March 29, 2019

Walking Plan (Week 1) and Wednesday Weigh-In

I have not had a great week. My anxiety is still sky high, even though I felt like cutting out the caffeine helped. I just don't understand it! There is absolutely no reason for the anxiety, but it's nearly constant for me now.

My eating was not so great this week, either, and I gained 1.6 pounds from last week. I'm still down three pounds from where I started a few weeks ago, but I'm certainly not going to make any more progress if I keep eating how I did this past week.

I guess I have been using the food to help with the anxiety, but it clearly doesn't--at all. I really need to go see my psychiatrist. I've been resisting changing anything with my meds because everything was working out SO WELL until a few months ago. I felt the best I had mentally in a long time--very stable.

The only thing that's really changed is that I stopped drinking. I had hoped that quitting drinking would make me feel BETTER, not worse. However, I've discovered from a couple of people who quit drinking that the first few months to a year can feel worse before it starts to get better. That's a long time to wait!

My goal for this sobriety journey was to go for a full year without drinking; so, hopefully, I'll start to feel the benefits of it before the year is up! Haha. I was hoping that I'd feel really great at the end of the year and it'll make me want to quit alcohol for good. I'm not saying that drinking will make things better--that's obviously not true--but I just wish that I felt the benefits of quitting already.

I'm going to keep this post relatively short, because even writing a blog post makes me anxious.

On a positive note, on Monday I started the Walking for Weight Loss Training Plan that I wrote. There are three "easy" walks per week and two walks with hard intervals. I have to say, the immediate benefit of this plan was that I didn't dread doing the walks like I did running. I like the thought of my easy walks being days where I don't have to worry about changing into workout clothes, showering right afterward, and working it into my day so I'd have extra time to do those things.

The first day was a 45 minute easy walk, and I did put on my heart rate monitor just to see what my heart rate looked like from walking versus running. I actually did this one on the treadmill, and I was able to text and look at Instagram and stuff like that while I was walking. The easy walks are meant to be truly easy, and it was.

I set the speed at (I think) 2.8 mph, which felt just right. My average heart rate was 115 bpm. My only goal was to keep it under 143 bpm, so I obviously did that. When I saw that my heart rate was so much lower than my aerobic target, I read up some more on MAF training and it said that the ideal range would be to train at that target or up to 10 bpm lower (so my ideal range would be 133-143 bpm).

On tomorrow's walk (30 minutes easy) I'll aim for that heart rate range and see how it feels (also, what speed is required to get it to that range). What feels "easy" as far as my exertion level probably won't get my heart rate into that zone; so, I'm going to do some more reading about what is ideal for walking rather than running.

On the speed work days (hard walking intervals), I did get my heart rate higher--but still nowhere near what I did when I was running. The first interval walk isn't accurate as far as my heart rate goes, because I wore a regular bra instead of a sports bra, and it somehow affected my heart rate strap. So, I can only base the numbers on the interval walk I did yesterday.

Yesterday's workout was: 10 minutes easy; then 6 x (2 min fast, 1 min easy); then 10 minutes easy for a cool down. (You'll see below that I only did 7 minutes for a cool down--for some reason, I was thinking I had to stop at 35:00 and not 38:00! My mistake.)

For each of the 2-min fast segments, my heart rate peaked at 152, 154, 157, 155, 156, and 155. On my warm-up and cool down, my heart rate was an average of 114 and 119 respectively. I was walking as fast as I possibly could during the 2-min segments--my pace was 12:53, 13:27, 13:10, 13:15, 13:26, and 13:36. (I had no idea I was capable of walking that fast.)

If I want to get my heart rate higher on the intervals, I'll probably need to use the treadmill and add incline. However, being in the 150's is still higher than my target of 143, so maybe that will be beneficial regardless. Like I said, I'll read some more about it.

Also, because the plan is only in the first week, the intervals are rather short. I'm sure that when I'm doing 4-5 minute intervals at a fast pace, my heart rate will get much higher at its peak.

This whole thing is so interesting to me because it's something I've not tried before. The 80/20 method of running worked SO WELL for training and for weight loss, and I am hoping that it works well for walking, too. But like I said, I'm basically testing this plan on myself right now, so I can't say exactly what is going to happen.

Also, I have to consider that I ate crappy this week, and the walking isn't going to make up for that. I'd really like to focus on eating well this week along with the walking. I hope that might help with the anxiety, too! Meanwhile, I'll see my psychiatrist and see what he thinks about making any changes with my meds.

March 27, 2019

My 4-Day DIY Bathroom Makeover

Just beware, there are TONS of pictures in this post. I tried to keep them as minimal as possible, but I didn't want to cut things out!

I hadn't been planning to makeover my bathroom when I did the whole "Renovation 2018" project (making over my kitchen, living room, and dining room). However, when I realized that we had quite a bit of leftover materials when the project was done, I wanted to utilize all that I could. And I did!

The bathroom in our hallway is just your typical toilet, shower/tub combo, and cabinet vanity. I knew it wouldn't take a ton of time to do the ceiling (my least favorite part) so I decided to go for it.

