Archive for April, 2011

My husband and I co-lead a weight loss group at our church. There are 12 members, all at very diffect places in their journey to live a healthier lifestyle. A couple of the people are making the choice to do something about their health for the very first time in their lives. I can tell how happy they are to get started, but also a little fearful. When they ask for help, I’ve been trying to take myself back to square one. That’s led me a lot of thinking about the very beginning of my weight loss journey. Namely, the feelings that came along with it. And oh, are there feelings. Desperation. Shame. Fear. Frustration. Excitement. Pride. 

For so long, weight loss had seemed to overwhelming to me. I wanted to eat right. I wanted to exercise. The catch was, I had no clue how to do either. Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of information out there. “Eat this! “Lose 10lbs in 19 minutes!” “Cut carbs!” “Don’t eat meat!” I was confused and I was scared. Confused about where to begin. Scared to stay the same. Scared to change. Scared to fail.

I started by taking baby steps to exercise more, but with no real direction. I joined a ladies’ gym and bought a workout DVD, doing one of those things on most days of the week. It was a good start, but I didn’t understand what to do next or how to do it. I would sort of start to acknowledge that I needed to change the way I ate, but then I’d freeze up. I was too afraid to face how bad my diet really was. Frustrated, my exercise would decrease until it was nonexistent. Back to square one. My efforts at exercise were going to be derailed completely if I didn’t get a food wake-up call.

For me, that was the orientation session at my very first Weight Watchers meeting. I remember being fascinated as the leader explained the basics. She was making weight loss simple, logical, formulaic and kind of fun…all at the same time. No way that was possible! Suddenly, I was excited about getting started. I finally had control over getting healthier. I had a plan. It was a huge relief. For the first time ever, I felt like I really could do this!

After the meeting, I bought the expanded member kit. (Which I still have. I can’t stand to part with it, even though the information is obsolete on the new PointsPlus program.) I’m a Type-A person through and through so I wanted all the information I could possibly get my hands on in order to learn. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.

I went home and absolutely devoured these books. I read through them like they were novels. I highlighted foods I already ate for easy reference. The next day I spent 3 hours at the grocery. T-H-R-E-E. In a place I didn’t even really like. I was giddy with excitement. It was almost sick. 🙂 Calculating points, which can be a tedious task, suddenly became like a game to me. I was actually taking the time to look at nutrition labels and paying attention to what I was putting in my body.

I learned A LOT in those first few weeks of my new eating style. Writing down what I ate laid it all out there in black and white. It was eye-opening. The biggest shocker for me was portion sizes. It was nothing for me to consume large helpings of firsts, always seconds and sometimes even thirds. Actually measuring out a 1-cup portion of pasta was eye-opening. Before, I’d been known to eat an entire box of pasta in one sitting. By myself. In one sense, I felt ashamed. How could I have not known that was a problem? I also felt relieved by the fact that I did know now and I was changing.

The more I learned, the easier it got. I started taking baby steps, but this time with a distinct purpose. I started packing my lunch for work instead of buying it in the cafeteria. I started walking on my lunch hour instead of listening to the radio in my car. Grocery shopping took less time, too. Some things, like buying more fruits and veggies, became intuitive. I also became familiar with the points values of my go-to foods and didn’t need to calculate them or look them up every time. I’d take the long way to fill up my water bottle which accomplished two things: drinking more water and moving more. I still think it’s funny that I rewarded myself with a water mug after losing my first five pounds when, before, a reward would have been a giant piece of molten lava cake. (Still have the mug, too. It’s my all-time favorite.)

So why have I been dwelling on these “before” feelings? I don’t think it’s dwelling as much as it is using them to motivate myself and to help the people around me who are just getting started.  So often, I take for granted the things that are common knowledge for me now, but that were HUGE revelations back then. A couple weeks ago, one of the women from our group was in awe of the can of pumpkin + cake mix muffins. Another lady jotted things down furiously when we talked about the food pyramid and portion sizes. It was really cool to see them learning something from our group and getting so excited about it, but in my head I was thinking “How can you not know this?”  Then I remembered that this was me just a few years ago.

On days when I just cannot get my butt out the door to the gym. On days when I don’t want to track. On days when I want to eat that whole box of pasta. Those are the days I want to remember what it was like when I didn’t know what to do. And then I want to remember how excited I was when I finally had a doable plan, a direction. There I was, getting excited about those first steps to taking control of my eating. And, in turn, my life. I want to use those memories to remember why I’m so grateful for my healthy lifestyle. It’s not because I should live this way. It’s because I’ve made the decision to do so and worked hard for it.

What was/is the first step you took toward a healthier lifestyle?


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Rural Hummus

I didn’t grow up in a big city, but it’s a booming metropolis compared to the area where I live now. While I love living in the country, sometimes it can make finding specialty ingredients pretty difficult. By specialty, I mean anything much more exotic than cumin.

