Monday, August 25, 2014

All About Me! Me! Me! Work Challenge Wrap-Up Part 2

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. 
The mind is everything.  What we think, we become. 
~ Buddha

Free your mind and the rest will follow
~ En Vogue

Before now, I had not shared my vision, partly because it actually took me a while to figure out what I wanted, but also because I wanted to see if it grew/changed/morphed in any way.

After a couple of days of soul searching - and trying to stop saying, "I don't want" and saying "I do want" I realized that my vision was to have freedom from dieting forever - and everything that goes around a formal diet:  the scale, food tracking, food obsession, exercise obsession, mental craziness about it all.  I wanted freedom from the "dieting" lifestyle I've been living for years.

I had been thinking along those lines for some time as I had been feeling pretty exhausted by it all, with the exhausted feeling peaking as my mother, who is well into her 70s announced to me that she was going on yet another diet.  Yes, she's still dieting. Whenever she mentions a new diet,  it makes me sad and I also noticed that I would immediately tense with stress. That is not the life I want to live. So when I think of what I don't want, I think, "I don't want to be on a diet at 75!" What do I want? Complete and total freedom from dieting forever.

In order to do that I had to do some honest assessment.  I've dieted off and on since I was in my late 20's. I did a lot of I need to lose 5 or 10 pounds for such and such an event type diets. In general, I had good success with that and even maintained a happy weight for many years, other than a few pound blips here and there. That was all good and well until 2005 when my thyroid derailed.  Since then, I've had only temporary losses and wild swings up and down which would cause me also to swing from being super restrictive to saying "forget it!" diving into abandonment of healthy living. Some time over this past spring I realized that this July was going to be 9 years since my diagnoses and 7 1/2 years of dieting crazily. (It took my doctor 1 1/2 years to regulate my meds and she had asked me not to diet during that time.)

Shortly before we went off on our St. Martin vacation, I decided I had to stop the madness -  this could not go on - that I was going to have to learn to love myself and accept my weight and my fate, no matter what. When I had that realization, I also realized I no longer wanted to get on the scale - not because I was afraid of the number but because I don't want 3 numbers to define who I am - or, more importantly - I didn't want the scale to tell me if it was okay/acceptable to eat or drink something, or not.  I am very much a person who can get on the scale and see the number dip down and think, "Now I'll eat a piece of cake." Or see the number go up when I'd been eating "perfectly" and think "Now I'll eat all the cake, and the chips and the cheese and everything!"  It had become a very mentally unhealthy place for me to be. Deep in my thoughts I kept wondering why can't I just have a food when I want it because it sounds good and I'm hungry? Moderation in everything without depending on my weight to tell me if it was the right thing.

Honestly, I wasn't even sure how I could go about getting to freedom (I'd tried "mindful" eating in the past with disastrous results) and then along came this workshop. If you read previous posts you know I was quite resistant to attending. Truthfully part of my resistance was just how it was named - I'm glad I got past the name and agreed to go to the first session. Because once I went to the very first session, I felt like it might be the path to my promised land as nary a calorie count or exercise plan was discussed, and it seemed we were going to be given practical steps to lead us.

Over the 12 weeks I learned to keep my vision front and center.  I'm not saying I did it perfectly and in fact, I think I may have gained some weight as I allowed myself to eat things I'd never eat if on a diet. However, as the weeks went on, it became easier for me to ask one simple question whenever confronted with the desire to eat/drink emotionally:  Will this get me closer to my vision? 

To keep the vision front and center, it had to be fleshed out and that's where our vision boards came in. I found it harder than I thought to put things on there, because what does freedom from dieting forever really look like to me?  It's interesting that I did not choose to put any full body skinny photos of myself on my vision board. Instead there is only 1 photo and it's a headshot. The caption under it says, "pre-thyroid."  I put it there because I look at it and see that I was really happy.  I knew I would have that glow and that happiness again when I felt free of dieting tactics. And still, throughout this process, I have never been able to envision what my body is going to look like.  That's OK.

