boys fish.

When I got home, I did the "Stretch & Strengthen" part of today's workout. I used the FitDeck cards again, and drew two from each pile (I removed the ones I'd already used). Again, I was surprised at how much harder the exercises were than they looked! I'm interested to see if they start to feel easier as I progress.

Tomorrow is a cross training day, which I'm actually really looking forward to! I will probably go on a bike ride with the kids tomorrow evening. They've grown so much this year that Jerry and I decided to buy them new (bigger) bikes. Noah's birthday was a couple of weeks ago, so that was his gift; and we told Eli that we'd get him a bike for his birthday present as well, but we figured he'd prefer to have it now rather than in January ;)

So, they've been loving their new bikes, which has made Jerry and I want to ride ours more. We don't have a bike rack for the car (yet), so we're stuck riding them around here for now; but hopefully soon we'll be able to take them to the Metroparks together!

July 27, 2018

An update (Days 1-4)

Despite some confusion, things are going pretty well as far as what I wrote about in my last post (an 8-week "experiment") of diet and exercise.

I started the experiment on Tuesday (I'm going to call it a "challenge", because that makes more sense, but I tend not to do well with challenges. I'm thinking of this as an experiment instead!). I didn't realize how much it would confuse me to start on a Tuesday!

The 8K plan that I'm following (by Hal Higdon) starts on a Monday. Rather than skip six days to start on Monday, or to just skip Monday's workout, I decided to just shift everything over by one day. The plan would be exactly the same as written, except Monday's workout would be on Tuesday, and Tuesday's on Wednesday... etc. Simple!

Except when I read the plan the first time, I noticed that I would have Fridays as rest days (no runs, no cross training, and no strength training). After shifting everything over, that would make my rest day on a Saturday instead.

ANYWAY, all of that is to say that I thought today was a rest day and I, well, rested. I was scheduled to do a two-mile run and strength training, and then tomorrow is my rest day. So, I'm just going to do the workout tomorrow instead. I wanted to follow the plan right to the letter, but it would figure that I would mess that up on Day 4! hahaha.

Other than that, though, I've stuck with my plan. The first day, I was supposed to "Stretch and Strengthen" according to Higdon's plan. He wrote that the strength training can be very mild body weight exercises, and it reminded me of some body weight strength training cards that I have.

It's a deck of cards with four different categories: upper body, lower body, core, and full body. On each card, there is a strength training exercise that corresponds to the categories. There are reps for beginners, intermediate, and advanced--I'm starting with beginner, of course (it just means lower repetitions).

There is an instruction card that explains several different ways of using the deck, but I just made up my own little rule: pick two cards from each category (blindly, after sorting them into four piles and shuffling them). I did the minimum reps for each one (the "beginner" number).

These are the eight cards I drew:

The cards are nice because they show illustrations of the exercise as well as written instructions (I do better with written instructions, I always have). I was actually pretty impressed with the cards. I bought them YEARS ago and never used them, haha. Story of my bipolar life 😂

It was harder than I expected! But it wasn't so bad that I was dreading doing it again. I actually found it pretty fun. I knew the whole routine would take about 10 minutes, so it didn't bother me--and since it was new, it felt kind of fresh and exciting.

There is also a card for stretching--it has several stretches on the front and back of the card. So, I just followed those for the stretching part, and called it a day.

(Here is an Amazon link to the deck of cards that I have--they are called FitDeck BodyWeight cards.)

Day two (Wednesday) called for a two mile run. I was getting ready to head outside when I asked Eli if he'd want to go with me, and he actually agreed! I had been planning to go super slow, like 13:00-ish pace, but Eli clearly wasn't having it. When I asked him to go with me, I meant run next to me! Haha, he had different plans. I spent most of the run trying to keep him from getting too far ahead of me.

The run felt hard. And that was at an 11:24/mile pace. Like I said, I don't care what my pace is, but it's rough to see how hard that pace felt!