First, let's take a look at what it looked like before:

To start, I removed the "popcorn" ceiling (it's called "stomped", but a texture nonetheless). Then I filled in all the little nicks with drywall compound, and I taped and mudded the seams. I removed the strips from the walls (which are standard in a manufactured home/trailer) and filled those with drywall compound as well.

While I waited for that to dry, I spent time working on the vanity cabinet. I removed the standard plain rectangular mirror that is glued to the wall in manufactured homes. I also removed the countertop, because I wanted to make my own (after doing the ones in the kitchen, I was more than confident I could do it pretty easily).

I primed and painted the cabinet, drawers, cabinet doors, and molding around the door, which takes 24 hours to dry between coats. Meanwhile, I worked on the countertop. This one was EASY! I bought a simple sink (the one we had was cracked) and planned to make a new countertop the same size as the old one.

This time, I took better pictures of the process of making your own laminate countertops. I didn't want to special order laminate, so I found a Lowe's that sold sheets of it right at the store. They only had five sheets to choose from, and luckily, I liked the one that I ended up buying! I only needed one sheet, and that actually included enough for me to make a new countertop for our master bathroom this summer, too!

I bought a sheet of 3/4" thick particle board and had Lowe's cut it into the size I needed for the countertop (I needed two rectangles of the exact same size, so they could stack on top of each other and make the counter 1.5" thick.)

Then, I drizzled wood glue all over one of them, and stacked the other on top of it, lining it up the best I could. (Despite how precise they are, Lowe's can't get the cuts to be 100% perfect. But that's what routers are for!). I used five clamps to clamp the two boards together while the glue dried over night.

Once the glue was dry, I removed the clamps. Then, I used my brother's router (note to Santa: I really would love one of these for Christmas!) to make sure the edges of the boards were completely flush (the router carefully trims off any excess edges in order to make them nice and smooth).

Then it was time to cut the hole for the sink. I opened up the box for the sink, and there was actually a template that you could use to trace before cutting with the jigsaw. I carefully cut out the pattern and traced the hole onto the countertop where the sink should be. Then I drilled a pilot hole (a hole to insert the jigsaw blade before starting) and used the jigsaw to cut it out. (I actually used my allowance to buy my own jigsaw, hahaha.)

Next, it was time for the laminate. I did the sides first. I generously spread contact cement onto the front side and left side of the counter (the back and right sides would be butted up against the wall). I also spread the contact cement onto the strips of laminate that I'd cut (I cut the strips 2" wide, even though the counter was only 1.5" thick--that gives a little wiggle room to make sure you have enough to cover the whole side.

I totally forgot to get photos of this part, so here are a couple from when I made the kitchen countertops...

After waiting for the contact cement to dry (about 15-20 minutes), I applied the strip of laminate to the side of the counter. I pressed it hard with a J-Roller, to make sure it was on there good. Then, I used the smaller laminate router, to cut off the excess laminate. It came out perfectly!

I repeated the process with the front of the counter. And then I did the top. I didn't cut a hole in the laminate before applying it to the countertop. I just treated it as if there wasn't a hole there. After the top laminate was applied, I used the router to cut off the excess edges around the whole perimeter.

Then, it was time to do the sink. I drilled a pilot hole in the laminate on the counter, and then used the laminate router to cut around the entire hole for the sink. I was left with a laminate countertop with a hole the size that we need to drop our sink into.

I placed the countertop onto the cabinet, and then carefully set the sink inside. It fit perfectly. Then I attached the plumbing (much easier than in the kitchen!). Jerry screwed the countertop into the counter for me, and I caulked around the sink and the countertop with silicone.

I primed and painted the whole bathroom light gray (Argos from Sherwin Williams) except for the skylight, which I painted dark gray (Cityscape from Sherwin Wiliams), and then Jerry installed the floor--it only took him literally about two hours to get the floor done! Then, I cut and nailed the floor board trim around the bathroom while Jerry reinstalled the toilet (he'd taken it out when he installed the floor). (Also on my Christmas list: a miter saw and a trim nailer)

I bought a few drawer pulls and a knob for the vanity cabinet. I also bought a new mirror. I reused the old towel hooks and toilet paper holder. When all was said and done, we only paid about an extra $250 to makeover the bathroom (the major expenses being the new mirror ($58), counter materials ($73), sink ($68) and a few gray towels ($40)).

I kept the same shower curtain, because I love it ;)

But anyway, here are some proper before and after photos--because I remembered to take some!!

A final before and after of the full bathroom:

(By the way, I am nearly done with the photos from the kitchen. There were SO MANY PICTURES and so much that I wanted to write about that I have been trying to organize everything to make it easier to read/view. I really hope to get them posted soon!)

March 24, 2019

Walking for Weight Loss: A 12-Week Training Plan

Walking for Weight Loss by Runs for Cookies

First, I'd like to preface this post by saying that this plan is in the "trial" phase--it has not yet been tested to see if it works for weight loss. So many people seemed interested in it, however, that I decided to release it now. I based this plan on the 10K training plan that I made and used to run a personal record in 2016. During that time, I wasn't actively trying to lose weight beyond my goal weight (my goal was 133 pounds at the time), but I pretty easily dropped down to 121 pounds.