I also used the Hunger Scale a lot, especially in the beginning - which often led me to use the Emotional Rating.  If I came in from work (or any other time) and started to reach for a piece of cheese or a handful of crackers, I would stop and think, "Am I actually hungry?"  If the answer was no, I would then ask, "Why do you want to eat this?"  I would say 99% of the time there was some sort of stressor present that needed working though. Eating, or drinking a caloric beverage, would only temporarily relieve that and most definitely would not get me closer to my vision. Most often the end result was that I would pour myself a nice glass of sparkling water or seltzer and I'd go outside and deadhead the flowers in my patio pots or I'd sit down in front of dumb TV (i.e. one of my junk shows that has no redeeming value - junk TV instead of junk food!) and let myself completely destress.

Positive affirmations became very important for me.  While I didn't like tapping, the sort of positive dialogue that goes along with tapping was exactly what I needed.  I've had years of negativity surrounding my body that needed to be countered. Some were simple: I like myself - some were deeper: The past does not get to have a hold on me anymore... I am beautiful and smart and athletic and that is how others see me - or even deeper (harder to believe and required more work): I accept myself and my body as perfect, exactly as it is RIGHT NOW.

If you say those types of things enough, they become the recording in your head.  True story.

When I began to be positive, my outlook changed.  When my thoughts were positive, my emotional rating was higher and the irrational food cravings started to disappear.  I no longer felt like food had a hold on me but in the same breath, I could enjoy it with no fear.  Especially, in the last 3 weeks or so of the program, I found myself naturally choosing foods that would get me to my vision.  I never, ever felt deprived. I had cake and I had cocktails and I had cheese and I had anything and everything I wanted - on the other hand, I no longer wanted those things all the time. My saying "no thank you" to something no longer had to do with I 'can't' have that I'm on a diet - it was because I really didn't want it.

As for my results.  Well, after talking with the instructor, and explaining my vision, I told her that honestly after nearly 8 years of dieting non-stop, I really wanted to see if I could let go of dieting tactics and maintain my weight as I'd never been able to do that.  I'd spent 8 years dieting to maintain and I wanted to stop tracking food, obsession over the scale, worrying about protein and carbs and fiber. She agreed that would be a good goal for me, as in her opinion with my years of dieting abuse my process was going to be like an onion, with many layers to peel away to get to my vision. She felt maintenance, i.e., proof that I didn't have to diet anymore would be my first layer gone (and maybe a metabolism reset?).  Of course that meant I had to get on a scale, so I agreed to get on the scale at the beginning and again at the end.  She wouldn't tell me my 3-digit number, she would just tell me maintain, gain, or lose.

When I stepped on the scale last Thursday, my heart was really pounding.  I was feeling so much better but my clothing size hadn't changed, which is as good an indication as the scale about weight, right? As I looked straight ahead so I wouldn't see the number, she calmly said, "Maintain" and I literally started crying, but it was tears of relief.  She grabbed me and said, "I'm so proud of you and the progress you've made, I need to give you a hug."  Then she measured me and informed me that even with maintenance, I had managed to lose about 1/4 inch off my waist and 1/2 inch off my hips. In her opinion it might have to do with stress release which led to cortisol reduction which allows that area of the body to shrink. I don't care how that happened really, it's just nice that it did.

We had a small potluck celebration to end the workshop and prizes were given to those who did lose weight (based on percentage).  Then she turned and took a pot of flowers that were on the table and said, "Helen, these go to you because you literally have blossomed like a flower.  The woman who walked into this room today looked lighter to me and it had nothing to do with weight. You are positively glowing."

Ultimately, my biggest takeaway from it all is the power of the mind.  And that's why this is on my vision board and has stayed on my refrigerator and on my bedside table since the minute I found it.

I'm winning - and I'm looking forward to seeing where I am a year from now.  One thing I know for sure is that I won't be 70+ and dieting. I'm done. Keeping my eye on the prize of my vision being fulfilled I am making great choices for both my physical and mental health.  Doing that means the changes I've wanted are within reach.