Yesterday was cross training for 30 minutes. When I hear "cross training", I always think of very hard cardio. But according to Higdon's plan, it can be very easy exercise, basically one step up from total rest. It includes walking, so I decided to take Joey for a walk. We went for about 45 minutes, and I stopped to let him play in the lake.

I'm surprised at how sore I was from the strength training for the last couple of days! But it made me feel like I actually did something good for my body. So, today was a rest day (unintentionally) and tomorrow will be the planned two-mile run and strength training.

I really feel like this is a plan I can DO. My confidence is already getting a little better--I don't feel completely hopeless anymore. My diet has been good, too. Just following what I did before.

So anyway, there's the update on the last few days. I may post a weigh-in on Wednesday, if I'm feeling brave. I always hate posting them when my weight is this far over my goal, but I know that some people appreciate the transparency.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

July 24, 2018

Day 1 (A fresh start, old-school style)

I'm sure I sound like a broken record by now, but I just can't seem to get out of this funk I've been in for a while. Most recently, it's more anxiety than it is depression. I constantly feel like I've messed something up (but I can't come up with anything specific), and like I'm a bad person in general (something that has caused me anxiety for my entire life, even though logically, I know that I don't have any reason to feel this way).

The worst part is that I've been feeling like I'm "too far gone" to get my life back on track. Again--logically, I know that's not true, but it feels like I'm back at the beginning of my whole weight loss journey. I keep telling myself, "Tomorrow, I'll really get my shit together", just like I used to.

The thing is, I know how to make myself feel better--I need to run regularly and eat in the way my body best responds to. I think those two things would make a world of difference in my anxiety. I miss the way I used to feel when running regularly! Each time I run, though, it just feels so hard. I guess I took for granted the endurance I'd built up for years. I miss it now that I've lost it!

For the past couple of days, I've been cleaning like crazy. Maybe I'm getting hypomanic from my recent medication change (which would also explain the heightened anxiety), but I don't want to give up on it yet. My psychiatrist said to give it about three weeks and then we'll reevaluate.

Anyway, while I was cleaning, I found my old-school running journal and weight log. I used to do everything with paper and pen (my running log, my weigh-ins, and my food journals). It was really cool to look through them today (particularly my running log). There is something that is much more satisfying about flipping through pages in a notebook than looking at a digital log in a phone app.

For my weight log, I just used one of those tiny 2-3 year planners that are a dime a dozen at just about any store. Then, I would write my weight in it each morning.

I don't always weigh every day, especially when I'm not doing so well with diet/exercise (like recently), but this was when I was training for my 10K, and being very consistent with calorie counting and exercise (the "HCD" just means "high calorie day"--I wish I'd marked that down every week, but I always forgot to):

My running log started on March 12, 2010: I ran 5 minutes. I remember being completely stunned that I was able to run for five full minutes (a few previous attempts were 30 seconds to a couple of minutes). My younger brother told me that if I run really slowly, I would be able to go farther. On March 23, I ran 1.54 miles (at a 13:43 pace--although, I had no idea what pace really meant, or what was fast/slow at the time).

Seeing those numbers in my log really made me want to do it all over again--to start from the beginning. And to write down my runs in a regular old notebook. I couldn't care less what my pace is, and if it's 13:-something per mile, so be it! I am just seeking that sense of accomplishment, of actually being proactive in making some good changes in my health and happiness.

Yesterday, I bought a couple of notebooks to track again just like I used to:

The one on the left is a three-year calendar for my weigh-ins, and the one on the right is for my running/food log. For some reason, having the new notebooks, clean of all of my past ups and downs, makes me excited to do this!

Today, I finally faced the scale and I took my measurements and body fat percentage. I am not ready to post it here yet, but hopefully when I start seeing some progress I will.

I think the first real training plan that I followed was Hal Higdon's novice 15K plan, and I thought it would be a nice nostalgia to follow one of his plans again. Instead of doing the 15K plan, though, I'm going to start with the 8K plan (5 miles). It has three days a week of running, two of cross training, and two strength training sessions. Back then, I didn't do the cross training or the strength training; but now, I think I'd like to ride my bike on the cross training days and do some light strength training.