I believe this is due to my training plan. I finally did my "easy runs" correctly (keeping my heart rate low) and really pushed hard on my "hard runs". I dropped from 160 pounds and an 11:00/mile 10K race pace to 121 pounds and a 7:54/mile 10K race pace between October 2015 and April 2016.

I had counted calories before, and continued to count while I was following the plan, but I would swear on my life that it was the training plan that allowed me to get my weight down.

Currently, I am having a very hard time getting back into running. I try and try to find the "love" part of my love/hate relationship with it, but it's just not there right now. So many of you suggested that I try walking, but I always kind of balked at the idea of walking for fitness. It seemed too easy, and "not good enough".

However, I hadn't thought to create an actual walking plan that involved more than just 30 minute strolls around my neighborhood. Once I got this idea in my head, I started transforming my 10K running training plan into a "Walking for Weight Loss" training plan.

And I hope that some of you will be my guinea pigs! ;)

This plan starts on a Monday, so I plan to start using it tomorrow. I've been doing my Wednesday Weigh-Ins again, so I will keep you updated on the progress. I'm not going to change the way I've been eating lately (basically intuitive eating, but with a couple of modifications). So, the real variable will be the Walking for Weight Loss plan. Let's see how it goes!

Here is a printer-friendly version of the plan

I do have one small favor to ask... if you share the plan with someone, I would really appreciate a link to this page rather than directly to the plan itself. The reason for this is that I get paid based on the number of page views I have on my blog, and because I offer my training plans for free, it'd be nice to get a little compensation for the hours of work I put in to create this plan.

And PLEASE let me know how it goes for you! If you find it too challenging, too boring, too easy, or just not working out well, I need to know that. And likewise, if you find it to be working out well, I'd love to hear that, too.

I am currently working on a treadmill plan that is similar to this, but with conversions to use incline in order to get the same benefits as speed. I'm really excited about it! It's very different than anything I've done before. So, I will share that when it's ready. For now, though, this plan will work indoors or on the treadmill.

Thanks, Friends! And happy walking :)

March 21, 2019

Another Project and Wednesday Weigh-In

I feel the need to point out that those are pajamas--I wouldn't be wearing those in public ;)

I haven't had a single moment to write a blog post over the last few days, and this one is going to be pretty short. I had been feeling kind of bummed that my kitchen/living room/dining room makeover was done (I will post pictures of the kitchen very soon, I promise--I've been narrowing them down and trying to put together a post for two weeks now!).

A few days ago, I realized that we had a lot of materials left over from doing those rooms and that I could use them to make over the bathroom as well! I was just planning to paint it, but considering it had the same textured ceiling and crown molding as the rest of the house, I figured I might as well get rid of that, too. I actually remembered to take a "before" photo:

My friend Emily is coming over tomorrow and staying overnight, so I was hoping to get it done before then. I've been working non-stop on it every spare minute that I've had, but it won't be totally done, unfortunately. The worst part is just waiting for the paint to dry. The walls dry quickly, but the oil-based paint for the cabinet takes 24 hours between coats.

This is what I looked like after sanding the ceiling. SO much drywall dust! It felt like I used an entire bottle of dry shampoo.

Anyway, I will post pictures of all that as soon as it's done, too. I even made a new countertop, just like I did in the kitchen. It went much smoother this time around, because I knew exactly what I was doing.

I did my Wednesday Weigh-In yesterday but like I said, I haven't had time to write a blog post. There wasn't a huge change on the scale. I was down 0.4 pounds.

I just did my weigh in and then took my selfie while still in my pajamas. I like to sleep in Jerry's comfy shirts. (I'm not sure why I started doing a selfie with each weigh-in. I think it's another way of keeping myself accountable and showing that I am accepting this "new beginning"--I am where I am, and I'm not thinking of the past. Just the future.)

Notice that Estelle didn't show up in my selfie photo this time! I had gotten up at 5:00 instead of 6:00, and I think it was a bit too early for her ;)

I've been working on writing the walking plan that I mentioned, and I've just about finished that. I'd like to get that done by Sunday so that I can start the plan on Monday. I'm actually really looking forward to it! I haven't followed a walking plan since I walked the Indy Mini in 2010 with my sister.

I know several of you asked about doing the plan as well, so I'll post it, even though I won't have tried it out yet. It's going to be very similar to my 10K plan that helped me lose weight, so I'm hoping this will be a "Walking for Weight Loss" type plan. I can test it on myself, because the scale hasn't really been moving much.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

March 19, 2019

RECIPE: Chili Dog Pizza

As I mentioned, I've been working on migrating my recipes to this blog, so you may see more of them than usual.

Holy smokes, was this ever good! I don't know why I never thought to do this sooner. But since summer is approaching, I thought this would be a good time of year to post this recipe.