I'll leave you with this - another thing our leader told us and something I said to myself many times over the course of the last 3 months. I love it because it's true no matter what you might be dealing with: health, weight, finances, a relationship, etc...

You don't need to start over.  You simply need to start right now, right where you are.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My 12 Week at Work Wellness/Weight Loss Workshop Wrap-Up, Part 1: The Basics

Phew!  That title is a mouth full (pun intended lol).

Several of you have been asking me to share more about the workshop that was held through my employer over this summer.  Honestly, it has been hard for me to write about because there was a lot of work to do around it - and a lot of that work required some fairly deep introspection, which I'm not super fond of.  But I am going to give it a go and first tell you about the workshop, then write a post about me and what I learned, in particular.

The workshop was led by a woman who has worked in the health and fitness industry for years. She is a registered dietician - and she looks like it too: in a few words, tiny, tiny, tiny and FIT (you'd never guess she has given birth to 3 children, plus she's in her 40's with no sign of mid life weight gain!).  Over the years she has worked with many people to help them lose weight and began to notice that her very "successful" clients often regained weight they lost.  She realized losing weight isn't simply about calories in/out - that there was a lot more around being healthy than food and exercise.

Each week had a different talking/thinking point and we had homework around that.
  • Learn your hunger cues: Rate hunger from 1-10 with 1 being starving and 10 being stuffed. Eat when you're at a 4 or below
  • Bring your vision to life by positive affirmation - creating a vision board to support it and by using the present tense.  Not, "I will be" but "I am."
  • Learn your emotional rating: because so much eating is purely emotional and has nothing to do with hunger, if you find yourself reaching for food and you're not hungry, check your emotions - again rating them from 1-10 with 1 being super depressed to 10 being nearly euphoric.  Check in with this several times a day and do things to increase happiness if you're not at an 8 or 9 because weight loss is an emotional issue - improve your mood and you'll lose weight
  • Why is weight loss so difficult? You create your own reality by your own expectations... is any food really forbidden or is it your view of that food?  Food is not good or bad, it just is, but your view of it can color how you treat it.
  • Work the skills you're learning:  the real reason we do anything is because we believe it will make us happy (whether that is true or not).
  • Manage your stress
  • Emotional blocks: these are negative things from the past that will ultimately manifest as issues with your weight
  • Tapping for emotional freedom.  Side note:  this was a subject that was way too far out for me.  I'm not knocking anyone who does it, but it just wasn't for me! If you don't know what Tapping/EFT is, Google it.
  • Have an Attitude of Gratitude.  It's just what you think - when you find yourself being negative, think of something that you are grateful for.  It doesn't have to be big or fabulous, it can be something simple like "I survived my workout this morning."

You'll notice there are not 12 topics there because some of these went over a couple of weeks.  In any case, for our first week we were asked to create a vision.  We did this by thinking about our weight and body and writing two lists - a list of What I Don't Want, followed by a list of What I Want.

The what I don't want list we just wrote randomly:  I don't want to be fat, I don't want aches and pains, I don't want a pot belly, I don't want to be anxious...

Then we had to counter and write the list of what we wanted, which we shared (or not) with the group.

Some of the participant's visions were very simple: I want a flat belly, I want to walk up stairs without huffing and puffing, I want a smaller waist. And some more complicated: I want peace of mind, I want to stop thinking about food all the time...

As easy as this sounds, most of us think in negative terms all the time so to figure out what it is that you actually want versus what you don't want, is harder than it sounds.  It required (at least for me) some drilling down. So right there in that very first week, the hard work began for me - thank goodness she gave us some practical steps to help as we worked through it all.