My back has been causing me SO much pain lately, and it makes me wonder if the running had helped control the pain. I'm sure my core strength was much better when I was running, and maybe that was helping. (I have all sorts of problems with my thoracic spine, including a herniated disc.) However, the pain has been flaring up when I run (as of recently), so I could be wrong.

Regardless, I'm sure my core could benefit from some strength training, and I'm willing to try anything to help this pain! It was so bad today after cleaning that I just sat and cried.

The 8K training plan is 8 weeks long, and I'd like to use it as an experiment; when I make plans to experiment with something, I am much more likely to follow through, because if I don't, then it screws up the results of the "experiment". Since I'm genuinely curious about how the running + cross training + strength training may help with my mood, my back pain, and maybe even weight loss, I'm actually looking forward to starting it.

I know I've said this several times recently, as well, but I'm going to make an honest attempt at calorie counting again. I was doing so well with intuitive eating, but intuitive eating while having bipolar disorder is very difficult! My mood plays a big role in my appetite (not true hunger, but appetite). Calorie counting never fails me, so my goal is to do that (the same way I did in 2015-2016).

While I like using Fat Secret to log my calories (it makes it easy to look up the calories in foods without packages), I am also going to log my food with a notebook. Again, I love being able to flip through pages when looking for something rather than search digitally. I think that the newness of tracking that way will be refreshing.

I keep telling myself that if Jerry did nine weeks of Insanity without missing a single day, I can certainly manage a simple diet and exercise plan. ;)

Something else I used to do to give me a boost of motivation was to try on a particular pair of jeans (one size too small) every week until they would fit. And then I would choose the next size down, and continue to do that. I haven't bought any bigger jeans recently, but I can only fit into about four pairs of my current ones, so I'm going to find a pair that is slightly too small and work on that for now.

And in the true spirit of a fresh start, I'll probably have Jerry take a couple of "before" photos as well. It'll be interesting to see the difference (if any!) eight weeks from now! (September 18)  I've been thinking of getting an industrial piercing in my ear, and I may plan to use that as a reward for making it through eight weeks... I guess we'll see :)

July 18, 2018

A guest post update from Sarah, who'd lost 101 pounds

You may remember several years ago, when I did my 100th Motivational Monday post--it was a short Q&A with 20 different people who had lost 100+ pounds! Well, it's been a few years now, and I wanted to check in and see how things were going for them.

One of them was Sarah:

Sarah's weight loss transformation

(You can read her original Q&A here)

Sarah has a great update to share! So here it is, in her own words...

Three years ago, when Katie sent out a request for folks to share their stories if you had lost 100+ pounds, I had just hit that mark of losing 100 pounds. I was living in Kenya with my husband and two young children.

After the birth of our second child in Nairobi (just a year prior), something just "snapped" within me and I desired to get healthy. I'd realized that the "snapped" feeling was that I was finally feeling safe and loved. Not like anything was ever not safe or that I wasn't loved--but that I was finally able to breathe and had the space to work on me.

I felt like I could be me. I worked with a long-time friend who is a nutritionist and personal trainer and she taught me to how eat well and work out. I am forever grateful for Stephanie and how she worked with me (virtually) for a year. When I got to see her for the first time since returning from Kenya (131 pounds lighter)--it was all tears.

Sarah and Stephanie

The past three years have been full of adventure and increased learning while maintaining my weight loss. We made the decision to leave Kenya after many years there, and while stateside we got pregnant with our third child.

During that time, I stayed active and maintained a healthy weight during my pregnancy. It was the best pregnancy, and I thoroughly enjoyed "looking pregnant"--unlike my other two. It was nice to sport a cute "baby bump"!

Sarah while pregnant

Nine weeks after my daughter was born, we moved our family to Southeast Asia. Even with another new adventure and transition, this healthy lifestyle had already been deeply rooted in me and there was nothing to change it. It's in my bones now.

