Emotional Encryption

reunion4Emotions are funny things. The way we move our bodies, the way we think our thoughts, the way we see the world, all of that goes into the emotion of the moment. Dancing, for example, makes me feel good. Like a secret code, moving my body to music changes my emotions in a positive, healthy way.

Dance is the answer to my search for some kind of aerobic exercise besides boring walking. I love yoga but in order to “live long and die short” six days of exercise is a must. And some of those need to be vigorous. I’m a writer. My fingers get more exercise than any other part of my body. I also love to read, so my eyes get a work out every day, too. 

For me, enjoying what I do is key. I needed to find something I loved as much as all my sedentary pursuits like meditation and yoga and reading and writing. I loved walking the hills of Seattle but I don’t live there and I need the endorphins of aerobic exercise now. I’ve considered joining many groups and classes, like a hiking group or a Zumba class. But my schedule is very full of group things just now and I need to guard my alone time.

Something solitary, then, was needed. After my Gypsy post, I got a clue. Dance. Alone. I don’t do well to choreographed moves, and I don’t go out dancing much anymore. I miss it. So I made up a playlist and it will be my pleasure to dance alone in my living room for 20 minutes three times a week. Maybe more! 

Gonna ease in with my yoga sun salutation to “Here Comes the Sun” (The Beatles)

Then will make myself laugh and shake my behind to “Get Up Off of That Thing” (James Brown)

3. “Call Me” — St Paul & the Broken Bones

4. “Hundreds of Ways” — Conor Oberst

5. “Rimbaud Eyes” — Dum Dum Girls

6. “Stranger to my Happiness” — Sharon Jones

7. “Under the Pressure” — The War on Drugs. “Under the Pressure” is an 8 minute song that has so many great dance moments but also kind of cools down near the end like a scarf trailing off in the wind.

Aerobic exercise is the final piece of my part of the Lisa Plan puzzle. I’m so pleased with myself for finally figuring it out. For this diet to work, it has to fit my life. I had to finesse it for me. So, Lisa and I plan to incorporate my alternatives into her awesome (and easy! and it works!) plan. 

This is the final Lisa Plan post. As we write the proposal and talk with agents, we will keep the permalink public for a few more weeks. For all the Lisa Plan posts, check top menu or click here.

“Meet the Grandson” Vacation

Jess.32weeks.IMG_7400Jessica, due this week, must be looking forward to losing some weight:) Even though to me she looks absolutely beautiful, we all want to hold the baby and I will be there in Seattle this week waiting for his delivery. I don’t start fall term here in Detroit for almost a month, so I can be there until baby boy shows up:)

This is not a normal vacation, so I’m hoping I don’t gain weight. In fact I have been planning ways just so that doesn’t happen. First of all, this vacation is all about the baby, so there’s not going to be a lot of going out to dinner and drinking many glasses of wine. I will be sticking very close to Ballard, the neighborhood Mike and Jess live in. I’ve got a “mother-in-law” apartment five minutes’ walk from their place for the first several days and it has its own kitchen so I can

1. Shop for my own food and prep mini-meals. Restaurant food is loaded with fat, sugar, and sodium.

Ballard is a neighborhood in the city of Seattle, and I’ve been there a few times before. They have everything a person needs within walking distance and I’ve broken in two new pair of sneakers just so I can walk everywhere this trip. I’m probably not even going to bother renting a car. The kids’ house is five minutes from me, the hospital just a thirty minute walk. I plan to walk, walk, walk. And who knows maybe drop in on a yoga class or two or even climb a mountain. Okay, maybe not the mountain.

2. Exercise. Walk, bike, hike, climb mountains, find a yoga studio or maybe yoga on the Pacific. 

The second half of the trip may be a bit more challenging as I’ll be staying at an urban farm B&B where they are famous for their breakfasts. On the plus side, I can walk off breakfast better than I can walk off dinner. It’s just five minutes from the kids, too:)  And when eating out, one thing I have learned to do is have smaller portions. I often order an appetizer for dinner. Or fish and salad make great options too. Split a dinner between two people, but only if you really want the same thing. But as I said, lots of calories in restaurant prep. So I just eat less.

3. Split restaurant dinners or choose an appetizer instead of a meal.

I have given up sugar. I really believe that has taken hold. So I’m not worried about ice cream. I’ve had chocolate in my house for months and have not touched it except for that tiny S’more the other night and it did not trigger a full-on sugar craving. But there is the Chardonnay. Nothing like being on vacation and relaxing with a nice glass of Chard, maybe watching the sunset over the ocean. Bliss! I don’t plan to deprive myself of that pleasure. But this vacation is going to be a time when I want to take it all in, savor every moment, and so I’ll be saving the Chardonnay for a glass with dinner or over a sunset. In a word, I will not use vacation as an excuse to drink more than I know is good for me. I won’t be indulging in “daytime drinking.” Okay, possibly, when I meet Laura Zera in person for the fist time, she’s driving to lunch, so maybe we’ll have a glass of wine. I have the best reason in the world. So this will be a mostly sober vacation but for the best reason in the world.