By the time you read this, the workshop will be over and I'll have my results.  Next post, I'll share my vision and also some of what I've been thinking about these last weeks.  If you have any questions about the workshop topics stop lurking and ask away!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Five Favorite Things

I love grapefruit. Grapefruit martinis, grapefruit seltzer (which I have been drinking non-stop this summer so I won't drink the martini lol!), this grapefruit salad, and as of late, THIS:

I found it quite by accident as I normally don't even give Chobani a glace - I MUCH prefer Fage because I generally only buy plain yogurt and Fage is the best.  As you can see it's a limited batch so I've been buying it when I see it and having it for a snack or dessert.


Newborn babies.  This is Em's baby who was 10 days old when I took the selfie of us.  He stayed like this for most of 2 1/2 hours.  I swear I felt completely and totally relaxed after holding him.  I may need to borrow him for stress relief.

Neila Rey's workout program that I'm doing.  I am just loving, loving, LOVING the switchup from what I'd been doing for a really long time.  I am not even minding that I don't get a day off!  This was my very favorite workout (on a non-running day) in the last couple weeks.  The workout called for shadow boxing (and no kicking) but as ya'll know I earned a black belt in Muay Thai so I dragged out my gloves and Mr. Helen's Wavemaster and went to town.  The video is only one minute, but for the workout I had to do five 5-minute rounds.  I wore my HRM because I was curious about burn and at the end of 25 minutes I'd burned 250 calories! 


My city, during the summer.  Our Main Street coordinator has been working overtime this year to bring really great events to our downtown waterfront area.  I made up my mind we were going to go to as many of them as feasible.  A new one this year was a food truck festival.  We went, had a bite to eat, and got to hear Mr. Helen's friend's band play.  That's the United States Coast Guard Barque Eagle in the background.  It had just returned from it's Swab Summer training sail.  Now, if I could only take my city and transplant it somewhere else during the winter...

Summer Squash and Red Potato Tian.  I kept seeing these all over Facebook and Pinterest but they all had tomatoes in them and we are not fond of warm tomato slices, so I decided to make one myself.  It might just be the perfect side dish with both a green and starchy vegetable in one.  We loved it, here's how I did it.
  • 2 T olive oil (divided)
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion cut in half, then sliced very thin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4-5 red potatoes, unpeeled (depending on size - try to match the size of your squash and potato)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • Dried thyme, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (you can use the bottle stuff but it won't be as good)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with olive oil cooking spray and set aside (I used a 9" glass pie plate.)

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet, add the onions and saute until slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.

While the onions saute, slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash in about 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them in a single spiral layer on top of the onions.  Alternate each type of squash and the potato.

Season with thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top, then cover the whole pan with foil.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes, uncover and poke with a fork to see if the vegetables are tender.

Remove the foil, sprinkle the Parmesan over everything then return to the oven to cook another 30 minutes or so, until the cheese is lightly browned.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Beauty All Around

On the weekend of the supermoon, we went with our friends on their boat for a sunset cruise.  As I may have mentioned before, I have terrible issues with motion sickness so going out on the ocean in a boat isn't in the top 10 things I want to do.

A couple years ago, shortly before our 20th anniversary trip to St. Martin, I heard about a drugless motion sickness device called Relief Band.  While available all over the internets now, even just a couple years ago, the only place I could find one was at a diver's shop 30 minutes from my house. I made the drive and bought it because I was weary of arriving at destinations feeling drugged up from the patches I have to wear.  It worked great!  I've used it over and over on flights and in cars and on the ferry.  However, it had not been tested in a boat, on the ocean, which is where I had my worst motion sickness EVER about 20 years ago.  So bad that I've never forgotten it.

But Mr. Helen kept asking me to try and the boat's Captain, Jim, promised me the river going out to the sound gets very calm around the time we were going, so I agreed.  He also agreed if I started not feeling well, we'd turn around and go right back.

We met them at their house, had a couple of appetizers, then took the rest of the appetizers for the boat.  When we got in the car, I looked over and Ann was wearing a Relief Band too!  I held my wrist up and we cracked up and promptly dubbed ourselves the Seasickness Sisters.