After only seven months in Southeast Asia, we moved back to the States. We have been here for a year now and are enjoying our community and life here very much. Life is just sweet.

The process of becoming healthy has been liberating for me.  In some ways, I feel like I truly came alive for the first time three years ago.

I've learned that eating well is a lifestyle. Some days, you just need something sweet. And some days, your body is craving more veggies. I've learned to listen to my body. Give it good stuff.

I adore cooking. I could spend a great portion of my day researching recipes and tweaking them to make them healthy and cooking.

For the past three years, I've been learning what I love to do for exercise and staying active. I do love a good sweat from a run, but I enjoy weights and strength exercises so much more. There's a thrill from being able to lift heavy.

Above all this, what makes my heart happy is being able to play and be active with my family. Run with my kids. Go bike riding. Rock climb. Not be scared to go jump with them on the trampoline for fear that it might break. Go down waterslides without worrying what the weight limit might be.

Sarah rock climbing

So many of those types of worries, sadnesses, and fears are removed.

I'm not sure what the next three years will hold. I have so much loose skin from weight loss. I keep wondering if I should have it removed or just live with it, like a "badge of honor" of sorts.

Ideas of how can I challenge myself? Any goals I want to have before I turn 40? Those things I am thinking through. But, really, I'm just enjoying right now and the fact that all this is a gift from God--it's just been such a sweet gift.

Sarah and her husband

July 16, 2018

How Valid is YOUR Stress?

I came across a really good documentary series last night called My Last Days (on The CW channel). It's about people who have terminal illnesses, and how they want to make the most of their remaining time in life. I only watched the first episode of the second season, but it was so heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. (I'll include some links at the end of this post--you can watch the whole thing on their website)

It made me think of a comment someone left on my last post. Normally, when I get not-so-nice comments on my blog, I just ignore them and don't think about them again. (I've come a LONG way with that--I used to spend days losing sleep and feeling horrible about myself from a stupid blog comment! In therapy last year, I finally had an "aha!" moment, and ever since then, the comments don't bother me at all. I would certainly never draw attention to them, as I'm about to...)

Anyway, so here is what the comment said: "If the biggest stressor in your life right now is your weight, you really need to get a job or go do some volunteer work and stop focusing on yourself so much. I am sure just feeling like you are contributing to the world would make a world a difference.
I would give anything for the biggest stressor in my life to be 30ish pounds overweight."

My first thought was, "Well, I'm *actually* only 10-15 pounds overweight, but okay." BAHAHA!

The comment is right, of course--I have so much good in my life, I have no reason to stress over things as stupid as weight, and all of that. Yeah, I know that.

BUT--if everyone thought that way, then there would only be one person on this planet who could say, "Well, you don't have it as bad as I do, so you have no reason to worry about anything." There are ALWAYS going to be people who are worse off. Does that mean that we are unable feel stressed by what's going on in our own lives? Maybe for some people, but I can't control feeling stressed about things--even things that some people find completely insignificant (like my weight).

My obesity kept me from being the mom I wanted to be to my kids--there were so many things I physically couldn't do with them because I was too big. I even had to hold my breath in order to tie my shoes, because I couldn't bend over and breathe at the same time! I eventually resorted to wearing slip-on shoes.

Every time I felt a slight pain in my chest, I wondered if I was having a heart attack. Knowing I was so overweight made me question a heart attack... in my 20's! My eating habits were setting my kids up to be overweight as well, if I kept up the way I was living.

Are there worse things than being overweight? Of course! But knowing how my life felt when I was 253 pounds makes a small weight gain now feel like a pretty big deal. I don't ever want to get to that point again, and it always starts at 10-15 pounds (or 30! haha). So, maybe outsiders looking at me would think that I have nothing to stress about, and I understand that; but for me, the weight gain equates to my not being able to do the things that I want to do with my family, to setting a bad example for my kids, to fearing for my health almost constantly.

Basically, what I'm getting at is, I don't think it's fair of us to judge what feels stressful to each other. There are always going to be people who have bigger problems than we do, but that doesn't mean that we aren't allowed to feel sad or stressed out over things that we have going on.