4. Don’t drink too much alcohol.

I feel pretty confident with these cornerstones for this “Meet the Grandson” vacation.  Except for the one where I need to fit into my jeans by the end of the trip, they all come from the Lisa Plan. Find all Lisa Plan entries here.





What’s Your Number?

scale.toes.photo Holidays have always been tough for me, and I dreaded getting on the scale this morning. But I did it, because I am no longer in denial about this little problem I have with pounds. Just like most of America, I had more calories than usual over the weekend, as my FB posts clearly show. I did manage to stay away from all desserts except a chocolate vodka. But you know, it’s vodka. Does it really count?

I wasn’t sure.

Reason it was such a big deal to me is because I had not been going down number-wise for a few weeks and I was at one of those thresholds, you know, like you were in the 120s and now you’re in the 110s. Those are not my numbers and I’m not ever telling. I have not weighed 110 since I was twelve years old. But anyway, I made a couple of adjustments and finally lowered the middle number and just would have been so sad to go up again. But I didn’t! I stayed the same:)

As they say in WW, staying the same over any holiday weekend is something to celebrate.

How I did it:

First, I knew we were going out to dinner Saturday night and that we would likely being having fried fish. So for lunch I had a huge salad. And then after dinner, I danced. A lot. When I dance, I really move. Waist, hips, legs, hands, tush. All of it is in on the action. None of this foot shuffle, wave the arms once or twice stuff. The band was playing oldies and I knew all the dances, the twist (of course), the jerk, the swim, even did some mashed potatoes just to mix it up.

Also, I didn’t eat dessert at a friends’ house party on the 4th. Someone sweetly provided me with a bowl of berries, but I would not have had the cake anyway. Also, I brought a big green salad to the house party for my plate. Heaped it high. I eat a big salad with lots of greens every single day. So whenever the “bring a dish to pass” memo goes around, everyone knows Cindy’s bringing salad. So those were the things I did right. I won’t talk about what I did that might not have been perfect. Just two tiny changes.

The other change was something I don’t even think about anymore. Instead of the usual barbecue fare, I had a yummy vegetarian burger: Portobello and blue cheese. I’ve been vegetarian for a long time, and my friends are so kind, they always do something special for me. This helps at barbecues. They had thick burgers, used to be my favorite, and also Coney dogs! I would not have had any, but the fact that they took the time to grill me that great burger made me feel special instead of maybe just a tiny bit deprived.

Yesterday, I said no to alcohol and no to all the sweets in the house and no to any carb that wasn’t 100% whole wheat. I really had a lazy day but I just didn’t eat the way I used to. Because I had two bigger mini-meals earlier in the day, I had fruit (fresh cherries, yum!) and yogurt (plain Chobani) for dinner. It was plenty. My tummy gets a little messed up from too much party food and drink and the yogurt was soothing, the cherries sweet.

Maybe not quite as sweet as when I stepped on the scale this morning.

My usual day after two days of partying would include pasta, crackers, chips, (any crunchy snack food!) chocolate, ice cream, and most likely pizza for dinner. So I made a few small changes and like the results. I always used to believe that these changes were too difficult, but they aren’t. What’s different?

I am. I was ready to make the changes I needed to, and this weekend is proof. Usually I would have gained a couple of pounds from the extra wine and the nibble of this and bite of that. But, not today. Today I stayed the same sweet number.

When I used to gain during holidays, and complain to Lisa how hard it was to stick with a plan during festive occasions, she said “It is hard. It’s really hard. You’re right about that.” I think just having her acknowledge that this weight loss business can be a struggle helped. I keep saying it’s easy but it takes awhile to get to easy. I’ve been doing this for more than a year.

Knowing before you start that there will be times when it’s really really hard, but also knowing that you can just make minor adjustments and achieve great results over time, those things are what helped me keep with it. I knew Lisa’s struggles and I see how well she’s done after her weight loss. She inspires me every day. I hope she inspires you, too. Miss any of my Lisa posts? They’re all here.