It was a gorgeous night to be out on the ocean. We actually anchored and watched the ocean traffic and sunset and even with the boat bobbing around (rougher than normal probably due to the moon that weekend), neither Ann nor I got sick!

I'm so glad we did this - once again I was reminded of how often there are things right where we live that we take for granted. Not to mention, I got to see two lighthouses, one of my favorite things to see! I hope I keep my eyes open for more opportunities like this one.

Enjoy some photos of our night.

Watch Hill Lighthouse which is near Taylor Swift's house

That same weekend was the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Stonington, so the Mystic Whaler was out doing a sunset cruise as well as part of the commemoration festivities.

Beauty all around.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Five

1. My Neila Rey 30 Days of Change personal challenge is going excellent. While I was extremely sore the first week (and actually ended up in an ice bath by Saturday), this second week I have simply felt stronger even though the workouts continue to feel quite challenging.  Don't get me wrong, I am still a bit sore on some days but not feeling as hobbled as I did last week. I am excited to see my results at the end of the 30 days!

2. I love Morning Glory flowers.  While out running, I saw a fenced in yard covered in them - pink, purple, and white.  I especially love these pink ones!

3. My friend Em, who I have mentioned on this blog in the past, had her baby boy last week.  She'd been fretting for a few weeks because the docs wanted her to have a c-section but she got them to agree to at least wait past his due date to see if he'd come on his own.  He didn't and the c-section went off as scheduled.  He weighed ELEVEN pounds.  Afterwards she said based on that weight she wasn't as frustrated with having to have the c-section.  No kidding!  I'm going to be meeting him this weekend and I can't wait.  Nothing like new baby smell.

4.  Yet another yard I run by quite often.  Last year, they had sunflowers peeping up over their fenced in back yard.  This year they've turned their front yard into a wild flower garden.  Love it.

5. We got together with some friends for an appetizer meal and I took this dip to a friends house. It was the only appetizer that was completely gone by the end of the evening. It's going to be my go-to dip as it's super easy to make!  Here's how I did it:

Choose any size dish you'd like (depending on how much dip you want - this is a 9" glass round).  Pour extra virgin olive oil in the dish, just enough to cover the bottom of the dish.  Top with finely chopped tomatoes and some sliced scallions.  Crumble feta cheese over everything (use block feta that is in a brine) then sprinkle with Greek seasoning (Cavender's, McCormick's, Penzys or make your own.)  Just before serving, stir the ingredients together. Serve with baguette slices.

Happy Friday!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mini Vacation!

At the end of July we took what might be becoming our annual trip to the Hamptons in Long Island to visit with my sister, her fiance, and Gracie and Jacob.  In order to avoid driving for 5 hours, we take a high speed ferry right out of our city and we are there 40 minutes later.  It's about an hour drive from there to my sister's house.  I took a couple of snapshots of my little city from the ferry - so fun to see it from that perspective!

The Charles W. Morgan Whaling Ship docked at our City Pier

The downtown of my city

Ledge Lighthouse

My beach, that I run by and from which you can see the Ledge Lighthouse

The first couple of days, Jacob was away at his very first sleep away camp so Gracie got to have some one-on-one Uncle Mr. Helen time which made her quite happy. How many uncles do you know that would let their seven year old niece put full on face paint on them and then paint in return? (Why yes, I was having a martini LOL!)

We had fantastic food - both eating out and also a meal that Mr. Helen and I provided since they will never let us pay for anything.  We brought over NY Strip steaks that Mr. Helen cut special and then we bought all farm fresh produce and also used items from my sister's garden.  That's the meal I should have taken pictures of because it was every bit as good as our fancy eating out meals.

In any case, on one night we started by going to Wolffer Estates Winery to hear some jazz.  We like their Rose wine so much that we ended up buying a couple bottles to bring back with us.

Then we took off to have a cocktail on the porch of the Topping Rose House, which is a small luxury hotel with a new restaurant opened by Chef Tom Colicchio who is probably best known for his Craftsteak Restaurants and for being the head judge on Bravo TVs Top Chef.  It's beautiful and expensive - even the one cocktail we had was very, very expensive!  But it's an experience, you know?