Look at Joey. This poor dog feels stressed out every time I leave the house without him. Dogs don't have much to stress about, because we give them everything they need. But Joey worries about things that I imagine normal dogs worry about... "Is she going for a walk without me? Eating treats with another dog? And FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, is she ever coming home?!?!"

If I was being judgmental, I would say that yes--those are ridiculous things to stress about. But I'm not judging, because it's something that dogs in general stress out about. (At least that's what we humans assume based on their behavior)

Whenever I find myself complaining about the heat, I try to remember my brother, Nathan, who spent a few years in Iraq when he was in the Army, and how hot it was there (especially wearing all of his equipment). He said that he once drank over 30 liters of water (I picture 15 of the 2-liter bottles of pop) and he didn't pee for the entire day. THAT'S how dehydrated he got from sweating so much.

Do I have any legit reason to bitch about the heat? Nope. Do I do it anyways, when it's 100 degrees and I'm drenched in sweat? Yup.

Using that same line of thought... I could say, "Wow, he has every reason to complain about the heat! I need to keep my mouth shut." But then someone else could say to Nathan, "Well, you have no reason to complain, because at least you had clean water to drink!"

My point is that this train of thought could go on forever, until you truly get to the one person on earth that has it worse than EVERYBODY else. And even then, who is to judge that? That person could probably say, "Hey, at least I'm still alive. I have no reason to complain."

I could say to the person who left the comment on my blog, "I'm so sorry for what you have going on in your life right now, because it must be very stressful to have caused you to leave that comment. But, at least you have access to the internet. And a device to use it. And the time to read blogs and post comments on them. There are a lot of people who don't have those things!"

Does that mean that the commenter shouldn't feel stressed out by whatever is going on? I don't think so. I think that the commenter feels like his/her problems are worse than my own, and therefore, my stress isn't valid. And if leaving a comment to let me know about it makes him or her feel better, then I accept that. Whatever floats your boat!

In my opinion, I think that whatever feels stressful to people is all relative to their way of living. It might look superficial and ridiculous to others, but if it causes them stress, then it's just as valid as the stress of someone who has what other people would call a "bigger problem".

But what would I know? I'm just a blogger who contributes nothing to anyone but herself 😉

Anyway, after that very long tangent... the documentary series ("My Last Days") is very inspiring! It will certainly make you feel grateful for all that you have (especially your health). But I learned quite a bit about two major health conditions in just the one episode. I had heard of ALS, for example, but I really didn't know anything about it until seeing a glimpse into the life of someone who has it. It was very eye-opening.

In looking for a link, I just discovered that the whole series is available on the CW website, which is pretty awesome! Here is a link to the episode that I watched (I especially loved Anthony's story): Season 2, Episode 1. Here is the general link to the show's page. I was hoping to be able to watch season one, but I don't see where it's available, so I'm not sure if it is.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Noah is away at church camp all week, so it'll just be Eli and me hanging out together this week! :)

July 12, 2018

Weight Gain Through Emotional Eating

I can't really pinpoint when my mood started going downhill, but I feel like a big mess right now. Remember that post in April I wrote, called "The Big Fat Mess That Is My Life Right Now"? I just re-read it, and everything that I wrote is still very true. I could basically slap today's date on it and call it a new post!

I have tried to get my life back on track by setting new goals and posting them here for accountability (by being public with goals, I hoped it would make me embarrassed not to accomplish them)--that didn't work (well, it IS embarrassing, so I guess that part worked--haha!). I have tried setting goals and keeping them to myself, hoping that having less pressure would be the trick--that didn't work.

I've tried easy goals, I've tried challenging goals, I've tried having no goals at all, I've tried taking everything one day at a time. I've tried everything I've ever done in the past that has worked for me, and nothing is working right now.