Chili Dog Pizza Recipe

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Chili Dog Pizza

1 pizza crust (homemade, store bought, pre-cooked, whatever!)
1 can hot dog chili (found with the canned chili, it's usually in a smaller can--14 oz?)
4-6 hot dogs (I used 8 Hebrew National 97% fat free hot dogs, but I felt it was a bit much)
cheddar cheese
onions, chopped fine

I'm not being specific with the amounts of everything used, or the nutrition content (because it completely depends on the products you use). Just pre-bake your crust for about 5 minutes at 450 F, then top with the chili sauce, cheese, and hot dogs. Bake until the cheese is melted and dogs are starting to brown, approximately 10 minutes. Then top with raw onions and mustard for serving. Beware--it's very messy! This is a eat-with-utensils kind of pizza ;)

March 17, 2019

Children with Anxiety and My Thoughts on How Parents Can Help

I want to preface this post by saying that I am in no way a legal therapist, doctor, social worker, or any other professional that deals with mental health. I am, however, a 37-year old wife and mother (to two teen boys) who has generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder. My mental illnesses started when I was very young, so I know what it is like to have these issues as a child.

I also want to point out that I may write things about my family that are in no way meant to be harmful or accusatory. My family is very caring and loving, and I know my parents did a great job raising me. Mental health wasn't talked about as much then as it is now. There are a few things I will mention that may bring up points about my childhood, but my family has been super supportive in several ways over the years, and I am so grateful for that!

Recently, I got an email from a mom who was worried about her middle school-aged daughter who was showing signs of severe anxiety. She was wondering what, based on my experiences, she could do to help with her daughter's anxiety. I am always happy to help whenever I can when it comes to mental illness (I really wish I had the money and motivation to go back to school and get a masters in social work so I could be a therapist--in all honesty, I think I'd be good at it. Even my own therapist suggested it)

Kids have anxiety for all sorts of reasons, and most of the time it's probably temporary. Maybe they are very worried about a test coming up at school, and they get stomaches because of it. But in a small minority of kids, it can be caused from generalized anxiety disorder (which is basically a constant state of worry without knowing why and without a real "ending").

And a lot of times, they could worry about things that we adults find irrational--someone coming and kidnapping them in the middle of the night; one of their parents dying suddenly; a car crash; the house burning down in the middle of the night.

When I was a child, I remember worrying about my dog, Penny, dying. I would wake up in the night and just cry and cry, worrying about Penny. I worried about fires starting in my house. I worried that I was doing something "wrong" (i.e. "unchristian-like") because my parents are very religious. I remember going skinny dipping with my friend Sarah in her pool one night (we were probably 9 or 10 years old) and afterward, I felt a horrible sense of guilt. We were innocent kids, doing nothing wrong, but I carried that guilt around with me for YEARS.

My anxiety started very young. I remember worrying about money (my mom didn't talk about it to us kids, but I would overhear things here and there), so I never liked to ask her to buy me "cool" clothes; I just wore the mom-like jeans from the ladies section (Bill Blass and Chic come to mind!).

While my siblings always asked my parents for "allowance", I didn't take money unless it was offered. I babysat to earn my own money. (I do have a memory of my mom taking me shopping to some of the mall stores we didn't normally go to, and she let me buy a couple of outfits for high school--the "cool" clothes--which was fun.)

My parents didn't know that depression or bipolar was a possibility for me. Mental illness wasn't really talked about much back then. They did the best they could with my moods, and thankfully, I had a good childhood with lots of great memories. However, knowing what I know now, I think that the validation of my feelings was absent a lot of the time. (I'm guilty of this with my own kids; I didn't really learn much about it until my therapist told me about it a couple of years ago.)

If you don't read anything else in this post, please take the time to read about validation. While this isn't something I learned until I was in therapy myself, it was a huge "aha!" moment for me, and I think it's something that everyone needs to learn.

Again, I am not trying to throw my family under the bus, but I don't think that my feelings were validated when I was a kid. For example, when I would cry about thinking my dog would die in the middle of the night, someone would tell me that I was just being dramatic, because the dog was fine. A better response would have been:

"That must be a really scary thought--I know you love Penny so much and so do we. Thankfully, Penny is doing just fine right now, and we take her to the vet to get checked out. The doctor says she's healthy. I think Penny is going to live a long and happy life. So, while it's scary to think about stuff like that, I don't think it's something we have to worry about for a long time."

My first dog, Penny:

Considering I was very different from my family growing up, a lot of the things I was worried about must have seemed irrational. And it's easy for adults (or older kids) to see those as irrational and think that I was "being dramatic" or "too sensitive" or "difficult". (To this day those three words--dramatic, sensitive, and difficult--are a big trigger for me. They make me feel like my feelings are invalid.)

To validate someone's feelings doesn't mean that you have to agree with them. It just means that they want to be heard and not dismissed like their opinion or worries don't matter or that they are just being "difficult".

I can't stress enough how much the simple act of validating someone's feelings can make a world of difference for them. It will build self esteem and make them feel more worthy.

Something that I still have a hard time with when it comes to my own kids when they are feeling anxious is that I want to tell them, "You have nothing to worry about! It will be fine!". Whether it's a trip to the dentist, or taking a test, or a cross country race. While those worries may seem kind of ridiculous enough to us, they are vey real worries for our kids--and we have to acknowledge that.

Noah always tells me he's nervous about a test a school. So instead of saying, "Don't worry about it, you'll do fine!" I say something like, "I know that tests are nerve-wracking, and I used to get that way all the time, too. Tests are scary! But you studied hard, and I know you'll do your best, so I have faith that you're going to do great."

Validating feelings takes some work. It takes more effort and focus, but it will honestly make a world of difference in not just kids, but adults as well. (I wrote more about that in this post).