Then we walked across the street to Almond for dinner.  They gave us a great table by their uniquely decorated window.  The food was delicious and the portions generous - we all took home leftovers.

Asparagus appetizer that my sister and I shared.  It has sliced black truffles and a fried egg on top - delicious!

Another appetizer we shared - garlic sauteed farm fresh green beans two ways

Mr. Helen loves seafood. These are mussels that he is STILL talking about

This was a sea bass special.  I almost wish I'd ordered it.

My entree.  Four cheese macaroni and cheese with proscuitto.  It was delicious and the portion was huge.  I brought half home.

Both the guys got this dish: Steak Frites. Grilled Hangar Steak with truffled french fries.  I'm not sure I've seen so many fries on a plate.  Lots of leftovers.

The dessert Mr. Helen and I shared:  A Chocolate Cherry Trifle with Pistachio Shortbread.
O-M-G is all I have to say about it.

The next day, we took the drive up to Montauk which is the furthest point of Long Island.  We went to the Montauk Lighthouse and Museum, which I really enjoyed.  I guess I hadn't realized the history there with Montauk Indians, which are still in fairly large numbers on Long Island.  While I didn't enjoy the fact that once again, Indians were chased off land they'd owned for years, "for their own good," I did enjoy reading about it and seeing photos from the 1800's all the way up to the present day.  We got to climb the 137 steps to the top of the Lighthouse and the views are spectacular!

A monument to all the fishermen lost at sea

I was excited to see this Amistad Memorial because the Amistad also has connection to Connecticut

We also spent some time shopping in Montauk and I told Mr. Helen if we ever could have a full-on vacation right there, I wouldn't mind.  It reminded me a bit of Cape Cod and I loved it.  After playing with Gracie in the pool for several hours, we went out for our second fancy dinner.  Bay Kitchen Bar is a new restaurant that opened this year at a marina.  It got a New York Times review and it's almost impossible to get a reservation there.  It's supposed to be the place to be for sunset.  Unfortunately for us, it clouded over and we didn't get to see that. Here's the thing:  it was cram packed busy and it seemed the service suffered from that - almost as if they aren't ready for crowds.  The food and drinks were pricey and I honestly thought the food was better at Almond.  My sister's fiance, who has lived in the Hamptons his whole life, said if they don't get their service issues together, their business will suffer because there are too many excellent restaurants available.  We still enjoyed each other's company though!

Limoncello Cosmopolitan, one of their specialty drinks.

Oyster appetizer - ewwwww!  I didn't eat any.

Crab Cake appetizer

My salad

My fish and chips, which were quite good but the fries at Almond were better.

Mr. Helen's Whole Belly Clams

For the second night in a row, my sister ordered sea bass

Lobster Ravioli

The last couple of days of the visit, it rained.  Saturday it poured actually.  Ironically, it seems no matter where we go, full on vacation or mini vacation, we bring the rain.  Saturday morning we picked Jacob up from his camp.  You haven't lived until you've heard a 10 year old describe a week of sleep away camp with other 10 -12 year old boys.  We laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

So we hung out for a couple days and, of course, Uncle Mr. Helen agreed to go in the pool on Sunday even though it was drizzling.  My sister and I went and visited the the Hamptons Designer Showhouse to see how the rich live.  It's a monstrosity - something like 18,000 square feet and each room is designed by a different designer.  We actually didn't love it - much preferred the house we'd seen last year. But it's really fun to walk through a place like that, and dream.

Sunday night we headed home on the ferry, taking Gracie with us because she was coming to her Cows and Cones camp in Connecticut: week around farm animals culminating in milking a cow and making ice cream.

We also brought home wine, baked goods from Tate's Bake Shop, and a container of Detox Salad from a local organic grocery store... which I am going to try to recreate, it was just that good.  Stay tuned!