I found this four leaf clover a couple of days ago, and I thought it was funny because it looks very symbolic of my luck--four leaves, but one of them is chewed almost completely off, so does it really count? 😂Two steps forward, one step back.

four leaf clover

In the past, I've always had pretty clear depressive episodes. I was either hypomanic or depressed, and neither of those was very mild. Since starting my bipolar meds, though, the mood stabilizer has definitely put those in the "mild" category. I still have episodes of each, but they are nothing like before.

Currently, I only have very mild depression, and I think even those symptoms would probably go away if I could just get my life back on track. By that, I just mean feeling in control and motivated to do the things I need to do. Get rid of some stress.

My biggest stressor is my weight (or what I imagine it to be, because I am actually too afraid to look at the scale). I can feel it in my clothes and see it when I look in the mirror--I'm SURE I've gained even more since the last time I weighed in. I feel like I've gained 30 pounds in the last two weeks, but I know that's probably an exaggeration. Realistically, I'm thinking maybe I've hit the high 150's. I know that I should just face the number, but without having a real plan to lose the weight, I think it'll just discourage me even more.

Speaking of, remember when I posted about my plan to get back to my goal weight? Yeah, I haven't been doing it. I didn't make my plan very difficult, but I (obviously) haven't made any progress. I'd planned to count calories again, because that always works well for me; but after not counting all last year, and doing SO well with intuitive eating, I keep telling myself that I'll just eat intuitively like I did last year.

Except it doesn't work that way. I wasn't sure why I'm having such a hard time with it now after it felt so natural before. The whole concept of intuitive eating had finally clicked for me, and I was so excited about it! And then when I started having symptoms of depression, I began to eat for comfort. Now, I'm just stuck wanting to lose the weight I've gained, and to do it like I did last year.

I've been thinking hard about it, and the biggest difference between now and then, as far as my diet goes, is that I was very happy last year and I didn't feel any urges to eat for comfort. When I was happy, I only thought about food when I was really hungry. There were times where I would completely forget to eat a meal because I was busy with something and I just wasn't thinking about food at all.

When my mood is down, eating becomes something that I actually look forward to--something that makes me feel better. Obviously, that affects my weight!

So, I don't think that the weight gain or loss comes from whether I'm counting calories or not; rather, it comes from my frame of mind and happiness level. If I can feel happy, I shouldn't have a problem with eating better (whether it's counting calories or intuitive eating or something else). My mood is what makes it easier (or harder) to stick with whatever plan I am following.

Last year, when my life felt like it was finally on the right track, going so smoothly, it was because I was 100% focused on doing what makes me happy. And because I felt chronically happy, I didn't feel the need to try to make myself happy with food.

I saw my psychiatrist a couple of days ago, and it ended up being a long appointment because of my mood being all over the place lately. There was a lot to go over. He ended up changing up my meds a little bit--decreasing the dosage of two, and adding a third. He told me to give it a few weeks and see if that helps; if not, we can try something else. So, I'm hopeful that I'll start seeing some (positive) changes. Mainly, I want some of my focus and motivation back.

The most difficult emotion for me is feeling overwhelmed. When I have a ton of stuff to do, and I fall behind on things, I get overwhelmed; and then, because that feels so uncomfortable, I try to put it out of my mind (i.e. procrastinate); procrastinating just makes me more overwhelmed. So, it's a constant cycle until I get caught up. And then with my weight going up and my not running regularly, it just escalates. I guess I just get this feeling of being "too far gone" to get back to that good place I was in before falling behind.

The solution, of course, is obvious. Don't take on too much. Don't procrastinate. Just do what I can. GET IT OVER WITH.

It sounds so simple in my mind. But when trying to practice that mindset, it's a big challenge for me.

As far as running goes, I just haven't been. I started doing my Cookies Summer Challenge, with plans to get in every single run on the list. It's not too late, so I am REALLY hoping I can make myself get back to it ASAP (I'm banking on the medication switch helping me). My last run was the Independence Run (on the 4th of July, wearing red, white, and blue).

red white and blue running clothes

Ha! I was trying to take a photo to prove I was wearing my red, white, and blue, but it was pretty difficult to get my socks in it, and they are the best part!