Moving on...

Another thing that we can do to help is to not show anxiety in front of our kids (SO much easier said than done!). A good example of this is with my family (yet again). When my kids were toddlers, and my mom was watching them, she would gasp when they would fall down or bump into something. I found myself doing that as a parent as well. And I still find it hard not to when I babysit Luke and Riley!

When I watch my brother, Brian, and his wife, Becky, with my niece and nephew, they are the most CHILL parents ever, and so are their kids! When Luke falls down, they don't gasp or ask if he's okay. They pretend nothing happened and he just stands up and keeps moving. They let him live and learn, and because of that, he never freaks out. When they drop the kids off here and say goodbye, they don't make a big deal of it--just a kiss and a "see you later!" and Luke doesn't cry or have separation anxiety. I really wish I'd known all this when my kids were little!

Kids will feed off of our "chillness" or our "anxiety"--whatever vibes we put off. When kids have fears or they worry about things that we think are irrational, it's important for us to realize that they aren't "just being dramatic" or "too sensitive" or "difficult". (Three words I avoid like the plague when it comes to my kids. Even though it's very hard sometimes not to use those words!)

See? Not dramatic at all ;)

My kids still see my anxiety quite a bit, because it's difficult to hide, but they are old enough now that I've explained mental illness and bipolar (and generalized anxiety disorder) to them so they do understand. However, I've done much better since I started validating their feelings.

Something else that may help: Eli dealt with severe anxiety for just a few months a couple of years ago, and I was VERY worried about him. He was upset, crying himself to sleep every night with worry that seemed to come out of nowhere. I ended up buying a roller ball of essential oils from Amazon (one that has lavender, which is supposed to help with calming).

He kept it with him at all times and rolled it on his temples. Maybe it was a placebo effect, but he swears it helped. I even bought him a lavender spray for his pillow at night so that he'd be able to sleep better. He liked that and he told me it was working. Whether it was a placebo effect or not, it helped him, so I am grateful!

Then his school said that he wasn't allowed to bring the little roller ball (literally the size of chapstick) to school because it's considered "medication"--how stupid is that?! So, I bought a special bracelet and we would put some of the oils on that before school and he could smell it that way. He swears that it helped him so much.

Now, I'm happy to say that Eli's anxiety just went away like it was a phase he was going though. Recently, he saw me very upset because I was feeling so anxious, and he brought me his bottle of lavender mist for my pillow (he's seriously the sweetest kid ever!)

Having a child with anxiety or depression is heartbreaking! You want to make it better so badly, but there is nothing you can really do to take it all away. It definitely helps to listen; to validate their feelings; to remain calm ourselves; and possibly find a way like the essential oils to help for an immediate fix.

Like you all know, I'm not a doctor or mental health professional, so all I wrote here was my advice from my own experiences. If your child is showing signs of a severe issue with anxiety, it never hurts to see a therapist or psychiatrist. (You can read about what to expect at a first psych appointment here).

And I found this graphic on Pinterest (I'm not sure where it originated) but I thought it might be helpful in recognizing signs of chronic anxiety...

We all do our best to raise our kids to be happy and healthy, and I think mental health is just as important as physical health. I hope that this post is helpful!

March 15, 2019

Relating to the People on My 600-lb Life (and why I think I may have been successful in dropping the weight)

Jerry and I recently became totally addicted to the show on Netflix called Ozark. Yesterday, Jerry was off work and we binge watched several episodes of season one. I'm super bummed that there are only two season so far! It's a great show--it reminds me a bit of Breaking Bad, only it focuses more on the money laundering than it does the drugs. And unfortunately, there is no Jesse Pinkman ;)

I've also been watching episodes of My 600-lb Life here and there (I swear I do things other than watch TV, haha!) and it's scary how much I can relate to the people on there. It makes me wonder why I was able to lose the weight even though I have the same food issues they do.

A lot of them had abusive childhoods--sexual, physical, and/or emotional--and in general, it sounds like that contributed to their overeating. Thankfully, I never experienced that abuse, but I do relate to so much of what they say about food. And a lot of their habits are familiar to me--either now or when I was obese.

One thing that I've noticed is that they have so many excuses, though. I promised myself from the very beginning that I wouldn't make excuses for my weight. I know that I became obese because I was choosing to overeat. The cravings and the temptation were SO uncomfortable and the only way to shut it up was to binge eat.

So why did I finally get it together and lose the weight? I honestly don't know why I could and those people can't. Or aren't willing to try hard enough.

Jerry and I were talking about it yesterday, and I think that a big part of my success is that social media wasn't really a big thing back then (in 2009). It was before people started getting very critical on social media outlets like Facebook. I honestly don't think I'd be able to do it if I had started today instead of back in 2009.

Everybody has an opinion of what we should eat, what we shouldn't eat, what diets are healthy, the best exercises for weight loss, how many calories are too much, how many calories are too little, and a trillion other things. I've been criticized for ALL OF IT:

I ate too many grapes which are just loaded with sugar (clearly, that wasn't a smart alternative from the WHOLE BOX of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls I used to eat). Jerry, the kids, and I went out for frozen yogurt for a special dinner on Father's Day a few years ago and that clearly made me a horrible role model for my kids. I eat way too many calories. I eat way too few calories. I exercise too much. I don't exercise enough. My goal weight is too low. My goal weight is too high.