New For You

sneakersToday I added a new item to the top menu. As the “Lisa Plan” entries add up, I got to thinking (very dangerous!) and ran an idea by her. We should have a spot on the blog for interested readers who happen upon an entry, like it, want more, and have no idea where to find the other entries. So now, you can catch up. Also, coming soon, a biography (with pics! and links!) of the wonderful and inspiring Lisa:)

Emotional Rescue

Cin.photoThe first time I gained a significant amount of weight, I taught night school, my first teaching job. I had been stressed as a student teacher, but it was nothing compared to how ill-equipped I was to handle night school. Many young people are made to go to night school as part of their punishment for a crime they’ve committed. Then there are the people who fell through the cracks long ago, maybe undiagnosed reading problems, maybe a trauma, maybe a baby. So an array of emotional and mental problems awaited me every night. An older African-American man called me a racist because I was told not to let anyone stay in classroom during break and had no idea that he had been an exception to this rule.

Every day at 6 p.m. someone new hated me. Every night at 10 p.m. I came home, turned on MTV and crunched my way through a bag of chips (or two.) That was stress eating. Every bite down on the crunchy salty substance felt like a minor victory over my crappy job. Where was my classroom? Crunch. Where were my honor students? Crunch. When would I ever get past discipline and into actually talking about literature? Crunch.

Before I knew it, I’d gained 20 pounds. And then over the Christmas holidays I gained 10 more. Because another kind of emotional eating is celebrating good times. And ask anybody, I really like to celebrate and I was too unaware to realize that celebrating with food might feel good, but it was harming my body in ways very clear in the mirror but that I refused to see.

People didn’t recognize me after that 30 pound gain (which became 40 as the school year dragged on). I didn’t recognize myself, either. Thus the cycle of the lose and gain began. I’ve lost hundreds of pounds. Ten, twenty, thirty, but always, almost as soon as I threw away my fat clothes and bought new sizes, gained the weight back. It was that fast. For a few weeks I’d wear my new cute outfits and guys would flirt with me and I felt pretty again and then bam, back to fatland. Because I really didn’t want to flirt or have an affair to get my sweetness fix and being fat made sure that was not going to happen.

Guys. I hate to admit that I like attention, but I’m going to be honest, my marriage is comfortable but not all that sweet. I have a great husband, he took on a single mom with two kids, he supports my writing, helped me through college, shares my personal goals. But he also is just not a naturally affectionate person. When I think of my husbands, none of them were. Yet, I craved touch. Hugs, kisses, sweetness. Meanwhile, hubby was at the NASCAR race or the hockey game or the football tailgate party. Or he was working. Saving for our future.

I read once that when a person craves sweets, they lack sweetness in their lives. I’ve never forgotten it and I think it has some truth. A friend told me once that she had a lonely weekend coming up, and she was not looking forward to it. I patted her knee and said “here’s what you do” then proceeded to tell her my routine whenever the boys were at their dad’s and Al was away on a golf weekend or some other guy thing. First, I laid in supplies. Only food I wanted to eat. Strawberries, chocolate, Ruffles, rich gooey Brie cheese, good wines, baguettes, bagels, filet mignon. Then I’d go to the video store (remember those?) and choose several films, none of them involving action/adventure. Finally I’d hit the bookstore, stack a tower of new hardcovers by my favorite authors in my arms, and ring up a tab that more than equaled the food and the movie bills combined.

“See? You just have a “me” weekend. And you can shop for a pretty new outfit too.”

How deluded was I? Very. I know. But I was giving myself sweetness in the only way I knew how.

Lisa, after I related this coping mechanism, asked about my anxiety. She said “The anxiety you take pills for and what you are trying to do instead with the sweetness, that’s all part of the problem. Because I think this kind thing is often why people overeat. That and just having a fun time, too. But all those things play into it.”

So what was her solution to my sweetness dilemma?

Have a clear, set intention, and a positive mental outlook to make things happen.

My intention is to stop hurting myself with comfort foods (the shortcut to happy) and to start loving my body with regular check-ins with an amazing doctor, yoga, meditation, and walks in nature. I’m not perfect yet, but I’ve come a long way from the woman who had a battle plan that looked more like a sugar coma. When Al goes away now, I plan more positive activities, like outings to local art fairs or attending writing retreats. I take myself out to the movies these days, and thanks to a cracked tooth acquired eating popcorn, I don’t even want the stuff.

When I joined a yoga studio, I found that if I drank too much wine the night before, I’d feel sick in some of the poses. Ditto with meat. So through yoga, gradually I became vegetarian. But vegetarians can eat ice cream and cake, and I was still, even on Lisa’s Plan, indulging my need for sweet. Sabotaging myself. Then I got back-to-back bad sugar reports from my doctor, which scared me into finally giving up everything with sugar in it: meaning everything I loved.

Yes, I had to let my health get out of hand before I could really take the final positive step I needed, but every step in the process came from setting that first positive intention to love my body and take care of it.