Right now, I'm going to try to just focus on one thing at a time. I managed to clear out my inbox over the last few days, which felt great to catch up on. I haven't figured out what to do with my eating habits, so I'm going to leave that alone for the moment. But right now, I'm committing to going for a run tomorrow. That's it! It might be on my treadmill, and it might only be one mile, but I'm going to state right now: I am going to run tomorrow.

Anyway, this whole post is basically to say that I am a mess right now and I'm trying to get myself back together and functioning normally ;) I hope to see some progress soon!

July 08, 2018


After writing so much last month, not posting the last few days feels like I haven't written in weeks! Despite not posting, I did do a ton of work on my blog, and I'm really excited about it.

I've written before that I love hearing/reading personal stories from people. My favorite book genre is memoirs, and almost all of the podcasts I listen to are of people telling true stories about their lives or things that have happened to them. It's no wonder, then, why I enjoy reading guest blog posts.

So, I created a blog page called "Inspiration" (you can find it on the navigation bar below my header, or you can click here to go to it). It contains a clickable photo gallery of almost all of the guest posts I've shared on my blog (I say "almost" because I am still working on doing the rest). 

There are nearly 50 stories from people (some share just a few paragraphs, others share long posts) in order by post date. Almost all of them are about weight loss, because that was the primary focus of my blog for so long--so the gallery mostly consists of before and after photos right now. When you click on the photo, it'll take you to that person's guest post. 

It's a page that I am hoping to keep growing, and expanding the topics of the posts as well. I'd love to share inspirational stories from people who have overcome obstacles (not just weight loss)--stories about mental health, paying off financial debts (like Jerry and I have been doing), overcoming addictions, getting over fears, and other hurdles people have dealt with. 

So, if you have a story that you think is inspiring, I'd be happy to consider it! A few guidelines:
  • The post must be a PERSONAL story about a topic that would fit in with the basic tone of my blog (weight loss, fitness, mental health, financial freedom, addiction, facing fears, hurdles you've overcome, etc). I am not looking for "how to" posts, preachy stories, or persuasive/controversial articles.
  • The post may not contain any affiliate or sales links, nor links to any promotional, business, or product websites. 
  • Photos (about 2-5) must be your own (no stock photos), and by submitting them, you are giving permission to share them on my blog. Please make sure that if there is someone else in the photos, they are cool with you sharing it.
  • I will likely edit the post for length, clarity, and/or format. If you'd like, I can send it back for your approval before posting. 
  • I do not pay for (or accept payment for) guest posts.
  • The whole purpose behind guest posts is for my blog readers to share their stories to inspire others. The more personal the story is, the better, and a conversational tone is the most engaging. Basically, just tell your story as if you are chatting with a friend! 
I cannot guarantee that I will share your story, but you are welcome to email me an inquiry. Please do not send me an entire post--just a paragraph explaining what you'd like to write about will be all that I need. I'll contact you for more info if it sounds like something that would be a good fit! It would be great to post some fresh content--because there are already so many weight loss stories, I would love to share some stories about the other topics I mentioned.

All of that said, if you have an inspirational story to share, you can email your idea to me at: inspiration (at) runsforcookies (dot) com

This guest post that I shared in 2013, titled "I Kept Running", was written by a woman named Katie Wiggins. It's a great example of what I love to read! It made me feel all of the feels--anger, empathy, humor, sadness, and, of course, inspiration. All in the same post! It's great. 

Back in March of 2015, for the 100th Motivational Monday post, I shared bio's of 20 people who had lost 100+ pounds each. It was so fun to read how they'd lost the weight and the advice they had. I reached out to them a couple of days ago to ask if they'd like to share an update on the blog, and several of them are interested in doing that--so I'm looking forward to reading about how maintenance has gone for the last three years! 

July 02, 2018

The Craziest of the Crazy (a review of the running documentary "3100: Run & Become")

It's not uncommon for non-runners to think that runners are just crazy people. Run for fun? Really? Crazy.