I've heard it all. And thank God I stopped getting upset by it and started just doing my own thing. Even if "my own thing" means gaining weight every year only to lose it again, it has worked so far (nine years and counting).

And today, I finally feel like I'm at the point where I just don't think that weight is that damn important. Yes, I want to get to a weight that makes me feel better, but I don't hate what I look like and I have more important things on my mind right now (my mental health, mainly).

Anyway back to the point... Before social media, people did things without reserve. They weren't worried about what others thought, because they never saw what others thought! It wasn't posted on blogs or Facebook or other social media. The harsh comments I've received over the years used to be very hurtful, and I highly doubt I would have continued losing weight if I had to deal with the anxiety of that.

So, I am grateful that I was able to do the majority of my journey before all of that.

Also, I keep in mind that nobody knows what is going through my mind. My mental illness makes me think differently than the average person. Having bipolar, I know what works for my skewed brain. And even though I am not at my goal weight right now, I've kept off 90-ish pounds for over 8 years. I'd say that's pretty damn successful.

In other news, I've been having some physical symptoms due to my anxiety/depression lately. I feel back to where I was a couple of years ago when I was going to physical therapy for my shoulder. I get very tight knots in my shoulder and neck. It's extremely painful, but Jerry helps work them out a bit. I have no idea if it's helping, but I like to think it is.

The mental stuff has had a big impact on my physical health. Other than the knots, my whole body aches. My heart has been racing and I constantly feel like a have a noose around my neck, strangling me. It's hard to swallow. I get dizzy a lot (something else that happens from anxiety). Now that I've discovered that the caffeine was a big culprit for anxiety, I am hoping that the physical symptoms will start to improve.

Anyway, this was a huge tangent on what my bringing up My 600-lb Life was for. During the trillion ads that TLC shows on their app, I noticed one for alcohol-free Heineken. Heineken was my very favorite beer! Since I quit drinking, I haven't tried non-alcoholic beers because they are hard to find around here and I just don't really care that much about beer.

When I saw the commercial, though, I got very excited. I told Jerry that we have to find it! And interestingly, the party store (convenience store) that we walk to in our neighborhood happens to carry it. I was shocked! But one of the employees that works there doesn't drink alcohol, and he loves it, so he continues to stock it.

Anyway, Jerry picked some up as a surprise, and I saved it for a special treat last night. I was really hoping it would taste like Heineken...

Non Alcoholic Heineken Beer

And it does!

If you gave me the 0.0% Heineken in a regular Heineken bottle, I would not know the difference. Honestly. I was thrilled to find a go-to drink that I can "BYOB" when we go to friends' houses and still feel like I fit in a bit. Honestly, people probably wouldn't even notice that it's alcohol-free because the bottle looks similar to the regular Heineken beer bottle.

So, I decided to have one each evening as a special treat. And the non-alcoholic Heineken only has 69 calories! I've been craving vegetables lately, which is odd, but I'm going with it; so, I will have some veggies and hummus for a snack at night with my NA beer. I went grocery shopping today and bought several healthy foods--stuff for fruit salad, and veggies to have with hummus.

Tonight, I made a Southwest Chicken Salad, and it was delicious! I can't remember the last time I ate salad. I go through phases--sometimes I hate salad (most of the time, actually), but sometimes I crave it. Lately, it has sounded really good!

I also started working on writing a walking program today. I know that I am a running coach, but I think that this walking plan I'm working on can be very helpful for getting in good shape as well as weight loss. It's similar to my 10K training (which helped me get to my lowest weight) but I adapted it for walking on the treadmill. (It could be done outside as well, but I'm focusing on the treadmill to use the incline).

I will experiment with it on myself and if it goes how I hope, then I'll get it all ready to post here. I figured that since I'm not able to stick to a running plan right now, what is wrong with walking? Nothing! Walking is a great way to exercise, especially if throwing in some tougher walking workouts. I used to feel like switching from running to walking would be taking a big step back and I wouldn't feel good about that. Now, I think that a walking program is very respectable. And it would be a nice change of pace.

Since I always do better with a schedule, just saying that I'll walk 30 minutes a day won't work well. I need a schedule to follow. The plan I'm writing is 12 weeks, and it'd be fun to work on, especially as the weather warms up. I'll still do most of my walks on the treadmill, probably, but I'll likely do my long walks and easy walks outside. I'll keep you posted on the progress!

March 13, 2019

An Experiment with Caffeine and Anxiety (and Wednesday Weigh-In)

Quitting Caffeine and a Wednesday Weigh-In

I was laughing while trying to take this photo because Estelle, once again, insisted on appearing in the picture ;)

With my anxiety having been SO bad for the last few weeks, I was getting really desperate to figure out what was different or what I could change to help manage it. The major change I made recently was to quit drinking, and that was on January 1st.

As I thought about it, I realized that I had started drinking coffee at around that time--I would have one cup in the morning (well, I guess it would be considered two cups, but it was one large mug). I don't know why I started drinking it every day, because I don't love coffee. I was totally fine not drinking it, so it was kind of dumb to start.