I’ve been wanting to make my own hummus for quite a while. None of the grocery stores within a 30-minute radius carry tahini and I never seem to remember to pick some up when I travel to a bigger city.

I was really happy when I found a recipe that listed the tahini as optional. After making it a few times and tweaking the amounts, I’ve finally found a tried-and-true alternative to buying pre-packaged hummus. It’s WAAAAAAY less expensive and in my opinion, tastes a lot better. Best of all, everything on the ingredient list can be found at the grocery where I regularly do my shopping.

Rural Hummus

  • One can chickpeas (15oz.), rinsed and drained well
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is best, but bottled works, too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon water

Dump all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until it is as smooth as you like.

Serve with crudites, pita chips, tortilla chips or just a spoon. Also delicious as a sandwich spread.

NOTE: If you do have access to tahini, you can add 1/2 teaspoon to the mix.

What’s the most difficult ingredient you’ve ever tried to find?

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I had a really bad experience with my running shoe fitting last year. My husband surprised me by taking me to a new-to-me running store while we were away for our anniversary. The store was crazy busy and there were several people being fitted. The store manager (owner, maybe?) did my fitting, but it was clear that he wasn’t thrilled about pitching in to help. Long story short, a rushed fitting + poor customer service = shoes that were too small. When I attempted to exchange the shoes, they insisted that they were the correct size and, because I’d run outside in them twice, wouldn’t accept the return or exchange. I kept running in them because I thought maybe I was the one who was wrong. These are, after all, trained professionals. 4 black, broken toenails later, I shoved them in my closet and switched back to my old, broken down running shoes. Ideal? No. Truth is, I’d just made the transition to being a stay-at-home mom and there wasn’t money in the budget for another pair at that time.

This year, I returned to the fabulous store where I had my very first running shoe fitting: Up and Running in Dayton. Back then, I was one week into the Couch to 5k training plan. Every runner I knew told me that if I was going to commit to this, I really needed to invest some good shoes. I was so nervous when I walked into that store, clearly having no clue what I wanted or needed and afraid I was going to look like an idiot. My fears were quickly put at ease. When the Up and Running staff found out I was brand new to running, they fawned over me and were genuinely excited to help. They were patient and stuck with me as I tried on shoe after shoe, running up and down the sidewalk in each until we found my perfect match.

Going back to Up and Running on Saturday was just as much fun as my first trip. The entire staff was friendly and the store atmosphere was super laid back. They looked me up in the computer to get the details of the shoes I’d purchased there before. They laughed when I hurridly confessed that I’d purchased shoes elsewhere in the meantime, then apologized and told them that I would never stray again. I explained about the bad fitting the previous year and the salesman agreed to do another fitting, just to ease my mind about what size I really needed. I knew the very first pair I tried on was the one I’d be buying. It fit like a glove. I ran up and down the sidewalk outside before confirming my purchase. Turns out, I’d picked the newer model of my very first running shoes, the Saucony Omni.

Pretty, but still tough looking. And soooo comfortable. They feel like they were designed just for my feet. I love them…all over again!

After my fitting, my sister-in-law and I browsed the awesome apparel selection a bit. We drooled over lots of things we wanted, but couldn’t afford, before finally discovering the 40% off sale rack.

I’ve been anti-running skirt for a long time because I thought they were silly. As I browsed the rack I saw a running skirt with built in pants and one with built in capris. “That’s even sillier,” I thought to myself. “Just wear pants or capris. No need to put a skirt over them.” I would never wear a running skirt. Famous last words.

As I was browsing another rack, my sister-in-law held up the ridiculous skirt/pant combo and said “This is cute, but they don’t have it in my size. I think this would fit you, though. Try it on.”

After a bit of back and forth battling (“No that’s stupid.”/”Just try it on.”/”I’ll look like an idiot.”/”Just try it on.”), I finally stepped inside the dressing room and tried on the offending garment while my sister-in-law waited outside the door.

It was the most comfortable pieces of workout gear I’ve ever put on in my life. And very, very flattering. It made my legs look really long and, when you’re 5’2″, you take all the help you can get. After a bit of time justifying the price to myself (still $54 after the discount) I decided to go ahead and buy it. I shook my head as they put it in the bag. A running skirt was the last thing I expected to leave with that day. Or ever. Never say never, right?

(In case you’re wondering, the brand/style I bought is the SkirtSports / Tough Girl Skirt.)

Update on my cousin: Thank you all so much for your prayers, thoughts and kind words! She had surgery to remove the brain tumor on Thursday. It was very sucessful and there were no complications. She’s up, moving around at regular intervals. Most importantly, her spirits are sky high! She and her parents have meetings scheduled this week with the radiology team to discuss a course of treatment. If all goes as planned, she could be home this weekend. She insists that she will do whatever it takes to fight like heck and beat this. Take that, cancer!
What’s your most-loved piece of workout apparel?

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