I used to think the same thing until I became a runner. THEN, I learned that sure--we're a little crazy. I ran, I trained, and I paid money to run 5K, 10K, a half-marathon. Who does that?! Crazy people.

When I trained for and ran my first marathon, the non-runners who I told about it couldn't even fathom the thought of running 26.2 miles. Crazy.

And now, as a three-time marathoner, I learned that there is another level of crazy runners--they are the batshit crazy runners. These are runners who run even farther than marathon distance--ultramarathons! More than 26.2 miles? I'm out.

But it gets even crazier.

My mind was totally blown when I learned about the Badwater 135, a race of 135 miles through Death Valley in the middle of July, when temperatures are roughly 130 degrees F. Oh, did I mention the 13,000 FEET OF ELEVATION GAIN?

Batshit crazy!

But why do that race, when you can choose the Barkley Marathons? The Barkley Marathons is a race of more than 100 miles that must be completed in less than 60 hours--it's a five-loop course of 20+ miles per loop (the distance varies a bit because the course changes every year--and none of the runners know the course in advance). This race commonly ends without a single finisher.

WHY, on God's green earth, would anyone choose to do this? Because they are batshit crazy, that's why.

And recently, Friends, I learned that there are runners who put "batshit crazy" to shame. They make that level of crazy go way down to the bottom rung of the whole crazy ladder.

I was invited to watch an advance screening of a documentary about a race that I'd never heard of, and when I read about the race, I legitimately thought that the mileage was a typo. It had to be. Or meant to be an ironic title. Or a joke. It couldn't possibly be a real race!

I'm talking about the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race.

After you pick your jaw up off the floor, envision this: A road race where the runners must complete at least 59 miles per day for 52 straight days to finish. The entire race is on a 1/2-mile loop of a block in Queens, NYC. And it's done in the summer heat!

Is there even a word that describes that level of crazy?!

I'm going to NYC in September, and after I watched the documentary about this race, I said to Jerry, "Oh, I wonder what day the race is? I'd love to go spectate!" And I looked it up online. It read "17 June - 7 August". For a moment, I thought, "Well, which is it?" HAHAHA, my brain couldn't even grasp the concept of the race taking place from June 17 TO August 7!

The documentary that I was kindly invited to screen is called "3100: Run & Become". It is fantastic, and it made me so interested in learning more about the role that running plays in different cultures. Different "levels of crazy", so to speak.

The film is not just about the Self-Transcendence 3100, however. While that is fascinating in and of itself, my favorite parts were about how running fits in to other cultures--the Navajo, Bushmen, and Japanese Marathon Monks.

Here is a quote from the producers regarding these:
"Cameras in hand, we set off on a global exploration of running.  
We hunted on the run with the Bushmen of Botswana. Hunting was recently banned by the Botswana Government as one step in their attempt to destroy this ancient culture. We met a group of Bushmen hunters defying that ban who wanted us to film their ancestral way of hunting. 
We ran with champion Navajo runners versed by their Elders in the spiritual traditions of running. Shaun Martin, a Navajo educator, was attempting to retrace the footsteps of his father, who like many Native American kids was forced into government boarding school. Shaun's dad would routinely escape and walk the 100 miles back to his family's homesite. Shaun was attempting to do that distance in one shot. 
And we embedded with the Japanese Marathon Monks to document their epic 1,000 day running journey where the stakes are literally life or death. Once a generation they pick an Aspirant to do 1000 days over 7 years, in 100 day chunks - up to 56 miles per day. If the Aspirant fails to complete his/her daily mileage requirement, he/she must commit suicide (!). Thankfully this hasn't happened in 100s of years."
Jerry and I both loved the film. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer and more in-depth! Here is the trailer:

The film will soon be available to the public at several screenings around the country. Here is the film's website, where you can see the dates/locations of some of the upcoming screenings. Even if you're not a "crazy runner", I encourage you to watch the film--it's informative, inspirational, and very interesting!

(Photos courtesy of 3100: Run & Become)

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