Then, I added another mug of coffee in the afternoon every day. I did that because that time of day is when I generally start feeling drained and I wanted a "pick-me-up". It became a daily habit to have coffee in the morning and in the afternoon. Coffee is a pretty innocent vice, so I didn't think that much of it.

However, I know that coffee can increase anxiety. My anxiety was horrible, but I honestly didn't think that the coffee could be the culprit. I was desperate, though, so I decided to try quitting the coffee cold turkey and see if I noticed a difference. (I could have switched to decaf, but like I said, I don't love coffee, so it wasn't really the taste that I wanted; it was the caffeine.)

I probably should have weened off of it, but we all know that I tend to go extreme when I do things, hahaha. Also, I figured that cutting it out completely would be the fastest and easiest way to see if it was the cause of my anxiety (or at least contributing to it).

My last day drinking coffee was Friday, so on Saturday I didn't have any. And surprisingly, I didn't get a bad headache like I was expecting.

Until Sunday. Holy cow, my head was killing me from not having caffeine. When I made the decision to quit, I expected the caffeine headache, so even though it wasn't fun, I dealt with it. And I also discovered that the coffee was playing a HUGE role in my anxiety! I felt much better (mentally) on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. In the beginning, I really didn't have hope that quitting coffee would help, but the difference was very notable.

Yesterday, my headache was so bad in the afternoon and I'd had a stressful/busy day (Noah fainted on Monday evening, which I'll explain later) and I decided on a whim to make a cup of coffee to simply get rid of the headache. And it worked--my head was much better--but almost instantly, my anxiety rose high. A couple of hours later, I was near panic. My heart was racing and it was hard to breathe.
And it lasted all evening.

I'm really glad that I experimented with it, because it definitely helps to know why my anxiety skyrocketed recently, and quitting coffee/caffeine is an easy fix. If I get a headache today (as I type this, it's only 8:30 AM, and so far, no headache) then I will have no problem dealing with it, simply because I know that my anxiety will be kept at bay. I still feel some depression, but it's gotten better now that the anxiety doesn't accompany it!

Instead of coffee in the mornings, I've been making a cup of chai with a touch of honey and heavy cream (like a chai latte, but less calories). I like the taste better than coffee, and there is very little caffeine in it. Next time I buy the chai, I will get the decaf kind so it won't have any caffeine at all.

Because of my decreased anxiety this week, my appetite was back up. Not excessively, but back to a "normal" level. Last week, my weight had dropped almost five pounds from the week before because I just didn't have much of an appetite. I've been weighing during the week, so I wasn't surprised to see that I didn't have a loss on the scale today:

Wednesday Weigh-In

I was at 161.2 today, which is up 1.8 from last week. I'm not going to lie--I was disappointed not to stay in the 150's--but I know that I didn't eat excessively, so I'm okay with it. I'm still down three pounds from a couple of weeks ago. And now, hopefully I can get back into a good schedule with my eating instead of picking at my food like I did the week before due to the anxiety.

Anyway, about Noah... on Monday evening, Jerry, Eli, and I were in the living room and we were going to watch a show together. Noah was sitting at the countertop behind me, and I asked him if he wanted to come watch with us. I didn't see it, but I heard him fall, and I turned just in time to see him land hard on his butt with his back against the wall.

I thought he'd just slipped as he was standing up, and I said, "What happened?" No response. "Are you okay?" Nothing. Sheer panic--"Noah, answer me right now! Are you okay?!" I was getting up to go check on him, and Jerry jumped up and went over to him. Noah seemed like he was in a daze as Jerry helped him up.

With my own horrid history of fainting, I was really worried and I started drilling him with questions to find out if he'd just fallen or if he fainted. He said that the last thing he remembered was rising to stand up from the chair; and then the next thing he knew, Jerry was standing over him. The whole thing only lasted about five seconds, but it felt like a lot longer.

Noah was only worried about his tailbone--he'd landed really hard on it (it was loud when he hit the floor), and he was in a lot of pain. Thankfully, he didn't hit his head! (Or break his jaw...) There really isn't anything that you can do about a tailbone, even if it's broken, so I didn't think it was necessary to take him to the emergency room. I did, however, call the doctor first thing in the morning yesterday and they were able to see him at noon.

The doctor really didn't see an obvious cause for the incident (Noah had just eaten dinner, he wasn't sitting for a long time before standing, his blood pressure was good). She did some blood work to be safe, but we likely won't know why it happened. His tailbone is still very sore, but other than that, he seems to be okay.

Last night, Jerry, the kids, and I went for a walk in the neighborhood, which is something that we used to do almost every night. We didn't go far--just about a mile--but the kids said they'd like to start doing that every day again. I miss doing it, too. If it's dark, we put on headlamps and carry flashlights. We take Joey, of course, who loves it! It'll be a nice habit to get back into.

Hoping for a good week! (Mentally and physically)

March 11, 2019

Living Room Makeover: Before and After Photos!

If you missed it, I shared photos recently of our completed dining room transformation. You can find the makeover pictures on this post. Moving on to the living room...

I'm doing the home makeover in three different parts, one for each room, because I have SO many pictures. So, I broke it up into each room. I'm saving the kitchen for last, because it was definitely the most work.

Unfortunately, I don't have any great photos of our living room "before". I searched and searched through my photos, trying to find any at all where you could see much of the room. I'll share the ones that you can see it the best, but I apologize that it's not great.

A description of "before":
Rectangular shaped living room
One white exterior door and one brown door that leads to the master bedroom
One of the long walls is almost completely open between the living room, dining room, and kitchen
"Stomped" ceilings (a textured ceiling like popcorn)
Crown molding (that we discovered was to hide the gap between the wall and the ceiling)
Deep green walls
Two large windows
All oak-colored trim, crown molding, and baseboard molding, window sills, doors, EVERYTHING
Light multicolored Berber carpet
Large brown ceiling fan

Furnishings "before":
HUGE brown leather sectional sofa (we loved it, but it definitely needed to be replaced)
Yellow-ish accent chair
Electric fireplace/entertainment console
Three dark brown end tables
One large square coffee table
Joey's dog bed

We wanted to do everything the same order with all three rooms at the same time, for simplicity. For the living room, here is what we did:

1) Scrape off popcorn ceiling (I wrote a tutorial for How to Remove a Popcorn Ceiling here)

2) Use drywall compound to fill in the visible seams on the sealing after scraping the texture off

3) As I was doing that, I decided to remove the crown molding

4) To my surprise, I discovered WHY the crown molding was there--it covered a large gap between the wall and the ceiling. I had to "tape and mud" all along the ceiling in order to get nice sharp edges. I had never done this before, and it was a big learning experience. It's this part that I think I am most proud of from the entire project.

5) Fill in any holes in the walls, cracks, etc.

6) Remove the baseboards around the floor

7) The mess: Sand the entire ceiling. Apply more drywall compound as a "skim coat". Sand, sand, sand. There was drywall dust EVERYWHERE.

8) Clean the dust really well to avoid getting it on paint.

9) Wipe off the ceilings to remove dust.

10) Apply caulk to any gaps or cracks in the trim/molding (this made SUCH a huge difference in the final look! I wish I'd known this trick years ago)

11) Prime ceiling x2 coats

12) Paint ceiling x3 coats (I do not recommend Sherwin Williams' ceiling paint--we used so much of it, and I still am not totally happy with it)

13) Prime the walls (I used Kilz stain blocker latex primer)

14) Paint the walls with two coats of Sherwin Williams' Cashmere Finish latex in the color "Cityscape" (dark gray). Because we no longer had crown molding, I had to learn to "cut in" the paint at the ceiling. This was really fun to learn and practice! It's not perfect, but I am pretty impressed with how well it turned out.

15) Tape off the paint around the window and door casings and jambs

16) Prime the wood for the casings with Kilz oil-based primer

17) Paint two coats of Sherwin Williams' oil-based paint in "Spare White" color on the door jambs, and the window/door casings. All trim, basically.

18) Remove the standard "trailer" door from the master bedroom and replace just the door slab, and paint it "spare white".

19) Remove carpet and replace with luxury vinyl planking (we bought this one from Home Depot)

20) Replace furniture--I sold some things on Facebook Marketplace, and I found a few treasures on there to replace what we needed. I bought a very cool mid-century modern sofa and a chair that looks like it should be part of a set, but they were totally separate!

I bought a very nice quality and comfortable Sherrill sofa for $50. I bought a wool Pottery Barn rug to match the sofa and chair for $50 as well. I was going to replace the dark wood with lighter colors, like we did with the rest of the house, but I rather like it. So, we decided to go with the dark stained wood in the living room only.

I also found a Pottery Barn bench/console--I was going to use it for our shoes, but it was WAY too nice to do that--the original price on it was $599, and I paid $60 on Facebook Marketplace!

21) I hung a couple of my dad's paintings on the walls.

22) We arranged the furniture in a new way that was able to get the treadmill out of the way. The treadmill is an eyesore, and we always used to keep it in the dining room (and the dining room table was in the kitchen).

Since we got rid of the huge sectional, we cozied up the living room by pulling the far side coach inward, and then putting the treadmill behind it. You can still see the treadmill, but it's not nearly as noticeable, and it's in a great spot. We kept the three end tables and got rid of the coffee table. Joey got to keep his dog bed ;)

23) Replaced our old ceiling fan

I think that about covers it! This was the easiest room to do, believe it or not. Just wait until you see the kitchen.

Here are the "after" photos I took of the living room (it is nearly impossible to keep a husband, two kids, two cats, and a dog from messing things up! My house is never this clean.) My brother, Brian, let me borrow his "fancy" camera to use a wide-angle lens so that you can see more. So, if anything looks slightly warped, it's because of my non-existent photography skills.

I can't even describe how much I love it! It's still taking some getting used to. But the kitchen is the biggest change of all, and I'm super excited to share those pics!

Here are some photos of the process of making over the living room...

And for the grand finale... Jerry finished the floors! After that, I just had to cut, attach, and paint the baseboards along the floor. 

LIVING ROOM BEFORE (Jerry was about to do a cartwheel here, haha):


I did start keeping a list of all of the projects and the whole process from start to finish... you can find that page here: DIY Home Makeover

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